Isafjordur to Patreksfjordur
22 July 2016
20th July This morning Ashley and Cathie filled the gas bottles and we cleaned the boat. Leaving Isafjordur under a brilliant blue cloudless sky we motored across the still fjord waters to the island of Vigur. This island private island used to be a sheep farm, but is now a sanctuary for nesting birds, particularly Eider ducks. The female Eiders plucks down from her breast to cover her eggs and keep them warm. Part of this down is collected 2 to 3 times during incubation which encourages her to produce more. The very light, fine down is cleaned by machine and hand after heating to disinfect it. On Vigur they produce 60kgs of eiderdown each year and it the whole of Iceland around 3,000kgs are produced each year. It takes about 60-80 nests to produce one kilogram of down. Also nesting on the island are thousands of Arctic Terns which dive bombed us as we walked past their nests. Hundreds of Puffins were fishing for Capelin off the beach and had their nests in the grassy banks behind. Black Guillemots were nestling in nooks and crannies all over the property. We sat in front of the old farm buildings and enjoyed a cup of tea and some homemade cakes, soaked up the sun and watched the antics of the birds and a whale blowing out in the bay. Under way Ashley trawled for salmon, but they didn't take the lure so he changed the rig and stopped the boat for bottom fishing. Almost immediately 7 cod were on the deck. In the evening we stopped in the small fishing village of Bolungarvik to fuel up. After dinner we wandered the town and were asked in for a drink with the owner of the Einarshusid guesthouse. This old building was prefabricated in Norway and housed the large family of a fishing fleet owner. Unfortunately, all the 12 children and his wife died of T.B. but the house survives. It is a wonderfully comfortable relic with a marine theme and the salvaged wheel from the French wreck of the "Pourqui Pas" which foundered in 1936 on the south coast of Iceland. It also serves as the local's pub and restaurant. Apparently it is illegal to fish for Halibut in Iceland, but many people do including the owner who recently pulled in one weighing 98kg, so it is served here on the menu as "Big Flat Fish" rather Halibut. 21st July Departed Bolungarvik at 10.30am and had a good sail down the coast with a fresh breeze to Patreksfjordur. We moored in the harbour with a German Dufour called "Ruby Tuesday' moored outside of us. 22nd July A still overcast day beckoned and Cathie organised a hire car and we drove around to Raudasandur to visit the "red" sand beach. The long strip of sand enclosing the lagoon is better described as golden rather than red. The highlight of the day were the cliffs at Latrabjarg. Up to 400m high and 14km long, the cliffs provide a breeding roost for seabirds. In early summer it is estimated there are 1 million birds nesting along its length. The main species are Guillemot, Brunnich's Guillemot, Razorbilled Auk, Puffin, Fulmar and Kittiwake. Our favourites are the Puffins with their colourful beaks, squat bodies and large webbed feet. Between us we probably have enough Puffin photos to fill an album. We had a picnic lunch at the lighthouse here and then drove across to the Amsfjordur for a soak in a very hot thermal spring. On our way home we had a beer in Bildudalur before driving back to Patreksfjordaur. We dinner at the Stukuhusid Café and enjoyed a very good meal of fish soup, lamb fillets and meringue dessert.
19 July 2016
18th July Our Iceland entry port is Isafjordur and we rafted up beside the yacht Aurora Arktika at 0600hrs local time. We advance our watches 2 hours forward to match GMT time. Isafjordur is a small tidy town and the gateway to the Northwest with an airport and ferry service. Situated near the entrance to the Isafjardardjup (fjord) which penetrates 40nm inland it is also a day stop for cruise ships. We had a relaxed day in town, a welcome hot shower and a sauna at the local pool. In the evening we ate out and tasted the delicious Icelandic lamb at the restaurant Husid. 19th July We were all up this morning to wave off Matt Po who is heading back to Germany and work. We will miss him as he has been good company and a good crewman. Murray organised a hire car for the day and we drove off along the coastal road. At Sudavik we visited the Arctic Fox Centre where we watched a couple of foxes being fed and listened to a short talk about them. Because of their threat to sheep flocks they are often shot except in the northwest national park. Until fairly recently, if a farmer had more than 6 sheep he was required to shoot 2 foxes a year or pay a tax. Today fox numbers are controlled by government shooters. The Arctic fox is much smaller than his red fox cousin and for a long time their pelt was sort after as a fashion item being draped around the necks of the "beautiful" people. Following the road to the head of the AlftaFjordur we stopped for an hours walk up the Valagil valley to a waterfall and gorge. The valley walls rise steeply up to 1,000m and the tops are remarkably even. Our lunch stop was at an old turf roofed farm house. The dry stone wall work on the old house and the stone fences is fantastic and grows a mottled rusty colour lichen. Perhaps the highlight of the day was a soak in a hot spring pool. Iceland has a lot of geothermal activity with numerous hot springs dotted about the countryside. This one, although on private farm land, was a simple small concrete pool by the side of the road with a small change shed. The water temperature was 44° C so it took a little time to ease into the water, but it was fantastic sitting there with the steep fjord sides rising above us and the sea lapping just below. We continued driving on for views of the Drangajokull icecap and a cold beer at a funny old hotel, which used to be a school, at Reykanes. The day had started with fog hiding the hill tops, but improved during the day and we had a lovely drive back along the coast with the soft evening light reflecting on the fjords and hilltop snow patches.
Passage from Greenland to Iceland
17 July 2016
15th July We departed Sermiligap at 0700hrs and motored north through the fjords to 66° 02'N before turning east and sailing from Greenland towards Iceland. There was a big swell and the wind was 15-20kts from the NE. We hoisted Main, Foresail and Staysail. The wind increased we had a very bouncy ride with bigger seas. We continued to see the high jagged snow-capped coast of Greenland for many hours and to pass the occasional iceberg far out to sea. Late in the evening with gusts over 30kts and the fog descending we put a reef in the Foresail and while we were putting a second reef in the Main the Foresail tore above the reefing point. We dropped the Foresail and Ashley decided to heave-to and ride out the weather for a few hours. 16th July After heaving-to for 4 hours we started motor sailing around 0330hrs with the wind25-30kts NE and a very uncomfortable sea on the nose. As the day progressed the wind gradually eased and we shook the reefs out of the main and rolled out the Balloon jib. 17th July The wind eventually died and we dropped the sails at 0330hrs. The stretch of water between Greenland and Iceland is known as the Denmark Strait and it has shown us several moods. From rough seas to calm and gale force winds to practically nothing. Now with 90nm to Iceland we are motoring over a smooth oily swell. Except for a few ripples on the surface it is hard to discern between the sea and the fog that envelopes us. During the afternoon the wind came in from the south and we sailed for a while, but it died and we were back on the motor. Removed Foresail from boom. Everyone on deck to help with the sail and for the first time in a while not needing full wet weather gear. Ashley restarted the heater and then later turned it off as unbelievably we were getting too hot! The water temperature today has gone from the 3-6° C we have had since Newfoundland to rise sharply to 12° C as we entered the warm Irminger Current that runs north along the west Icelandic coast. Consequently the air temperature off the water has improved noticeably and with it the interior temperature of the boat. First sighted Iceland on Murray's watch at 2200hrs. The sun stayed behind some cloud, but there was a glorious 3 hour red sky as the sun travelled across the northern horizon. We entered the Isafjardardjup Fjord at 0100hrs.
Qutdleq - Sermiligac - East Coast of Greenland
14 July 2016
11th July We left Qutdleq at 0500hrs with clear skies, but by mid-morning the fog had closed in and we didn't see the coast again until late in the day. Ashley and Cathie have decided to press on through the night to Tasiilaq. There is no wind to speak of and we continue to motor across the oily, gleaming, unruffled water surface. The Northern Fulmars fly in tandem with a mirrored image reflected in the glassy surface as they play around the boat. Several whales were spotted. Pilot, Humpback and during the night Murray spotted some Orcas. There hasn't been much ice during the day, but around midnight we passed through a large field of small bergy bits which are easily seen in the bright dusk, turning straight into dawn, twilight. At midnight the sun's glow on the horizon lit a golden path on the sea to follow north and illuminated the mountains to port. 12th July Another windless day of motoring north. A thin silvery cloud layer shielded the sun and the icy coastline emitted a luminous glow. A number of whales were sighted during the day including Long-finned pilot whales, Sperm whales and Fin whales feeding on Capelin (small fish). In the evening a pod of White-sided dolphins played around the bow. While we have been cruising around Greenland Cathie has called in to Aasiaat Radio twice a day with our position, destination and ETA. On one occasion, in the Fjords behind Nuuk, when Cathie was unable to contact Aasiaat they contacted Australia who in turn contacted Windjammer by email. Another time Cathie waited to call in until we had anchored later in the day and they said they had been searching for us, so they are very efficient. 13th July We pulled into Tasiilaq at 0215hrs and rafted up to a small coastal trader, the "Johanna Kristina". Spent the day in Tasiilaq. The laundry had hot showers, so luxuriated while the laundry was done. There is an interesting book shop with a very eclectic range of products and a helpful proprietor. He/she serves lunch, coffee, ice-creams and sells books, baby clothes and very slow internet. While in town the Johanna Kristina we were rafted alongside moved to the other side of the harbour and took Windjammer still moored alongside with her. Carl-Peter, a young local working as a sailor on the Johanna Kristina told us how lucky he was to have a job. Apparently most young people are unemployed. The locals fish and hunt whales and seals for their own consumption, but there is no fish processing plant here to earn cash, so welfare dependency is high. We anchored off in the afternoon as the Johanna Kristina and dredge were on the jetty and went ashore for a pizza and a beer. The pizzas were quite good, but because of the liquor licencing laws we had to go to the down stairs bar for the beer. 14th July Fuelling up was tricky as Ashley had to manoeuvre Windjammer stern to the jetty, with both boats still tied alongside, while Murray played tug with the tender. Mid-way through the re-fuelling the Johanna Kristina decided to slip her mooring and slide out from inside the dredge causing a few missed heartbeats on board Windjammer as we wondered what was going on. Departing Tasiilaq at 1100hrs we motored through some spectacular fjords before stopping at Ikatek to look around a WWII air base. This was a large American air force base, "Blue East Two", mostly used for search and rescue and now marked with thousands of empty rusting 44 gallon drums, the remains of a hanger and many trucks, some still with air in their tyres. The gravel airstrip, although unused, is still in good condition. We motored past a few very blue frozen water icebergs which are quite different to the common compressed snow icebergs. In the evening we anchored off Sermiligaq with 2 stern lines to the small jetty. Lots of children were sitting at the end of the wharf and when playing with the stern lines managed to let one go. Around 0100am Ashley heard some noise on board and was surprised to find 2 women in the saloon. They had been drinking and were after some more beers and a chat! All the children were still up and playing about at this early hour.
Prins Christian Sound
10 July 2016
6th July Continuing on the inside passage with low lying islands and a mountain range backdrop we made for Uunartoq. This island has the only hot spring in Greenland which has been popular from Norse times and mentioned in their Sagas. We anchored on the south side of the island and walked to the hot springs. On the north side of the island a number of motor boats were swinging on public moorings. This is the first time in Greenland we have experienced any real tourist attractions, although most of the "tourists" were Greenlanders. The shallow pools were beautifully warm and just the right depth that you could sit on the gravel bottom and luxuriate in the warmth of the water while looking at the icebergs in the channel. The hardest part was getting out of the water into the cold air, but the ground was delightfully soft under foot as we ran up to the changing shed. Back at the boat we had lunch and continued down the fjord with its mountainous sides to Nanortalik. The original Norse name for Nanortalik translated to "Bear hut island", but a lady we met at the hot spring who lived there told us she had never ever seen one. About 1,500 people live here. After dinner we walked the town calling in at the Café 44 where a live band of 5 was crammed onto a tiny stage, but still produced a good sound. Later we called in to the motor boat "Mona" alongside which we had rafted in Nuuk and had a chat and a night cap with the two Danish/Local couples and their children. 7th July We spent the morning in Nanortalik visiting the lovely historical old part of town and catching up with Wi-Fi at the tourist office. The oldest buildings here date back to the 1820s and are in excellent condition. In the afternoon we motored to Torssuqataq Sound, as usual, dodging a few icebergs along the way and anchored in Paakitsuarssuaq, a wonderful peaceful cove nestled in amongst the rounded 800m granite hills. 8th July We had a wonderful day with clear sunny skies and very little wind. Leaving our anchorage we motored along Torssuqaataq. This fjord is lined with tall granite cliffs which reflect in the calm waters. This area has become popular with rock climbers who tackle the "Baron" Spire (1,340m), the 600m wall of the "Baroness" and the "Thumbnail", a 1,460m cliff rising straight up from the sea. We pulled into a small fishing village, Aappilattoq, its entrance just a cleft in the rock and the town hemmed in by the soaring peaks behind. The population of around 100 people fish and hunt seals from small boats. Ashley met a family celebrating their child's 1st birthday and was shown the skull of a polar bear the father had shot recently near the village. He said it was the 3rd polar bear he had shot and they all enjoyed eating the meat. We also met fishermen returning with their catch of the local halibut. Continuing on along Prins Christian Sound we passed numerous waterfalls cascading hundreds of metres down from glaciers and ice caps above. Some of the glaciers come down to the waters edge. At Sermerunerit Glacier Ashley, Murray and Maggie hopped in the dinghy and took some photos of Windjammer up against the ice face. Further along we passed the wide Svardfisken Glacier with dark streaks of debris highlighting its march down the valley. Seals keep a low profile in these waters because they are hunted, but we did spot a large "Bearded Seal" relaxing on a bergy bit. Nearing the entrance to Ikerasassuaq (Prins Christian Sund) we pulled into the small dock at the Ikerasassuaq radio and weather station. There was a little surge coming in, but we had a comfortable night with a breast line taken across to an adjoining rock. For dinner we enjoyed the last of the mussels from Kapisillit which have been treated to a change of sea water every day and kept happy. #13 9th July The grey drizzly morning emphasised how lucky we were yesterday to have such a clear day in the Sound. We climbed up 270 stairs to the weather station, which although unmanned and totally locked up, is fully operational and remotely operated. When the station was manned there were dogs kept here as an early warning system for polar bears. The staff must have had a lot of time on their hands as we noticed a TV antenna on one of the kennels and an ash tray half way up the steep steps. When Ashley had manoeuvred Windjammer out of the very tight harbour we motored into a fresh NE wind with low clouds, rain and a choppy sea. The day steadily improved giving us the first views of the east coast and some huge icebergs grounded along the way. Fortunately, there are not many growlers about so we were able to stand solo watches in the chilly breeze. Mid-afternoon we pulled into Kangerdlarajik Fjord and dropped anchor in Peersvig Bay. Ashley ranked this as one of his top anchorages in the world. An open bay with the shore sweeping up to high snow-capped peaks and numerous glacier filled valleys that disgorge ice into the fjord. Nearby a torrent of glacier water cascaded into the bay. As we clambered up its course to the lake 300m above the bay blue sky opened up from the east and we had a wonderful view over the fjord with the soft evening sunlight highlighting the scene. "Mona", the motor yacht we'd last seen at Nanortalik was also anchored in the bay. 10th July A fine sunny day with little wind as we continued motoring up the East Coast. This part is quite different to the West Coast. There is no hint of greenery here, but bare weathered and scoured rock where the snow and ice have melted near the sea. Glaciers stretch down to the ocean and the icecap stretches up into the distant horizon with only occasional peaks penetrating the frozen white mantle. This is a harsh, desolate, uninhabited piece of coast. Everyone took advantage of the glorious conditions to do some washing and airing of clothes and there was no unused space on the lifelines. We watched as wisps of lenticular clouds played around some of the coastal peaks and we were occasionally temped to set some sail, but the calm conditions continued throughout the day. It was very pleasant taking a nap on deck in the warm sun as the low swell rolled the boat. We spotted seals and whales in the sea during the day, but they all appear very timid. In the evening we anchored in a sheltered bay on the island of Qutdleq. There are remains of a Loran C station that was abandoned in 1973. Loran C was terrestrial navigation system used before the advent of satellite systems. Establishing a station here would have been quite a challenge. Onshore there was a landing, a big fuel tank, a boat house, a bitumen road and the remains of the pylons for the conveyancing system used to lift all the building materials and supplies up to the main station above. Murray climbed up the steep hill behind the anchorage to check out the top station. His return was much quicker, sliding down the snow slope at speed.
