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Madcap Sailing
Slow Motor Boat with Tall Stick on Top
16/08/2008/9:55 am, Port Mouton, NS

Honest to goodness, we have motored far more than we have sailed lately, and I am sick of listening to the sound of that engine.

We paid attention to the current (in the right place) and timed our departure from Cape Negro Island for 2 hours before high tide in Saint John, when there would be no current against us. It worked, but there was also no wind so with our mainsail up just for looks we motored along. The weather forecast called for SW 20 with gusts to 25, and seas between 1 and 2 metres, dropping to less than 1. We planned alternate places to pull in if it was just too rough out there. Well, I don't know where the forecasters live, but it wasn't around here!

We motored in very light wind for 7 hours under overcast skies and occasional showers. I knit, Jim edited his waypoints list and customized a page or two on the chartplotter; we read books and watched the horizon for signs of other travelers. A seal popped up here and there to have a look at us, but those were pretty empty waters.

Last year we came upon Carters Beach at Port Mouton in the fog and rain. This time it was minus the fog. It is a beautiful spot with beaches for walking, hills for climbing and rocks for scrambling over. We anchored really close to the shore and still had 25 feet of water below us. We saw a couple of trawlers anchored nearby, but by the time one of them cruised by and I realized it was Brown Eyed Girl, it was too late to say hello to Ken and Sherrie whom we'd met in Shelburne last year.

The thunder cracked, lightning flashed and rain beat down for several hours during the night, but the sea was calm. This was a quick stopover and we'll have to return to roam the shores. (How many times have I said those words on this trip?) We shall return!

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Out in the Fog
15/08/2008/9:51 am, Cape Negro Island (near Shelburne, NS)

After a fine road trip Jim and I returned to fog in Yarmouth. We debated leaving on Thursday, but since the forecast looked better for Friday, we waited one more day.

As days do, that one went by in an assortment of activities. Jim returned the rental car and purchased a can of gas for the generator. I did some cleaning up and sorting of "stuff' in the cabin, including digging out our down comforter that had been stowed away in a vacuum bag since sometime last fall.

While Jim planned routes, I visited the W.Laurence Sweeney Museum where I spent an enjoyable hour browsing through the simulation of ships stores, waterfront buildings and 1/3 scale fishing boat that would have been a common sight on the Yarmouth waterfront 75 years ago. The Sweeney boats travelled from Hudson Bay as far south as Venezuela, loading and unloading cargo at ports all along the way.

When we asked Paul, the ever-helpful wharfinger at the town-operated Killam Wharf, about buying lobster, he kindly found a source, a good price and even went to pick them up for us. We steamed a few for immediate pleasure, and enjoyed the last two in a curry dish later on.

In the evening, we walked the streets, gazing at the lovely old houses with gingerbread trim and porches and with widows' walks at the top. Those small railed or fully enclosed rectangles at the very tops of the houses are so named for the women who looked out across the water for their menfolk who earned their living on the sea. Their sad name is a reminder that it was a perilous living and many a man sailed off never to return. Christine told us that the beautifully restored house pictured here was built with brick brought back as ballast in one of the sailing ships that traveled up and down the eastern seaboard.

Yarmouth seemed to us to be a contradictory town. In its heyday, the families here had either traveled the world themselves or knew folks who had. Their horizon was much farther away than it appears to be now. Much attention has been given to the waterfront. It is attractive and pleasure boat friendly as well as remaining a working waterfront for the many fishing boats that call this their homeport. There are several fine museums, a branch of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, a couple of pretty and well cared for parks and the area of lovely historic houses. Killam Wharf has laundry and showers. Rudder's, next door serves delicious food and has live music 3 nights a week. Several galleries and quality gift shops are nearby. A block up from the waterfront however is a main street that has seen better days and Paul talked about the need to keep the washrooms locked in order to keep them clean and in good repair. The airport is closed to commercial traffic, the trains don't run anymore and even the regular bus service has been discontinued. And then there is the fog. There is a good chance that one will have to travel in or out of there (or both) in the fog.

And so it was that we fired up the radar and departed on Friday morning in pea soup fog. Were we glad we stopped in Yarmouth? You bet! Was it time to move on again? You bet!

We motored in fog so thick that our visibility was about 0.080 nautical miles all day and depended on the radar to let us know what was "out there". This was the first time our timing with regard to tides and current went seriously wrong, so we motored for a very long day.

We made the mistake of planning to leave Yarmouth on an ebb tide. It sounded sensible, but it put us at Cape Sable Island while the current was flowing strongly against us. With 20-20 hindsight, we would have been much wiser if we had planned to be at Cape Sable at slack tide or on a favourable current and then backtracked to see what time we needed to leave Yarmouth, whatever the tide condition in that harbour.

The Atlas of Currents and Tides for the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine has excellent graphics, and sure enough, as our speed dropped and dropped to less than 2 knots, we looked up the graph and there it was. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. At least there was nothing dangerous about it - although those eddies and rip tides were amazing to travel through. The wind was less than 10 knots and on the nose until we were finally able to turn far enough around the corner of the province to put out our yankee. That, along with the engine, picked us up to all of 4 knots and so we slogged along until eventually the current slacked and then turned, finally giving us a boost.

We abandoned out plan to go up the long harbour to Shelburne Yacht Club where we had such a pleasant stay last summer, and opted for an anchorage closer to the coastline.

