The Eighth Cruise Ends
28 October 2017
So this is a picture of my “new” command – my “vessel” for this and (likely) future winters.
She has a theoretical hull speed of “0 knots” and is not at all maneuverable. On the other hand, I don’t expect to do any all-night anchor watches, am quite sure that none of the neighboring “vessels” are likely to drag or swing into me and she has no exterior brightwork. Nice – that last. Unfortunately, snorkeling is unlikely – it would take a really deep dump of powder to make that even remotely possible.
There are, however, many cabin projects to engage me, the ski pass is purchased, the skis themselves soon to be tuned and ready. And, I am trying to get my “sea legs” built back up to the point where they are likely to be useful as “ski legs”. There is the additional challenge that a full year at sea level (and when sleeping on KR actually slightly BELOW sea level) has made the 8600’ elevation here in Grand Lake moderately problematic. I am hitting the gym to try to at least partially resolve these issues in time for opening day.
As always, following is a recap of the numbers for the Eighth Cruise:
Logged Miles: 4281nm
Engine Hours: 300hrs
Countries Visited: Florida – Yes, I consider that a different country.
Bahamas – for a lengthy 5 months.
Bermuda – for an expensive, but cool, 5 weeks.
Canada – Nova Scotia and Cape Breton – wonderful as always.
Canada – Newfoundland – Majestic!
In a previous post I alluded to the likelihood that this Eighth one-year long cruise was to be the last of the year-longs. Five of my cruises have involved the Caribbean, five have involved the Bahamas – and I have enjoyed my travels in these tropical and semi-tropical waters. While some day I might go back, for now my choice is to keep Kelly Rae in northern waters. The definition of “northern” is currently the Chesapeake to the Maritimes. That may well evolve and include significantly different longitudes in the future – Europe, perhaps, or possibly the Pacific Northwest. Who can tell?
The next cruise will likely be a laid back wandering of Maine waters with a meander south to the Chesapeake next fall.
I am not abandoning cruising and, in fact, this is an important haul in the on-going Kelly Rae improvement process. By the time she is re-launched next spring there will be a new Beta 30 (already being called Bette Beta) diesel installed. The Westerbeke W-27, Becky Westerbeke, that has been Kelly Rae’s throbbing, vibrating, noisy, smelly (and reliable!) heart for the last 30 years will go on to new duties – if only I can find a new home for her. She’s still a good engine. If anyone knows of someone needing an engine…
My reason for re-powering is a simple calculation. At 30 years old, Becky is old but not ancient – somewhere around 65 in human years. She is still capable but not without some challenges - not unlike me at 63. In 10 years, by which time it would seem likely that I would be ready to move on to a new, cruising boat free, existence, she would be old. At that point anyone buying KR would know that they would need to re-power – or possibly I would need to do so in order to sell her at all. By doing it now, I will have the pleasure of enjoying a new engine for the next 10 years– with better performance and efficiency AND quieter and smoother running. That’s the theory anyways – I’ll let you know how that works out next year.
I have, I admit, become spoiled while crewing for friend, Cheryl, on her Cape Dory 31. Evergreen was re-powered with a Beta 25 four years ago. Normal daily engine checks were a joy, with no oil being burned or seeping out; clean, amber colored oil (that was a revelation – I thought that diesel engine oil was always black, black, black!) and starting that was instantaneous – no glow plug required. This is, I hope, my engine relationship of the future.
So my cruising life – and this blog – will be on hiatus until next spring when it is warm enough in Maine to WANT to go sailing.
Best to all.
On Rhum And Thoughts of Newfoundland
12 August 2017
I would admit that it has been a bit distressing – to go cruising on an incompletely provisioned sailing vessel. Certain things are sacred and must always be onboard – preferably in prodigious quantities.
Rum is high on the list of such commodities (peanut butter and popcorn are others).
