Saturday, October 23, 2010

A bittersweet memory

As I write this I am sitting in the Montreal airport waiting for a flight home from a business trip to Ottawa.  Obsession is snugly tucked away in winter storage, awaiting a new adventure next year. Our last sail of the season, a month ago now, is just a memory.

It was a Sunday. The air was crisp and clear. The brisk wind had a slight chill, carrying with it the promise of fall. Even the warm sunshine could not completely chase away the hint of the cooler weather to come; but, with a good 10-15 knots of wind, conditions were prime for a late season sail.

Jay and I had offered to bring out some friends for that oft promised sail which had somehow never materialized over the summer, but it was not to be. Our friends were unable to come at the last minute. Though we love sharing our boat with others, we thoroughly enjoy just being the two of us too, so we clambered aboard, did our usual pre-sail checks and readied to make way.

The wind was very co-operative, so we didn't even bother turning on the engine, but unfurled the jib, slipped the dock lines and silently slipped away from the floating dock. Leaving the Montague Marina behind, we sailed down the river under jib alone, enjoying the sun reflecting off the dimples in the water and the warm sunshine. Sheltered from the full force of the wind in the winding river, we drifted leisurely pass the homes and cottages dotting the banks. Off the Lower Montague Wharf, the Montague River widens as it prepares to meet the Brudenell River and then Cardigan Bay. Beyond Panmure Island and Boughton Island which guard either side of the mouth of Cardigan Bay lies the Northumberland Strait. Anxious now to be off, we put up the main sail and sailed out past Georgetown into Cardigan Bay in 10 knots of wind, with the optimum degree of heel, our knotmeter climbing to a respectable 6 knots.

I have often remarked to Jay that Obsession reminds me of a race horse. Her sleek lines and large sails make her a fun boat to sail. Draping the mainsail cover over the mainsail as it lies neatly flaked on the boom after a day of sailing is like wrapping a blanket over the back of a racehorse after a race. That day, I gave Obsession her head. With the sails set and rudder in harmony, Obsession was perfectly balanced. We don't have autohelm on Obsession, but when she is balanced just right you don't need it. She will sail a straight and true course. And that day, she fairly flew across the water, racing for the sheer joy of movement.

I sat on the high side in the cockpit, a windbreaker over my sweater against the slight chill, curled up against Jay's side, the helm in easy reach if the need should arise. But Obsession, she sailed herself. It was as if, on this day, our boat was alive. She knew it was her last sail of the season and was determined to give us a ride we would not forget over the long, cold months of winter.

The water sparkled in the sunshine, the angle of sun's rays causing the small white-capped seas to reflect like brilliant diamonds. The sky was an incredible blue, dotted with cotton-like clouds. The red cliffs of the Island standing out proudly against the dark blue of the sea contrasted with the green farmland, trees with leaves just starting to turn colours and small houses dotting the landscape. I was silenced by the beauty around me. Obsession's sleek bow parted the water effortlessly, dancing over the small waves, leaving a fine mist of spray. The dodger kept us snug and dry as Jay and I sat in comfortable silence, each preoccupied with our own thoughts.

I always feel so alive on the water. I passionately love sailing and when I am not on the boat, my spirit aches. It as if there is a small hollow inside me, a space that is only filled when we are on the water. That day, I was overflowing with joy. I was with the most important person in my life, doing what I most love to do, in absolutely perfect conditions.

As we left Panmure Island behind to our starboard and then Boughton Island behind to our port, neither Jay nor I moved to change course. We let Obsession take us where she willed. She raced over the water, picking up speed to 6.5 knots, sailing by herself out into the Strait. I touched the wheel lightly from time to time, as if to reassure her we were there and still enjoying the ride. Cuddled with Jay in the cockpit, I felt safe and warm, but also incredibly alive. The sounds of the water against the hull and the slight creaking in the rigging as we rose over the waves, the feel of the sun and the wind against my face and the sight of the beautiful scenery around me created a symphony for my senses. It is so easy to take for granted the beauty around us. I feel truly blessed to live in a place as beautiful as Prince Edward Island, but it is so easy to rush from place to place, from task to task and not take the time to enjoy the moment. We lead busy lives. But on our boat I am always fully immersed in the moment.

Sailing requires you to be in tune with what is around you. Your focus must be on the boat, the crew and your surroundings. Whatever the conditions, you must be attuned to the potential for change, the potential for danger, and the potential for joy. This is why I love sailing. It is at once, both so simple and so complicated. And I am always learning.

Skills and knowledge, resiliency, self-reliance, ingenuity, and a willingness to constantly learn are required for sailing. Jay and I have only owned our own boat for three years. In these past three years we have sailed approximately 3000 nautical miles. We have bareboat chartered in the British Virgin Islands. We have sailed around various ports and harbours in Prince Edward Island. We have sailed across the Northumberland Strait quite a number of times, and visited various ports in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We have faced various sailing conditions, equipment failures and personal challenges. And each time we slip the dock lines or pull up the anchor we are eager for a new adventure and a new life lesson. Whether the wind is light and we ghost across water so still it becomes a mirror, or we are bouncing over waves in a rolling sea in strong winds, I love the adventure of sailing.

But that day our adventure was bittersweet as I knew it would be our last sailing adventure on Obsession for the year. Eventually, we reluctantly agreed it was time to rein Obsession in and point her bow toward home. She seemed reluctant as I took the wheel and Jay handled the sails, as if knowing that there would be many months ahead spent sitting on the hard. As we reset the sails, Jay took over on the helm and I settled back against the cabin, sheltered by the dodger from the wind which seemed so much colder in this new direction. The wind picked up as we headed back in, requiring us furl in the jib part way. As we drew nearer to land, I tried to burn every sensation into my memory, wondering how many months it would be before I would again be sailing.

We lowered the sails as we passed Lower Montague Wharf and turned on the engine. Jay piloted the boat up the Montague River and we quietly talked about what needed to be done over the next few days to ready the boat to come out of the water the following week. I knew it was almost certainly our last sail as I was off to Ottawa on business for a few days; still, I couldn't bear to take the sails off just in case we could squeak in one more sail. So we agreed to leave the sails on but gather other items that had collected over the summer which we knew we would not need. I went below to pack.

All too soon, we were approaching the last bend in the River and I came topside to attach the fenders and ready the lines. As we drew up to the dock and I stepped off with the bow line and made her fast, I felt a tear threaten. After securing the boat, I climbed back aboard and took the end of the main sail cover. I walked across the cabin top to the mast, my hand on the neatly flaked main sail resting on the boom. I pulled the main sail cover over the sail and around the boom and mast. Again I was reminded of putting a blanket over the shoulders and back of a racehorse. With my arms already around the boom at the mast securing the cover, I couldn't help myself from hugging the boat. Thanks , Obsession, for an amazing sail and a wonderful season. I am counting the days till we go sailing again on another new adventure.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The End of Another Season

Another season is over.

Obsession was lifted out of the water for the winter in late September. Shortly thereafter, we left for a couple of weeks for work and play (including a trip to the Annapolis boat show), so there was a bit of a rush to get her winterized.

This is the third time we've prepared her the winter, and it becomes a bit easier each time. The main item is to drain water and fill the pipes with antifreeze to prevent damage as the temperatures freeze. This includes the pipes to and from the sink in the main cabin and the head, the head itself, the water bladder, and the water heater. Also, the bilge has to be cleaned and the bilge lines drained and filled with antifreeze.

The engine itself is cooled with salt water, so the cooling system has to be prepared the same way. This is a bit more difficult. It involves detaching the salt water intake hose from the hull, and being prepared with both a fresh water supply and antifreeze. The intake hose has to be placed in the fresh water while the engine is being started, and then switched to the antifreeze until all the water has been replaced. This is at least a two person job, even easier with three people.

The mast electrical connections have to be protected with lubricant, and the batteries removed. The interior and exterior have to be cleaned and scrubbed. All removable items have to be taken off the boat.

The entire process takes a few days - I'm always amazed by how much we can gather on board over the summer. It always takes longer than planned, so there is usually a rush to get it ready for storage. However, since we store the boat indoors each winter, we know it will be well protected and ready to go again in spring.

