Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Blue sky days, wood stove nights

The end of the season, traps in the late afternoon sun

With a further spell of cold but clear weather we opted to get away for another few days. The wind strengths were nothing like our last jaunt and we took advantage of the remarkable abundance of anchorages and sailed across to Isleboro, the nearest inhabited island to where we are. Actually about 30 minutes before we cast off, Earl McKemzie had dropped off a bag of kindling and suggested we pick up his buoy in Seal Cove which we were happy to do so. Normally the buoy holds the 60' schooner Bonnie Lynn so we had no worries about its capabilities of holding us. As before we used only the mizzen and #1, enjoying a brisk sail across the 8 miles of water. Certainly cold despite the bright sunshine and we lost no time in firing up the wood stove once we'd sailed in and (almost) onto the huge buoy. We launched the dinghy and rowed ashore to view the progress on Bonnie and Earl's new house which has been on going for a few years, they having only part of the winters to work on it. Essentially it is a flat (apartment) built above a large workshop, warm, not too big and will afford them fine views over the water and the schooner they charter during the summer months. One of the other benefits of having friends who are building houses is there is frequently scrap wood lying around for the taking and we came away the following day with bag of kindling and a pile of mags to browse through. We took a short ride with Bonnie to the local Post Office, remaining in the car whilst she collected their mail. Apparently in the short time she was in there 2 people said to her they'd seen a real pretty boat on their mooring and what on earth were they (us) doing still sailing around at this time of the year...

The wind was a whisper and we motored gently to Warren Island some 3 miles or so from Seal Cove. It was here in 2004 that we decided to go to Belfast lured by the prospect of being able to buy coal and we fancied seeing the place once more. Deserted of course, all the mooring buoys hauled for the winter but plenty of room to anchor where we enjoyed the solitude, quiet and a big moon shining into the saloon. Oddly enough we were still able to pick up the Internet and checking the weather it looked as though the following day, Thursday might be the best until after the week end and we decided to sail back, hopefully getting in before the wind picked up too much. A leisurely breakfast, donning of warm clothes, up anchor and away we went catching the last hour or so of the flood. As before we neglected the main -don't you just love this about ketches, this ability to make fine speed's without bothering with the main? 
In fact we didn't even take the 1.5 metre chimney down or the wind generator but simply made sure the boom and gaff were well secured and headed out. The 11 miles passed fairly quickly, we slowed down a little toward the end as the tide turned to slack water and nearing the harbour area we came across a nasty bit of wind over tide but beyond that the waters turned calm with little wind to ruffle the surface. The jetty we are on requires us to slalom around another set of jetties before making the turn into the slot. We must have entered at least four times now and each approach has been different. This was one of the better entrances, certainly slower than the last one so seemed less frantic. But always good to get in without carving up the boat next door with an errant bowsprit...
Toots before the temps dropped...
Winter is beginning to creep up with -C temperatures regularly appearing. Oddly enough it wasn't until today that the temp. inside the boat dropped to 6C, a figure we had last seen in August when in Labrador. This was early morning, well 7am and it goes up gradually as we run the cooker and fire up the Aladdin lamp for the day. Generally the wood stove stays off until noon or later when we decide enough is enough and get it going. Toots who, upon finishing her breakfast, makes a beeline for the vacated bipeds bed and crawls into the specially prepared duvet "cave" Bee has made up. There she will remain, snuffling and dormant until the sound of a fire being lit is heard when she will poke her head out to check on progress. If it meets with feline approval she'll emerge, scoff some biscuits then take up position on the table, stretch out and fall asleep again.

Finally two sites you might be interested in.

Following on from the bit about celestial navigation (still plugging away) there is a free online course you might be interested in here

We also came across this by chance a journey on foot across Antartica by a descendant on Frank Worlsley. The trip has only recently started and his progress can be followed via a daily phone call he makes. This might be pod cast or something - we tend to be vague about all that is happening with this sort of thing but it makes engaging listening. Here's the link to
If this is the hardest frost we get, I'll be quite happy!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

You need to look at this

Imagine you'e sailing along, trussed up as per the current thinking, in a pfd and harness. You're working on deck, the boat lurches and suddenly you're over the side... Well something like that happened to me a few years back, except I wasn't wearing a harness or a pfd. That story is here and if you wonder why on earth I wasn't wearing a harness etc (and perhaps think "well it serves you right") then take a look at this article.

People fall off boats, it's a fact of life; a risk we are aware of and take into account in our travels. Sometimes a mistake is made but on the whole we know that the boat is really a narrow path with a steep drop and you need to be very aware that death is a short step or stumble away. Go forward only on the windward side; keep your body low and crawl if need be; one hand for the boat, one for yourself always. I'm not saying this is the right way just the way we chose to work. Life jackets and harnesses may have a role but they are not a sure fire way of saving your life.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Port bound

A month drifts by as we settle into this dockside routine, hunting and foraging for cheap food and wood and getting ready to brew up some home made wine. Can hardly wait..

Belfast - early morning

With the tides dropping away we took a chance on being neaped and slid onto the scubbing berth at 5am one morning. We wanted to scrub, clean the prop and check whether our altercation with a growler in the summer had done any damage. Well it hadn't other than removing some anti-foul making us thankful we don't own a grp version of Hannah. What we did discover was this: When we painted back in the spring we used two different brands of anti-foul. One side had a tin we bought in the UK from Gale Force and might be described as "cheap and cheerful" whilst the other was Petit Trinidad. No doubt about which side had less stuff clinging to it and although the Trinidad is significantly more expensive than the other stuff it was clearly far more effective.

Bow end with bow thruster lowered.......
As mentioned in the last update the Shipyard now dominates the waterfront in terms of buildings and acreage. The docks don't appear too busy but perhaps given the time of year it's hardly surprising. At the end of the jetty we're on, lurks a massive shed and out of it recently came a 125' sail boat. It remained slung in the travel hoist supported fore and aft by a combination of stands, a cradle and a shipping container whilst it was rigged and made ready for the water. The rigging crew were lifted aboard via a “cherry picker” to attend to the mast stepping process and even the forestay had to be supported by crane as the weight was too much for humans to manipulate it across the foredeck into position. It remained on the dock for a week whilst various, who knows what, tasks where carried out then left for south at a rate of knots. Clear of the harbour it motored at close to 13 knots, arriving in Newport RI (about 200 nm) some 18 hours after casting off. Bound for the Caribbean, of course, to charter....$65,000 per week.

