Thursday, August 21, 2014

Staying the winter

Barry has finally come around to my way of thinking and we will be staying the winter in Nova Scotia.  We have an unfurnished one bedroom apartment lined up, possession to be the first of October.  We purchased a vehicle a couple of days ago, so now it is official.  Mark, Jen's partner, is great at buying and selling used machines so he and Barry searched around and came up with a 2006 Honda Civic.  It seems to be in pretty good shape and Mark says we should be able to get our money out of it when we leave.  It is a five speed and it has an absolutely huge trunk and I love the colour.
Barry has been running around the last two days trying to line up insurance and plates for it.  Apparently the insurance company was never informed that we sold the X-Trail and so they think we owe them additional insurance on it, and we have to pay it off before they will insure us for this car.  It will take a few days but I am sure all the paper work will come through.  It is a little frustrating to have the vehicle sitting there and be unable to use it. 
The long term plan at the moment is to circumnavigate Newfoundland next year and then head back to the Caribbean next fall.  We would then sail across the Atlantic to Europe in the spring of 2016, but as you know a sailor's plans are written in sand at low tide!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Different Kind of Sailing

Mark bought a used trailor last week and it just happened to have a small sailboat, a sand shark, on top of it.  We got home from the Bra d'Or Lakes last Saturday and Jen was itching to take her new toy out for a spin.  We hitched it up to the truck and drove the 3 km to a pebble beach on the North Arm of Sydney Harbour and rigged it up.  The set up was pretty straight forward but we hasd to take the mast down because we had forgot to rig the jib halyard!!
Jen and I suited up, the wind was perfect for learning a new sailboats quirks, gentle but steady.  We tacked and jibed, ran with the wind and then tried what every dinghy sailor must know how to do, tip and then right the boat.   The tipping went okay, then I explained to Jennifer what my understanding was on the technique on getting it back upright.  I had seen lots of kids climb on the dagger board and then the boat would just tip back up.  Well it wasn't quite that easy.  Jen climbed up on the dagger board and then hauled on the edge of the boat, no go. She actually had to stand on the very end of it and I levered myself up until I caught the front edge of the he boat and over she came.  Getting back in was easy for Jen but my older body did not think that it should have to preform such shenanigans and Jen had to add an assist by hauling on my life jacket before I was able to get back in, how embarrassing.  We managed to get it back to shore without damage and derigged it and off we returned home.  
Sunday we were at it again.  We made some changes to how we rigged it after doing some research on the internet. We flew across the bay on a slightly stronger wind having to hike out when the gusts hit. Jen then decide that she wanted to try it herself.  Her first object was to see if she could right the boat on her own. Over she went and after a bit of a struggle the boat was upright and again and she was off.  She dumped a couple of more times and then the boat was completely upside down.  This was way more difficult to correct because the sails were still attached to the mast and the drag on them as you try and right it is considerable.
She managed but then once she tried to sail she was constantly tipping.  I could see she was being slowly but surely being taken out to sea on the tide so I swam out to help her.  The reason it kept tipping was because it was full of water.  It must have all come in when it was upside down.  We managed to get the mast on the surface and I went and took the sails down, up righting it was easier and we slowly sailed it to shore and then walked it back to the trailer.  Barry had gone to get some supper so Jen and I pushed and shoved the trailer until it was out of the water.  We propped it on a abandoned plastic beach chair and the water came pouring out.  It was amazing how much was in the boat.  After some much needed nourishment Jen tried again although the wind had dropped.  She managed to sail it on her own and was satisfied that she would be able to handle the craft on her own.  She is going to have so much fun with it, all it needs now is a name.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