Friday, September 3, 2010

When the Winds Blow

This is our third year with Obsession, and today marks the third time we've prepared her for an oncoming hurricane. The first year was clear, but then we had two storms last year, and now our first (and hopefully only) for this year.

It's Friday, and Hurricane Earl is coming up the American East Coast on its way here. Earl had worked its way up to Category 4 hurricane a couple of days ago, but it's now down to Category 1. It's still expected to be Category 1 when it hits Nova Scotia/New Brunswick tomorrow, and down to a tropical storm before it hits PEI. However, that's still plenty strong to do major damage.

Last year, we had two instances. First, Hurricane Bill came north. At the time, we were in the Bras D'Or lakes at the St Peter's Marina. The hurricane track prediction anticipated it would go right over our heads. Fortunately, it veered off at the last minute, and Cape Breton was just brushed by its edges. However, we stripped and prepared the boat for the worst, and suffered no damage.

But, two weeks later, Hurricane Danny paid a visit. By then, we were back in Montague, and sure enough, the expected track was going right over us again. So for the second time, we prepared for the worst. However, Montague is well protected, being in a small valley up the river, so the winds are not as damaging as more exposed locations.

And to think Americans complain about our sending them Canadian Cold Fronts. Look what they give us in return.

When we prepare for a hurricane, we have two classes of actions. The first is to secure the boat. The second is to eliminate potential wind damage, either to sails or from flying projectiles.

Securing the boat to the mooring means doubling and tripling our dock lines. Essentially, we take all of the lines we have, and tie them between the boat and the dock. Sailboats are designed to handle strong winds, but they assume that the winds are used to move the boat. The situation is a bit different when you're tied to a dock, and don't want to move. Imagine holding up a 30-foot long piece of plywood against 50 knot winds - that's how much force is on a boat if the wind hits it broadside. With plenty of lines, the boat can withstand this force and stay tied to the dock. However, we have to hope that the docks are strong enough to withstand this force on many boats without breaking. Fortunately, this year, we were moved from our normal, outside, docking area, to a more secure dock, so we should be fine in that regard.

When the boat is at dock, the jib is normally furled around the forestay, and the main is tied up on the boom. However, in a strong wind, neither of these methods are fully satisfactory, as the wind can get in and cause the sails to break loose. The resulting winds can easily shred sails that cost thousands of dollars. So, we strip the sails off completely, and put them below decks.

Finally, all of the items on deck have to be taken off and stored belowdeck or removed and taken home. This includes safety items (life ring and man overboard pole), and the variety of other items that are often tied onto a boat for convenience. In tropical force winds, these items can take flight and cause a lot of damage.

Now that we've prepared as much as we can for tomorrow's storm, all we can do is sit and wait. We've taken the best precautions that we can. We only hope that other boats around us have done the same, and that we don't suffer damage as a result of someone else's sloppy preparations.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anchorages of the Bras D'Or

As I mentioned in my last blog, we have tried to spend more time at anchor on this trip to the Bras D'Or, and we have managed to visit a few spots. The Bras D'Or Lakes are brimming with coves, harbours, and inlets where you can easily find some seclusion and protection from almost any wind direction. We have only scratched the surface of the great locations over here, and we have plenty more destinations on our list of future visits.

Our thoughts this year was to alternate between anchorages and marinas. While we are quite comfortable at anchorage in Obsession, the lack of refrigeration means we have to get more ice for the icebox every other day. Also, Obsession doesn't have a particularly large water tank. We can probably get by for three days or so with the water we carry, but then it gets down and we're more comfortable stopping and refilling it. After all, we need our daily shower!

Cape George is a popular spot during the day - which in our experience means you can expect about a half dozen boats on a nice day. Although we didn't anchor overnight, we did spend an afternoon here. As in most areas in the Lakes, the water is deep enough to allow you to anchor relatively close to the shore. This is a big difference from PEI, where the sand bars keep you out quite a distance. This cove is at the Lake end of St Peters Inlet, just before entering the wider part of the Lakes. For Obsession, it is just a bit over an hour for us to motor here from St Peters Marina, so it's a perfect spot to take family for a day.

This is the second year that we anchored in the Crammond Islands. These two islands lie close to each other, and are just three miles north of Dundee Marina. To get to the mid-island anchorage area, you pass through the channel, which then opens up into a circular, well-sheltered area.

We spent a night anchored in Little Harbour this year for the first time. I had been wanting to check out this place since I first heard about it, and we finally made it this year. This has quickly become one of our favourite spots. You almost have to be right on top of the entrance before you can even see it. The entrance to the harbour is very narrow - probably less than 100 feet across in places. However, it is quite deep and there is no problem getting in with our 6 foot keel. Once through, it opens out into a circular bay with plenty of room for dozens of boats. It is extremely quiet and isolated. There were three other boats in the harbour while we were there, at least two of which were unoccupied (we couldn't tell if there was anyone on the third boat or not). We spent a wonderful afternoon and night at this spot, totally set apart from the rest of the world.

Orangedale is a bit off the main track for the Bras D'Or Lakes, but we wanted to explore this section. The wind was not entirely cooperative, so we had to motor for about two hours through the sometimes narrow passages to get to Orangedale. Once there, we buzzed by the community (which is quite small). Although the cruising guides say that there is enough water at the end of the dock for us, we didn't actually stop at the town. We anchored in MacDonald's Cove next to the town, again with no one else around.

On the north side of Iona, Maskell's Harbour is midway from the Barra Strait Bridge to Baddeck. Since it is only few miles from Baddeck, this is a very popular day trip. We anchored for the night, along with a half dozen other boats. It is large enough that we had a whole section of the harbour to ourselves, and none of the boats interfered with each other. There is a small peninsula that extends out from land to the midpoint of the harbour, and most boats like to tuck in behind this bar. When we arrived, there were already a few boats in there, so we anchored on the other side, near the beach.

Our final anchorage on this trip was in Deep Cove, west of Baddeck. We had this area to ourselves. It is smaller than most of the other places we had stayed in, with only swing room for a handful of boats. Again, the harbour was quiet and isolated, with no one else in sight.

It's always surprising that the Bras D'Or aren't more crowded with cruising boats. For a relatively small area, there are so many quiet, interesting, and scenic spots to check out. There are enough marinas and facilities for regular resupply, and hundreds of isloated spots to explore. Most of the time, we had an entire anchorage or harbour to ourselves. There would be only one or two houses even in sight, and often no roads anywhere nearby.

This was our third visit to the Bras D'Or Lakes with Obsession, and it won't be the last.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Marinas of the Bras D'Or

This is our third trip to the Bras D'Or lakes in Obsession, and we have made an effort to spend more time at anchor than our previous trips. However, we still spend some time in marinas. In fact, we tend to spend more nights in marinas than at anchor, partly because the lack of refrigeration on our boat means that we have to replenish our supply of ice every day in the icebox. That means making landfall anyway, so we use the time to resupply ourselves. Also, because we usually cannot fully leave our work behind, we need to have internet access every so often.

Finally, even though we have a shower in the head, it is small and cramped, so we appreciate the luxury of having a full sized shower every couple of days.

Port Hawkesbury marina is not on the Bras D'Or lakes, but it is often our first stop on our way home, or our last stop before hitting the lakes. This year, they have opened a large new two-storey building for the marina. They have a shower in each of the men's and women's washrooms, as well as another washroom/shower in the building next door. Most of the space in the building is taken up by a lounge. The facility is licenced, and drinks are available.

In the Bras D'Or lakes, there are three principal marinas - St Peter's, Baddeck, and Dundee. Of the three, we have spent the most time in St Peter's (mainly because my family is nearby) and the least in Dundee.

St Peter's is one of the best marinas that we've visited. There are plenty of berths. The only time we've ever seen them full was last year when a hurricane was threatening and all the local boaters wanted a spot for the night. The staff is always ready to catch your lines when you arrive, and they have plenty of facilities. There are five washroom/showers, a kitchen and television areas, and barbecues for the boaters. It's also a short walk to the town, where most services are available. The one service that is not available in the town is a good marine supply shop.

