One of our shakedown cruises was to travel to a small piece of Quebec that is nestled right smack in the middle of the Gulf of St Lawrence between PEI, Cape Breton and Anticosti Island. It's called Les Isles de la Medeline, or the "Maggies".
For the first part of the trip we had extra crew in the persons of Pat, an old friend that I had served with in Montreal, and his wife Katie. We were also sailing in the company of another boat, a Tanser 7.6 called NOONAN KNIGHT that was crewed by some good friends, the husband and wife team, Pat and Lisa Noonan.
We set off in relatively calm seas under an overcast sky. The forecast was for fair winds and following seas so we set off full of optomism and high spirits. Of course, within a hour of leaving the harbour mouth, the weather deteriorated to 15 knots on the nose, 2-3 metre seas, and 10 metre vis in fog. Almost immediately lost visual contact with NOONAN KNIGHT but were tracking each other by radar, or rather we were tracking. Their's, being a smaller boat, often had the radar below the wave height so they quickly lost sight of us. We were able to follow them though and fed them continuous radio reports as to where they were in relation to us.
Our original intent had been to head straight to Liscomb Lodge, about halfway up the Eastern Shore of the province as our first stop, but with the bad weather and the fact that some of the crew was getting sea sick, we elected to put into Wolf Island, one of our favourate stopping spots.
Long Creek was dead calm and we went ashore for an explore and to walk Periwinkle. NOONAN KNIGHT came alongside and we had the first BBQ and party of the trip.
Next day we set off again, this time for Liscomb. The weather wasn't too much better but I handed out Bonamine pills and everyone kept their breakfasts down.
Shortly after leaving Wolf Island we lost touch with NOONAN KNIGHT. We tried to radio them to stay in Long Creek and wait for better weather be got no response. Assuming they heard us but we couldn't hear them, we continued on to Liscomb planning to wait for them the next day.
We arrived in mid afternoon and the sky cleared to allow us a beautiful run up the bay and the river to the lodge. The small dock was full as were all the moorings so we anchored at the mouth of the river and went in for a swim in the pool and a wallow in the hot tub. We even took the Zodiac up the river to try some fishing - no luck. In fact I lost one of my favourite lures in the current amidst some rocks. Later we went in for a meal at the lodge restauraunt. That's one of the really nice things about the lodge - they don't mind if you use the lodge facilities even if you anchor out, assuming, of course, that you'll come in for a meal or two.
We were just finishing an excellent meal and were getting into desert, liquors and coffee when one of the marina staff came up and asked us if we know of a boat called NOONAN KNIGHT. Hearts in our throats we stared at each other fearing the worst. He then let us know that they had just arrived at the lodge with engine problems and were wondering where we were. In a boat half the size of NELLEKE they had sailed through some awful conditions only to have their motor konk out when they needed it to motor up the river to the lodge. The least we could do was to buy them some dinner to take out from the restauraunt.
We stayed in Liscomb for a couple of days until the weather cleared and then said good-bye to NOONAN KNIGHT and her crew as they were styaing in the harbour to visit friends. We set off for Port Hawksbury where we arrived at midnight and tied up at the face of the Strait of Canso Yacht Club's dock. From Canso across the Straits of Canso at least we got some good weather so that our friends could see why we enjoy cruising so much. Up until that point it had been fog, waves, and sea sickness. Not much fun.
Next day we followed a tug towing a barge of gravel through the Canso Lock and made course for the Maggies. A pod of Minke whales escorted us from the north end of the lock for about five miles. This almost made the previous 3 days of fog and waves worth while for our crew.
Since our friends had a flight back to Ontario to catch the morning after next, we decided to push right through to the islands so they'd have at least one day to visit. This made for quite an adventure as it turned out that the buoyage on the water did not reflect exactly what we had on the charts and we wound up running aground twice on the way in to the marina. Fortunately the bottom was soft so we could back off and no damage was done. The next day when we saw the very narrow passage that we came through in the dark to get into the harbour....well, lets just say we were lucky.
The next day Pat and Katie rented a car and we made like speed tourists to see as much of the island as we could. The "Maggies" are a beautiful place and deserve better but that was all the time that they had. The following morning amid sad and regretful faces they drove of to the airport to begin their trip home. We, on the other hand, spent the following five days beachcombing and visiting museums and aquariums. People in the islands are wonderful to visitors. Most are locals or locals who have traveled away to Montreal or Quebec for employment, but they all come home to the Maggies for their vacations inthe summertime.
Many of the old fisheman's cottages along the beach have been converted to artisan's stores. You can buy everything from varvings to jewlery to home made soap. There is one that is left as it was for visitors to get an idea of what life had been like in the earlier days, with the accomadations on the top floor and the salting tanks at ground level. In still other cases people have bought them for cottages and made the comfort conversions. We met one couple that invited us upstairs where they were entertaining some friends. Everyone seemed to play one musical instrument or another and we had an Acaedien Ceilih. Great fun. Wonderful time. Great hospitality.
