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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Jump! Portland, ME

From here on it's just about getting home, so we did another marathon jump, this time from Southwest Harbor to Portland.  Aside from dodging lots of traps, it was a pleasant, though long trip.

Tomorrow is the Last Leg to Gloucester.  Here's a progress map with the loop almost closed!  2766 miles and counting.

Progress as of July 31, 2012

Brier Island, Machias Seal Island, Southwest Harbor

The forecast for Monday was light wind, less than 1 meter waves, and sunny, so off we went departing Yarmouth at 7:00AM.  The original plan was to go to Grand Manan Island by way of Brier Island.  Grand Manan sits just a little off the coast of Eastport ME which is right at the Canadian border.  And Brier Island is right on the way and is the end of a peninsula/island chain near the southern end of Nova Scotia on the Fundy side.  We read that Brier was a good whale watching destination.

The seas were like glass, so we cranked up the speed and in a little under 2 hours were off Brier Island.  The center of the Bay of Fundy is very deep - 600'-700' - and there are very steep sides to the deep trough in the middle, with the side in the 100-200' range.  Those underwater cliffs are where the currents stir up all the food goodies and draw the mammals to feed.  In no time at all we spotted several Minke whales and a couple of Humpbacks.  Also lots of dolphins.

After an hour or so it was still only 11:00AM, so rather than going straight to Grand Manan, we decided instead to visit Machias Seal Island which is about 15nm south of Grand Manan.

As we crossed Fundy and approached the western edge of the deep trough, I spotted a whale breaching over and over again.  As we got closer, this playful guy (or gal) was flapping his fins.

Fin Flapping in Fundy
We stopped and drifted for a while with the engines off, and all you could hear off in the distance in all directions were whales blowing.

Although Machias Seal Island is in US waters (by only a mile or two), Canada still claims it.  It's home to the last remaining manned lighthouse in all of Canada, staffed by Canadians, just so they can continue to have a valid claim to it.  The good thing is that nobody really cares too much and people of both nationalities can come and go freely.

About 10 years ago we visited the island to see the Puffins.  It's one of the largest breeding colonies, and there are numerous blinds set up along the shore where you can get incredible close-up views of these amazing birds.  Going ashore requires a special permit so you can only go with an organized tours which is how we first saw them.

Machias Seal Island
This time our visit was by water only, but we were still treated to some great views.

Puffin
Puffins
Were were just bobbing around for a while when not too far away we saw a huge boiling in the water.  Through the binoculars we could see it was a school of probably 100 dolphins in a feeding frenzy, fish and dolphins jumping out of the water every which way.  Then to clean things up, a Minke whale plowed though too.

A look at the chart revealed a 100+ foot deep trough in the ocean floor just off the island, and apparently the dolphins had herded a bunch of fish down the trough to a dead end, then had a feast on the resulting pile-up.  For the next half hour, the Minke passed back and forth along the trench feeding away.

By now it was 1or 2 in the afternoon, with Grand Manan sitting 15 miles to the north, and Southwest Harbor, ME sitting about 45 miles south.  For two extra hours under way, we could be back in the US for dinner, so off we went.

Most of the trip was great, but as it got later, the typical SW afternoon wind started to kick up turning the glass ride we had enjoyed all day into a bit of a bumpy ride.  Worse yet, the lobster trap buoys were becoming denser and denser requiring more and more close attention, and allowing for much less assistance from Skippy the autopilot.  To make matters worse, the 1-2 foot chop that the wind kicked up was partly hiding the buoys.  You'd catch a glimpse (or think you did), only for them to disappear and reappear later right in front of you.  Oh, and then there was the sun starting to go down and creating glare off the water right where you are trying to see the darn buoys.  It's like driving a car in a torrential downpour where your eyes are glued to the road, but it lasts for two hours, or at least until you get tangled on one, which I did.

Crap!  I was dodging a couple, only to look up and find myself running smack over a tandem pair.  With an outboard, the trick is to put the boat in neutral so you don't get the rope wrapped up in the prop, so that's what I did, except I got the rope wrapped up in the prop.  To make a long story short, one of the whale watch captains called and said that if you just put it in gear and hit the gas it will usually just shred the rope and buoy and off you go.  I had been avoiding doing that for fear of making matters worse, but with his encouragement, shredded trap gear it was.  I fancy myself a pretty good boat handler, and a conservative and attentive captain, but I ran over 2 more before the day was over.  That's 3 in one day, and that's 3 more than I've run over in my whole life.  I'm all for lobstering, and I don't mind dodging traps, but there are parts of Maine where it's totally out of control.  The whole episode was quite the let-down from an otherwise outstanding day, but we got through it and safely into Southwest Harbor.  This winter I'm going to put spurs on the prop shafts, and use more throttle when cruising in Maine.