We have spent quite a few nights at the Baddeck marine. Like St Peter's, they are quick to help you on the docks and the marina is a short walk from the town's services. However, they have limited slips (although there are plenty of moorings) and they have been full at times when we were looking for a spot. There are a couple of showers each for men and women, but no relaxation area for boaters. However, they have the advantage of a full marine supply and repair shop on site. This year, they helped me clean a bad electrical connection on board Obsession.

We have not spent many nights at Dundee. There are two main disadvantages to this location. First, there are no services in Dundee outside the marina. Secondly, cell phone service is spotty at best. Because we also own a summer tourist-related business, we need to keep in touch when we're on the water at this time of year, so being in a location where we can't be reached is a big disadvantage.

There is one other location on the lakes which we stopped into this summer. The Barra Strait marina is at the foot of the Barra Strait bridge in Iona. However, this facility makes use of an old ferry dock, which has seen better days. There is a marina building with washrooms, showers, and laundry facilities. The location is also exposed to the winds from many directions. We briefly considered spending the night, but the south-west wind was uncomfortable, so we stopped only long enough to buy ice from the convenience store next door, then found an anchorage for the night.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Seals, Dolphins and Whales, Oh My!

So, we are off on another sailing trip. This time to the Bras D'Or Lakes in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Arguably one of the nicest cruising grounds on the east coast, a trip to the Bras D'or Lakes has become an annual pilgrimage for us. With much of Jay's family in Cape Breton, it is fun not only because of the great sailing, and protected anchorages, but also provides us a great opportunity to visit family and friends.

We stayed aboard in Montague on our first night, provisioning the boat and dealing with last minute details. The next morning, we left around 10am. A bit of a late start, but we were only planning a short passage to Ballantyne's Cove, Nova Scotia, just across the Northumberland Strait. You can make Port Hawkesbury in Cape Breton in about 12 hours of sailing, but we were in no hurry and decided to make Ballantyne's Cove (a 6 to 7 hour sail) our first stop on the trip.

The day was mostly sunny, warm and calm as we set out. As we motored up the Montague River and out of Cardigan Bay, we took advantage of the calm seas to bake some muffins and make coffee. As we left Panmure Island behind us about 12:30, we spotted a seal, poking his head up out of the water as we passed. I'd like to think he was wishing us a safe passage, but likely he was more curious about the noise of our engine.

About 1pm the wind picked up enough that we could raise the sails and for the next few hours we sailed along at a nice 6 knots, enjoying the sunshine and the sail. As we approached the Nova Scotia shore the wind died. We shortly grew bored of our reduced speed of only 2 knots, so, reluctantly, we started the engine. No longer needing to pay close attention to the sails, I started to spend even more time scanning the water for signs of marine life. The water is very deep off Cape George and we have seal seals, porpoises, dolphins and whales here in the past, so I was keeping a vigilant watch for telltale signs. I was rewarded. Off our port side I spotted several Atlantic White Sided dolphins who looked to be feeding. They were splashing and diving and were a little ways away, so it was tough to count exactly how many there were. But at one point I think I counted 8 different fins. We watched them as long as we could and tried to take a few photos.

Giddy with delight at having seen them, we motored on, drawing nearer to Cape George. Suddenly we spotted more fins off our starboard side between us and the shore, which was not quite 2 NM away. As Jay scrambled once more for the camera, a pilot whale surfaced about 50 feet from the boat. I was awed by their size. Pilot whales are 20-25 feet in length and can weigh 3000kg.

The whales and dolphins moved on and so did we, feeling a little awestruck. We motored around Cape George and pulled into Ballantyne's Cove about 5:30pm. As we made fast the boat, we looked at each other and grinned. Our trip had gotten off to a marvellous start.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A few upgrades and maintenance

Since coming home from Summerside and Shediac, we have only managed a few day sails out into Cardigan Bay due to work commitments.

Between trips, we did a couple of upgrades to Obsession. First was to install a cabin fan. On hot days, it can get quite stuffy down below, especially when we are cooking on the stove, so we put in a 6 inch cabin fan to help move the air around.

Second, we upgraded the anchor chain and rode. Before, we had about 20 feet of chain and an additional 120 feet of anchor rode. Using a 7:1 scope, this only let us anchor in about 20 feet of water safely. With the new combination of 40 feet of chain and an additional 250 feet of anchor rode, we can now anchor in about 40 feet of water. This gives us much more flexibility, particularly in a location like the Bras D'Or lakes, where the bottom can drop off quite rapidly. We had encountered spots in our previous trips where, in order to get to a safe depth, we had to be uncomfortably close to shore. Now we have more options for overnight anchorages. While installing the anchor rode, we added a small piece of blue whipping every 10 feet to make it easier to determine how much scope we were letting out.

Third, we fixed the piece of vinyl that was sagging in the head. Beneteau boats in the age range of Obsession have a problem with the headliner. Much of the interior of the boat is covered in a white, vinyl headliner with a thin foam backing. This is attached to the interior of the hull of the boat. The problem is that the foam can deteriorate, and then the vinyl separates and falls down. This hasn't been much of a problem for us with Obsession, with one exception. Last year, when we installed the new depth sounder and wind meter, we had to remove part of the vinyl in the head to run some wires. Once we removed the vinyl, it refused to stay reattached, although we tried more than one glue. Finally, we tried a different solution. We cut three pine boards and shaped them to fit the corners of the head where we had removed the vinyl. With a stain and a few coats of varnish, they matched the rest of the trim in the interior. We screwed them on, trapping the edges of the vinyl underneath. Now, not only does it look much better, but by removing only a couple of screws, we can get easy access to the wires that run under the vinyl in the head area.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shediac and back home

It's been a few weeks since we finished our first cruise of the season, and now we're preparing for our second (another trip to the Bras D'Or Lakes).  After arriving back home, life became quite hectic and finding time to finish off our blogging about the first cruise became difficult, leaving us wondering why we ever came home at all.

After we left Summerside, we made a quick trip to Shediac and spent two days at the Shediac Bay Yacht Club and Marina.  There are two options for marinas in the Shediac area.  Looking at the chart, we weren't sure that there was enough water in Shediac to accommodate our 6 foot draft.  But we made a couple of inquiries, and found out that there was no problem, so we decided to go right into Shediac.  In our minds, this marina has a big advantage over the one at Pointe de Chene in that it is much closer to downtown Shediac.  It is only a short walk from the marina to stores in the town.

We had to motor most of the way into Shediac, but were able to raise the sails as we moved along the New Brunswick coast.  The highlight of the trip was a quick encounter when we were sailing along, and both of us heard a strange noise coming from behind the boat.  We turned around, and there was a dolphin training along behind the boat.  He didn't stay for long, only a few seconds, then disappeared beneath the water, but it was the highlight of the day's sail.

We stayed in Shediac for two nights.  We had a visit from family ont he first night. The second day, we were considering going on to Buctouche, but it was a rainy, miserable day, so we simply stayed put and had a lazy day.  The marina in Shediac has well-maintained washrooms and showers, along with pump out facilities.  We pumped out our holding tank, and there was no extra charge.

We also had a Coast Guard Courtesy Check done for our boat. Members of the Coast Guard were visiting the marina that day offering to do the check. It is a voluntary service where they come aboard and inspect that your vessel conforms to all safety and legal requirements. We now sport a Courtesy Check sticker on the mast!

Finally, it was time to start making our way home.  Another overnight in Summerside led to us getting some advice on anchoring on the way home.  It was race week in Charlottetown, so our natural stop-over was not available for us.  Another couple of sailors, Chick and Cheryl on Great Habit, recommended Tatamagouche Bay as a good place to anchor.  So in the morning, we met our friend Meaghan who came along with us, and set sail for Tatamagouche Bay. 

We sailed most of the way, making almost 9 knots with the current as we passed under the Confederation Bridge. As it got later in the day, the wind moved directly in our face and the seas picked up. 

Rather than tacking back and forth, we turned on the motor to get in at a reasonable time, and ploughed our way through.  It was a bit rough, but once we were into the Bay, the going got easier.  We crossed to the South side of the bay to shelter us from the wind as much as possible, dropped the anchor, and spent a quiet night off the Nova Scotia shore.

