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Madcap Sailing
Mother Nature Plays Games
Beth - 17 and overcast mornings, 23 and sunny afternoons
04/08/2008/10:56 am, Camden, Maine

We started off under overcast skies - headed for Camden. That's where we ended up but only after a whole range of weather conditions.

A short but intense electrical storm caused our hearts to skip a beat or two. We had seen the glowering clouds build up behind us and move ever closer so we pulled the mainsail down and put the insert in our cockpit "roof". The rain really pelted us for a bit and the wind picked up to 20 knots but it was the simultaneous lightning flash and thunder roar that startled us. Within 15 minutes, it was all over and the sun started peeking through the clouds. Some fog drifted in, lifted and moved off; then the rain came again and by the time we reached Camden it was a perfectly lovely afternoon. We asked if they'd had the storm, and they certainly did. It damaged the chimney on a big apartment complex and hit the very tall mast of a boat at the dock. We're not sure what damage was done - the boat looked good from the outside, and there was a blue tarp over the chimney on the building.

As we experienced the weather show, we wound our way through the narrow little passage under Thompson and Hupper Islands, by Mosquito Ledge and Mosquito Island Island - between shoals and ledges and points of land. We motored through Muscle Ridge Channel and into Penobscot Bay with a dozen other boats coming and going in both directions.

Last fall we stayed on a mooring ball owned by Wayfarer Marine but they were full this time and suggested we call Willey's Wharf. Fortunately they had a ball available so we tied up just inside the outer harbour. There is also room to anchor outside the mooring field.

This is such a pretty town - great stores to wander through - looking at books and fine art and pretty things -parks to sit in and look out over the harbour. I could happily stay another day but those "one more days" are catching up with us.

We revised our plan to cross to Nova Scotia because it looked like there would be a weather window on Tuesday. We planned to go from here to Long Island - probably to Frenchboro harbour where there is wifi - and then leave from there in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning for our 100 nautical mile crossing, arriving in Yarmouth sometime in the evening.

When we looked at the Environment Canada weather site this morning, however, we revised the plan once more. All that red area (strong wind warning) in the picture is a no go zone for us. We are now thinking of a Tuesday night crossing, arriving on Wednesday afternoon in order to make use of the flood tide. We must keep in mind the effect of currents as we cross the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. Every 12 hours and 25 minutes, water equal to the flow of 2000 St. Lawrence Rivers rushes into the Bay of Fundy!! That is a whole lot of water.

This is all subject to change again, of course. We don't want to do it in dead calm so we have to motor all the way; we don't want to do it in 25 knot winds or wind right behind us or wind "sur le nez"; we don't want to do the whole thing in dense fog. Aren't we getting picky?!

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Amidst the Pots
Beth - overcast, low 20's
02/08/2008/8:46 am, Harbor Island, Maine

Keeping to our recent pattern, we traveled for less than 3 hours on Saturday from Linekin Bay to wide and rock strewn Muscongus Bay.

We woke up to overcast but not foggy skies, and after a pleasant chat with the folks on Starfire - from Victoria BC - we headed on our way. In that conversation, we learned a thing or two about our GPS experience yesterday. They had heard a notice that the signal would be scrambled for parts of the day. Jim knew that George W. was supposed to be in the Kennebunkport area and that explained it all. Today, we heard an announcement that there will be interference later in the week too.

Our visibility was about a mile as we motored along, bare poled, into the 10 knot wind.
Harbour Island had been recommended by a couple of different boats, as well as receiving a nice review in the Tafts' Maine Guidebook; the forecast was for dense fog and chance of thundershowers later in the day, so we ducked into Muscongus Bay and anchored amidst the lobster buoys in the little harbour between Harbor and Hall Islands. (I figure I can spell the general word the Canadian way, but the name of the place is the way it's written on the chart.) Ospreys chirped loudly from the trees and black guillemots swam by our boat. They're pretty little black and white birds.

It is no small feat to weave a path through the hundreds of colourful buoys here, find a spot between the rocks and shoal areas, let out enough rode to be safe and yet still have swing room. We're anchored in 38 ft of water and Jim put out more rode than ever before. Backing down on it meant watching backward to make sure we didn't run over any of the pesky things. Further south on the coast, the watermen use a singly buoy system. There are several on a long string, but each one goes straight down. We're now into the area where they often use a double floater system. It's easy to see the larger float with a pointer on top, but it is connected to a smaller ball with the line connecting them just a foot or so under the water. One does not want to go between the two!

The owners of Harbor Island graciously welcome visitors to explore the trails and beaches so that's what we did. At low tide, we could see and walk on clear evidence of the enormous power of the earth. Layers of sedimentary rock were formed flat and then pushed up at a 90-degree angle as the plates shifted millions of years ago. I kept thinking of the difference between this pleasant day as we picked our way along the very edges of these rocks and the kind of force needed to make them look this way. In other places large boulders (I can't tell you what kind of rock) looked like they were dropped in place by giant hands as glaciers receded.

We got our own hands dirty as we plucked mussels from the rocks and mud at the low tide line. Jim did true hunter/gatherer service as he sat up on the bowsprit and scrubbed them all and then acted as taster. I steamed a handful of them and he ate 4 to make sure they were safe to eat. When he showed no signs of an attack to his nervous system, I steamed the rest of them and we had ourselves a feast.

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Motoring in a Fog
Beth - in the fog
01/08/2008/10:10 pm, Lewis Cove, Linekin Bay, Maine

We have had two foggy days, cool weather and no wind.

