Monday, October 31, 2011

An Update

It has been over a month since we returned with My Obsession from Cape Breton and an amazing 5 weeks in the Northumberland Strait and the Bras D'Or Lakes. After we returned to PEI we only managed to squeeeze in one final day sail before we had to have the boat hauled at the end of September. October has passed in a flurry of work and activity, preparing for the colder weather which is steadily approaching. Winterizing My Obsession was a bit more complicated than it was to winterize Obsession 305. The boat systems are still somewhat unfamiliar and just tracking down all the connections takes time.

Now, My Obsession sits on the hard in Souris, PEI, fortified against the wind and weather and quietly waiting for another adventure in 2012. This season saw us travel from New Jersey up the coast to Nova Scotia, around to Souris, PEI, up the Northumberland Strait as far as Buctouche and then to Cape Breton and the Bras D'Or Lakes. We sailed a total of 1750 nautical miles this season and spent 84 nights on board.

The past few weeks, we have been following the adventures of our friends, Chick and Cheryl on Great Habit as they begin a year sailing in the Carribbean. We wish them fair winds and safe passages. Follow Great Habit's blog if you are interested.

A trip to Ottawa over the Thanksgiving weekend meant no trip to the Annopilis Boat Show this year for us. But, the Miami show is coming up in February...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A clean(er) anchor

On our first boat, Obsession 305, we did some anchoring overnight, but one of the major attractions of our new boat, My Obsession, is the enhanced ability for anchoring.

Earlier years, although we were pretty self-contained, our main limitation was refrigeration. Having only an ice box meant that we had to come onto land to get ice every second day, or risk food going bad. Since that meant pulling up to a dock, our routine became a night at anchor, followed by a night (or multiple nights) at dock.

Now we have a refrigerator and freezer. This greatly extends our independence, and we will stay out at anchor for multiple nights. It also allows us to take a mooring when we want to be closer to land. For instance, on our current trip to Cape Breton, we have been at a mooring in St Peter's instead of on dock. Since we generally spend quite a few nights here to visit family, it is a big savings - $25 per night on mooring, as opposed to about $55 on dock.

That brings me to the second item that enhances our abiity to anchor - Ducky. This is our dinghy, which gives us a bit more freedom of movement without having to bring up the anchor. It also makes mooring possible, since we use Ducky to get back and forth from shore. I think Ducky has paid for himself in the one summer we have had him.

Also, handling the anchor on My Obsession is much more pleasant. One thing you learn quickly when anchoring is that underwater mud is messy and stinky. Previously, I pulled up the chain by hand. I had a dedicated pair of gloves that I used, which would get mud coated and would really smell. All that mud would end up in the anchor locker, which was always a mess.

Now, we have an electric winch on the bow, which pulls up the anchor. In addition, there is a washdown hose that we can use to clean the anchor chain as it comes on board. Much nicer and cleaner than our earlier arrangement. Anchoring is so much more pleasant now, and we can enjoy the best parts of cruising more than ever before.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mid water transfer

We arrived in St. Peters, Cape Breton on Friday last week and have been enjoying a week visiting with family, sailing and working.  We took a mooring at the St. Peters Marina and spent Saturday and Sunday taking day sails into the Bras D'Or Lakes. Monday was a work day. On Tuesday we sailed up to Baddeck and have been here since, working and enjoying Baddeck.

When we are in Cape Breton, it is always fun to take family out on the boat for a day sail. Anchoring in a sheltered cove, barbequing something for lunch and then swimming off the boat is a favourite activity. Last Sunday we set out for such a day trip with Nancy and Gerry, my in-laws. The wind was favourable, so we slipped off the mooring under sail and headed into the Lakes, towing our dinghy, Ducky, behind.  The wind was light, but we were in no hurry, so we were sailing along under jib alone, at about 2.5 to 3 knots. This was probably a good thing because we had forgotten to lift Ducky's outboard engine up out of the water.

Although I called to Jay, who was still coiling our mooring line on the bow, to pull in Ducky and lift the engine, I was too late. I watched helplessly as Ducky's engine snagged the really long float line on the pennant of a nearby mooring. Before Jay could move the length of the boat, the line snapped and the float, wrapped around Ducky's engine, floated out behind us. Jay pulled Ducky in and, even though we were still moving, he jumped into Ducky and lifted the engine.  It took him only a few seconds to unwrap the float and rotting piece of line from around Dcky's engine. So there was Jay sitting in Ducky, being towed along, holding onto the now rescued float. "We should reattach it," I called to Jay. He agreed and suggested that if I untied the dinghy he would motor back and reattach the float, then catch up to us. After all, with only the jib out and in light winds it should be easy to catch up.

There was a small wrinkle in this plan as he had jumped into Ducky without the red cord that is needed to start the engine, and now he was trailing 30 feet behind us, the dinghy having floated out as soon as he had jumped inside. I told him to hold on, as I readjusted the foresail to compensate for a wind shift and I grabbed the red cord. By pulling on the line tethering Ducky to the boat, he pulled close enough so I could hand him the red cord. I then untied Ducky and set Jay and our little inflatable dinghy free.

Jay's mother seemed to handle with aplomb the fact that I had just set her son adrift in the dinghy behind us and we were beginning to rapidly sail away from him as the breeze freshened. Jay did get the engine started and motored back to the mooring ball to fish the long pendant out of the water and reattach the float. Noticing how much distance we were putting between us, I decided to tack around and start sailing back towards Jay, not sure he would be able to easily catch up otherwise, as we have never tried mid water transfers under sail before.

I, for one, was thankful that we were under jib alone, making the sails easier to singlehand. Jay finished tying the float on to the mooring pennant and started motoring back toward us. Now the trick was to get Ducky reattached and Jay back aboard while under sail. Luckily Jay was thinking more clearly than I was as he suggested I heave to. I did so, backwinding the foresail and keeping the rudder hard over so that the force of the wind and the rudder effectively stopped the boat, keeping it in one place. Jay motored up, handed me Ducky's towline and climbed aboard.  Within minutes Ducky was secured, with the engine lifted this time, and we released the sail and resumed sailing. Two mid-water transfers completed, with one of them under sail!

The rest of the day was perfect. We sailed leisurely to Cape George Harbour where we anchored, grilled lunch, played cards, swan and lazed in the sun. What a beautiful day!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere

Water inside a sailboat is not a good thing. Yesterday we had lots inside My Obsession, and it was all over the floor.

We left Bouctouche at 6am, after skillfully (we are getting better at handling the boat!) manouevering the boat out of the berth, and were headed east. The sky was overcast but there was not very much wind. We motored out the staked channel. It was low tide so I was keeping a close eye on the deph, but there was at minimum 4 feet under our 4-and-a-half foot keel all the way out the channel. Once in the Strait there were lobster buoys to contend with and a small chop.

Now, it was not really that rough, we had been in much bigger seas, but the waves were hitting the boat in just the right way to create a bit of a roll. Every so often a wave slightly larger than the rest would hit and we would really rock side to side. It must have been one of these waves that set up just the right harmonics for the 4 litre, unopened, water jug that was sitting on the counter to take flight across the cabin. Upon hitting the floor, the jug burst and 4 litres of water went everywhere!

Now we have travelled over 1200 NM in this boat this summer and we always leave a water jug on the counter. It has never taken flight before, even when we have been in 6 to 8 foot waves. I went below and tried my best to wipe up the mess. Much of the water had completely soaked the small area rug at the foot of the stairs. I took the dripping rug and put it in the head, figuring I could run the shower sump if necessary to remove excess water from that floor. I mopped the rest of the floor as best I could. I knew that much of it had likely gone through the cracks in the floorboard and into the bilge, but there was no way I was pulling up floor boards on a rolling boat. Besides, that is what the bilge pump is for. The rest would have to wait until we stopped for the night.

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. We read, napped, listened to music and chatted. We motorsailed for awhile, but the wind was never strong. We caught enough of the current heading to Confederation Bridge that we surfed along at 8 knots. On the east side of the Bridge the seas calmed. With the sun on our stern I took the still dripping rug and laid it out to dry in Ducky, who was hanging from the davits on the stern. Talk about a fancy dinghy, with wall to wall carpeting! By 8pm we arrived at the warf at Pictou Island, having travelled 100 NM exactly that day.

Jay made a yummy chicken and rice dish and we chatted about Pictou Island with the wharfinger when she arrived to collect the $10 for tying up for the night. What an interesting place. A handful of people live on the Island. There are no services and no stores.

