Monday, 24 December 2012

A brief winter run north

As part of our journey south we had wanted to call in on Russ and Alison, our great cruising companions in last years jaunt to northern Labrador. They'd become good friends over that summer and we decided to head north (in winter!) to catch up with their refit and plans for next year. The day of departure came with zero wind and thick fog...the duvet beckoned and we went back to bed. The following day, Sunday, came bright and cheerful with a decent southerly wind we began to get ready to leave. This time the engine refused to start and the fault was traced it to a dead starter battery which had, incidentally, started without a problem two days previously. Much to-ing and fro-ing but in the end we had no option but to dip into our rapidly dwindling funds for a starter battery and departure was delayed another day. So Monday Dec 10 saw us underway and heading north with a southerly breeze but with the knowledge that the wind would veer to the north long before we arrived in Annapolis. We sailed through the night, steering by hand as we were too over canvassed for the wind-vane to cope properly(we were trying to get as far north as possible with a favourable wind), but the cold meant we limited steering to 30 minutes at a time and grabbed quick naps when not helming. By 6 the following morning the wind had gone NW and headed us but at least the self steerer could function. We dumped the genny in favour of the working jib and stays'l and beat our way slowly northwards. By mid-day the wind had begun to ease and by 4 we decided to motor the 4 miles toward Soloman and anchor for the night.  A wise choice as the night turned cold but the anchorage was calm and protected. We'd sailed 147 miles to make good a distance 100. The final third (50 miles) we would complete the next day.

Wed 12 Dec. We left around 08:30 and beat our way past Drum Point and entered the narrow part of  Chesapeake Bay. Tack followed tack as we slowly made ground. The speeds were reasonable; 4 to 5 knots but adverse current played havoc with the angles and we sometimes moved forward only 1/2 mile despite having sailed 4 or more miles. The bay was busy with ships and tugs heading north or south, occasionally with yachts, under power, heading south. "Stan" the steerer kept us on track and the crew would appear together on deck only to tack before disappearing below out of the cold. In these circumstances keeping watch meant taking a good look around before ducking below where the oil lamp at least created some warmth. Most of the traffic came up on the AIS, some of the fishing boats didn't but we were far enough away for us not to be involved in their waters. Not so the tugs however. We've never had a problem with these guys before and a radio call on 16 or 13, the working channel, quickly clears up any concerns we or they might have. On this night however one tug wouldn't respond on 13 but did on 16 whilst some hours later the "Chesapeake Coast" ignored calls on either channel. It was a dark night with little light from the moon and we were closing rapidly. We had no intention of standing on but wanted to warn the oncoming tug of our intention....not to be so we simply tacked away and left him to it. He then chose to respond calling Hannah on 13. Seems he heard our call clearly enough to note the vessels name but lacked the manners/seamanship to respond. His waffle included the information that we produced a poor radar image,it was a dark night and we needed to be careful but no indication on why he had chosen to ignore our calls. Somehow came away from this exchange with the feeling that some individuals allow their contempt of people on yachts to transcend their professional calling. We carried on beating our way toward the glow of Annapolis and the succession of anchored ships in the roadstead. The sun came up; by 10 we were approaching Back Creek where Andante was getting a paint job and by 10:30 we were anchored opposite the water tower and ready to sleep. 26 hours and 111 miles of beating to make good 50..... a tough day.

So we've been here a week, helping with some of the refit, spending time with good friends and moved across to Mill Creek with them a few days ago. We had intended to head south today but stiff westerlies and a rain ladened sky persuaded me that tomorrow might be a kinder day. The westerlies are good although we could do without the accompanying 40 knot gusts - it'll be a cold trip for sure.

Monday Dec 24

Mill Creek was a winner! Very well sheltered with banks and tall trees overlooking placid, if a tad, shallow water. A last few days with R&A plus their nephew Will whilst we geared up for the journey back. Friday and Sat. looked to be good with stiff W-NW winds.....gusts between 40 and 50 knots. In the end I opted not to leave Friday as the day promised little sun or something equally as pathetic; in hindsight a mistake. That day the water was very high whereas Sat. gave us about a metre less and this wonderful creek is protected by a bar. We crossed the bar on our inward leg with a scant 25 cm under the keel so we were both somewhat nervous about our exit. Sat. came with gusts whipping across the water and we reefed well before leaving. We'd decided on a reefed mizzen plus stays'l and spitfire jib but motored slowly out of the creek and safely across the bar. Outside the water was far more agitated than it had been inside but we raised sail and took off. By the time we cleared the land the water had become a mass of white although the waves remained less than a metre so conditions were almost perfect, a stiff wind just abaft the beam. The gusts were not, we think, 50 knots, but possibly over 40 knots and at one point we both wondered whether we had made the correct choice in leaving..... but we cracked on, rarely going below 7 knots, sometimes over 8 and Drum Point just 5 miles from where we anchored when heading north was passed seven hours after we slipped our lines. If there was a downside it is only having one reef in the mizzen as Hannah carried a fair bit of weather helm which required a human to steer but the sun shone, most of the water remained in the  sea rather than smashing into the hull and soaking us. We did wonder to each other why we hadn't used the trys'l rather than the mizzen as "Stan" would, no doubt, have steered but as we were comfortable, the boat stable without excessive rolling so we kept on. The forecast called for the wind to ease as we went further south down the Bay and then turn to the SW by evening. In the end the wind began to ease about 5am and became very light, giving speeds around 1-2 knots and then switched to the south. We changed sails, began beating and used the motor to boost speed. The familiar sight of Hampton Roads became visible as we continued, traffic became more frequent but we made it down the river and to our slip that Cary so generously lets us use. A quick call to the Customs and Border to notify them we'd changed anchorages, food, a glass of something and then bed. Result! As Bee would say. 

So another year comes to an end and a further 6500 miles or so sailed, an average year I guess. Thanks to all the folks we've met, the kindnesses received and the readers who come across these pages. This is, we think, our last year we'll spend exploring the northern latitudes for some time as we go in search of new old friends and cultures. Have a safe and peaceful year ahead.

Lastly......the Newtown shooting of 20 kids and 7 adults has been and continues to be an unbearable experience. The "debate" over here continues; guns are to blame; people are to blame; mental health needs be a much higher priority. Well we're firmly on the side of no guns, which isn't to say that mental health care needs drastically improving but why any person needs a semi-automatic military style weapon for their own use is incomprehensible. Why the gunman's mother insisted on having guns in the house, where an, apparently, mentally ill young man lived, because she could....and the NRA arguing that schools need to have armed guards posted in order to protect.......
If ever "the lunatics have taken over the asylum" tag was deserved by any group of people it must surely be them. Sad, sad times

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Pirates, Drugs and other hazards....

 The last two weeks have been steady as we sorted out the few problems areas we had and talked about where we might go next. Still no decision on that yet and we probably won't decide until we get there; one way of placating folks who worry we might be overdue...

With this quiet time there has also been the opportunity to think about some of the things we've come across and some of the questions we often asked. Not surprisingly the same or similar questions arise no matter where we are. Well I should qualify that as we've spent the last 4 or 5 years over this side of the water so the questions possibly reflect "national" concerns.

Health: So many folks ask what we do we do about health insurance...the simple answer is nothing. We lead a fairly healthy life-style and rarely get sick. If we do then we'll deal with it then. I'm not sure it's healthy to lead your life expecting the worst to happen, spending huge sums of money in the hope you never have to use it (insurance) or postponing retirement because a reduction in income will mean you're unable to live the consumer orientated life you've become accustomed to. Does it matter? Will those last few moments of consciousness be spent fondly remembering the huge plasma screen and surround sound you bought on credit back in nineteen nought blonk. (and the disappointment when you realised that a huge tv with mega pixels or whatever they are doesn't actually improve the quality of the programme only the picture) Life is short - get out there and live it. We have seen so many folks quoting and agreeing with Sterling Hayden whilst being unable to motivate themselves enough to take the first step. Of course not everybody wants to get out there and live this sort of life but if you do, if the thought crosses your mind and you wonder......
Incidentally this link will take you to background stuff about the man.

