What a difference it makes when the sun shines! The fishing harbours of Maine look
quaint and pretty instead of gloomy and grey, and suddenly there are lots of little
sailboats out testing their summer wings.
The launch of Al Shaheen at Bass Harbour went as expected: well, but frustrating!
The multitude of little jobs that need to be done was compounded by a host of additional
hassles after having had the mast down for 9 months over the winter.
Head lining in the main cabin that wouldn’t stay up, a drip that appeared from nowhere,
sealing that hadn’t been resealed adequately. And some more serious stuff, all of
which meant much extra money spent at West Marine! So far we’ve replaced the wind
anemometer, the wind generator blades (which had survived Hurricane Ivan but got
smashed in the Morris yards!), put in a new water pump, replaced the gas solenoid
and right now John is doing some quiet cussing about the motor belt which has been
“adjusted” and is far too loose! General feeling about taking the mast down for winter
storage is – Don’t! It seems to cause more problems than it solves.
We motored round to South West Harbour (scene of our unexpected wedding last year!)
and met up with some of our old cronies. We're moored back in the same spot, and
it feels as if we'd never left. Micah, the dockmaster, regaled us with some recent
activities - a big motor-boat (a 'stinkpot') manned by some brash loudmouths left
in a hurry, and forgot to unplug the electric shore supply - when they felt the boat
dragging, they simply 'put foot' - and pulled the connection column straight out
of the dock! Off they went, trailing lines of electric cable behind him! Then another
beautiful Hinckley yacht misjudged coming in to the marina (it's like parallel parking,
only with much less control) and T-boned into the stern of the boat ahead, smashing
a big hole in his very expensive 200 year old Indian mahogony rear! I'm glad we generally
stay out of marinas - too many accidents waiting to happen in those confined spaces!
Waiting for our new bimini (oh yes, we now have a bimini on Al Shaheen, and new cockpit
cushions and – wait for it guys – a new dinghy!) we did a short shake-down sail,
and discovered the wind anemometer wasn’t working, which meant winching John up to
the top of the mast in his ‘nappy bag’ to remove it. Fortunately, I had moved to
look over the side of the boat, just in time to miss being clobbered on the head
by a knife he'd dropped from some 60ft up! Would have been one brainless female if
it had hit me!!
The immediate plan is to go to Nova Scotia & Newfoundland for the summer. We set
off on 22nd, final preparations done, final goodbyes said. Weather reports showed
favourable SW winds, and we planned to sail way out past Cape Sable to miss all the
gnarlies, and head for Shelbourne as our first stop. The only dissenting weather
voice was Chris Parker – but as we heard him only after we’d been at sea for almost
5 hours, and he operates out of Florida, a long way away, we somewhat overrode him.
We should have listened! He was right – it was SSE winds all the way, hard on the
nose, and even close-hauled we were not going to lay the course planned in the time
allotted, but were going to hit Cape Sable and the overfalls head on against the
6kn tide expected.
It was freezing cold and the wind and wet was miserable; despite thermal underwear
and 4 layers of clothing, we were both totally ‘nithered’. So after some 50 miles,
we decided to treat this as a training cruise, turned tail, poled out the genoa and
headed back for the comfort of South West Harbour again!
Sailing is supposed to be fun, and I think it’s too early for summer in Nova Scotia
yet! And Micah’s birthday was Friday, and a big lobster bash planned for the dock
side – couldn’t miss that! We’ll live to sail another day, as they say.
Friday 30th June 2006
Foggy, foggy days – they must have written the original song here in South West Harbor,
Maine! We have sat encapsulated for the past week, some days unable to see the boat
moored ahead of us, some days getting an excitingly tantalising peek at Sutton Island
at the mouth of the harbour – but the upshot of it all is, we’ve stayed! Two Norwegian
boats left on Tuesday, all hands on deck wrapped to the gills in very heavy weather
gear, expecting the worst out at sea – they had a deadline to meet, needing to be
in Scotland by mid-July, so decided to brave the elements. Mind you, they are hardy
sailors, facing the thoughts of an Iceland stop-over with delight and glee – me,
I’d rather wimp out in the warmth!
We’ve spent the time most productively however, John getting the website totally
up-to-date, Jenny pounding away at her editing work, so it’s not been time wasted.
And we’ve had a great time socially, gadding with lots of locals.
Blonde little 3 year old Jake (the dock manager Micah’s son) hurtles around the deck
in a big electric car, and got stopped by the police the other day.
"Son," the policeman asked, "may I see your licence please?"
Quick as a wink, Jake handed him a piece of bubblegum paper.
"Hmm," said the policeman. "I think you need a new one. Let me see you drive."
So Jake did a tight turn around the deck, then pulled up smartly in front of him.
"You pass," he smiled and gave Jake a South West Harbour police sticker.
No flies on Jake though. "I need two," he said. "One for me and one for the car!"
Lucien (owner of big sports fishing boat Mighty Mouse) is also an avid model airplane
builder, and every now and then the marina buzzes as his red and white single prop
fighter plane strafes the burgees and stays of the yachts lying at the docks. It’s
great fun to watch an unsuspecting boat come tentatively into the marina to tie up,
only to be dive-bombed from a most unexpected source!
Carl runs a Friendship Sloop as a charter boat, making 2-3 trips a day with non-sailing
folks to see the seals and eagles up Soames Sound. Beautiful wooden boat, built in
1899 and restored immaculately, we saw him the first day we came in, sailing very
erratically around in the entrance to the harbour.
“What’s he doing?” asked my somewhat bemused skipper.
Turned out he was helping his client scatter her husband’s ashes in the bay!
And Chris – well, Chris is something else. 15 years old, he has his own little lobster
boat, puts out 150 lobster pots, and pulls up about 100 of these every day in the
same season – and has been doing this on his own since he was 11 years old. (He caught
the lobsters for our wedding last year!) Astounding!
Most parents worry about their kids crossing the road still at that age, and here’s
this young boy out there in the deep ocean, fog or no fog, weather or no weather,
pulling up lobster pots! Chris can be seen on the right, leaning over the railing.
Of course, no conversation about South West Harbour is complete without mention of
Mary, the lady who holds the whole thing together! Mary and Ed Dysart own Dysart’s
Marina (where we’re loosely based), and every day in Mary’s life is an event – if
it isn’t, she’ll turn it into one. Even Jake at 3 knows that. When told we’re going
to Mary’s house, his reaction is, “Why, is that where the party is?” And a casual
invite to, “join us for dinner” always turns into a group of 10-15 people and an
evening of fun and laughter. Very special lady.