Nuuk Fjords and heading south
10 July 2016
1st July A crystal clear morning encouraged Ashley, Cathie, Matt and Maggie to walk over the hill to view the Kangersuneq Isfjord packed solid with ice. On their return we gathered mussels from the beach and as we up anchored and motored along Cathie created a delicious mussel and fish soup. Not a cloud in the sky as we cruised through impressive fjords to Qooqqut. Fashion ON the floe: Mid-afternoon, with a towering granite backdrop and sparkling seas we enjoyed another fashion treat. Matt (ice tester), Ashley (model) and Maggie (photographer) boarded a submarine shaped iceberg. With professional panache our model soon appeared in his trendy briefs (jocks) with straw hat, umbrella and crampon equipped Ugg boots. Paris eat your heart out! Matt, not to be outdone, stripped down too and rolled on the ice - proving that old ice is hard ice by skinning his elbows. In the evening we dined ashore at Qooqqut Nuan. We enjoyed a meal that included Musk Ox, lamb chops (NZ), scallops, prawns, shrimp, red fish and cod. Our excellent young waiter, Joorut, mixed us a Greenlandic coffee to finish the night! Irish whiskey - representing the man, Kalua - representing the woman, coffee - representing the arctic night, cream - the arctic snow and flaming Grand Marnier - the northern lights. Joorut also told us that anyone can apply for a permit to build a cabin along the fjords and that if the regional office approves the permit there is no cost or ongoing fees to use the land. #11 2nd July A 0600hrs start from Qooqqut motoring through the fjords saw us back in Nuuk by 0930hrs. We spent the day catching up on news, shopping and enjoying a free concert in the town square. There were a couple of pigs on the spit served with salad and potatoes and the local draught beer went down a treat. The old fellow who was tapping along to the music next to me was 88 years old. Almost everyone who passed him said "Hey" and touched him on the shoulder. It was a real family get together. We didn't manage to find any water to top up the tanks, but we fuelled up before leaving Nuuk and motored south for an hour to a sheltered anchorage, recommended by a local, for the night. Mussels from Kapisillit with pasta and a tomato sauce for dinner. 3rd July Weighed anchor at a leisurely 0900hrs and motored out of the fjords heading south. 1100hrs with a freshening cold N wind we raised sails including the Fisherman and sailed SE. The fog receded in front of us leaving a sunny corridor between the mountainous coast and fog shrouded ocean. 4th July The wind died in the early hours and we doused sails and continued on through the fog down the coast under motor. The sun fought a losing battle with the fog and despite thinning considerably we remained cocooned all day. In the evening the fog thickened and because of impending icebergs we began two man, two hour watches. 5th July Ashley plotted a course down the Inner Lead, threading down narrow passages through the coastal islands. We entered the first passage around midnight still in dense fog following the plotted course and monitoring the radar. Only the still water confirmed we had entered the channel until we saw peaks towering above the fog behind us, first to port and then close to starboard. As we passed deeper down the narrow tickle the fog cleared showing the bright sky with the midnight sun looming just below the horizon. Ashley timed the run through the narrowest part of the passage, where strong currents run, for slack water and we were glad we had good visibility as we slid between the rocks barely a boat length away on either side. It was good to have the sun and good visibility as this is a very scenic area. We arrived at Qaqortoq (Julienehab - most towns in Greenland have, confusingly, two names - the local and the Danish names) mid-morning. This is the biggest town in SW Greenland with a population of 3,000 with a Norse history, some lovely old colonial buildings and a growing tourist industry. We wandered the town and enjoyed a beer outside a central café where we could watch the locals go by in the sun. Mid-afternoon we fuelled up and took on water. Continuing on we motored around to Sadnoq. This is a small isolated settlement. Largely abandoned, with optimistically around 40 people remaining. We wandered around and came across some old graves made of slabs of rock and were probably packed around with earth and peat originally. That has weathered away and you can see the skulls and bones through the rock. We kicked a ball around with the local children and their dog. The Greenlanders we have met are very friendly and relaxed. The younger generation speak some English, but the men on the island didn't.
02 July 2016
#11 30th June A clear cloudless blue sky gave us a wonderful appreciation of the majestic scenery as we weaved our way through the still waters towards the Ihilialik Glacier. The ice became harder to navigate as we approached the glacier and eventually we were stopped by it. Before turning back we watched a couple of whales as they blew on the surface before sounding. With the motor off we enjoyed the sounds of the whale's breath and the cracks, hisses and occasional whooshes as pieces break off the bergs and slide into the sea. There was a lot of ice in the water which made it slow going as we piloted our way back past the shaved faces of the rocky peaks lining the fjord. One granite outcrop rising sheer from the water looked like a chimney with the smoky clouds billowing out. It showed on the chart as being 1,220m high. In the mid-afternoon we arrived at Kapisillit, which means "the salmon", and we anchored near the mouth of a stream where the salmon spawn. Supposedly this is the only salmon run in Greenland. The town is very neat with some short sections of paved road along which there are regularly placed bench seats. As there are less than 100 locals living here we suspect that there is about one bench seat per person. There is also street lighting and a huge fuel storage tank. Ashley and Maggie caught lots of cod. Matt caught his first ever fish here, but not before losing his fishing gear over the side. Luckily he was able to retrieve it. One huge cod Ashley caught weighed over 15kg. No salmon were spied. We had our first encounter with Greenlandic insects and the head nets we purchased in Newfoundland were put to good use. Fashion AT the Floe: There have been some comments passed around regarding the 3 Tele-Tubbies with Matt, Murray and Nick wrapped in their blue, red and yellow outfits. Though no one compared to Ashley this morning, elegantly suited in orange jacket with matching fluorescent orange fisherman's gloves that matched the orange logo on his caps. 1st July A crystal clear morning encouraged Ashley, Cathie, Matt and Maggie to walk over the hill to view the Kangersuneq Isfjord packed solid with ice. On their return we gathered mussels from the beach and as we up anchored and motored along Cathie created a delicious mussel and fish soup. Not a cloud in the sky as we cruised through impressive fjords to Qooqqut. Fashion ON the floe: Mid-afternoon, with a towering granite backdrop and sparkling seas we enjoyed another fashion treat. Matt (ice tester), Ashley (model) and Maggie (photographer) boarded a submarine shaped iceberg. With professional panache our model soon appeared in his trendy briefs (jocks) with straw hat, umbrella and crampon equipped Ugg boots. Paris eat your heart out! Matt, not to be outdone, stripped down too and rolled on the ice - proving that old ice is hard ice by skinning his elbows. In the evening we dined ashore at Qooqqut Nuan. We enjoyed a meal that included Musk Ox, lamb chops (NZ), scallops, prawns, shrimp, red fish and cod. Our excellent young waiter, Joorut, mixed us a Greenlandic coffee to finish the night! Irish whiskey - representing the man, Kalua - representing the woman, coffee - representing the arctic night, cream - the arctic snow and flaming Grand Marnier - the northern lights. Joorut also told us that anyone can apply for a permit to build a cabin along the fjords and that if the regional office approves the permit there is no cost or ongoing fees to use the land.
Nuuk and Isfjords
02 July 2016
#10 27th & 28th June Two days in Nuuk, capitol of Greenland. Nuuk means "the headland" and the city sits on the end of a peninsular at the mouth of the vast fjord system "Nuup Kangerlua". We wandered into the town centre which is easily done as everything is close. There is an excellent museum which describes the different eras of inhabitants going back to 2,500 BC and up to colonisation by Denmark. There is a definite Greenland "look" influenced by their i=Inuit ancestry and the locals are cheerful and helpful and most have some English language. The city itself is not very inspiring with a lot of high rise apartments built in rectangular blocks, although a few traditional houses in the old town are quite picturesque. We definitely felt that we had left North America and entered Scandinavia as the modern shops were well stocked with everything you would find in Denmark. Unfortunately most of the cafes and restaurants seemed to be a bit un-inspirational and served fast food type menus. We saw a local street vendor selling dried whale meat, but no seal meat. The climate dictates the fashion and most wore jeans or slacks with warm jackets and boots. Wi-Fi is quite expensive, but we managed to get a free fix at the library. 29th June Having spoken to the locals, Ashley and Cathie have decided that rather than sail 300nm north to Disko Bay we will explore the extensive fjords of this area. What a good call! Today started off wet, cold and windy as we motored the two hours to Ikkuttut bay. Here we were out of the wind and Ashley and Maggie caught some lovely cod. They were hardly landed before being cleaned, filleted and pan fried by Cathie - delicious. After lunch we motored through increasing numbers of icebergs to Qoornup, a small community set up to survey the West Greenland in 1927. This small island has a fete every year on the first weekend of July, but we won't be staying around to join in. As the day progressed the weather improved and when the cloud lifted we could better appreciate the magnificent setting of chiselled granite mountains rising sheer from the iceberg cluttered waters. Glacial action has scoured out the sides of the deep valleys which carry tiny patches of tough native vegetation. Erik the Red, the Viking who landed here hundreds of years ago, who was accused of false marketing when he named the country Greenland to attracts settlers. 80% of the country is icecap and there are lots of bare rock, but there are green areas and apparently the Vikings ran sheep and cattle as the climate was milder back then. Leaving Qoornup after a good walk around we piloted Windjammer through numerous icebergs, bergy bits and growlers. It was difficult to find a safe anchorage clear of ice, but we found a good corner of Tasinsap Bay and reminiscent of Patagonia days we anchored with a line ashore by 2030hrs. Cathie bought fish in Nuuk which she was told was trout and she cooked it in the pan with a delicious orange sauce. A fine white flaked fish with a delicate flavour served with snow peas and wild rice. A wonderful way to finish an awesome day.
Great new adventures and great new seas
26 June 2016 | Nuuk, Greenland
Great new adventures and great new seas awaited as we prepared to cross the first section of the North Atlantic Ocean.The sun rose over Mary's Harbour, Labrador as we set sail for the the Davis Straight destined for Greenland. As much as I thrive in the excitement of wandering on new land, crossing oceans is what truly stirs my sense of adventure. As the last sight of land fades into the horizon and there is only blue ocean as far as the eye can see, one has the opportunity to experience a unique connection with the ocean. Without the dependance on land and the draw to reality, there is only the ocean. It is at that moment of realisation that one experiences the raw beauty of this world without distraction to the eye or disruption of nature in its most pure form.
You lose track of time, days and worries as you become completely immersed in this newfound reality. You ponder the journey the whales are on as they gracefully skim the ocean surface and admire the birds as the joyfully ride the wind that has taken them so far from land. The days do not begin, nor do they end. The sun sets in the North and lingers on the horizon while the moon rises in the south. The sky is luminous all day and all night for the arctic summer holds onto its light. Our days are not filled with expectation, but the freedom to just be. We sailed, we dreamt and we laughed, for our four day passage was so pleasant that if it was not Greenland we were approaching, the idea landfall would have been far less attractive.
We hit the western coast of greenland early evening and with a crisp fresh bight to air. The vibrant orange tones from the sun struck through the heavy low clouds and the fog rolled out revealing the land. The charming Norwegian style houses along the entrance of the harbour were a welcoming sight as we approached the capital city of Nuuk. Fireworks from the town took to the sky and we marvelled in the idea that Greenland was a country that none of us had ever thought we would one day explore. By dawn we had snuck in and tied up to a row of boats on one of the many jetty's packed with small powerboats, careful not to disturb the quiet and stillness of the colourful harbour. Windjammers crew slept soundly, yet with great anticipation as the morning would bring the opportunity to climb across the neighbouring boats to find out if Greenland really is green.
Marys Harbour Labradort to Nuuk Greenland
26 June 2016
#9 25th June The wind died in the early hours and we dropped sails. It is a rainy grey morning. Around 0900hrs the wind built and we raised sails. The rain cleared and at lunchtime we had a short glimpse of the sun. The wind picked up in the afternoon and swung more to the west and we barrelled along at 7+ knots. The heater is going well after Ashley's work yesterday although there were hiccups this morning until he realised the engine vent cover was on which starved the heater of oxygen. Finished reading "Cod", an excellent book on the history of cod fishing and its impact on the culture and economics of many countries on both sides of the Atlantic. Maggie saw an iceberg on her afternoon watch, the first ice we have seen for a couple of days. 26th June The wind died in the very bright early hours of this morning and we dropped sails. The swell persisted which caused much rolling without the steadying of the sails. Grey skies and no wind and we are now over 62° north. There is no real darkness up here and you could happily read a book on deck in the middle of the night. Cathie spotted a lone iceberg this morning. Sea water temperature has dropped to 4.9° C. We spotted a couple more distant icebergs as we motored through the day with the ground swell only reluctantly abating. Maggie created a tasty vegetable curry for lunch. We sighted land at 2015hrs and as we approached Nuuk we were welcomed with a fireworks display ashore. A very cold breeze blew off the tall snow-capped mountains that tower over Nuuk. We rafted up in the inner harbour at 2300hrs having travelled 720nm from Mary's Harbour. Nuuk is at 64° N.