Drugs: To be honest drugs are not something we're concerned or even interested in so when we read of drug barons, epidemics and worse it sort of washes over us, rightly or wrongly. But we were once anchored in an idyllic part of the world. The anchorage offered good protection, the houses surrounding the "harbour" looked neat and well cared for. The sun shone over a backdrop of mountains and glistening water and it felt a great place to be. But then we learned of the drugs that had affected so many folks here and in other parts of this area, the devastation they were causing, families breaking up, businesses ruined and we were at a loss.....How could this be? How could something we sort of associated with inner cities and deprivation be so commonplace in a community that had around 1000 inhabitants, had employment and a reasonable standard of living; in short the aspirations of many small communities around the world? We have no idea but I do know we sat on Hannah that evening and looked around the harbour with enormous sadness. Something felt changed, perhaps the "world" had caught up with us?

Pirates. This is asked so many times by folks in this country and is, perhaps, indicative of the "everybody hates us " mentality that exists. No we have never met any pirates although I sometimes glibly reply that "we did once but they were running a marina in Florida...". It came to mind the other week when someone I had just met, hesitatingly said "I shouldn't probably ask this but have you ever met etc" A few days later I came across a blog and was really impressed with the guys response to an alarmist report published by Noonsite, a cruising website. Sure pirates exist but not as much as some fevered imaginations would have you believe. Sailing at night can be alarming, particularly when you're among fishing boats but there are reactions and there is stupidity. Read the article by David here. There is also a link within the article to the original report. And we won't even get into the  nonsense of cruising boats carrying weapons.

On a less fevered note the rice and raisin wine we started 14 days or so ago had reached the point where it needed to be racked off. It had sat gently fermenting in a plastic barrel, stirred once a day for a fortnight and then poured into another container (in our case our cool box aka wood store/bottle store/footrest), and the raisins etc pressed to get as much juice as possible out. The original is then cleaned out and the liquid all poured back in to begin clearing before consumption can begin early next year. The  beetroot takes longer, possibly 3 or 4 months to become dry enough to be enjoyable. By which time we hope to be somewhere where rum is cheap.

In the meantime we'll carry on with our chores - this week we dug out our 100 year old manual Singer. What a joy to use even if has but one stitch, no reverse and would struggle with the width of our sail though not, I think, with the cloth thickness. It is difficult to accept the way goods are disposed of now as technology moves so quickly that repairs are uneconomical when this machine functions so well in its limited fashion. Progress will always move humans forward I guess...

 Lastly. In an effort to combat the belief that this life can only be done in a large, expensive boat I'd urge you to take a look at the following blogs.

Roger Taylor Sails a junk rigged Corribee . He once sailed single-handed to Greenland only to break a rib before he completed his outward leg. He turned around and sailed back to the UK. His journey's rarely, if ever, involve landing on a foreign shore.....but he has a wealth of experience.

Sumara of Falmouth. A 25' Vertue and recent recipient of the Tilman Medal for a journey to the Jan Mayen Islands and subsequent mountain climb. Well  written and funny.

Speedwell of Hong Kong. The only one of this "group" we have met, Shirley singlehands a junk -rigged Vertue. We met her about 5 years ago prior to her crossing to Brazil from the Canaries where, by and large, she has been ever since. A remarkable woman and her cat Sinbad keep an entertaining blog as part of their website and make us want to go to Brazil!

Eileen of Avoca - he of the pirate reply I wrote about a few paragraphs ago. David sails a 23' Yarmouth Gaff cutter, a neat looking boat. I'm still catching up with his blog so can tell you little about him. Go read all of these folks and if you're still thinking about that 45 footer.....consider this. It isn't that long ago that folks sailed these sort of boats round the world, they were the norm. The advent of roller furling and electric winches "enable" 2 people to handle very large boats without the need of additional crew but at huge cost but not necessarily more fun.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Still moving south

We left Vineyard Haven for Newport and, after an undisturbed night sleep, hauled the anchor up and set sail for what we hoped would be the Delaware Bay and a visit with Russ and Alison, friends from the 2011 trip to Labrador. The day started with a fast hour or so, became lumpy at the entrance to Narraganset Bay and then settled into a rhythm as we headed toward and past Block Island. The NE wind blew steadily and progress was rapid if quiet; rarely have we managed to cross this section of water without a constant background chatter of fishing boats/tugs etc warning other vessels of their intentions but it was a welcome change. The journey from this area to the mid section of the US involves crossing numerous shipping lanes; 3 for New York alone and traffic was reasonably heavy. The AIS, as ever, made life easier, particularly in the dark when judging distance is generally more difficult...but our first problem came from a fishing boat that Bee had seen well off to port. Initially all we could establish was that it was incredibly well lit up but, because of the brightness and distance away, no direction of travel could be determined. After what seemed an age a faint green light could be seen and we knew then it was traveling in our general direction....our courses closed and too late we realised that far from moving slowly this dredger was steaming, dragging whatever it drags and showing no inclination to slow down. Because of the wind direction and the tack we were on we had little option but to bear away slightly, increase speed a little (we were already running at 7knots +) and cross his bow about 150 feet ahead. Nothing was heard on the radio and doubts began to set in. When we'd put sufficient distance between us we checked to see whether he could hear us. No response and no response either to a general call for a "radio check" Hmmmm. The rest of the night proved quiet but the following day off the third of the three traffic lanes that enter and leave New York we ran into our second issue. Daylight this time and we watched visually and on AIS, a large Chinese container ship move slowly away from NY and toward us. They were steaming at 10 knots or so, we were sailing at 5 or 6. They slowly closed the gap between us and it looked as though our course would converge. Because of the seas and wind direction we had our boom with a preventer on and whilst gybing might be a last resort it would require a lot of prep work before we could do so. We stood on. The gap closed and narrowed. At a point we judged that we could pass astern of the ship we rounded up and sort of hove to. I say "sort of" as we were still moving through the water at 2 knots and now moving closer to them. The ship altered course away from us by 10 degrees and once we were both clear of each other our normal courses were resumed. We had tried calling the ship but had no response and had no idea whether they had tried calling us. Not being able to communicate made life very tense for a few minutes and I began to feel concern about going through the Delaware Canal with no means of communication. As it happened the weather forecast came in and warned that the winds were fading and backing to the north which would leave us with a possible beat up the Delaware Bay or an easy sail down to Chesapeake and then across to Portsmouth. We opted to head on south but in the end it wasn't that easy as we approached Cape Charles in the dark and rain but with the tide flooding into the Bay. The effect of wind over tide over shallow water produces square, lumpy seas and with 5 miles to go before we cleared the bridge/tunnel system we opted to motor sail our way through the things. Water poured over the deck as the bowsprit buried itself in the solid mass of water we were running into. I watched as several inches of water ran along the deck and over the Air Only Vent vent we'd fitted. Having suffered for years with water dripping through various vents we're still over the moon that this vent does exactly what it says. No water drips or leaks below from it, the ventilation is excellent and, when the pension kicks in next year, we intend to fit several more.

By 11:30 we were tied up at the dock some 73 hours after we hauled up the anchor in Newport. We'll stay here for a few weeks, have already started our winter batch of home-brew (5 litres of beetroot and 25 litres of rice and raisin) and the inevitable job list that accompanies a boat. The plan is still to go south...after the last 2 summer cruises to the north and a winter spent in Maine we're ready for some sun......oh alright and some cheap rum!