Arrival back in the US meant we had to check in the US customs on arrival.  Normally we would have called an hour or two before arrival, but we were busy cutting free from lobster traps, and dodging the others, so I called after we got tied up at the dock.  Customs used to have an office in Bar Harbor which is pretty close the Southwest Harbor, but when the high speed ferry to Yarmouth stopped running, they closed the office, so the poor guy had to drive down from Bangor.  In the mean time, we put up our quarantine flag and were confined to quarters until he showed up to clear us.  I figured they'd come the next day, but he drove down that night arriving at about 10:30 which is way past our bed time.  It was a painless process, but I did have to rustle Laurie out of bed so he could confirm she looked like the picture in her passport.

It's great to be back in the US!

Yarmouth, NS

On Sunday we started the final slog back home.  Maine and Nova Scotia are both close enough to home that we can easily reach them in a few days, so we decided to save in-depth cruising for another, dedicated trip.  Instead we've just visited a few spots along the way at convenient intervals, making notes about where to spend more time on a return trip.

Sunday's trip took us from Shelburne around the tip of Nova Scotia, and back up the Fundy side a little way to Yarmouth.  The southern tip is shoal after shoal after shoal, and creates some of the ost confused seas I've seen.  It wasn't a bad trip, but it wasn't a good one either with 1-2 meter seas on and off in different areas.  There are a few short-cut passages that trim the distance considerably, but one only has an 8' depth, but with the waves (which have troughs too), I was uncomfortable taking that one at low tide.  Speaking of tide, the trick is to hit Cape Sable Island at low tide.  That lets your ride the outgoing tide from Shelburne south, and more importantly the incoming Fundy tide going north to Yarmouth.

The whole day was slate gray and rainy, and the entire time I was thinking how much more I'd enjoy  watching it through a window from our cozy living room at home.

One amazing thing we experienced along the way was the gulf stream.  At one point we approached and passed through a pretty significant rip current, and I watched the water temp go from 54F to 72F over a couple hundred foot distance, and a head current of a knot or two.  But shortly after we lost it as we continued to round the point.

Yarmouth Light

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Shelburne, NS

One thing I left out about Halifax was the anything-that-floats race that the kids at the RNSYS had.  Laurie had a bird's eye view with the finish line right behind our boat and snapped a few pictures.  The kids cobble together some assortment of foam blocks, life jackets, and whatever, then grab anything flat to paddle with, and the race is on.  It's the flotsam and Jetsam Jamboree.

RNSYS Anything-That-Floats Race

We arrived in Shelburne Thursday evening and spent a bunch of time poking around trying to find a good place to anchor.  The winds were predicted to kick up quite a bit over night and we wanted a place sheltered from the prevailing direction.  One spot was completely open to the predicted direction of the wind, another turned out to be right in the middle of the channel into an unmarked mini-harbor, but we finally found a great spot up on the west fork of Shelburne Bay (the town of Shelburne is on the east fork).  It was a very nice spot, but the next day we went over to the town to top up with fuel and ended up staying for two days.

Sunset, Shelburne

Shelburne Yacht Club and Waterfront

Remember the Tall Ships that we passed leaving Halifax as we arrived?  Well, from Halifax, some of them kept going up to coast the way we had come, and half went down the coast to Lunenburg.  And this weekend they were all coming to Shelburne.  And quite the festival it has been.  Everyone in town appears to have a pirate costume hidden in their closer, and this is the weekend when they all come out.  Men, women, children, and whole families of pirates wandering around.  The festival is part pirates, part about the War of 1812 (200 year anniversary), part about ship building, and part about Revolutionary War loyalists, a huge gang of whom moved here to settle.  The grown-up boys were playing with their Blunderbusses and cannons with great explosions every couple of hours, the Tall Ships all fired their cannons on arrival, and a few amateurs chimed in as well.  My kinda stuff!  At the Sea Dog Cafe, they are having a Grand Buccaneer's Ball tonight with "Parrots, Monkeys, and Goats Welcome".  What a hoot!

Arriving Tall Ship, Shelburne
Roseway, Built in Essex, Ma

Pride of Baltimore II

There also is a kindred relationship between our home port of Gloucester and Shelburne.  They are Sister-Cities, whatever that means.  But more tangibly, one of the few remaining dory builders is here in Shelburne and we had a nice visit with Milford Buchanan who is one of the only remaining craftsmen.  It turns out that many of the dories in Gloucester were built here, some by Milford himself.  Plus, the big Christmas Tree at the intersection of Western Ave and Essex Ave is an annual gift from Shelburne, hand picked each year by the Mayor himself.

Tomorrow the plan is to reach Yarmouth which is the launch point for crossing the Bay of Fundy.

And last but not least, here's the progress map as of today.

Progress as of July 28, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

East Coast of Nova Scotia

We are again anchored in a WiFi-free, 3G-free zone, so this will be a photo-free post from my iPad.

