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.