Some months ago we wrote about giving up on the Taylor's cooker and replacing it with a single "primus" type burner. The reasons were numerous, not least, the horrendous price of spares from Taylor's and their, apparent, indifference to emails from long term customers - we'd been using the unit since 2000. The primus was/is great but we needed to find a way to gimbal it. 

 As luck would have it we found a second hand "Atom" unit in Maine before we left on the Greenland trip and I have to say it has been a winner. The unit is well made and we've been able to cook irrespective of conditions. Bee continues to turn out a loaf every other day using a cast iron dutch oven and we have had few problems. It is noisy but even that has its advantages  - drowns out the noise of vile weather and wind up top;  unlike the Taylors with its 6 litre fuel tank the primus holds less than a litre so it really requires filling on a daily basis. But over and above its effectiveness has been the response of the guy who designed the gimbal unit and sells them from here. Knowledgeable, efficient and helpful. Each time we've contacted him he has responded quickly (a major plus when you're often on the move). He also recognises that you may well have the skills to build your own unit so displays on his site a helpful diagram with measurements. Kero is such a sensible fuel for a cruiser and this is a simple, neat alternative to a Taylor's too.

VHF. We seemed to have sorted out our vhf silence. Cary's boat is in the slip next to us and we were able to swap radios around and establish the fault lay with the connection or aerial. Turns out to be a loose connection between aerial and cable and it has been judiciously tightened and taped. 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Money on ground tackle...

We woke to the sound of the anchor alarm going off. Not, in this instance, a warning we had dragged but letting us know we'd stretched out and possibly veered from our original position. That was at 5am yesterday morning, Wed 7th, some 32 hours ago and the storm has raged since. The first 24 hours were fine but as  the wind continued the seas followed suit and built up. The fetch inside was small but the entrance, barely visible, had white water everywhere. The sound of seas breaking on the northern side of the island, at times, drowned out the wind. By the late afternoon the wind had backed from NE to NNW which gave us a little more room astern but also created a confused sea tendency within the anchorage. The wind continued howling. The local radio informed us that the gusts on Martha's Vineyard, less than 10 miles away, had been clocked at 61mph and all local ferry traffic was suspended.   The NOAA site informed us that some 30 miles to the west of us the weather/navigation  buoy recorded 52 knots...whatever it was probably the longest period of foul weather we had at anchor since the week we sat in Newtown Creek, IOW as day after day the English Channel struggled under a Force 11. And we knew it was bad outside when the anchorage gradually saw more and more gulls "at anchor"; resting quietly until their lives might improve.

By the morning of Sat Nov 9th our life had improved beyond measure. For a start the wind had died down and the anchorage was flat calm. But the rain and gloom of the last few days had been replaced with a glorious sunshine. The natural harbour is part of a succession of islands that were, or may still be, owned by the Forbes family apparently. A couple of very large houses could be seen, sheep and a llama were the only real activity. A ferry runs between the harbour and Woods Hole, a  fishing boat came in prior to the storm but other than that we had had the place to ourselves. With a single day of northerlies left we opted to visit Vineyard Haven on Martha's, catch up with friends and await the next batch of favourable winds due in 3 days. Getting the wonderful Rocna anchor up gave us a struggle; convincing me at one point that we must be foul on something. Bee, who handles all the fore deck work, disagreed saying it felt different to a foul..... We secured the chain to protect the windless and tried to motor it out with little impact. Bee wanted more power so that's what we did and although the bow dipped ( in respect to the might of the anchor perhaps) it did break free. Thick, gloopy mud clung to the chain as we laboriously hurled buckets of sea-water over it. Eventually we were able to see the anchor  rising to the surface with a large amount of glutinous mud attached. We had, briefly, thought about setting two anchors in tandem as the anchorage was tight. However as we had anchored once already and then decided to shift position we knew the mud was good and simply added a second line to back up our existing rode using  two rolling hitches to secure it to the chain.We bought this 33kg (73lb) Rocna back in 2006 and have never regretted it. At the time they were new to the market but its design and holding power means we are able to sleep easy at night. Anchors may not have the same sex appeal as all singing all dancing chart plotters and water makers but, to us, they are far more important.  Everything back on board and stowed we motored clear, raised the main and stays'l and set off with a favourable current through the narrows at Woods Hole toward Vineyard Haven. The wind blew gently, the sun shone, sea sparkled and all was well in our world. Next stop, we hope, will be several hundred miles south of here.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Another storm arriving...

The anchorage is quiet; stars glitter across a dark, but not ominous sky and once again we await the arrival of a major storm. We were hoping to use the northerlies coming off an upcoming front to get south but it became obvious as we prepared to leave Belfast that this was going to be one to hide away from.

With final, final farewells and the third and final pie from Mary T, we headed out from Belfast with a good northerly breeze to see us on our way. We had hopes of making a non stop crossing of the Gulf of Maine rather than the usual stop start that has plagued us in the past. And so it proved to be with good speeds across a lumpy sea. Bee and Toots felt decidedly unwell from the motion as we ploughed on, dropping a second reef into the main to help balance the course and motion. The night was cold, very cold but we crossed and got to within 5 miles of the canal entrance at Cape Cod before the wind eased and speeds dropped below 3 knots. Not a speed we would ordinarily consider motoring but we needed to make sure we were through the canal before the tide turned and with less than 4 hours left to do so we needed to get on. 30 hours after leaving the dock we entered the canal and our speed began to pick up.
Railway Bridge, Cape Cod Canal

Still with the main up we slipped through the water at 8 knots and as the sun began to set through the arches of the railway bridge we knew the last section would be in the dark and cold. Our original plan had been to keep going to Cape May but the speed with which the front was moving plus the distance still to go suggested we should anchor for the night. Pocasset Harbour is pretty small but the bay outside has good holding and shelter from northerlies and we dropped anchor tired but content.

Monday saw a flurry of emails as we sought advice from friends about anchorages in the Buzzards Bay area. Our thought was either Block Island or Hadley Hbr, both of which we used in the past. In the end we chose Hadley and all the advice seemed in agreement. A short hop from where we were and we approached the tight entrance about 3 hours later managing to sail, impressively we thought though no spectators on such a cold day, through the narrow entrance and into the anchorage. We motored into the inner hbr but found plenty of local boats still on buoys so came back out to anchor south of Bull Island. The forecast is for NE 25-35knots with gusts of 55 on Wednesday, Thurs having similar strength winds.

As I write this the wind can be heard beginning to pick up...could this be the start?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Post Sandy

The day after we arrived in Smiths Cove we decided we'd move closer to the shore. The anchorage was deserted but with the week.end upon us we expected boats to start arriving. As we dallied we saw at least 3 boats, albeit without masts, approaching. They came past us, waved and continued on to a set of mooring buoys close to the shore. Once they were finished the handlers came by us in a tender to have a quick chat. One of them, Ken Eaton, turned out to be the owner of a local boatyard and suggested we might take up a very heavy mooring that was vacant. All the gear, he assured us, had been inspected recently and we would have no problem. Normally we're lary about using moorings but with this assurance and the fact that they were much closer to the shore and trees than we could safely manage under anchor persuaded us. So safely connected we made storm preparations; removing the stays'l, lashing down the main and mizzen to stop gusts loosening the sail. The next few days passed and we watched the few boats come in, recognising several from Belfast. In the event the storm really didn't account to much. Some gusts - the strongest just 39 knots an anchored boat recorded but with such good tree protection there was no fetch and whilst sleep wasn't that easy to succomb to at least it wasn't a terrifying experience. Ken, on his first sortie by us, had told us that there would be a sack of wood waiting for us on the dock and when we motored across to Castine town dock there was. Hours later a local couple had confirmed with the harbourmaster that we could stay on the dock for the night and another local came to tell us he had a further two bags of wood we were welcome to. The offer of the night on the dock was extended to a Dutch boat with two young children aboard; they were over the moon as it was Halloween and they would be able to join in the festivities. Welcome to Castine!