My problem is that I drink “cheap rum” AND, I am very cheap on the price I will pay for it. The quality of the rum matters when you drink it “neat”, perhaps with a bit of lime, but when your mixer of choice is Tang…
I can feel the readers’ gag reflex rise right through my fingers as I type that sentence – I’ve certainly felt other’s revulsion often enough when I’ve admitted to this foible in person. What you don’t know is that Tang makes some great flavors of drink powder mixes including Mango, Peach, Pineapple, Passion Fruit, Guava and others. And, they package it in foil packs that make exactly 1 liter of mixer! So, cocktail hour requires a 1liter Nalgene bottle, drink mix and water, rum and lime. It takes less than a minute from thirsty to thirst quenching (and less than a half hour to “cocktail hour mellow!). The packets of Tang mix, when bought at a “good price” can be as little as $0.40 but I have paid as much as $0.80 when necessary. I have never found these Tang drink mix packets in the States, however - only in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. I stock up whenever I find them.
A larger problem recently has been finding inexpensive “cheap” rum. I stocked up in the Bahamas on expensive “cheap” rum knowing that my cruising would take me to places (Bermuda and Canada) where the price would get nothing but higher. Unfortunately, the stock on board was fully depleted during my lengthy stay in Bermuda – and most certainly wasn’t going to be replenished at Bermudian prices. On arrival in Canada, my first trip to the liquor store made it clear that my stores would remain depleted for the duration.
All of this history I have told so that the “miracle” of St. Pierre can be fully appreciated. For those who don’t know, the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon just off the coast of Newfoundland are actually French – France-French not French-Canadian! Imagine my delight in finding inexpensive “cheap rum” – 12.50Eu for a 1.75 liter bottle! Not knowing French I can’t be absolutely sure, but suspect that the name translates roughly to “Ye Old Bovine Urine” – Good Though! The boat is once again (and finally) properly provisioned, cocktail hours are complete and correct and all is well with the world of cruising.
For those who have visited St. Pierre or, for that matter, any of the Caribbean French islands, the “miracle” of these places is most certainly not limited to rum. French wines, cheeses, smoked meats and sausages are readily available – at fair prices. I remember being absolutely entranced with the selection in the markets in St. Martin (the French side) and happily used my limited French language vocabulary (including words like Camembert, Beaujolais, Baguette, Croissant etc) to its full extent. I had, therefore, looked forward to getting to St. Pierre. It’s food market was NOT in any way disappointing.
I have now made the jump back to mainland Nova Scotia, arriving in Halifax early Sunday morning after 2-1/2 days at sea (more on the passage later).
As my last comment on the “miracle”, let me say that I departed St. Pierre better prepared for sea – at least from a food perspective – than on any other passage. Walking back to the boat to get ready to slip lines Thursday after lunch, the baguette sandwich that I had picked up to have for dinner at sea that night tucked away in my boat bag, I realized that I had one remaining $5Eu note left in my wallet. Walking into the Patisserie, I held the bill up and asked “How many croissants can I get for this?” The answer was not more than I COULD eat – but more than I SHOULD. So, we settled on a small tuna and melted cheese pie (excellent), 4 croissants and a sinfully rich butter cookie. The cookie didn’t make it back to the boat.
I’ve written about “Charms and Challenges” previously in this blog. Both are necessary to make a cruising destination worthwhile and interesting.
As I reflect on my not quite 4-week cruise along the Southwest coast of Newfoundland it is clear that the expected charms long extolled by those cruisers who have recommended it were in all respects true. The people truly are that welcoming, the coastal scenery (particularly in the fjord section of the coast east of Burgeo) absolutely spectacular, great hiking and exploring opportunities are prevalent and the area is certainly NOT overrun with yachties – quite the contrary. I would add that the morning rush hour “moose reports” on the St. John’s based CBC broadcast always elicited a chuckle as well. Clearly, Toto, we weren’t in Kansas anymore.
Yes, on the challenges side of the equation, there is fog, of course, and, on hikes, it is good idea to carry along a head net – just in case the wind dies. The winds were often too fluky for sailing. I did a lot of motoring along the coast. Unfortunate that, but as with most cruising grounds it is true that the amount of sailing you do depends in large part how willing you are to wait for winds and how willing you are to take a wind forecast that is more festive than would seem absolutely necessary. I was often unwilling and/or unable to wait for winds this summer and didn’t feel a need to get beat up – so, I often motored.