Finally, at 9:30pm it was time to check out the bilge. My Obsession has a series of bilge compartments that drain from one to the other. First we pulled up the one at the base of the compaionway stairs where the the water had spilled. We use this area to store pop and water. Sure enough there was water sloshing around. We pulled out all of the stored drinks and started bailing. Soon we realized we weren't making any progress.

Five minutes later we had all the floor boards up and discovered there was more than 4 litres of water in the bilge, spread through all the bilge compartments, but not enough water to activate the float valve and start the bilge pump. A small investigation led us to a loose connection at the water pump and small leak that had likely been the reason the water pump had seemed to be running more than normal the past few days. In two minutes Jay had the loose hose reattached securely and the leak eliminated. Now to clean out the bilge.

An hour later we had bailed, sponged and wiped out all the bilge areas and confirmed the bilge pump worked fine. We wiped off all the pop cans and water bottles and restored them. I once again have a dry bilge. A check this morning confirmed the leak was eliminated and that all was as should be.

This morning I moved the water jug off the counter and into the sink.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Buoys, Navigating, and Randy Bachmann

This morning we left Bouchtouche at 6am, destined for the Charlottetown area. This is a somewhat ambitious day, around 80NM or so. At our cruising speed of about 7 kts, this is about a 12 hour day.

Part of our consideration this morning was timing for crossing under the bridge. Throught the Strait, the strongest currents occur at the narrowest area, which of course is right around where the bridge crosses. Now, they aren't super strong currents, only up to about 2 kts, but it's still much better to have that on your stern helping you along rather than on your bow. Unfortunately the timing doesn't work well for us this morning, and the best we can hope for is a slack current through the area, which happens at around 1 pm. If we had left any later, we would be fighting the current.

This morning's passage has a bit of a challenge in that it is still fishing season in this end of the Strait. The water is a little choppy, making it tough to see the buoys until we are quite close. At times this means a quick course change, so navigating this morning requires some concentration. Then, to make it even more challenging, our course was taking us straight into the sun, causing even more complications in trying to see the buoys.

The sun has now gone behind the clouds, so I'm able to type three or four words between scans and buoy avoidance manoeuvers.

Since we had to get up early this morning, Michelle has gone down below to take a nap. In the meantime, I'm navigating and listening to podcasts of Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap - one of my favourite things to do when I'm alone on the helm. For anyone who likes the music of the 60's through 90's in particular, I highly recommend these shows - they are fabulous.

The sun is starting to peek out again and the buoys are getting challenging to see again. I love times like this.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Bouctouche has been our home for the past three days - one day longer than planned because of the weather. However, when we are caught someplace, we try to turn it into a work day, which we have done for the past two days.

We only had one complication in working here, and that is the demise of Bad Boy. As you may recall from earlier posts, Bad Boy is our wireless amplification system, allowing us to pick up wireless signals and connect from on the boat. While we were in Summerside over the weekend, Bad Boy stopped working. On Monday, I called the company and told them about the problem. They had me run a couple of tests, and narrowed down the component causing the problem. They immediately replaced it at no charge. The new part is being shipped to us in Cape Breton, so in a few days it will be up and running again. A big thumbs up to Bad Boy and their service.

In the meantime, this marina has a wonderful and very comfortable building which has made a great spot to sit down and do some work.

Yesterday, we took a walk through town here, and discovered that it was National Acadian Day. Bouctouche, of course, is a strong Acadian community, and they were celebrating. As we walked through town, the parade was just about to start. This wasn't a parade with floats - this was a Tintamarre. Hundreds of people walked through town, making as much noise as possible. Noisemakers, thunder sticks, pots and pans and yelling people were complimented by horns, sirens, and even the ringing of the huge bells over the church made it quite the scene.

Tomorrow morning we're off to the Charlottetown area, where we're planning on anchoring for the night before making a run to St George's Bay and Cape Breton.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Kindness of Fellow Sailors

The Summerside Yacht Club is one of our favourite stops along the western part of the Northumberland Strait. The Marina has nice showers and laundry facilities and is downtown, close to a grocery store, Spinnakers Landing and other amenities. Marina staff are friendly and helpful. The other sailors and boaters are also very warm and welcoming.

In fact, it was in Sumemrside last year that we met Chick and Cheryl of Great Habit, a CS 40.  We struck up a friendship and have kept in touch all year. They have been wonderful sounding boards as we were looking for our new boat, and have always been very willing to share their knowledge and experience with us.

Chick and Cheryl were among the first people we saw when we arrived in Summerside and it was wonderful to see them again. We joined them and Dave and Halle from Shamul, a Whitby 42 from Ontario,  for the Thursday night BBQ at the Yacht Club. The next day, Glen and Kendra arrived to take us to breakfast and then they ferried me around Summerside while I took care of a few errands and Jay worked.  Upon returning to the marina, we struck up conversations with several other sailors and debated the merits of different types of boats - one of my favourite passtimes!  I had the pleasure of going aboard a Mirage 30 and an Aloha 27, both beautiful boats.  

We had intended on Saturday to go to the Summerside Farmer's Market and then to head out by mid-morning. However, at the Market we ran into friends and ended up having a wonderful 2 hour visit. By the time we returned to the Maina, it was noon. We decided to stay another day. Chick came by and offered to lend us his buffer and with some oxidization remover we were able to clean the yellow beard that had formed on My Obsession's bow after almost 1200NM of sailing.

Later that day J.P. Hawsingham, a Nor'Sea 27 from New Jersey, arrived and we met Pat and Janis. They spend several months aboard every summer and cruise. Wherever they are in the fall, they haul the boat and then launch her again in the spring and continue their trip.They had just come down the St. Lawrence River, a trip we are planning for next year.  Pat was full of advice and information on sailing the St. Lawrence and very generously gave us his charts for the area. How excited we were to get the charts!

Later that night we shared a drink with Chick and Cheryl and once again, we learned alot from both of them abut passagemaking.

Sunday morning dawned sunny and beautiful. With help from our some of our friends at the marina, we slipped My Obsession free of the dock and moved around to the fuel dock. After filling the diesel and settling the marina bill, Chick again offered some very useful advice as he showed us a technique for springing the bow out when it is being pushed on dock by the wind or current. We threw off the bow line and spring lines. We moved a fender to the stern quarter and looped the stern line to a cleat on the dock just aft of midships. While I held the stern line, Jay reversed into the dock, the fender keeping the boat off, but the bow swinging out. It worked perfectly! Waving goodbye to our friends on the dock, we set sail for Bouctouche NB, feeling grateful for the friedship, fellowship, kindness and generosity of fellow sailors.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Brudenell to Summerside

After anchoring in Brudenell overnight on Tuesday, we sailed to John's Bay in Amet Sound on the Nova Scotia side to anchor for the night. As it has been so often this summer, it was raining, though not too heavily and was a bit foggy. The passage was a m ixture of sailing and motoring. The wind was on our nose leaving Cardigan Bay, so it wasn't until after we rounded Panmure Island that we were able to sail. We did have to perform an overboard rescue for our friend Glen's favourite hat as we neared Panmure Island. It was a great chance to practice manoverboard skills under power.

It was a nice close-hauled sail along the south eastern coast of PEI, with winds between 15-20 knots. We did have a surprise when the bowline came undone on the jib sheet. But it wasn't difficult to fix. We rounded into the wind and shortened the sail enough that Jay wouldn't be swept off the deck as he went forward and retied it. It had been tied by the previous owners as the boat was commissioned in May and now after 1100NM it had just come undone. Within minutes we were under way again.

Unfortunately, about an hour after we rounded Cape Bear, the wind, now on our stern, weakend to the point we needed to motorsail. We motorsailed for most of the rest of the day, under gray skies, mist and rain. We entered Amet Sound and anchored.

The following day, Wednesday, we crossed the Strait again, and passed under the Confederation Bridge on our way to Summerside. The forecasted 10-15 knots of wind never materialized and with 4 knots of wind on our stern we motored all the way. Again, the weather was overcast, misting rain and just plain wet. The seas were fairly calm and Jay and I played cribbage at the cockpit table as Glen took the helm. (I won.) Being on the helm required even more vigilance than ususal as the lobster buoys were plentiful as we neared the Bridge.

We arrived in Summerside late afternoon. We tied up and headed for the showers. Although the weather had not been the greatest, Glen insisted he had a great time. Hopefully we will see sunshine the next time he sails with us.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cruising Guides and the Beginning of a New Adventure

Well, we have finally pulled ourselves away from our land-based resposibilities in order to take some more time on My Obsession. Despite the fog patches and mist, we left Souris around 1pm today and headed for Brudenell. Our friend, Glen, is aboard with us for a few days.