Whilst we'd been waiting for Sandy to arrive we'd been in contact with David and Susan who'd left Belfast a few days before we'd moved across the bay. They ended up in Oyster Bay at the western end of Long Island so very close to the mayhem that was about to occur. In the end they dragged, spent 5 hours motoring into the wind (holding their position), blew out isinglass panes in their sprayhood but survived the 62 knot gusts.

Thursday morning arrived and Bee with that familiar look of bargain hunting that crosses her face went immediately onto the internet before coffee was poured. Seems Job Lot, a store in Belfast, post their bargains on a Thursday.....The list scanned and checked it was declared that at least 4 items were staples for us and had been reduced significantly and our destination was decided. After chatting to various locals we cast off to follow another Belfast bound boat back. Little Bear, the other boat, was being single-handed so motored whilst we had a glorious sail back under all canvas. True the sun didn't shine but with few lobster pots and the bay to ourselves it was a wonderful few hours.

The much awaited northerlies are here, bringing their cold winds but as the south beckons we can put up with them for the next few weeks/months. With luck we'll get down to Cape May avoiding the Cape Cod Canal but that always remains an option.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Last week we thought we could use the forecasted northerlies to get down to Cape May in one run. But as the days passed and the northerlies got closer it became obvious that they were the fore runner of Hurricane Sandy and it seemed prudent to wait to see how that would shape up. In the end we chose to remain in Maine rather than head south to meet it.... Now it seems that Sandy is combining with another front and it is HUGE.

So we're holed up in Smiths Cove, Castine in Penobscot Bay and have just been informed by NOAA that we can expect gusts of 60 knots on Monday evening so this is going to be a tad unpleasant for 24 hours or so. We'll let you know.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Sea smoke and south..

he time had come to leave Mahone and friends as a promised favourable wind sort of arrived. We set off on an evening tide but made slow progress despite the NE wind. As ever we hoped to get far but had to settle for wherever we could, a useful approach to cruising we find. In this case we thought we might make it to Barrington Harbour but the winds began to drop as we passed Ingomar Hbr. Both of these spots are close to where the currents pick up as they approach/leave Cape Sable and timing is important. We pulled into Ingomar and anchored for the night. The following day the wind blew out of the south and southwest and we remained where we were. A surprise visit by fishing boat from Forbes and Yola, friends from Shelburne, caught us unawares and it also gave us useful local info that the water continued to be deep for another 200 yards allowing us to move further over, away from the channel and into better protection. The following day we were disconcerted to hear a radio message for an "anchored yacht" As the radio had been turned down we'd missed most of it so turned it up and waited. The voice came back and was calling "the yacht anchored off Ingomar Habour with a British Flag" Turned out to be Canadian Customs and Border checking on us, Last Port, Next Port, CANPAS number etc. We can only imagine they must have been on shore with pretty powerful binos to spot our flag! We headed out the following morning but found ourselves entangled on an abandoned mooring anchor and spent several frustrating minutes rigging up a tackle to take the weight whilst Bee hung off the bobstay and unwrapped our chain from the shank of the thing. Eventually we were free and able to head off. We motored most of the way to Barrington a 20 mile trip. Although it is 9 miles up the bay it is an ideal spot to make the most of the currents and we were looking forward to checking it out. Approaching the last of the channel markers we were a tad alarmed at the number of buoys that lined the channel beyond the official ones...could they be oyster lines or some huge fish net..?? We crept forward slowly with Bee stood on the bowsprit watching for nets. But nothing appeared and we made our way slowly forward. The anchorage is alongside a causeway and it seems as though we were a boat length from it before the anchorage opened up. Plenty of depth (20') and several boats already on moorings. Hardly surprising as the place looks fairly bomb-proof. We dropped anchor, more to one side than we should have, but with little wind and no fetch we were safe. The fishing boat that was on a buoy, cast off and motored toward us. No, we weren't in the way, very little traffic in and out and we should stay where we were. We asked about the buoys that had caused us problems....seems they were race marks that had been left there after being gathered in from a local regatta and the boat was off to bring them in....
The following morning we were up and away for the leg to Belfast. Winds were forecast as easterly but the morning began light as we motored south past Cripple Creek (no ferry in sight though....Neil Young...) Nevertheless with the wind and current we had we managed to get 25 miles away from the coast before the tide turned although the motion, for the most part, was as unpleasant as it gets short of a gale. As ever, the winds died at night though not entirely but certainly enough to remove any hopes of a fast passage. 50 miles from the US coast we were reminded, yet again, that it may make more sense to leave NS at night and then perhaps we'd arrive in Maine in daylight. As it was we saw the islands, Mount Desert, Isle a Haut but by the time we closed it was getting dark. And cold. We sailed on, wincing each time Hannah clattered a lobster pot. We winced a lot.....As the evening wore on the wind backed, eased and speed dropped. By now we're beating and it is down to 2 knots. We fired up the engine and Bee stood on the bow with a small torch checking for pots whilst I was poised to wrench the lever into neutral. By now it is very cold but progress was being made into a headwind. When the course freed us we sailed and then up the east side of Isleboro, we beat for a while with a favourable current. With 4 miles still to go to round the island , speed down to under 2 knots and the wind easing the current turned against us and each leg sailed gained us diddly squat it seemed and so we reverted to the engine and a frozen lookout. Passing Isleboro freed us and we sailed the last 10 miles toward the town we regard as home.

Early morning and sea-smoke rises
 But not to stay We seem to have been cold for the last 18 months and whilst in Greenland we thought it might be a change to spend a little time further south where sunshine and rum are plentiful.....

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Crocs Away...or how a pension saved my arse

Cow Head proved to be a good choice as we were able to move from one side of the harbour to the other to obtain better protection from the wind. Though not from the company of minks which were everywhere. Having been regularly fed by the local fishermen they seemed to have little fear of humans (or cats) and wandered quite close to the boat. Toots attempts at harassment were met with disdain and they would simply duck into a small hole out of her way.

With Leslie raging on the other side of the island we had some wind but mostly rain and, with the wind, easing and backing we decided to head out the following day. It may have been a mistake as the winds were fitful and the seas still a little confused. By 2am the following day they had died and we drifted slowly northwards on the current losing about 4 miles before they returned and we were able to sail on down to Neddy Harbour in Bonne Bay. 17 hours for a 30 mile journey....not our finest performance!  We stayed for a few days, meeting with friends and awaiting a favourable wind. The weather looked set to remain out of the SW but a small window gave us  a day of south winds followed by a day of west winds and we headed out. I don't think we have EVER left or arrived from Neddy without a windless struggle and that night proved no exception. This time we lost well over 6 miles before the winds came in and we began the trip south proper. Initially the winds came and went but before long we were heading slightly south of east toward Anticosti Island, a hundred or more miles away. As the winds increased so did the seas and with a beam  wind we inevitably had seas come aboard. About 30 miles from the island we had a welcome wind shift from S to SE and were able to work our way south off the long bank that extends eastwards and as the wind shifted to the west were well placed to head down to, and clear, Cape North at the end of Cape Breton. Big, lumpy seas built up and broke over us as speeds increased. At one point the log said 8.6k whilst the SOG registered 9.4k with the help of a friendly current and 33knots of wind. Onwards under a double reefed main, stays'l and our miniscule spitfire jib we ran. Once under the shelter of the land the seas eased dramatically but so did the wind and progress became slower. Too slow really as we'd hoped, for once, to get to the "Narrows", the entrance into the Lakes with a favourable wind.
In the end we ran the engine to try and get there before the worst of the outgoing tide but might have well have saved ourselves the fuel. The wind meant we could keep sailing albeit hard on the wind as we came down the channel. But even with the engine running, the crew willing her on each time the rigging creaked to a welcome gust and Hannah heeling steeply from them, progress was slow.