We even climbed Cadillac Mountain one day – all 1530 feet of it! Rated as the highest
peak on the eastern Atlantic seaboard, the guide book calls it “a gentle climb” –
Ha! I guarantee it equals the Grouse Grind in Vancouver for cardiovascular exertion!
By the time we’d got up the north face (2.2miles constant uphill), stopped for 5
secs to click-a-pic to prove it (it was too misty to see anything from the top) then
steadily made our way down via blue markers painted on the rocks or little rock cairns
appropriately placed so we wouldn’t wander over the edge, it was a solid 8 mile hike.
No wonder I couldn’t move the next day!
So, it’s been a week of preparation and consolidation, as they say – forecasts look
good to leave Saturday for Nova Scotia, so that’s the immediate plan.
Sunday 9th July 2006
There are some passages that are always discussed in tones of either hushed horror
or relieved braggadocio, and The Bay of Fundy is certainly one of them! Two weeks
ago I wimped out and convinced John to “please go home” – it was too wet, too cold
and too miserable to continue. This last Saturday, we did the crossing, and it was
an absolute pleasure: South West Harbor, Maine to Shelburne Harbour, Nova Scotia
(and yes, Nova Scotians do spell the correct way!) in 27 hours of fantastic sailing,
great wind, great sun, great seas. Amazing difference.
First port of call was Shelburne Harbour, and we moored off the Yacht Club. Word
of warning – always try to check what you’re picking up as a mooring! In 30 knot
winds that afternoon, Isle of Skye broke the mooring chain, and hit the rock harbour
wall bow on, doing some nasty damage to her caprails and bow-rollers before the owners
recovered her. We decided to change moorings in the teeth of the gale, and with John
not being satisfied with the ‘thin green line’ attaching us to the buoy, had to then
reeve one of our own thick white warps through the buoy and back on deck. Imagine
the scene – John in our new little dinghy trying to beat up against 25-30 knot winds
and seas with our dinky little 3.5hp engine, me on Al Shaheen’s bow trying to throw
him the warp without crowning him and both of us hoping like hell the thin green
line wouldn’t snap and send me and Al to the rock wall!!
Shelburne Harbour Yacht Club is terrific – friendly people, a great clubhouse (free
wifi, showers and coffee, an excellent cafeteria, the usual pub, fuel and water for
the boat), and a small marina with the above-mentioned moorings. Very helpful, very
And Shelburne itself is a very picturesque little town, lots of lovely olde buildings
dating back to the 1700s when the Loyalists first set up home here. Not a wealthy
town, definitely working-class, down-to-earth folks, and a lot of the buildings have
that air of slight dilapidation about them, but it’s a home town, not a tourist town,
if you know what I mean. Some very good museums – the Dory Shop is well worth the
visit, where Wilford still makes dories as they were made in the 1800s – 100 years
ago they were putting out two a day; now he’s lucky if he can make and sell 2 a summer
season. Sad to see the old skills go.
Talking of old skills, we visited with some “real” fishermen, watching and chatting
while they were getting their boat ready to go out. They offered us a trip, and John
was very keen to go – but the sight of all that rotten fish hooked on long lines
and coiled into tubs ready to be released overboard, and the thought of all those
guts and entrails splattering all over the deck for the next 4 days – well, we both
decided we had other things, other places to do! Again, a dying breed of people though.
Despite their broad Scot/Irish/Cornish/Canadian accents, they were great to listen
to, and told us how difficult the government was making their lives with licences,
the quota system and regulations. I found it astounding that the licence allowed
them to catch only one kind of fish – so if you have a line out and catch 4 kinds
on your line, the other 3 have to get thrown back, even if they’re dead! And once
you’ve reached your quota, everything else has to get turfed – seems very non-environmental
to have to throw dead fish back: who does that help???
SHYC is port-of-call for some interesting yachties too. Apart from Rick, the eskimo
on Eskimo, one of those been-everywhere, done-almost-everything type of solo sailors
who turns up in almost every port sooner or later, we also met Wes and Walt of a
Fast 40, Valiant. Wow, what a boat!
These two salts sailed this mean machine, sans any ‘luxury’ items like proper berths
or galley or shower, minimum weight on board (“unnecessaries” like an extra pair
of jeans gets dumped, and all food is weighed and discussed before being loaded)
from Hampton, Mass. to Bermuda and then to Shelburne – just to participate in a fun
run! Their grocery shop before leaving for their home port again brought back 5 apples
and 4 bananas for the 2 day run home.
Sadly we left Shelburne on Friday, and motored some 43 miles up to Carters Bay in
Port Mouton (pronounced Muh-toon) – no wind, but nice sunny day, good seas. We anchored
overnight just off a lovely white sandy beach, shades of the Caribbean but definitely
not tempting enough to swim in these temperatures!!
Had a late lazy start to Saturday, and motored (again not a breath of wind) to the
Le Have Islands for the night, only 33 miles this time. As you can see, we’re not
exactly moving fast this season! Here we attempted to tuck into Baker’s Gut for the
night, narrow little cut between two islands – however, at 2 metres below the keel
we decided to turn back, only to have the depth alarm screeching its head off – we
had 0.2 metres under the keel as we turned! John was a pale shade of white as we
very very gently edged out! So we anchored just out of the Gut, in a wide sweeping
bay, surrounded by pine-topped islands and privacy. It was delightful.
Today (Sunday) we left early, ahead we hope of bad weather coming through. Again
a motor job, aiming for Lunenburg 16 miles away, and we got into the entrance to
the harbour just as the rain started. Still, we’ve had no fog, and that’s been my
big worry all along – so far, so good! We’ve picked up a mooring here, opposite the
Fisheries Museum and Waterfront, in company with the famous Bluenose II schooner.
We’ll wait till the rain stops before going ashore, but by all that we hear, this
is quite a town – World Heritage Site because of all the historical buildings!
Saturday 15th July 2006
Lunenburg is a great little town, very picturesque, lots of delightfully painted
olde buildings and historical sights - and a wonderful Fisheries Museum giving lots
of insight into the doings and lives of the past. Tragic tales of families who lost
son after son, brother after brother at sea - but still continued, because there
was nothing else to do! It is a tourist town though, and after the warmth and friendliness
of SHYC, was just a little empty of real contact. Although we did meet up with Al
and Michele off Easy Listening, last seen in Puerto Rico in 2005!
Still, nice to move on, and after a fantastic sail out on Tuesday, we spent the next
night tied up to a fishing boat in Sambro.
O Patricia is owned and manned by Homer and Donny, two old timers who had been sitting
waiting for a weather window for 4 days - they're swordfish fishermen, and have to
have absolutely dead calm seas and clear skies in order to harpoon the fish off a
boom sticking out the bow of the boat - all quite hairy! We had a good time chatting
with them - Homer was most impressed that someone with as fancy as boat as ours could
tie a bowline - "mos' the yachties cain't" says Homer.