The wind was light, so we poked along under sail for two hours, then turned on the engine and motorsailed. The sea was fairly calm and we easily spotted seveal seals as we left Souris. As we left so late in the day, we decided to anchor off the resort in Brudenell.

Before we left this morning, Jay had to make a small repair to a valve in the head. Maintenance is never done on a boat. While Jay effected the repair, I chatted with sailors who had cruised up from Maine. While discussing cruising guides, he informed me of an older book, now out of print, by Peter Loveridge titled, A Cruising Guide to Nova Scotia. After we anchored off Brudenell this evening I went online to search Amazon for a used copy, I stumbled on Peter Loveridge's blog and the news that he has published a revised version of the Guide on DVD.  I wish we had had this Guide on our recent trip up the Nova Scotia coast.  I will be ordering a copy of the revised guide.

As for cruising in Prince Edward Island, the best cruising guide is Harbours and Marinas of Prince Edward Island by Sam Cioran. Sam keeps his boat in Souris and has amazing knowledge of cruising grounds in PEI. We have found the small blue covered book, the Cruising Guide to Cape Breton, which is also out of print, to be the best cruising guide for Cape Breton. Anyone know of a good cruising guide for New Brunswick?

We have the Down East Circle Route Cruising Guide by Cheryl Barr and the Cruising Guide to the Canadian Maritimes also by Cheryl Barr, but we find them lacking in detail. Maybe someday we will have to write our own cruising guide. Can you imagine having a job that required you to sail? Sign me up!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Home at Last

‎1078 nautical miles, one close encounter with a ferry, lots of whales, dolphins and seals, three thunderstorms, fog, great sailing, some motoring, wonderful sights, and 39 days living on the boat. That sums up the trip up the coast with our new boat, My Obsession. 

We have been home in PEI with the boat for a week now. In our last blog, we were travelling overnight from Halifax to Port Hawkesbury. It was a magical night on the water.  We arrived just after lunch in Port Hawkesbury and saw family that evening. It was a treat to stay at a marina for a night after all the nights at a mooring or anchor.

The next day we passed through the Canso Canal Lock and into St George's Bay. About halfway across the Bay we were treated to an incredible sight, 30 or so whales and porpoises. It was amazing to see these sleek creatures of the sea. One minke whale passed about a boat length in front of us. I tried to take a few photos, but the batteries on my camera were low and I was too enraptured by the sight of them to go below for fresh batteries.

About an hour later we found ourselves in a thunderstorm - the third one of our trip from New Jersey, but definitely not the worst. The rain was not heavy, nor was the wind strong, and visibility was at least a mile. However, one lightening bolt came uncomfortably close. My brother who came aboard in Halifax for the trip home swears he could have thrown a baseball and hit it, but I know it was more likely 3/4 of a mile away or so.  Luckily, only the one strike was that close. The others were much further away.

That afternoon we arrived in Ballantyne's Cove and enjoyed a visit with a friend. The next day was calling for patches of fog, so we got an early start. About an hour out of Ballantyne's Cove we were in a patch of fog that followed us the rest of the way to Souris, our home port this season. We saw nothing on the radar until we were almost in Souris. We arrived just as the ferry to the Magdalen Islands was leaving and we ended up directly in its path. We each sent off blasts of our fog horns and I made a quick course correction. Unfortunately, the ferry changes its course once it rounds the buoy and I had to make a second quick course corrrection to stay out of the way.  I was very happy for the aid of the radar! Visibility was about 3/4 of a mile. Yet in a few minutes we entered the Souris Marina and there was no fog at all.  

In the week since we have been home we have only been able to take one short day sail with friends. However, we are already planning another cruise for August around the Maritimes, so stay tuned for more adventures. I can't wait!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Another Overnight Passage, a Beautiful Night, and a Big Change

It's currently about 2300 hrs (or 11 pm for all you landlubbers). We are now 5 or 6 nautical miles off Ecum Secum, east of Halifax. The full moon is midway up the sky, off the starboard beam of the boat, having just risen out of a low-lying cloudbank on the horizon. The reflected light is shining off the water all the way to the horizon on one of the calmest seas I've ever seen out here on the Atlantic.

Halifax has marked a milestone in this trip in a way I never expected. Being the first city we've visited since Portland, Maine, it was already noted in our minds as a logistical waypoint, and a natural spot to pull into for a couple of days to replenish supplies and visit with some friends.

What was unexpected was the mental shift we experienced in reaching Halifax. For the first time in this trip, we were on familiar ground. Of course, normally we don't come into Halifax by water, so that was new and different. But now we were in a very comfortable environment. We had no real plans on how long we were going to stay in Halifax, with almost two weeks before having to be home again. But in the end we stayed six nights, more than either of us expected we would.

Although we didn't really discuss it much, the layover just kind of lengthened into almost a week. We had reasons, of course, with friends to visit and weather that didn't really seem ideal for further voyaging. But, under the surface was the acknowledgement that the trip was entering a new phase, where getting home was just a few days away, and more importantly, the feeling was becoming more of a boat delivery and less of an adventure.

When we finally knew it was time to leave, Michelle's brother Angus came to join us for the rest of the trip. We didn't have a definite destination in mind when we left Halifax. We simply planned to sail for a few hours, then pull into one of the numerous coves or harbours and anchor for the night. However, with three people now to share the load, we decided to go straight to Port Hawkesbury, a 180 nautical mile trip.

So, now my shift on watch is ending in less than an hour. I'm sitting behind the wheel, where I can scan the horizon and enjoy the sight of the moon, now half-hidden behind a passing cloud. I check the chart plotter to ensure we're still on coure, and adjust the autopilot a degree or two if needed. A look at the radar confirms that we are the only boat out here. Then a couple sentences of typing, followed by a repeat of the whole routine.

I'm certainly experiencing mixed feelings tonight, now that we have left Halifax behind and are on the way home, combined with the solitude of a night cruise. I sure hope we have many further adventures with My Obsession in the days and years to come, but I can't help but feel a little sad that this one has the end in sight.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Raise The Sail

Today we managed to do something that can often be in short supply while cruising - we actually went sailing just for fun.

We arrived in Halifax a couple of days ago and decided to stay for a few days. It was a chance to see friends and do a little bit of work. In fact, our time in Halifax is the longest we've been in any one port since Portland, Maine.

This afternoon, we were planning on meeting a friend for lunch, but at the last minute it was postponed until tomorrow. We are meeting other friends for dinner later, but we had a few hours to ourselves. The sensible thing would be to get some work done, but it was a really nice day. So, we dropped our mooring and motored down and out of the Nothwest Arm. Once we were a little ways out, we shut off the engine and raised a sail.

The wind is coming down the harbour right now at about 15 knots. It is hitting on our forward starboard quarter as we are about to enter the arm again. My Obsession is heeling slightly, casually channeling the breeze and propelling us forwards at 4 to 5 knots. We can see a collection of small school sailboats a mile or so off our starboard, going round and round, racing each other. A handful of other sailboats are also out on the water, taking advantage of the perfect conditions to play on the water.

These days are all too rare when you are trying to get from place to place.
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Christening My Obsession

Friday, July 8, 2011 is a milestone date for our new sailboat.  This is the day that she shed an old name and gained a new one.

The previous owners of the boat had christened her "Aquaries" - a reference to one of them having the astrological sign of Aquarius, and one having the sign Aries.  This served her well while they owned her, but didn't apply to us.  We have over the past few years grown attached to our "Obsession 305", even incorporating it into the name of our blog.  So, we decided that we wanted to keep the "Obsession" reference in the new name.  After considering multiple possibilities, consulting with friends and family, checking the Canadian ship registry, and even a debate or two amongst ourselves, we settled on the new name:  My Obsession.

However, when we picked up the boat in New Jersey, of course she had the old name across her hull, and we didn't want to take the time to put the new name on right away.  However, while we took our two week break from sailing, we were referred to a couple in Chester, NS who do boat names and decals.  We contacted them about updating the boat name while we were in the area.  On Friday, July 8, we pulled into Stevens Boatyard in Chester, where we were met by Ray and Deborah and the new decals for our boat.

Normally, they would be applying boat names while the boat was up on the hard during the off-season, but they agreed to rename our boat while she was in the water.  It seems that applying the decals is much more difficult when the boat is rocking up and down, and trying to either drift away from you, or trying to pin you to the dock, however, they did a wonderful job, the result of which can be seen in the picture below. Thanks to the Sign Guy!