Whilst the log said we were motor-sailing at 7 knots the speed was much less. Gradually speed declined from 6 knots to 4 and less. At one point we were down to 0.4knots as we approached the narrowest part but only for a minute or so and then we were through and approaching Kelly Cove for the night and a stiff drink or two.

Tues 18th Sept. On a bright, sunny cloudless day we began a long beat down the Bras D'Or channel toward our next anchorage. It was a wonderful sailing day although a little early for an entirely favourable tide. The first challenge was Seal Island bridge with its rips and currents. Our tacks took us right up to it and as we beat across the channel at 5 knots we were obviously going sideways as well as forwards and thus crabbed through the bridge and out the other side accompanied by a cacophony of truck horns from the passing traffic. In the far distance we could make out a yacht heading our way and an hour so later met up with George from Big Harbour and where we decided to anchor for the night. 42 tacks after starting we pulled into the anchorage and stopped.

Days later on a day of constant and heavy rain we hauled the anchor up and headed south. The forecasted SE was in fact NE and couldn't be wasted. Unfortunately the fog was thick and not much could be seen. With 3 miles to go we called the bridge keeper to warn him of our approach.....the wind is astern of us and we've got the full main up so the speed is never less than 6 knots and often higher. We call him again with 3/4 mile to go and he assures us he'll have it open......with 1/2 mile to go the barriers start to drop and as the bascule complete their opening we roar through the bridge under full main to the obvious delight of the bridge- keeper - all smiles and thumbs up as he lent well out of his watch window. Exhilarating for sure although we'd run the engine just in case the current which swirls about inside the narrow gap decided, as it did the first time we ever went through some years ago, that it would prefer if we were closer, much closer to one side than was deemed safe by the nervous nellies that count as Hannah's crew. The wind dropped steadily as we sailed further south and we opted to spend the night or two in Georges Harbour.

Onwards to the Canal, a brief visit with Jack and Glenda before motoring through the 1/2 mile or so to the other side from where we left on Tues 25th Sept. for Glasgow Harbour some 20 odd miles away. Good sail tho a tad nippy saw us entering the channel for another couple of nights rest whilst we awaited a fair wind to take us along the Nova Scotia coastline. The harbour, whilst open to the east gives good protection from the winds we were having and the only sound was that of dozens of seals "barking".....well we think they were the ones making the racket. A brief, silent, visit from a local fishing boat was our only entertainment. The other advantage of the harbour is the close proximity of Andrews Passage, a narrow channel that lets you cut out a dog leg around the headland and, to some extent, much of the rough water that can be found off Cape Canso. We motored through the channel in smooth water opting to leave the sails until we'd reached a more open space. A wise choice in the end as at the moment we decided to raise the main and Bee was about to start hauling lines the wind blasted across the sea and went from 10-15 knots to something around 30.......we changed our minds and raised the stays'l, mizzen and the working jib and took off across the bay at 6 knots plus.....and settled down for what we hoped would be a quick passage. A few hours later the wind began to  ease and though we stayed under the same rig we knew we were going to have to change to the main to keep the boat moving well. Luckily the seas had dropped considerably and were now less than a metre. The wind was on the beam and we decided to get the main up. All went well until Bee tried to raise the boom off the gallows and found the main-sheet had jammed in the block allowing the main to clear the doghouse by a few inches only. As the boat rolled in the swell the boom, now free of the gallows, was able to swing back and forth although its travel was curtailed by the main=sheet still firmly cleated down. Normally I work from aft of the boom as being alongside the aft end is a dangerous business (booms are not called "widow-makers for no reason...) but this time I was alongside and simply fended off the gently swinging boom with one hand as I uncleated the sheet. The boom, now free of its restraint promptly increased its arc of swing from 30 cms to well over a metre and fending off became instantly harder and more dangerous. As it came back at me for the second time with increased force I moved aft to escape it, fending off with one hand and ducking to escape the worst of its intentions....and found myself falling. As luck would have it I was between the mizzen shrouds and was knocked backwards and through them. I remember thinking " Shit I could end up getting wet here" before I realised I was not only wet but upside down and under water, dressed in heavy clothing.......... Hannah was under the control of our self-steerer and whilst our speed was a sedentary 3.5 knots it still meant we were moving through the water at almost 2 metres or 6' per second.......
As I popped to the surface I realised with relief I still had the mainsheet clutched in my right hand and I'd broken the surface alongside rather astern of a, to a dumped sailor, rapidly disappearing boat. Of even greater comfort was the presence of Bee leaning over the capping rail, quietly encouraging me and, seemingly, calmly wrapping an additional line around me to stop me drifting away from the boat. Luckily the water was warmish but even so I could feel the desperateness of the situation. Hannah does not have a huge freeboard, that distance between the sea and the deck or capping rail in our case. But in water logged clothing climbing out was going to be a problem and I could feel mentally I was already beginning to think "hmmmm...I'm not sure I can do this." Bee, of course, was having none of it and with her help I was able to get my left leg high enough for her to grab the oilskins and heave. With a struggle I came back on board, perhaps a few minutes after I'd been dumped in. We were both shaken by the whole thing and knew that the outcome could have been so different. Had the seas been higher, colder, the winds stronger, Bee not on deck etc... I wouldn't be the first or last sailor to be lost overboard under similar circumstances and it has made us realise we need to close that gap between the shrouds before we do much else. Bee made light of it; telling me that with my pension due next year there was no way she was letting me out of her sight.....Unfortunately out of my sight were the size 11 pink Crocs I was wearing as they floated away in the I'm now down to 3 pairs of the same...

Some hours later we got the main up and made our way toward Halifax. We'd hoped to clear the shipping lanes in daylight but the failing wind also began to head us and we began a slow beat to the west. Although the lanes were busy both before and after we crossed them the hour or two we spent crossing was quiet. We listened to a ship getting clearance to leave. It was Sept 28 and its next port of call was somewhere in Italy at 00:00 7 October!! As we watched it pass some 5 mile to the south of us at 20.2 knots we understood how it could be well into the Med in 9 days.

30th Sept. In Prince's Inlet on a buoy belonging to John and Phyliss of Morgans Cloud. (see site) They run an interesting website that has a wealth of info, sound advice and some excellent photo's. The weather when we arrived yesterday, like today, seems to be verging on torrential rain and the winds are either foul or light so well be in Mahone Bay for a while it seems. We had hoped to get here early enough to see the launch of the new "Bluenose", Nova Scotia's famed schooner but not to be. Our arrival not the launch which we understand went ahead in fine style without us.