Left the next morning in fog, that everyone said would be lifting. Ha! Don't believe
those weather forecasts when it comes to fog!! We sailed the whole day, across Halifax
entrance and all the shipping lanes, in fog so thick I couldn't see the buoys 100
metres to the side of us - could hear them booming or clanging away, but couldn't
see them! Anyway, Halifax Traffic Control is very good, and cleared us all the way
across without problem, and all in all it was a great sail.
We were aiming for Jeddore, to meet fellow OCC member John van Schalkwyk - now there's
a good S. African name! Turns out his father was a career diplomat, and after much
world-travelling, he's now settled in Nova Scotia.
He offered us an OCC mooring in front of his house 'The Ark', up a long and winding
channel to the head of the western arm of the Jeddore. He did say there were some
shallow patches (mud and grass), so sent specific way-points and lat/long directions,
all of which John carefully keyed in to the GPS. Unfortunately, the GPS was set to
alarm at a quarter mile, and as these way-points were often less than quarter mile
apart, the GPS had already moved on to point no.4 before we even got to no.2!! So
we landed up with John driving by the seat of his pants - and he did exceptionally
well, only going aground once, very gently!
John and Heather have a lovely home up on the hillside, and couldn't have been more
welcoming - hot showers, laundry facilities, and a lovely meal laid on the first
night we arrived. What a welcome. And they lent us their spare car, so we did some
landlubbing exploring over the next 2 days, driving first into Halifax for the day
then doing a round-the-coast trip to see the famed Bay of Fundy, site of the world's
highest recorded tides (up to some 53 feet tidal range), and one of those areas where
on a bad day you can have an absolutely horror trip at sea.
It was a beautiful sunny day when we drove around, so it all looked very harmless:
it fact, we sat for 2 hours waiting to see the world-famous Tidal Bore come roaring
through, when the incoming tide charges down the river mouth at a great rate of knots,
scouring the banks and causing all sorts of drama. Of course it's a tourist trap,
and there are at least 3 Adventure Tour Trips on Zodiacs to 'Ride the Bore'. Well,
we sat and waited, and waited, and waited, then we heard the zodiacs, and the Bore
came in - hmmm, yaa…wn, what a bore. 8 or 10 Zodiacs puddling ahead of an incoming
wave that looked all of 2 feet high - well, I have no doubt it did get more exciting
as the river narrowed, but it looked like a bad excuse to blow $75!!
Halifax is the biggest Nova Scotian city, all 380 000 people strong. It was almost
flattened back in 1917 when a Norwegian ship hit a French ship carrying a top-secret
cargo of explosives - huge loss of life. It was also the site where until 1971 all
immigrants entered Canada from UK and Europe, some 1 million. Very good museum at
Pier 21, sort of Ellis Island of Canada with stories galore. And like so much of
Canada, there's always so much for kids - fabulous playgrounds, people painting faces,
and Theodore the Tug toot-tooting around the harbour!
We've had a great time here, but we're both suffering from bugitis - the bugs here
are either ginormous and draw blood when they attack, or no-see-ums that draw blood
invisibly!! Whichever they are they are 100% worse than anything ever encountered
in Africa! No wonder the local shops stock 'bug jackets', sizes ranging from small
child to large man. The houses have bugscreens on all openings, the barbecue areas
outside are enclosed in screening, and you sit/stand outside in fear of your life!
John very cleverly concocted one for the boat before we got carried off, but we are
both showing decided signs of wear and tear - big bulges in most unsightly places.
Don't have a bugscreen for the dinghy yet!
Saturday 22nd July 2006
This has been a week of fog, rain, with the occasional day of glorious sunshine to
negate all the previous - and topped with Tropical Storm Beryl last night! We have
moved some 92 miles further east, taking in the sights, stopping to hunker down out
of the storms - and of course taking the chance for some good boat clean-out stuff
too. You know what they say, housewives' work is never done - even on a boat!
So often here at this time of year, the fog appears to lift: enough to get John's
itchy feet moving and his Cap'n voice calling out the orders, "All hands on deck!"
That was the case when we left Jeddore; the fog had cleared as far as we could see,
so despite the glowering band on the horizon, we weighed anchor and took off. Of
course, as soon as we got out to sea, it closed in immediately, and we motored for
the next three and half hours in pea-soup with no wind whatsoever. Quiet, but very
disconcerting. We decided to call it a day 20 miles further on, and pulled in to
Owl's Head Bay, at the entrance to Ship Harbour and anchored with only 50 metres
The next day (Tuesday) was much the same, with the fog in the bay lifting enough
to get everyone excited - we could see Friar Island outside!! However, by the time
we got there, it had drifted away into the mist again - this really is a land of
fast disappearing illusions! This time we managed 13 miles before calling it a day
- a fairly close encounter with a fishing boat we hadn't seen through the fog also
decided us it was time to retire! So we gingerly felt our way into Siteman's Cove,
just the other side of a tongue that splits Ship Harbour. There is a shorter way
through between the two anchorages, but that involves picking your way through narrow
little passages over rocks awash and shallows of 2-3 feet - not much good to us with
more than 6 feet draft!
Wednesday morning the sun came out, and we discovered we'd anchored in the most beautiful
big bay, totally surrounded by high wooded hills and little islands. Couple of houses
dotted the hills, and we hadn't been up long when a chap in a dinghy rowed over to
chat. Chris Griffiths, ex Brit who has been here since 1979, is just retiring, and
has plans to build a yacht club facility on the sea-front property - should do well,
as he has both the protected bay and the personality to do it! He was very well-informed
on the bugs that had been chewing us alive: "There are 5 types," he says, "no-see-ums,
black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies and the grand-pappy of them all, horse flies."
"What can we do about them?" "Drink lots of alcohol is the best!" Hmmm, sounds like
the nightly G&Ts are going to need to increase in volume.
The Nova Scotian folks - and I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating
- are such great people! Chris invited both us and Morning Watch across to his deck
for a musselbake later, together with what he called a 'braaifest' (he'd spent a
year living in S.Africa many many years back), and lathered with Tabard to fend off
the bugs, we had a most enjoyable evening - lots to drink too, so I'm not sure which
it was that worked, the Tabard or the drink! Delicious mussels - bought in bulk from
the local fisheries, hung in a bag over the side of the deck, then just upended into
a broth of red wine - oi vey, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
We left Siteman's Cove earlyish Thursday, and had a fair-to-good motor/sail in sunshine
across to the Liscombe River, some 50 miles or so. Listened on the VHF with great
interest to the fishing boats out there, looking for swordfish mainly, but eventually
anything they could catch. Much whingeing and whining about how little there was
out there (one boat had been out for 2 days and hadn't seen a single fish, and was
obviously in a bad way, because his mates kept sayin "Jeez, that's all you need on
top of everythin' else").
