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Madcap Sailing
A Caribbean Glimpse Just When We Needed It
26/08/2007/3:04 pm, Carters Beach, Port Mouton, NS

We took our leave from LaHave on Friday, (far too soon but we'll be back) to make our way further down the coast. This turned out to be a day full of grumbles. While I generally take a pretty optimistic view of things, a whole collection of dreary pieces of this traveling business seemed to accumulate today, and made that view difficult to find.

We have had an ongoing problem with mail. It has had some delays in leaving Ottawa, and then we've missed it at its Nova Scotia destination. We keep trying to figure out where we might be at a particular time so it can be forwarded.

We assigned one vehicle to Mary Beth while we are away, and there have been insurance issues with that. We have been told that we can't insure it in Ontario since the car is in New Brunswick, and the primary driver has a NB license. She has been told she can't insure it in New Brunswick since it has an Ontario owner. Transferring it over to her would solve that but appears to involve paying sales tax - a ridiculous thing if a father is giving a car to a daughter.

Along with these irritations, are the boat related ones. Almost as soon as we left La Have, our propane alarm started sounding. We had trouble with it a month ago, but after investigations, concluded that there was no leak in the system. It went off only when the engine was on, and never when we were actually using propane in the stove or fireplace. We have been following the practice of shutting off the valve on the tank when it is not in use, along with the solonoid switch, and there has been nothing amiss since then. The last little while though, we've been leaving the tank valve open and just turning off the solonoid switch, so we assume that is what has caused the recurrence. We opened all the lockers, completely disconnected the propane and finally - many frayed nerves later - it stopped.

We have water coming in around our mast - not just a trickle, but enough that my bucket on the floor had about 3 inches in it at the end of the day. The butterfly windows in the cabin roof are leaking this year and our first fix doesn't seem to have worked. Then in La Have we discovered that there is a leak on the port side, probably along a chainplate that Jim already recaulked earlier in the spring, so that needs to be fixed. That affects one bookshelf and our linen locker. We have also been finding that we have a lot of condensation on the lower part of the boat because of the cold water and warmer air. That results in damp floors and walls of all the lockers at this level, and requires constant wiping, and bagging of absolutely everything in plastic. (I don't know what we ever did before zip lock bags!) Fortunately, I had bagged all my canned goods before we ever left Ontario, but I hadn't done clothes and tools and a thousand other things that are tucked away.

To top it all off, the weather that day was - in a word - yucky. It was cold and rainy, and the wind and waves weren't communicating well, resulting in a chop that was distinctly uncomfortable. This actually, was the first day I felt a little queasy the whole day long. Generally, it comes if I go down in the cabin but disappears quickly as soon as I go back outside.

So, you get the picture - cold, wet, sailors with niggly travel problems and a growing fix-it list. The glass was looking distinctly half empty!

We made our turn into Port Mouton, (pronounced Muhtoon) past White Point Lodge, which we couldn't see in the fog, and into Carters Beach. We could see four other sailboats there, all anchored just off a beautiful white sand beach, so we dropped the hook in 35 feet of water, put up our cockpit enclosure, and hurried below. I lit every beeswax candle we carry to dry things out a bit and create a cosy atmosphere; it wasn't really cold enough to require the propane fireplace. We changed out of damp clothes into warm wooly ones, downed a hot toddy and curled up with our books. A while later, I popped the cannelloni dish I had purchased from the bakery into the oven and put a salad together. We dined well and made an early night of it.

As often happens, it was a whole new day on Saturday! The fog was present early on, but burned off by noon to display a glorious beach, complete with dunes to climb. Jim rowed the dinghy ashore where we dug our toes into the warm white sand and strolled up and down the beach, splashing in the cold water. While this beach looks Caribbean, the aqua coloured water doesn't feel that way so splashing was enough!

It was time for another Madcap cockpit party, so in the evening, Neil and Lynn and Josh from Fiddlers Green III (and from Boston, England when they aren't sailing), Gary from Barefoot, and Mary and Blair from Strathspey all joined us for nibblies and drinks and great conversation.

Fiddlers Green left in the morning but we stayed here on Sunday since the weather report told of 25-knot winds out on the "big" water. Jim and I alternated boat jobs and phone calls with more exploration. We put the motor on and putputted over to Port Mouton Harbour where we tied up on a long tall lobstermen's dock. We climbed up the ladder, made our way down the dock, up a little lane to the main road and found a little store/restaurant/NSLC establishment. With ice creams in hand and milk in the backpack, we returned to the dinghy and then back along the shore to Madcap. After a bite of lunch we took off the motor again and rowed back to the beach. The dunes beckoned.