Now, for anyone who has spent time on the seas, applying the new boat name is only half the job.  It seems that Neptune, the King of the Oceans, dislikes anyone who disrespects a sailing vessel by trying to erase a name.  No sailor wants to face the wrath of the Lord of the Deeps when they are far from land.  So the only way to avoid bringing bad luck down upon you is to make an offering to the Sea.
Now, as luck would have it, we had the perfect offering for Neptune.  Last year, when my parents were South Carolina, they came upon a bottle of wine from a small, local winery called "Obsession".  They thought it was perfect for us to enjoy on our boat, so they brought a bottle back for us.  The problem is that Michelle didn't want to part with the bottle, so it remained unopened for over a year.

Here was the perfect opportunity to break open the bottle of "Obsession", and use it to re-christen "My Obsession".  So, after we moved off to our mooring for the night, we made our way up to the bow with the bottle of wine and two glasses.  We poured a glass for each of us, asked Neptune for his blessing, toasted our newly named "My Obsession", took a drink, and poured the rest of the glass over the side as an offering to Neptune to grant his favour upon our voyages.

I hope Neptune enjoyed his offering.  It was actually a pretty good wine, and we enjoyed the rest of the bottle before making our way to shore to enjoy a good meal and an evening of theatre at the Chester Playhouse.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fog on Nova Scotia's Southwestern Shore

One of my biggest concerns when crossing from Maine to Nova Scotia was the possibility of fog. How can you sail when you can't see where you are going? However, we had a clear passage across the Gulf of Maine with nary a wisp of fog. Yet, on this second leg of the trip we have seen little of the coast between Shelburne and Chester as the sothwestern shore of Nova Scotia has been shrouded in fog almost every day.

We left Shelburne late in the morning on Wednesday as we waited for the fog to dissipate. However, Shelburne is quite far inland and though it had retreated from the town, it was lying in wait just offshore. It wasn't long before we were into the middle of it. The land disappeared behind a misty wall of gray as we set course for Port Mouton. Trusting in our radar and GPS/chartplotter, we set course and strained to see though the fog. Its thickness varied with sometimes as much as a mile of visibility, but more often about a quarter mile.  Even those few times that we brushed near the coast, it was no more than a vague outline.

Because we had gotten a late start, it was after 7pm when we entered the bay of Port Mouton. Following the western channel between Port Mouton Island and the mainland the fog grew so thick it was as if we were slicing through it. The visibility was reduced to about 200 feet. Although it wasn't raining, as we passed through the fog, it condensed on the boat, leaving huge droplets of moisture. The narrow channel shallowed to about 15 feet, more than the 6 feet reported on the chart. Our trusty Garmin and C-Map guided us through and as we rounded Spectacle Island and approached Carters beach, the fog cleared enough so we could see the surrounding islands and shore. The water was about 40 feet deep, unless you went into about 100 feet offshore. Having lots of chain and rode, We stayed out further and dropped anchor. Due to the depth and the hard mud bottom, it took three tries before we were sure the anchor had set properly. Shortly after we had settled in, the fog came rushing back, obscuring the pretty beach.

The next morning we lifted anchor about 8:30am and headed for historic Lunenburg. The sun was shining and the fog had receeded. Yet, as we left the bay, it was again lying in wait. At one point, we heard a horn and set off a blast from our own hailer before we were able to confirm it was a horn on a lighthouse and not a ship. What an eerie feeling to be so totally surrounded by a wall of fog that you feel completely adrift.

As we entered Lunenburg Bay, the fog receeded and the sun thawed our chilled bodies. We could feel a warm breeze from the land. Lunenburg is such a pretty seaside town, its colourful buildings just can't help but bring a smile to your face. We took a mooring in Lunenburg Harbour and dinghyied to shore. We enjoyed the late afternoon wandering the small shops and returned to the boat for a beautiful sunset. The Bluenose II is currently in drydock undergoing a major refit, but the Picton Castle and several other ships were in harbour.

Although we would have liked to linger in Lunenburg, we had an appointment to have the new name applied to the boat the following day in Chester so we left early the next morning for the short trip to Chester in beautiful Mahone Bay. Thankfully, the fog stayed further offshore and we enjoyed the beautiful coastline as we made our way in to Chester.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our Unexpected Encounters in Shelburne

For us, Shelburne has been a town full of the unexpected.

It's been two weeks since we pulled into Shelburne after our overnight crossing of the Gulf of Maine.  Very reluctantly, we had to leave our new boat on a mooring at the Shelburne Harbour Yacht Club.  We had committed to give geocaching seminars for the Lighthouse Festival back in PEI over two weekends.  Although it was a great opportunity for exposure for our store ( - yes, this is a shameless plug), we would have jumped at the chance to stay on the boat and continue our adventure.  However, since we had decided to make the boat delivery into an adventure, we knew we would have to break it up at this point.  Both weekends of the festival went very well, and we came back to Shelburne the very next day.

Now, Shelburne had been recommended as the port of entry by our broker two weeks ago.  Although there was a bit a mixup with paperwork being sent to the wrong office, our clearance into Canada went very smoothly.  As we were nearing Shelburne, and were finally able to connect to Canadian cell towers once again, we both posted on facebook where we were.  Almost immediately, I got a return message from my cousin Patsy, who lives in Shelburne.  Since it is difficult to make any advance plans when sailing on a  trip like this, we hadn't contacted anyone in advance, and had no expectations to meet up with anyone.  We had a great lunch with her and her husband.

But the visitations sure didn't stop there.  A couple hours later, we were relaxing on the boat and taking a short nap after the all-night crossing when we heard a knock.  Another cousin, Lisa, had come by to visit.  We sat on the boat for a couple of hours with her and her partner.  This was followed shortly by a visit from my uncle Pat and wife Mary. It was a rare treat to get to spend time with them.

Michelle's parents had met up with us earlier in the afternoon, as they were driving us home the next day.  They came back to the marina in the evening, and we met them in the parking lot as Pat and Mary were leaving.  They had come down with their truck camper and were staying the night.  Suddenly, we see two people walking across the parking lot towards us.  It took a couple of seconds to realize that it was Clive and Marnie from PEI.  They also were camping with a truck camper, just happened to be in Shelburne at the same time, and thought they would come over to look at the camper they saw.  They were just as surprised to run into us as we were to see them.

An expected quiet day and evening in Shelburne turned into a full day of visits and reunions.
Now, we are back in Shelburne.  When we arrived last night, we had to restock the boat with groceries, so we went up to the local grocery store.  We were getting ready to leave when Michelle realized she had forgotten something, so she ran back in.  She was no more than a few paces inside the door when she heard her name being called.  She turned around to see Cheryl, an old friendwhom we had not talked to in awhile.  Cheryl has a special status for us, as she is the person who introduced Michelle and me all those years ago.  We didn't even know she had moved to Shelburne, and we were astonished to run into her.  We chatted for awhile and caught up in the parking lot before she had to leave, but it was wonderful to again see an old friend.

It has been a busy couple of weeks, so we decided to stay another night and have a quiet day.  After spending the afternoon reading and catching up on some sleep, we went for a walk through the town.  This is when we stumbled up another surprise - Charlotte Lane.  This is a restaurant and craft shop that we first visited about 17 years ago, just after they opened (  We were living on Ottawa at the time, and happened upon the restaurant by chance.  The food was delicious.  However, as time passed, we only remembered that great little restaurant down on the South Shore, and couldn't even remember which town it was in. 

Five years ago, we took a drive down the South Shore.  For the second time, we stumbled upon the same little restaurant that we remembered so fondly.  And the second time around, the food was just as good.

Now, my memory is just as strong, and we had forgotten where the restaurant was again.  In fact, I thought that it was in Lockporte, just up the coast from here.  During our strolls today, guess what we find?  The same wonderful restauant.  We immediately made reservations again, even though we weren't planning on eating out tonight.  The food was just as fabulous as it had been five years ago and 17 years ago.

We are planning to leave tomorrow to continue our cruise back home, but our time in Shelburne has definitely been filled with the unexpected.  Perhaps now, I'll even be able to remember the town where that great little restaurant is next time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crossing the Gulf of Maine

Well, now that we are safely back in Canada I must admit I was certainly more than a little nervous about making the crossing from Maine to Nova Scotia. I was really nervous. In fact, I would even say I was scared. It wasn't the open water, or the 26 hour crossing that concerned me so much. It was the idea of crossing at night on waters notorious for fog and littered with fishing buoys. But, I needn’t have worried.