Initially we thought we'd anchor just inside the river mouth, but continuous warnings
coming from Halifax Coastguard about Tropical Storm Beryl hitting us the next day
decided us to go all the way up the river to Liscomb Lodge - winding tortuous very
narrow river channel getting shallower and shallower - nerve-racking! We anchored
out in the river, not up in the mooring field near the Lodge, as we thought it was
too shallow. Dined on the remains of one of John's famous curries, and crashed.
So Friday saw us scooting up to the Lodge early to get laundry done (and I had not
only a shower where I could allow the water to run rather than do the 3-point lick-spit
boat-shower, but also a sauna and a soak in the whirlpool - lux-u-ry!), before hunkering
down to wait for Beryl to arrive. 2 anchors out, dinghy lashed up on deck, Red Ensign
furled to save it being thrashed to death, and the wind generator furiously pumping
out amps as the wind rose steadily from 5-10 knots, then up to 20, finally by midnight
reaching a crescendo of 33knots. We dragged slightly, so in the middle of the rain
etc, we pulled up one anchor, with me trying to keep hold of the second, motored
forward and relaid it again. John was up until the wind died down, checking the status
- I crouched below and buried myself in the 1580s with Mary Queen of Scots! This
morning all is dead calm, no wind, lots of fog - gale warnings still out, but it's
certainly passed us by. Thank God - on the OCC radio net this morning someone was
talking of 72 knot winds at Bucks Harbor, Maine: that's not fun.
Dinner at the Lodge tonight? That'll be good!
Saturday 29th July 2006
Bras D’or Lakes! I had begun to believe they were as illusive as that gold nugget
or the pot o’gold at the end of the rainbow – but on Thursday we actually motored
through St. Peter’s lock, and entered into the Lakes – into sunshine, warmth and
bliss of all blisses, no fog! You could feel the wall of heat as we came down St.
Peter’s canal – so much so that by the end of it I had shed not one, but two layers
of jersey and jacket, and was in my shirt-sleeves, pale white arms glinting in the
sunlight. And within twenty minutes we were both complaining about the heat!
We had spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday stuck up the Liscomb River (wasn’t that
the name of a song? Oh no, sorry, that was the Swannee!) in either heavy rain, or
thick fog, or a combination of them both. All in all, a thoroughly uncomfortable
few days, although I suppose if you’re going to be stuck anywhere, this was as good
as spot as many. John did take the opportunity to do some of the inevitable maintenance
work, and at some stage to go biking, but I stayed warm and dry, doing some editing/reading
Chester the marina manager, who’s done this job every summer for 28 years, is an
absolute gem – nothing’s too much trouble. On Monday night he rushed out in the gloom
in a little dinghy to rescue a small sailboat that had lost its engine and was now
drifting towards the shoals on the elbow of the river. Sans any other help, he hauled
her in, rafted them up to another bigger boat, and chugged off back to fix that portion
of the dock that had broken away during Beryl – all part of the days’ work!
All in all though, it was with some relief that we left early Tuesday morning in
clear skies, and a weak sun – no wind though. For some 6 hours or so we had a great
motor in brilliant sunshine – and then guess what? The fog closed in! We’d been undecided
as to whether to stop early in the afternoon, but when the fog arrived we both decided
it was safer to stay out at sea than to attempt to crawl in on radar through rocks
and shoals to some unknown inlet, so we carried on to moor behind the breakwater
at Canso, right on the point of Nova Scotia, and the jumping off place for Cape Breton
and the Bras D’or. Canso was originally a thriving fishing port with big fish processing
plant, but now a quiet backwater. The plant’s closed down, very little fishing traffic,
and it appears that most of the little houses are probably used as summer holiday
lets. Still, it has a cheerful feel about it, not dilapidated like some of the villages.
Next morning it was across the Straits for that illusive Cape Breton – we could see
it 20 miles away, and it looked sunny! We took off like a cracker – a fierce 24 knot
wind put a reef in the sail, and we chased whitecaps behind a heeled-over boat called
Nomad, whose fancy Kevlar sails had him going like a Boeing! Until we got to mid-passage.
And the wind dropped to 8 knots. Oi vey!! Still, we sailed determinedly across, refusing
to put the engine on despite only doing 3.8 knots at times, past shoals and reefs
breaking to port and starboard, through the entrance to St. Peter’s Bay and along
the buoyed passage till we got to the entrance to the lock. Where the wind got up
again and made it quite interesting getting the main sail down without falling overboard!
It looks as if the canal and lock haven’t changed since the 1880s or so when it was
built: we visited a gallery of photos by MacGaskill taken back then, and it was exactly
the same, just a few more trees. For those of you who know locks, it was an easy
one, with only a few feet change in depth between entrance and exit – but as usual,
it takes some nifty footwork to cast off the last warp from shore and doing a running
leap back on to the boat now moving away from the side of the canal – and you!
Wow! We tied up to St. Peter’s Marina, and a deluge of socialising hit us like a
bucket of cold water! The marina was full, and got fuller – and as each boat is only
two - three feet away from the adjacent one, you’re somewhat in your neighbour’s
face. It’s a bit like a South African township scene; everyone gesticulating, everyone
calling out greetings to long-lost acquaintances at the tops of their voices. Every
third boat is having a social get-together; granted it was cocktail hour, but where
did all these people come from?? Bit of a jolt after all the silence we’d got used
However, the marina (run by the local Lion’s Club) has all the mod cons; hot showers,
laundry facilities – and wifi! Great to Skype everyone again, catch up on happenings
all over the world family-wise, from my mom not wanting to have her hip op after
all, to my son breaking his collar-bone playing soccer (at 40??!), to John’s son
organising to go off on their next action adventure-hol, to John’s youngest grandson
announcing proudly that the new hamster “has big balls”! (Visit to the vet determined
this was not a tumour; he’s just well-hung!). What we miss by being away.
So, we’ve caught up with the necessities, re-provisioned, restocked the wine cellar,
checked the charts, and will be leaving tomorrow to go explore this neck of the woods.
Just in time: there is a Harley Davidson bike rally here this weekend, and the HOGs
have been rolling into town all day – some 2,000 bikes expected. Time to leave.