Overnight the wind died down to nothing, and although it was a beautiful day, we had to motor all the way home .  The sun was hot overhead, so we rigged up a shelter over the cockpit, which not only kept the sun off, but channelled what little breeze there was onto us.  Finally, we arrived back in Montague having enjoyed our first cruise of the summer season.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


In the last blog, Jay described our trip to Summerside. We arrived in Summerside on a low tide, and I held my breath as we entered the marina, but we had 2.5 feet to spare under our 5 foot 11 keel. Just enough to make me very nervous.

We were met on the dock by an attendant who helped with our lines and handed us a welcome package, which included information on the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club, and Summerside itself. The Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club is a non-profit community complex, managed and owned by its members with 6 sheets of curling ice, a fully equipped marina, banquet and meeting facility, a restaurant, lounge and entertainment centre.

The marina has everything you could ask for - a visitor lounge for the marina has big comfy couches, internet access, washer and dryer, and even an ironing board. One of our first stops was to the shower, as after a choppy ride from Charlottetown, we were covered in salt. The showers are wheelchair accessible. Everything is clean and well-kept.

We received a friendly welcome from some fellow sailors in neighbouring boats, and it wasn't long before we were chatting away. Thursday nights at the Silver Fox, they offer barbecued checken or steak from the grill, and an all you can eat salad bar with a variety of delicious, homemade salads. We were invited to join a group of local sailors and had a great evening with good food, good conversation, and warm friendship. We were made to feel right at home, and have never before as a visiting boater have we had a welcome like we experienced in Summerside.

The Silver Fox is located right downtown in Summerside, directly behind Spinnaker's Landing and the Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre. It is adjacent to a small shopping mall, which has a grocery store and a liquor store. Tim Horton's, open 24 hours, is located across the street for a caffeine fix.

On this sailing trip, we've been brought back to St Peter's Bay several times for work, and on Friday morning we had to return to deal with a few things at the Turret Bell, including a radio interview with CBC Island Morning. My sister helped shuttle us to Charlottetown to pick up our car, and we spent the day back home. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the Silver Fox has live music, but by the time we got back, we were too tired to enjoy it, and we climbed into our bunk.

Saturday morning, although we had planned to leave for Shediac, brought inclement weather, with a few rain showers, risk of thunderstorms, and forecast winds gusting to 30 knots. We decided to stay put in Summerside and take in the beginning of the Summerside Lobster Carnival, which was starting that day. On Saturday mornings, there is also a farmer's market from 9am until 1pm at the Holman Building downtown. We had breakfast and browsed the stalls, and resolved to come back again in the future. The Lobster Carnival parade started at 1pm. We found ourselves a position on the parade route. The streets were packed with people, and we enjoyed the excitement of children and adults alike as we watched the colourful floats, antique cars, and Summerside's Olympian Heather Moyse proudly wearing her gold medal and waving to the crowd.

After the parade, we headed back to Spinnaker's Landing, but as soon as the skies opened into a downpour, we fled to the boat, where we listened to live music from the bandshell through the open companionway hatch. Sunday morning, there was no wind and loads of rain, so we decided to close up the boat for the day and head to Fredericton to meet the newest addition to our family - our newborn niece. We returned late Monday afternoon, made dinner aboard, and readied the boat for an early morning departure. We capped off the evening in the cockpit of a neighbouring boat, sharing wine and stories with several new friends. As I went to bed that night, I was eagerly anticipating our first forray into New Brunswick waters the following day. As I waited for sleep to claim me, I reflected upon the warm welcome we had received in Summerside. Thank you and we hope to see you again soon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Charlottetown to Summerside

We had planned to leave Charlottetown on Wednesday morning, following the Ladies Sailing Night, but the weather was uncooperative. A heavy fog rolled in the night before, and although the harbour itself cleared up later in the morning, the fog bank sat just outside the harbour for most of the day. Since there was no particular reason to risk a voyage with very limited visibility, we decided to stay one more night. Later in the morning, we heard a fog horn blast. A couple of minutes later, it was repeated, and then again a couple more minutes later, getting closer each time. We poked our heads out of the cabin, but couldn't see anything. A few more fog blasts later, we finally started to see a large shape coming through the fog. A cruise ship was coming into the harbour, but with the thick fog we couldn't see it until it was halfway from the mouth of the harbour to the dock. It was interesting to watch this massive ship slowly materialize as it made its way closer and closer to us.

On Thursday, we finally left for Summerside. Again, just as we did coming from Montague, we wanted to take advantage of the tides and currents, as we've heard stories from other frustrated sailors trying to fight the currents through the area of the Confederation Bridge. This necessitated an early morning departure, by 0600 at the latest.

We got underway shortly after 0500, and it was a beautiful dawn. Unlike the previous morning, there was no sign of the fog and there was a steady 10 to 15 knot wind. We motored out of Charlottetown Harbour and around St Peter's Island with the wind directly in our face most of the time. Because of the long sand banks running off of St Peter's Island, we had to give it a wide berth, which took some extra time. But shortly after making the turn, we were finally able to put up the jib and take advantage of the wind.

The water was a bit choppy through the whole trip, since the wind was coming from the south-west, while the currents were heading in the opposite direction. It certainly wasn't uncomfortably rough, but it wasn't a smooth ride either.

After a couple of hours of cruising along steadily under jib alone, the wind started to ease a bit, and dropped to 7 or 8 knots. We put up the mainsail and brought our speed back up again. However, this was somewhat short lived, as the wind suddenly picked up to 15 knots, gusting to 20 or higher. This is overpowering for our boat with both sails up, so we quickly had to drop the main, which is somewhat challenging when the boat is bouncing. But this was easy compared to a bit later, when the wind picked up again, and we decided to reef in the jib. We still have a bit of a problem with this new jib, and of course the reefing line picked this time to jump from the reel and jam. This required a trip to the bow to furl the jib. By the time I had finished this task and made my way back to the cockpit, I was soaked from head to toe. My blue pants soon turned white as the salt water evaporated.

Now was the highlight of the trip - our first time under the Confederation Bridge. Perspective is always tricky from the surface of the water and it looks like the mast is going to hit the bottom of the bridge, but there is plenty of room to spare. Of course, you can see the bridge approaching from miles away. We used the GPS to tell us how far away it was, and even from two or three nautical miles out, it is so large that is seems like we're right next to it. As you approach, the view from below is quite impressive, looking at the spans of the bridge disappearing off into the distance. The width of the bridge from below is surprisingly narrow, given the height of the pillars.

The rest of the trip was quite uneventful and peaceful. Shortly after crossing the bridge, the wind let up a bit, and we unfurled the jib, and sailed the rest of the way into Summerside.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

First Ever Ladies Sailing Night at the Charlottetown Yacht Club

Tuesday, July 6th was the First Ever Ladies Sailing Night at the Charlottetown Yacht Club hosted by Waveskills and the Charlottetown Yacht Club. Almost twenty boats and about 75 women, with varied sailing experience, participated. Obsession was the only boat not from the CYC, though it had been berthed there for many years with its previous owner.  The night was designed to expose more women to sailing. Some of the participants had lots of experience, while others had never been on a sailboat before.

Here is the group photo from the Waveskills Facebook Page taken just before we headed out.

Jay and I had the pleasure of taking two women out with us for a two hour sail in the Charlottetown Harbour, one of whom was a reporter with CBC Radio.  The day had been rainy and overcast, but although it was a cloudy evening the rain held off. The wind was very light, so we ghosted along at a maximum speed of 3.5 knots. Some of the boats put up spinnakers, but we were too busy making chocolate chip cookies in the oven and chatting with our guests to bother with the spinnaker.

After the sail, we all gathered in the Treehouse Restaurant at CYC for some live music, munchies and door prizes. It was a great night.

CBC Radio Island Morning covered the event and the piece is to air during Charlottetown Race Week on Thursday, July 15th.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Montague to Charlottetown

It's been a but frustrating, sailing-wise, so far this summer. Our store, The Turret Bell (check it out at has taken up much more time than we had planned, and our sailing has been pretty limited since we got back to Canada from the BVI. But yesterday, we were joined by some friends for the first leg of our first cruise of the summer.

