Day 33. Sailing on Northumberland Strait/Canso Strait Lock
The winds were south at first, when we left Summerside, good for a beam reach, but then they died after we went under Confederation Bridge. We motored from 9:30 am until 6:00 pm, but then the wind picked up again and we managed to sail from 6:00 pm, all through the night, until the next morning at 8:30 am. It was wonderful to sail for a change!!!! The weather looked threatening a couple of times in the evening (see photo), but the rain/thunder clouds quickly crossed the strait in front of us.
The worst part was navigating through all the lobster trap floats near Charlottetown: we counted six major "mine fields". We soon realized that if you saw one float, you knew there would be about two dozen nearby, and not much room between them. Fortunately, we did not snag any on our propellor. The Northumberland Strait is surprisingly shallow (only 60 feet deep), and lobster traps are everywhere, even in the middle of navigation channels. By nightfall we had passed Charlottetown and most of the lobster traps. We reduced sail overnight to slow our speed, to 3 to 4 knots, so as not to arrive at Canso Strait in the dark.
The sky cleared at night and we had a beautiful starry sky. The morning was sunny and we were treated to another fun reception by a couple of whales who crossed ten feet in front of us in St. George's Bay, just as we were entering the Canso Strait. We put the engine into neutral while they swam around us. They were too fast to get any good pictures or videos this time. [Sorry, Phil and Irene. We are pleased you enjoyed the last video, but we were unsuccessful this time. Say hi to our friends at BOHM!]
We transited the Canso Strait Lock which separates Cape Breton Island from mainland Nova Scotia. Tidal currents used to be treacherous here, so the canal was blocked and a lock added. There is not much change in elevation: mostly the lock controls the tidal currents. Uwe called on VHF channel 11 about a mile from the lock, as advised in the Fisheries and Oceans sailing directions, and, sure enough, got a reply. After giving the vessel name, length, tonnage, previous and last ports of call and skipper's name, the Lockmaster told us to enter on the port side of the lock. Unlike the St. Lawrence locks, we had to supply our own dock lines, but there was no fee. We were, however, once again pleased that we had our old oversized fenders because the concrete lock walls were very rough and had a healthy growth of kelp and barnacles on them.
For the first time, because we are finally far enough away from Toronto, we managed to listen to Herb Hilgenberg's weather service for sailors on the single side band radio. Prior to this, we only got static.
Day 34. Canso Strait = Highway
We were told that we were not the first ones at this port, and in fact, several other boats arrived here before us already this year on their way to Europe. The Canso Strait is a regular highway!!! Seems like everyone is doing what we are doing, and Port Hawkesbury is THE place to re-provision; there are no other options. It has been 1375 nautical miles since we left Bronte Marina. But hey, that's an accomplishment for us, even if everyone else is also doing it!
On the 33rd day of our adventure, a good weather window was predicted, so we set out in the morning from PEI and left for Nova Scotia. Just before we got to the Confederation Bridge, Anne saw something fall from the sky and then we heard a loud splash. Oh my goodness! Our radar reflector had fallen off the mast and into the water!!!! Talk about a "shake-down cruise"! The radar reflector must have been damaged during the rough weather in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Better that it happened now than while sailing the Atlantic Ocean, we were both thinking. Anne recaptured the radar reflector, after a couple of attempts, using our big fishing net (a hoop with a handle). Somehow we KNEW that we had not bought this net just for fish! Uwe jury-rigged the radar reflector to the mast top with a spinnaker halyard.
The next morning, we arrived at the Canso Strait Yacht Club. The club members were extremely friendly and helpful. A neighbour of one of the club members, Shawn, kindly drove Uwe to the Strait Marine Shop where Uwe was able to buy some fittings to re-attach the radar reflector to the mast. When Uwe climbed the mast, however, he found out that there was more damage than he had at first realized. The bracket was broken.
Uwe talked to some club members about the broken radar reflector bracket. Ron, an enthusiastic and energetic fellow, took the broken bracket to his workshop and reinforced it, that very same day, for a nominal fee. Uwe climbed the mast again (see photo) and successfully re-installed the radar reflector.
Day 30. Silver fox Curling and Yacht Club
The Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club in Summerside has a lovely harbour and club house (see photo). The docks are well kept and the members are meticulous in their care of the facilities. At the club house, we had a glass of wine last evening, and lunch today. The people are very friendly. Signing in and paying for fuel is done through the bartender.
We had the engine checked by a local mechanic who came to our aid within 10 minutes. His diagnosis was that the splattered oil on the floor was likely from transmission fluid had been forced out of the dipstick cap, which had not been secured tightly, and then dripped onto the propellor shaft. It gave us peace of mind to know that he could not find anything that was dripping oil.
Our friend at the Yacht Club informed us about Spinnaker Landing Tourist Area, which is right next door to the Yacht Club, and the Arsenault Fish Market. We bought a delicious pre-cooked 2.5 pound lobster at $7 per pound at the fish market. Also, very importantly, there is a well-stocked liquor store nearby, so we did not suffer too much waiting out the gales. As our friend at the Yacht Club stated, it's one thing to get caught in a gale, but it's not prudent to start a trip in a gale.
Day 29. Summerside, Prince Edward Island
We had not planned to go to Summerside. In fact, we did not plan to stop anywhere on the coast of Prince Edward Island.