Monday 7th August 2006
Knew we’d got too far north when Santa himself stepped off the red boat next to us
on the dock! Big white beard, red t-shirt, big jovial ho-ho laugh – ok the yellow
crocs are a bit off, but what the hang, he is on holiday after all. His business
card says ‘Pere Noel’ but I know that means Father Christmas in English!! I asked
him where Rudolf was, and he says he sends the reindeer out to pasture during the
summer months as his food bills get too high! Still, John the captain of Santa’s
boat, made us a mean plate of salmon and Solomon Gundy snacks for drinks that night.
Solomon Gundy is the find of the decade. Little glass jars packed to the brim with
the most mouth-watering, taste-bud-provoking, delicious Nova Scotian pickled herring
– to die for, dahling! John and I could scoff a bottle between us without thinking
about it – we’ve had to discipline ourselves seriously.
But I digress. After going through St. Peter’s lock, we spent a week in the Bras
D’or Lakes, doing the ‘gunk-holing’ thing. St. Peter’s Marina was a good place to
catch up with provisioning, laundry, emails, (wifi reception on the boat, a great
luxury!) all those sorts of things. Run by the Lions Club, it’s a very active marina:
sailing schools, kids activities, something going on all day. And busy! It’s as well
to make a reservation, otherwise you get what we did, trying to fit a 42ft yacht
onto a 30ft marina slip tends to leave some frayed nerves!
Bras D’or was lovely – no fog, warm, flat water – somewhat fluky winds, sometimes
absolutely nothing, next minute 25 knots! It was interesting to see the different
community of boaters here – this was 99% local Nova Scotians down for their 2-3 week
break, very few live-aboards like ourselves. It made for a different scene – lots
of groups of boats moving around together or congregating together each night, much
more usage of marinas and much less usage of anchoring generally. Mind you, that
may also be because the coves and inlets and harbours are predominantly shallow with
narrow entrances and silted-up passages – quite tricky for us in Al Shaheen with
her 2 metre draft. We had her depth alarm screaming its little head off several times!
However, by the end of the week both John and I felt we’d spent too long here now;
it was getting boring! There’s something about an enclosed lake, even one with enticing
anchorages and what everyone here calls ‘gunk-holes’ that just doesn’t make for exciting
sailing really. We discussed it at quite length, and decided that it must be a great
place to stay if you are a permanent live-aboard and need comfortable and cheap anchorages
to spend the Caribbean summer, but otherwise for us it was a bit like sailing on
Hartbeespoort Dam (for non-S. Africans like Lake Windermere!).
So, after exploring Dundee, Little Harbour (fantastic smoked salmon available from
The Smokehouse!), Maskells and Baddeck, we decided to turn round and head south.
Newfoundland is going to have to wait till next year – there’s a lot we that we missed
along the Nova Scotia coast, and we’d like to spend some extensive time in the Chesapeake
before making the jump south. At this point in time we’re thinking of doing this
by going from Hampton straight to Tortola – an ocean trip of maybe 9-12 days weather
depending. Anyone want a crew position to do this with us??? I’m definitely sure
I don’t want to do it alone!
We’re now in Halifax, having roared in to the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron under
sail in a cracking wind yesterday. Very nice marina, lots of history – Prince Phillip
is the current patron, and they were given the royal warrant back in 1861, so members
can fly the blue ensign! All very smart. Talking of ensigns, had a lovely run-in
at St. Peter’s with the lady on board a rather scruffy yacht flying a white ensign.
I made some innocuous (I thought) comment about the smart flag, and she snapped back
in a very tart British upper-end voice; “That’s the Royal Yacht Squadron white ensign
(she pronounced it en-sine) and I have the accent to prove it!” And stalked off down
the gangplank, her back stiff with righteous indignation at an interchange with a
On the way down from Bras D’or Lakes, we’ve stopped in at some of the places we missed
going up – very detailed chart-reading necessary, as each anchorage seems to be protected
by ledges of rocks sitting just below the surface, making sailing in next to impossible
and even motoring in quite difficult! Yankee Cove in Whitehead Bay for example, has
a rock slap bang in the middle of the channel which is not on the charts – only reason
you know it’s there is when someone hits it – as did John and Judy on Lola! They
went in in thick fog, and were on it before their radar picked it up – fortunately
not too much damage done, but giving them both a nasty fright all the same. We met
folks in Dundee who were on the hard having their keel dropped and refitted after
hitting a rock coming out of Bermuda – not exactly the sort of thing you want to
do to your floating home. But we both love the scenery here, and the anchorages are
fantastic. Apart from Yankee Cove, where we anchored amongst the mussel farms, we
have been the only boat in the anchorage all the way here, and have sat, sipping
G&Ts, agape at the stunning sunsets put on just for our solo benefit! Marie Joseph
was another must-see, while Sally’s Cove was just beautiful. You start to run out
of superlatives after a while!
Suffice to say that this Nova Scotia coast is a jewel waiting to be discovered by
the international cruising world, and I’m glad we’ve seen it before they mess it
up with coke-stands and beach cafes!
As a bush person, I’ve been disappointed by the lack of wildlife, but we’ve seen
hundreds of seals, dolphins charging past us with some definite agenda to fulfil,
lots of ospreys, bald eagles – and jellyfish the size of dinnerplates by the zillions!
Apparently the unseasonal warm weather has brought them out, and you cannot anchor
anywhere without becoming surrounded by these pulsating purple-blue shapes – quite
The weather’s been good, we’ve sailed most of the way, in fairly big chunks of 30-5-
miles each day, without a sign of fog. The local guy on the motor-boat tied up next
to us was complaining yesterday about the unseasonal heat wave!! We’re not complaining!
And today (7th) is Natal Day here, big festivities on the waterfront, so we’re heading
over for some serious R&R just now. Till next time!
Wednesday 23rd August 2006
Bo Diddley concerts, Chester Race week, street puppets, mussel-picking, gunk-holing
in Nova Scotia, then a cracking sail hitting 8.6 knots across the Gulf of Maine back
to Rockland Maine, USA – gosh! Just too many good things happening to stop long enough
to write an update! This has been an interesting 20 or so days, to say the least,
from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Taking the decision to leave the Bras D’or was the right one for us – we both felt
much easier and more at home once we were back out on the open seas, searching the
chart for a hidey-hole for the night. What does that say about our combined adventurous
ancestors? Must be Sir John Franklin’s shade breathing down our necks about the Northwest
Passage or something!
But at the same time, it is good to get into civilisation every once in a while,
kick back and enjoy the finer things of life – like dinner out in Halifax, or a Bo
Diddley blues concert. I know, I also thought he was long pushing up daisies, but
no, Bo Diddley I can confirm is still alive and well and playing blues in Halifax!