We had planned to make a trip to Shediac last summer, but that voyage was scuttled when we had some engine problems. We haven't yet made it farther west than Charlottetown with Obsession, so that trip was a priority this year.

We left Montague at 6:15, trying to time our trip with the tides. Low tide was to come at 8:44 in Murray Harbour, so we wanted to be running with the rising tide as we traversed the southern coast. After our usual motor out of the river, we raised our sails shortly after we passed Panmure Island. The wind was out of the south-west at about 10 kts, and we had a great sail for a couple of hours. Only problem was, the wind was coming from the direction in which we wanted to travel, and we were now bearing for Nova Scotia. So, we reluctantly furled in the jib (leaving the main up for now) and motored into the wind to get around Cape Bear and the south-eastern tip of PEI.

We took advantage of the motoring time to make some lunch, but now it was late morning and the wind decided to die down to almost nothing, as it often seems to do in this area. The water was quite steady with just a small roll, so it was a very comfortable cruise. We had on board with us an exchange student from Vienna, Austria. Being from a land-locked country, she had never been sailing before, and spent her time looking for marine life. We spotted a few seals, but no whales or porpoises.

Finally, by mid-afternoon we were well past Wood Islands, and the wind was picking up. We killed the engine and put the jib back out, and slowly moved along for a short while. It wasn't long before the wind had picked up again, and we were sailing on a beam reach around Point Prim and into Charlottetown at over 6 kts.

Coming into Charlottetown, the wind was strong enough that we furled our jib partway, but we contined sailing all the way through to the end of the harbour and to the Charlottetown Yacht Club.

We had called for a spot at the CYC, and when we arrived, they came out to help us tie down. The CYC has pretty good and complete facilities (although they are showing their age somewhat) for about $45 per night. However, we were a bit surprised that they no longer provide diesel fuel, and I wasn't clear whether or not this is a permanant situation. There is diesel available around the corner at Quartermaster. The biggest frustration I have with them is that they lock down everything at night, and don't have keys for visiting boats. They say that the night watchman can let you in, but more often than not, finding him is more trouble than it is worth.

We will probably leave the boat here until Wednesday, although we will be back and forth back home to take care of the store. On Tuesday night, Ellen MacPhail of Waveskills Sailing School has organized a Ladies Night sailing - Michelle will be joining in onboard Obsession.

Our next planned stop once we leave here is Summerside, and I'm looking forward to passing under the Confederation Bridge.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Season is Underway (Finally)

So, the 2010 sailing season got off to a slow start for Obsession, but it is now underway. Although we launched the boat on May 30th, the weather was miserable for the first week of June. We also were waiting for our new Harken roller furler to arrive. It finally arrived and was installed on June 16th. Our jib was in Dartmouth for a few small repairs and to make sure the sail would fit the new roller furler system, so we had no foresail for a couple of weeks. Between having no foresail and the weather we were tied to the dock. Jay also didn't bother properly adjusting the shrouds as he was waiting for the new forestay and furler, so we wouldn't have wanted to raise the main without tightening and adjusting the stays. But now, stays have been adjusted, forestay and furler have been installed and we can furl the sail from the cockpit. What a treat!

We were never a big fan of the Isofurl system that was on the boat. The system was designed so there was no forestay with the furler itself acting as the stay, so if there was any pressure on it all in any kind of wind, it was difficult to furl. In fact we also almost lost our mast when the whole thing backed off and came apart last year (see blog post April 28, 2010 and  Dec 9, 2009 for more details).

We went for our first sail on Friday. It was 25 degrees, warm, sunny and a nice 10-14 knots wind. We took about a 23NM round trip out the Montague River into the Northmberland Strait and back. The most difficult decision we made was to turn back! We both wanted to keep going.  Cape Breton was on the horizon,tantalizing us. However, we are planing a trip to Charlottetown, Summerside and Shediac, NB soon. And, hopefully, one to Cape Breton later this summer.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Launching for the Season

In PEI, leaving your sailboat in the water all winter is not an option due to the sea ice. They are ususally hauled out in early October and relaunced in mid to late May. Some marinas, such as the Charlottetown Yacht Club, have permanent boat lifts and mast cranes. In  Montague, there is no pemanent boat lift, so each year we hire a crane for a few hours on a Sunday morning and all the sailboats get lifted in to the water on the same day. When the crane leaves Montague it often goes to the Cardigan Marina to lift in more boats. This year there were only 8 or 10 boats that were launched in Montague. Due partly to tides, we did not put the boats in until May 30th  this year, the morning after Jay and I returned from our sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands.

Obsession has its own trailer and and we store it in a nearby warehouse over the winter. A few weeks before the boats go in, we get it out of storage and get it ready for the season, scraping and painting the bottom, repairing anything that needs it and checking it out from bow to stern.  The mast, which is stored on its own mast trailer over the winter, is also checked while it is down, as are all the halyards.

The morning the boats go in the water, we haul the boat and the mast to the marina in Montague, where everyone helps each other get all the boats launched. The boats on their trailers are backed up under the crane, one by one. Large straps are placed under the boat and the crane lifts the boat off the trailer.  Lines are tied from the bow and stern and people on the ground hold the lines steady to keep the boat from swinging. The bottom is touched up with paint on those places which could not be done while the boat sat in its cradle, like directly under the bottom of the keel and the area under the pads.  The crane then lifts the boats higher, swings around and gently places them into the water. The straps are released from one side and pulled back on land to be used for the next boat. The newly launched boat is moved out of the way and the process starts again with the next boat.

In some places, masts are left standing upright on the boats, especially if the boats are stored in a boat yard. In most of PEI, the masts are taken down and stored either laying on top of the boat, on mast trailers, or on mast trees  (which hold several masts) at a marina. Masts are then lifted into place after the boat is launched.  In Montague, there is a permanent mast crane which can handle most of the masts of the boats which are berthed there. Obsession's mast is 38 feet long and just a bit too heavy for the mast crane in Montague. We launched Obsession last so the hired crane could change the spreaders (used to hold the straps with which the boats are launched) to a hook, and then with the hook, we could tie a line around the mast and lift it into place. Thankfully, other sailors always stick around to help with stepping the mast too. The other boats which can use the mast crane step their masts later that day or over the following week, as weather permits. 

Boat Launch Day is one of my favourite days of the year. The proimise of the whole summer of sailing is in the air.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sailing the British Virgin Islands

Well, this blog is about sailing in the Canadian Maritimes,  but one of the problems with a northern climate is a sailing season which lasts only from late May to October. This year, we decided to extend our season by bareboat chartering in the British Virgin Islands with our friends, Ian and Julie. We flew to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands on  May 16th. On the 17th, we took the 45 minute ferry ride from Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas to West End on the Island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. A quick trip through customs and immigration and a short taxi ride brought us to Nanny Cay Marina and Horizon Yacht Charters.  The friendly and professional staff led us through the paperwork, chart briefing and walk through of the boat. We had chartered a Bavaria 36, much beamier than our boat, Obsession, and 6 feet longer. It was really comfortable for two couples for 11 days. The boat was in good shape, though the dinghy had seen better days.

It was late afternoon by the time all the provisions were stowed, and we left Nanny Cay in a rain shower, which became a downpour and motorsailed our way to Norman Island. We moored in Privateer Bay, around the point from The Pirate's Bight and the famous Willie T. The rain stopped and we had a beautiful evening. It was prophetic of the weather for the rest of the trip. It was hot, sunny with the odd rain shower at night and beautiful breezes every day for the rest of our trip.

The next morning, we took the dinghy and motored over to the Caves for some fabulous snorkelling. Afterwards, we went back to the boat and motored around to pick up a mooring in front of the Pirate's Bight where we had a late lunch.  Julie maintains they have the best chicken roti in the Islands- and she sampled lots. I, for one, loved their ribs. After lunch, we  returned to the boat and set sail for Peter Island. We tacked back and forth across the Channel, enjoying a great afternoon of sailing. Our destination was White Bay, where we had been told there was a nice anchorage. When we arrived, there was a resort with a swimming area marked off and we could not find a good place to set the anchor and ensure sufficient swing room. We abandoned the Bay, which was beautiful, and made our way to Little Harbour on Peter Island. It was a bit crowded when we arrived and we were the last boat to sneak in. It is a favourite anchorage for catamarans, who anchor with a stern anchor set on land. We settled on a spot between a catamaran and another Bavaria and set a stern anchor on land. Jay and Ian had to chose their footing carefully on land as sea urchins were everywhere.  After a frustrating attempt to keep the charcoal BBQ lit, we settled on pasta for supper.