After leaving Havre Boucher on Sunday, we passed through the Canso Straight and lock (our last lock, horay) returning to the Atlantic. And there's a reason it's called the Atlantic and not the Pacific. We had a somewhat bouncy ride to a nice anchorage by Seal Harbor - wherever that is. The wind was starting to pick up again, and running right up the coast making for some nice waves.

The forecast for Monday was for 15kt winds in the AM, increasing to 20+ mid day, so we made a very early departure Monday and were underway before 6. But as soon as we got out into open water, it really started to kick up. Our goal had been a long run all the way to Halifax, but we started looking for a closer stop off point and identifed one about 20 miles away. Figuring we could deal with anyithing for 2 hrs, we kept on going. But after a half hour or so things calmed down, and when we got to our waypoint we decided to just keep going. The weather reports were calling for much worse the next day, so we figured we should just try to get as far as possible. Another 20 miles passed by and we kept going, and finally with the entrance to Halifax just another 30 miles, we decided to just go the whole way. The last 3 hrs or so were pretty bad with 6' plus waves, 20kt winds, and a lot of tossing around.

But sucking it up and making it through meant we could sit out the next day in Halifax, plus, listening on the radio we found another treat was coming our way. The Halifax Tall Ships festival was just concluding, and the parade of departing ships would be happening just as we arrived. It was a welcome treat to an otherwise long and uncomfortable ride. No pictures thought. Not only was I unable to stand and hold a camera, but the boat was getting washed down from every angle by the waves and wind so you could barely see anyway and opening a window or door would have instantly drenched the camera and photographer. Sorry.

Our first night in Halifax we spent at the city's waterfront marina which is where the Tall Ships had been tied up. It was a nice down-town location and we were able to spend Tuesday doing some shopping, getting groceries, and getting a couple of beaver tails to satisfy my sugar craving, all while quite the shit-storm was blowing out at sea. We also needed fuel, and to get it downtown meant calling in a truck which would meet us at another pier, but was only allowed there in the evening. Instead, we decided to relocate to the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron where fuel was available dockside, and where there was shore power.

RNSYS turned out to be a great place with friendly people and a very active boating club. Just for kicks, I asked if they knew where I might get the plug end that I needed for our shore power cord, and the waterfront manager picked up the phone and within 10 minutes had located one. This is the plug end that I have been searching for since Quebec City. He offer me a ride up to the chandlery and within an hour our shore power cord was repaired.

The forecast for today was pretty questionable, but we decided to give it a try with Lunenburg only about 20nm once you get out of Halifax harbor/bay. It turned out to be just fine. Even though there was a residual 6' swell from the day before, and even though it was coming from two directions at the same time, it was a gentle roll and not uncomfortable, so we continued past Lunenburg. And are now anchored off Moshers Island a bit further down the coast. If the weather continues to hold up, we should be back in the US in a few days.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

St George's Bay

We left Pictou this morning at 7:30 in calm winds, calm seas, and bright clear skies.   It was definitely worth the wait.  We had gentle swells all the way, and caught sight of dolphins, seals, whales, and lots of birds all along the way.  After rounding St George's Peninsula, we entered St George's Bay and started crossing it heading for the Canso Straight which separates mainland Nova Scotia from Cape Breton Island.
Nova Scotia Farm

Light at St George's Point

And, much to my relief, we saw boats - at least a half dozen over the course of the day.  I guess a warm, sunny, calm Saturday does indeed bring out recreational boaters.

After crossing St George's Bay, we ducked into Havre Boucher which is a small, natural cove with great protection and anchoring.  Tomorrow morning, we will head through the Canso Straight including the Canso Lock which blocks tidal flow between the Atlantic and the St Lawrence Gulf.  Then we will be back home in the Atlantic Ocean.

Last, but not least, here's the latest progress map.  So far we've covered 2077 miles in just under 2 months.




Friday, July 20, 2012

Sitting and Waiting, Waiting and Sitting

Yesterday we left PEI and headed to Pictou, Nova Scotia.  When the winds get up to about 20kts the seas start to get uncomfortable unless you happen to be sheltered by land, and yesterday's ride was right on the boarder line.  I'm increasingly understanding why there is so little recreational boating around here.  Not only is the season short, but the weather further eats away at the season leaving very few really pleasant boating days.  Speaking of sparse recreational boating, we actually sighted another boat today while underway.  Other than Ke'Ola Kai and Adirondack, it's the first boat we've encountered at sea since leaving Quebec City.  It's an amazingly sharp contrast with boating in New England.

Our whole trip paralleled PEI, but we quickly cut over to the mainland side to get a better angle on the waves, and that yielded an acceptable wallow for about 75% of the trip.  The main connection between PEI and the mainland is the Confederation Bridge which was just built in the late 90's.  It's about 12 miles long and is quite the sight.  Before that, all travel was via ferry.