Well, Dartmouth to be exact, but don’t let’s split hairs. GPJ (digress slightly,
for those who don’t know, GPJ does not stand for either Grand Pasha or Great Passion
– just GrandPa!!) and I mooched along to the Alderney Landing on a hot Friday night,
and in the shade of the ferry terminal and together with several hundred mad bikers
and grizzled Haligonians (note the age group please!), boogied to the sounds of Big
Daddy Bo Diddley! He showed his age when he had to be practically carried off the
stage by two buxom wenches in full-feathered Moulin Rouge type get-ups (who decides
on this??), but boy, when he was playing and singing, did he hold us all in the palm
of his hands! Fantastic show. Made all the more interesting by the side-shows – the
ongoing Chair Circus performed by the security guys desperately protecting VIP chairs
from the rapacious hands of bikers with aching legs and no seats to sit on (security
finally stacked all the chairs together and oiled them onto the tables, then mounted
serious guard around their property!). Also just the people themselves – I do love
a people sideshow! The strange things that appear in the night! A 60yr old woman,
large thighs, large butt, large tummy, in skinny-mini skirt and tight tank top, with
a white baseball cap perched sideways on her coiled yellow hair. Huh? Not to mention
the delightful young man mincing around in white chinos, pink jacket and pink Andy
Capp cap?? Oi vey! Why did I leave my camera at home?
However, on a more serious note, while in the stately environs of RNSYS, we realised
our fluxgate compass was acting up – not just slightly off, but to the tune of between
3 and 90 degrees off! So, after trying to correct it by doing these 360° turns in
the middle of the entrance to RNSYS with all supercilious eyes trained on us (Yes,
I know he flies a red ensign, but do you really think he knows what he’s doing, Jason?),
GPJ decided it needed some professional attention – we ‘cleared out’ of RNSYS and
made our way to Dartmouth Yacht Club, up under the two Halifax bridges and into the
Now here’s a club of a different sort! Very much a working-man’s club, lots and lots
of boats, but these are not of the same ilk as RNSYS. As loved, if not even more
so, but not as spit-and-polished – these are family boats that are also taken out
to race when necessary, not the racing boats so prevalent at RNSYS! DYC was the home
of John Hughes, the only Canadian to complete the BOC Round the World race – and
who did it unsponsored. And the club is very proud of that, which says it all. But
the facilities are great, the folks are very helpful and very friendly, and we got
a new fluxgate compass and a course-computer software upgrade fairly painlessly –
expect for GPJ’s back pocket!
While in Halifax area, we arranged for a wheelchair for my mother in South Africa
– amazing what you can do over the internet these days! She’s 91 this month, and
is becoming increasingly less mobile with arthritis – the wheelchair guys were great,
even putting balloons and a birthday card on it for her. And had some more discussions
and worries over John’s 100 year-old aunt back in the UK, who put a ready-made meal
in the container under the grill, then forgot about it – fortunately the neighbours
saw smoke billowing out the window and rushed around to check! We had just changed
her gas cooker for a small electric one, because she kept forgetting to switch the
gas off! One of the worries John and I both face is our aging relatives back home:
no sooner had we got back to civilization and wifi in Maine than I discovered my
mother had been given notice from her rented cottage in the retirement village –
they’re planning to flatten the cottage and build another 20 odd units on the land!
So now the panic’s on – trying to source a new home for an active old lady in a wheelchair
in Durban, all done from a computer in Maine!! Thank God for both the internet and
family and friends back home.
Finally tearing ourselves away from the fleshpots, we trekked out to sea again, and
spent the rest of the time exploring Mahone Bay. Loveridge’s Cruising Guide is unfortunately
more than 10 years old, so we have found generally that what he describes as a pristine,
uninhabited cove might not always be like that any longer! Rogues’ Roost, which was
entered by motoring through a tortuous channel of rocks and shallows towards a solid
rock wall, which parted at the last minute, to show a narrow entrance, had some 12
boats in it by the end of the evening. Not that it made it cramped, it just wasn’t
Still, one of the boats gave us a full garbage bag of mussels they just picked, which
we proceeded to steam in white wine for supper, so there’s a pay-off for everything.
And Deep Cove has an ugly condo development being built at the head of the cove –
bulldozers and back-actors started at 7am!! Of course, we did hit both these places
over the weekend, which probably was not good timing, as everyone and their uncle
was out to play. One group of 10 boats rafted up on a single mooring buoy – thank
God it didn’t blow as it was supposed to! The same crowd were with us again in Mahone
Bay Town Harbour, but they seem to have lost a few on the way, as there were only
7 there. Mahone Bay Town is not exactly the centre of the universe, and the dock-master
is a young kid who lives with his mother on a houseboat on a small floating dock
in the middle of the harbour! But they’re very obligingly helpful – when they switch
their VHF on.
After chatting with Merlin on the morning OCC net (so useful this net – we have had
invaluable assistance about anchorages, depths, weather and all sorts of other info
from folks), we decided to break the trip to Maine into bite-size chunks, so sailed
– sorry motored – to Lockeport for the first night. Great little harbour, completely
enclosed by a stone breakwater, and we tied up at the dock. In order to have a sundowner
overlooking the harbour, we needed to order food, so shared a plate of crab-cakes.
Can’t get enough of this seafood! Mike Mulrooney off Maggie B entertained us with
stories of local Scotians; 4th generation Irish extract, he knows a lot of the people
and their foibles! He was single-handing, just pottering around the coast between
Chester (his home) and Yarmouth for a few weeks.
Next morning we had to wait for Bruce to arrive so we could fill up with diesel,
and sat on the fuel dock meeting some other locals – the rather shifty fisherman
who sat at the other end of the dock and sent a go-between to offer us 2lb lobster
– 6 for $30! Was very tempting, except I couldn’t imagine what we’d do with 6 large
lobster crawling around the bilges while we sailed across to Maine – plus we knew
they must be illegal caught after the season had ended, so we very righteously declined.
Then met Bob, who has a double-storey house with the top storey totally enclosed
in glass – an aged hippie, grey hair tied back in a ponytail, who regaled us with
tales of buying a boat with some mates back in the ‘60s and sailing across to the
Med for a year – their main stores consisted of a large amount of hash, which I think
they restocked regularly in Turkey!!
Once again a motoring job, this time around Cape Sable and over the tide rips and
overfalls – quite an experience – round to Westhhead and into the harbour there,
where we tied up to Maggie B, who was already tied up to a large fishing boat! A
very busy fishing harbour, lots of fairly large fishing boats, not the usual little
lobster boats that we’d become accustomed to seeing, these were big 50 and 100ft
herring seiners. Being a Friday afternoon, I expected it to be quiet, but there was
still quite a buzz going on, with boats preparing to leave and loading all sorts
of ice and gear aboard.