The following day we set sail for Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda. It took several attempts in the wind to grab a mooring ball as there was no float on the pennant. The mooring field was quite rolly, and so after a half hour we decided to move into the Marina for the night.  Moorings are, on average, $25 per night. Most marinas seemed to average $1.50 per foot., though they only charged us $1 per foot at Spanish Town. Showers were the first stop for everyone. The marina has fullservices, shops, a grocery store, restaurant and laundramat.

The next day we set off for the Baths, an amazing natural attration, with gigantic boulders strewn across the beach and lagoons, creating an amazing place to swim, snorkel and explore. After grabbing a mooring, we took the dinghy to a dinghy mooring closer to shore and swam and snorkelled to shore. We spent several hours at the Baths and wished we had planned for longer. But feeling hungry, we made our way back to the boat and had a late lunch. We then set sail for Marina Cay and Pusser's Landing, just off Tortola. We picked up a mooring and took the dinghy to explore the Island. Owned by Pusser's Rum Company, the Island boasts a restaurant, a bar, showers, a resort and a Pussers Rum Store. Neat views from the top of the Island.

The next day we set sail for Leverick Bay on Virgin Gorda.  We took a mooring for the night and went ashore to explore. Shops, a restaurant serving PEI mussels, and a swimming area were highlights, as well as shower facilities. There are no pumpout facilities in the BVIs, so we all became very good at finding bathrooms on land as well. There was also a small grocery store and we topped off our provisions. We finally had some success with the BBQ that night and were lulled to sleep by the music floating over the waves from the shore.

We left the following day for Anegada. We had a great sail and carefully picked our way through the coral into the mooring field. Talk about some tense moments motoring inthe channel. In the mooring field we thought we were safe, but we were still moving extremely slowly, thankfully, as we had what one might call a soft grounding. It took only a minute to get off, but we were acutely aware of the six and a half foot draft of our boat.  The water is so clear, you could see the bottom, but it was impossible to tell exactly how deep it was.  Anegada is the lowest lying Island and is at most 28 feet above sea level.  Its name means "drowned land". And it is surrounded by coral reef. It is best known for its beaches. You take the dinghy to shore and then take a bus to the other side of the Island for the beach. It was incredibly hot on land, so we opted to stay on board and read, relax and nap for the afternoon. Ian strung up a hammock and baked in the sun. I saw a sea turtle on the surface of the water dive under. It was idyllic. In the evening as we were boarding our dinghy to head to shore to eat at one of the outdoor beach restaurants, we heard a couple arguing on a nearby catamaran and saw four others leave the arguing couple to it and take their dinghy to shore. A reminder that a boat is a small place and you better hope you get along with your crewmates! Ashore, the guys had lobster, a local specialty, but decided that they preferred Island lobster hands down.

We left Anegada the next morning and headed for the famous Bitter End Yacht Club. We took a marina berth for the night. The showers for the marina were neat. Built over the water, you can see the water through the floor boards and the shower drained right into the water.  The monohull next to us was a Jenneau 45 and was owned by Mike and Barbara, the couple who own Pirate's Cave Chandlry in Southeast England. A wonderful couple, who spend 13 weeks or so a year in the BVIs, we enjoyed meeting them and learning about some of the hidden gems of the area. We watched a movie at the outdoor theatre and managed to stay up until 11pm. This has to  be the only vacation I ever took where I was up at 6am every morning and in bed by 9:30 or 10pm!

The next morning we set sail for Road Town on Tortola, the main settlement on Tortola.  We spent the night at Village Cay Marina. It had a pool, laundry facilities and showers and was right in the heart of town. Unfortunately it was a holiday, so many of the shops were closed. In the evening we went for a walk and came across a youth percussion marching band which we listened to for awhile. We had dinner at Pusser's Pub, had amazing gelato and reprovisioned at Bobbby's Market, which only closes for Christmas. 

The next day we wandered around to the shops (including another stop at the gelato shop) and near noon we left for Jost Van Dyke. We had to motor part of the way as the wind was directly ahead of us. We moored at Diamond Cay off Jost Van Dyke and went for a swim and snorkel. After, we went for a drink at Foxy's Taboo. Then we took the trail to the Bubbling Pond. There wasn't much of a swell from the north so the bubbling was fairly minor, but we took a refreshing dip nonetheless.  We spent a quiet night aboard. Jay slipped and badly bruised his hand, which meant he spent more time on the wheel than pulling lines for the rest of the trip.

The next morning made our way around the point and down the coast a short way to Great Harbour. We took the dinghy in to the famous Foxy's Bar for lunch. The place is decorated with t-shirts, business cards, shoes, and every imaginable piece of clothing which sports the names and dates of those who have been there before. We had nothing but Obsession boat cards with us, so Ian and Julie added their names too and we left the card as our contribution to the decor. After lunch, we made our way to Norman Island, where we decided we would spend our last night. We took a mooring off the Willie T and went to Pirate's Bight for dinner that night.

Our last morning on the boat, we motored the 20 minutes around the point to the Caves and the guys went snorkelling for the last time. The best snorkelling we found was there at the caves. In a rain shower, we made our way back across the Channel and into Nanny Cay to return our boat for noon. Filled with wonderful memories, we left the boat for the last time and made our way back to St. Thomas and the flight home the next day. Although our thoughts were turning with excitment to the upcoming sailing season on Obsession at home, Jay and I are both determined to return someday to sail more in the beautiful BVIs.  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Getting The Boat Ready for the Season: The Spring Checklist

Although Jay is the chief maintenance man for Obsession, I am the keeper of the "to do" list. With only a few short weeks before the boat goes in the water on May 30th this year, there is still lots to do to get the boat ready for the summer sailing season. Here is the Spring Checklist we follow. It is based largely on a checklist I found on and one I found on Boat US at


· Do a general cleaning of hull, deck and topsides using a mild , environmental safe detergent
· Make sure drains and scuppers are clear
· Put on a good coat of wax in all hull topsides
· Clean and polish metal with a good metal polish
· Clean teak (and other wood) and oil to reseal
· Clean windows and hatches, clean screens
· Use a hose to check for deck leaks at ports and hatches. Renew caulk or gaskets as necessary.
· Clean canvas, bimini and dodger (use same soap)
· Clean sail covers
· Clean interior including bilges
· Check spare parts and tools and replace as necessary
· Make sure registration is current and onboard
· Clean interior cushions, cockpit cushions and curtains

· Check for hull abrasions, scratches, gouges, etc. and repair
· Check and replace zincs
· Check for blisters and refinish is necessary
· Check rub rails, has anything come loose?
· Check swim platform and/or ladder
· Check shaft, cutlass bearing, strut and prop
· Check rudder and fittings. Check to make sure the rudderstock hasn’t been bent.
· Inspect prop(s) for dings, pitting and distortion. Make sure cotter pins are secure. Grip the prop and try moving the shaft - if it’s loose, the cutlass bearing may need to be replaced.
· Check the engine shaft and rudder stuffing boxes for looseness. After the boat is launched, be sure to check these as well as through-hulls for leaks.
· Touch up or replace antifouling paint

· Check stanchion, pulpits and lifelines for integrity
· Check ground tackle, anchor, rode and backup anchor / rode, etc
· Check lines, fenders, etc.
· Check chainplates, cleats and other deck fittings
· Check hull/deck joint
· Check deck, windows, and port lights for leaks
· Inspect anchor windlass and lubricate
· Clean and grease winches
· Check and lubricate blocks, pad eyes, etc.
· Check dinghy, and life raft