24 June 2016
23rd June We haven't seen any ice since midday yesterday, but for safety sake we stand watches with 2 on during the darkest part of the night. One on the foredeck on ice watch and the other at the helm monitoring the radar. It never got completely dark as we had a clear night sky with an almost full moon and the glow from the sun still lighting up the horizon even at midnight. The heater has been off since our hot day in Mary's Harbour and the boat was freezing this morning. Everyone is feeling the cold except Ashley. In the morning there was not a cloud to be seen in the sky and the horizon is as sharp as a knife edge in marked contrast to yesterday's mirages. Just after sunrise we passed the carcass of a small white whale floating on the surface. Possibly a Beluga? We finished off the final small pieces of re-seaming on the mainsail and applied a few chafe strips and in the early afternoon a light breeze filled in from the west. Raised Main, Fore, Balloon Jib and Fisherman. Two schools of small whales, probably pilot whales, passed us during the day. As we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon on deck we came across a Sperm whale cruising on the surface before it showed us its tail and sounded. The wind died in the evening and we motored through the night.
24th June A light breeze from the SE came in this morning and we motor sailed until it filled in around lunch time. Set Fisherman. We have not seen any ice for a day and as we clear the cold Labrador Current and enter the Davis Strait the water temperature has risen from 3° C to 10° C. Ashley worked on the heater for several hours and seems to have found the problem causing the irregular burning. Looks like the spring valve in the regulator may have been incorrectly replaced. Much better burning now. Made steady progress under sail through the day and with 324nm to Nuuk we are over half way there.
St Marys Harbour and departure for Greenland
22 June 2016
#7 21th June A clear sunny day in Mary's Harbour. The mayor, Alton Rumble, told us there is now a population of 300 in town. There are not many options apart from fishing, so most of the younger generation have gone to St Johns or other major cities. We met several other Rumbles around town as they seem to have a share in the co-op fish processing plant, the port management, fishing boats and the town council. Alton kindly lent us his car to have a quick look around town (and that was driving slowly) and do some provisioning. The warm dry wind was ideal for drying out the boat and our wet weather gear. We also re-seamed some stitching on the mainsail and topped up the fuel using the longest fuel hose I have ever seen. They pull it 100m down the dock using a ute. Ashley and Cathie talked to the local fisherman about ice to the north. A tanker is stuck in the ice trying to get into Cartwright and the pack ice is well south so they have decide to leave Labrador in the morning and head under the bottom of the ice straight to Greenland. Also in Mary's Harbour was a nice 42' French designed Garcia aluminium yacht and its skipper Gilbert who at the age of 70+ years is going to sail solo through the North West passage. He came on board for a glass of wine and told us stories of losing his boat in Colombia and also rescues in Greenland and Iceland! 22nd June Departed Labrador at 0500hrs and set a course NE to Greenland. A little rain overnight but the skies cleared and we motored with no wind. Looking back at the icebergs grounded along the coast we saw an interesting mirage effect. This Arctic phenomenon is known as a "superior image" or :fata morgana" and occurs when a warm offshore breeze flows over cooler air lying just above the cold sea water. Light travels slightly faster through warm air than through cold causing a light ray as it passes from cooler to warmer air to curve back toward the cooler air. This means that to somebody observing a distant object, say an ice floe, through air that is warmer above than it is below, the floe will seem higher that it really is; it will also be elongated vertically making it seem taller than it really is. Sometimes cooler air can act as a duct between layers of warmer air and images appear of objects below the horizon. At 1030hrs the wind came in from the SE and we set Fore, Main, Balloon Jib and Fisherman. We passed through a band of "growlers" several miles wide, probably coming off the end of the coastal pack ice. These growlers range in size from that of a football up to the size of a container. I saw a wonderful iceberg mirage of a Tall Ship with sails furled on the yards floating above the horizon. We made good progress under sail despite a confused sea and by 2200hrs when we lost the wind and lowered the sails to resume motoring we had covered 130nm.
St Anthony to Marys Harbout
21 June 2016
18th June We tidied up the boat and then took Don's ute into town to get gas, outboard fuel and do the laundry. Caught up with the news and chatted to Mich once we got Wi-Fi. Ashley made some modifications to the fuel lines to further improve the diesel heater operation while at sea. In the evening we dined at the Lighthouse restaurant. Lovely view over the passing icebergs and nice food. 19th June Hitched a ride into town and visited the Grenfell museum. Dr Wilfred Grenfell, a 27 year old medical doctor came from England to Labrador in 1893. There were no doctors and the standard of health was terrible. He spent the rest of his life establishing a health care service which included hospitals, nursing stations and hospital ships. In the afternoon we hitched a ride 30kms out to L'Anse aux Meadows. This is the only authenticated Viking site in North America and the earliest evidence of the eastern migration of humans from Africa meeting their western migration cousins. The Vikings arrived here in 985 AD, but it wasn't until 1960 that their settlement site was discovered for European culture by Helge Ingstad. The sod houses have been recreated and there is an interpretive centre with enlightening video. The thumbs took a little longer to work on the way home, but we all arrived back safely after once more enjoying the hospitality of the locals. Today was the warmest day of the trip, reaching 18° C. The bright sunny skies made a pleasant change to the foggy damp conditions we have mostly experienced. 20th June Left St Anthony at 0500hrs and motored until the wind came in from SW @ 20-25kts. Sailing with main, fore and staysail. Water temperature is 3.2°C which chills the wind considerably. We passed several scattered large icebergs along the way. These are generally stuck in shallower patches of water, 80m or less. In the afternoon we pulled into the National Historic Site of Battle Harbour. The entrance was down a narrow snaking Tickle past barren rocky outcrops that open out into the tight harbour lined with white washed buildings with red trim. This island community at its peak with cod fishing and to a lesser degree seal and salmon was the hub to a population, including the surrounding area, of 4,000 people. When the cod fishing finished most of the population was relocated, but the young unemployed were encouraged to restore the old buildings. Today it is a piece of living history that caters to visitors with day trips from Mary's Harbour and accommodation in the restored cottages for those that want to stay. We could have stayed the night at their dock, but we thought the $2/ft charge was a little steep, so we motored the 9nm to Mary's Harbour.
21 June 2016 | St John's
It was quite the shock when we sailed into the the busy commercial harbour of St John's, hosting cruise ships, large commercial fishing vessels and small boat tour operators. I had become so content with the pleasant and simple nature of the smaller fishing communities of Newfoundland that we had come to know. Immediately the the sky scrapers and crowds of people set this island apart from the rest of the province. We tied up alongside an old fishing boat and received clearance into Canada, but only after convincing the custom officers that the outrageous amount of French wine we were carrying, was solely for personal consumption. I stepped foot onto the dock and instantly felt unbalanced as my sea legs had found their form and hadn't let their guard down. However, this was no longer an issue once Matt and I discovered what the provinces capital is so well known for. Downtown St John's is home to the smallest and most famous street on the island; George St. Renowned for having the highest concentration of bars and nightclubs per square foot in all of North America, it is bustling with musicians and colourful tapestry in honour of the rich Irish heritage. Strangers quickly befriended us and opened our eyes to the culture and traditions of Newfoundland that vivaciously prospered through the streets. One particular tradition, "screeched-in' began in the early stages of European settlement into Newfoundland, and still continues to this day. It is the locals way of welcoming foreign traders and travellers to their land. They will take you to the bar where you are required to drink a shot of rum, kiss a stuffed cod fish and finally eat a piece of Newfie meat, thus officially honouring you as a fellow Newfie (Newfoundlander).
I spent the following day hiking the dramatic coastline to Signal Hill, the easternmost point of North America, where Gugiemo Marconi flew a kite in a gale to receive the first ever transatlantic wireless signal in 1901. It was a significant scientific breakthrough that drastically improved the safety of ships crossing the North Atlantic ocean to and from Europe.
St John's offered us the opportunity to restock provisions and purchase some warmer gear, however we were ready to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and head further north, to one of the oldest towns in Newfoundland; Boavista.
Departing the harbour in the dusk of the following morning, had us surrounded by dense fog with the sound of the lighthouse foghorn blasting in the distance. The presence of fog is a common navigational hazard in the North Atlantic, the notorious southwesterly winds pick up moisture from the warmer waters of the gulf stream and carry it over the much cooler waters in the Labrador current. The contrasting temperatures being brought together, react and create fog. It becomes disorientating, mysterious and dangerous when navigating through fog in such unpredictable ice ridden waters.
Lumsden Harbour to St Anthony
19 June 2016
15th June Departed Lumsden by 0530hrs and motored north. No wind but thick fog. Two on watch to look out for ice. The radar picks up bigger icebergs and even smaller bergy bits show as intermittent blips. There are some interesting names on the chart. Having crossed Hamilton Sound we motored up "Dildo Run" to the "Main Tickle". Large icebergs have landed on then north facing bays and we motored around several as we entered the small fishing port at Durrell next to Twillingate. The small museum in Durrell has a stuffed polar bear on display. The 2 year old floated south on icebergs and became a menace to residents when he landed here. They couldn't tranquilise him so they had to shoot him. Walking towards town we came to a shop doing wine tastings. The wines are made from berries mostly found locally. Rather than being full bodied berry flavour they seemed to just have a hint of berry taste. Visitors from Gander gave the six of us a lift into town in the back cab of their pickup truck. Gander was for a short period one of the busiest airports in the world when the USA closed its airspace after the 9/11 attack and all incoming trans-Atlantic flights were diverted here. The locals opened their homes and looked after the flood of stranded passengers. We had a beer at the Anchor Inn with our transportation hosts before walking down the road to Addy's Fish Restaurant where we tried Capelins, small sardine sized fish. They had been baked and were very dry and salty - an acquired taste. Also on the menu were Cod Tongues which are highly prized, but we found them disappointing. Murray had some highly rated Snow Crabs and Maggie and I ate grilled cod fillets that had lovely and flaky white flesh. Ashley tried Moose Soup which he said was very salty. After dinner a short time with the thumb out soon had lifts with locals back to the boat. 16th June Departed Twillingate at 0500hrs motoring with no wind, grey skies and clear visibility. Very calm sea and a thin cloud cover around noon almost let the sun through. We covered the 80nm to Englee by 1730hrs. Englee is a small fishing village nestled in a cove near the entrance of Canada Bay. The fishermen were unloading Snow Crabs on the dock where we tied up. The town is quite isolated with no TV, population 400 and the Salvation Army building the biggest in town. 17th June We cast off from Englee at 0600hrs and headed north. Large icebergs have beached along the coast here and we saw a small section break off one as we passed by. It is blowing 15kts from the north and raining. We have better visibility with the cold northerly winds and despite the rain we can clearly see the icebergs and bergy bits, unlike the south westerlies that pick up moisture over the warm Gulf Stream waters which turns into fog over the chilly Labrador Current east of Newfoundland. A passage from John R. Bockstoce's book "High Latitude, North Atlantic" reads: "On the average the west Greenland glaciers calve about 27,000 icebergs each year. They then begin a 2-3 year voyage of about 2,000 miles, melting and calving as they travel, first north along the Greenland shore to Baffin Bay, then south, past Baffin Island and Labrador. On average about a thousand bergs per year reach Belle Isle, but most are bound down the east coast of Newfoundland to the Grand Banks where they meet the 60° F water of the Gulf Stream and vanish quickly." Now days this number could be more like 30-40,000 bergs heading south each year. The flat bergs are generally from the low lands around Baffin Island while the peaked ones are from the mountainous Greenland glaciers. The wind and sea built through the day and the motion stirred up sediment in the fuel tanks which caused a blockage in fuel filter which stopped the engine. We drifted for nearly an hour while Ashley changed the filter and bled the system. The wind was now blowing 40+ knots and the cold spray stinging our faces as we approached St Anthony. We dodged a final couple of bergs near the harbour entrance and entered quieter waters. Don, a trawler owner helped with our lines and came on board for a chat before we had a quick dinner and went to bed early.
15 June 2016 | Bonavista
Bonavista is one of the oldest towns in Newfoundland and home of the Atlantic Puffin. Before spotting the vibrant orange and yellow parrot-like beak, I quickly mistook it for a penguin diving beneath the water in search of fish. They are quite a treat to watch, they lift off from the water resembling what can only be described as a wind up toy. These amusing seabirds only inhabit the North Atlantic and therefore have been proclaimed the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I spent the day soaking up the history of Newfoundland which all began in this quaint little fishing community. The North Atlantic is rich in fishing history, predominantly cod fish, which the Newfie's refer to only as 'fish' and everything in the ocean as 'everything else.' Captain John Cabot discovered the eastern coastline of Newfoundland in 1497. He had hoped to discover a passage to Asia, however, returned to England with news of New found land that was highly overpopulated with fish. It wasn't long before the English, French, Spanish and Portuguese came annually to fish the waters and permanent settlement of Newfoundland was established. Cod ruled the fishing industry, it consumed the lives of Newfoundlanders and wars were fought over it. By the 1900's, the impact of commercial fishing caused such a significant decline in fish stocks, that the atlantic commercial fishing industry nearly collapsed. The federal government had no choice but to impose a moratoriam, putting an end to over 500 years of northern atlantic cod fishing and in turn, over 40,000 jobs. The practice of overfishing shaped the lives and communities of Newfoundlanders because after all, it is known as the land of cod and as the cod became scarce, so did the communities.
Over 40,000 icebergs break away form glaciers in Greenland and Baffin Island each year, the Labrador current draws them south along the east coast of Newfoundland to what is known as Iceberg Alley. Departing Boavista at dusk, we headed north and officially entered the notorious Iceberg Alley. In the Northern Atlantic, ice is the dominating navigational hazard, it is unpredictable and often unstable. What is most daunting is that only one 1/8th of the iceberg is visible above the surface. Consider dropping an ice cube into a glass of water, majority of the ice sits below the waterline. But now put that in perspective, that ice cube is on average 30m high and 204K tonnes, this is what we are up against. However, it is not necessarily the initial iceberg, known as a 'growler' that proves to be the hazard as they are generally picked up by the radar. The ice that breaks away from the berg, known as 'bergy bits' are what are most dangerous to cruising yachts as they are difficult to see and often can be mistaken for white wash. Navigation through fog and at night seriously reduces visibility and requires two crew members communicating wth each other on watch at all times. One crew at the bow keeping watch for ice and one at the helm ready to alter course in order to efficiently dodge any ice. Although the crew have experience navigating in iceberg frequented waters in the Southern latitudes, the north does not even begin to compare. With a significantly higher concentration of ice, iceberg alley officially introduced us to ice navigation in the North Atlantic.