Here in reality we took our own journey; venturing up to see Philip and Helen in NE Harbour. We had been before we headed north and love the security of it. Little if any surge seems to enter and whilst it would normally be off-limits to us because of cost, in the winter the HM takes a relaxed view about those still wandering. The day we chose to sail up was dictated, naturally, by the wind. 25-30 with gusts of 35 from the NW would suggest we might have a good sail. It wasn't good it was brilliant! 
7 knots down Eggemoggin
 Not bothering with the main we ran with a reefed mizzen and #1 heads'l, the boat was light, comfortable and romping along. Whilst the tide was against us about half of the way it seemed to make little difference as we roared down Eggemoggin Reach with not a soul in sight. The wind seemed to be consistently around 27knots but no real seas until we crossed Blue Hill Bay when they picked up, covering the boat and us with solid water and spray. The sky was blue, the sun shone and it was pretty cool, probably high 30's F but just a wonderful day to be out on Hannah. The last few miles against wind and tide we used the engine as the sun was sinking quickly and a mostly
cloudless day meant it would rapidly get cold. Into the harbour to find Philip watching from a nearby dock as we tied up. About 7 and a bit hours to cover the 43 miles. Great company, a lasagne and wine to die for that night completed a wonderful day.

During the few days we spent with them they kindly took us off to see a friend of theirs they thought we might like. They were right. Donna lives off grid in eastern Maine in a house she and her late husband built. Her near neighbour is Geri, they have been friends for decades and were part of the “back to the land” movement of the '70's. The houses were stunning, both very different and their lifestyles have captivated us since we visited. Yes I know that we live off grid too for the most part but there is something about a simple house with solar & oil for lights; wood for cooking and heating that has such a pull on us. They share a well but neither has a pump so water is carried to the houses. Too much work? We don't think so and as we sat around a table drinking home made wine and cider exchanging stories both me and Bee knew we will want to get back there to learn more. It might be a couple of hours drive from here so more difficult to organise but next time, and there will be a next time, we'll see if Donna and Geri are ok with us photographing the visit. 

At the moment the weather is pretty benign ( for Maine at this time of the year) with temps rarely falling below 5C. In fact we can judge how cold things are within the boat simply by checking the washing up liquid which, in Labrador, would thicken to a gooey paste rather than its normal translucent runny self. But we are thinking about building a shelter, then believe we have a few more weeks before we might need it, then wonder if we should take advantage of the still weather to build it anyway....but these wonderful crisp days with the huge attraction of great anchorages a few hours away keep us shelter free. You can see when we do build by checking here ......Bee uses the webcam to check if her coast his clear to escape from the boat into town
  And finally. Some years ago our very good friend Cary gave us a gift. Well, many actually but this one in particular is special as it had come from his dad. 
 A Tamaya sextant, new and unused and as Cary would never go back to sea again he felt it would be fitting if I used it. I never have as what little I learnt has long been forgotten through neglect. It may be about to change as a bunch of sailors get together weekly to learn the skill thanks to a keen tradionalist who runs a boatyard. Early days yet of course  but this time, assuming I learn the skill, I hope to use it rather than lose it. Not because I think that the GPS will collapse as many armchair sailors would have us believe but simply because it is interesting.

Belfast, Me.


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Home is where we park it...

With time on our hands before the visa appointment we spent it helping out around friends houses. Steve and Marilyn have swapped their life afloat (25years+) for a place overlooking Mahone Bay whilst John and Phyllis from AAC fame live close by and loaned us their buoy or dock dependent on which was vacant.

Toots making a leap for the shore
 Toots loved being able to stroll ashore via the gang-plank Bee had set up and we appreciated the easy access to the shore, notwithstanding the heart stopping climb up the hill from the boat. It is a fine anchorage too, excellent holding and great shelter from all but the south. On the appointed day J&P drove us into Halifax and dropped us outside an ominously busy building where the US Consulate resides. A fire drill was about to be called and access was denied to all. When eventually we were allowed in, made our way to the 9th floor and joined a short queue we were already 10 minutes late. But the queue was short and we thought we would soon be in.....More folks arrived, security asked for appointment times and as many of the newcomers were scheduled to be seen before us they slid to the front and we moved back. More arrived, the procedure is repeated, seemingly just as we thought we were getting close to the head of the line. It bore an uncanny similarity to beating in a gaffer against a foul tide....up and down the same bit of water gaining inches at a time. But we did get in, after being warned that access through the door meant your waiting was now down to 45 minutes (but at least we could sit down) The interview was painless and successful with a 10 year multiple visa granted without any hiccups. Not for everyone of course - if we read the body language correctly all white skinned applicants got in but not all non white skinned folks did.