· Check, test and lubricate seacocks
· Check all thruhull fittings
· Check condition of hoses and clamps
· Make sure below waterline hoses are double clamped
· Check bilges pumps for automatic and manual operation
· Check for oil in bilges
· Check limber holes and make sure they are clear of debris

· Check battery water level – the single most often ignored task
· Check/recharge batteries
· Check terminals for corrosion, clean and lubricate .
· Clean and tighten electrical connections, especially both ends of battery cables. Wire-brush battery terminals and fill cells with distilled water.
· Check bonding system
· Inspect all wiring for wear and chafe
· Test all gauges for operability
· Check shore power and charger
· Check for spare fuses or breakers
· Check all lighting fixtures (including navigation lights) and make sure you have spare bulbs
· Check all electronics for proper operation
· Inspect antennas

· Sound signalling device – spare air can for air horn
· Check distress signals and expiration date
· Check PFDs (lifejackets).Make sure you have a properly sized and wearable life jackets in good condition for each passenger, including kids and pets.
· Inspect life rings and cushions
· Check fire extinguishers certification and recharge if necessary
· Check and adjust compass
· Check navigation lights
· Check charts and waterway guides and replace as necessary
· Check radar reflector
· Check and replace first aid supplies
· Check bailer and hand pump

· Change oil & filters – have spare oil & filters onboard
· Check and change fuel filters – have spares onboard. Inspect fuel tanks, fuel pumps and filters for leaks. Clamps should be snug and free of rust. Clean fuel filters.
· Check and change engine zincs
· Check cooling system change coolant as necessary – have extra onboard. Inspect cooling hoses and fittings for stiffness, rot, leaks and/or cracking. Make sure they fit snugly and are double-clamped.
· Record engine maintenance log, especially date & hours of last oil changes
· Check belts for tension – carry spare(s)
· Check transmission fluid
· Check and clean backfire flame arrestor
· Check impeller
· Check and clean water strainer
· Check bilge blower and hose for leaks
· Adjust valves, general service engine
· Inspect fuel lines, including fill and vent hoses, for softness, brittleness or cracking. Check all joints for leaks and make sure all lines are well supported with non-combustible clips or straps with smooth edges.
· Inspect fuel tanks, fuel pumps and filters for leaks. Clamps should be snug and free of rust. Clean fuel filters.

· Replace spark plugs
· Check plug wires for wear
· Check prop for nicks and bends
· Change/fill gear lube
· Inspect fuel lines, primer bulb and tank for leaks
· Lubricate and spray moveable parts

· Checked for smooth operation – lubricate and clean as necessary
· If equipped with treatment system, have chemicals on hand
· Y-valve operation checked, valve labelled & secured

· Flush water tank
· Shock the drinking water tank. Spa shock breaks down in a few days and then can be flushed out
· Check water system and pump for leaks and proper operation
· Check hot water tank working on both AC and engines
· Check for tank cap keys on board
· Check and clean shower sump pump screens

· Fill propane tank, check electric & manual valves, check storage box vent to make sure it is clear
· Check refrigerator, clean and freshen, operate on AC and DC
· Clean stove, check that all burners and oven are working
· Check stove and remote tanks for loose fittings and leaking hoses.
· Check microwave, if fitted

· Check for current registration
· Check pads
· Check and lubricate wheel bearings and repack as necessary
· Clean and lubricate winch
· Lubricate tongue jack and wheel
· Test lights and electrical connections
· Check tire pressure and condition.
· Inspect tire treads and sidewalls for cracks or lack of tread and replace as necessary. Don’t forget the spare!
· Check brakes  and make sure battery is charged
· Check safety chains
· Check tongue lock
· Inspect trailer frame for rust. Sand and paint to prevent further deterioration.

· Check general condition
· Look for wear and chafing
· Check battens and batten pockets
· Check all sail attachments, including grommets, rings, and all reef-points
· Inspect all of the stitching on the sail edges and all seams. Pay close attention to the leech of the headsail
· Inspect bolt rope

 · Check mast and spreaders for corrosion or damage
· Inspect spreader boots and shrouds
· Inspect rivets and screw connections for corrosion
· Check reefing points and reefing gear
· Clean and lube sail track
· Check rigging, turnbuckles and clevis pins for wear and corrosion
· Inspect stays for fraying and “fish hooks”
· Check forestay and backstay connections
· Check masthead fitting and pulleys
· Check and lubricate roller furling
· Check halyards and consider replacing or swapping end for end
· Remove tape on turnbuckles and lubricate threads, preferably with Teflon. Replace old tape with fresh tape. Tape turnbuckles, cotter pins, and spreaders
· Re-caulk through-deck chainplates as necessary (generally, once a decade).

· Inspect dock and anchor lines for chafing.
· Review your boat insurance policy and update coverage if needed. Be sure you have fuel spill insurance coverage.
· Check and clean the BBQ

I hope readers find it as helpful as we do. Happy Sailing!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New furler

Today is April 28. Only 32 days to May 30, when our boat goes in the water. But three days until it comes out of winter storage, and the preparation for the season begins.

Last year, we made a number of changes to the boat. We restrung some of the wiring and installed new connectors, upgraded our radio, put in new depth sounder and wind instruments, and replaced some components on the furler. This year, the list is much shorter.

On the maintenance side, we have to replace the anchor light which got broken at some point in transit last fall, and a coaxial connection for the radio which corroded. Along with the normal bottom maintenance (which I’ll discuss in a later post) and spring checks and cleaning, that should be about it. The only major upgrade we’re making this year is our jib furler.

Obsession came with an Isofurl jib furling system. This is a one-piece system that does not have a separate headstay – the furler acts as the headstay. At the top and the bottom of the system, there is a bearing assembly that permits the unit to spin, while the attachment to the mast and to the bow area remains steady.

We have experienced two problems with this system. First, when there is a good wind, there is a lot of tension on the unit. This makes it very difficult to furl/unfurl. Often, we can’t even do the furling from the cockpit, but have to go to the bow to get the extra leverage we need to make the unit work. Second, last year we had a near disaster with the unit when the upper bearing assembly jammed. We didn’t realize that instead of the bearing assembly turning, when we unfurled the sail, we were unscrewing the assembly from the mast. After a few minutes of sailing, the bearing assembly let go completely. Since there was no headstay, only the halyards were left to hold the mast in place. Fortunately these held, otherwise we may have lost our mast. We tried replacing the jammed part, but the problems with furling in a good wind still remained.

So, this year, it is being replaced. We have ordered a new headstay and a Harken furler. We will be installing the new unit next week, and are really looking forward to trying it out next month.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Packing for the trip

Now that we've made the decision (and given our Visa number) to travel to the BVI, we've been contemplating what to pack. We have spent over two weeks at a time cruising here at home during the summer, so we're pretty well outfitted for the trip. Or so we thought.

There is one main difference between supplying ourselves for our normal summer cruising, and our upcoming charter. In the summer, when the time comes to empty Obsession for the winter, I'm always amazed by the amount of things that come off the boat. We own two fairly large vehicles, which we load up. Then we come back for more. This time, although some items such as cookware will be supplied, we have to fit everything we want to take into a couple of duffle bags to bring on the airplane.

Fortunately, there are a few websites, such as Nine Packing Trips for a Caribbean Vacation, that are quite useful. When it comes to clothing, we thought we would be quite well provisioned for the trip given our summer cruising. However, when we looked more closely, we have a lot of heavier weave and dark coloured clothing. They're great for warm Canadian days, but 30 degree centigrade calls for even lighter clothing, both in colour and weight. We've just ordered some light clothing. It's not reallly an added expense, because it won't be just for this trip. It'll come in handy here in the summer as well.

Other than being a bit surprised by the amount of clothing that we felt we needed to have to optimize the trip, we were pretty well off. We'll make sure to take our masks and snorkel with us, as the snorkeling over the reefs are quite spectacular. We also have the other items we plan to take, such as a portable radio, a pocket knife, cameras, our iPod, small flashlight, fanny pack, and small first aid kit.

There could be other items that we come across that we want to take, but it seems that (except for the clothing) we are pretty well outfitted for cruising either Maritime or Caribbean locations.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sailing the British Virgin Islands

Starting a sailing blog in the midst of winter always has its challenges. Like, how can you focus on sailing when there are a dozen ice fishing huts on the bay ice? So, the answer is to read magazines. Take another course. Dream about sailing trips. And, once and a while, even book a trip.