Lighthouse with Confederation Bridge in Background
The New Brunswick/Nova Scotia boarder is right near where the bridge lands on the mainland, so a short way into our journey we crossed into Nova Scotia, our 5th and last Province in the trip.  We've now visited Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, PEI, and Nova Scotia.

It was a long day, but we finally made it to Pictou and anchored right near one of the (maybe the only) remaining ferry lines out to the eastern most end of PEI.  It's a reasonably well protected spot, and a few evening storms rolling through were a preview of weather for the next day, today.

Pictou Ferry Terminal with Storm Clouds

Approaching Ferry and Storm

Early this morning, probably around 4:00, the wind kicked up again to 20-25kts as predicted, and our little bay kicked up a lot of chop, but it's still manageable.  It's supposed to continue until late this morning then subside slightly, so we are waiting to see what happens.  The wind direction will leave us with a side sea the whole trip, so unless things calm down, we'll just sit it out today.

From here, we've decided it's time to head home, and we are not going to visit the Bras d'Or lakes and Cape Breton.  It's been a long trip, and a learning experience for both of us to see how long we can cruise before getting itchy, missing the kids, missing home, etc.    A month is the longest we've ever been away before, and at the end of both of those trips we were ready to go home.  We've been at this for 2 months now, and we are both looking forward to getting home.  I see other cruisers who pack up their lives for 1, 2, 5, even 10 years and go cruising, but we couldn't do that.  Fortunately Maine, Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton are very reachable from home and will definitely be part of a future trip where we can take the time to enjoy them properly.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

PEI

After leaving our anchoring spot by Portage Island, we made the short trip across the bay to Escuminic to get fuel.  Ke 'Ola Kai had stayed there the night before and confirmed they had fuel, and we were due for a fill-up.  But when we arrive the harbormaster told us that since the Lobster season was over the fuel was only open from 11-1 each day.  Uugg.  We had a long day ahead of us to get to PEI and were hoping to make full use of our early start.  No problem, though, he'd be happy to call to see if the lady who runs it could come down.

While we were waiting, a couple of lobstermen came over and after seeing our boat was from Mass, started asking if we know anything about the lobster boat in Maine that could go 58 MPH?  They had seen a video on youtube, and were wondering what engines it had in it.  Then sure enough, about an hour later the fuel lady arrived.  I just love small town life.  Everyone is your neighbor, and this is just what you do for neighbors.  And gladly we were not the only people waiting for fuel by then.  Another guy had arrived in his tractor to fill it up, and another boat had pulled up too.

Fueled and ready, off we went to PEI.  On arrival, we put in to Summerside at the Silver Fox Curling Center and Marina.  Apparently the seasons are too short for either enterprise to run all year, so why not combine them?  All kidding aside, I think this was the most accommodating place we've been the whole trip.  The club members and staff were incredibly friendly and helpful and made for a great stay.

I've been battling with the charger for our Macs which started getting flakey about a week ago, and got progressively worse until it would no longer work at all.  I've been searching and searching for a place to buy one, and you would think nobody in Eastern Canada uses Macs.  I finally tracked down "The Little Mac Shop" in Charlottetown, PEI, so the day after we arrived we rented a car to tour the island and get a charger.  Well, when we arrived at The Little Mac Shop the proprietor informed us that they don't have chargers.  WTF?  You're kidding me?  Nope, he doesn't stock them but he was happy to order one for four days from now.  WTF?

Later that day, back at the Curling Center and Marina, I was chatting with Bill, one of the members.  Just for kicks, I asked him if he knew where I might find a charger.  "Don't you worry, we'll take care of you" was his response, and off he went with phone in hand.  OK, great, I've got nothing to lose, I thought, and off I went to also investigate having John FedEx one from home, what the cost and delivery time would be, how customs would work, etc.  Somehow, I HAD to get a charger.


The next morning, guess who comes walking down the dock and guess what he has in his hand?  Bill, you are a God!  He had a charger to loan me, and had found a place in Charlottetown that had them - in fact the very store that The Little Mac Shop owner told me didn't have any.  Rat Bastard!  Bill said he knew someone who worked in Charlottetown and they would be happy to pick it up and bring it back to the yacht club that evening.  Wow!


We still had the car that we had rented, and I was in the mood to spend a little more time on terra-firma, so I called to confirm the place had the charger and to have it put aside, and off I went back to Charlottetown.  As soon as I had the charger in hand I texted Bill to let him know we were all set and to arrange to return the loaner.  No problem, he said he'd stop by the boat later to get it.  When I got back to the boat, Laurie said Bill had stopped by to pickup the charger, and dropped off a Rubarb Pie as a gift.  Wow! Problem solved, loaner returned to Bill, gifts flowing in the wrong direction, and blogging can continue.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Green Heads, take cover.