We have just returned to Sydney after a week's vacation with our daughter Jennifer and her two boys, William, 7, and Leeland, 5. The holiday was not a success in the boys' eyes after the first day.  We tacked out of Sydney Harbour and out into the open ocean for a twelve mile stretch before entering the Bra d'Or Lakes.  It was a great ride if you were a seasoned sailor but for two little boys who did not have their sea legs it was a trial.  They were both green about the gills and lost their lunches on several occasions.  Their Mom was also suffering from mal de mer and tried to sleep it off down below.  She managed to hang on to her cookies and it was a tried and grumpy crew as we tied up in Kelly's Cove about seven hours after starting out.  
The crew rebelled at the idea of moving on the next day fearing a recurrence of their maladies so we stayed put and played baseball and tried out the new fishing rods.  We were flabbergasted to see another boat registered in Victoria BC pull into the dock.  We hailed them once we got ashore and they were from the Bluewater Cruising Club, fleet of 2011, and had brought the boat through the Panama Canal and up to NS.  We talked about mutual acquaintances and pointed out some great anchorages in Nfld. for them (they were headed there) when we met for sun downers.
 Leeland was fishing off the boat and when he handed his rod off to Grandpa for some remedial hook repairs the rod was dropped.  Mommy to the rescue, she donned Grannie's wetsuit and gear and in she went.  She was in the water for about 20 minutes scouring the bottom.  There was limited visibility and she had to get quite near the bottom in order to see anything,  the 6 to 8 meter depth was a challenge but she claimed to be enjoying herself, a true Canadian. 
She found the rod on her next to last sweep and there was one very happy little boy on board. Jennifer spotted the hook on the bottom and that led to the rod, yippee!!
We moved down the channel the next day and found a great spot for a terrific camp fire; wieners and marshmallows were the order of the day.  Jennifer convinced the boys that the water was warm and in they went. 
Leeland was having a great time trying to ride on Mom's shoulders, meanwhile Jen is struggling to stay up and we could hear her strange strangled giggling coming out of the snorkel.  
William is great in the water and after seeing a starfish, a whole bunch of crab shells with Mom, he kicked his way to shore for his towel and got warm by the roaring fire. 

Keeping two young children entertained on a 39 foot boat was a bit of a challenge but we managed.  Grandpa is getting a lesson on the how to play one of the kids' favourite games on the ipod, while the Dinorgami kit I bought in New York was a hit with Jen and the kids.  The kit came with paper with designs on it and after many intricate folds a dinosaur was produced. One day we collected drift wood and a dinorgami mobile is going to be produced as a reminder of the trip. Grannie came up with the idea of making the boys names out of letter flags and after much cutting and hand sewing, their names and ages in flags were flown off the starboard spreader.  We taught the boys the time honoured card games of Go Fish and War and that as well as Scrabble and twenty questions were standard fair for the evening hours.  

No trip to Nova Scotia is complete without a picture of a lighthouse.  We stopped in Baddeck for ice cream, a few groceries and a playground hunting trip one day.  Jen and I went to Kidston Island just 200 meters across the water from Baddeck and went on the nature trail around the island.  We saw a young eagle on our travels and well as lots of interesting flowers, ferns and trees.  
Our next stop was Washabuck Bay.  It was only about 5 nm from Baddeck and the wind was behind us. Our genoa pulled us down the bay and thankfully there was no recurrence of the mal de mer.  It was a beautiful day so I suggested that swinging into the water off the end of the boom was something everyone might enjoy.  Grandpa, being the stick in the mud that he is said "why can't they just jump in off the boat?"  If the possibility of swinging off the boom exists why would you settle for merely jumping in, that was my thought!!
A great time was had by all three generations and we all swung in off the boom!!! That afternoon we took the dinghy around the bay and spotted eagles, king fishers, blue herons, Canadian geese and Bonaparte gulls on our sortie.  The next day it was time to head back home so we tacked back up the bay timing our arrival at the end of the channel to take advantage of the outgoing tide.  We motored the last bit into Kelly's Cove in a virtual white out as rain engulfed us.  It let up later on and we got off the boat and went to explore an old gypsum mine.  We made a valiant attempt to play Pooh sticks at a bridge on the way but there was too little water in the stream to carry even the smallest stick to the other side.  Today we got underway at 0500 to catch the out going tide once again and arrived back in Sydney five and a half hours later.  The boys took some medication before we left and spent most of the time fast asleep on the cabin sole, blissfully unaware of any motion.  
I would say that other than the first day the outing was an unqualified success, I am so glad we were able to have family aboard and share these great memories with them. 
Sailor Jen, our Winch Wench, Helmsman, and Mom Extraordinaire!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