That's right. We've just booked our first ever sailing charter. In May, we will be heading down to the British Virgin Islands, where we've chartered a Bavaria 36 through Horizon Yacht Charters for 10 nights. The month of May is the start of the shoulder season down there, so the charter is a little less expensive than normal, and the charter companies are a little less busy.

View Larger Map

We will be going with another sailing couple, Ian and Julie, from Georgetown. This whole little adventure started about a week ago when they came over for dinner. They love to travel as much as we do, so of course we started talking about places we would like to visit, and places we would like to sail. A couple of days later, they call us back to say they have done some research and would we like to go to the BVI? So, off we go.

Getting there and back is the most challenging aspect. Although it is possible to get from PEI to BVI in a day, it was quite expensive, and we wanted to use some of the aeroplan points we've accumulated over the years. So, to get there, we will be flying from Charlottetown through Montreal to Boston. The next day, we go through New York to the US Virgin Islands. The following morning (our third day of travel), we take a ferry to the British Virgin Islands. Two weeks later, we take the same route in reverse. We could have taken a somewhat shorter trip, but this way we get to add on a day in the US Virgin Islands on each end for some more exploring. Hey, if we're going all the way down there, we might as well try and maximize our experiences.

I can pretty much guarantee that we'll be putting up more posts in the future on this trip - both the planning and the experience.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Halifax boat show

As is usual, Michelle and I attended the Halifax boat show. The weather actually cooperated with us on the drive over. For the previous couple of trips, we had hit bad weather, which was a good reminder of the joys of summer.

From a sailing point of view, the show was somewhat disappointing. There was only one sailboat brought into the show. There was a Beneteau 34 on display, which was, of course, our first destination. Naturally, we used our Benetau First 305 as a point of comparison to this new boat.

The extra four feet, of course, make quite a difference. The beam is an extra three feet, making it quite a bit more comfortable below deck. The biggest advantage, at least from a cruising point of view, is the much larger head. On Obsession, the head is very cramped. Although our Beneteau is equipped for showers, we have never taken advantage of this equipment, as it would be very cramped and difficult to move around in the head. With the Beneteau 34, it is compatatively luxurious, and seems to me to be a bit larger than average for a mid-30 foot boat.

Another feature that was interesting is how the double sink is laid out in the galley. The two sinks are parallel to the length of the boat. This seems to give a bit more counter space when you are standing in the galley itself.

In Obsession, the chart table has its own seat, facing forward. In the Beneteau 34, you sit on the end of the settee, facing back to use the chart table. Here, Michelle and I have different opinions. She like the forwardfacing table, such as in our current boat. I like to have a bit extra length to the settee, possibly because my length doesn't quite fit on our settee now when I lay down.

A disappointing feature is the lack of handholds below decks. In rough weather, moving around would be an added challenge. I think I would actually add some overhead rails to hang onto.

Three years ago when we bought Obsession, we visited a lot of different boats, and in the end set our sights on a Beneteau. We always felt that the brand was a good compromise between cruising comfort and sailing performance. Although the newer models seem to put more of a premium on looks and neglect some aspects such as the rails, they are still a very good looking boat, and we would strongly consider staying with the brand

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's for supper tonight?

Food. Glorious Food. Wonderful Food.

Obsession, like any other cruising boat her size, has a relatively small galley for cooking. We have a 2-burner propane stove, an icebox, a double (but quite small) sink, a bit of storage, and the luxury of a propane oven. We also have a barbecue that attaches to the outside railing. The only problem with this set-up is that the barbecue leans out over the water, so you have to be careful. We discovered this the hard way one day by donating our supper to the fishes in Charlottetown Harbour.

Many of the cruising adventure books that are out there love to talk about food. They give recipes for the fabulous creations that they make, the local ingredients that they find and turn into complex, gourmet meals, all within a galley just slightly larger than a phone booth. In this picture, you can see the sink and top of the ice box, while the stove and oven are next to the ice box. There is just enough room for one person to fit into the galley area.

Generally, during the summer months, we tend to take a much simpler approach to cooking. When it is hot outside, the last place you want to be is down below, preparing a meal with the propane stove and oven blasting away in a small area with poor ventilation. We make much more use of the barbecue whenever possible.

Common meals for us include any kind of barbecued meat. Potatoes are simply sliced, put in foil with onion and carrot, and cooked on the barbecue. All the grocery stores these days carry pre-marinated packages of meat. These are great to keep around since they last quite some time in the icebox. Another favourite for breakfast is muffin mixes. These can be whipped up and put in the oven while we spend time above deck.

Since we rely on an ice box, our ability to carry fresh food is limited. The ice has to be replenished each day (although we can stretch it for two days if we plan properly), so unless we are at a dock, we have to be careful about what we bring on board. Once the fresh food goes, dried pasta becomes a popular meal.

I'm interested in other people's favourite meals while out cruising. Add a comment, letting us know what you like to take along when you head out for a few days.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Three Rivers

Sunset at anchor in the Brudenell River

In his last blog posting, Jay described how we often sail from our home port of the Montague Marina to Souris.  It is a 45 minute sail up the Montague River to Georgetown, then across Cardigan Bay, around Boughton Island and north to Souris, a trip of about 5-6 hours in all.  But a closer cruising ground which we enjoy sailing if we have less time is the Three Rivers area. The Montague River, Brudenell River and Cardigan River empty into Cardigan Bay, all near Georgetown - hence the name The Three Rivers.

View Cardigan Bay in a larger map

There are nice anchorages off Boughton Island for day stops, though watch the tides and currents if you are swimming south of Boughton Island as they can be strong. Panmure Island and St. Mary's Bay also offer nice anchorages during the day. Another popular swimming spot is off the east side of Panmure Island and boats often anchor there on warm sunny days. St. Mary's Bay can be more challenging for a sailboat, as depths can be shallow and the Bay has many mussel buoys. 

Like in Montague, there is a marina with some services at the head of the Cardigan River in the village of Cardigan. Cardigan also offers a liquor store, some shops, gas stations and convenience store.

You can anchor just south east of Georgetown Wharf, or tie up to the wharf for a trip into town. Georgetown offers restaurants, shops and a theatre. Watch the tides near the wharf as at low tide you can go aground if you are not careful where you tie up.

My personal favourite though is to sail up the Brudenell River. Although there lost of mussel beds, if you stay in the channel there is lots of  water. Pass Brudenell Island, and then the river widens to offer a great overnight protected anchorage, or you can tie up to the docks.  If you draw over 5 and half feet, stick to the outer docks on the end; any closer to shore you may ground at low tide. These docks are maintained by the Brudenell River Provincial Park. Ice is available at the campground office.  There are some shower facilities in the day use section of the park, which can be used by marina guests. The maina is also located beside the Brudenell Rodd River Resort and three golf courses, including the famous Dundrave and Brudenell River courses.  We have golfed both courses and they are beautiful. You can also explore the pioneer cemetary on Brudenell Island. There is good swimming here too!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Michelle and I will often make overnight trips in Obsession. We would like to make more extended trips more often, but, alas, our landborne responsibilities often keep us from making as many trips as we would like.

Once we leave the marina in Montague, and make it out to Cardigan Bay, we are fortunate to have a number of possible destinations. One of our regular trips is to Souris. From Cardigan Bay, we sail past Georgetown and around Boughton Island (which normally takes about 90 minutes). From there, it is a straight run north to Souris harbour, about a three hour run (depending on the winds, of course).

There are no problems navigating around Souris harbour. It is wide open, with the marina located behind a large breakwater. The marina has a new website describing the facilities. Eric is always there to welcome visitors, and is an enthusiastic promoter of the facility. It is a relatively new facility, with no shortage of visitor docks. The building has clean showers, which is always a positive. When we go to Souris, there is also the regular trip up the road to Shirley's for ice cream.

At the end of the summer last year, we organized a multi-boat trip from Montague to Souris. There were four sailboats that made the trip. I'm sure we'll have another flotilla make the trip this summer.