This morning we continued down the New Brunswick coast to Miramichi Bay which is just at the Northern end of the Northumberland Strait. Now you might ask, where is the Northumberland Strait? It's the body of water that separates Prince Edward Island from New Brunswick.


A little geography is always a good segway into a little geology. Man is New Brunswick flat! I dont think the place has an elevation over 10 feet. It's incredible to see the abrupt change from the cliffs of Gaspe to here.


And while we are having our lessons, lets talk about biology too. OMG, the Green Heads here are the size of sparrows. We slowly worked our way up behind Portage island which is a national wildlife refuge to anchor for the night, and thought we would launch the dinghy and go exploring. Ha! Forgetaboutit! These avian vampires were on every window and every screen before we even lowered the anchor. Can we come in? Can we come in? Of course with all the trashy horror movies I've watched, I know you NEVER invite a vampire into your house, so we are safe and sound. So much for a dinghy ride.


Last, but not least, a few words on the local customs and economy. Most of the economy around here appears to related to fishing, and we've noticed a few things that are quite different from Gloucester. First, their lobstering has a season where in Gloucester its open all year. The season runs from April to July 15, so they are now finished for the year. We think it's because they use the old style traps that don't have the back door left open. Trap design at home is highly specified and includes an escape door that allows babies to escape. Underwater cameras have shown that our traps are basically revolving doors with all size lobsters freely entering and leaving. The only time it's a "trap" is if the lobster happens to be in it when you haul it out of the water. We suspect the Canadian traps are actually traps, so they need to limit the season since they actually catch something.


And the trawler season appears to be very sort too. As we were leaving Shippagan this morning, it appeared that the entire fleet was up on dry land. We were wondering why the boats appear to be in so much better condition, and I think its because they launch for the short season, then haul right back out again.


Tomorrow, weather permitting, we are off the PEI.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hello New Brunswick!

We made an early departure from our little fishing enclave and set out to cross the Bay of Chaleur and enter the province of New Brunswick.  We've been in Quebec since leaving Ottawa almost exactly a month ago.  Our originally planned destination was Miramichi which would have placed us in a good position to reach Charlottetown, PEI the next day, but that plan didn't last too long.  Over night the wind had shifted to the NE and was kicking up a pretty uncomfortable chop, and we were completely exposed to it all across the bay.  Once we hit New Brunswick,  we planned to stay east and head down towards PEI, but that would leave us exposed to the weather for another 60+ miles (7-8hrs). Alternately, we could go down the inside of the Chaleur Bay for about 10 miles and cut through Shippagan Bay, then the next day follow it's channel through and out to the east coast. Decisions, decisions.

When we were still about 4 miles off the point of New Brunswick I picked up a boat ahead on the radar, and while I was fussing with getting a lock on them, we got a call from Ke'Ola Kai.  They had spotted us on the Marauder's Map (AIS), and it turns out they were the boat on my radar.  They were heading to the same place as us, and I told them we were planning to cut the day short and duck into Shippagan.  You can enter Shippigan from the north, then exit south without causing much of a detour, but it turns out there is a lift bridge that doesn't provide enough clearance for their mast.  They could go in just like us, but would then have to backtrack 10-20 miles to get back on the east shore again, so they had no choice but to forge ahead.

So we headed in while Ke'Ola Kai kept hammering away.  The seas subsided a bit as we picked up some shelter, and once in the bay we found a good anchoring spot.  The land here is very low - hardly more than a few sand dunes - so we still have the wind but at least no waves.

A couple of hours later we got a radio call from Ke'OlaKai who had once again picked us up on the Maurader's Map and could see us in Shippagan.  They confirmed that stopping short was a good idea - seas were still bad and they had 30 miles left to go.

We hope for better weather tomorrow.....

Friday, July 13, 2012

Birds Galore

Today we rounded the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula and past the eastern-most part of the Province of Quebec.  The bluffs along the coast of the Forillon Peninsula are amazing and we decided to cruise in closer for a better look, and what a treat we got.  One whole stretch of cliffs was a nesting ground for Kittiwakes and Murres.  We dropped anchor and spent about an hour watching the show, including the occational hawk and/or crow that would swoop along the cliff looking for a meal, and leaving a trailing cloud of birds exploding from their nests.  It was like watching a cloud wash along the cliff face.
Cap des Rosiers with Farillon Cliffs Behind

Tallest Light in Canada - Cap des Rosiers

Kittiwake Colony on Forillon Cliffs


From the tip of the Forillon Peninsula we crossed the Gaspe Bay and worked our way towards Perce Rock and Bonaventure Island.  Perce Rock is the Motif Number One of the Gapse, and with good reason.