We left at 5am on Sunday morning after a day of rain and heavy fog in Northeast Harbour, Maine. It was clear with about 10 knots of wind. The sun was just coming up over the horizon as slipped off our mooring and motored out of the Harbour. Nothing else was moving. Even the water was still, the colourful buoys marking the lobster pots were hardly moving on the water’s surface.

We navigated between Cranberry Island and Great Cranberry Island and out into the Gulf of Maine. The wind became a steady 14 knots. We raised the sails and settled in for a downwind sail. Before long, we caught the current and were moving along at 8knots. We were making great time - too great in fact. We had to shorten sail and slow down or we would be fighting a much stronger current rounding the tip of Nova Scotia if we arrived too early.

We settled into a routine of three hour watches, with the autohelm doing most of the steering. We saw the plume from several whales in the distance, but other than three cruise ships heading in to Bar Harbour, Maine as we were leaving, we saw only one fishing trawler for the next 12 hours.

There was a beautiful sunset over the water, with no land in sight in any direction. The water sparkled as the sky turned beautiful shades of orange, gold, then pink and purple. But as the sun went down, so did the temperature. Despite heavy foul weather gear, and several layers of clothing, it was cold. Jay had the first night watch and at dusk I climbed into our bunk to warm up and get some sleep. When I came back on deck at 12:30am it was like I was entering another world. The waning gibbous moon had risen and was shining brightly on the water directly ahead of us, almost as if the moon was laying a sparkling path down for us to follow home. The wind had lessened substantially and was directly behind us, so we were running under motor alone. As Jay went below, I settled in for my first night watch.

We have sailed a few times at night before, but it has always been situations where we have been out sailing and returned to a familiar port after dark. This was the first time I was on the open sea at night making a passage in unfamiliar waters. We had watched the weather carefully and tried to catch a fog-free window, and we succeeded. The stars in the sky were muted due to the bright moon, but the night air was clear, and crisp. The sea had calmed from the 6 foot waves from earlier to about three feet. Including my Mustang lifejacket and underwear, I had on 9 layers. With my tuque, hood, long underwear, several pairs of socks and winter mitts, I was warm. I could barely move I had so many layers on, but I was warm.

The three hours of my watch passed quickly. Several ships passed in the distance and the lights marking the shoals off the coast of Nova Scotia grew closer and closer. I rounded the outside buoy and changed course towards Shelbourne. Although I kept looking for lobster buoys, I didn't see any. However, unless one was practically alongside, I knew I wouldn't see them anyway. I was concerned that if we ran over a line it might foul the prop. I needn’t have worried though. The lobster fishing season had ended the week before.

Around 3:30am Jay came back up to take over from me. By then, the cold had seeped though my layers and I was happy to climb back into our bunk and get some more sleep. By the time I came back up at 5:00am, we had crossed the US-Canada border, and the sun was coming up. I watched two sunrises in 24 hours – strange for me as I am more a nighthawk then an early bird. Jay went back for a few more hours of sleep and I kept us moving towards Shelbourne.

At 9:15am, we pulled up to Shelbourne, with our yellow quarantine flag flying and called customs to be cleared into Canada. Customs officers came by the boat 45 minutes later and cleared us into the country. We had officially arrived back in Canada – 163 nautical miles from Northeast Harbour, Maine, 710 nautical miles since we left New Jersey and still several hundred nautical miles from home in PEI.

I stepped ashore with mixed feelings. I was proud of myself for facing my fear of the night passage. I was happy to be home in Canada. I was sad that the US portion of our trip was over, and I was disappointed that we would be leaving the boat for 2 weeks to return to PEI to attend to some work commitments for The Turret Bell, our bookstore. I love being on the boat and hate having to interrupt our adventure.

Shelbourne was a great welcome home to Canada though as Jay has an uncle in the area and cousins so we spent the day visiting with everyone.

Today was spent readying the boat to leave it for a few weeks. Jay and I also did an interview this morning with Karen Mair for CBC RadioPEI’s Mainstreet program about our trip which was pretty cool. I don't know how well our words have communicated how wonderful this trip has been. It has been fun, challenging, and entertaining. We have met interesting people and enjoyed seeing the east coast of the United States from a new perspective.

Although our adventure is not over, it is on a short hiatus. It will be hard to leave the boat for a few weeks. But we are looking forward to picking back up in Shelbourne and making our way up the coast of Nova Scotia to the Strait of Canso. Then the decision will be whether we point the bow to the one of our favourite cruising grounds in the Bras d’or Lakes, or whether we head for Prince Edward Island. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Preparing for the Crossing

We've now made it to Northeast Harbor, Maine, on Mount Desert Island. We've decided that this will be our point of departure for Canada. So, this morning, we have been putting away the US cruising guides and pulling the Canada charts and guides from their storage places.

At 6 knots, we are looking at about 30 hours from here to Shelburne, where we've decided to make our Canadian landfall. We have been watching the weather closely, and it looks like we have a weather window opening on Sunday and Monday. Although the plans are subject to last-minute adjustments from updated weather forecasts, we plan to set out at first light Sunday morning.

Today we were looking at tidal charts. Because we are crossing so close to the Bay of Fundy, there will be significant currents we have to account for. During the crossing of the Gulf of Maine, the currents will be more side-on, first in one direction then in the other. These do not affect us much, but simply mean we have to adjust our heading slightly to compensate.

However, once we hit the south-west tip of NS, it is a different story. The current will be in the same direction we are travelling, so we will want to have the current at our stern and not on our bow. Fortunately, the times work with us, and the tides will be cooperating with us by the time we are in the area.

As for weather forecasts, we have been monitorin both the US NOAA and Environment Canada marine forecasts, as well as the site Our biggest concern has been trying to avoid heavy fog, which is very common in this area at this time of year. Fortunately, we have the flexibility to wait here until there is a clear window opening.

When we reach Canada, we have to deal with customs. Since we are actually importing the boat, our agent has made all the necessary arrangements with a broker, so hopefully there should be no problems.

This will be the first time either of us have made an overnight passage, so there are a few nervous moments. However, one of the reasons we came this far north in the US was to minimize the time of the crossing. Often, people jump to NS from Cape Cod, which involves 2 or 3 nights. Since there is just the two of us, we wanted just one overnight before hitting land again.

Besides, the cruise up the Maine coast has been fabulous. It is a beautiful area, and I want to bring the boat back here someday to cruise more extensively.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ducky almost dunked me!

There is no such thing as an elegant way to get in and out of a dinghy. Or at least if there is, I haven't found it. The dinghy has a tendancy to float away when you step into it. This is true whether you are stepping into it from a dock or from the back of the boat. Add waves and you have a whole new challenge. Getting into Ducky from our boat, we usually have the bow tied on, as well as a line we tie to the side of Ducky, holding the dinghy snug against the stern so we can get in and out. Well, snug until the waves move them apart. The line is also helpful when we come alongside as something to grab onto and pull us close, and I use it to help pull myself up out of the dinghy onto the boat's swim platform.

At a dock, we pull alongside and one of gets out with the painter in hand, and ties us off. Then we hold the dinghy alongside the dock while we load or unload. Nine times out of ten, Jay is the first one in when we leave the boat and the first one out at the dock.  I am the first one in when we leave the dock and first one out when we return to the boat. Jay's legs are longer than mine and he finds it much easier to cope with the doing the splits as he gets in and out of the boat. He always holds the boat as close alongside as he can while I get in or out so my shorter legs don't have as far to reach. Sometimes, I feel I roll out of the boat more than step out, especially if the dock is much higher than the boat. Definitely inelegant. But, you can understand why tonight I thought he was doing what he always does - steadying the boat and holding it alongside while I was getting in from the dock. Except, for whatever reason, he wasn't.

We had just come back from a short walk around the very small village of North Haven, Maine. After an beautiful sail from Boothbay Harbour, we had arrived at North Haven Island, offshore from Rockland, Maine. We  had taken a mooring owned by J.O Brown and Son in the narrow passage between two islands and had gone ashore to pay. This boat yard was started 100 years ago and the building and docks are showing their age. We had negotiated the decaying dock without incident and at the end of the dock, four people were gathered chatting. We stepped around them and readied to get in Ducky. I saw Jay holding the side of the dinghy and since we had an audience I didn't ask him the obvious question of whether he had ahold of the dinghy, he always steadied it for me and I was reluctant to seem like a nervous boater in front of the locals. I stepped one foot in Ducky and Ducky moved away from the dock. Much further away from the dock than I was capable of reaching. I never have been able to to the splits, yet there I was suspended in mid air, one leg valiently trying to cling to the dock and one in the dinghy. As Ducky drifted farther away from the dock, the leg on the dock lost its battle and trailed behind me though the water.  I  swallowed my yelp from the shock of the cold water and pulled myself fully into the dinghy, trying not to glare a hole through my husband who was smirking on the dock. My sandal and pantleg to the knee was dripping wet. We had gotten in and out of this dinghy dozens and dozens of times. Our one mishap and we had an audience. "I thought you had a hold of the dinghy," I muttered, studiously avoiding the curious gazes of our audience. Jay chuckled, pulled the dinghy closer and stepped in without incident, adding insult to injury in my mind. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Will it ever warm up?