The visas were duly delivered and we scanned the weather for a slot that would see us across the Gulf of Maine and onto Belfast some 300 miles away. A small opportunity presented itself albeit with 30knot winds from the forward quarter but with nothing else in sight we set out at 08:30 Sunday. The passage down the coast of NS was fine with our course taking us gradually away from the coast. the wind from the NW and the waves small. At some point we had a snow flurry but neither long enough or heavy enough to stick although the wind remained cold. Rounding Cape Sable is always a challenge and, knowing the chances of arriving at Brazil Rock in time to carry a fair tide all the way round and well into the Gulf was slight, we opted to stay about 15 mile off to avoid the worst of the flood. As we cleared the now distant land the swell built up and the full effects began to be felt. In order to make better progress and keep the water off the deck we dumped the headsail, eased off the wind more and plugged on. The wind was blowing 30 knots with stronger gusts, we were comfortable although not heading in the direction we wanted. Worse as the flood strengthened our course suffered too. Through the night and the next day we sailed on, occasionally taking a big wave over the side. Sometime during the day the wind backed to the north then veered to the NW overnight. Around 1 am we found the self-steerer was behaving oddly resulting in us having to hand steer..... not a comfortable few hours. This was one of those occasions where a harness was deemed necessary as the wind had picked up and the seas too. By 4am I decided enough was enough and heaving to was a far sounder option where we remained for the next 12 hours. When the wind eased we set off again but still unable to get the self-steerer working we reverted to being hove to. The wind had moderated and we decided to have a go at repairing Stan as the steerer is called. The problem lay with a badly bent bolt that the rods connect to. The distortion was causing the bearings to bind when the blade was in one position. We could replace the bolt (once we had straightened it) but it requires the paddle to be held securely otherwise the chances are said paddle will drop to the bottom of the ocean. We opted to just straighten the bolt........... So making sure the harness is attached to both me and the boat I crawl across the aft deck, straddle the tiller and lie over the top of the horse with my chest on the top of the rudder. Clutching a 13mm spanner in each hand I start to undo the various nuts that hold it all in place. Stood in a dinghy on quiet water this is a simple operation; hove to in sub 2 metre seas it isn't. Not least because whilst the boat is not moving across the water it is certainly moving up and down in the water.... First my hands were under water then up my elbows, then inevitably a bigger wave came and my face was underwater. Bee meanwhile was crouched behind me as the nuts came off, the grips were handed to me and the bolt bent into some semblance of straight. A hasty reassemble and a retreat to the relative warmth of the saloon. By noon we had a favourable 15 knots and were making progress but by 4pm the breeze had gone and we drifted silently with the current. A faint breeze returned around 8am the following day and from the SE so we were cock a hoop. As the day progressed the wind picked up and we romped along. The islands off the coast came into view and soon we were amongst lobster pots and buoys. An occasional fishing boat but no pleasure boats at all and Penobscot Bay was ours. The tide turned in our favour and carried us to Belfast. By now it had gone 6pm, the harbour quiet and we called Customs and Border via Skype to check in. Not good enough it seems as they "require" incoming boats to contact them 2 hours before hand by phone and not having one is viewed as irresponsible! "What do you do if you get into trouble..." Still we got through it with gritted teeth, and the following morning the field officer arrived to check us in, stamp our passports and the yellow flag came down. Four and a half days from dock to dock. As Bee says it was probably one of the hardest trips of recent times.
A quiet night in the inlet
 Since then we have renewed our library cards, driven up to Peavey's to buy a pick-up truck full of ash blocks for $5 and met up with a few of the many friends we have here. The big shipyard that started up a few years back has grown bigger and dominates the waterfront. Not our cup of tea but we remain fond of the town and its people and will settle down to spend our third winter happily.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Port Manvers and south

'berg close up
 The run south from the anchorage at the north of Port Manvers was not without incident. The lack of wind meant we needed to motor and a late change of destination had us battling a stiff current through the 1st Rattle. But the problem began when we were passing an island with the engine ticking over and the sails just drawing. The engine cut out and we clawed our way off before picking up a stronger breeze and continuing on to Nain. We re-started the engine which ran for a minute or so before stopping. We took the cockpit sole up to check, started it and it ran! Ah we thought; must be starved of cold air.... We arrived in Nain, fuelled up with R&A and headed out the following morning. We motor sailed that day getting in a decent run before anchoring close to the track south. We had just started digging it(the anchor) in when the engine cut out again and we spent several hours checking through things, changing a filter and running it. Ran with no hint of a hiccup and we collapsed into bed. The following morning as we hauled up the anchor, turned the boat to the direction we wanted it cut out again. We left under sail, beat our way out of the place and carried on south. Luckily R&A were behind not, as the would usually be, way ahead and when we ran out of wind and the engine still wouldn't play simply towed us to the anchorage we were intending to use. More late night mechanics, with Russ making very useful suggestion, identified the problem lying within the water trap and we cut that out of the system to get a clean running system.

Onward south and with the possibility of a blow coming with a head wind in the next day we opted to keep going through the night. Not a happy time as vis. was poor, bergs and growlers numerous and we still needed to motor but we did, eventually, make the safety of Smokey Hbr where we were able to stock up on wood before the rains and strong winds came. South yet again and as we approached the entrance to Grady, in the dark of course, the engine cut out when we were about ½ mile from the entrance. The main was still up and once again we bore away to get sea room and see if we could sort it. Well this time we simply connected a fuel jerry can to the pump, ran the return back to it and followed our exit track into the harbour, anchored and set about locating the problem. A chance remark by Bee about whether I had cleaned the barbs on the water trap before replacing it (I had) made us consider the barbs on the primary filter and there was our problem. Choked. Cleaned and checked and cleaned again we re-fitted everything and away the engine went and has continued to do so. No doubt a more mechanical minded person than me (not difficult) would have sussed it long ago.....

Comfy shelter at 40 knots

Another long day down to Punchbowl but under sail knowing that we had a blow coming through in a day or so. Both boats were securely tied up by the evening and a day later we awaited its arrival. The wind switched suddenly from west to north west and the wind speed went from 11 knots to 41 knots in seconds and stayed throughout 24 hours. Crab legs littered the deck having been blown from the wharf onto us but we were safe and dry. More wood was gathered and we prepared for the next stage down.

The other side of Punchbowl - vandalised buildings.
 By now we were getting close to the Belle Isle Strait and we could relax a little as the hardest part had been done. So we anchored once more before yet another day of motor sailing down to Red Bay where we could take on more fuel. R&A chose to do another 20 miles in order to get propane, showers and such. We stayed a couple of nights before sailing on down to the Quebec coast – The Lower North Shore (LNS). Fog and wind with a touch of rain accompanied the trip but toward the end it cleared giving us gorgeous views of gentle hills, multiple shades of green and gold and the chance of great anchorages. That nights was a cracker with good protection and decent depths. We'd spoken to R&A the day before as we'd passed the dock they were at, making vague arrangements to meet them in a day or so and we had, the next day, a short day to anchor near Passage Champlain. Despite numerous calls on the radio we got no response and we tried to work out what might have happened...were they ahead, not left,sailed over to Newfie....??
Just because...
With no response but a “favourable” wind, well it was behind us, we set off for the Petite Rigolot. The rain fell through the fog and the wind howled as we bowled along. This shore is particularly rocky and leading marks abound so we wanted visibility to get things right. The wind, dead astern, made closing the shore iffy and we decided we'd carry on, hoping that winds would moderate and fog lift before we made Harrington about 45 nm further on. We hadn't been back there for 5 years, I think, so were looking forward to seeing Jim and Sharon, a local couple who had befriended us. Conditions didn't change of course and as night came in and rather than face the rocks and islands we looked at the forecast for the next few days, saw it offered a chance to make it down to Dingwall in one hop and decided to carry on. No forecast survives contact with reality and we spent a frustrating few days gradually working our way south. Spectacular sunset one evening had us wondering what lay ahead but eventually we were closing the Cape Breton coast and our destination of Dingwall. The wind, by now from the NW and a steady 25k was accompanied by the ever present fog and rain. Dingwall now lay to windward, it was around 1am and the tide was ebbing.................we'll keep going for the Lakes we said.