Tip or Forillon Peninsula

Perce Rock

Perce Rock


Bonaventure Island is just off Perce Rock and is another breeding ground for birds, including a colony of 50,000 Northern Gannets which are gorgeous birds, mostly white, with black tipped wings and a yellow tint to their heads.  There are so many that the cliff tops look like they are snow covered.
Gannet Colony on Isle Bonavanture

We had a few options for places to stop over.  Anchoring would have been preferred, but there has been a real shortage of places since the Rideau, and although the weather today was great, the past two days have done everything except what was forecast.  Our friends in Ke'Ola Kai and Adirondack were planning to go to l'Anse a Beaufils, but the ports along this stretch are very small and geared towards fishing boats with limited space for cruisers.  Rather than trying to jamb us all in one place, we opted for the next port down the coast - Petite Riviere Est - which is 100% fishing.  But the locals have been great and helped us find a spot and get tied up, and we've had a few curious passers buy to ask about the boat and our trip.

Our progress has picked up a bunch since leaving Quebec, covering 40-60 miles per day.  I think two more hops and we will be to Prince Edward Island.

Progress as of July 13, 2012


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Riviere au Renard

After MUCH debate this morning, studying of weather forecasts, and personal observations, we made a random collective decision to head out.  The biggest problem was getting everyone off the piers and dock because the wind had come around and was pinning us all in.  But after several variations were carefully simulated in our minds, we settled on a plan for each boat.  Fortunately, each went off without a hitch and all boats were free of the docks after about 30 minutes.

The wind an weather forecast could not have been more wrong, and we had glassy water and calm winds almost the entire way.  Only the last hour or so was a nuisance when we found ourselves running head into some swells that developed, but it was really nothing to complain about.

We are now safely in Riviere au Renard which is out at the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula.

If you want to check out our travel companions Blogs, they can be found at:

Messinginboats.com

KeOlaKai.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sea Ray Repair

I keep forgetting to post this....

Boat snobs really like to pick on Sea Rays since they are a high volume (relatively speaking) production boat that are basically fair-weather floating condos.  In Quebec City, a 58' monster Sea Ray came rumbling and thundering in one day and tied up along a long pier because they were too big to fit anywhere else.  Then I noticed this repair on the side of their hull where they had clearly side-swiped something real solid.  These owners are NOT helping the Sea Ray image.


Progress Bar

Here's the latest Progress Bar.  About 1625 miles covered so far, and just past the northernmost extreme of our trip at N 49deg 16min.


Grande Vallee

This time we created quite a stir.

The wind finally calmed down last evening and was predicted to remain that way until about noon today, so we decided to leave at the crack of dawn to arrive at Grande Vallee (about 55nm) before the wind kicked up again.  And what a plan it was.  Ke'Ola Kai was the first out at about 5:30, followed shortly by Adirondack.  We lagged a bit, but not by more than 20 minutes or so.  It was a gorgeous morning with a nice breeze and calm seas. 

Typical Coastal Town
We have a slightly faster cruise speed and overtook the other boats after about an hour and were first to arrive at Grande Vallee which is just a cove with a spit of a breakwater, but reported to have excellent anchor holding.  Just as predicted, the wind kicked up for the last 30 minutes of our ride and things were really going when we pulled into the cove.  We dropped anchor close to one shore, but once we had enough chain out to hold in the wind, we were almost on top of an old wreck that's in the middle of the cove and just a foot or two down at low water.  So up came the anchor and we were about to continue on for another 40nm when we got a call on the radio from someone at the little dock by the breakwater.  They were moving a boat and said we should come in.  Wow, what hospitality.  From a distance the docks looked way too small for us, but as we got closer it was clear we could squeeze in OK, so we did.  What a relief to not have to head back out again for another 40nm.

As soon as we were tied up I started looking around to see where Adirondack and Ke'Ola Kai could tie up.  There was one small spit of dock left, then the long concrete wall that the bigger fishing boats use.  The guy on the dock said the other boats were too big for the remaining dock, but that they could tie to the wall, and no sooner did he say that, I looked up and there was Adirondack.  The wall isn't the most convenient place to tie, and makes for difficult getting on and off the boat, but the weather had really kicked up by now and they were thankful for a safe harbor just as we were.  Shortly after Ke'Ola Kai pulled in and we got them tied up too.  Ahh, a great sigh of relief by everyone.

So what was the stir all about, you might ask?  Well, you would think we were Martians who had just landed in the cove.  The parade of cars coming out to check things out has been non-stop all day.  But talking with the harbormaster it became clear why.  They just put these docks in this year in hopes of drawing transient traffic.  Mission accomplished!  Last year they had three boats come in - over the whole year!  And here we were, three boats in one day - actually in one hour.  It was quite the happening in town.

At the moment the predictions for tomorrow are for continued high winds so it looks like we will be here for the day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nous Resteron Ici

See, I kinda do know french, and it's coming back pretty quickly, but I sure have trouble understanding the Quebecois accent.  If they go slowly, I'm OK with it, but if they take off, forgettaboutit.