The weather forecast had called for 10 to 20 knot winds from the SE, which would mean that we would have to tack into the wind, but we were anxious to go. By the morning of the third day on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we had made it more than half way to our planned destination, Port Hood on Cape Breton Island. However, the wind did not stay below 20 knots. On Anne's shift, the wind increased to 25 knots, to 30 knots, to 35 knots and then to 39 knots. The higher winds meant our tacks were getting shallower, and the waves slowed our progress further. It was pouring rain and we were not making much progress in our intended direction and had no idea whether the wind was going to increase further still, as gale-force winds had not been predicted. Because the waves had increased from two to three metres, and some of these waves were coming ahull, Anne was worried about a possible knock down. So we decided to revert to storm tactics by running with the wind toward the western tip of PEI, ducking around the island, and then sailing through the Northumberland Straight (see GPS track). Going downwind was much easier on us, but once we were closer to PEI the wind started dying! We had retraced our sailing track for this to happen? Deeply disappointed, we reluctantly started motoring.
We were relieved we had radar as we ghosted through a fog bank at the north-west tip of PEI, a trip that was made even more interesting because of the dozens of lobster trap floats all throughout our path. These floats made it feel like a mine field because some of them could have had trailing rope that could possibly entangle our propellor. As it was Uwe's shift, he had to be extra vigilant. The fog cleared once inside Northumberland Strait so we could stop sounding our fog horn. We took our 4-hour shifts for yet another overnighter, although this one while motoring instead of sailing.
The next challenge was to find a place to stay or anchor. We did not have large scale charts for the Northumberland Strait because we had not planned on taking this route. However, we did have our small scale chart, the St. Lawrence Cruising Guide, and the Fisheries and Oceans Sailing Directions. The harbour of Summerside was reported in the sailing directions to be easy to enter because it was well marked with buoys (which indeed it was) and had no serious hazards. We arrived at this harbour on the fourth morning, after having travelled twice the distance (300 miles) we had expected to travel during the three days and three nights at sea.
Day 22. Gaspé
Well, we made it to Gaspé! We finally had a chance to refuel at Jacques Cartier Marina. The entire trip from Rimouski to Gaspé was motoring, because either we had no wind, or the wind was right on the nose.
We were pleased to see several whales yesterday, but today took the cake! We had seen some whales throughout the day yesterday, and some seals, but about 45 minutes out of Rivière-au-Renard, we motored straight into a particularly large pod of whales - minke whales, we think. We turned the engine off for 25 minutes while the pod swam upstream. There were dozens of whales all around us, and many came up to check out the boat. In fact, some came to within two feet of the boat. One juvenile stuck his head up to look at us a couple of times as it got closer and closer (see video on You Tube). The video I took is in wide-angle mode, so the whales were actually much closer than they appear in the video, and the horizon is curved. Unfortunately, it is really hard to take pictures of them because you see one only for a moment and then it is gone, and then another pops up somewhere else! When I was near the bow I could see both flippers of one whale as he passed under the boat, the water was that clear. There has been something new and/or exciting every day! So far we do not regret this trip!!!
The package we were waiting for finally arrived at the marina today, so we will be able to get on our way tomorrow.
We met a friendly young couple on the visitor's dock, Ian and Virginia, who plan to cross the Atlantic Ocean in their Hans Christian 38, "Lady Earendel". Ian has been involved with sailing most of his life, including CORK and world championship races in Laser IIs, and Virginia is an accomplished young lady who plays piano, makes her own bread and cans her own meat. Anne envies the fact that Virginia has a sewing machine on board for her sewing projects![%youtube*%v]
Day 19. Ste.-Anne-des-Monts
We knew it was going to be a long trip between ports, so we left at 5 am. Anne made bread while underway. We arrived at the Ste.-Anne-des-Monts Harbour (see photo) at 7:30 pm, had supper and went to bed.
We had motored all day (wind directly on the nose again). There was really no place for pleasure craft to gas up between Rimouski and Gaspé. Theoretically, we have just enough fuel to make it, but that would have meant running the tank dry with nothing in reserve, which is an unlikely scenario as the engine would probably gurgle, cough and die before reaching the last drops. So, at Rimouski we bought a 20L jerry can and filled that up in addition to our usual 150L (our fuel tank capacity). This morning Uwe emptied the jerry can into the fuel tank and used the can to buy another 20L from the Ste.-Anne-des-Monts harbourmaster. He has a very small diesel tank beside his office and this is the only way to buy fuel here. Uwe carried that back to the boat and emptied it also into the fuel tank. That gave us 40L on top of the usual capacity per trip, so Uwe figured we would have enough to make it to Gaspé. Every leg of the trip has offered something different in the way of challenges!
The next day we visited with a friendly couple also wanting to cross the Atlantic Ocean, Paul and Vicky. They have a beautiful Pacific Seacraft, beige with red trim, called "Nokomis". They also were spending the extra day resting because they had sailed overnight from Tadusac.
Day 21. Rivière-au-Renard
We had another long day, 4:50 am to 5:50 pm. It was sunny all day, with choppy seas for the first hour and again the last half hour. We saw more small whales, and Anne even saw one breach! We also saw seals popping their heads up to take a look at us.
"Nokomis" hailed us on VHF to let us know they were behind us and that they had decided to go further to Rivière-au-Rénard because the weather was good. "Nokomis" arrived at 9:00 pm. Both boats spent the night anchored side by side in the harbour of Rivière-au-Renard.
We had an east wind to start, but then between 7:00 and 8:00 pm the famous katabatic winds from the west kicked in. These blow down the valleys at night and into the harbours on the coast at upwards of 25 to 30 knots in places. We experienced 20 knot winds from 8:00 pm to about 7:00 am the next morning. Fortunately, both boats have good anchors (we have a Rocna anchor and "Nokomis" has a Bruce anchor) and neither of them dragged in spite of the kelp growing on the harbour bottom.