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Madcap Sailing
Friday the 13th??
15/07/2007/9:52 pm, Riviere-au-Renard to Escuminac

Friday the 13th?? Escuminac, NB, July 15, 2007 Posting #12

After a very good few days enjoying the hospitality of Riviere-au-Renard, we were up bright and early and all ready to push off at 6:30 am. Jim turned the key and ...nothing happened. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing gently, it was our day to have a grand sail and the engine wouldn't start.

Blair and Mary, with astoundingly good humour, postponed their plans to move on as well and Blair and Jim set to work problem solving. On first inspection, since it appeared that our batteries were undercharged, we thought that was the problem. We hauled everything out of the locker and - under the direction of the gentlemen on board - I climbed in and checked the charger. Eureka - a blown fuse! I changed that and then we needed to recharge the batteries.

Fortunately there is a coast guard station right beside the marina office and a couple of officers brought down a fancy charger to take care of that. Unfortunately, the engine still didn't start.

Next step was a walk over to the marine repair building on the corner to arrange for some expert help. Yvan showed up as soon as he could, and as he, Jim and Blair engaged in an animated blend of French-English-Mechanical/Speak, he determined that the solenoid on the starter had quit. Solenoids are particular little items for particular engines apparently, and things were not looking good for a quick fix. Yvan took it off to his shop to see what he could do, and arrived back about 5pm with a smile on his face. The cleaned solinoid went in, Jim sat down behind the wheel, took a deep breath and turned the key. A cheer went up all round as the engine turned over very nicely.

Another interesting discovery during all the poking around was a loose wire that had been the problem with our propane system. Blair taught me how to crimp a wire to make a better connection and we fixed that little problem too!

A quick conversation with Strathspey after we listened to the weather forecast resulted in a decision to leave on Friday evening for a long run of about 120 nautical miles to Escuminac. It would take about 24 hours, help us make up for lost time, and get us into New Brunswick before the expected strong winds on Sunday. As we packed up and did all our checks, a thunderstorm blew over, rinsing off the salt and clearing the air, and was nicely finished just as we were ready to leave the harbour. (The picture at the top of this posting shows Strathspey leaving Riviere-au-Renard)

It wasn't till we were well on our way and Jim and I were discussing the bad luck/good luck feel to the day, that we realized it was Friday the 13th. By then, the bad luck of the engine problems had been completely overshadowed by the good luck of being - once again - in a place where excellent help was readily available, and in the company of such supportive friends

We took turns doing watches through the night as we motor-sailed along under the starry, starry sky. I saw a meteor light up the whole sky as it fell, and was enthralled by the phosphorescence in the waves rushing by. Jim was on duty at sunrise and saw the darkness fade gradually away to be replaced by soft growing light.

We sailed a bit and motored a bit on Saturday, enjoying the warm sunshine and the wind - and wishing it wasn't quite as much sur le nez ...again! The 14th is our daughter Mary Beth's birthday so we enjoyed a birthday phone call with her and look forward to seeing her soon. Happy Birthday Mary Beth!

Then around about 2 o'clock, out of the blue came that horrid engine overheating alarm! We thought we were finished with that after clearing out the seaweed in the water intake valve in Rimouski. We're getting to be fairly experienced in sorting through symptoms to make a guess at the problem so while I got the sails all up and adjusted our course so we could proceed under sail alone, Jim checked the filter and the hose and they were clear. Then he checked the coolant level and it was low. He's been adding a lot more coolant this year than before so was wondering about why. Well, this time, he added and added and added, and then got really curious about the sound of trickling liquid he was hearing. He discovered a missing plug in the reservoir. Even when he fished the plug out from under the engine it didn't thread back in properly. By this time, he had run through all our coolant so he had to just add plain old water. As we all know from our cars in winter, water freezes faster than antifreeze; it also boils sooner than antifreeze so we had to creep along, keeping the engine running at less than 1500 rpms, and turing it off to do the cool down, add water routine every time the alarm sounded. The wind wasn't giving us much help in following our course. I could get a really nice speed up if I wanted to head off at a 90 degree angle from our course, and even with tacking back and forth, out ETA was staying the same or getting later.

Strathspey was safely in the harbour at Escuminac so when it began to look like we would be out there for another 6 or 7 hours, we accepted Blair's offer to see if he could find someone to tow us in. We were still about 8 nautical miles out and hated to ask someone to do that, but we were also getting a little weary of this slow pace.

