30/08/2007/8:48 am, Northeast harbour, Maine
I wish to report the successful crossing of the Gulf of Maine and safe arrival in Northeast Harbour of the sailing vessel, Madcap.
On Tuesday evening, Strathspey and Barefoot left Shelburne to go out the harbour and anchor at Cape Negro, while we opted to stay in Shelburne to glean some local knowledge from some folks who have done the crossing several times. That meant a verrrry early start of 3am for us to meet up with them in Cape Negro at the agreed upon time of 6am Wednesday, but we were up for it - literally and figuratively!
The moon was bright, the air still, the water like glass as we quietly dropped our mooring line and turned Madcap's bow toward the mouth of Shelburne harbour. As we passed Charlotte and Leroy's house I waved our big spotlight in an arc to offer a silent farewell and thank you for their hospitality. Three hours later, we saw Strathspey and Barefoot moving out from their anchorage, and for the next several hours the three boats moved along within sight of each other. The rising sun cast a rosy hue over the water as it swirled around us. Then the fog moved in, and for much of the day we motor-cruised along with the sun shining over our heads and grey mist all around us, seeing the other boats only as blobs on the radar. Barefoot eventually peeled off to take another course for a destination further down the Maine coast. Strathspey generally travels faster than we do so they moved off in the distance ahead of us.
When the fog lifted, we caught sight of an occasional seal spy-hopping to take a look at us; a couple of whales surfaced and dove gently, and a group of porpoises (or dolphins?) cruised by. I had our bird book open in the cockpit for much of the time, trying to identify the birds we saw. I'm pretty sure some of them were Wilson's Storm Petrels - black with white bands across their tails - and some were Greater and Sooty Shearwaters. There were of course, the graceful terns and ever present gulls, and also small black birds that I still haven't identified darting in close to the boat and then swirling away. I'll have to consult with my bird expert brother-in-law! Apart from a few fishing boats early in the day, we saw no other vessels out there until we got close to the Maine coast.
Jim and I take roughly two-hour watches during the night. During daylight hours we are often both awake, but one person is at the helm and, if we are not sailing, the other gets to relax or do other chores. At night, we have learned to be really good nappers. We can both fall asleep almost instantly and then wake up in reasonably good shape to go back on watch. During one of my off-watch periods in the morning, I made a big pot of chicken soup and a pan of cornbread. The smells drifting up through the companionway apparently helped Jim perk up during a sleepy stretch, and there is nothing better than chicken soup on a cool day.
The temperature was quite comfortable during the day, but at night it was downright cold! I had layers of fleece on under my foulweather pants and jacket, two pairs of socks, wool cap and gloves. And I still wrapped myself up in the quilt my Healing Pathway friends in Ottawa gave me before I left.
We could feel the effect of the famous Bay of Fundy tide as it pulled us one way and then the other over the course of the trip. At tide changes, the water would get choppier and from time to time we'd see our knotmeter register a boost of speed as the tide helped us along, or a drop in speed as we moved against it. We thought we might notice a more dramatic difference but it didn't happen. The wind didn't rise past 10 knots so unfortunately we weren't able to truly sail even a tiny bit of the trip. We filled up with diesel in Shelburne, and set our engine to 2600 rpms for the first part of the trip - a setting that allowed reasonable speed and good fuel efficiency.
In hindsight, we'd have taken a more careful look at exactly what the time frame could be for the crossing. We were working on a rough figure of 30 hours, and wanted to arrive in daylight. The 6am start from Cape Negro was too early but by the time we figured that out, it was too late to change the prearranged plan. As it turned out, we kept dropping our speed back during the night so as not to arrive off the coast before daylight and we still encountered our first lobster pots before the sun was up. By the time that happened, our rpms were down to 2100 and we were trying not to make more than 4 or 5 knots an hour - a very odd feeling since we are usually trying to get the most speed we can.
And now for the lobster buoy part of this narrative! I don't think there is any way to truly know what the Maine lobster buoy picture is without seeing it with your own eyes. The closest description came from a friend of Mary's who likened it to a great scattering of smarties all over the water. For the first while, we encountered them in singles and duos - in the fog - and swerved our way around them. Madcap has a full keel with no protruding parts that are liable to catch, and we read extensively on the best methods to avoid getting a line wrapped around our prop, so we weren't terribly worried, but were determined to proceed cautiously. We wanted our super sharp knife, and wetsuit for the unfortunate person who might need to dive down to untangle a line to stay tucked away in a locker!