Anyway, we're staying here another night.  It's blowing 25-30kts steadily which is a bit much for comfort, and the wind direction is pinning us to the dock so I'm not sure we could get out even if we wanted to.

The wind is supposed to slack off this evening (10-15kts), then pick up again by noon tomorrow, so our plan is to depart at the crack of dawn tomorrow and get most of the next leg in before the wind picks back up again.  Stay tuned to see what actually happens.

Jump!

From Rimouski there are two choices.  Go 45nm to Metane, or go 90nm to St Anne des Monts.  Monday morning's captain's huddle produced much debate over the expected wind and sea state for the day.  There was a gale warning, but the current winds were only about 10-15kts.  A walk out to the edge of the harbor provided a view of the water and it didn't look too bad, so we decided to go for it.

Going to Matane involves timing your arrival for mid tide or higher to clear shoaling in the harbor entrance.  This translated into a 10:30 or so departure time for a 3:30 arrival.  But for us to reach St Anne at any reasonable time meant leaving earlier and going faster.  We decide to "Jump!", opting to put some of this long part of the coast line behind us.  When we got out, the seas and wind were fine and we reported it back to Adirondack and Ke'Ola Kai, then forged on our way.  But the further we got, the worse the seas became.  There's not much boat traffic around here, and over the entire day we saw only one other boat - a tug pulling a barge way off in the distance heading up river.  I called them on the radio to see what the seas were like up ahead and he reported that they were about the same with about 1m waves.  But things kept picking up as we progressed, and by the time we reached Matane I decided to just put in rather than fight another 45nm. 

But when I radioed the marina he said I'd have to wait until 3:30 to come in because of the water level.  This meant we could wallow around outside Matane for 3 hours, or wallow our way to St Anne for 3 hours, so we just kept on going.  Fortunately, Matane was the worst of it and we pulled into St Anne des Monts right around 3:30 - the same time we would have entered Matane.  That evening I checked with Adirondack and they reported a perfectly OK trip, so it appears we were just enough ahead to miss the calmer seas.

But here was our reward for the long journey

Sainte Anne des Monts

Rimouski

Sunday AM we set off for Rimouski, with Ke'Ola Kai and Adirondack getting a jump start on us.  But all of us were a bit puzzled by a boat that arrived in the Tadoussac bay under sail at 6:00am bearing a striking resemblance to Tai Chi.  My first thought was "wow, they left Baie d'Eternitee early.  They must be planning to make the hop to Rimouski today as well."  But things didn't seem right when they left a sail up and seemed to be swinging around a lot on their anchor.  Then Laurie heard the call to the coast guard.  Oh crap, that's not good.  And apparently they had radio trouble too because the Coast Guard couldn't raise them on the radio and didn't even know where they were.  We tried unsuccessfully as well, then radioed the CG to tell them where Tai Chi was and what appeared to be going on.  Over the previous days they had been experiencing engine trouble, so we presumed that was the primary problem.  Well, it was only the tip of the iceberg.  You can read their whole account here Trouble Aboard Tai Chi.  I don't think I'd be dealing with the situation nearly as well as they are.

We decided to head over to see if we could help, and at least relay messages to the CG.  We were able to make one pass by them close enough to confirm that their engine had died and the CG was on the way.  Their anchor was out but not holding, and to add yet another insult to injury, their windless failed and they couldn't get the anchor pulled up either.  As a result they were swerving and turning wildly and we were unable to come along side without fear of doing even more damage.  But just then we saw the CG come out of port to the rescue.  We all have our fingers crossed that repairs will be speedy and seas smooth from here on out for Tai Chi.

Coast Guard to the Rescue
Oh, yes, I almost forgot about Rimouski.  Once leaving Tadoussac we spent the first hour or so chasing whales and are pretty sure we spotted another blue whale, then on we went for the 40nm or so trek to Rimouski which is our first stop on the south shore of the St Lawrence.  The first 2/3 of the trip we maintained our economically preferred cruise speed of about 8-9kts, but decided to speed up for the last 1/3 to put it behind us.  We arrived in Rimouski which is yet another artificial harbor providing much needed protection along an otherwise unaccommodating coast line.  As you might expect, it's a town geared towards marine activity and I gather is a great place to get work done on your boat, but thankfully we aren't in the market right now.

But there is big news in Rimouski.  A few days earlier I was listening to the Coast Guard notices to mariners and heard a report of a car that sank in the approach channel to Rimouski.  Wait a minute, did you say a CAR sank?  In the MIDDLE of the channel?  There MUST be a good story behind that!  Well, indeed there is.  Apparently someone forgot to set the brakes on a car on the ferry, and when it got out in rougher water, the car fell off the back of the ferry.  I though that only happened in movies.