As an aside: I can't remember where we were but I'd been off watch and sleeping but became aware that our motion had a more than normal tilt to it. I came up on deck to find Bee filming a charging Hannah as under full main we were thundering along with the rail under water! That is NOT a position I like to be in but Bee had found the whole thing exhilarating and in truth something the boat seems to revel in. Certainly cleaned the decks although I rapidly had order restored and a reef stuck in sharpish! Bloomin' youngsters!!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Greenland Pt 2

Our departure from Sisimiut on 8th August was delayed when we found the anchor firmly caught on something some 17 metres below us. We tried all the usual to no avail until I finally called Grendel on the radio and asked them to motor out and help. We made a couple of loops in a 3 metre length of chain, attached one end to a long line, fastened the other loop around the anchor chain and let it drop. We needed a large shackle to get it to run all the way down to the anchor but it finally came to rest securely around the shank. Grendel attached the long line to their stern and motored away. Seconds later Hannah began to move forward as they had successfully pulled the anchor clear of whatever was fouling us. They headed back into harbour and we made for the open sea....
Sunset approaching Sisimiut

The seas outside were lumpy and confused  and we struggled to make progress under engine as the wind seemed reluctant to play its part. But eventually we broke free,spent a few hours drifting and then the wind came and we were off. Racing toward Baffin Island at well over 7 knots on a glorious night. It couldn't get any better and we were looking forward to getting there in record time. But. 108 miles from the coast we came across our first berg and by Friday we were enveloped in fog and speed was down to 2 or 3 knots, no bad thing when fog and 'bergs are your companions. For several days as the wind shifted into the SE we'd been beating slowly; toward Baffin in the day and away at night. We'd given up any hope of reaching Exeter sound but still had hopes we might get somewhere further south but after a week even that seemed unlikely, although we came close to the islands off the southern end of Cumberland Bay and so we opted to keep going. However by trying to reach Baffin we were now firmly east and the constant SE winds had us at a disadvantage. Added to this were currents that seemed to be getting stronger and I began to feel a tad desperate. Last years experience on the Labrador coast had shown us how long it can take to get south and we were rapidly approaching last years turnaround date but were 200 miles north of that position. The log is filled with "grey"  "lumpy" "tacked" "bergs" as we struggled to stay warm in the cold, dripping fog. Progress was made however and we crept nearer to Labrador. At one point with 30 miles to go to the northern tip we were beating south at 3 knots. The compass showed we were heading 210 whilst our true course was about 170 but our track across the ground was between 240 and 265 and I had visions of being swept into Ungava Bay. So fierce currents ebb and flood into the Hudson Strait and we reluctantly tacked NE to try and make more easting to clear. The other problem we had here came from the flow of water across banks causing great square lumpy seas to bear down on us from various directions and we needed to motor frequently in order to make progress through this mess we were in. No doubt some of the turbulence came from current direction changes as well. A thoroughly uncomfortable and unhappy time aboard Hannah. Once we were finally through we began heading for land and a chance for a full nights sleep. Williams Harbour with at least 3 possible anchorages was 30 mile west of us and we opted to heave to until the morning and then sail in during daylight. And so we did despite serious misgivings about approaching an area so close to the Mclelan Strait and its currents. Stoneman Hbr (60 16.57N 64 30.31W) is a small cove in Tunnungsuajuak Inlet that we were hoping would live up to its write up. It did.
 Well sheltered and shallow enough to lay out a good scope it also gave us a welcome sighting of a huge polar bear who was ambling around the other end of the cove before wandering away over the hill after an hour or so. We lit the stove, cracked open a bottle and relaxed. 11 days after leaving Sisimiut, a journey that we would normally expect to have taken 4 or 5 days.

The following day we pushed on, passing the bear lying a an outcrop surveying its territory. We couldn't get weather forecasts so would await a passing ship and call them for info. One such was the Annie Desganges who gave us the info we needed and then called back later to find out what we were up to. They fell about learning of our slow progress as they steamed up from Montreal in a week and yes they responded they did have the heating on, hot water was plentiful but sadly pizza delivery was not included in their job description so they couldn't oblige Bee's request....We drifted or tacked our way slowly south. Fuel was not plentiful on Hannah and, for us, motoring though the night is a non starter we it would mean steering and, as I've all ready indicated it was cold. So we drift or make whatever progress we can with whatever sail set up works. Slowly we worked south and around 57N we picked up Labrador Coast Guard radio and a welcome forecast warning us of a SW25 heading our way and we happily made our way to our second anchorage at Perry's Gulch. Not perfect but good enough for what we needed. We'd had clear conditions for ..... Luckily we'd been into Perry's a couple of times last year so knew how it lay but even so..... It is the "problem" with this stuff, radar, gps etc in that when it goes awol you're suddenly confronted with your fears about being able to continue. Sometimes it seems as though all this safety stuff actually makes us less safe....anyway we crept on but thought we may as well try the radar again just in case. Well it was a "just in case" cos there was the island ahead and the mainland beyond it and in we went and dropped anchor 6 days after leaving Stoneman.

On our second night at anchor we both leapt out of bed at the loudest, sharpest thunderclap we'd ever heard! It sounded so close we couldn't imagine what the hell was going on...well nothing was 'cos the storm was way out to sea and all was calm around us except that the wind was starting to fill in from the NW, it was just what we needed and at 02:30 we upped anchor and headed out. Over the next few days we made soso progress but we moved steadily south still dealing with fog and light winds but moving south and then with the wind shifting to the north we made excellent progress. The last few hours became a tad tense as the seas built up rapidly  and we hurtled on under a double-reefed main. The entrance looked lumpy and the following seas were breaking just about deck level as we roared toward our destination. Once inside the shelter of land the seas eased then smoothed and at 7am on the 1 Sept we pulled into Ship Harbour to find Phillip and Helen quietly tied up to the dock. They'd crossed to Stoneman in 4 days going direct and using the motor when needed and then hopped down the coast.  We were chuffed to see them and happy to be in one of our favourite spots in Labrador. Happiness on Hannah.

And now we're in Cow Head Harbour where we'll be for a few days to let these southerlies blow through. We'd had fast exilerating run down the Belle Isle in a stiff NE. P&H opted to pull ino Port a Choix whilst we headed on as the wind was still strong. Of course it died once we'd got past Port Saunders and we drifted around throughout the night. With fuel getting low we pulled into here, met a friendly local guy called George who ran me and 6 jerry cans to get fuel and then decided to stay here for a few days. Internet access has revealed the threat of two hurricanes on their way north and the sad news of the death of Ned Cabot from drowning a hundred miles or so south of here

So there it is. Greenland is very different to Labrador, settlements exist much further north, tourism seems to be firmly established and cruise ships regularly visit Disko Bay. Internet access is readily available in towns (albeit at a price) via the Seaman's Mission and for the sailor weather forecasts are broadcast regularly for the entire Greenland coast. Unfortunately they're broadcast in Greenlandic or Danish only although gale warnings are also given in English. However a call to the coastguard will produce an English version of what you've just heard. For what its worth we heard,on approaching Greenland, gale warning number 591 and the last one we heard was number 657.....thats a lot of gales in 3 weeks. Luckily, for us, almost all occur around the Cape Farvel area.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Greenland Pt1

I'm writing this from the anchorage of Innarssuatsaaaq Island, part of the Gronne Islands; 68 49.8 N 051 52.63 W  . A well sheltered cove that is also, unusually for here, shallow. The entrance lies to the north and beyond that are a dozen or so 'bergs with attendent growlers and bergy bits. The 'bergs are perhaps aground, the growlers and bergy bits aren't and last night saw a small procession of them slowly work their way into the anchorage until the tide turned and we had a little peace. The two sounds that dominate are the Arctic Terns who seem to occupy these green bits of land to the exclusion of everything else and the dull "crump" sound of icebergs breaking up somewhere off in the bay. We heard it frequently yesterday as we came across from Aasiaat and it goes on today. Hardly surprising when we're less than 30 miles from the huge Jacobshavns Isfjord which spawns monsters throughout the summer, which then begin their slow drift across Disko Bay across the Davis Strait to join others coming from Baffin Island and so work their way down the Labrador coast.

In Mahone Bay

Much has happened since we last up-dated so this will be a brief recap over the earlier bits before concentrating on the bit we've traveled long and hard for.

We followed the usual route from Maine to Lunenburg and then onwards via the Lakes and into the Belle Isle Strait. Nothing exceptional happened, bit of fog, some wind, lot of calms but we were slowly catching up on our "schedule". We stopped in the Bay of Islands for a few days as winds conspired against us but then onwards to St Barbe, then Cooks Harbour where we had a much needed shower, did some washing and fueled up. Pottered east across to Quirpon the following day and left 24 hours later, July 4th, for Greenland. A mixed journey with a single days run of 137 but mostly well under 100 miles a day with a large number of nights spent drifting. Cooler now as we made slow progress north. We'd hoped to reach Aasiaat in 12 days but not a chance as the winds became ever lighter.