We took turns at the wheel and keeping a lookout on the bow, and soon got into the rhythm of it. I felt a bit like I did when I used to play with the children's Nintendo game after they went to bed - go this way, that way, around this corner, back on the track again. Thank goodness for the chartplotter and compass, because all this swerving around in the fog can get disorienting very quickly. We had to rely on the instruments to keep us moving toward our destination. Whenever we'd have a near miss, we'd put the engine in neutral so the propeller wasn't turning, and with our foresail picking up the little bit of breeze, we would slip on by.
Once we got close to the channel past the Cranberry Islands and along Mount Desert (pronounced like dessert) Island, the fog lifted to show us the most amazing sight of hundreds and hundreds of candy coloured buoys scattered all over the bay. These were in lines, but the lines crisscrossed in every direction. I have never seen anything remotely like it, and we were too busy weaving through them to take pictures. Because the water was flat calm and the sun picked up the colours, they were clearly visible and making progress was just a matter of looking for pathways and taking a zigzag trip along them. Soon enough, we came to the entrance of Northeast Harbour, turned in and wiggled some more along through lobster bouys and mooring balls. By the time we located one and hooked the line over a cleat, the fog had dropped again. We had a perfect little window to do this last bit. How lucky is that?
Jim had called the 1-800 number for Customs as we came in and received word that an officer would meet us on the dock. We had thought that perhaps our Nexus passes would allow us to do it all over the phone, but that wasn't the case. We dinghied in to register with the harbourmaster and just as we finished that, Officer Hutchins came along, climbed into our dinghy and came out to the boat to do the paperwork. It was straightforward and pleasant. We had our cruising permit already so he just copied down the information and welcomed us to the USA. Blair came by to take him go over to Strathspey, and we laid our weary bodies down for a few hours of sleep. It was a good trip, and a good beginning to this next stage of our journey.
28/08/2007/9:11 pm, Shelburne, NS
Friendly Folks, Aug 28,#29
We had an uneventful motorsail to Shelburne! No alarms, no excessive leaks, nothing to grumble about at all. We even made better time than we had predicted because we found a few shortcuts in the route.
Shelburne is a long harbour - in fact, the woman at the Post Office told us it is the seventh largest harbour in the world and the third naturally deepest one. The waterfront is a just lovely, with many restored buildings and beautiful houses - the kind with window boxes and lace curtains and comfortable chairs on porches.
The most attractive thing about this town, however, is the people. When we checked in at the Shelburne Harbour Yacht Club, Sue welcomed us and gave us a two-page packet of local information and maps. She looked up phone numbers for us, showed us around and then when we said we'd go up to the lounge for a beer, she sprinted up the stairs to do double duty as bar tender!
My friend, Eileen, in Halifax had told me to be sure to call Charlotte and Leroy when we got here so I called and left a message. The return call said "Hi - we'll be there in 20 minutes to pick you up!" So we hastily cleaned ourselves up, dinghied in to the wharf and were whisked away to their magnificent waterfront home for an evening of fine hospitality.
The next morning, we visited the All 4 One Graphics Shop where Sam and Carolyn happily agreed to print up some new boat cards for us - with no fuss about the layout or my need to have them later that same day (I had encountered these difficulties in Halifax and left there without cards). We went to the post office where the friendly woman said "Oh yes, I recognize your name. That parcel came in this morning." and gave us not only our mail (Thank you Canada Post!) but a warm welcome and some local information. We went to the hardware store where the gentleman told us which store to visit to find the particular light bulb we needed. As we walked down the street, Charlotte drove by, said she was on her way to the grocery store and did I want to come?
In the evening, we dined at the yacht club and chatted with Ken and Sherrie, gleaning nuggets of information for our travels south. It was a lively place as visitors and members gathered to watch the small-boat race and catch up on the news.
On Wednesday morning, we'll say good-bye to this place where people make eye contact and say hello, where we have only to put a toe over the edge of the sidewalk as if to cross the street and cars stop to let us walk across, where conversation is valued and errands take time because it is not just about the errand - it is about the exchange of goods and energy between people.
We head off now, to continue on with the next stage of our trip. Some 30 hours after departure, we'll make landfall at Northeast Harbour and start our "Lobster Buoy Adventure". Even if it takes a while to see a new blog posting, you'll be able to see where we are by clicking on the "winlink postion" in the sidebar of our site. Then click on Hybrid up in the corner for a google earth picture of us. That usually goes through pretty well on SSB and is as current as we can make it. The weather window is good, several boats are traveling together, and we'll be singing "Farewell to Nova Scotia" and "Until we meet again" as we travel.
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.