By the time I finished up writing and posting blogs in Robinhood's lovely library on Thursday, the weather had closed in and we decided that rather than try to go somewhere else, we'd just anchor a couple of hundred metres further into the cove. Our plan had been to leave on the ebb current but the fog and rain moved in for the afternoon and evening, so we put up the cockpit enclosure and settled in to wait.

This fishing boat came around checking traps. As usual in Maine, the traps are everywhere - in among mooring balls, in channels, close to the banks and out in the middle of the wide rivers. Ospreys chirped and called, a seal kept popping his head out of the water near the boat, and the ever-present seagulls swooped and screeched around the lobster boats. Riggs Cove is heavily wooded with a few houses and boatsheds nestled on the banks, and it was a very pleasant place to be - even if it didn't get us any further along on our journey. Or maybe it did after all, for the journey is not just about distance.

On Friday morning, we thought we might get an early start but when Jim looked out at 7 he saw pea soup fog and it stayed that way till noon hour. As it cleared away, we got ourselves ready to do the same thing. Unfortunately it was a short-lived clearing, and by the time we reached the narrowest part of Goose Rock Passage, the fog descended again. Interestingly, we could see the mast of an approaching sailboat long before the rest of it came into view - when it was about 40 feet away. As we slipped by each other, Jim asked how the fog was outside and got the reply that over in Boothbay Harbour it was fine.

We edged our way out into the wider Sheepscot River, intending to take the Townsend Gut route, but the fog was still thick and then, to complicate matters further, our GPS went out.

I've said before that I couldn't sail without the GPS but that's not true. I can - we both can - but it sure is harder. It was an odd thing; it would flick on for a second or two and then go out again. Our handheld showed a fix more often than the primary one, but it too kept losing the fix. Of course it was foggy too, so we worked with the radar, the paper charts, and our eyes as much as we could. Back when this happened in New York, we were going down a well-marked channel so we just made visual sightings of the buoys and kept on going. This was much harder because there were infrequent buoys to sight.

Jim got a fix using the handheld every 15 minutes and plotted them on the chart while I stayed on the wheel. We quickly discarded the idea of the Gut route and went straight down the Sheepscot River, dodging lobster pots of course and keeping our eyes out for radar blobs that turned into boats. Visibility was about 1/8 of a mile.

Multitasking skills come in handy on a boat - look for boats and navigational aids - check the radar to see what is where - check the compass - are we still on course or has the current pulled us sideways? - look for and swerve around lobster pots - compare the radar chart to the paper chart - look for buoys ... and on and on. It was satisfying to meet the challenge. It's curious about that GPS though - was it the fog? Was it the US Military playing games? It's a good reminder to never take it for granted.

Once we turned to port around The Cuckolds (I wonder how those rocks got that name!) at the bottom of Southport Island, and it was still very foggy, we decided to abandon our goal of Harbour Island in Muscongus Bay and head into Linekin Bay, where we knew there was an easy-to-enter anchorage at Lewis Cove. Wouldn't you know - the fog lifted as we went up the river and by the time we stopped, the sun was out and - get this - the GPS fix appeared and stayed on! By that time, however, it was after 3 o'clock and the forecast called for dense fog again in the evening. We decided not to push our luck so we stayed put.

I made a pot of chili and baked cornbread (Johnny Cake), the fog hovered around the edges of the bay and we settled in with books for another cool evening. It's been a long time since I made chili - a cold weather dish for us. However, the meal brought back memories of the sunny Bahamas. The last time we ate chili was at the Marsh Harbour Yacht Club chili cook-off, and Johnny Cake can be found all through the Bahamas - a legacy of the Loyalists, I wonder?

I finished reading a book I bought on Seguin Island - The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife - by Connie Scoville Small. It's a most interesting read about both her experiences as a keeper's wife (and co-keeper) and her views of her role in the marriage and the work. She and her husband, Elson, lived at four different lights, including Seguin, from around 1920 until 1947. After his death in 1960, she went to work as a head resident at University of Maine at Farmington, and when she retired from that, she spent eight years working in a store. She first published this autobiography in 1986 when she was 85!

We got a call from Mary (Strathspey) this afternoon, wanting the Nexus phone number. They wanted to use it to clear into the US in New York where they were cruising with Trident Yacht Club. We provided the number and she text messaged us to say it worked. Yeah - because this joint Canada-US program has finally been recognized by someone (whenever we mentioned it to Customs and Immigration people on this trip, we got a vague reply that "Oh, I think I've heard of it but we don't use it here.") and yeah again because cruisers help each other even when they are miles and miles apart.

An e-mail arrived from Nancy (Solitaire) with a great new (to me anyway) term: CLOD - Cruisers Living on Dirt. I guess that will be us soon enough!

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02/08/2008/5:10 pm | Jeannie and Jim Lea
Hi Just read your blog about the foggy weather. We have enjoyed cruising up the rivers to get out of the fog, both the Sheepscot and the Damariscotta.
We won't be down this summer; our departure date from Maine is around the weekend of the September 14th .Any idea where you will leave your boat this winter?
Jim and Jeannie
03/08/2008/12:32 pm | M&B (Strathspey)
Yes, it worked and would have saved us a trip into Cape Vincent to check into the US, EXCEPT..... when we reached the channel leading from the St Lawrence River out to Lake Ontario, the wind was that old "sur le nez" nonsense with accompanying waves so we turned left into Cape Vincent harbour around 5 pm. Good luck with your GPS and safe sail across to Canada my friends.

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