Monday, August 18, 2014

Chandler to ... PEI? Home at last!!!

When we left Candler yesterday morning at 5am, we were intending to make an 80 NM passage to Mirimichi and anchor behind Portage Island. The weather, however, had other ideas.

As the tide was low, at 5:30am we warped the boat off the fuel dock at the Chandler Marina and keeping to the outside in the deeper side of the channel between the two docks made our way out of the marina. The sun was hidden behind gray skies and the wind was light. The 3AM forecast had said winds would be light then south 10 to 15. There were a few waves, but nothing like the day before so we headed out. We figured that if we could maintain an average of 6 knots, we could make the anchorage in 14 hours, before nightfall.

Unfortunately, conditions deteriorated throughout the day. Winds became 20-25 from the southwest, meaning we were bashing nose to wind, making for an uncomfortable and bouncy ride. We motor-sailed, but we were not able to point directly towards our destination due to the waves. Unlike  the large gentle waves of the previous morning, these waves were short, choppy and if you didn't catch them exactly right, the boat would go over one and then slam down hard into the next wave. It was a very gray day, with the water and the sky seeming to meld into one another and there were intermittent showers. Sometimes, a wave would be steeper than you expected and you had to react quickly to navigate it smoothly. This also meant hand steering, which is so much more tiring than autopilot. If you didn't gauge the wave right, you slammed into, tossing the boat wildly. At one point, I was below in the bow getting something and Jay didn't successfully react to the wave and I actually went airborne. My feet left the floor as the boat dropped from underneath my feet and then rushed back up. I was holding on to the doorknob so I have a few minor bruises but managed not to injure myself severely. Needless to say we didn't send a lot of time below.

By 4pm it was clear we were not going to make our intended destination before dark. We had veered so far off course that it was going to take more daylight than we had left to reach the anchorage. In the waves, we had also slowed to about 5 knots. As this coast of New Brunswick has lots of shifting sand dunes we were not comfortable with entering a strange anchorage at night. We briefly considered back tracking to Shippigan Gully, but according to guidebooks it is a fishing port with no amenities. Also, we knew we would soon cross into the Northumberland Strait which had light winds all day and so the seas should calm down. There is a 45 NM stretch from Shippigan Gully to Mirimichi where there is no place to pull in, anchor or tie up. Richibucto, Buctouche or Shediac were options.

Our spare diesel jerry cans were lashed onto the bow but some strong waves crashing over the sides had dislodged both. I was keeping a wary eye on them and planning as soon as  the waves calmed to go forward and re-lash them. After one particularly large wave, the port side jerry can slipped over the side, with only a small rope (the secondary line) keeping it attached to the boat. Jay donned his life jacket and safety line and, with me slowing the boat right down to keep it as steady as possible, he went forward to rescue the jerry can, keeping himself tied on with his safety line at all times. With the boat slowed down, the waves were manageable, so we decided to top up our fuel by empting both cans into the tank. Less than twenty minutes later we were on our way again.

As we moved into the Northumberland Strait, waves and wind quieted and sailing became relatively smooth. However, as darkness fell, it was pitch black. The cloud cover was so heavy, no moon or stars were in evidence, nor were any lights from land visible.The rain at times was so heavy we could not see any lights on shore. The radar and the chartplotter were all that kept us moving.  We were adrift in a sea of darkness. We could see small intense rain showers on the radar and track them as they approached.

Despite the blackness of the night, we made relatively good time. Our course took us close to West Point PEI. Around 11pm, after some discussion, we decided that since Summerside was not more than 2-3 hours further than Shediac, we would push on and rather than enter Shediac Bay before sunrise, we would enter Summerside Harbour just after daybreak.

The night passed uneventfully as we motor-sailed in about 10 knots of wind. Although Jay saw many lobster buoys, while I was on the wheel, it was so dark and rainy I never saw any. As I took the helm at 5am, I watched the sky lighten as Summerside, PEI came into view. I have never seen such a welcome sight.

After a 150NM and a 25 hour crossing we were home in PEI. We still have to sail to our home base in Souris, but it is really great to be back in PEI!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Gaspé to Chandler

We arrived in Chandler today after a 50 NM trip from Gaspé. The Bay of Gaspé is very long. Although the wind was light, large rolling waves (6-9 feet) were still coming into the Bay. However,  they were evenly spaced, so although we needed to brace ourselves, the boat handled them easily and we were able to maintain over 6 knots. It was 25 miles to the famous Percé Rock. By then the waves had become shorter, but steeper and closer together, making it more challenging to steer into them carefully so the boat wouldn't slam into them.  With only 5-10 knots of wind on our nose sailing was out of the question, so it made for a slog to Chandler.

We did see a whale, porpoises and several seals though I wasn't able to reach for a camera to snap any photos. Even my photos of Percé Rock are minimal as with the boat bouncing n the waves I found it difficult to steady the camera to take photos.