It was just so lovely. The sun was hot on our sunscreened bodies. The sand was warm; the water refreshing. The view from atop the dunes was simply superb. We climbed all over the rocks around the little island that is joined to the mainland at low tide, and chatted with some of the local folks who were enjoying the beach. Of the four boats here in this anchorage, we were the only ones who went ashore today to take advantage of this beautiful day in a beautiful area, so Jim and I are grateful that we each share a curiosity and readiness to explore each place we visit.

With this much-appreciated interlude behind us, we're off to Shelburne on Monday for our last Nova Scotia stop before we head across to Maine. Let's hope our mail reaches us here, the propane alarm takes a rest (we take propane safety seriously so all possible valves are turned off), the caulking cures, and the rest of the gremlins have gone elsewhere.

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29/08/2007/7:54 pm | nancy Simpson
I am following you every inch of the way! A few years ago Mona and I drove along the east coast and visited most of the harbours you have been to and I can picture where you are. I must say I do not envy those cold rainy days but oh my, the other wonderful experiences that you are having make me wish I was there. Some of the fancy technologies sound worse than a computer. I look forward to every entry. love from the mature lady Nancy
29/08/2007/7:54 pm | nancy Simpson
I am following you every inch of the way! A few years ago Mona and I drove along the east coast and visited most of the harbours you have been to and I can picture where you are. I must say I do not envy those cold rainy days but oh my, the other wonderful experiences that you are having make me wish I was there. Some of the fancy technologies sound worse than a computer. I look forward to every entry. love from the mature lady Nancy
A Little Gem
23/08/2007/2:57 pm, LaHave, Nova Scotia

After a quick dinghy ride ashore to make a posting on the web, we let go of our Lunenburg mooring ball and headed out of the harbour. The Bluenose II had gone out a bit earlier, followed by a big blue dragger. I was struck by the image of two fishing boats from different eras moored a wharf or two apart, and leaving the harbour at the same time. The working day for one crew, of course, would be filled with entertaining tourists, while for the other, the fish would be the prime concern. While I was sitting on a wharfside bench making my blog posting, Jim and I watched a couple of women, clutching the hands of little children, walk away from the wharf just after the fishing boat left. Were these the families of fishermen saying goodbye? I expect so - just as they have done for hundreds of years from this same waterfront.

We had heard that Strathspey was headed for Brooklyn (just across the Mersey River from Liverpool) that day so we reluctantly decided to bypass LaHave and hustle on to meet them. What a delight it was to get a call on the VHF radio, with new information that our buddies would stay at LaHave another night and we could connect with them there.

We cruised along into the river past Fort Point until we could see the big red building with LaHave Bakery and Outfitters painted on the end. Sure enough, there was Strathspey! Peter Brown, our genial host, came along with a warm welcome, and amid all our "hellos" and "good to see yous", Blair and Mary were just brimming over with "Ya gotta see this!" exclamations. This was our first opportunity to try our hand at tying up on a (non-floating) wharf in tidal waters, so we took some time to carefully tie our bow and stern lines, and then arrange spring lines so that as the tide rose and fell, we would too.

The LaHave Bakery, famous in these parts for breads, buns, and all things yeasty, operates from the basement of the building. Main floor front is the charming café where we could pick up these yummy items, and sit to enjoy them or take them away. Main floor back is a wonderful co-op art/craft store where I certainly wished I had money to spend and space to store things. The quality was superb. Also on main floor back is a boat maker's shop. Unfortunately I never did get in there since he was away, and returned only as we were leaving the next morning, but we heard from Blair and others that Kevin's craftsmanship is also superb. Upstairs is the laundry area, office space - for the bakery as well as a couple of lovely rooms available to rent for visiting business persons. (Hmm, my mind was racing a couple of years ahead - wouldn't this be a nice spot to do some work from sometime down the road...) The third floor houses the shop where a young entrepreneur designs and builds skateboards - and high quality ones they are too! This whole building hums with creativity and appreciation for beauty.

It took me most of the evening to do a much needed laundry job - we discovered that our towel/sheet locker had a leak so practically all the textiles on the boat had to be washed. In fact, the kind bakery people put my last load through the dryer in the middle of the night!

We could happily spend several days here, but unfortunately, we had to move on the very next day. There was a spell of rough weather coming and we wanted to be further along the southwestern shore before then.