At the end of our visit we left to return to Halifax by way of Cheticamp on the west coast of Cape Breton Island. This is a place that seems to be little used by the cruising public. There is a very nice town dock that we couldn't find anyone who could tell us if there was a fee for tying up to. There was even an electrical outlet to plug into and a water tap. There were a couple of reasonable restauraunts, a grocery, a hardware, and drug store all within brief walking distance. Not sure why we were the only boat alongside for the couple of days that we weree there.
We left Cheticamp and headed through the Causway and made for the town of Canso accross tha Strait. Canso is one of our favourite spots to stop, mostly because there is a well equiped marina but also because of the local hospitality. At one of our first visits we learned that when the crab boats were in, for the price of a case of beer you could get "given" more crab legs that you could eat in a month. This trip was no different. We got some crab legs from one of the fishing boats that had just come into port and had a nice relaxing couple of days at the marina. It was at the end of their season so we had it to ourselves.
We made very good time continuing down the coast so took the opportunity to stop over at Liscomb again and to visit Sherbrooke Village, one of those historic re-enactment sites. Our daughter Kayt drove up to join us and drove us the 50 km from the lodge to Sherbrooke.
And then, regretfully, the cruise ended in Halifax. Other than the grounding in the "Maggies" it was the first time we have made a shakedown cruise in which nothing broke or stopped working. Maybe we're getting on top of the maintenance.
The RHSP 2006 race was its third running and the second time NELLEKE entered. In the 2004 race we were becalmed so disqualified ourselves by motoring to the finish just so that we could actually get to St-Pierre for the party.
The 2006 race was different.
First, we were sponsored by my employer, the Canadian Forces, and the crew was made up of Dave, Brent and JD, all officers in this HQ and John, JD's son. Including myself that made five aboard which was the maximum that I now feel that we should have as a crew aboard NELLEKE even in a race.
For a moment, at the start, I had a bad case of Deja Vu as the wind dropped to almost nothing and we essentially drifted across the start line. Fortunately for my sanity the wind picked up almost immediately from the south and we were able to beat our way out of the harbour at a respectable 4.5 - 5 knots.
The start was precsely at noon and by 1430 we were rounding the HB bouy in the outlying part of the Halifax approaches and were setting course for France. We established a watch system with two persons per watch and settled into the trip. The winds picked up and lay to our starboard aft quarter at about 15-20 knots. This was perfect for us as we were coasting along at 5.5-6.5 knots for the first 36 hours of the race. The only negative part from my perspective was that when we rounded HB most of the rest of the fleet was well in front of us and by the follwing morning and we found ourselves 10 miles to sea off Liscomb, there was no one else in site. By noon we could make out one of the other boats off to landward from us as their course brought them out more to sea they crossed astern of us and I had the small satisfaction of watching them fall further and further behind us. We later found out that their crew was having some problems with sea sickness and eventually they withdrew to motor in for the festivities.
One of the Canadian warships, the Summerside, that was shadowing the fleet for security reasons came up abrest of us and we got some good videos of her. There was a moment of drama when she did a crash turn and set off at flank speed for what we later found out was a medical emergency on one of the other yachts. Again, later we found out that one of the racing fleet had had an accident on deck with one of the crew taking a whack to the noggin from the boom. At the time Summerside's turn the casualty was below decks getting first aid and they were trying to decide if they were going to air evac him out or put into shore. In the end they brought him to St-Pierre with the rest fo the crew.
The rest of the day was relatively uneventful except that by noon we were south of Cape Breton and the racing divisions started back in Halifax in very light airs to chase us.
Young John was turning out to be an excellent helmsman keeping his eye on the compass and never deviating more that 5 degrees from his assigned course. Much better that I can do, and far better than anyone else aboard, that's for certain.
The weather chopped up pretty good during the second night and in the morning I discovered that the starboard jib sheet had gone over and was entangled in the prop. We hove-to to sort it out. I considered putting on my dive gear and going over the side to disentangle it but with 2-2.5 metre seas I didn't think that I'd be able to get back aboard safely. So, my solution was to start the engine and put it in reverse while a couple of the crew were pulling on the other end end of the sheet. Fortunately this worked and we bent on a new jib sheet and got underway again.
Later that morning and afternoon the wind died down somewhat and our speed made good dropped to 3-4 knots and my dream of getting to St-Pierre that evening faded with the breezes.
All through the race we had maintained essentially a direct line course to St-Pierre which turned out to have been the right thing to do, for during the night the wind freshened a bit for us while others, who had followed conventional wisdom and made more easting, had fallen into the "St-Pierre Hole" and were becalmed for 4 hours.
All hands on deck for the finish and we gave John the honour of steering NELLEKE as she crossed the finish line.