Probably for the first time ever we arrived at the entrance as the tide was running into the Lakes and slid through with a bit of wind but an engine humming along. Once through we sailed, slowly, catching each small puff to move us along. The wind, still from the NW, was moving the tree tops that line that part of the Lakes but was fluky and variable at water level. Of course when you reach the open bay where Baddeck sits (and our new destination) it picks up to 20k plus and leaves you with a stiff beat.... or not in our case. We made one long board to see what sort of angle we would make, muttered “stuff it” and carried on for our 5th new destination of this trip. A call to Barra Strait Bridge for an opening and we were racing through the gap with sails pulling and engine in stand-by,the bridge keeper snapping away with his cellphone. Finally, finally we made it to the other side of the Lakes and came upon our anchorage. The wind had once last go at us, snarling and snorting in an uncalled for squall but we were in, good water and lovely tall trees to shelter us. Time for a drink we said and slid below to a warm fire some four and a half days after we set off.

A short motor the following day saw us at the canal where we tied up with the help of Jack and Glenda, long time friends. A guy came down said “You must be here for the International Speak Like a Pirates Day” and roped us in to helping! A day or so later we had numerous kids aboard who were duly hauled up the mast,allowed to climb in the net and generally enjoy themselves. Not sure how the mothers/carers felt as the kids climbed across the bowsprit and into the net before leaning precariously over the water despite cries of “he/she can't swim...”

Russ and Alison turned up a day later having been to Harrington where, they were assured, we'd been spotted at anchor in a nearby bay....??

With good winds we forecast we headed away from St Peter's Canal on the Monday, down through Andrews Passage and onto Yankee Cove where we found Francis B the boat that had relayed the message from Trevor all those weeks back. They opted to remain but the next day Walkabout and Hannah were on the move again for a shortish hop to Fisherman's Habour and then onward to Lunenburg. Which is roughly where we are now except around the back anchored off friend's house's whilst we await our visa appointment.

The Button Island bear, bloody from the seal meal...

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

North and South......or nobody can hear you scream in Labrador......

We moved on from Punchbowl intent on getting up the coast to Curlew or Grady. I'd been lucky enough to view Nomads (one of the other boats at PB) track through Pond Inlet and used that to plot our way through this shortcut. Sometimes the wind was good with the, seemingly, ever present fog drifting in patches around us. But frequently the sun shone and we anchored once more in Grady Harbour; a tickle between two small islands. Despite being open at both ends it presents reasonable shelter and we once sat out a stiff NW wind here in comfort. Walkabout (Russ & Alison) came in an hour or so later having left several hours after us. The following day we left before them for Holten Hbr and enjoyed the best days sail for many months. The sun shone, the bergs sparkled and the miles were knocked off. Toward the end with Walkabout catching us the wind picked up and up. With only a few miles to go we left the main unreefed as the gust hit 36knots and our speed topped 8 knots...........unprecedented! Of course we needed to get the thing down but achieved with no issues and both boats anchored happily in good sand and shelter. R&A left early the next morning to motor north as strong NE's were forecast and the anchorage offered no real protection. We opted to hold on and see if there was any change but an increase in the wind persuaded us to leave and sail north..... aagh why are we so gullible? The wind lasted long enough for us to clear the harbour by a few miles before switching off. The fog became thicker and was soon joined by rain. Two things happened that improved our day: we remembered we'd cut up a tarp to use as a shelter and draped it over the mizzen boom to allow whoever was steering to shelter and found it worked well. Perhaps more importantly Bee discovered that socks and wellies do make a HUGE difference to comfort and went around grinning as she luxuriated in warm feet. I should say that although we have had boots and socks on board for years we rarely use them and have just put up with bare feet in Crocs, occasionally resorting to socks when things became extreme. No more. So in our semi-dry and warm state we plugged on; alternating half hour on, half hour off steering and finally made it to Cape Harrison. As we rounded it and made our way toward Webeck Hbr I noticed a whale lying on the surface close in but Bee thought it might be a log. Both wrong as it happened; it was a RIB that had drifted from somewhere. We motored over to check it out and make sure nobody was aboard. It looked new although partially deflated and we toyed with the idea of towing it (a lot of water was inside it) but in the end decided to leave it be. With a blow coming in we wanted to get secure and battened down without having to worry about a dinghy we didn't need. Into Webeck, anchoring well into a small bight on the northern shore and settled down. The fog drifted, growlers wandered though on the other side of the harbour and all was well. It did blow although we had no real idea until we tried to leave the following day and found the seas heaping up outside the entrance and went back to anchor. A day later is a different scene and we sailed off toward Manak enjoying the chance to sail for most of the day. On the off chance we called R&A as we neared the anchorage to find them not more than 5 miles from us and heading up to Makkovik. Minutes later they could actually see us and we crossed, distant, paths.

Manak is a small pool surrounded by hills or reefs. Mostly deep but it offers one spot where you can anchor in comfort. A few cabins, heavy snow still clinging to sheltered parts of the hillside and the sound of running water were the company for the night. No bears though. The next day took us across the part of the chart that was simply blank; no soundings, no indication of rocks. You can make assumptions based on the steepness of the surround terrain on whether the route is likely to be deep but it remains a gamble and one reason why the standard yottie remark about old charts and rocks not moving doesn't work here as they simply haven't yet found all the rocks.

We anchored that night in Strawberry Hbr, a tiny (for me) pool which seems crowded with one boat. a derelict cabin leaning forlornly on the shore and steep rock sides hemming you in. Exited the following day almost into the path of one of the coastal steamers that supply the communities along the coast - not sure who was more surprised.

