Intro to salt water
28 June 2007 | Cap-a-l'Aigle
We left Sillery, home of the Yacht Club de Quebec quietly in the predawn. There were four of us - Bagatelle (out of Kingston), Wings (headed to her new home in Summerside), Strathspey and Madcap - all bound for Cap-a-l'Aigle - and we had to leave early because we needed the ebbing tide to help us cover the 70 nautical miles we had to make that day.
I had pictured Madcap flying along beneath the cliffs of old Quebec every time we drove this stretch of highway on our way to Nova Scotia and every time I imagined us making this trip. It wasn't quite the same as I pictured, but it was still pretty nice. I'm not in the habit of rising at 0400 hours and being in thinking and doing mode by 0430, but it was a really nice time to be out on the water. The sky was bright enough to see; the lights twinkled on the ships and streets; and everything was soooo quiet. There was no wind so we were motoring and the sails were still tucked under cover.
We motored and motored, moving in and out of fog banks, which afforded us an invaluable opportunity to use our brand new radar. This was good practice for the more extreme fog conditions we are likely to experience in the North Atlantic. The radar shows other ships in the area as various sizes of blobs and we came to recognize which blobs were buoys, which were other pleasure boats, and which ones were the very large commercial vessels. At one point we could see on the radar that there was a big ship coming our way, and Mary identified it even earlier with their AIS. We never did see that one, although we heard its horn as it passed within a half a nautical mile of us.
We eventually did get a little bit of wind and unfurled our stay sail - the smaller foresail that cutters have at the ready. The wind came up nicely, but it was close to being on our nose - or sur le nez - as we have come to call it - so we didn't put up the main, and we kept the engine running. The sail helped us make a bit better time. We can generally make between 5 and 6 knots under motor, a little better than that under sail if we are going at a good angle to the wind and have our sails trimmed well. "The Book" said we'd probably make the distance in about 8 hours - but that didn't account for the headwind.
I decided to taste a bit of that water that was beginning to spray up over our deck and sure enough it was salty. Yeehaw! Madcap's introduction to salt water. The air was cold and the water was colder. Jim and I were dressed in our longjohns, and fleecy shirts and we kept changing jackets all day, finally ending up in our heavy foul weather gear, complete with boots, wool caps and gloves.
That little bit of wind grew steadily and as Jim monitored it on the wind speed indicator, he noted many gusts in excess of 30 knots, and it didn't drop below 25 for the rest of the afternoon. A gale is 34-40 knots; a near gale is 28-33. It sure seemed like a gale to me!
The spray kept coming and when it was my turn at the helm Jim ducked under cover to dry out and warm up a bit while I braced myself with feet apart, one hand grabbing a cleat for support and the other hand on the wheel. We were heeled over a bit but nothing like the day we blew into Batiscan. The difference, this time, was in the amount of water swooshing up over the bow, along the decks and cabin roof and right into the cockpit. The waves weren't all that big, but they poured up and over our rails like never before. I would duck away as I saw one coming, hunching my shoulder up to catch the worst of it. I had to keep wiping my eyes because the water was streaming down my face - and all the way down to my boots! That went on for over an hour. I was alternately glad we were off shore far enough that we weren't dodging a dozen other boats, and wishing we were much closer in so it would be over with!
We reached the harbour about 1600 hours, furled in the sail and lost our newest and best fender as I tried to tuck it under a line before hanging it off the rail. Jim circled a couple of times and I caught a bit of it each time but lost it again in the waves. We gave up and rounded the corner of the breakwater into such a warm and quiet little harbour neither of us could believe the difference between "in here" and "out there". Cap-a-l'Aigle is called a port of refuge on the chart and we could clearly see why.
Strathspey was next in and we went to work spraying off the salt. This was a new experience and made me wonder a bit about why I was so fired up about getting into salt water. Ordinarily we'd have made fast the lines, tidied up a wee bit and settled in with a "cheated death yet again" beer. This time we were spraying and wiping down for a good 45 minutes before we sat down to debrief all our new experiences in this one day- with drenched clothes hung on every rail.
Bagatelle and Wings arrived in safe and sound and after dinner, we conferred on departure times for the next morning. That darned tide. It called for another 0400 - 0500 hours departure. We split the difference and agreed to leave at 0430 if the 0330 weather report was favourable. Those of you who know us can guess that it was Jim who was on duty to receive the weather!