Ok, I know we were spoiled when we were in New Jersey. It was the end of May and it was 30 degrees Celsius. Now, I love the warm weather, so I was perfectly content. Jay on the other hand likes it more about 20 degrees or so. Unfortunately for both of us, it has been raining alot and in the low teens for the past 5 days. We spent 4 of those days in Portland, and today we had our coldest crossing yet. We left Portland at 9am and in the mist and light rain with 15-20 knot winds and we headed for Boothbay Harbour, a mere 35 nautical miles away. I had 5 layers of clothes, a wool hat and winter mittens on, and still felt chilly. I guess that makes me a fair weather sailor. No sailing in the artic for me! This photo was taken before I resorted to the wool hat and mitts, but you get the idea.
We arrived in Boothbay Harbour, a very pretty little town with lots of shops, restaurants and whale watching cruises about 3pm and took a mooring at Tugboat Inn Marina. We took Ducky down from the davits and went ashore to explore. My big purchase was some warm slippers to wear on the boat. With this weather, my feet have been cold and I hate wearing boat shoes below decks. We are picky about footwear on the boat. We have our sandals or sneakers for going ashore, but they are never worn on board. We have our boat shoes for when we need to wear something on the deck because of the cold, but we prefer to go barefoot when aboard if we can.  However, 10 degrees Celsius does not lend itself to bare feet!

We had dinner at a wonderful italian restaurant called Ports of Italy in Boothbay Harbour tonight. The food was delicious! Unfortunately, when we left the restaurant, it had started to rain. Luckily for me, I had taken my rain pants ashore, so I didn├Ęt get my bottom wet on the dinghy ride back out to the boat.  So now I am sitting at the table in the salon, listening to the gentle patter of the rain on the hull. It is warmer now that we are out of the wind, so between the nice hot meal, my comfy new boat slippers and the warmer air in the boat, I have finally thawed out.

It hasn't just been the weather that has changed since we left New Jersey. It is interesting how the coast changes so much between New Jersey and here. The coastline there is very sandy. Here it is very rocky, reminiscent of Nova Scotia. We are seeing less recreational boats out on the water right now as it is still early in the season here. We are seeing lots of lobster boats, ferries and whale watching boats. We are also getting extremely good at dodging the colourful lobster pots which riddle the seas here, even in the middle of the channels.
Tomorrow, if the weather holds, we will continue sailing north. There are so many beautiful places to explore in Maine that we wish we had more time. We are already talking about making another trip back here in the future to explore the coast more fully.

Monday, June 13, 2011


It rained all weekend in Portland, so we decided to stay put. We explored the town, caught a movie, went grocery shopping, topped up the diesel and got a replacement handheld GPS for the one Jay accidentlaly dropped. We even did laundry and washed the boat down. We also did a lot of reading, and cuddled under the blankets as the weather has been very damp and cool.

 We have had a mooring at Portland Yacht Services and the staff have been fantastic, very helpful and friendly.  We would recommend this location to anyone coming through the area, but the mooring field can roll a bit as the ferries go by.  They  do pump outs, have water, do repairs and have laundry and showers. But I cant emphasize enough how every member of the staff we have talked to have been incredibly friendly and helpful. The only service missing is fuel and we went across the Harbour to Sunset Marina for diesel today. Jay did an impressive pirouette with the boat to come alongside the fuel dock with only a foot to spare under the keel.

One of the other reasons we stayed until this morning was to an electroics store, which wasn't open on the weekend, to see about our chartplotter which got moisture in it during the severe thunderstorm on Thursday. Before heading there this morning we plugged it back in so we could tell them what was wrong with it. To our delight, it worked! Since we had let it sit over the weekend, it had dried out and was working properly.We no longer had to see about the chartplotter, but since we had stayed anyway, we decided to get some grocery and do a few other tasks on the boat.

Tomorrow we leave for Boothbay Harbour. Another few days in Maine and then we will make the crossing to Nova Scotia.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

So where are we?

A couple of weeks before we left home, I went into Charlottetown to write a test. I had purchased the self-study package for advanced navigation from the Canadian Power Squadron. The course was Advanced Piloting, which covers navigation and charting. The tests are sent off for marking, and I haven't heard the results yet.

Boy, I hope I passed. Because since leaving New Jersey, GPS receivers have been an issue.

The boat came with a chartplotter. This is a GPS unit that is mounted on the helm station. It has a 7 inch screen, and all the nautical charts for the US coast we are travelling. It superimposes your position on the chart and allows you to plot things like your intended route and direction of travel. It is really a very useful piece of electronics, particularly in unfamiliar waters.

Remember the thunderstorm from the earlier posting? Well, for a while the rain was coming almost horizontally. This is when we discovered that the case was not entirely watertight. Later that evening, the screen fogged up on the inside, indicating moisture had gotten past the seals. Although it worked for the rest of the day after the storm, it hasn't worked since.

But, that's not insurmountable. We also own a handheld Garmin GPS. We have a mount for this to put it next to the wheel, and in fact, this is what we have been using exclusively for the past few years. We also have the navigational charts for this unit, and it gives pretty much the same functionality, but with a much smaller screen.

Only one problem. A couple of days ago I dropped this GPS, and it has not worked properly since.

So we're onto our third backup, which we only took along as an afterthought. This is a much older GPS, but doesn't have as much functionality, nor does it have all the charts.

So, all day yesterday, we were resorting to good old-fashioned 16th-century style navigating to travel from Little Harbor to Portland. Now that we're here, we will address the GPS issue.

But we made it safely, so that's a passing grade in my book.
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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Safe in Little Harbour

We ended up staying two nights in Provincetown. The second day we went ashore in the morning for a shower, then wandered around on Commercial Street downtown, wandering in and out of the eclectic mix of shops. What a colourful town.

We went to the supermarket and got another couple of jugs of water then took a taxi back to the marina. Ducky carried the heavy load back to the boat without any incident.  The afternoon was blazing hot, so we stayed on the boat, enjoying the sea breeze. Jay took a nap and I took care of a few things that needed attention around the boat.

Around 5pm we moved the boat to the fuel dock to fill up and then Jay made chilli. It was another beautiful evening in the cockpit. We turned in fairly early, knowing we wanted to get up early to leave the next morning. 

Neither of us slept very well however. The wind picked up to about 15 knots around 2am and the banging of the cockpit locker we had left open for the wifi antenna woke me. I went above to close it and then had a really hard time getting back to sleep. By 5:30am we were up. We lifted Ducky on the davits and motored around the pier to the slips on the other side so we could fill our water tanks. Our stern tank had gone dry just before bed. After filling the tanks, we set out for Isle of Shoals.

The weather was overcast, with a bit of a cool breeze on the water. Coming around the tip of Cape Cod, the seas were confused and about 3 to 4 feet. They settled into one direction and smoothed out after an hour, but were about 4-5 feet with the odd one even larger. By late morning they seas had calmed to one to two feet and we had a nice breeze for sailing.   We periodically listened to the weather on the VHF and what started as a chance of thunderstorms, became a watch for severe thunderstorms. The forecasted wind direction for overnight also changed so we decided to skip Isle of Shoals and head for Little Harbour, just 6 nautical miles further on the coast. As we were about 7 nautical miles out, about 5pm, the sky, which had been gradually darkening, took on an ominous cast. We furled in the sails and even as we were tidying up the lines, the wind hit. It went for 15-20 knots of wind to 40-45 knots of wind in about two minutes. We even saw gusts of 55knots (which is 100km). We had pulled in the sails just in time. 

We had pulled on lifejackets and we tethered ourselves into the cockpit. For the first 10 minutes, it was just the wind. Earlier in the day we had stripped the canvass off the bimini  and we were really glad we had. One gust of wind managed to spin the solar panels, but thankfully they did not break off. As the boat was getting tossed by the wind, the lightning and thunder started. As the lightning drew closer the skies opened and it started to pour.   The lightning drew close enough we put the engine in neutral and lashed the wheel and headed below. We had a handheld GPS below which was showing us we were doing 3.5 knots even in neutral, just from the wind.  We watched the handheld closely as the wind was blowing us towards the Isles of Shoals - a lee shore. The sky was filled with sheet lightning and fork lightning and the rumble of thunder. The boat was tossed around, but was handling the weather better probably than we were!  It is nerve wracking to be on the water in a thunderstorm, but we had taken all the safety precautions we could.