Maniitsoq - more impressive after days at sea!!
Opted not to go into Nuuk but we gazed in wonder at the rocky peaks we could see above the fog before we eventually made landfall at Maniitsoq when we were faced with a gradually escalating headwind. This is a spectacular setting made more so by the  presence of thick fog until we closed the land and then the town began to reveal itself, perched high above the water. We crept in, tied up for the night ahead of a powerful French motor-sailer and slept!

We were about 200 mile south of our destination so left early the following day to motor up the inside route to a small anchorage at Appamiut, surrounded by mountains still with snow and ice visible.
 The following day we crossed, without ceremony, the Arctic Circle. Onwards with little hope for favourable winds. Like Labrador, travel in Greenland requires enormous patience and a good engine and as the day wore on we opted to try an inside anchorage, worked our way through a narrow channel and into what we thought might be a suitable bay. It wasn't and we motored north across "greyed out" areas on the chart indicating it was poorly surveyed and into ever deeper water. Visiblity was poor and the radar helped us work our way into a sheltered cove out of the strong currents. As we anchored we happened to glance up and were shocked to see a huge mountain towering above us. The fog lifted a few hours later to reveal mountains everywhere. By morning it had returned and we had a neighbour.

 He left for the south as the fog lifted and we decided to try our luck at getting through the Kangerlussuaq Fjord entrance to the north of us. Getting the tides right would mean a fast passage, wrong and we might be swept backwards as they can, apparently, run at 7 knots. Well we had a semi success in that it was only 2+knots against us so we emerged happy and on our way. As we approached the Sisimiut area the wind picked up and still from the north and we headed in for a bit of shelter. The run in was fast with us desperately looking for, as Tilman had all those years previously, Jacobs Skien - a small, difficult to spot rock that lies to one side of the approach. What wasn't difficult to spot were the 3 masts that were in the anchorage! We joined two others in a small, deep bay. It was 11.30 at night and daylight.

A couple of days later we moved on, spending the day beating for 39 miles to cover 22 and into Sydbay, before motoring/sailing the following day up to Faeringe Nordhavn for the night. We'd spoken to a couple (Phillip and Helen on Grendel) we'd met in Sisimiut on the radio but they were much further ahead and never in sight. Wed 25th July was hot, sunny and almost windless. We motored. And motored.... At one point we considered (or I did) stopping in a small village for the night but Bee felt it better to go on. The miles slipped by, the engine seems to be working so much better this year and as the day came to an end we were within a few miles of Aasiaat.
11:30 at night as we approached Aasiaat

The sun was still up as we turned into the last bay at 11.45, still daylight and we anchored at 12.30 in a deep pool. On a small dock we could see Grendel, the boat we'd spoken to previously and the following day we joined them. The dock is on a small island where the abandoned fish plant is so we had fewer concerns about Toots going ashore.

A few asides. It's not possible to wander into this part of the world without being aware of Bill Tilman and his legacy. see website He came here in the 60's in Mischief and wrote wonderfully about the trips he made. I mention him as Bee made a bread and butter pudding that deserved, as Tilman would say, to be in a glass case, and was immediately christened by me as a "Tilman" Moist, sweet and a real "rib-sticker" 

We have carried around with us for the last 5 years a trysail that we've never used. Partly the effort involved and partly because it seemed as though it should be a last resort.
The joys of a trys'l
 For some reason a few weeks back when the wind picked up and the double reefed main was touching the water as we rolled (we hadn't peaked it enough) I thought we might set the trys'l to get a feel for how it all came together.....what a revelation! In the 30 knots we had it was straight forward to use but the real joy was in the handling of Hannah. We tried various combinations and romped along at 6knots+ without any stress of strain on nerves.

Back to the update. We've sampled a couple of anchorages in Disko Bay. Yesterdays is described as Hebridean; narrow, rocky and little vegetation. Open at both ends so we would be susceptible to currents.....and bergs. For a couple of hours all went well. The tide was coming in, the wind in our favour. As High Water approached the wind switched and began blowing 'bergs toward the entrance we'd come through. Not too much concern as it was well protected by small islands and the tide had begun to ebb. But a large growler which had previously past by us hadn't gone far enough to escape the ebb and began its slow journey back through the anchorage. We were anchored in such a way that growlers and bergy bits were naturally swept either side of us as the water separated to flow around the rocks that lay astern. The returning growler was well off to our starboard side and evidently on its way safely through. I went below and about 20 minutes later Bee went up on deck to  check to find this monster right by us, almost under the bowsprit and intent on sweeping us with it. Using oars we struggled to move the thing - it was around 25' long and 10' wide and DEEP. We could see the underwater section creeping close to the hull as desperately tried to move the thing. Gradually we slid it along the hull all the time willing it to stay far enough away from the self-steerer whilst taking the far more practical step of starting the engine once we knew it was clear of the prop. As soon as we had clearance we drove forward using the wash to increase the gap. Bee frantically raised the anchor as we headed out. The neighbouring anchorage is a couple of miles to the north but that too had a succession of ice lumps and the thought of another sleepless night spurred us onto making the 20 mile trip to Godhavn on Disko Island.

Thurs Aug 2nd 67 39.2 N 053 38. 4 W Faeringe Nordhaven
Godhaven is a tiny gem of a place with a population of less than a thousand, a busy, landlocked harbour and a backdrop of steep mountains. A tourist destination for hikers apparently. We stayed a couple of nights before moving onto a nearby anchorage in Fortune Harbour. Or not in this case, as both entrances were heavily populated by 'bergs, growlers and bergy bits...the 'bergs were creaking ominously as we crept by them searching for a way in but it wasn't to be and this became the furthest north we would get - 69 20N.

The weather forecast had promised a rare northerly wind and so we decided we'd take advantage of it and head south in preparation for the crossing, But the wind failed to arrive until late evening and we spent a frustrating time motoring. However by 9pm the wind filled in and with main and genny set we self steered down past Aasiaat and south. A cold night of course with the sun setting around 12.30, rewarding us of a glimpse of the famed "green flash" and the dawn making its presence known minutes later it seemed. By 6 or so the wind had begun to ease and despite cramming all sail on and steering ourselves we were not going to make our intended anchorage. Aasiaat Radio informed us that the winds would switch to the S or SE and up to 25 knots so not what we wanted to hear. We began a slow beat, current against us of course but slowly made our way south, deciding to pull into Faeringe Nordhaven, an anchorage we'd used on the journey north. As we approached we saw Wanderbird -see website leaving the fjord on their way north. A quick gam on the radio and both vessels crossed paths the crew and guests on one lining the rail to see us pass. The tradition of crossing into the Arctic Circle is alive and well on Wanderbird as Rick and Karen ensure that all crew members who have never crossed have their heads shaved..... 

We spent a couple of days in FN, checking different parts of the fjord for anchorages and rowing ashore to a small, fast running stream/waterfall to replenish our water supply. If it hadn't been for the mozzies we would probably washed our hair too.

8 Aug. Anchored in Sisimuit, Hannah ready and snugged down for the journey south. Grendel are here too but in the harbour and hopefully our paths will cross further south soemwhere in Labrador. We're hoping to touch briefly in Exeter Sound on Baffin before heading south proper and giving ourselves 'til the end of the month to reach Ship Harbour. We'll see; last August had us dodging one hurricane and September a further two so this can be a nervous time of the year for us. We'll let you know!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

In the Arctic Circle - will update sometime soon....................