Madcap will definitely be back here. This is one of those places where we feel a certainty that there are more conversations to be had, sticky buns to share, and exploring to do.

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Silver Linings
23/08/2007/7:11 am, Lunenburg

We had another in our series of engine "clouds" on Tuesday. Jim and I went ashore for an early morning walk, readied the boat for a sail to Lunenburg where we planned to meet Peggy and Glenn, our Halifax neighbours, and headed out of the harbour under cool, clear and windless skies.

Within ten minutes, that horrible old engine alarm started wailing. We last heard it in Riviere-au-Renard, Quebec and hoped never to hear it again!! Jim uttered a few mild curses, went below to see what was up, and after opening the engine compartment, increased the voltage on his language considerably. There was engine oil everywhere except where it should have been. We turned the engine off, turned the boat around and spent the next 40 minutes floating back to our mooring. With a few gentle nudges from the dinghy, Madcap sidled right up next to the ball and we were secure again.

It was really one of those excellent silver lining experiences. This could have happened when we were out on the ocean in rolling waves and strong winds. It could have happened when we were far from the services of a mechanic. It could have happened when we had no way to contact our friends and would have the added worry of leaving them wondering where we were. Instead, we were just a few minutes away from a dock. We were in a seaside town where a phone call confirmed that a well-regarded marine mechanic was on a job nearby and would stop in to troubleshoot the problem. We had a cell phone to call our friends and invite them to meet us in Mahone Bay instead of Lunenburg.

Jim cleaned up the worst of the oil spill and did some troubleshooting of his own. Peggy and Glenn arrived at noon and we had a fine lunch on board. We called an intermission before digging in to Peggy's delicious apple pie because Ken Knickle, the mechanic with a thousand stories arrived on the launch. (That was one of the perks of this marina - Mason offered launch service to and from the boats on moorings. Wifi and showers were also available.)

Ken confirmed that the problem was with a faulty oil filter installed in Halifax. He replaced it with a new one and had us all in stitches as he recounted some of his past escapades in the best tradition of Maritime storytellers. The fact that he knew Peggy's sister, and one of his stories involved a colourful judge whom Jim had appeared before during his years in Nova Scotia courtrooms, added to the head-shaking synchronicity of the day. The problem got fixed and Jim's engine maintenance skills have increased; we had an extra day in this lovely town, a fabulous visit with friends, and another story of our own!

On Wednesday morning we headed out once more for Lunenburg - successfully this time. The wind didn't pick up till we got here so we motored all the way. We discovered the perils of housekeeping while underway and the value of keeping a written record of course changes. As I finished doing up the breakfast dishes, I noticed that the wall around the bank of switches near the galley was grimy and decided to wipe it clean. Unfortunately I flipped the house battery switch, momentarily knocking out all our instruments. We were in a narrow passage at the time and it was due to Jim's quick grasp of what had happened and what to do that we came through without any trouble. The switch got flipped on again, the logbook was consulted, and we got back on course. Whew!

The view of Lunenburg as we rounded Battery Point was picture perfect. Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and remains a working town. It was settled by German, Swiss and French colonists in the mid 1700's, and the architecture of the town reflects that heritage. The houses are colourful, the waterfront busy - and not just with touristy things. There are draggers and trawlers, dry-docks and warehouses, sail lofts and a foundry. We were delighted to see that Bluenose II was here, and so was the Picton Castle. Visitors were moving on and off the Bluenose II, and I took a picture of a fellow working high in the rigging of the Picton Castle. I visited the Fisheries Museum while Jim visited marine stores. We ate a fabulous lunch at Magnolia's Grill - justly famous seafood chowder, chicken satays, spinach salad - and picked up Lunenburg sausage and Tancook Island sauerkraut for dinner on board. "Some good!"

We're off on Thursday to LaHave and hope to catch up with Strathspey before too long. They have been a couple of days ahead of us and we haven't seen them for over a week. Jim and Blair sometimes make a connection on single side band radio, so we keep in touch, and we are all looking forward to sharing an anchorage one day soon. Oh - the stories we will each have to share!

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24/08/2007/9:10 am | Nancy Simpson
Beth, so much for trying to keep too clean.
27/08/2007/3:34 pm | Brian Caughey
Too bad I missed you at La Have. I was there on the land for a week until the 18th of August doing dry land things. I had been looking around in Lunenberg and elsewhere just in case I spotted Madcap or Strathspey. Oh well. sound like you are having a real voyage!
I'm back in Ottawa now. Take care

Brian Caughey

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