St Johns to Lumsden
14 June 2016
13th June Left St Johns at 0500hrs. Fog and no wind with light rain. Wind came in from the SE and we raised sail at 0800hrs. The rain set in during the morning and we made good speed to the north in 15-20kts of breeze. We saw a number of icebergs - some well over 100m in size. Rounding Cape Bonavista we sailed into smooth waters and made 10kts down to Bonavista town in the freshening breeze. Ashley saw 32kts on the wind gauge by the time we were lowering the sails at the harbour entrance. Several locals braved the weather to assist us tie up at the inner fishing boat harbour. All lines secured by 1730hrs. Thoughts of a walk into town were dispelled by the rugged weather. Cathie cooked up a lamb roast with rice and veg and we turned in early. Along the way we have grappled with some of the local lingo, so here are a couple of terms we have picked up. Floater - Seasonal fisherman who leave at the end of the fishing season. Livyer - Those who choose to stay through the year Tickle - A short narrow channel between islands Rattle - A passage where currents can really boiled 14th June This morning we visited the "Matthew", a full scale replica of Cabot's 15th century carvel. Giovannini Caboto was a Genoese explorer, sponsored by the King of England, who in 1497 set sail from Bristol, England hoping to find a route to the Far East, but instead landed in Newfoundland. Instead of spices or silk he found cod which sparked settlement in North America and the establishment of the huge cod industry. Today in Bonavista fishing is still the main industry. With the 1992 moratorium on cod fishing still in effect, at this time of the year they are catching crab and lobster. We left Bonavista at 1330hrs and headed north. There is not enough breeze to sail and we motor across the lumpy sea in thick fog. There are a number of icebergs floating through this area which is known as "Iceberg alley". We maintain an iceberg watch on the bow and can only see 100m ahead at most. There is a tricky approach to Lumsden harbour with a buoyed passage between shoals and then a dog leg into a small fishing harbour. We only see the buoys through the fog when we are almost on them. A couple of local fishermen who came to help with our lines were impressed we got in. We were secure by 2030hrs. Cathie cooked up a pasta with the last of the scallops from Ramea.
St Pierre to St Johns
13 June 2016
9th June The storm has passed and we departed Saint Pierre at 0800hrs. A grey day with fog and a very lumpy left over sea. A light breeze turned to the SW and we motor-sailed with the main, fore and balloon jib. The wind died early in the afternoon and didn't pick up again until 2100hrs when we raised the sails again and turned the motor off. We sailed through the night at 6-7kts. The water temperature has dropped to 6° C, but it is quite reasonable on deck. We are standing 2 hour watches with 2 up. The barometer is reading 992. 10th June In the morning as we headed north we could hear the fog signal of Cape Race long before we caught a dim glimpse of it through the mist. As we approached Cape Spear Ashley spotted out to sea our first iceberg for the trip. Cape Spear is the most easterly point of North America. As we rounded the lighthouse there were many bergy bits calving off a large iceberg stuck against the shore. We entered St Johns harbour at 1800hrs and tied up in the security zone astern of the Venezuelan sail training ship, Simon Bolivar, to await customs clearance back into Canada from Saint Pierre. After a prolonged wait we cleared in without any problems or duty needing to be paid on our Saint Pierre wine purchases. Steaks were eaten at a dockside establishment before the younger folk took off to sample the delights of George Street. 11th June Went for a walk in St Johns and had a big cooked breakfast. Bought some camping mats as insulation to mitigate condensation in the forward berths we anticipate when we get into the colder northern climate. Received an email from Steph telling us she is engaged to Dylan!!! - much rejoicing in the Smail camp! In the afternoon we visited The Rooms Museum. This is an excellent display of the history and culture of the region. 12th June A sunny clear day for a walk around St Johns harbour entrance to Signal Hill. Cabot's tower on Signal Hill is famous as the site where Gugliemo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal on 12th December 1901. Also at the tower we met the very handsome, 70kg "Chieftain", a 2 year old Newfoundland dog. This local breed is famous for their kind and water loving disposition. We walked past the tower and down to Quidi Vidi, a picturesque group of house built on the edge of a Tickle. We passed up a tour of the local craft brewery in favour of delicious fresh lobster rolls at the Mallard Cottage. We have enjoyed St Johns with its colourful terraced houses and broad selection of cafes, restaurants and pubs. Most of the pubs have live music and Matt says the party starts at midnight and they close at 3am. Matt gives George Street a 5 star rating. In June and July the weather is described as "Capelin Weather" as this time of year these small sardine like fish run and the weather is always wet and foggy. Maggie and I bought traditional sou'westers in St Johns. These hats are also known as Cape Annes' and are oilskin with a felt lining and flaps to cover your ears.
Where France meets North America
13 June 2016 | St Pierre
Following Windjammers extraordinary welcoming to Newfoundland, we headed south-east to where North America meets France. With Brie, baguettes and Bordeaux in mind, we set sail for St Pierre, one of the last two remaining islands belonging to the French empire in North America. St Pierre is like a little piece of Europe on the opposite side of the Atlantic. The smell of freshly baked bread and croissants seduces your senses whilst meandering through the cobble stone streets of the old town, the locals greet you with a smiling 'bonjour' as they pass by. We befriended a local Basque fisherman who retired from the trade to open his own bar, he is renowned for his heavy hand when pouring a good rum. He bragged about his cooking and proceeded to invite us back for lunch the following day. When asked why he did not open a restaurant, he simply replied 'because if people didn't like my food, I would have to kill them'.
Windjammer's cellar had been cleaned out for the opportunity to refuel with France's best. And so, over 100L of red wine and rum were eagerly sourced and stowed; in hope of satisfying six thirsty sailors for 3 mo
nths of cold climate sailing. Let's just say that we did our duty of upholding the stereotype that is of both sailors and Australian's.
Threats of gale force winds caused us to delay our departure from St Pierre, putting us slightly behind schedule for our Arctic adventure. We spent the day making use of the yacht clubs showers and internet before we cast off the lines early the following morning, and said a final farewell to this delightful french island.
St Johns was our next destination, a two day passage north along the east coast of Newfound to the provinces capital. With unfavourable wind conditions and minimal breeze, the sound of the engine roared through the wooden floorboards as we stood our watches through thick lingering fog. Huge swells sent Windjammer rolling though the waves forcing the crew to quickly adjust to the unstable conditions. Late afternoon the wind came around and the great King Neptune finally answered our prayers. The sail covers came off, the three glorious white sails were hauled and the roar of the engine was finally no more. There was wind in the sails and a firm grip on the charming wooden helm as we sailed through the night. The fog cleared by morning and the weather was kinder, allowing us to shed a couple of layers and move more easily about the boat. Now that we were sailing, the uncomfortable and unstable rolling soon transitioned to a pleasant and soothing motion. With the help of the heater, the more favourable conditions were sending the crew into a sleepy trance whilst they waited to be called up to their watch.
12 June 2016 | St John's
The shiny green topsides and raking masts shined flawlessly in an otherwise dull morning as Windjammer took to its name as a "floating curiosity". Despite the long journey and early arrival from the opposite side of the world, I climbed out of the zodiac with great anticipation. The familiar sense of homeliness flushed through me as I set foot on the deck of the traditional gaff rigged schooner. And so, as Windjammer eagerly awaited departure from Sydney, Nova Scotia, my next chapter begins; Crossing the North Atlantic Ocean.
Our crew comprise of six salty sea dogs of whom are well accustomed to sailing on Windjammer. Ashley & Cathie are the captain and wife who set sail from Australia six years ago, Matt crossed part of the pacific with them and Murray, Nick and myself were apart of their adventure to Antarctica.
Our journey begins on the west coast of North America where we will sail through Newfoundland as far as Labrador before crossing the Davis straight to Greenland. We will continue to sail north on the western coast of Greenland to enter the arctic circle then return to round the south tip of Greenland and cross the Denmark straight to Iceland. From there, I will sadly say farewell and return to Australia, while the crew continue to circumnavigate Iceland and then sail to Norway.
Newfoundland is like a little lost piece of the world that people seem to forget exists. The communities are small, the words are few but the fiddle always plays its tune. Our first night aboard was an overnight passage to the Ramea Islands where we pulled into the small fishing village in the town of Ramea. The town is home to around 150 people, two small grocery stores and one restaurant that closes for months at a time. We tied up alongside a fishing boat and watched as the men sung sea shanties and guzzled beers mid morning while offloading thousands of live scallops. We learnt the trade of shucking scallops and indulged in the rewards of our hard work for dinner that evening. We continued to explore the northwest arm of Grey River and landed at Deadman's cove where we hiked a 350m high mountain with smooth rock faces overlooking a spectacular fjord carved by glaciers.
The next stop was Francois, a small fishing village on the banks of a sheltered inlet on the mainland. With no local pub in town, the 'Newfie' locals make do with a shed on the waterfront. We were invited to join them while they played music, drank and danced to their hearts desire. Although we may have not been able to fully comprehend the speech through the thick Newfoundlander accent, their welcoming nature and love of music won us over.
The weather has been charming us by showing off its glorious sun beaming through clear blue skies and not a breath of wind to disrupt the crystal glass water surrounding us. We have been watching dolphins play in picturesque sunsets and whales skimming the surface. Yet the crew would not be the sailors they are if they were not craving wind to pull the lines that would have the big white sails gloriously billowing in a steady breeze.
South Coast of Newfoundland to St Pierre
05 June 2016
5th June We left Francois at 0700hrs. Sea flat, no wind. 50nm to the island of Saint Pierre. The wind picked up mid-morning and we set main and foresail in 5-10kt breeze. The sea temperature here at 47° N is 8-9°C so any breeze blowing off it is very fresh. The sun is shining and we watched many Fin whales blowing just off the island. The first French island we passed was Miquelon and we arrived at Saint Pierre at 14.30hrs, but we had to adjust our watches forward 1 hour for French island time. Customs and immigration were waiting for us at the dock and were very pleasant. After we completed formalities we walked the short distance into town in bright sunshine. Being Sunday most shops were closed. We watched some local fisherman cleaning cod which they had caught on hand lines at 80-100m depth close to St Pierre. We called into the only bar open in town, the Txetxo. This is a Basque bar. The Basque were the first cod fisherman beginning fishing these waters in the 15th century. They supplied the European market with cod and jealously guarded their source. With Matt translating we had a good chat with Jose the barman. He worked the cod boats from the age of 14. He is proud of his Basque heritage and talked about his life and supplied us with tapas of whelks, cheese, salmon and sausage. He asked us back for lunch on Tuesday for a meal of traditional cooked Bacala. Back at the boat Cathie cooked up a wonderful risotto and Windjammer remained tied to the Eric Tabarly wharf for the night. 6th June It was a treat this morning to have croissants and baguettes fresh from patisserie. The yacht club has good showers and a washing machine so we tidied up before heading into town to the bottle shop. As this will be the best opportunity to buy good wine at a reasonable price we bought a good volume. Saint Pierre is a duty free port and has a long association of suppling alcohol. During the prohibition in the USA it was even one of the staging grounds for Al Capone. The wine and other liquor was delivered after lunch and Murray spent quite some time stowing it all aboard. In the afternoon Murray and I climbed up to the ridge above town for some good views of the island. Despite having a population of 6,500 the town is remarkably quiet with the locals friendly and considerate to pedestrians. 7th June (46° 47'N 56° 10W) Ashley has decided to wait in St Pierre for a strong storm cell to pass. I strolled into town to buy baguettes and croissants for breakfast. The sun has disappeared and the air is quite cool so I spent the morning reading on the computer and took a walk with Murray for a coffee break. We went back to bar Txetxo to have lunch with Jose and his special cod dish but he hadn't been able to buy any Bacala so he produced a family pot of steak and carrots with plenty of bread and also a scallop and saffron dish. He wouldn't take payment for the food as he doesn't usually provide food in the bar, but just enjoys cooking his family recipies. In the afternoon we took the tender over to I'lle aus Marin, the small island across the bay from St Pierre. The island was known as I'lle aus chiens (island of dogs) but they changed the name in the '60s. The island was the original centre for the cod fishing industry and in the late 1800s had a population of around 700. Today there are around 40 houses only and of these only 15 are original. Others have been renovated and there are some newer ones retaining the same architecture that are used as holiday homes. The cod fishing started to die out in the late 1930s and a number of houses were deconstructed and rebuilt in St Pierre. Some of the buildings are now museums recording the history and hardships of the residents. They were a very self-reliant and also strongly religious (Roman catholic) people. The biggest building on the island is the church "Notredame aux Marins". The museum curator did a marvellous job explaining the exhibits wearing only a t-shirt, long pants and gumboots while we were all rugged up to the eyeballs. 8th June Spent time this morning looking for insulation to go around the mast in the forecastle. The mast, being made of steel works extremely well in removing any traces of heat that might make their way forward from the diesel heater. The locals are all very helpful and a gentleman took me to his house where he had some insulation stored and gave it to me for nothing. It is a miserable day with strong wind and rain. The barometer is reading 999 and falling.
Sydney Nova Scotia to south coast of Newfoundland
04 June 2016
2nd June 2016 Arrived in Sydney, Nova Scotia at 2am and was met by Ashley and tendered out to Windjammer. Ashley and Cathie have sailed her up from Rhode Island where they had spent the winter. The rest of the crew, Maggie Kerr, Murray Spence and Matt Po arrived at various times on the 1st June. It is great to be back on board and share a new adventure with crew we have sailed with before. Sydney was famous for its coal mining and steel production. It was a gathering point for ships doing the Atlantic convoy crossings in the 2nd World War. These industries have stopped now and tourism is their mainstay. The cruise ship terminal has a small museum which records the early Gaelic settlers and later the battles for possession between the English and the French. A huge fiddle outside the facility is a reminder of the early settlers and their heritage of language and music. We departed Sydney at 1.30pm after fuelling and taking on water. A cold breeze was blowing in the bay but died out as we left the land and headed ENE on the 140nm crossing to Newfoundland. As we were motoring we stood solo 2 hour watches. A brilliant sunset over an oily calm sea was enhanced by the silhouettes of dozens of dolphins jumping and a few whales feeding. 3rd June First stop in Newfoundland is the small island of Ramea. The sea is flat calm and there is no wind. We arrived at 11.00am and tied alongside a large fishing boat. They were unloading scallops which they keep alive in the flooded holds. They generously gave us a basket of scallops and showed us how to shuck them. They did it very quickly and we ended up with several kilos of scallop meat. They also gave us some flounder fillets which Cathie cooked for lunch. Winston the skipper and owner was very proud of his vessel the "Burin Tradition" and showed us over her. He is licenced to fish for scallops, sea cucumber, whelks, cod and halibut and even allowed to catch 8 blue fin tuna a year. We had a walk on a board-walk out to the lighthouse. The country is boggy with stumpy little spruce scrub and weather rounded bare rock. We left Ramea after lunch and headed across to the main island of Newfoundland and entered the Grey River fjord. The town of Grey River has been largely abandoned as the fishing industry has declined since the moratorium on cod fishing in 1988. A local told us in his extremely broad accent there are only about 70 people left in town and only 14 children in the school. We anchored for the night a few miles up the fjord. We all battled to understand the Newfies "language". Their accent is quite unique and you need to listen very carefully to get their meaning. We dined in style with the fresh scallops cooked in ginger, sherry, soy and maple syrup and served with fresh asparagus and mashed sweet potato. 4th June Ashley changed the sump pump in the shower. It has lasted 6 years! We motored up the west arm of Grey River for a look around before heading out to sea and following the coast east to Lahme Bay. The coastline here is steep bare cliffs with little sign of vegetation. We entered Lahume Bay and anchored in Deadman's Cove. The massive hills here are well rounded by glacial action and waterfalls break the silence as they tumble hundreds of metres down the walls. We had a good climb up to the tops with views back over the bay and down on Windjammer at anchor. On the way down we noticed what we thought were white goats, but later we were told that they would have been young caribou. Leaving Deadman's Cove we motored 5nm along the coast to the small community of Francois which nestles at the head of a small cove with a backdrop of craggy cliffs and a river cascading through the centre of town to the sea. Like Grey River, this was a busy fishing village relying on the cod fishing but with its demise most residents have left. Today there are only 70 locals, but it seemed quite lively with several visitors staying in B & Bs ferrying in from bigger towns for the weekend. A quick stroll around the town was followed by pre dinner drinks on deck and then a delicious roast dinner. Later we went to one of the boat sheds where some visitors were having a sing along with guitar and lagerphone. Matt played some Spanish tunes and Cathie had a good bop.