There is a huge tide around the Cape Sable point, so we’d planned to leave the next
morning at a time to hopefully catch it to our advantage – we were a bit late, and
had 4 knots against us for quite a way. The slightly lumpy sea didn’t help the fact
that we’d definitely had far too much wine with Maggie B Mike over dinner – we both
had a slight green tinge most of the day! But we had a cracking sail! Shook the moths
out of the sails almost as we set out Saturday morning, and sailed in a constant
18-19 knots SSW for the next 24 hours – the log showed our maximum speed at 8.6 knots
– on my watch! I think that was at the time I had my eyes closed in panic!! Realising
we were going to arrive in Maine in the dark, we took in 2 reefs to reduce sail –
and still did 7.5!! So we arrived in lobster-pot area just as the sun was breaking,
and spent the next two hours bemoaning leaving Nova Scotia – lobster-pot dodging
requires major concentration and is tiring and very stressful. Especially at the
end of a long overnighter. The ferry from Portland also crossed our bows on my watch,
which was very frightening. By the time I’d seen her – and lit up like a Christmas
tree she wasn’t hard to miss – she was already across our bows, doing 60 knots I
believe?? Thank God she was at least 2 miles away! John is quite incredible on the
water, and inspires full confidence; as a seasoned salt he has this amazing ability
to fall asleep the moment his head hits the bunk and resurrect full of energy 20
mins before he’s due to come on watch. My body clock hasn’t got that rhythm down
Rockland is civilization again: huge anchorage with umpteen boats either moored or
at anchor, ferries and tugs bustling back and forth, town with all amenities close
by – and OCC Port officer Peter McCrea and wife Peggy on hand to provide any help
needed. Peter is a woodworker of note, and had John drooling over his workshop. Peggy’s
a water-colour artist, and her travel journal is a dream of delightful sketches and
text – very talented and warm couple. And we met Scott and Kitty Kuhner on Tumare,
sailors extra-ordinaire! Two circumnavigations!! The first when their kids were small,
back in the days when there were no such things as GPS etc. Wow! And we finally met
Doug and Dale Bruce off Bluewater, co-authors of cruising guides on Nova Scotia &
Newfoundland – these people make me realise that sailing is not just a summer holiday,
but a fulltime way of life! Wonderful, wonderful folks.
And on the other end, we met up with Jeff and Peggy off Moonstruck, new to the cruising
scene, to whom we are the “experts” – well, John anyway, I just tag along and allow
some of the reflected glory to brush off on me! All kinds of people are out there
on the water, and it is such a privilege to be meeting them. What a wonderful life.
John has decided he needs exercise, so he’s off to climb Mt. Battie – I’ve decided
it’s far more important to sit on my butt doing computer work! He’s done some spade-work,
replacing spare parts from Hamilton’s Marine Supplies (our expenses are all either
boat spares or food – or liquor!!) and I’ve restocked my reading library – great
2nd hand bookshop in town – and the lockers are full of goodies.
I have a new project to start editing, and GPJ’s been busy unfolding, folding and
refolding charts, pencil between teeth, determining the next week’s strategy. All’s
well on Al Shaheen!
Saturday 2nd September
Time zones and hemisphereal seasons – take some getting used to trying to decide
whether it’s too early to call Vancouver or too late to call Perth!! The 1st was
Spring Day in South Africa, it’s autumnal in the UK and decidedly chillier here in
We waited in Scituate Harbour, just south of Boston (pronounced I’m told authoritatively
Situite), for Hurricane Ernesto to become Tropical Storm status and blow out before
we took off through the Cape Cod Canal and into Long Island Sound. With great pre-planning
we pulled in here, expecting complete shelter in a small enclosed harbour. Small,
yes – quiet no. There was no anchor room, so we are all on moorings – some 200 or
more boats - our closest neighbour on the starboard side sneezed into our cockpit
as he swings – fortunately the wind never really blew, 25knots at the most. The moorings
seem very close together, but the only ones concerned are the boat owners – the girlie
who drives the launch was quite irritated with some new yacht that was causing an
issue because he “only had 4 feet behind him”. “When you’re touching the boat behind
you, call me and I’ll get worried,” she said.
I spent a day in the Pomerantz’s house on the edge of the marshes - you would love
it! Big hammock swinging temptingly on the deck, sun shining on the muddy banks of
the little stream meandering in from the sea and winding just in front of the house,
thick lush marshgrass surrounding me on three sides - how was I supposed to concentrate
enough to work?? Which is what I was supposed to be doing - catching up on some editing
while John installed a new fridge thermometer on the boat. And a new thingummijig
into the shower system - and a new computer chip into the wind generator - oi vey,
the man never stops fixing things! Still, thank God he doesn't – it means we have
a very well-maintained boat.
We met Dave Pomerantz in Shelburne, our first port of call in Nova Scotia, when he
very kindly lent us his Loveridge’s cruising guide to the area –without it we’d have
had far less success dodging rocks in anchorage entrances.
So what have we done these past few days? I seem to have spent hours on the internet
in Rockland Harbour Master’s office – I phoned my mother to wish her for her 91st
birthday, and discovered she had been given 2 months notice from her little rented
cottage in the retirement village as they plan to knock it down and build several
new condos there instead! Have you ever tried to source accommodation for a 91 year
old lady on one continent while sailing on a boat on another?? It’s not fun. Anyway,
I have called in favours from all the family, and everyone is scrambling to sort
From Rockland we moved to Portsmouth, and spent our first wedding anniversary having
dinner with Greg & Debbie off Undine (PYC Commodore) and Gareth & Annie off Merlin
– fellow Brits we’d been chasing all down the Nova Scotian coast. Greg produced a
swordfish of note – not sure whether he caught it or bought it, but it was delicious!
Portsmouth is a very rolly anchorage – well, we moored actually, just off the point,
but with the tide ripping through regularly and the lobster boats up and down all
hours of the day and night, I seemed to sleep with one foot on the floor in case
I rolled out of bed! But they do have a wonderful lobster place – you choose your
lobster, they cook it and present it to you in a foil bag – we ate it in the PYC
clubhouse in solitary splendour!
Might have been pure coincidence, but just about now our fridge gave up the ghost.
“No problem,” John said, “it can only be one of three things, and I have spares for
the xxx and the xxx.” Of course, it was the thermometer and no spare! Couple of internet
calls later, Greg and John had found a replacement, and one more package was added
to the list of spare parts to be dispatched to the Pomerantz household, our next
The next day we had a long run to Gloucestor, a miserable drizzly day, horrible lumpy
sea, but an incredible sail which kept the man of the home very happy. I crashed
out below, and pretended I was not around. We pulled in just behind the breakwater,
and anchored there for another rolly night. What is it with these lobster boats??