We came alongside and had a diver check out the prop and shaft and bring aboard the other half of the jib sheet that was still wrapped around the shaft. While all this was going on the race committee had their results meeting for the cruising class which we didn't bother going to as we were just happy to have finished the race. Imaging our surprise when one of the other skippers came by to tell us that we had won!
We participated in the Yacht Crew parade to the town hall or Hotel de Ville and the ensuing party which morphed into a great dance under a marquee tent that eveniing. As the youngest competito, John was selected to make the presentation to the Mayor on behalf of the rest of the fleet.
Next day there was a Grand Prix de St-Pierre round the buoy yacht race in the harbour in which all the yachts were expected to participate. We took a couple of our host family with us and dutifully made the trip. Not our sort of race but every yacht participating got a case of wine simply for entering. Good weather and I have some excellent photos of NELLEKE that were taken by a professional photographer.
That night was a 5 course French dinner served along with the prize giving. NELLEKE now has a half hull model trophy hanging on her bulkhead.
We intended to leave that night right after the party, but the weather forcast wasn't too good. In fact, the race organizers relocated some of the heavier boats off the dock that we had been on for the last couple of days and put us alongside of a concrete wall. So we decided to get some sleep and start the next day. Under overcast sky, we set off to motor sail home. For part of the way we were in the company of a Nauticus 36 who had also been in the race. She was heading for Sydney, Cape Breton, so after 12 hours she began to draw off to the north and we were alone.
And that was it. For the following 48 hours we faced overcast skies, and low rolling seas and little wind. Of course that meant fog, and lots of it. In fact, when we were entering Halifax Harbour we were doing our customs clearance by telephone and navigation by GPS and RADAR. We couldn't see two boat lengths in any direction. When we finally raised the mouth of the North West Arm and began the final approach to AYC, we stayed close to one shore just for reference.
Sunday at 1700 we were alongside at our pier and the families were down to the dock to welcome us and take the crew to their respective homes.
Many thanks to Dave, Brent, JD and John for an enjoyable and successfull race.
This was one of our shakedown cruises that was planned in a certain way and didn't turn our quite as intended. We always have big plans for cruises limited by our vacations. In this case we were going to head out for the first weekend in Prospect with a CPS raftup (so far so good. Except for the fact that no one other than ourselves, the event organizers and NOONAN KNIGHT showed up. Regardless, we had a great afternoon and some of us (not me) even braved the North Atlantic for a swim. When the organizers arrived they had some great food and wine, enough for 10 boats so we had to force ourselves to eat it all. Oh dear!
We had kept to the plan up to this point so we were supposed to head out to Shelburne and then to Maine.
Well. That just didn't happen and I can't even blame the weather. Instead, we did what cruisers should be able to do only on a much grander scale, and that's go where the spirit moves us. In this case we were moved to stop at the La Have Bakery for coffee, sticky buns and preserves and then to motor up the La Have River to the town of Bridgewater past the village of Rhodes Corner where we used to live.
On a boat, Bridgewater is a nice place to visit, but you can't stay there. On the side of the river farthest from the town is a tumbledown dock with a variety of derelicts tied up against it and you'd have to climb over a fence to get to your boat. There is a town dock on the other side closest to the town, but there is a very prominent, very unfreindly sign stating "No Overnight Docking". Sounds like they don't want visits from the cruising tourist.
The La Have River, on the other hand, is magnificent. It looks reminicent of a small European river, or the Rhine up near its source. As we sailed along towards the mouth in the early AM I kept expecting the Rhinemaidens to surface, long flowing locks of hair and seaweed covering their more interesting bits and ask me to help them find their Rhinegold. Ah well, my wife probably wouldn't have let me talk to them anyway.
We continued our trip to Brooklyn near Liverpool, a must stop site if you have the time. The Brooklyn Marina is really a club, run by volenteers with a very nice dock with space for transients. Best of all, stopping there is FREE! They do ask for a donation, but even that is more than reasonable.
Next stop - Shelburne and our other yacht club. Shelburne is fast becoming the entry and exit point for yachts arriving and departing from ant to the USA. This is due to the convienience of the club, the sheltered port and the pleasant nature of the town of Shelburne, to say nothing of a really excellent restauraunt, Charlotte's Lane. We spent 4 days here relaxing and taking in the sights before heading back.
On the way back we stopped at Lockeport a small community midway between Shelburne and Liverpool. They have a very sheltered horbour with a nice little marina that will charge you $0.50/ft to stay there. No power but there is the convenience of a restauraunt at the foot of the dock, a liquor store just the other side of the road and a general store 5 minutes walk from the dock.
After that and a morning sail we got to Carter's Beach near Port Mouton, another spot where the Turney vagabonds once lived. From there we went to Lunenburg and had some work done on the engine. Four years of worrying about the engine apparently overheating only to find out that we needed new instrumentation.
Can you spell frustration?!
Next stop was the back harbour in Chester to visit some friends and from there to we traveled to Hubbard's where we were had a visit from our daughter and then we headed out to to Deep Cove and then to St. Margaret's Bay.