The last few days had been good, some sunshine, little fog and enough wind to sail. It continued as we made our way still north to Roses. R&A were heading out of Makkovic so were some way behind us, this mornings steamer was also heading the our way and suddenly Labrador began to feel crowded. Good winds and sailing took us into this anchorage and the following morning saw little wind as both boats drifted off their anchors and headed out. Light winds are not Hannah's forte and in this case I opted to motor in the hope of reaching what little wind there was. I didn't find it initially but did find a shoal patch in a tickle we were running through. Luckily we were on the edge of it and simply "bounced" a couple of times before continuing...hmmm. Not long after we saw a yacht heading toward us going south and stared incredulously as the two boats drew closer. Heading south and some 5 years after we'd last seen him Dennison Berwick in Kuan Yin passed us, having suffered engine problems and been stuck in Hopedale for a while. Through yet another tickle and onto Cape Harrigan. By the time we surfaced the following morning R&A were long gone bound for Kauk. We had intended to go someplace but opted in the end for John Hayes Hbr as Alison said it was an easy entry and they had seen bears when they went there. Right on both counts as we ticked off 3 black bears as we anchored.

In Nain we tied alongside, fuelled up, chatted to a Nunavit boat whose name I can neither spell nor pronounce. It meant, according to the Newfoundland crew, a goddess of the sea. However a local Inuit guy who stopped to chat said, with a grin, that he had been to check out the boat (a research/hydrographic vessel)  and that it's name meant "chasing after women"....... mebbe someone had a sense of humour?
A Black bear for a change

Although we had thought about heading outside in the end both boats opted for the inside passage The Port Manvers Run. Perhaps 20 miles in length it is entirely protected from the sea and has only one drawback - the need to work out when the tide changes at the Second Rattle as speeds can reach 6 knots... I got it wrong but only suffered a 2 knot deficit but still bloody annoying. Also the lack of wind meant yet more motoring and we hauled into Perry's Gulch for the night whilst R&A plowed on to Cut Throat Hbr. The following day as we sailed/motored up from Perry's toward Amity we were surprised to hear a boat calling Hannah on the vhf. It turned out to be a couple who had met Trevor Robertson - he of the triple over-wintering in Arctic/Antarctic - who had crossed from Scotland to Labrador in 26 days, didn't think he could be bothered to go into Nain but may head back to Perth, Aus....... Will we get to see him before he does so?? It was soon after this as we steadily motored past the odd growler that, in a sickening moment of inattention we ran into one. The lump of ice bounced off to one side and what we first took for seal blood on the ice we rapidly realised was our expensive anti-foul. No harm was done or as far as we can tell at anyrate. I guess if Tilman was running the boat he'd have someone over the side, lathered in seal blubber to check everything over but he ain't and we didn't. In time the hailing boat, Francis B, passed us and all three anchored in Amity Cove in Mugford Bay. We managed a brief chat before the mozzies drove us below and they (Frances B not the mozzies) left the following morning before we'd got up.

Both Bee and Alsion wanted to explore a narrow fiord called the Lost Channel and whilst we discussed the thought of taking one boat we ended up using both. It was a hard motor as the head winds funnelled down from the mountains making progress slow for us. But the scenery was stunning, certainly amongst the best we have seen so far and it ends at a narrow isthmus where the sea outside can be easily seen. Sadly for us the polar bear R&A saw had legged it by the time we arrived and the depths were too great to anchor in comfort.

They stayed on a while hoping for the bear to come back whilst we hoisted a couple of heads'l and the mizzen and enjoyed the sail back down. A few miles from the nights anchorage the mountain effect kicked in and the wind screamed us along easily reaching 6 - 7knots under reduced sail. We toyed briefly with going back to Amity but dropped the hook in peaceful waters. By morning the Walkabout mob were long gone and we tootled along some hours later. Luckily for us as we came across a polar bear swimming through the Mugford Tickle. A narrow passage about 3 or so miles in length with steep sides it affords few opportunities for the bear to get back onto land and we were able to motor at a little under 3 knots and keep a respectful distance from the bear. For 15 or 20 minutes we followed until it reached its "transition area" and loped off up the scree and rocks without so much as a backwards glance . The honey coloured coat blended well with rocks and he/she was soon out of sight.

Into Maidment to find R&A at anchor in the adjacent cove from where they motored in the following morning to discuss the days approach. Initially we thought of going into Saglek to see if we could buy fuel but the increasing wind suggested we use it to get north. In the end it didn't last (unlike the fog) and fed up of losing time by stopping at night we decided to stay at sea and try and get this part of the journey finished. We kept going until midnight when the gloom and fog made it hard to see any ice. The cold too was making life uncomfortable so we hove to, set the anchor alarm, made up some hot water bottles and huddled down on the sea berth together. Toots, of course has her own sea berth, well padded and heated and ignores life apart from meal times. Onwards the following day toward Stoneman but progress was slow. With twenty miles to go to a reasonable anchorage I made the stupid decision to try to make it for the night. As we closed the coast in gloom and fog checking our radar against the C-Map chart we found the radar image and the chart not matching. Still we crept closer but with Bee warning me that rocks lay ahead we turned away from them to find the depth dropping rapidly and still more breakers appearing. Behind us a wall of water materialised as an overfall was created and things were minutes away from turning ugly. We reversed, slowly extricating ourselves from a dumb situation, turned the boat and headed back out the way we came. Off our starb'd side more breakers could be heard but nothing could be seen through the fog of course. We headed off until we were back in deep water and hove to for a second night. The following day we headed for Home Island as it is the biggest in the "chain" but yet again could not get the radar and chart imagery to agree and went back out and hove to. Our choices now were to remain hove to until the fog cleared or wait until R&A came within range and get info from them. We puzzled it all through with Bee wondering how on earth we had got into Stoneman when we came back from Greenland as we were using C-Map then. She suggested trying the other computer and seeing if the versions might be different and of course they were! The relief aboard Hannah was palpable as the older version had significant coverage of both this area and the Button Islands and before setting off we called R&A to see if they were in range. As they were and agreed to meet in Stoneman that night. Away we went and after a slightly tense time crossing unsurveyed waters we were in, sailing smooth waters and heading into Stoneman.