Sailing to Nova Scotia
09 May 2016 | Sailing to Nova Scotia
The front has eventually passed and we are now on our way to Lunenburg. The extra two days dockside at Newport turned out to be quite productive and I was able to free up the engine stop cable that was forever challenging us to an arm wrestle. Cathie managed to add another ice breaker to her arctic collection and a new pair of foul weather pants so we are all good in the clothing department.
We left the dock at 6 am on Sunday, thanks to Mike for helping us with the lines, and motored all the way in the rain to Onset Town at the southern entrance to Cape Cod Canal. A good work out for the new foulies. Must give Gill a bit of a plug here, they gave me a complete new set to replace the previous ones that were just starting to leak even though they were 5 years old and done 55K miles. They provide life time warranty on their gear.
Back to Onset, this town is noted for having the best Pizza Joint in Cape Cod "Marc Antonio's" and for offering a safe anchorage for boats waiting for the tide to transit the canal. Beer and Pizza with an early night set us up for our 5am transit of the canal next morning, hooking in to a brisk 4kn tide.
After "popping" out of the canal, sails were set, fortunately without a hitch, though it did require several "umm is this the one" after our six month winter layup. The heater is working a treat but we do have to gybe the flue first before we gybe the sails to ensure clear airflow over the chimney.
A little dove landed on the foredeck this morning then took off again looking quite lost, lots of Northern Fulmars and little shearwaters flying around us sporting their new summer plumage.
Our expected arrival in Lunenburg is tomorrow morning (Tuesday).
Arctic Circle passage
05 May 2016 | Newport RI
Spring has finally arrived in Newport and it's time to get moving again. Just waiting for the weather front to pass, then we're off to Nova Scotia via Cape Cod canal and Provincetown on the end of Cape Cod peninsula. From there it is a 320 mile passage to Lunenburg where we start our meander up the coast to the Bras D'Or Lakes in Cape Breton via the St Peters Canal. We need to rendezvous with our crew in Sydney on the 1st June for the start of the northern passage to Norway via Greenland and Iceland.
It will be sad to say goodbye to Newport and all the friends we have made here during the winter. As it turned out it was quite a short winter for us due to the 7 weeks spent in Australia and the road trip to Quebec. We did however manage to complete our project "wish list"... painting and varnishing the internals and non skid deck. Cathie made new cockpit cushions and some new covers while I did the engine maintenance stuff... heat exchangers, injectors, water pumps etc. On the big spend side we had to replace all the Lifeline AGM batteries, liferaft and anchor chain. We also completed our Ham Radio licence, something we have been wanting to do for some time.
We built a frame over the boat, then shrink wrapped it. A few clears for windows, a wooden door and a chimney turned Windjammer into a very cosy igloo.
Newport Rhode Island - our winter home.
10 November 2015 | Newport RI - Photo: Berthed at Newport Harbour Hotel and Marina
We are back in Newport where we will spend this winter berthed at the Newport Harbour Hotel and Marina in the heart of the old town. Our in water berth includes shore power, cable TV, heated pool and access to the hotel facilities all at a cost of $400.00 per month. During the on season they charge $5.00 per foot per day so a very good deal for us. We are part of a community of 25 live aboard yachts in the marina so looking forward to building some new friendships. Our first project though is to build a frame over Windjammer so we can shrink wrap her with plastic to keep out the snow ....mmm this is going to be interesting.
Bar Harbor, Maine to Newport and New York
02 November 2015 | Manhattan - Photo: Anchored off Ellis Island near the Statue of Liberty
After disembarking Tom and Sylvia at Bar Harbour in Maine we sailed down the coast to Newport with a quick stop over in Rockland and Rockport. Newport was going to be our home for the winter so we were keen to check out the place to ensure we knew what we would be getting ourselves into. The Newport Harbour Hotel runs its marina during the winter at very reasonable rates and as a result there is quite a large live aboard community there. It is also conveniently located in the centre of the old town with everything in walking distance. We had also arranged to pick up Alex and Maggie our two daughters and Alex's boyfriend Dan. The Big Apple" was our next destination and the reason the girls had made the long flight from Australia. Neither of them having visited New York before, needless to say they were very excited. We spent one more day in Newport and then continued to make our way through Long Island Sound en route to NYC. We made a short stop on the north fork of Long Island, then onto Mystic where we rendezvoused with an old friend Jay Grant from the Whitsundays and his wife Monica sailing south to the Caribbean. Mystic Seaport is one of the largest maritime museums in the US and was founded by Walter Howland who owned the schooner "Integrity", the lines on which Windjammer (nee Leanne Marie) was built. We spent a great day touring the museum and town before sailing across to Dering Harbour on Shelter Island.
The following day we had a terrific sail down the sound but then the weather turned and we had to hole up for a day up the river and off the village of Old Saybrook near the old whaling town of Essex. It is a lovely New England town and happened to have a scarecrow competition running in the Main Street. Halloween was the theme, with pumpkins at every doorstep and some pretty scary and hilarious scarecrows. The next day was absolutely flat clam with no wind, so we left early and motored 100 miles into the East River and arrived to greet Miss Liberty at sunset. We anchored just off Ellis Island on the Jersey side of the Hudson River, popped the champagne and enjoyed the illuminated grand city view of NYC. Wow, what an anchorage. The girls were keen to explore the sights and duly set off the next morning for Central Park, Times Square and the Empire State Building. We took it easy and visited the two 9/11 memorial reflecting pools. These pools are almost an acre each in size and sit within the footprint of the original Twin Towers. They also feature the largest man made waterfalls in the world. Very impressive.
Over the course of the next five days we wandered through Central Park, saw a Broadway show, explored the village and neighbourhoods of New York, sampled the local cuisine and the girls even went ice skating in Central Park. Central Park is beautiful at this time of year with the leaves turning and all the colours of the fall. The last night before leaving was Halloween so we watched the ghoulish characters transiting the subway and streets to their party destinations and parades.
After seeing off the girls and Dan we had an early morning departure next day to catch the tide through "Hells Gate" - a boiling cauldron in the middle East River if you don't get the timing right. We slipped through with ease and continued our journey back to Newport. A great 10 days in NYC.
22 July 2015
We finally made it to Maine, a bucket list destination with Penobscot Bay and all the wooden classic schooners. We had heard so much about cruising in Maine, how beautiful it was, best cruising ground in the world, lobsters etc etc. We therefore had very high expectations.
Our next stops after Portland were the twin towns of Rockland and Camden. Rockland is a great working class town and we arrived just in time for the annual blues festival, the largest on the east coast, so that really got us into the swing of things. Camden is a quaint town just north of Rockland and draws a good summer crowd. These towns are well known for the "Windjammers" that operate week long sailing tours around this coast. We did a lot of exploring with our bikes and one of the highlights was being invited onboard the three masted schooner "Victory Chimes" by her owner the legendary Captain "Kip". Built in 1900 as a lumber trader, she now operates as a charter vessel during the summer season. She does this without an engine, as do most of the schooners that charter in the area. She does have a wooden tender called a "yawl boat" or "push boat" with a single piston engine to manoeuvre and push her around between sailings.
We again caught up with L'Hermione for Bastille Day celebrations at Castine and the majority of the "Windjammers" turned up for the festivities. It was indeed a grand site. We spent a great few days here doing some varnishing and participating in the celebrations ashore. Castine is a relatively wealthy but small town with a mature population. There is a large maritime academy here and is the home of the famed schooner "Bowdoin" which is the Maritime academy's training ship. We watched L'Hermione depart in the early hours of a foggy Monday morning and that was our cue to also make way.
We had a great sail down through Eggemoggin Reach which is a scenic thoroughfare between Deer Island and the mainland. We stopped in at the Wooden Boat School which is at the southern end of the reach. Bought some books on half modelling, (winter project), browsed around the school which offers numerous boat building and related classes and then made our way to Southwest Bay on Mt Dessert Island. We spent a few days biking around the island. They have a free bus sponsored by LL Bean which you can put your bikes on board and jump on and off at many places around the island to explore the Acadia National Park which covers the majority of the island. We also visited the main town on the island, Bar Harbor. This is a very wealthy area and summer residents include the likes of Rockefellers, Martha Stewart and other "beautiful" people.
The down side to cruising Maine is of course the lobster pots, and we encountered literally thousands of these, and I mean thousands. There were carpets of buoys everywhere, even in the anchorages and fairways. We found it quite stressful navigating our way through them. Unlike the local boats, we do not have a folding propeller or a cutter so a vigilant eye had to be kept. We left Southwest Harbour early for "down east" Maine, our aim being to reach Roque Island some 40 miles to the North East. The fog got worse as the day progressed and Cathie had to man the bow with the foghorn. It was like "pea soup" and sure enough we snagged a pot. Not having suitable wetsuits on board it was like, what now! Mmmm... try this, start the engine and slip the gear quickly into reverse and out... bingo it worked. We ended up dropping anchor in a place called Mistake Island Harbour just off Great Wass Island. We stayed put for 3 days due to the thick fog, did some fishing, (unsuccessful), and some indoor jobs. This was quite a pretty anchorage and there was another yacht about 50m ahead of us which we hardly ever saw, The fog didn't look like lifting and I was getting cabin fever so we decided it was time to leave Maine and head to Nova Scotia.
We were still encountering lobster pots in the gulf some 40 miles offshore. In thick fog later that afternoon we made our way into Yarmouth Harbour, Nova Scotia. This was a very hairy entry. We could only see as far as the handrails. The sound of foghorns and bells on markers were ringing all around us. Despite the thick fog, there was quite a bit of fishing boat traffic coming out of the narrow channel and our radar was working overtime. Needless to say, we were relieved when we finally picked up a mooring at the base of the harbour. An hour later it cleared up completely and we were able to head for shore and a well earned cold beer and some warm Canadian hospitality.
While Maine is a very pretty place in terms of the islands, boats, etc, it was not really our cup of tea. The lobster pots create an air of visual pollution and really detract from the scenery and the constant smell of the rotten processed cowhide (which many use for bait) as they bring up the pots has put us off eating lobster totally . The towns and villages are pretty but after a while they all look the same. The shop fronts with their gilded signs and tourist merchandise are copied from town to town. Even the restaurants seem to share the same menu. It is also incredibly busy with almost every harbour chock a block with boats and every available space filled with moorings for transients, hardly leaving space to anchor. Every square foot seems to need to generate an income. We have obviously been spoilt with the places we have cruised so far. Now looking forward to a more laid back atmosphere in Nova Scotia.
Nantucket to Portland Maine
08 July 2015 | Portland - photo: L'Hermione at Castine, Maine
Our next destination was the island of Nantucket famous for being the largest historical whaling town in the US. We had read good reports about the museum and after reading the Nathaniel Philbrick book, In the Heart of the Sea, (the story of the ship Essex from Nantucket which was sunk by a giant sperm whale in 1820. This in turn is the story upon which Herman Melville's book Moby Dick was based), we were keen to visit. It turned out to be a trifle disappointing, expensive and more focused, it appeared on promoting the movie based on the above book which was to be released later in the year. After the whaling ended, Nantucket became a popular retreat for artists and a big holiday destination. Although very touristy, it is not as manufactured as Martha's Vineyard and has more of a local feel. There are still many descendants from the Quaker families that set up and prospered in the town during the whaling years.
After only a short stay in Nantucket we sailed across to Provincetown on the Cape Cod peninsula. It was early July and the weather was warming up but the crowds had not as yet hit this area. It was two days before 4 July celebrations, the official beginning of the holiday season. We managed to find an anchorage a long way out in the bay and dinghied ashore to check out P- Town, as it is affectionately called. This town was very different to anything we had encountered so far. In the 1960s, it's isolation helped spawn a thriving artist colony and in turn a very large gay community. Everyone was celebrating the recent legalisation of gay marriage. Today it is a thriving tourist town with lots of colourful shops, people and art studios.
Next stop 40 miles across Massachusetts Bay was the fishing town of Gloucester. We had a nice gentle sail all the way, right into the harbour. Another historical US east coast fishing town and the home of the Gloucester Fisherman memorial "Man at the Wheel", a 2.5 metre bronze statue commemorating nearly 5,500 fisherman and 1000 ships who had been lost at sea. There is still a reasonably active fishing fleet and it is a real down to earth town. There is a big art community here at Rocky Neck with some interesting and quirky art. We met some really lovely genuine people, and one in particular who having known us no longer than 10 minutes offered to lend us her car to go get provisions for our trip to Maine. Thanks Amanda. We spent a few days anchored off ten pound island just outside the main harbour and celebrated 4th July here. We also picked up two new bikes, it was good to be mobile again.
We then sailed north to the Isle of Shoals. These are a small group of islands about 35 miles north of Gloucester. There is an old hotel on one of the islands and private residence and a marine research facility on the other. It was a great place for kayaking and we spent a couple of days just chilling out and paddling around. There was a university program underway where they were monitoring common and Arctic terns. They had helmets and protective clothing to shield them from the terns that were dive bombing them as they went about their research. These islands were once a popular summer tourist destination for the residents of New Hampshire and Boston in the 1950's but the once grand hotel is now in a very bad state of repair.
The weather was with us and we had a great sail 50 miles north to Portland Maine. We tied up in Dimillios marina, took on some fuel and water and then anchored off Fish Point not far from the abandoned Fort Gorges that lies at the entrance to Casco Ba . We had trouble setting the anchor and it took a few goes to get settled in. Next day we took the bikes ashore and cycled around the city. Portland is Maine's largest city. It is a charming and stylish city with great bars and coffee shops along the brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets in the old port district. The reason we stopped in Portland was that we had considered spending the winter here after recommendations from a friend, however on talking to the locals about the freezing winter the previous year we decided further south would be better.