About 3pm we arrived in Chandler, Quebec. This is a very small marina which must be navigated very carefully at low tide. With only 4 foot 6 inches draft, My Obsession made it in by carefully keeping to the right-hand side between the two docks. We pulled along the fuel dock and were sitting in about 6 feet of water about 2 hours before low tide. We were told it drops to a low of 5 feet along the fuel dock.

Although there are no staff, all the members were extremely friendly and helpful. With the help of several members we got a pumpout and were told we could stay on the fuel dock for the night. Marina fees were very reasonable at $1 per foot. There is a nice restaurant on premises and very clean bathroom and shower facilities. The town is only a short walk away. Chandler is the second largest town in the Gaspé region after Gaspé itself.

There is a nice walking trail nearby and a very nice beach. Although we can hear the crashing of the waves, we are very well protected.


Friday, August 15, 2014


The weather has been very uncooperative with strong southeast winds so we have stayed put in Gaspé. Tomorrow (Saturday) we hope to leave. Winds are forecast to be Southeast again, but only 10-15 knots. So although the wind will be on our nose for part of it, it should be light enough that seas will be manageable.

Gaspé has been a pleasant stop. The marina is an easy walk to shopping and the downtown and it has all the amenities. The scenery is beautiful and Forillon National Park is nearby. Unfortunately, the pumpout has been out of commission, so we have been using facilities on land as much as possible. We are told the nearest working pumpout is Chandler, so we will head their tomorrow. It should also make a good jumping off point for crossing Chaleur Bay and heading into New Brunswick.

Gaspé is known as a landing spot for Jacques Cartier who erected a wooden cross to claim the land for France in 1534. In 1934 a granite cross was erected to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Cartier. There is a lovely walking trail nearby.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rimouski to Gaspé

The currents are no longer a major factor from Rimouski east when coming down river, so we left on our overnight passage to Gaspé (about 214 NM) about 8am on Monday (August 11).  We seem to be always saddled with unfavourable winds. So, unfortunately we motored almost the whole way. The winds were either too light or right on our nose. Although southwest winds are the prevailing winds in this area, we experienced east and southeast winds. By the time we entered Gaspe Bay on Tuesday morning, the winds had increased and had resulted in a fair chop at the entrance to the Bay, requiring hands and feet to brace oneself, although the seas were only about 2 metres.  We could have raised the sails again for the last hour of our journey, but after almost 30 hours, we just wanted to arrive at dock and take a nap.

We had a relatively uneventful crossing. We stayed about 2 miles offshore and in some areas experienced the katabatic winds written about in cruising guides for the Gaspé. We would be registering 4 knots of wind, then as we would approach a valley the winds would climb to 20-25 knots until we had passed.  
One of my favourite parts of an overnight passage is being able to witness sunset and sunrise on the water. We were also just past a full moon, a supermoon in fact, but I do not have any photos of it. The moonlight made for an easy passage however.  After 31 hours we have arrived in Gaspé.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Saguenay to Rimouski

On Sunday, August 10th we travelled from Tadoussac to Rimouski, leaving the Saguenay River behind. Again we timed our departure from our anchorage a few miles upriver to coincide with an ebb tide from the Saguenay and favourable currents all the way to Rimouski.

Although the morning was clear when we pulled anchor, by the time we reached the St. Lawrence, a fog was descending. This passing tanker looked a bit eerie in the fog.

The St. Lawrence River was like a mirror it was so calm, so no sailing again. However, the glass-like surface of the water made spotting sea life very easy, our reward for having to motor.  We were delighted to see three whales, many belugas, and loads of seals and porpoises during the 61 NM crossing. At one point the fog was so think, visibility was extremely limited. The surface of the water and the air seemed to fade into one white-grey mass, leaving you with the no perception of distance. We were thankful for radar once again. As we motored into the fog in over 500 feet of water, it felt like we were all alone in the world. Then, out of the fog I spotted a whale, a humpback I think from perusing the identification guide. It swam slowly past us, headed up the river, displaying its glorious flukes. For a moment we watched it pass us by, amazed by its size, and then we were alone again in the fog.

However, the most exciting encounter we had was when a beluga began to surface about 15 feet off our stern starboard quarter. I was at the wheel and immediately powered down. He was so close, I am not sure who was more surprised, me or the beluga. He dove and came up again about 10-15 feet off our port side. I was so excited that I could barely get the words out of my mouth to alert Jay. The beluga stayed just under the surface, the water so clear we could see its whole length. It breached a second time and then dove again. It repeated this several times until it was out of view. I was so overcome with excitement with such a close encounter; I forgot to reach for my camera.

The third spot in the St. Lawrence River where the current can be so strong that it pays to time your passage with the current is near Ile Rouge off the mouth of the Saguenay. We rode a strong 3-4 knot current through this area, passing six cargo ships anchored awaiting the turn of the tides. With the favourable current we were in Rimouski mid-afternoon, which gave us time for boat chores and provisioning.