 As it was 3 years ago the place seems to be the territory of a single large polar bear. Is it the same one? Who knows but this one looks old, thin and very big. He watched as we manoeuvred into position to anchor, shambled closer and we retreated to a spot at the other end of the cove with more swinging room. R&A came in a few hours later with a main that had exploded, tearing from luff to leach, as they rounded a cape and the prospect of either sailing with a triple reefed main or trying to repair. The fog sat heavy.

In the end we sat in Stoneman for 6 nights as the fog was thick and the winds, though favourable were stiff enough to make being at anchor seem very attractive...getting old or what? We did an oil change and R&A repaired the main which ranks as serious bit of work. A repair doesn't really do justice to the work they had to do as the sail has split from luff to leach as they passed one of the headlands. One of the benefits of the bigger boat over Andante is the ability to carry a sewing machine...........

 The bear remained, wandering around, grubbing amongst the lichen for who knows what and sleeping. The days passed, the wind picked up and we made very occasional visits to Walkabout as the temps were low. 6 celsius one morning inside the boat and Russ recorded 2C outside. Would it ever change? And then one day it did. An excited comment in the log records "We can see around us!!" before we all decided we might try for Bowdoin Hbr, named by MacMillan of Bowdoin schooner fame in the 30's. We started to raise the anchor and found the chain encased in fine grass. I went forward to clear it whilst Bee wound the anchor in. In a bizarre moment, whilst leaning over the bow dragging grass away from the chain I overbalanced and fell into the water. Well I somersaulted and ended up to my knees in the water. It was cold. Bee rescued my croc, whilst I extricated myself, was ordered to go and change and told I was not to come up on the foredeck again!!

The journey up to Bowdoin is not to be repeated. Once we had cleared the fiord, pausing to snap yet another bear, and turned north to work our way in a loop along the lightly surveyed route to the harbour. Wasn't long before we knew we had the tides completely wrong and we were stemming a 2-3 knot ebb. At one point I seriously thought of giving up but we persevered and got through the rips and into calmer water. R&A had passed us sometime back and were closing the entrance when we spotted what looked like a fishing boat approaching from the north. Not long after we heard a voice on the radio asking something in French but as we were preoccupied with crossing an unsurveyed area we ignored it. The two boats closed and we could see it wasn't a fishing boat but some sort of expedition craft. As we'd arrived at the channel approach first they hung back to allow us to enter ahead but we waved them on; the stern water churned as they surged ahead and past us; the numerous folks on board waving happily. All three boats anchored and remained there for several days as the wind ripped across the surrounding hills. The other boat was an ex-French Navy tug and had been on a journey that had included the NE passage as well as the NW passage and they had come from Sisimiut in Greenland when we saw them. Something of a shock for them to see two sailboats but we felt confident enough to tell them it would be doubtful if they would see anymore until much further south. The few days were not without drama. Despite our combined Labrador experience Walkabout and Hannah rafted up that first night to share a meal and chat about what happens next. About 1am the wind picked up and we leapt up, dressed and hurtled on deck to find Russ at the wheel, engine running as he thought they had dragged. We'd already decided to cast off and in a rising wind and still dark we headed further into the bay to anchor. Although we were close to the rocks we felt comfortable enough with the holding strength of the Rocna and dozed until 6 ish. We were close and moved further out. Soon after R&A moved too and all three boats settled in for a peaceful day. After a social visit to the tug I got back to find Bee had got a forecast which suggested we would get W20 for the next day. In the end the winds remained above 30 knots most of the time with gusts between 38 and 41 knots.

We could only watch with horror as Walkabout's roller reefing began to unfurl and R&A spent several hours trying to tame it. Each victory was short lived and the balloon in the sail was allowing the wind to wrench the foil from side to side; it could only be a matter of time before something went. At its worst it looked as though the whole rig might be in danger..... Phillipe, on the tug, called up on the radio offering bodies and were aboard soon after. Russ felt the only chance they had was a lull and try to get it down using the hands they now had. In the end it went very smoothly, the slightly torn sail was below decks and the French guys returned to their boat via the 25hp outboard and rib. There are definite advantages to having motorised transport. Much as we love the Pudgy there is little chance we could have got back to Hannah if we had tried to get over. The winds continued and soon after the tug left. They called soon after to say they'd gone outside the harbour and turned right (having explored it in the rib before) and found better shelter. Although the wind was still blowing high 20's we opted to follow- ah the lure of a nights sleep! Bee worked like a trojan to extricate the anchor as I fought to keep Hannah facing the right way. With a huge effort we broke it out but the wind pushed our bow the wrong way and we were now being pushed further into the bay and toward Walkabout. Hard astern held us and the outgoing current helped move us away from the obstacles, tiller over and hard ahead saw us clear and moving out. as Bee staggered back along the deck visibly drained from the effort of standing up in the wind whilst raising the anchor. An amazing effort. The new anchorage was better, less wind and no chop although deeper. We had to anchor twice as an eddy kept pushing us too close to the tug and Bee warned me that we had to get it right as she didn't think she had another "up anchor" in her that day. A fine night's sleep followed. Such luxury.

After much discussion both boats decided to head for the Button Islands and then transit the McClenan Sound. The trip up to Button is short at around 20 miles and with the fast running flood should be relatively easy. The plan was to go around the east side thus staying out of the notorious Grey Sound but lack of wind persuaded us it would be easy and shorter......The wind picked up once we were committed and as it was a westerly we had wind over tide, water everywhere and speeds in excess of 9 knots. Not my cup of tea at all but we made it through and into the anchorage.

Up in the Button Islands - looks healthy enough...