It was 10 o'clock before we saw the buoy off Cape Negro Island, and we crept in between the flashing green and red lights to drop our anchor in the lee of the island. In a way it was fitting. This was the departure point for our trip across the Gulf of Maine on August 26, 2007. We had spent the evening in Shelburne, leaving in the wee small hours of the morning to rendezvous with Strathspey at this point. We hovered off shore while we watched their navigation lights move out from behind the island to join us as we headed off to the USA and points south. Almost a year later, we were back - and in the dark again!

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A Perfect Welcome Home
Beth - 16 C mornings, warmer afternoons
11/08/2008/6:06 am, Yarmouth, NS, Canada

A couple of things made the last few days interesting.

I'm sure we've all experienced the "Do you know...?" question that comes along so often when people travel to other places. Like - Oh you're from Ottawa - do you know my cousin in Vancouver? We generally laugh it off - Canada is a big country, but it seemed pretty small on Wednesday afternoon.

Jim and I grew up and worked in Nova Scotia (with rare Yarmouth visits) until 1991 - 17 years ago, when we moved to British Columbia. We sailed away from Canada last August - almost a year ago. Yet when we pulled into Yarmouth Harbour and picked up a mooring ball, Jim spied a name on it and said, "Oh - I know that guy!" Small world!

On Thursday, we got well and truly welcomed back into the fold by long time friends of the Bissell family. Bill and Frances and son-in-law, Arthur, picked us up and drove to Lake Annis - the Crowell family neighbourhood - where we spent 3 most wonderful days. Jim's mother and Frances were kindred spirits from girlhood until Mary Ellen passed on several years ago, and although we kept in touch over the years, we hadn't seen a lot of them. We sure made up for it this trip, spending family time with them, their daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren and cousins and assorted extended family members. It was like a great big Nova Scotian embrace.

We dined well on delicious gingerbread cookies and roast beef and BBQ fare and a fabulous new dessert - Blueberry Bangbelly! It's an old New Brunswick recipe for blueberry cake that Frances has been making for years; lacking any other reason for the name, we decided it must be because we felt like giving a good belly smack and saying' "MMMmmm" after a piece of it. We slept soundly (at Christine and Art's pretty summer abode) walked the gravel roads and leafy trails, jumped every time the resident wild turkey decided to announce his presence, poked our toes in the lake but declined to immerse our whole selves. We cheered the Crowell family canoeists as they raced around the lake, picking up clues in the annual orienteering canoe challenge. We applauded Patrick and Christine's awards in the flower contest and wished them all well in the upcoming photo contest.

We joined Christine and Art on a tour of the impressive Yarmouth County museum, including a retrospective show of Bill's paintings, and I curled up with a copy of his newly published book "The Artist and the Colonel" - about Mabel Killam Day (painter) and Frank Parker Day (author of Rockbound) both of whom lived "just up the road".

Jim and I were most impressed with the sense of community in this little place, a half hour from Yarmouth, where 5th and 6th generation families gather together to play and share with each other, and to enjoy and assist one another. Even though miles separate them during parts of the year, the summer visits and the strong emotional bonds keep them well connected all the time. They are fine role models for us in Canada, as we remember the strong sense of family we found and admired in the Bahamas.

We returned to Madcap on Saturday, and once back in Yarmouth, we enjoyed a couple of meals at Rudder's in the big yellow building on the waterfront, one of them with my cousin, Marilyn, and her grandson Ryan. It was a treat to see them and to spend some time reconnecting and filling in gaps in our family stories.

Yarmouth is a good stop for cruisers bound to or from Maine, as well as those who ply the Bay of Fundy waters between here and Saint John, NB. Genial and helpful Paul keeps a close eye on things at Killam Wharf. There are several mooring balls in the harbour, and while the present dock space is limited, new ones are almost ready for those who like to be tied to a dock. Both Men's and Women's washrooms are clean and equipped with showers and a washer and dryer.

We decided to leave Madcap here for a few more days and travel by car to Amherst to visit my dad and meet up with our son, Liam, who drove down from Ottawa. While we're there, we'll fit in a quick visit with Mary Beth and with Jim's sister, Mary Jean and family.

Now that we're here in Nova Scotia, we're feeling not so much despondency that our 16-month sailing adventure is winding down, but a sense of coming back around the circle. We all know that circles don't end - they keep going around or spiraling off in new directions. That's a good feeling.

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16/08/2008/11:14 am | bARbara Roberts
I am glad you are back in Canada..but, had hoped to meet you last Spring. Don't you just love eh Dismal Swamp! and yes, the greeters center is wonderful..I spent a few hours in the bathrooms getting cool as it was about 100 F when we went through last May. Sorry you did not get to stay in Elizabeth City..we enjoyed staying at the Pelican Marina where it seemed everyone but us was a transient ! At the present time..the boat is in Washington, NC while we go to Bermuda ( my husbands country) we will go back to that terrible McCotter's Marina in mid September..I do NOT suggest that anyone stay is hot..the heads are old and dirty..the place is full of spiders..the town and people are very nice..but, hot and dying away !
We will be heading down the ICW in the Fall and I hope my husband gets to the Bahamas this Winter. I have enjoyed reading your journal and thank you for the many "head ups" you have given us !!!!!

Have a great Winter and happy..

Barbara and

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