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...