Deep but quiet and the benefit of bears the following morning dining on a seal. We snapped away before wandering across the sound to another island to check out an anchorage and get ready for the Mclelan. R&A joined us some hours later having spent hours photographing the bears. For whatever reason we didn't head across to the Mclelan and the delay was enough to convince my over active imagination that taking Hannah along a 15 mile cut through where tides can reach 9 knots, particularly when we didn't have to was not what I wanted to do. Luckily Bee agreed and we decided to start the journey south the following morning. The Buttons are ok but the anchorages we used are not, as far as we felt, the ones you would feel happy in a blow. R&A took the news calmly and the following morning as we hauled up the anchor said they were heading up to Resolution Island to have a look and to try and reach Baffin. Both boats left about the same time and we motored south across the Grey Strait until we were close enough to ensure we wouldn't pick up a foul tide. Crept into Clarks "crossing" the land to do so - aagh the glory of gps and old charts. The local bear took one look at us coming in and legged it across the hills but a grazing caribou kept us entertained that evening. We took the ebbing tide and northerly wind down to Williams Hbr as a) we had never been there and b) I needed to re-splice a different, longer rode to the anchor chain. The wind switched to the south giving us a beat for much of the distance and then failed all together leaving us an hour or so of motoring into an enormous natural harbour. It seemed pretty uninspiring compared to what we'd been used to but in the end we grew to like it, the vast openness of the surrounding hills and protection easily reached around the perimeter. But the forecast for NW20 would mean a hard slog to get out so we moved to another, unreported, bay and anchored. Bears lay slumped on rocks or spreadeagled in snowfields as the sun obviously didn't make them comfy. In that anchorage Bee counted 6 polar bears spread over various hills, almost all dozing in the coldest places they could find but too far away for decent pics.

That night the wind came in early, funneled down the valley and battered us. We dozed but didn't really sleep and in the morning got ready to up anchor and escape. Given the last problem we'd had with the wind taking charge we talked it through and what we needed to do and then set about it. The gusts came repeatedly, all in excess of 30 knots, as Bee wound the chain in whilst I slowly motored forward. With the best part of 50 metres out this was going to be a slow job but gradually we were winning. With about 20 metres to go (we were in 14 metres of water) the wind caught the bow and hurled as sideways, plucking the anchor out of the sea-bed. Many of the anchorages are heavily coated in kelp with perhaps mud or sand underneath and as Bee kept winching the anchor in the weight, as we swung through the water coupled to the enormous quantity of kelp actually on it, made her job desperate. With the engine hard astern we were still getting pushed sideways and I finally gunned it ahead and was overjoyed at the positive reaction as Hannah immediately began to respond and swing in the desired direction. No doubt the weight of the anchor dangling over the bow had something to do with it but it all needed to got back on board before we could leave. Bee came aft as we slowly motored away from the danger to where we could finish the job. She was trembling from the sheer physical effort, it had been a huge effort and I don't know anyone else who would have been able to deal with it. Certainly not me. Remarkable effort.

Out through the passage we had failed to find in the fog when we arrived a few weeks back. How much easier it is to identify islands when they can be seen! No surprises and out into the ocean where a NW wind was a fraction of what the anchorage had been. Offshore R&A could be seen (they'd got to Resolution but the ice sliding out of Frobisher had been more than they wanted) and we enjoyed a good day, stunning scenery, blue sky and relatively warm conditions. Toward the late afternoon the wind began fade and if we were to make Nachvak we needed to motor. Even so it was almost midnight before the anchor dropped into Schooner Cove and we were able to appreciate the Northern Lights before downing a very large drink.
Couple of cubs - mother was in the water swimming but the offspring watched then padded along the shore...

We spent a couple of nights there as a low pressure system was producing strong winds. We'd looked on the chart for an alternative but anything suitable was either north or into a headwind to get there. We opted to remain as the winds went from SE20 to E30 to NW35. In the event it was nothing like that of course but everyone was pleased with the shelter Schooner gives. The one drawback to anchoring in Labrador is the enormous amount of kelp the anchor needs to penetrate before it can get to the mud underneath. Getting the thing up with, seemingly, acres of the damn stuff clinging to chain and anchor is something else.

Now we're in Eastern Harbour on Big Island, Saglek. Cape Uvik is to our south. The pool we're in is shallow - 5 metres or so with good holding and land-locked. Another blow is forecast in a few days although there is some uncertainty about the direction. Whatever, we've had enough of motoring in order to get somewhere so we'll sit it out here, we think, until we get favourable winds........

Random thoughts:On the vhf weather forecast we heard "....rain and fog ending tomorrow morning. Rain and fog commencing tomorrow afternoon...." Whilst in Clark's Harbour we heard (on Aug 11), Iqualit radio forecast say that East Clyde would get snow flurries and we chortled to ourselves. When we left Schooner Cove, Aug 18 we noticed that fresh snow had fallen on the surrounding mountains...... Having said that it is noticeably warmer this bit further south.

Aug 25th. So much for the sit and wait for favourable winds.....high pressure to the east of us gives a diet of either headwinds or light and variable. After 4 nights sat at anchor,with 2 days of constant rain we upped and headed for Maidmont some 15 miles away. Much of the journey was foggy with a lumpy swell off Uivik but we were moving south. The following day we pushed on, mostly under power, to get into the Mugford Bay area, passing through the tickle with a sighting of a Black Bear. R&A had sussed out a new anchorage with great shelter from west through south to south east. Unfortunately it blew up from the north in the night which made for a sleepless night but the excitement of knowing we had, at last, a favourable wind eased that pain. Of course it only lasted for an hour or so once we'd got going and once more we plugged on under engine. With calm seas and little wind we opted to make another long push to gain shelter in Port Manvers Run and arrived very tired around 8pm. Trees!! How we miss those trees and the softening they bring to a landscape.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Fog and 'bergs......

The trip from St John's Hbr proved eventful in so far as the drone of the engine was suddenly pierced by Bee shrieking that she could see Orca's. And so she could; 3 in total and looking like 2 adults and a young 'un. They passed across our bow and then reappeared some distance of to starb'd giving us yet another tick off item. Walrus and Narwhal we're hoping to add to “seen that” Spent the night at St Barbe.
The forecast was for southerlies later in the day. Well it didn't arrive of course but fog did and by late afternoon we were moving slowly through a dense grey coating. Visibility was poor and then we heard the forecast was now for Sth 30 knots. Well we were heading NE so ordinarily we would welcome 30 knots from astern. But with little vis that made things a tad uncomfortable....I began putting in a reef as the seas were lumpy and the main gets thrown about in these situations. It was as I was finishing off the task that Bee remarked quietly....”..isn't that an iceberg ahead..”? And so it was – a large berg too and the situation suddenly altered as the prospect of fog, strong winds and bergs came together. 