We soon heard the crackle of the radio and Blair's voice saying a fishing boat was on the way, and sure enough, out of the dusk came the Christine with Andre Turbide at the helm and Gabe and Blair along to help. They circled around, tied a line from our bow to their stern and away we went.

Madcap fairly flew through the water doing over 9 knots- in fact she has never gone so fast! We made it into Escuminac just after dark - as the whole harbour was enjoying the annual Breakwater Bash. Music was blaring, lights were flashing, fishing boats were everywhere. I was on our deck with lines and fenders ready. Jim was at the helm watching the knot meter and depth sounder with incredulity. He says we were still going 7 knots as we came flying through the opening in the breakwater and the depth sounder was showing a foot of water below our keel! Fortunately it is a large harbour and our speed dropped dramatically as our rescuers dropped the towline. I gathered it on board; Jim put the boat in gear and circled around to get his bearings. By the time we came alongside the dock where Mary was waiting to catch the lines, Blair, Gabe and Andre had also landed and were there to assist again.

Many thank you's later, we cleaned ourselves up and went up the dock to join these wonderful Acadian people in their party.

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21/03/2008/10:09 pm | sonia
i remember that night in escuminac i was the security guard on that night.glad to hear you are ok,hope to see you again.
Waiting out the Wind
12/07/2007/9:30 pm, Riviere-au-Renard

Waiting out the Wind, Riviere-au-Renard, July 12,2007

July 11th - Wednesday - turned out to be what Blair says his daughter would call an "It Day".

We had a series of, "That's it for the water", "That's it for the propane" statements happening. It was coldish. We knew already that we had run through all the water in our tank (neither Jim nor I had been keeping track of the days since we last topped it up - another lesson learned) and had brought back a big jug the night before. We had had the wonderful little propane fireplace on for a while to take off the morning chill, made a hot breakfast, and were doing some of the endless boat jobs when I decided to heat another pot of water for tea. Oops - no fire. I tried the fireplace again. Oops -no fire.

The upshot of all this was that we dinghied over to the marina and, with only a little coaxing, altered our "anchor whenever we have the opportunity" strategy. We docked along the long wharf since all the slips were occupied. A kind woman from the marina drove Jim in her cute yellow Mustang to get propane, and then another kind woman drove Blair and Jim to get jugs of diesel to replace what we had burned getting here. The propane system seems to have healed itself (there was still propane left in the tank) and Blair and Jim went to work on the job list while I went to practice my French as I procured a length of steel tubing "la meme que ca) to fix the davit. Showers and laundry and a visit to the poissonerie and the market filled the rest of the afternoon.

This is a very busy working harbour with ships arriving in laden with fish, and a coast guard station just beside the marina office. It is quite an education to see the fishing industry up close. Have a look at for Mary's excellent description and pictures.

Both boat crews dined today on delectable bouillabaisse with freshly caught fletan and mussels and crevettes, and then in the evening Jim and I hiked up the road to the auberge where we linked ourselves with the rest of the world via wifi.

The wind howled all night and we were supremely grateful to be snug in this harbour.

The forecast for today - the 12th was for strong wind again so we opted to stay put for another night, and do our exploring by car. In conversation with the boat next door, Mary gleaned the name of a local man who has a car he rents out. Jim made the call; by 0930 and for the reasonable cost of $30.00, we had a Hyundai Elantra at our disposal for the day. We drove over to Perce, with the intent of admiring the rock and visiting Ile Bonaventure - home of huge colonies of gannets, basking seals and a guide to explain the history to us. Unfortunately, it never occurred to us that high winds and reduced visibility might affect not only our travel on the water, but also that of the tour boats! The island was closed; the boats weren't running.

Never ones to just cry in our beer, we betook ourselves to a local diner for a fish lunch - much better this time - and wandered around the beach and the interpretive centre. As we lounged on a bench, gazing at the waves washing over the beautiful pebbly beach, the sky started to clear, the rock emerged from the mist, and along with it, a sailboat! We hustled down on the wharf for some picture taking and discovered that the boat was Zero Gravity - which we had seen in various places along our route, ever since we came through the Iroquois lock together. Small world!

It was a fine day of sightseeing, and as we drove home along the coast that we will - hopefully - see from the water tomorrow, we all commented that although we have been here longer than intended, it has been a very good place to do this stopover.

Tomorrow if the forecast remains good, we'll depart at 0630 for L'Anse-a-Beaufils.