After 15 minutes, Jay braved the storm to make a quick adjustment to our course as we were coming closer than we were comfortable to the rocky islands.  The lightning was beginning to move off in the distance. After about 40 minutes, the worst of the storm had passed and we were able to go topside again. We had travelled almost 2 NM off course as we drifted with the wind. We turned the boat and retraced our steps. Within another 30 minutes the seas had calmed and the sky had lightened. We motored into Little Harbour, New Hampshire and grabbed a mooring at 7pm. Whew!

I have no desire to repeat that experience on a regular basis, but both we and the boat handled the weather without serious incident. There is some moisture in the chartplotter after the torrential rain, so hopefully that will dry out without a problem. Also, we need to reposition and tighten one solar panel, but considering the strength of the wind, we all handled it just fine!

No thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow.

The best part is that after 392 NM we have finally seen some marine life - several dolphins and several whales!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I am sitting in the cockpit of our saiboat. The sun has now gone down, but the sky retains some small traces of light. A few fluffy clouds look light grey against the light blue sky. Pink streaks flow in pastel lines in the sky just above the lights of town, the last trace. Of the sun which has disappeared over the horizon. Birds are cooing on the breakwater. The red and green bouy lights flash in their set patterns, marking the channel. The water is like rippled glass, lapping softly on the hull and the lights from town dance across its surface. As if in tune to some silent melody. The low rumble of an engine can be heard far in the distance. Directly off the stern of the boat is Pilgrim's Memorial. Its 25 story thin granite structure awah in light. A dog's bark can be heard from across the water. The flag on the stern hangs limp as the gentle breath of the wind hasn't the strength to disturb it. The heat of the day has dissipated for now. Distant sounds of voices and music can be heard faintly from shore, but here in the cockpit I am insulated from the frenetic pace of the town coming to life at night. It is beautiful, peaceful here in the cockpit and I am content.
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On Monday morning we took Ducky the dinghy into the Seaman's Church Institute for one last time, took a shower and had breakfast at the cafe - a full breakfast for $5 each. Then we motored back, secured Ducky on the stern and left Newport Harbour, vowing we would come back.

The night before we had heard an insistent banging on the hull around 8:30pm and when we poked our heads out into the cockpit, the Harbourmaster boat was alongside. The woman on duty seemed surprised we were there and wanted to know when we had arrived. I think she was all set to harass us, thinking we had slipped in and were trying to avoid paying. After a few minutes it became clear the Harbourmaster on duty a few nights earlier had forgotten to log we were there and had paid.  Then to confuse matters, he had moved us from one mooring ball to a second one on the second day. We told her how we had paid for two nights and he had said not to worry if we stayed a third, someone would be by to pick up the fee. After explaining all this to her, as well as where we were from and where we were going, she apologized and said she would be back with a receipt book.

About 20 minues later she was back and really apologetic. She had found a note her colleague had left for her explaining he had forgot to log it, but we had paid for two nights and might stay a third. We paid for the third night, and then chatted with her about our trip and about Newport. She recommended coming back in the fall. We noted there is a boat show in September, so maybe we will try to come back at some point during the boat show. Whenever we do make it back, we are determined to tour some of the mansions.

As we left Newport, the weather was warm, but the wind was fairly light. We ended up having to motorsail again. We crossed Buzzard's Bay without incident and entered Hadley Harbour. Close to Woods Hole, this small harbour is a hurricane hole and we can understand why. It is well protected from all sides. The entrance is very narrow and as usual I was terrified we would run aground, but there is lots of water - at least 12 feet under our keel. There were about 20 free mooring balls and it is first come, first served. There were about 5 other boats with people aboard in the mooring field. We took a mooring, cooked dinner, drank a bottle of wine and relaxed in the peaceful anchorage. Internet was very sketchy as we were just on the edge of a signal and as the boat swung gently on the mooring we would pass in and out of range. 

This morning we were up early and after a shower and breakfast, we cast off the mooring and headed out into Buzzard's Bay towards the Cape Cod Canal. We needed to time our passage in the Canal to coincide with the  current which can run 3-4 knots. The weather was beautiful. The wind was light so we motorsailed for about two hours as we wanted to make sure we caught the current in the right direction.

At one point, while I was on the wheel I asked Jay about a large boat on the horizon. He agreed it looked like a freighter with a tall white stack and a red hull, remarking it had likely come out of the Canal after catching the current from the other direction. I kept a wary eye on it as we drew closer. My mind kept flashing to all the stories I have read about freighters colliding with sailboats with disasterous consequences. I noticed we seemed to be getting closer and although I was out of the shipping channel, it seemed to be on a collision course. I altered my course and kept a watch. We had been listening to the weather on the VHF and I was now worried we should flip to the commercial shipping channel 13 or 16 to see if we were being hailed. That boat seemed to be right in our path! I brought it to Jay's attention again and he looked up from his book. At which point, he started to laugh. "It's a lighthouse," he said. Boy, did I feel foolish. I was immediately reminded of that old story where the naval ship keeps telling another ship to avert their course and get out of his way, only to find it is a lighthouse.  I guess I should have looked at the chart too - not just relied on Jay! These lighthouses out in the middle of the water fool me everytime.

We furled the sails and entered Cape Cod Canal and the boat picked up speed. Without even running the engine hard, we were doing 10 knots. Walking and biking trails run along both sides of the Canal and many people were fishing along both sides. It took just under an hour to traverse the Canal and then we were out into Cape Cod Bay. Although the wind picked up to a respectable 8 knots, it was completely on our nose as we headed for Provincetown. I made some canneloni and garlic bread for lunch and we ate at the cockpit table while Otto, the autohelm steered us towards our destination.

It was about 3pm when we arrived in Provincetown and picked up a mooring from the Provincetown Marina, $35 per night. We released Ducky from his holding place on the stern and motored to shore to pay for the mooring, pick up a few groceries and explore. We had been here once before for a day about 15 years ago, not that we remembered anything. The streets are narrow and lined with shops, bars and restaurants of all kinds. But tonight we are eating aboard. Grilled steak on the BBQ. Yum!

Bad Boy

Let me introduce you to a new and very popular member of our crew - Bad Boy. Without Bad Boy, our lives would be much more challenging and complicated.

Even though we are cruising up the US coast, we are not completely on vacation. We tried our best to clear up as much as possible before we left, but since we have three businesses between us, we are still on call. Also, although we tried to minimize our workload for this month, we still have some deadlines and tasks to meet.

This is where Bad Boy comes in. Bad Boy is a system, targetted for marine use, that lets us pick up internet signals from our boat. Bad Boy consists of two components. The first is an antenna that picks up any internet signal in the area. It will focus on any open signals first, but you also have option of connecting to any secured systems if you have the password.

The second component is a wireless router. Our boat now is its own internet hot spot. We can access internet from each computer independently.

How well does it work? If there is a signal around, very well. It picks up multiple signals that our laptops cannot. For the three days we were in Newport, we had internet the whole time. That allowed us to spend a few hours each day doing work. As I'm writing this, we are in an isolated area of Massachusetts, but still accessing a weak internet signal. We were able to do some work earlier this evening.

Because of our day jobs, we cannot allow ourselves to be totally disconnected. We have only had Bad Boy for a week, and he's already proven his worth.
Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Still in Newport

After some serious and difficult consideration, we decided to spend another day in Newport.  All right, it took about two minutes to decide to stay longer than originally planned.  What can I say, we both like it here.

We've made good use of a facilty here called the Seamen's Church institute.  This is a facility set up to serve all sea farers.  For $2, you can get a nice hot shower.  Breakfast and lunch are available for very reasonable prices.  Laundry facilies are available. There is even a chapel and a beautiful library.  Although we do have a shower on board, hot fresh water is at a premium while we're out on a mooring.  The hot water heater on the boat works in two ways - by electricity or by using the engine heat.  Well, at a mooring we don't have the option to plug into shore power, and we don't have the engine running.  Hence, a limited supply of hot water.  So, we've really appreciated being able to take a shower in the mornings.

We started by making a run past the Maltese Falcon.  This really is a beautiful and amazing ship.