Fort Lauderdale to Marthas Vinyard
27 June 2015 | Savannah, Georgia photo: Docked at the Waterfront for the Jazz and Blues Festival
We left Ft Lauderdale on a bright sunny day with not much wind and followed the coast line for Savannah, Georgia. There were recreational fishermen in droves out on the water so had to maintain a close watch. The city of Savannah is located about 10 miles up the Savannah River, so we made a left turn and headed up river. The river is very busy and you are sharing the channel with large tankers and cargo ships heading in both directions. There are no anchorages or marinas
for tying up until you get into the city itself. We arrived late in the afternoon and there was limited space on the downtown waterfront dock where a number of boats were already tied up, however with insufficient space between them to allow us to tie up. Now if we could just get one of them to edge up a little and move the other boat back there might be room enough for us,(the other option was to go back down the river and out to sea). Hence I headed across in the dinghy to ask the Dutch cruising couple if they wouldn't mind moving... just a little. It was now drizzling with rain and they were very reluctant to oblige, however with a bit of gentle Australian persistence and persuasion, we finally worked our way in.
The waterfront is a busy and vibrant area with lots of restaurants and tourist souvenir shops. We arrived on a Friday evening and as it happened there was a Jazz and Blues Festival on the dock right beside us over the weekend. Front row seats! Savannah is a lovely southern city with lots of squares and green park areas scattered around the city. It also boasts many stately buildings and homes and monuments dedicated to the civil war and American War of Independence. We had been here 30 years earlier and really enjoyed the city and of course the famous Pink House Restaurant. We were compelled to take a trip down memory lane and it didn't disappoint. They provide a very different take on southern food. All in all a great few days spent in a lovely city with warm hospitality and good food.
The next stop was Charlestown, South Carolina. This is also a lovely city, with federation style buildings and a very southern feel. The confederate flag was still flying on the state parliament house. We anchored off the Charleston City marina and walked into the city every day (about 15 min walk). We also hired a car for a day to pick up maintenance bits and pieces and our new toys, two inflatable kayaks. We were in Charleston for 4 days but were keen to keep heading north to Chesapeake Bay.
We entered the Chesapeake Bay at Norfolk and Portsmouth Virginia, home of the US naval dockyards, which were remarkably empty compared to 30 years as ago when there were massive ships of every description.
Next stop was Solomons and its delightful maritime museum. There were literally hundreds of boats in and around Solomons, mind boggling. The museum was fantastic with the prime exhibit being an actual lighthouse that had been removed from its original location in the bay. The lighthouse had been built on 5 steel stilts which had been drilled into the seafloor with the prefabricated lighthouse bolted on afterwards. The museum convinced a drilling company that it was in there interest to cut the steel struts and transfer it ashore (free of charge) to the museum site.
The replica of L'Hermione, an 18th century French Frigate was doing a goodwill tour of the USA. We had been following her for some time but had not as yet had the chance to catch up with her in dock. She had just berthed at Annapolis for more celebrations so that was to be our next port of call. She was an extremely popular ship with the Americans. The respected Captain Lafayette sailed her to the US and assisted the American rebels against the British in the American Revolutionary War in 1780. There was lots of music (including a sea shanty band that had travelled from Marseille on their own accord to add to the festivities of the L'Hermione), dancing and French fare to be had and the town was alive with celebrations for a week. We happened to come across a bar where a sea shanty gathering was taking place with the French group as well as locals and ring ins from around the US participating in a very entertaining evening.
Whilst ashore one day we found a note taped to our dinghy which read " Hi Ashley and Cathie, fancy seeing you here. I am anchored next to you, come over for a drink, Jay Grant". Jay is an old friend from the Whitsundays whom we hadn't seen for 12 years. So a few rum and tonics later we had caught up on old times past. It was really great to see him again. After we had arrived in Annapolis we learnt that there had been a mass shooting in Charleston, at the very church that we had walked past each day on our way to the city. A young white guy shot dead about 10 black worshippers. After this shooting, it was decided by the state to remove the confederate flag from the state house.
We moved on a couple of days later as our plan was to check out New York prior to meeting our girls there later in the year. We left Annapolis early to get the right tide to go through the C&D canal through to Delaware. It was a pretty uneventful trip and not particularly scenic. The plan was to anchor somewhere on the Delaware side but the water is so dirty and shallow, we decided to keep heading south to the entrance to the Delaware Bay to Anchor at Cape May. We arrived around midnight and went inside to the marked anchorage, however when we got there it was extremely crowded with no space. There was another anchorage across the way where the tugs etc anchor but it was such a mess in there that we aborted plan A and decided to keep running north as the wind was favourable. We had just set sail but the wind continued to veer so New York was out and Martha's Vineyard was looking good. We encountered a bit of a blow on the way, but reefed down quickly and the front passed over within an hour or two. Three days after leaving Annapolis we anchored in Vineyard Haven on the island of Martha's Vineyard. "The Haven" as it is called is schooner central. There were some really beautiful and well kept yachts. It is also home to the topsail schooner Shenandoah. She had just undergone a refit and everything was being put back together to get her ready for the season. It was time for a drink ashore, so we ventured to the nearest tavern. It was just as well we had decided to eat ashore as this is a "dry" town and alcohol is not permitted to be sold unless served with a meal. Until recently no alcohol was allowed in the town at all.
We weighed anchor and moved around to Edgartown. This is the main town on the island and a huge tourist area. Lots of beautiful shops, fancy restaurants, and manicured gardens with holiday homes for the rich and famous. This is also home to Chappaquiddick Island where the "Chappaquiddick incident" occurred in 1969 when Senator Ted Kennedy drove a vehicle off the bridge into a river and left the scene and his young woman colleague to drown.
A severe weather warning was issued for our area so the harbourmaster allowed us to enter the inlet which runs about 2 miles inland from the town. There are very strict regulations about where you can and cannot drop anchor in this neck of the woods. We sat out the storm as the only boat anchored amongst a plethora of oyster and mussel farm enclosures. We raised anchor the next day spending most of the morning cleaning the chain and decks of filthy, sticky, smelly mud.
Jardines del Rey to Havana and Florida
03 June 2015 | Cuba - photo: Near Baracoa Cuba
We spent a wonderful week cruising through the Jardines del Rey, a 210 mile stretch of cays, reefs and sandy beaches on the North Coast of Cuba. On our first snorkeling/spear fishing session we managed to get a red emperor and our first fresh lobster. Ciguetera can be a problem in this region so we decided to return the emperor to the sea and settled on BBQ'd lobster for dinner instead, tough decision! We sailed an average of 30 miles a day, stopping at different cay's along the way, mostly all were uninhabited. There was some good snorkeling spots with good coral, lots of tropical fish and of course, crystal clear water. Steady easterly winds nearly all of the way so had some great sailing under foresail and balloon jib with an awning over the mainsail booms for shade.
While exploring around the mangrove channels on a remote cay by dingy we came upon some fisherman who were using fish traps they gave us a pineapple which we greatly accepted in return we gave them some bread and a packet of biscuits. Not to be out done they then gave us some lobster tails, 8 or more but we explained that there was only two of us and 8 was far too many so we accepted 4 large ones. Lobster thermador for dinner coupled with mojitos and salsa on the foredeck (a memorable evening).
We then sailed past the tourist area of Valadero and onto Marina Hemingway which is located approximately 25km to the west of Havana. This is quite a large marina with 4 canals running parallel to the coast. There was a variety of boats and nationalities here, Canadians, Scandinavians, French, Germans and Australians. There were also lots of game fishing boats. The last couple of days there has been an influx of American boats sailing under "sanctioned activities" this allows Americans to legally visit Cuba. Things are moving very quickly. In the city the other night we were at a music venue and no less than four US senators and their wives "dropped in" and made an impromptu speech as part of a visiting "Arts Delegation".
We spent 4 days in Old Havana City staying in a "casa particular", these are rooms in a local houses which are rented to tourists. There are literally hundreds of them ranging from one room to 18 rooms per house. There also many hotels but the casa particulars certainly out number the hotel rooms. A lot of the restaurants,(paladares) are also located in locals homes. The city was amazing. We were unaware of how rich and prosperous this city was in its heyday. There are literally hundreds of palatial buildings of the baroque period. Quite a few of these have been restored and in good repair however there are many more that are almost in ruins. The old city has been given a Unesco World Heritage listing and there are major restoration projects going on everywhere, the city has a good vibe with music on just about every street corner. There are new small private enterprises, mainly bars and cafes popping up everywhere and the restaurant scene is quite good. We did spy a Ralph Lauren shop and a few Italian high end boutiques - probably getting in early.
Two days back on board making a new hatch cover and a bit of varnishing and we were off to Vinales by bus. Vinales is about 200km south west of Havana. It is a village that sits in a valley amid a stunning mountain range. The area has been open to tourism for some time and therefore is quite prosperous. all of the houses, which number about 300, are all painted bright colours, have a porch and 2 rocking chairs out the front and every second house has a room to rent. In the valley there are fields of tobacco, corn and a type of potato and large drying sheds for the tobacco. It is the largest tobacco producing area in Cuba. We took a hike through the fields and into the mountain range where there are numerous caves. We did a tour through one of the large caves which is 14 miles long aided by a guide with a large LED light. There was even a fresh water pool at the end of the cave where Ashley took a plunge. We then rented some bikes and toured the town and outlying areas. Next day it was back to Havana and Windjammer to get ready for our departure to the US of A. Our destination was to be Key West, but the day before leaving we read a blog of a Dutch boat who entered Key West from Cuba 3 days earlier and had been refused entry as it is apparently still illegal to enter the US from Cuba. They were told to leave the country and re enter from another country,(probably Bahamas). We didn't want to risk this (we had heard that the customs officers in Key West could be difficult), so we decided to make landfall in Miami. We arrived in Miami early Sunday morning (a quick passage with the assist of the Gulf Stream) and tried to check in. It was all too difficult with shallow waters in the river, bridges that we couldn't get under and dredges everywhere so we aborted plan B and went Ft Lauderdale instead. One phone call to customs had us cleared in and a trip to the immigration had our visas sorted, our freezer and vegetable baskets untouched by a gloved hand. Phew! Ft Lauderdale was very busy and expensive so we are now heading north to Savannah, Georgia.
Oh and just noticed that our log has reached 50,000 miles since leaving Australia. Might be time for a celebratory drink of Ron Zacappa, our special rum.
Link to Havana Photo Album
Link to Vinales Photo Album
Entry in to Cuba
12 May 2015 | Cuba SE Coast - photo: Fidel
Friday 8 May at 11.00am we made landfall on the south eastern coast of Cuba at Pt de Vita. We were instructed by the Capitania de Puerto to drop anchor outside the marina and standby as we would need to be boarded and cleared by the local officials prior to entering the marina and Cuba. This we duly did and by 12.30pm we were tied up in the marina and cleared by immigration, customs, harbour master and a Doctor specialising in infectious diseases.
All very efficient and such a contrast to our 7 hour wait in Puerto Rico for US customs to clear us. After a good wash down, a few rums and a hearty dinner we retired for a good night sleep. The following day we hired a car and drove to Santiago de Cuba, the second largest city after Havana. On our way to collect the car, it seemed as though we were caught in a time warp, American cars from the 1950's graced the roads along with the more common form of transport, horse and buggy, as well as motor scooters, bicycles and public bus and truck transport.
We picked up our car, a Chinese 4WD, complete with squeaky steering wheel and after a quick drive around the beaches and resorts that crowd this part of the coastline, we headed for the city. It was a lovely 4 hour drive though sugar, banana and pineapple plantations, a very fertile part of the country. Arriving in Santiago de Cuba we found as expected a large busy city with a distinctly South American flavour. The old city though has beautiful Spanish architecture very similar to that of old San Juan in Puerto Rico, however unlike San Juan, the buildings are in fairly poor condition some with roofs caving in and crumbling walls. There is obviously a long term plan for restoring these old buildings, and once completed will rival San Juan. It was Saturday night and there was lots of music playing in the many piazzas that dot the old city. Lobster for dinner, salsa in the square and then the plan was to end up in the local jazz club, however our footwear, thongs, not being appropriate we were denied access. Next morning we drove through Guantanemo en route to Baraccoa on the south eastern tip of the country. Unfortunately you cannot get anywhere near the US base as it is ringed with Cuban military bases, so after a mothers day lunch of pizza, pasta and beer, (all for about $1.50 US in the local restaurant) we continued to Baraccoa through a spectacular mountain range. Baraccoa is one of the oldest towns in Cuba and is a vibrant little town nestled at the foot of the mountain range. The town is centered around a main piazza with a restored church and buildings connected with cobblestone streets. There was lots of music, lovely little restaurants and a generally good vibe. We found lodgings in a local home and a relative of the owner took us on a tour of the area. We swam in the river in one of the gorges, visited a coco plantation and learnt how chocolate is made.(this is the Cacaoa capitol of Cuba). In the evening we had our first salsa lesson. One hour later we both seemed to have mastered the 8 basic steps required. I think however a few more lessons are needed before we take to the dance floor.
We set sail from Pt de Vita yesterday for the "Jardines del Rey" an archipelago with a succession of cays that stretch 210 NM and line the north coast of Cuba. The seaward side of these cays boast mile after mile of sandy beaches, fronted by intermittent barrier reef and small islets,(and hopefully lots of fish and lobster). Intermingled amongst these remote cays are some big tourist facilities on some of the bigger cays. At 3.00 this morning we anchored off a very pretty little cay that houses a Guardia control station and the Cuban control station for the Old Bahama channel. It is noted in our guide that we may not go ashore as it is considered a military facility. From here there are many cays to explore, all within a short distance of each other, so will spend approximately a week "gunkholing" before heading further west to Varadero and Havana.
Now its off to the reef with fishing line and speargun!
Antigua and the Greater Antilles
05 May 2015 | En route to Cuba
After nearly 3 weeks in Antigua where we had great fun preparing and then participating in the Classic Yacht regatta, we dropped off our hearty crew and headed for the island of Barbuda. As our South African friends who we were buddy sailing with said "Barbuda is the real deal". Beautiful sandy pink and white beaches, with crystal clear turquoise water and very few other yachts. This is something we had not seen too much of since leaving Trinidad in February. These places however are not without their challenges and checking out on a Sunday was going to be one of them. After landing the dingy in breaking waves, we then needed to summons a water taxi to take us across the 1.5 mile lagoon to the main town of Codrington. Engine problems sorted, the taxi finally collected us for the bumpy and wet journey across the lagoon. It was 1.00pm and the offices close at 2.00pm. Upon arrival a friendly local offered to drive us to the customs office. Alas, there was no one there. A series of phone calls from our ever friendly driver had the customs officer arriving in 1/2 hr. After completing our customs check in procedures, we needed to visit immigration but the immigration lady was currently indisposed, so we headed off for lunch at a small cafe for lobster and beer where we happened to come upon the port office administrators, also having lunch, they duly took our paperwork, processed them and then returned them to us at our lunch table. It was turning out to be a very pleasant day. On our return for the trip across the lagoon we encountered the local water taxi legend George who took us on a guided tour of the magnificent frigate bird colony and nesting area ,one of the biggest in the Caribbean.