St. John’s, Newfoundland

St. John's harbour from the top of Signal Hill. 
We made it, Bob had been to the Rock twice before but had never had a chance to get to the capital so he said that the third time was a charm and sure enough it was.  We had two days to sailing in 100 m visibility to get to Argentia, our kicking off point for our trip to the capital; thank goodness for our new radar, it got us there safe and sound. 
Argentia was a big U.S. airforce base in the 1970’s.  Today it is where the ferry from Cape Breton lands so they have a lovely new terminal there where we were able to have showers.  There was no place to tie up so we dropped anchor just outside of the spot where the fishing boats are docked.  We had no plans to stay for the night we were just trying to arrange transportation to St. John’s.  It was a trial, thank goodness for Bob, he was relentless, phoning numerous car rentals outfits who didn’t have a clue where we were.  Then he and Barry went ashore and he quizzed the locals in the ferry terminal and came up with several possibilities. One fellow apparently may have a car he could rent us, it was Sunday of the Aug. long weekend and there was no ferry therefore no buses, so the only other possibility was a taxi.  
We ended up riding the hour and a half into St. John’s with Gordon the taxi driver who didn’t have very many top teeth and that accompanied by his thick Nfld. accent made him almost incomprehensible.  But it worked he took us first to the most easterly point in North America, Cape Spear.  It was a gorgeous spot with a lighthouse, and gun batteries from World War II. 

As I sat on this big long gun once again posing for a picture, I thought finally a Canadian gun.  Much to my disappointment when I read the plaque commemorating the gun I found it was a U. S. gun that was given to Canada as part of a munitions exchange.  Perhaps it is not in the stars for me to pose with a Canadian cannon this voyage!!!
Entrance to the harbour and in the distance Cape Spear.
Our next stop was Signal Hill where Marconi received the first long distance telegraph.  It is an impressive spot with much history.  The hill has a great position overlooking the mouth of the St. John’s Harbour.  The English and the French fought over this spot back in the day and it was also used to signal messages from ships to merchants down in the town.  There was a noon cannon there but it did not seem to be active at this point.  Formerly there was a hospital on the hill and those stricken with tuberculosis, diphtheria and cholera were quarantined far away from the general population.  The Cabot Tower was built after Marconi proved that long distance communications was possible and it was used as a communications centre for trans Atlantic ships and the Nfld fishing fleet. 
We had lunch and then headed to the grocery store for a load before deadheading back to the boat. Gordon, the taxi driver, was full of news about the Placentia Bridge. 
It was stuck, half raised and there was no going in or out of that harbour and he would have to drive and extra 30 km on his way home after dropping us off.  We had read in the cruising guide we have that if you went in that harbour you might not be able to get out because of the unreliable bridge.  We were very happy that we had tried Argentia and feel that in calm conditions the spot we left the boat was acceptable. 
My brother in full beard and Gordon the Nfld. taxi driver.
He regaled me on the way home with stories of smuggling girls into the Yanks commissary in the trunk of his car back in the 70’s when he was still raising a ruckus.  His stories of near misses with moose on the highway were rather hair raising as well. 
We pulled anchor and left for Cape Breton as soon as we had packed away the groceries and added fuel.  It is going to be an upwind slog that neither Barry or I are particularly looking forward to. 