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15/07/2007/9:32 pm | Nomad
Good to see your blog is up & going. Very interesting reading. It will help us keep in touch until we meet again ! 2 months still before we cast off & still a lot to do. We took a few days off to sail with Sentina. Fair winds dear friends
Waves, Wind and More Wind
12/07/2007/8:00 pm, Riviere-au-Renard

Waves, Wind and More Wind (Sainte Annes des Monts - Mont Louis - Riviere-au-Renard)

Riviere au Renard, July 10, 2007

We set out from Sainte Anne des Monts about 0830 the other day - now what day was that?? - headed for Riviere Madeleine. We did a few circles in the harbour to try once again to calibrate the compass on our new chart plotter and autopilot - with no success. Both of them work but the chartplotter shows us moving either stern first or sideways - a bit disconcerting but we're getting used to it- and the auto pilot is "mostly" OK but I wouldn't leave it on its own for too long! Every now and then it takes a little swing one way or another. We'll have to work that one out later.

The forecast was for an increase in wind later in the day and we thought we might make it to our chosen destination but no such luck. It was interesting to see the waves change and feel the motion of the boat change along with them. If only the wind was off our beam, Madcap would be a very happy boat. She doesn't mind the waves at all, although she can pound with pretty impressive force into them. Unfortunately the wind always seems to be coming at us or following us, and put that together with some sideways waves and things get a little uncomfortable.

All this is to say that we decided on a change in destination and pulled in at Mont Louis - about 3 hours before we would have made Riviere Madeleine. Fortunately, Mary and I seemed to have a little telepathic thing going and we reached for our VHF radios at almost the same time! We were wearing all our woolies and full foul weather gear, and the boat was doing well, but this kind of travelling gets tiring after a while and if we don't HAVE to do it, well...why would we?! Jim and I were both reminded that when we plan our schedule and decide to venture out when there is a small craft wind warning, it is really important to have established some choices in available safe harbours.

We cruised nicely through the breakwater at Mont Louis, lowered the main and dropped anchor in about 15 feet of water - low tide. The relief was delightful. The teapot went on the stove, the books came out, the cribbage board got its first use of the season, and we just relaxed...until early evening! That is because Mont Louis has the distinction of being one of those places where the katabatic winds come up in the evening...every summer evening! That means that each evening, the wind funnels down the mountainside and off the land quite abruptly and with considerable vigour. We clocked a little over 22 knots, and it may have gusted to more through the night. It really is amazing to have such a significant change. Our anchor held well in the gravel bottom even though we swung completely around and we rocked all night. One little technical note - our anchor of choice is our dependable CQR - a version of a plough anchor that has never yet let us down.

We were ready to leave in the morning (one night for this experience was enough, thank you very much) so after consulting with Strathspey and litening to the 0330 weather forecast, we hauled anchor and departed shortly after 0630, enroute to Riviere au Renard more than 50 nautical miles away.

By 1100 we had passed both our alternate destinations and were on target for Riviere-au-Renard in late afternoon. With the wind on our nose, we were motoring all the way, but we had the company of whales and flocks of terns and gannets soaring against the backdrop of the mountains, and then skimming the surface of the water. The shoreline was just spectacular, and it was really evocative to see miles of mountains and trees, and then come across a point with a lighthouse perched there. One that really appealed to me was the light at Pointe a la Renomee. It must have been a most wonderful sight in the old days before GPS and radar. Somehow the strength and security still linger around the old building.

One thing I've discovered is that I'm not comfortable with being completely out of cell phone range and wireless coverage. July 10 is my dad's birthday - Happy Birthday Papa!! - and I couldn't make contact with him till midafternoon. At least Jim can post our newest whereabouts on Winlink through the Single Sideband Radio most evenings so somebody knows where we are!

We arrived at Riviere-au-Renard about 1630 (4:30 pm) after a 10 hour trip. It felt very good indeed to drop our anchor in the big basin of this large and busy fishing harbour. We settled in, discovered that somewhere in the waves, we had lost a piece of our dinghy davit - drat! - and dinghied over to where Strathspey was moored in the marina. We hiked up the road to a recommended restaurant where we planned to celebrate our arrival with a fine fish dinner. The company was terrific and the scenery was lovely, but both Mary and I could have produced a far nicer dinner - and proceeded to do so the very next day!

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18/07/2007/7:57 pm | gwen wells
I've enjoyed reading all your entries until July 15th. I'm glad you had the help come along in a timely fashion! What an adventure you are having! We will be happy to read your up-dates. Happy Sailing.

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