There were two other challenges, one expected and one not so much, that deserve a bit more discourse.
First, the unexpected:
By the time I reached Burgeo and saw this poster hanging in the Harbormaster’s office, I had experienced any number of “conversations” in which I had achieved little real comprehension. And, they were speaking ostensibly the same language as I! The words, however, went by quickly and in uniquely contracted form. The “When Fishermen Meet” conversation is accurate. Thankfully, context usually brought general comprehension – if not complete clarity. If, for example, anyone can translate the 8th line, “Muddenbron”, for me, I would very much appreciate that. With the benefit of long study, I’ve got the rest pretty well sorted. In an actual conversation, “long study”, didn’t always work out so well.
I really had not expected a language barrier to exist.
However, I did know that 4 weeks was just not enough time to spend in Newfoundland. Time and distance and a short cruising season are the true challenges of cruising Newfoundland. My eastbound “auditing” cruise along the coast did allow me to see and experience much. However, I was unable to be in Burgeo for their “Sand and Sea Festival”, wasn’t able to make it back to Grand Bruit for their “Homecoming” weekend and missed the music festival weekend on lovely Ramea Island. Given more time, I could have done any (or perhaps all) of these events.
Throughout my Newfie wanderings, there was always the knowledge that there were 650nm to be traveled to get to the Maine coast – and, I had reason to want to be there by Labor Day. This admittedly self inflicted limitation along with the short cruising season in these Northern waters kept me on the move and caused me to miss much.
In the immortal words of the Terminator: “I’ll be back!” And, the next time will be with a longer, more flexible, cruising plan.
A few specific Thank You’s – To the Saturday Afternoon Whist Players on Ramea for serving up a couple of beers and a goodly dose of island hospitality, to Laurence and Barb in Francois for long conversations, great coffee and (I admit) a frequent internet fix, and to the people of Francois whose evening party of welcome for the “Adventure” cruise ship in the harbor was so happily and warmly extended to the visiting yachties – it was a fun night.
As it happened, the onerous prospect of 650nm of passage to windward that colored much of my time in Newfoundland was largely alleviated by an amazing weather pattern that allowed the first 350 miles to be knocked off in a very pleasant 2-1/2 day passage from St. Pierre to Halifax. Now in Rogue’s Roost with over 3 weeks to wander down the Southwest Shore of Nova Scotia and stage for the overnight jump to Maine, the pressure is off.
I had been watching the forecast for the waters between St. Pierre and mainland Nova Scotia from my first arrival in St. Pierre. The moderate southeasterly winds predicted were A. Too good to be true. AND B. In my experience all too likely to bring along major wet, foggy pestilence.
It “appeared” that the true pestilence would be well west of my course. Not to be cynical but I’ve been sucker punched by that kind of thing before – this is not my first rodeo, after all.
However, there was another motivating factor. St. Pierre’s annual 4-day “Rhum and Rock Festival” was to begin Thursday night and the outdoor venue was directly across from the marina where KR was tied up. Based on the volume of the sound checks being done on Wednesday evening, hanging around was not going to be a good thing.
I was at sea Thursday soon after lunch – happily escaping this particular cultural activity by just hours.
And, the forecast was right. I had 2-1/2 days of close to broad reaching in wonderful 10-15 knot winds, only 4 hours of motoring when the winds temporarily died Saturday morning and about 6 hours of moderately foggy conditions – a Disney passage. If it was always this easy, anybody could do it. Not to complain (much) but once again I arrived in Halifax in the middle of the night and I REALLY don’t see why it was necessary for three ships to pick midnight on a Saturday to leave port – just as I reached the entry channel. The fact that it was blowing a bouncy 20-25 in the approaches at the time was equally unnecessary – in my humble opinion. What-ever.
Rogue’s Roost, on the SW corner of the Chebucto Peninsula is one of my all time favorite cruising anchorages. The beautiful, rocky and intricate coast and waters are perfect for paddling, the village of Prospect just across the bay, long past it’s active fishing village roots, lovely and quaint. I’ve enjoyed and written of this area on each of my two previous cruises on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. The “Roost” and places like it are why we go cruising.