It had been a while since just the two of us had been on our own on board so we needed to lift our game a little and get used to setting full sail on our own again (the single handed race in Antigua had been good practice). Next morning we had a fabulous sail to the island of St Barts (playground for the rich and famous) where we spent 3 days. It was a lovely island and we would have liked to stay longer but we were keen to make a start on the 800 mile passage to Cuba as it is getting late in the season and we need to be heading north to the US around the first week in June. We did 250 miles to San Juan in Puerto Rico where we had a short 2 day stop for reprovisioning. After a 7 hr wait to clear US customs we eventually got to explore the old town of San Juan which was truly delightful. The architecture is very European with narrow cobblestone streets and gorgeous colourful buildings home to quaint restaurants and bars. The restoration of the old town is just abut complete, and the Spanish colonial influence has been brought back to life.
We are due to make landfall in Cuba in a few hours. We have had the wind behind us all the way, so have been gybing our way west and have been averaging around 8.5 knots most of the way. Our plan from here (as much as we can plan) is to explore the north coast of Cuba then head up to Maine and Nova Scotia for the summer. So excited and looking forward to lots of fresh fish, lobster salsa music and exploring Cuba.
Jammin in the Trade Winds
24 April 2015 | Antigua - photo: Soufriere, Saint Lucia
Our first blog since the 28th February! - We have been so busy jammin between the islands with various friends on board that blogging just had to take a back seat. Since leaving Trinidad we have sailed up through the Windward Islands, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines including, Union Island, Carriacou and Bequia. After our 2 years in central and South America where we met the occasional yacht, arriving in the Caribbean, one of the most populated cruising grounds on the planet, was always going to be somewhat daunting.
Thirty years ago when we last sailed here the Grenadines was still relatively undiscovered. Today it is a thriving tourist and yachting mecca and in our view completely overcrowded. Almost every bay is filled with bareboaters and seasonal cruisers. Below the cyclone belt, (Trinidad, Grenada, Carriacou and to some extent Bequia) there are also the permanent liveaboards adding to the congestion. Going further north to the French Islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe was a breath of fresh air, we had some great tradewind sailing. The French culture, great food and wine which abounds in these islands and notably absent from the south was wonderful. We explored some of the interior and did a number of hikes, including a 3 mile hike along an old canal wall feeding water from the mountains to a distillery in Guadeloupe with 800 metre vertical dropoffs.
Then it was on to Antigua for the Classic Yacht regatta with a great bunch of invited friends we had made during our cruising.
Link to Photo Album
Arrival in Trinidad
14 February 2015 | Trinidad - photo: Carnival 2015
We are currently sailing down the north west shore of Trinidad on our way to Chaguaramas, ten days after leaving Brazil and we are ready for Carnival. It has been a wonderful trip, good winds all the way, lovely warm weather and great crew. This is definitely what cruising is all about. We are yet to go ashore but the island looks very green and mountainous. The population of Trinidad I believe is around 1.4 million so expect it to be very busy after six weeks at sea. We are ready for the culture shock though! Our plan from here is to haul Windjammer out, either here or in Grenada, so not all party and relaxation just yet as we have some work to complete first. Sails have been stowed and hammocks, awnings, spear gun and snorkeling gear have been moved up to the deck lockers ready for quick deployment. The "Rum cocktails of the Caribbean" book has been located and dusted off....as they say.....no worries be happy!
Link to Photo Album
09 February 2015 | Two days out from Trinidad - photo: Pirate of the Caribbean
Looks like about 2 days left to get us to Trinidad which will be a nice end to our 5400 mile crossing. Since the last post we have been maintaining good daily averages of about 170 miles thanks to the Brazil current and steady trade winds. Crossing the ITCZ was quite comfortable this time round with only the occasional cloud driven squall which never exceeded 40 knots and then only for short spells. We did have a spell of bother when a squall passed over us and left a wind void behind it which resulted in us having to drop sail in a very confused sea on a bucking deck with booms and gaffs swinging wildly. Graham lost his footing and head butted the main mast, coming off second best with a nice bruise on his forehead and partial black eye, looking very much like Johnny Depp in "Pirates of The Caribbean".
With only three of us on board now the watches have changed to 2 on 4 off, so spending lots of time catching up on lost sleep.. The winds have been steady at 12 -16 knots from the ENE giving us a good reaching angle so hardly any sail trimming required and allowing for some deck and rigging maintenance. After our incident in Fortaleza we decided to head directly to Trinidad, the up side is that we should be there in time for Carnival, second only to Rio, at least Graham wont need to dress up!
The Pirates knife
04 February 2015 | Brazil - photo: the 12
I half joked that disasters generally run in threes! The glue in our two dingy repair kits had gone off, the guy in the English yacht next door came to the rescue with some hypalon glue, nope also gone off, then the marina maintenance man turned up with a tube, nope also off. So it was tools down, stop filling the water tanks, grab the months worth of laundry and head into town with the old glue tube as a sample. Yesterday we had spent a fruitless afternoon taxiing around the city looking for someone to fill our propane gas tanks, was this going to be a repeat? Fortunately we had a good taxi driver and after only three stops found a little hardware store that sold the "best glue" in town. Things were looking up, there was no queue at the laundrette, we had an unexpectedly good lunch, and I even managed to find a single element electric hot plate to run off the genset as a back up for when we ran out of gas. Now it was just a matter of getting back and repairing the dingy.
Disaster number three....who turned the water off before going into town..... oops!!..... floorboards were floating in the saloon! The rest of the afternoon was spent pumping, bailing and drying out the boat. Cushions and clothing littered the deck and my brand new camera was drowned. By early evening we had things back under control again, dingy glued and patched and decks cleared. We delayed our departure for the morning and went off for a well earned swim in the marina hotel pool with a few cold beers to send off Kirill and Bruce. The next mornings departure was uneventful but what a relief to be out at sea again with a steady breeze and a one knot NW current under the keel.
Oh! and the pirates, the 10 inch pirate knife still lies untouched on the coach house, every time you walk past it you get a bit of a shiver up your spine, I'll have to get rid of it, but not quite yet.
So what do I think of Forteleza ... not worth a stop in fact it should be avoided. The marina is so dilapidated that it is positively dangerous. There are not even basic yacht services and it is quite expensive, although there is a good super market down town. Don't anchor out unless you have to then maintain a watch and be prepared to repel boarders with suitable weapons. If they do get get below decks unannounced and in the dark they will have control of the situation then its best just to submit to them. We have learnt some positive lessons and certainly wont be complacent moving forward.
Our next stop is Iles De Salut off French Guiana (The notorious prison island that Papillion escaped from) - 560 miles to go.
31 January 2015 | Fortaleza Brazil - photo: shipwreck off the yacht club breakwall
2nd February - Just another day cruising.....or was it? We arrived in Fortaleza under a full moon at 3:00am and made our way across the bay to the yacht marina. A shipwreck lay near the entrance but almost a mile closer than was noted on the chart. As we passed between it and the marina break wall we suddenly noticed more unmarked wreckage just above the water directly in front of us. With our 6 cylinder engine going full steam astern we managed a lucky escape! By 4:30am we had anchored in the bay and sat down with a nerve calming brandy enjoying the moonlight view across to the beaches lined with modern high rise condos.
Half an hour later I was woken by Kirill shouting that there were people trying to board Windjammer. Expecting customs officials I was surprised to find 3 knife wielding bandido's shouting pirata, pirata trying to climb on board! There were no guns, at least that I could see. Kirill appeared next to me with our largest galley knife and it suddenly dawned on me that we were in a tricky situation. I dashed across the deck, grabbed the boat hook and set about defending our position. A boat hook used as a thrusting javelin by a half naked shouting maniac makes for an awesome weapon. I managed to dislodge my pirate with some handy body blows while Kirill's pirate decided to take to the water. The third pirate still in his wooden dingy kept coming at us with his knife and paddle. Making no gains he then attacked our inflatable, still in its davit's, with his knife slicing a nice big gash in the side. This turned me into a bit of a pirate, fortunately my boat hook is made of stout Tasmanian oak. Graham, now also involved had a close shave when one of the pirates in the water threw his knife at him just missing. Cathie had turned the deck lights on making the whole thing seam quite surreal, then jumped in the front line with a can of Alaskan bear spray, luckily she did not have to use it as we were down wind from the Pirates! Needless to say we were quite shaken by the experience and were only to happy to be tied up alongside other yachts in the security of the marina. It soon came to light that a French yacht anchored out the previous evening was also boarded and held up, having all their electronics and money stolen. Probably the same guys.
This story continues.........
Fernando De Noronha
30 January 2015 | En route to Brazil - photo: Bahia San Antonio - Fernando De Noronha
At 16.30 hrs on Friday 30th,we arrived at Ilha De Fernando De Noronha, a small island roughly 7 miles long, 2 miles wide and 200 miles off the coast of Brazil, just in time to race Holly ashore to clear customs and sound out the immigration people. We were somewhat concerned that as the Island was not an official port of entry that there might be a problem releasing her from our crew list for her return to the UK. The officials, dressed in casual T shirts looking like we had just interrupted their day on the beach could not have been more accommodating. Half an hour later we were sitting in a delightful bar restaurant on the hill overlooking the anchorage with a splendid view of Mount Pico, a volcanic plug, drinking capariniha's and Mojito's. We managed, in the true manner of a sailor to eventually find our way back to the boat in drips and drabs with support from the crew of "Spirit of Adventure"
Next morning we all filed into the immigration offices at 10.00 am sharp, looking rather worse for wear, then it was goodbye to our ship mate Holly, London bound. Perhaps we will see her again in Antigua for race week.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the island with its 4000 inhabitants and hordes of tourists from the mainland indulging in mainly scuba diving and beach activities and driving around in beach buggies. The cost of living on the Island is very expensive even compared to European prices.
At sunset we stowed the anchor and once again set sail, this time for Atol Das Rocas 85 miles to the west.
This morning we dropped anchor off Isla do Farol, a low sand spit on the north west side of Atol Das Rocas. Graham and I took the dingy to scout out a passage through the reef to the sand spit which housed two small wooden huts a radio antenna an old ruin and four windblown palm trees. We managed to thread our way into a lagoon where we met a guy and two girls taking marine samples. It turned out that we were trespassing a marine sanctuary... gone are the days of hedonistic exploring! After a quick swim we upped anchor and set sail for Fortaleza 272 miles to the west.
Bruce's 21st Birthday
26 January 2015 | En route to Fernando de Noronha - Photo: Celebrating Bruce's 21st Birthday
Yesterday (25th) was Bruce's 21st birthday and up until 3pm she could be forgiven for thinking that we had forgotten it was such an occasion. Other than a few hugs and quiet "Happy Birthdays" it was a quiet normal day onboard Windjammer. But, unbeknownst to Bruce, we had been plotting... As Bruce settled in for her afternoon watch we all disappeared below and the companionway hatch was closed. Within was a veritable buzz of activity, the galley and mess area were decorated in netting, stars, sea creatures, "21"s and keys, a tower of cupcakes cake was assembled, decorated and safely stowed for later, and the fancy dress outfits we had been surreptitiously assembling for the last couple of days (out of whatever we could pillage on board) were dug out. The theme was 'Children of the Ocean' and so assembled a pirate (me), a seal (Ashley), a flying fish (Cathie), Neptune (Kirill) and Africa-in-da-net (Grahame). Considering the lack of resources the outfits were pretty damn ingenious and a photo definitely needs to follow this post at a later date. Cathie's wings were so big that she could only move sideways, Ashley's seal mask defies description and Grahame's outfit definitely left very little to the imagination! Windjammer was put on autopilot, Bruce was allowed down into the galley and I think we impressed with our efforts.
We all assembled on deck for rum punch and it promptly rained more than it has all trip, lucky it is so warm it doesn't matter. The rain soon cleared and next came pink champagne, a card and present, and a wonderful lamb roast dinner on deck bathed in the warm evening light. Bruce's present was fairly unique - a piece of scrimshaw, carved by Ashley, depicting Schooner Windjammer and her route from Cape Town to Brazil via Saint Helena. To shake us back to normal, Ashley gave the order to drop sails (we've lost the wind again) and our rag tag bunch, still in fancy dress, jumped to obey. This schooner had Neptune in the rigging and a pirate on the bowsprit! Sails stowed we called Bruce below decks again for another surprise of the cake and candles.
Needless to say we all ate far too much! Once all the washing up was done we returned to watches as usual, although some of us were on far too much of a sugar and rum rush to sleep. I started my watch on the helm at 0300, put my iPod on shuffle, stripped down to my bikini and danced my way under luminous star-filled skies through the sunrise to 0830. Just one of those tropical nights when everything is perfect. Oh, and revenge was had yesterday for the airhorn wake up call... a metal pan and spatula brought an abrupt end to Ashley's nap (and the his face upon waking was enough to make me scarper quickly!).
A day in the Galley
22 January 2015 | En route to Fernando de Noronha - photo: Bruce and Kirill baking bread
As some of you may have gotten the impression ,there are several things on board that provide an inordinate amount of pleasure. Cooking is one of them and, as I write, the pineapple and rum cake is in the oven. We all did the rounds earlier to lick the bowl clean of cake mixture and we now wait in anticipation for the final result. Cathie has also baked a seed and raisin loaf for accompanying coffee and tea breaks. No doubt neither will last very long. The last of the chocolate cup cakes disappeared yesterday - we suspect Ashley to be the culprit.
The wind for the last couple of days has been reasonably settled between 12 and 18 knots from the south east and we have been able to maintain a good course for Fernando de Noronha. We had a couple of unexpected squalls, heeling Windjammer over nicely just in the middle of dinner preparations but allowing some of the crew to have an unexpected deck shower! As the weather has been so lovely the arrival of the squall was followed by frantic closing of hatches which have been open for weeks. Everything on deck has had a fresh water wash and it was temporarily lovely and cool, the seas were flattened and a few cobwebs were blown out. Over the last couple of days we have also seen a couple of ships; a large tanker and a cargo ship on the horizon. There's still been no sign of any other yachts along our route. The nights have been feeling warmer and we're wandering on deck in boardies, relaxing under starry skies. With our watch cycle there is little difference between day and night, life continues on its own cycle. During the day, bikinis and shorts are the usual, and we have a lovely cockpit cover to keep the sun off when it gets hot. Sundowners have also been a pleasant and fairly frequent occurrence recently. To update: we've just finished the rum cake (while still warm), along with rum custard and proper coffee with rum added... very yummy and didn't last long!
