RHSP 2008 Nelleke's Race
Well. How to put this?
And now we are home again.
Well, we started the race on a bright but cloudy day with almost perfect winds to beat out of the Harbour on one long starboard tack. One short tack to round the Bravo Buoy and we were off on a broad reach for St-Pierre.
We tried out the mizzen staysail for the first time and what a beaut! The winds gave us 7.5 knots for the rest of the daylight hours and built slightly into the night and morning. By 0900 on the morning of the second day we were topping 8 knots! By 1100 the winds had built to the point that we had to drop the mizzen staysail. It is supposed to be for light weather, after all, and the winds were by no stretch of the imagination light! Although we had rounded the buoy in second to last place, by the morning we had passed most of the fleet and were tied for third place on actual time and likely first on corrected!
The boat and crew were working like a well oiled machine - sails trimmed, course steered, meals prepared and consumed, watched set and manned, everything was going perfectly!
We were going to knock 12 hours off our previous time and I was planning what I was going to be doing with the extra night in St-Pierre and where I was going to hang the trophy.
Then, disaster! As we crested a wave we were smacked by another errant wave from a different angle that hit the rudder and tore the auto helm off its mounting. As it came down it pulled off a couple of the other electrical connections as well so we were back to manual steering and were missing some key ingredients for navigation. I experimented with the steering to see how well the rest of the crew had picked up helming but in short order I discovered that although keen and well intentioned they simply didn't have the experience to do the job in those conditions - 30+ knot winds in 2-3 meter seas - and I simply couldn't do it myself for 24 hours. I made the decision to abort and head into Louisburg to repairs. That evening, in dense fog we were along side.
Next day I found a piece of oak aboard that I tried to make a replacement fitting. The problem was that the grain on the piece that I happened have was the wrong way. Even in calm weather it didn't last five minutes in operation. So, back to the dock. This time I resolved to make one of metal and scoured Louisburg for a machine shop. Unfortunately there simply wasn't one. What there was, however, was a very obliging and helpful gentleman with both the the necessary machines in his garage and a sheet of eighth inch stainless steel plate. From this we made two sheets of support for the autohelm and used them both! He wouldn't take any payment and he wouldn't even join us on the boat for a drink! Really great fellow and very helpful.
Next morning we were off again and determined to make it to St-Pierre even though we had been disqualified for motoring into Louisburg. We left at 0800 and arrived in France after 24 hours as the last boat to arrive. Barb was already there having flown in the day before to meet us on the dock. Our hostess, Katerine was also there to provide the very necessary link to the community and we began to participate in the social aspect of the event.
That night Barb and I went to one of the local restauraunts to have a belated 30th anniversary dinner. We had already exchanged gifts on the boat - she receiving a string of pearls and I, a really fine Bulova Marine Star watch. The meal was superb, as would be expected, after which we toured the waterfront. Bluenose II was in harbour as part of the celebration and we were invited aboard to a reception - free drinks and hors d'ouvres - yummy, except that we had already eaten.
Next day we got up early and Barb went off to the local bakery for some croissants and bread and I prepared breakfast for the crew. After which we prepared for the Sailors Parade up to Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). This is always a fun event with the boat crews carrying flags and noise makers, escorted by the town band and carrying a maple tree as a gift to the town. At the Town Hall the Mayor makes a short speech and invites us in for cocktails, wine and more food. Then a quick nap on the boat to recover and prepare for the BBQ and dance that night. The BBQ was not. Instead they provided us with a very tasty cold meal of pizza squares, pate, pasta salads and a variety of jellied salads. Inexpensive cash bar and a variety of music. The first band was from France, and was very good, just not the sort of band that you'd like to dance to. The next was from Halifax called the Hopping Penguins, who have a sort of rock regge sound that pretty much everyone liked.
The following day, was the day for the Grand Prix de St-Pierre, the race in the harbour, followed by the awards dinner. Unfortunately, poor weather (no wind and dense fog) scrubbed the race, but the dinner was great. Although we were not in the running for any prizes, I did get to see the main trophy for the cruising class which we won in 2006. There was NELLEKE's name as well as mine on one of the plaques, which was nice to see. Also, Amy on our crew won the most valuable crew person award, the first time that was awarded. She was presented with a small wooden box which, when opened, was found to contain a clock and a compass, which we proptly christened her "man finder".
Next day we said adieu to Barb who was flying out back to Halifax and set off to motor sail home. She later told us that as they flew over they could see us below just as we were entering the fog. That day was very pleasant and we event were able to spot a pod of humpback whales in our wake. Too far to photograph but we could make out that there were two or three individuals feeding.
Gorgeous sunset which is supposed to bode well for the next day, but the suset lied! By noon the winds were picking up and seas building, so I made the call to head into Canso harbour and let it pass. Good thing too! The last 5 hours of that leg were in winds exceeding 40 knots! We had the engine making turns for what would normally give us eight knots but were struggling to make four! Then, after we turned into the harbour, it was like the pressure lifted. No apparent wind, no seas, peace! we came alongside at the marina and said hello to some old friends. Tuna followed us in and the two of us got a fuel truck to come alongside and replenish our tanks. A little later Dogsled came into the marina as well. Laundry, showers, a hot meal and sleep - blessed sleep, without the tension of listening with half an ear for a change in the engine noise, or the rigging, or the motion of the boat and withourt having to brace yourself against the motion.
The next day the weather forcast gave us 12 hours of relatively smooth sailing so we decided to head for Liscomb to get a little closer to home. With the exception of one brief squall the trip was relatively peaceful and calm and we got into the harbour in time for dinner at the Lodge. Strange. This was the first time ever that I had been into Liscomb when the marina wasn't packed. We were the only boat on the dock! Again: showers whirlpool, swim in the pool, laundry and drying of wet gear and a good night's sleep!
Then the next day my Claerpoint Weather download gave us very good conditions for the remainder of the trip to Halifax so around about 1200, off we went. A little fog at the start but clearing, and a little swell that died down as the day progressed, but sadly almost no wind. We made good time an got into AYC by 0300 on the 24th of July. Marc had to leave immediately after a beer but the rest of us stayed aboard for a sleep and breakfast with our rides then they arrived at 0730. I was awoken by a very happy Periwinkle jumping on my bunk and doing his best to lick the skin off my face.
That just about ends this year's big race adventure. All in all, although not successful from a prize winning perspective, it was supposed to be an adventure and it was; we worked together well as a team and made the trip there and back again; in spite of their lack of experience, I couldn't have asked for a more willing and patient crew; and finally we met some interesting folks both in other crews and folks ashore.
I think that I am going to miss not being in the next one.