Having said that, tomorrow it will be time to move on to Lunenberg – another favorite spot – where this post is likely to find itself “posted”.
Best to all.
PS from Lunenberg: The Tall Ships are here. Who knew? Once again I am sharing the harbor with old friends like “Spirit of Bermuda”, “Picton Castle”, Spirit of South Carolina”, “Bowdoin”, and, unsurprisingly, “Bluenose II”. Interestingly, I was last in Lunenberg in October 2012 to see her re-launched after an extensive refit. What a beautiful vessel!
Newbie Newfie or Newfie Wannabe?
19 July 2017
When I arrived in Couteau Bay yesterday, dropping the hook in the lovely anchorage bordered by Captain and Duck Islands, I noticed a fish camp on Duck Island, apparently currently unoccupied. It was, however, obviously still in use as its general good repair and pole mounted wind generator attested. What most caught my attention was the majestic statue of a bull moose, its huge rack in perfect profile, overlooking the harbor. It was only after getting the boat settled in that I noticed that the "statue" had lost interest in this new boat in the harbor, lowered its massive head and gone back to feeding on the lush hilltop grasses. And, a second massive bull moose had ambled up to see if the grass really was greener on top - and, perhaps (and I probably flatter myself with this), to add his welcome to the other's.
The story of my first week in Newfoundland can be told as a series of welcomes - of all types.
The 65mile hop over from Dingwall near the northeast tip of Cape Breton to Port aux Basques was, for the first 35 miles, an absolutely spectacular, fast, fully powered broad reach flying smoothly over the confused seas left over from the blow of the previous two days. Then the winds completely died and we motored, rolling heavily, the rest of the way - damn! About 15 miles out, Newfoundland reached out to welcome us with the cool embrace of a heavy blanket of fog - double damn! Fog is beautiful in its way, of course, when you're on anchor. It is, however, a bit disconcerting when traversing the busy shipping lanes of the Cabot Straight and visibility is around 1/10 of a mile. One ship crossed the bow around 3/4mile out - at least according to the AIS. I never actually saw it but did hear its foghorn periodically.
As I approached Port aux Basques, about a mile from the outer mark, all senses completely focused on keeping close watch just in case a smaller vessel (ie. one without AIS) should cross our path, I heard a loud "CHUFF" directly astern. Spinning around, I had an amazing view of an Orca crossing perpendicular to KR's wake less than a boat length astern. He'd come up for a quick breath and a good look and, apparently intrigued, proceeded to execute a tight 270 degree turn, once again rose to the surface in KR's wake - directly astern - and dove under her stern. There was another tall, thin dorsal fin around 50 yards off the starboard quarter as well.
Now - that's a welcoming committee!
I proceeded into the harbor and, with the radioed help of Port aux Basques Traffic Control, managed to find the government docks. My heart sunk as I got a good look at the rough docks that had to be home for the next night or two - yachts don't deal well with such things. To make matters especially difficult, it was low tide - which meant that I would be attempting to bring KR alongside without damage, scramble 5 feet up the ladder with two lines in my teeth (How Errol Flynn!) and try to make them fast before something protruding from the dock chewed up my lovely varnished toe rail. I was not optimistic about that but proceeded to rig the fender board and every available fender to improve the odds somewhat. All the while, I was scanning the waterfront to try to spot someone who might be willing to catch lines. It was Sunday and there was no one about - or so it seemed. As it turned out, I was being watched as well and, just as I was rigged and ready to start my run in, the first of several helpers arrived on the pier. Matthew, as he later introduced himself, caught my lines and made them fast and KR was soon lying nicely alongside. By the time the spring lines were run and all was secure, there were 8 helpers on the dock.
The next day, Matthew, who had volunteered to be my tour guide, drove me to Tim Horton's for coffee and a donut (We were in Canada after all!), Canadian Tire to pick up a couple of hardware type items (Canada, once again!), the visitor's center for a bit of tourist orientation and the gas station for a jug of fuel. And, he drove me to the high point of town to view the rugged Newfoundland coast that was invisible in the previous day's fog - but spectacular on this perfectly clear, sunny day.