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Absent Friends

Been a while since I could be bothered to write up these pages for a number of reasons. A couple of close friends dying took the edge off things for a while as we slowly came to terms with their separate deaths and we were working on the boat, which can be pretty boring to write/read about and so the months drifted by. But now our time of departure is counted in hours rather than weeks and as it feels more as though we're back in cruising mode it seems as though we should get some sort of update posted.

The changes. We took out the long serving (and very efficient) Lavac toilet, filled in the holes and opted to use a Porta-Potti. We had nothing against the unit but really disliked the through hulls. The Taylor's cooker likewise was disposed of and we pondered how we would gimbal our dinky little “Primus”. Bee, browsing through a local on-line listing found an Atom (see here) for sale second-hand from a guy who was willing to deliver and the problem was solved. We'll let you know how the system fares at sea but we're happy with what we so far have.

Eventually we took the shelter down and Bryden came along to help hoist the rudder into place. We'd used the guys from the local (and very successful) Come Boating rowing team to get it off but reversing the process required a crane. In the event we had to do it twice as we'd got the washer sequence wrong and it didn't sit I was desperately trying to tighten up the nuts and get the split pins inserted, Ken was reversing the trailer under the boat ready to lift and launch us. We launched and began the slow process of adding rigging (running backstays, bowsprit shrouds, lazyjacks and a heap more). Jeez it seemed to be so much harder this time as we finally set the blocks for the mizzen only to realise we'd got one out of sync and... oh never mind it was wrong anyway and had to be changed.

Then we ran the engine and heard an ominous knocking noise.....”Got to be the alignment” I said whilst in my mind I was thinking “ I can't believe this - it sounds like the gearbox has gone again” We called in John to have a listen.....He dismissed the alignment but thought we had a gearbox problem.....we had, as removing the gearbox, bell housing and drive plate proved. A phone call to a US distributor elicited the response that we could get one from them for $353 but not until the end of the month unless we paid $140 for expedited shipping...a phone call to Mike Bellamy of Lancing Marine in England via Skype found we could get it for $160 plus shipping. 77 hours after we placed the call the package was in our hands. Remarkable service. Whilst we were at it we did change the engine mounts, removed the car heater and sorted out the alignment. The depth sounder hadn't worked since we relaunched and we checked, rechecked and rechecked again to no avail. Jim, a fellow cruiser/liveaboard, who currently works for the yard, offered to loan us his unit to check things out and for good measure lowered a microphone over the side(he's a diver which is meant to explain why he should have such a device.....)So we found the transducer works but not the head and danced in jubilation as we all we had to do was replace that rather than haul out etc. Short lived however as research showed that whilst our transducer operated on 155khz almost all modern units operate on 200khz and it was beginning to look as though we were into major expense. Luckily it is possible to dry out here so we could always use that as an option. But, as ever, Bee checking out options found an old depth sounder (much older than ours) on Ebay for $5. The seller even offered a transducer if he could find it on the boat for the sale price. He did, the set up arrived, we worked on it and it works! Meanwhile an email to Nasa Marine about their sounder had a very rapid and positive response. That arrives tomorrow so with luck we'll be on our way on Thursday.

So one further bit of flag waving for a UK company. After some thought we decided to try a Jordan Series drogue, a device I'd first read about a couple of years back. Pricing it out we found that Ocean Brake (see here) would make up the unit and ship it out for about 15% more than I could buy the individual components and make it myself. A boat the weight of Hannah requires 139 cones to be stitched and attached....

Of course we're now a couple of weeks behind “schedule” and as we'd hoped to get up to Disko Bay in Greenland this summer we're a bit miffed. However with a couple of short pushes we could recover some of the time and it might still be possible to get things done. We'll see.

Late last year another friend of ours died. Allan was in his 80's and had had a stroke that had left him mostly paralysed and in a wheelchair for the last 17 years of his life. His sense of humour and interest in the waterfront never diminished and he was always there when we returned, wanting to know what we'd seen and where we'd been. His family had a gathering in Boston and scattered some of his ashes there and then another celebration, months later, in Belfast to allow his many friends here to celebrate his life. A small Viking ship was made and, with much of his remaining ashes aboard, set alight and allowed to sail into the bay. It was a great ceremony made more so for us by the fact that prior to it all starting his daughter Rose had given us a small jar containing some his ashes for us to paint onto our mast so he could journey to all those places he loved to hear about whenever we came into harbour.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Just goes to show...You're never too old to make dumb decisions

In the absence of any sailing we're reduced to writing about the shed which is a sort of mixed blessing. The shed I mean. It certainly keeps the wind and elements off us but the ice will form on the inside of the sheeting (and the hull come to that!). On the sheeting it's no big deal except when the temps rise, the ice melts and water drips everywhere. 

As the temps have been consistently below 0C/32F for the last week or so we've had a water free "home". but the downside of this is; the plastic is white so we get no solar benefit and when the sun shines it may still be colder inside the shelter than out!  Wind chill excepted. We've started adding "windows" in an effort to reduce thus effect. We'll see how that works out. A week or so back we were getting ready for another day when a pick-up pulled up outside the shelter. Our good friend Jonathan appeared...Now we've known this guy since the first time we arrived in Belfast in 2004 and when he heard that we'd briefly considered wintering here this time he pulled out all the stops to persuade us this would be a good move....including, it has to be said,  promising to help build the shelter and make us weatherproof. In the end we stayed, he sailed down to Puerto Rica and we built the shelter without his help and guidance (he builds houses for a living). But we're not holding that against him(??) and on this day he turned up with a pick-up bed full of maple, a wood burning stove and the chimney bits needed to make it work. Moments later another friend, Pablo, arrived on a separate mission and together they start putting the thing together. Meanwhile Kenny, who works for Alex the yard owner, turned up and asked Bee if she wanted to be involved in a rescue. As Kenny is a volunteer fireman she had all sorts of scenarios rush through her head and eagerly said "Yes".  "Oh Good! He needs you to drive to Manchester and deliver the spare car keys to him as he's left his in  California some 3000 miles away"...... Sure we'd go, little realising it was a 4 hour drive each way...about what we drive every few years it seems.
Window AND chimney Boy we know how to...
Anyway we did it, going through Greenland on the way. Place names in the US are so familiar but geographically out of kilter to us, Peru, Paris, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Calais...
Anyway we got back to find the chimney gently smoking as the fire had been lit and replenished some 5 hours earlier. What a wonderful homecoming! It is one of the heart warming things about this country that so often the people are so unbelievably kind.

A few days after this I'd lit the fire in the morning and gone off to do something, returned to the shelter to find it smoky and thought I'd left wood too close to the stove. Not so - turned out to be the heat from the stove melting the ice which dropped onto the heat source and turned into steam - our own sauna no less. 

Bee, de-rusting chainplates

Deck in sunshine
There is no doubt about it we have had a mild start to the winter but... the last week or so seemed pretty relentless (for entertainment I'm reading about Shackleton's expedition to Antarctica -it makes me feel warmer...) The last few nights have seen temperatures around -15c or worse which seems pretty cold. Not to those folks from Russia, Finland, Poland etc, who come across these pages or friends in northern bits of Canada but cool enough. On bitterly cold nights we stock up the stove with small bags of coal we make up during the day. That way it keeps going until the early hours and keeps some heat in here. 
Door, hidden away with entrance for Toots too

Friday 19th Jan. Yesterday was one of those days you need to forget. The ground inside the shelter and forward of the boat had turned from a sheet of ice to a lake. Several centimetres deep...I wandered over to the mast shed, collected the industrial wet and dry Vac they have and plugged it in. After I'd emptied the thing twice I realised the water was seeping under the wall and I was attempting to vacuum dry the car park..... I went outside and began chipping through the ice with a pick axe and several hours later had constructed a system of "canals" to drain the water into the sea. By then it was approaching three pm, the strength of the sun had waned and the escaping water had begun to turn into ice......