In the afternoon, we decided to make a trip out to the West Marine here in Newport.  There were a handful of items we have wanted to pick up for a while, but there in not always a convenient marine store.  There is a marine store here in downtown Newport, but it is small, so we wanted to go to the larger store.  It is about three miles from downtown, so that meant taking a cab.  The cab was waiting while we were inside, so we quickly recruited one of the salespeople to help us find what we were looking for.  We let her know we had a cab waiting, so we were in a rush.  The three of us were running around the store, picking up items from our list.  We lucked out, and had approached one of the managers, so she actually gave us a discount on a couple of the more expensive items.  I think she was having fun as well, running from one end of the store to the other, trying to minimize the time we spent inside.

Also, I've been going through a bit of hockey withdrawal.  It's Stanley Cup Final time, and for the first time in a long time, a Canadian team is the favourite.  So, last night, we decided to give Ducky a rest and called the lauch service.  They came and picked us up and we found a pub showing the game, so I got to see Vancouver take game 2 over Boston.  This is definitely Bruins territory, so we were the only ones in the place cheering for Vancouver.  But, we were also the only ones going home happy.

When we went out, I wore my St Peters Fire Department shirt.  It's a collared shirt with the crest on the breast, and is quite a nice and comfortable shirt.  While we were in the pub, I had someone come up to me and ask if I was a firefigher.  When I answered yes, he shook my hand and expressed his appreciation for the fire services.  It's always a nice feeling when something like that happens out of the blue.

Besides its sailing tradition, Newport is also famous for its mansions.  This was where the rich and famous industrialist from a century ago would come to get away, and did they ever leave their mark on this city.  Some of these buildings are breathtaking.  Most of these old houses are open for tours.  We didn't take these tours this trip, but it will be a priority next time we are here.

Anyway, tomorrow we are moving on again.  We are planning on anchoring in Hadley Harbour, south of Cape Cod.  The day after that we'll travel throught the Cape Cod canal and move up to Provincetown, Mass.  We've enjoyed our brief layover in Newport, and will definitely be back again.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Newport - A sailing mecca

I am in the same mooring field as the Maltese Falcon! This 289 foot sailing vessel is amazing to behold. It is in Newport, Rhode Island with us tonight and moored only a few hundred feet away. Very cool! I took this shot of its distinctive three free standing masts from our cockpit. Tonmorrow I will try for a closer photo and  maybe zip by in Ducky, the dinghy.

Today's sail from New London was rather uneventful. We slipped off the mooring around 9:30 this morning and made a stop at the Thamesport Marina for fuel, water and a pumpout before heading out into Fishers Sound.  As we left Long Island Sound and entered Block Island Sound, Jay had to play some Billy Joel:

Well I'm on the downeaster Alexa
And I'm cruising through Block Island Sound

The wind was chilly, so we bundled up for the first time since starting our voyage north, but the sun was shining and the wind was perfect for sailing.  It was wonderful actually being able to sail for most of the day instead of motoring. We sped along the coast and by 6:00pm we were entering the Newport Harbour, passing gorgeous homes on the cliffs, dodging sailboats everywhere and entering a harbour that is filled with boats of all sizes and shapes.

We hailed the Harbourmaster on the VHF who escorted us to a mooring ball and for $40 a night we are settled in for a visit to Newport.  I am looking forward to it.

Newport offers restaurants, galleries, historic mansions, walking tours, shopping and more. There is a fabulous cliff walk that takes you by beautiful mansions and amazing waterviews. There is so much to see and do I know our stay will not be long enough. We spent an aftenoon here on our way back to Canada from viewing the new boat last month and we loved it. We promised each other we would come back and explore more when we were moving the boat north and here we are!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

New London and a Quiet Day

Yesterday we left Port Jefferson, New York and headed for New London, Connecticut, about 56 NM away. The wind was variable, from 7 knots to 12 knots, and gusting to 20 knots. After sailing for awhile, we decided to motor sail. We had left a bit later than we had planned and thunderstorms were forecast for late in the day. With the added speed from the engine, to offset when the wind speed dropped below 7 knots, we made good time, averaging about 7.7 knots of speed. The sun was shining, but the wind was cold. The passing was rather uneventful - my first rope burn ever when letting out the mainsheet, a broken reading light when Jay tried to open the back to put in batteries and a broken handheld GPS when Jay dropped it in the cockpit being the only casualties. The real excitement began when we less than a nautical mile from the lighthouse marking the entrance to New London Harbour. It was about 6pm and the sky had gone from partly cloudy to completely grey. Dark clouds were approaching from the south on our stern. The waves were not high, but had been tossing us around a bit for the better part of the crossing, making it tough to stay on course, so someone had to be on the wheel constantly.

We had been watching the sky darken to the south and had been hoping we could outrun the approaching bad weather. The wind dropped off completely to 3 knots and we furled in the sails, running under power alone. We revved up the engine and made a last ditch effort at out running the weather, an effort we knew was destined to failure. Within minutes, visibility dropped to less than a half a mile. The skies opened and torrential rain and hail started. Lightening flashed in the distance. Out of the fog in front of us emerged a ferry. We were not in its path, but the lack of visibility made the decision for us. The radar was so full of interference from the rain we could not rely on our ability to read it and although the chartplotter is a good one, neither of us fully trust it the way we did our now useless handheld GPS as the charts render differently on the display. We were not going to try entering an unfamiliar harbour under those conditions.

We turned the boat, heading for open water, hoping the storm would be short lived. But between us and open water on all sides were several rocks, so Jay stayed above on the wheel while I ducked in top the companionway. Not that it mattered. We were both soaked. We had only pulled on jackets, not full foul weather gear, and the dodger and bimini affording minimal protection from the driving rain. So, I huddled in the companionway, hoping that the lightening would not get too close. About ten minutes later, the skies lightened and the weather passed on. The rain stopped and visibility improved dramatically. We quickly headed for port.

On the way in we passed a boat setting up a race course and several sailboats getting ready for what was obviously a club race. I admired their commitment. Looking at the sky it seemed we might be in for another thunderstorm before the evening was over. As we entered port we headed for the Waterfront Park, right downtown, which was advertised in both cruising guides as having town moorings and amenities. When we picked up a mooring it was covered in barnacles and we could not raise anyone on VHF or by calling the phone number printed in the book. We decided to move to a nearby marina to get fuel and water and maybe take a mooring there. However, they too were not answering a hail on the VHF or the phone. In the meantime, the race has begun, so we figured maybe they were all out racing. The skies opened again for another quick rain shower. We took a mooring and made a quick dinner on the BBQ, figuring if we were on someone's mooring we would just move and that maybe once the race was over we could reach someone on the VHF or phone. We had looked carefully at the areas marked as anchorages on the chart, but they were all filled tightly with mooring balls.

Just as we finished eating, the race was ending and the boats were coming back in and another thunderstorm hit. A launch gathered racers from the moored boats and everyone scrambled for shore and shelter. We still could not reach anyone at the marina. The fuel dock was closed up tight. However, we had become quite aware of the pitching and rolling the boat was doing. The mooring field was more exposed to the elements than we liked. It was dark and none of the other boats looked like cruisers or seemed to have any people aboard as they bucked like wild horses on their mooring balls. I don't mind a little rocking to sleep, but the mooring ball was intermittently tapping the side of the boat. The wind and the current were working against each other and we were not swinging as we should on the ball.

Jay suggested we move back to the town moorings where it would be more sheltered. So at 10pm, we slipped off the mooring ball and motored the 1/2 mile or so back into the centre of town. Despite the railway track, the mooring field was calm, better sheltered from the wind, and empty. We picked up a mooring ball and fell into bed.

This morning we expected someone to come by and collect the posted $35 mooring fee, but no one did. Nor were the bathrooms ever opened. Obviously, we are out of season for the town's Waterfront Park. But there is a dinghy dock and so we went into town for lunch and a few errands. The forecast was for 20-25 knot gusting to 30 today in the Sound, so we decided to stay in New London. We had lunch on a lovely outdoor patio, but the wind required us to hold down our glasses, napkins and food! Unfortunately, the laundromat was too far away to walk, so I guess laundry will wait until tomorrow in Newport. But we did explore the downtown. And get a few errands accomplished. New London is very much a working town, well known for its submarine building industry. Several ferries leave from here to Block Island and Fishers Island.

To time the current around Fishers Island we need to leave late morning for the 48 nautical mile trip to Newport, Rhode Island, so we will get fuel and water tomorrow on our way out of New London. We will go north of Fishers Island, so we will not be going through The Race; however, currents are still a factor.