Within an hour we started to see more and they were bigger – at least they showed up on radar but not the growlers or bergy bits and Bee spent some time on the bow calling out directions as we motored between them. By now we had decided to head into Chateau Bay and sit out the blow in safety and provided we could get past the bergs that seemed to blocking our course we would be there around nightfall. As we approached 2 bergs about a mile apart the engine suddenly cut out and stopped. Luckily we were far enough away to simply turn away and sort it out. The system we use for filling the tank on the move had failed (basically a syphon system using hoses and a 'bulb” to start the flow off. I'm guessing that with all the rolling we were under going the syphon had stopped working and the tank had been so empty that the feed to the filters had picked up air. Took a few seconds to check the guages and water then get fuel into the tank and we were moving again albeit slowly as we wanted to allow enough fuel to get into the tank. In the end we got past the bergs, altered course for the entrance , suffered a moments disbelief when it looked as though a berg was grounded across it before realising we had identified the entrance correctly. In we went sending hundreds of eider ducks to flight and dropped the hook so pleased to be in free of the trauma outside. By 6 the following morning we were on the move again as the wind had changed and we were now on a lee shore with about a metre under the keel. Chateau is a neat place but the shelf is tiny and drops away to 30 metres quickly so any anchoring involves getting very close inshore. Hence our sudden departure. We motored out of the bay and set sail for Ship Harbour. Not to be as winds became lighter then headed us before shifting again. We crept past Battle Harbour but gave up and headed into Fox where we could, at least get diesel. To our surprise there were 4 boats already there including Russ and Alison. The gut who gave us a lift to collect the fuel said he'd never seen 5 boats in the harbour at once which is indicative of something. Probably the fact that the weather has been so poor that no boat had yet left for Greenland had something to do with it. We have decided not to head that way ourselves for a variety of reasons not least lack of wind plus an abundance of fog and bergs.
We pushed on the next day for Ship Harbour but it wasn't a wise decision.The wind headed us, we motor tacked the whole way and fog was thick. We were passed (at speed) by a funky looking motor-sailor who were heading up to Occasional Hbr. Like us they'd been living on the boat for 15 years but had spent several winters marooned (by choice) in Greenland. We were stood in the cockpit dressed in warm, weatherproof clothing, steering as they motored by sat in their warm, heated environment clad, no doubt, in t-shirts and slippers.....

R&A joined us the following day and we left for somewhere north. In the end we had a lumpy sail and made it into Punchbowl barrelling in though the narrow entrance with the main still set and found 3 yots and a fishing boat tied up to the dock! R&A of course plus 2 more from Fox Hbr, Nomad and Vagabondelle, Austrian and Polish respectively.

Friday, 10 July 2015

The journey north begins........

With the deadline approaching we left Belfast on a glorious sunny day with a following breeze for MDI -Mount Desert Island. We had the Eggimoggin Reach to ourselves and enjoyed one of the pleasantest days sailing for a long time. Maine really is an exceptional place to be, particularly the area we were in and we can't recommend it too highly. We fetched up that evening in Goose Cove before arriving in NE Harbour the following day to visit Philip and Helen for a few days. And a fine time was had too – with us resisting P's efforts to take us hiking..
NE Harbour

Whilst we'd been in Belfast we had sold the Sea Hopper dinghy and had just missed out on two separate Pudgy's we'd seen advertised. We logged onto the internet whilst in NEH and found another one had been listed a few hours ago, emailed and then skyped the seller. We agreed the asking price on the strength of the photos and then set about organising how we'd collect it. John Tani was happy to run us down to near Portland to collect (almost 200 miles one way) and Philip dropped me off around lunchtime. We found the address, noted that a rowlock was missing but paid up anyway. A 15 minute journey into Portland got us to the company who build them, a pair of rowlocks bought and we were back on the road again. 
The Pudgy

Arriving back at NEH we loaded the two part dinghy (split) onto John's pick up and we were the very pleased owners of a Portland Pudgy. No it doesn't row as well as the one we had loaded onto the truck but it is lighter, has a number of very clever features and we now have a lifeboat!

We headed off for Nova Scotia intending to call in at Halifax and sort out a US visa. As the winds died we stopped at Lunenburg and found that no visas were being processed anywhere as the electronic system was down and we'd have to wait...and wait until it was back up and running. We headed out resigned to sorting it out on the way back. Made a couple of stops along the NS coast ( including one where a lobster fisherman asked if we needed anything – a welder I replied. He called his mate on the vhf and shortly the other boat came alongside. I showed the guy the damaged part of the self-steerer. He took it, returned the following morning, handed it over refused any payment and went back to his fishing...)and then left from Glasgow Harbour, at the northern end of Andrews Passge to sail around the outside of Cape Breton. All went well, if slowly, until I realised with horror that we had no charts of much of Labrador! In the past we have been able to borrow them from Henry Fuller who runs the Cape Breton Boatyard at Baddeck and after an hour I knew we needed to retrace our steps and enter the Bras 'or Lakes and go see Henry. It was 20 miles back to the canal, we arrived after hours and tied up alongside to await the lock opening. Through the next day, spending a little time with Jack and Glenda before pushing on to Baddeck. Henry more than happy to loan us the charts of course and I felt a lot better.
Hannah and Walkabout, Baddeck-pic by Wolfie off Nomad
A day or so later Russ and Alison arrived to join us but opted to stay at Baddeck to complete repairs before heading north in a day or so. We left, swept through the entrance at 9knots and turned the bow toward the SW tip of Newfoundland. The wind was out of the south, Hannah ran with a full main under the self-steerer and all was good. As the day progressed the forecast of what was to come that night increased to SE 35 knots with gusts of 70 knots in the Wreckhouse area. We altered course to Dingwall at the north end of Cape Breton and swept through the entrance around dusk, happy to be in to what turned out to be an excellent anchorage. Quiet with little effect from the wind outside we remained there until the Tuesday. We left hoping to reach the Belle Isle Strait in one jump but not to be of course. We drifted a couple of nights before anchoring in Keppel Harbour near Port Saunders. That day we had been surprised to see 3 sail boats heading along the coast, one we later found out was Russ and Alison and we met up a gain in Port A'Choix after they tempted us with showers and laundry at the Fisherman,s Centre.

For many years Bee has always wanted to visit St Johns Island and as it only 7 miles from PA'C we headed up to it on a day with stiff headwinds for anything further. Great place, 6 summer cabins but otherwise empty,excellent shelter, clean entrance and a great stop over as it is close to your route up or down the Strait.

Now we're motoring up the Strait,awaiting the arrival of the favourable winds....