Thank you for your welcome and kind hospitality, Matthew.
Now 45 miles farther east on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, I have visited Isle aux Mortes, Rose Blanche and the re-settled outport town of Grand Bruit before arriving here yesterday.
While in Isle aux Mortes, I had walked out to the trailhead for the Harvey Trail, a loop trail through the moors along the rugged coast east of town. The two ladies manning the trailhead gift shop/welcome center were great fun - the older of the two especially up for a bit of good-natured teasing and general banter. I told her that I was a Newbie Newfie - it was my first time in Newfoundland. She pounced on that - correcting me and informing me that I was, in fact, a Newfie-Wannabe. Further, that there were three things that I must do to attain any Newfie cred:
First, I would have to kiss a codfish. It is apparently unimportant if said fish were to be alive or dead.
Second, I would have to eat bologna. Huh?? I didn't question this at the time but talking to a fellow tourist in Rose Blanche was told the story of her previous day's lunch. She had ordered a Newfie Steak Sandwich and was surprised to be served one of grilled bologna. This, I think, sheds some light on the question.
Third, I would have to do a shot of Newfie Screech. Direct questioning revealed nothing of the actual ingredients of this local alcoholic beverage - a fine liquor, no doubt. Perhaps an opportunity to experiment with this will come up farther down the coast.
I'll never qualify as a real newfie, however, because, while I am willing to try Screech and am quite ok with bologna, there is NO WAY I'm kissing a codfish - dead OR alive - no matter how much Screech I sample first.
Grand Bruit, a truly beautiful town and harbor as can be seen in the pic, is a maritime "ghost town" - one of many in Newfoundland. With the decline of the cod fishery and eventual government moratorium placed upon it, Grand Bruit's 150 y/o reason for existence ended. The remaining town residents finally voted for resettlement in 2008(ish) at which point all moved to one of the remaining road or ferry served communities along the coast. During the last full winter before resettlement, only 13 people lived in town. The ferry no longer stops here. The church steeple blew off several years ago - and was not replaced. Walking through the church, now emptied of pews and altar, the bell-ringing schedule from 2006 is still posted on the wall - telling which particular Billard was responsible for ringing the bells each Sunday.
Several of the homes are still maintained, their owners/past residents returning for summertime visits or, in some cases to participate in lobster season (just ended). And, there is a homecoming reunion scheduled for early August when over 100 people are expected to return for 4 days. The Cramalot Inn - the VERY small shack on the hillside with an even smaller deck overlooking the harbor - which is the favored drinking spot, will once again, if only for a short while be "crammed".
Sad? Absolutely. Change and progress, always painful, often leaves roadkill along the way. This happens so often in so many places around the world. Especially poignant, however, is the opportunity to talk to Jess Billard who, born and raised here and whose family name is virtually synonymous with the town, was just packing up after a successful lobster season and loading his skiff to head back to his now-home, Burgeo. I can hear the words but really am not capable of understanding how that feels.
I am not sure of how my remaining time in Newfoundland will play out. I have known all along that the 4 weeks that I was likely to spend here this year was not nearly enough to delve deeply in the 150nm long stretch of coast between Port aux Basques and Fortune Bay. The question remains whether I will move quickly, "auditing" the full coast or more slowly, turning around and retracing my path towards Port aux Basques before heading south. Either way much will be left to explore on a future visit.
If my eventual chosen path is to return westerly along the coast, I might try to be in Grand Bruit fort the "homecoming". It would be nice to see the town alive - if only for a short time. And, it would be fun to be one of those "cramming" into The Cramalot Inn. Perhaps they would have some Newfie Screech to share?
Best to all.
PS To date, I have seen exactly twice as many whales on the coast of Newfoundland as I have yachts - and that one yacht was motoring west as I was sailing east one day. We each stared at the other as if trying to discover what kind of exotic wildlife the other was - not unlike the staring contest between me and the Orca. Shall we say that there is no problem finding swinging room in the anchorages.
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