It's been interesting to see that most of the marina staff throughout Canada have been women, and Rimouski was no exception.  The two gals were quick and efficient, fully bilingual, and friendly to boot.  And the Marina Restaurant - what a great surprise that was.  We pulled together everyone from Adirondack and Ke'Ola Kai for a delicious party-of-eight dinner which was a perfect conclusion to the day.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Whales

We spent Saturday out chasing whales, dolphins, and seals around the confluence of the Saguanay and St Lawrence.  The merging current, and huge water temperature differences create long rips of boiling water that make for great feeding by the critters.  We saw lots and lots of minkes, a few humpbacks, harp seals, and probably harbor dolphins but we aren't sure.  We're pretty sure we spotted a blue whale from a distance.  They are the largest creatures ever to inhabit the planet.  And of course, more belugas.   A fine time was had by all, then, to top off the day, we ran into Dave and Lisa of Ke'Ola Kai and they joined us for dinner at the marina restaurant.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Saguenay River

July 5th we departed Cap a l'Aigle as planned but had a very foggy trip to Tadoussac.  It might as well have been Long Island Sound, except the boats that you pass but don't see are 700' long.  We never saw land, another boat, or a buoy until well inside the mouth of the Saguenay River.  We even came around this little gem of a navigational island, but never knew it until yesterday.

Saguenay Light
But we arrived around 11:00 and decided to head up the river a bit to see if the fog cleared, which it did, so on we went.  The Saguenay is a fjord about 60 miles long and we saw depths up to 900'.  In many places you can go right up to the cliff face and still have a couple hundred feet of water below you.  But as Laurie reminds me all the time, I'm a real chicken when it comes to shallow water and boats.  Sinking or grounding a boat are not on my bucket list of things I want to do.....

About 35 miles up the fjord is Eternity Bay which is right out of a picture book.  Granite walls rising from the water on two sides, and a valley working it's way inland.  You can't anchor anywhere because it's either too deep, or you will swing aground at low water, but there are several moorings available for use.  I can only presume they are bolted to the rock cliff face down below, but it made for an amazing spot.  We spent an hour or two poking around in the dinghy, and I even went right up to some of the rock faces.  Aren't I brave?

Saguenay River Fjord

Saguenay River Fjord

Baie Eternite

 On the way back to Tadoussc the next day we ran past this little waterfall emptying into the river, followed by this view back up the fjord.




Looking Back Up The Saguenay
Over the past week or so we have run onto 3 other boats that are taking the same route that we are, though all of them plan to continue south and end up in the Bahamas.  There are two sail boats, Tai Chi and Ke'Ola Kai, and one other trawler, Adirondack.  I expect we will be bumping into one another a lot over the next month or so.

As we were heading back down the river, we passed Ke'Ola Kai heading up.  We updated them on Baie Eternite, and they tipped us off to the location of some belugas that we would pass.  Sure enough, we caught a few sightings, though no close encounters.

Beluga Whales
And finally we arrived back at Tadoussac, this time able to actually see the place.


And last but not least, here's the latest map with out most recent progress in green.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Back on the Road Again....

After a week layover in Quebec, we were both happy to finally get back underway again this morning.  If you have to wait out the tides somewhere, Quebec is the place to do it, but after 8 days we were ready to move on.  We left the enclosed Vieux Port basin at 7:00AM when the bridge first opened, and caught the outgoing tide/current for almost our entire journey.  Just take a look at the buoy in the picture.  I'm glad we are not running against that current.

Buoy Making 4-5 Knots While at Anchor

Before we left we read a number of complaints about debris in the Erie Canal.  So far, the most debris by far has been in the St Lawrence.  I'm even picking it up on my radar.  Now that's debris.

Every village along the river has a church.  That may not seem unusual, but these are really cathedrals more than churches.  Here's just one example.

Typical Cathedral in Every Village

Our destination today was Cap a l'Aigle (Eagle Point) where there is a small harbor protected by an artificial wall.  Not long after leaving Quebec the landscape quickly becomes more mountainous with the shoreline rising sharply above the water.  That, plus the large tide makes for very few ports along the way.  This was an 80 mile segment with no stopping points in between.  That's part of why you need to catch the tides right or you will be out sloshing around forever.  Here you can see our new progress in green.

Progress as of July 4th (Happy Independence Day!)

On the map, Cap a l'Aigle doesn't appear to be much, but there is a pretty sizable Fairmont Chateau right on the bluff over the water.

Fairmont Chateau Richlieu

Tomorrow we head out again in the AM for Tadousac at the base of the Saguanay River.  We should see some belugas along the way.  Seaweed on the rocks and a couple of seal sightings today reminded us that we are back in brackish water, plus the water temperature has dropped to 50 deg!

Old City Quebec

Here are a few pictures of Old City Quebec.  You might as well be in Europe, but it's a much shorter flight to get here...