Becalmed and no one to talk to
20 January 2015 | En route to Fernando de Noronha
20th Jan. Yesterday evening we ran out of wind. Having tweaked sails and course (and crew) trying to keep going we were eventually forced to conclude defeat and drop sail in the evening and motor. Back to a world of noise and vibration. On the plus side, running the engine allows us to get a good charge into the batteries and, for the first time since we left St Helena, run directly towards Fernando de Noronha.
The south-easterly wind continues to tease us as we can only head west or north of the rhumb line- we are not able to run very square to the wind, particularly with a swell running and low winds. Highly frustrating given that we have a deadline for arriving in Brazil! The dreaded deadlines! Bright and early this morning the wind was back and a rag tag bunch of zombies assembled on deck to raise all sails. Ashley attempted to rally us as we raised the main sail, fore sail, staysail, topsail, fisherman staysail and spinnaker. All this up we were then able to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and some toast for breakfast and finally wake up.
Communications from ship to the outside world are done through a modem connected to HF radio, this provides us with emails, a means though which to receive grib (weather forecasting) files and, of course, a route through which to update the blog. While emails are not sent frequently, it is still nice to be able to pass on messages to family and friends occasionally. Between Cape Town and Saint Helena our nearest station was Maputo (in Mozambique), but in the last few days connection has proved increasingly difficult and we are now beginning to use the station in Chile. If anyone reading this blog is sending us emails... please keep them short and sweet, and be aware that we may not receive them for a couple of days.
Day 3 and settling back into the routine
17 January 2015 | En route to Fernando de Noronha -Photo:Sunset over Jamestown with Jacobs Ladder lit up
After the excitement of leaving St Helena, getting back to sea and settling down, life onboard has resumed its normal routine. We have all passed the day - the one just out from port, when all the crew, transitioning from normal hours to watch hours suffer from a bout of exhaustion - and everyone is starting to function (relatively) normally again. Although, looking at some of us sitting bleary eyed at the helm this morning you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise! Thanks to Ashley for capturing that moment on camera... revenge will come.
We've also resumed our previous activities, picking up where we left off with books and ipods, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are being watched (again). A session of dominoes was played yesterday, however having done a round of the ship we realised that everyone knows how to play but no-one knows the rules! The winner is somewhat undecided - it may be Ashley who had the most points or Cathie who has the least - to be settled by a re-match today. As part of our supplies raid we pilfered a yachting magazine, this acquisition of fresh reading material is being read to within an inch of its life, including amusingly an article on 'How to plan your Atlantic crossing' - ironic reading given that we're already halfway across. Food remains important and we have been enjoying yet more lovely meals from Cathie, with Kirilo and Bruce making pizza for lunch yesterday which went down a treat; we're also eating plenty of fish curtesy of the Strumpet boys - thanks guys! Homemade fish cakes for lunch. The plan for today also includes some baking... current options include croissants, cup cakes, or (my favourite) pineapple and rum upside down cake. We also need to start planning for a birthday, it is Bruce's 21st in 7 days.
The breeze remains light and fickle, pushing us further WSW than was intended but not quite far enough to be worth putting in a gybe yet. The distance to run is still over 1400nm, and we're not even heading in the right direction. Oh well, we'll get there eventually! We're being accompanied by several yachts sailing on from St Helena to Brazil, but none have been visible since we left the island. We haven't even sighted a ship. The storm petrels and flying fish are keeping us company but cetaceans and larger seabirds haven't been seen for a while. Now where was that book....
Departure from St Helena
16 January 2015 | En route to Fernando de Noronha - photo: Cocktails at Government House St Helena
0600 this morning the bell rang for all hands on deck to stow the tender and prepare Windjammer for her onward passage to Brazil. The crew were a tad tardy in responding and everything seemed to take twice as long, but then again, we did have a rather big final night ashore! It soon became evident that one crew member had gone AWOL, however, arrived back on board as the sun was creeping over the horizon.... No names! Last night we attended a formal reception at the Governor's House with drinks and hors d'oeuvres served by uniformed waiters and waitresses on the grassed terrace. We were all dressed in our best, although given the limited wardrobe that was still definitely on the casual side of the specified 'smart casual' attire, flip flops were still in evidence but at least the dresses came out.
The view over the green hills and valleys with the blue Atlantic ocean as a backdrop was quite awesome, particularly with the late afternoon light. In the foreground, next to the tennis court were the famous tortoises wandering around on the grass Jonathon the eldest was shipped in from the Seychelles in 1877 . Wine, beer and nibbles flowed freely and the reception offered another opportunity to get to know the other crews, local characters and island visitors. For the most part everyone behaved as suits at a formal reception and we all headed off back to town to Ann's Place for a far less formal braai. Fish was supplied by the Strumpet boys following their successful fishing trip, with Ann's Place providing a wonderful braai area, bar and accompaniments. Needless to say, more than a few drinks were had and we all had a lovely night with friends new and old, some of which are heading out along the same route as us over the next few days and some of which are soon heading back to Cape Town on the RMS Saint Helena when she leaves on Saturday. We wish them all fair winds and calm seas!
We left Saint Helena at 0730, having dropped the flags and performed a quick raid for additional supplies. The sun was out and it was going to be another gorgeous day. It was bittersweet to be leaving, there is so much to see and do on the island that 5 days doesn't do it justice but we are all excited to be heading off to the horizon and on to somewhere new. The mooring was dropped and we headed out to the west - our next stop is Ilha de Fernando de Noronha, another 1700 nm to the north west. There was initially 18-20 knots of breeze and we were all happy to be sailing again. By midday the island was no more than a shadow in the distance and we are all settling back into our watches and into the rhythm of life onboard; Cathie cooked a fab Thai fish curry and we watched another stunning sunset... life onboard is good.
Tour of the Island
14 January 2015 | St Helena - photo: The Islands converted Chevrolet tour Bus
Our exploration of the island started with a tour of the island on an old classic 1929 Chevrolet open truck seating 16. There was a canopy which could be pulled over for rainy days however the weather was magnificent as we headed off with our local driver Colin whose family has been on the island for many generations. The first stop was the local distillery where they make a number of different spirits, the most popular being Tungi, a schnapps made from the local prickly pear. It's about 50% proof so not for the faint hearted! They also make rum, brandy, lemon liqueur and a gin made from local juniper berries that grow in abundance on the island. Paul the owner is busy making a special batch of brandy to commemorate 200 years since the exile of Napoleon, who spent the last 5 1/2 years of his life on the island. This will be specially bottled and shipped to Paris.
After a lovely drive through wooded mountains and flax plantations we ended up in Longwood at the farmhouse where Napoleon spent his time in exile until his death in 1821. He was buried in a quadruple coffin in a beautiful valley looking out to sea, his favourite spot on the island. The body however was exhumed 19 years later and shipped back to France.
The population of St Helena has been hovering around 5000 with a mixture of Portuguese, English, Dutch and South African, however just recently they lost approximately 1000 who took up citizenship in the UK when it was offered. The local accent is very musical and quite pleasurable.
The tour around the island gave a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the diversity of the island. From the approach by sea the island looks barren and arid, rich red/brown earth forming inaccessible cliffs and land slides. Once you enter the interior of the island you find a lush, tropical, green land crossed by narrow lanes that wind up and down the hills and mountains. Walking around this island would keep you fit as every road is a steep gradient. Closer inspection of the greenery confirms the influence of many countries and a number of non-native species form part of the vegetation. Jamestown is the main town on the island, but there are several districts around the island - Half Tree Hollow, Longwood, Mount Pleasant and others - which vary from small collections of houses with a shop or two, or a cafe, to the large Half Tree Hollow district with bakeries, shops and daycare which houses nearly a quarter of the islands population. The island is now British (it was once Dutch) and was initially owned by the British East India Company. It's location was strategically important and even today it offers a good anchorage sheltered underneath imposing cliffs which offer protection from the prevailing winds. The Main Street in James Town is lined with beautifully maintained Georgian houses extending just over a mile from the water front and up the valley.
Arriving St Helena
12 January 2015 | St Helena - photo: arriving at St Helena with a steady breeze and a full set of sails
07.30 hrs Sunday 11th January and it is day 15 out from Cape Town. I have just sighted land hiding beneath a large cloud on the horizon. The isailor app on my Ipad confirms that it is indeed St Helena Island and we should be there in about 2 hrs time. There are now lots of red billed tropic birds and fairy terns visiting us as we broad reach under full canvas towards James Town anchorage.
09:30 hrs and we hug the shore beneath shear cliffs passing close to the islands fishing boats and onto our designated anchorage where seven of the seventeen competing yachts have already arrived. The crew do a smart sail drop and we pick up our mooring to a round of cheers and welcome from the other yachts and committee boat. The moorings are arranged in lines with risers fixed to heavy ground chains all in good condition.
10:30 hrs and we hurry ashore to catch the customs and and immigration who are fortunately still on duty this Sunday morning, clearing out the departing passengers on the Royal Mail Ship. Once the formalities were completed the race organisers were on hand to brief us on the Island and scheduled activities. A short walk from the waterfront to the Castle Gardens found us at the renowned Anne's, a watering hole and restaurant decked out with memorabilia from past visiting yachties. There was even a memorial plaque in the gardens dedicated to Joshua Slocum who gave a lecture on his solo voyage around the world in 1898. Annie's provided us with a good lunch and a few Windhoek lagers before we hit the wall and headed back to Windjammer for some well earned sleep. First impressions are very promising So tomorrow we start exploring.
Day 13 - Trade winds at last
09 January 2015 | En route to St Helena- photo: enjoying the catch of the day
Day 13 and the St Helena high has finally moved back south allowing the trade winds to settle in at a steady 12 to 14 knots. The days are clear with polarized blue seas and fair weather clouds on the horizon. We are now 170 miles from St Helena and expecting to arrive early Sunday morning. We managed to catch two Dorado's yesterday and served them up for dinner with JT's lemons. Today we caught another so will have him for lunch as sushi and sashimi. Holly has turned out to be an ace fish filleter and is now in charge of the fish knife, 'must be all those years of dissecting!
I am amazed by the lack of sea birds on this passage, we occasionally see a solitary little "Wilson's Storm Petrel" but other than that very little, though I expect we will see a lot more as we get close the Island. Grahame had a busy session in the galley this morning baking a corn and honey bread loaf which we renamed the "tsunami loaf" due to its unusual shape, must have been the ships heeling, but as they say the proof will be in the tasting.
The crew are now becoming quite adept at gybing Windjammer as we zig zag our way down wind. First the fisherman sail has to be lowered to the deck and lines secured, then its on to dowsing the spinnaker and releasing the preventers and running backstay before gybing the main and foresails. Once completed we then hoist the fisherman and spinnaker again, secure preventers and finally coil down ...all under 10 minutes.
Had a big day sorting and exchanging music files, uncovering some real beauties, so Windjammer is now rocking to some "cool tunes"
Day 12 - End of race for us
07 January 2015 | En route to St Helena - Photo: where is the wind?
Current position 20o 11'S, 000o 15E. - 422nm remain between us and Saint Helena but we're being pushed west by SSE winds. The winds continue to be fickle, tempting us with promises of breezes; clouds and ripples and dancing patterns on the water but a consistent, steady breeze is proving hard to find. In response to this we raise sail, we lower sail, we motor and then we raise sail again. And repeat. The night's sleep has become punctuated, not just by watches, but by interim wake up calls to haul up or drop sail. As a consequence Windjammer frequently looks a strange scene with crew strewn asleep in the galley, mess room, bunks or scattered on deck catching a few moments snooze.
To keep occupied we have raided the Windjammers library, working our way through a variety of maritime themed literature, from stories and rigging books to marine life guides, windjammer history, Wooden Boat back issues and flicking through cruising routes of the world. Ashley gave us all a knots workshop; testing our knowledge before getting us to tie them backwards and blind. There's also been carpentry, rope work, baking bread, sea shanties and attempting to learn celestial navigation, squeezebox and ukulele to keep us from boredom. Nature has been continuing to entertain, with somersaulting bottlenose at sunrise and porpoising tuna at sunset but it has been quiet on the bird front for the last few days.
Officially we have retired from the race. The 100 mile motoring allowance has been exceeded as we became painfully aware that unless we motored further in search of wind we would miss the race cut off date but also the end of race celebrations and the Royal Mail Ship leaving St Helena! Continued forecasts indicate that if we had waited for wind we may well still have been in the same 50 miles of ocean as we occupied 2 days ago. We are not the only yacht to retire and motor in search of breeze, and from the position updates it looks like there may be others. Unfortunately it was only after our decision to retire that the race cut off was extended, ho hum! The first yacht Banjo, a trimaran, has reached Saint Helena.
Day 9 from Cape Town
05 January 2015 | En route to St Helena
After plain sailing for the New Year, on the 2nd of January the wind finally left us. 5 days of plain sailing then nothing, nada. The sails flapped in the swells, the blocks rattled and kept us awake as we attempted to ease Windjammer forwards on ever decreasing puffs of air. Finally we dropped sail and motored. Race rules for the Governor's cup allow vessels in the cruising class to motor for 100 miles. Now we chose to use this wildcard, motoring north in an attempt to escape the Saint Helena high which has us (and the rest of the race participants) frustratingly without wind. For the next 2 days we hoist sail at the slightest breath and then, disappointedly lower them again as it evades us. We ghost along at night with light breezes under a full moon. During the days the cockpit awning comes out. In the evenings Kiril emerges with the guitar or we tell stories and sing sea shanties. We drink coffee. We lunch on deck. We jump over the side for a swim in the impossibly blue ocean and make like pirates climbing back aboard on the bobstay and swinging off the bowspirit. We sunbathe, we read and we snooze, lots.
As soon as the wind left, so too did the albatrosses. The oily calm of the ocean surface seeming desert like, save for drifting Portuguese men-of-war and by-the-wind-sailors. Yesterday evening this was broken spectacularly by a pod of pilot whales joining us at sunset. Dorsal fins breaking the flat ocean surface, all around us. Combined with rain clouds (a free shower!) and the promise of breeze it raised a smile from all the crew. As it was it was all coupled with a glass of wine, some of Cathie's fabulous cooking for dinner, chocolate brownies and coffee - life doesn't get much better.
This morning there was long awaited breeze. As we hoisted sail we spotted dark torpedoes, cruising along, effortlessly keeping pace with us - tuna! Gorgeous flashes of yellow and iridescent blue just below the waves. We watched spellbound... and then we reached for the fishing lines. We dangled the hand lines attempting to get a tasty looking lure in their general vicinity. An initial investigation and then they ignored it and us. Failing this Ashley dug out the fishing rod, selected a shimmery lure and we tried again. They seemed to sense our less than honourable intentions, moving away and re-appearing somewhere else alongside. Hmmm, smart fish. 5 minutes later Ashley reappeared with a speargun...nah no luck .. what else can we do? the wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce remain patiently on standby!