St. Pierre and Miquelon

I don’t know about you but as a Canadian kid growing up in the 60’s we were required to take Canadian history and geography.  The islands that are located about 25 km off the coast of Newfoundland that belong to France always seemed rather mysterious and exotic.  We visited them last week and both Barry and I looked at each other and said “I never thought we would ever visit St. Pierre and Miquelon”. 
We set out from the coast of Nfld, intending to land in St. Pierre, the more populated and developed island.  The wind was capricious, blowing in our faces, making it necessary to tack back and forth to make any progress.  My brother is onboard for a sailing holiday so we indulged his wishes and gamely tried to make some headway.  When it was Barry’s shift later in the afternoon and we still had 10 miles to go he exercised the Captain’s prerogative and started the motor.  St. Pierre was still 30nm away so we pulled into the much larger but more rural island of Miquelon.  The harbour is very narrow and there was quite a wind blowing by this time so we dropped anchor just outside it’s mouth.  It was exposed to prevailing winds and we spent two very rolly nights. 
Once ashore the next morning we checked into France and then we went exploring.  The French seem to have kept their hands on islands in various parts of the world, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Reunion, Martinique, etc, etc.  It must be a colonial throwback thing, why would they want to have a base in the St. Lawrence in this day and age?? But I digress; we found a very small spread out town, based on a windswept flat plain which had wonderful soil.  In almost every backyard there was a beautiful garden with lots of potato plants that were thriving, we also spotted carrots, beets, spinach, zucchini, lettuce and onions, and my mouth was watering! Barry tried out his French on some pre teen kids that were hanging about the main square and was able to effectively communicate with them.  We bought some postcards at the post office and then caused great consternation as we tried to pay for them with Canadian money.  Fifteen minutes later, after several phone calls and many calculations we received some Euros in return and posted our cards. The wind was still on our nose so we stayed an extra day and I completed some much needed cleaning in the galley. 

St. Pierre was a surprise; after visiting the very small Nfld outports for almost 2 weeks, the bustling town of 4,000 was a bit of a culture shock.  There was a very large grocery store, a wonderful sailing school, which offered showers, free laundry, and wifi when you paid for a mooring buoy, and a plethora of shops. Bob headed ashore the next morning and managed to procure some wonderful croissants and we munched on them as we sipped our cafĂ© aux laits, how very Continental of us!
 The fog rolled in and out of town, clothing the brightly painted buildings in misty curtains.  Many of the buildings were attached to one another, having a common wall but the height could be different and the roofs different pitches.  We wandered about the streets heading up hill until we had a great view of the town and the very protected harbour. The local museum was on the agenda for the afternoon and there we learned a bit of the history of the islands. 

The French and the English fought over them continuously throughout the 18th century, at one time the hardy islanders were all deported and there was a wonderful celebration once they were allowed to return.  The islands played a vital part in rum running during the prohibition years.  The U.S, was not allowed to make liquor or import it and Canada could manufacture it but they were not allowed to export it to the US.  There were no restrictions on the French so a huge trade in the demon rum soon became a part of St. Pierre’s story.  There were pictures of boatloads of crates of liquor being unloaded at the pier.  Here it was transferred to smaller, quicker vessels and smuggled into the US.  The young fellow looking after the museum showed us furniture that had been made on St. Pierre that used the lumber from the rum boxes for drawers in a buffet and hutch for the dining room. Bob and I realized that time was passing when we recognized a wringer washer quite like the one my Mom used to use back in the early 60’s, we are aging!
A new twist on the cannon pictures, one with my brother in it!!
I wish we had more time to explore these French islands but we needed to keep moving in order to achieve our goal of visiting the capital of Newfoundland.
This is what St. Pierre looks like in the winter, brutal!!

Monday, August 04, 2014

We have finished our Nfld trip and are heading back to Sydney. We made it by sailing to Argentia on the west coast of the Avalon Peninsula. Then we took a taxi to St. John's. We stood on the most eastern point in North America. A visit Signal Hill was also on agenda. Pics and more details when we get back to Cape Breton.