I was surprised at the number of yachtsinside the breakwater – it seems a long time
ago that we came through on the way up the coast, but I certainly didn’t remember
But then we hit Marblehead! Gareth had told us there were some 2,000 moorings there,
and we’d both laughed politely at the exaggeration. The laugh was on him – according
to the Harbour Master, there are more than 2100 moorings in the narrow strip that
makes up the harbour! Talk about a sea of masts! Not that there are lots available
for visiting yachts, however. This is serious ‘home turf’ stuff here – I saw at least
five yacht clubs (including the likes of the Corinithians) but we had to wait for
some fifteen minutes while the Boston Yacht Club checked to see if there was something
available for us. I think they were probably running a who’s who in the zoo check
first – it was probably our Red Duster and the white ensign of the Tot Club that
finally got us in – I don’t think they saw the defacing!
And everything’s done by the book here – at sunset it was like World War II as all
the various yacht club cannons went off and everyone snapped to attention to salute
the colours coming down – and lo and behold, at 8am the next morning it was the same.
Not that I saw the snap to salute from my bunk then, but John did jump up from the
early morning OCC radio net to put our ensign out!! Marblehead is a very quaint town
though: we were there for the Wednesday afternoon races and the hamburger cook-up
afterwards, and enjoyed a very social get-together in the clubhouse listening to
a bunch of real old salts jamming some great jazz together. Sunny, a slight petite
80 year old had her dancing shoes on, and if anyone had joined her, she’d have been
there all night! “My man went 20 years ago,” she told me, “but I don’t let that stop
me now. I still miss him, but life does go on, you know.” Isn’t that the best way
to see life?
From Marblehead to Scituite, then after the storm had passed and the seas died down,
we had a wonderful sail across the bay into Cape Cod Canal and down into Pocasset,
home of Stan & Julie Morton. We visited them last year on our way through, and it
is wonderful to be back meeting up with them again. Stan’s call-sign is Salty Dog,
and there’s a reason for that – he has more tall tales to tell than anyone I know
– he outdoes me by a long way and that’s saying something!
And Alun & Margaret Thomas, old friends of John’s from Saudi Arabia, are also visiting,
so the conversation is both fast and rich! Life is so good when there are people
like this around. Once again, Al Shaheen is moored at the bottom of the garden –
what a priviledge. And John has decided to get some exercise, so is out in Stan’s
little rowboat – I have the ibuprofen/advil ready for his return!
We are still looking for a third crew member to travel with us USA to BVI, and also
still trying to source new accommodation for my mother back in South Africa.
Life is never dull in the Franklin / Crickmore-Thompson household.
Sunday 10th September 2006
Short and sweet this week, as both John and I are feeling somewhat bedraggled. We’re
in New England Boatworks, Portsmouth Rhode Island waiting to be hauled out for damage
assessment and some serious repairs, after hitting the rocks - rather hard – in Woods
Hole Passage en route to Nantucket on Friday. Not a fun event! (See Wood's Hole Grounding
for more details).
John, Stan and Alun planned to take Al Shaheen from Pocasset to Nantucket, 40 something
miles, through the narrow channel of Woods Hole, while the ladies did it the easy
way by fast ferry from Hyannis. Stan has vacationed and lived in the area almost
all his life, and is a very competent and experienced sailor, and very knowledgeable
about these waters.
Woods Hole is known as a bad spot, but with lots of good advice and local knowledge
from local salts, the men were well prepared. All the waypoints in, the tide and
current tables studied, Stan was piloting with the chart in the cockpit, John at
the helm and Alun enjoying the sun on the cabin roof when they came down the channel.
The tide was with them, and was strong – they were doing about 9 knots over the ground,
which in Al Shaheen is moving! The final leg is a Y shape, and they needed to take
the right fork, and that’s where things went suddenly and quickly wrong.
Wrongly identifying the buoy, Al Shaheen left the channel just before the Y, and
screamed from 17 feet to 3 feet under the keel in the space of seconds. She hit the
rocks, bounced off, hit again, spun 360 degrees and hit again before the tide pushed
her past the rocks and back out into the channel again. Alun flew off the cabin roof
and hit the guard rails – thank God he didn’t go through them, as he doesn’t swim
and there was no way they could have turned the boat to pick him up against the tide
at that point!
Once he’d ascertained no-one was hurt and they were back on course, John checked
for water ingress. There certainly was water coming in, but the bilge pump was coping,
so they continued on and made it to Nantucket some 6 hours later – a very quiet trip,
John says! A swim down showed a big gouge out of the keel fore and some damage aft,
but no obvious break in the welds or tears.
She’s aluminium, and built like a tank, thanks to John’s insistence. So the next
day we left to motor across to Newport, Rhode Island, a two-day trip at slow speed,
which was all either of us wanted to push her at. It was glorious weather, a soft
steady wind, and by Saturday as we neared Newport, everyone and their uncle was out
sailing – including a mass of some 45 or so Farr 40s sailing the Rolex Farr 40 World
Championship – “This would be such a lovely sail!” John kept saying. It was hard
to keep motoring along slowly in this environment!
So here we are, waiting for surveyors etc. Bill the bilge pump is working like a
champion – pumping out every 3 minutes or so. John’s estimated (lots of figures and
calculations here!) that we’re taking on an average of 60 litres an hour – that’s
a lot of water! Trust Bill continues, otherwise I’ll be developing a strong right
arm on the manual pump!
Other than that dramatic news, we had an absolutely fantastic time in Pocasset with
Stan and Julie, and Alun and Margaret. Far too much really good food, a bed that
was so big I kept looking for John, and the best of all luxuries – a bath! And they
re-introduced us to all the folks we’d met the last time we were here: I’m always
amazed at how you meet someone and sooner or later find they know someone you know!
Sure enough, Jay and Margo know Scott and Kitty from Tamure well – it is a small
world. And a good world – and a great life, this sailing!
Monday 18th September 2006
Interesting. Here I was, sitting working in the cockpit of Al Shaheen, high and dry
some 30 feet above the ground, between dozens of Farr 40s, Hinkleys, sleek mean-machine
60 foot racing boats that are all sharp angles and thin bulbed keels (and nary a
one has an anchor to speak of!) – and listening to some Brazilian kid taking a break
from polishing the hull by playing Spanish guitar, and playing it well, on a race
boat nearby! Life is so full of quirks, isn’t it?
Our actual repair work still hasn’t started yet, but all the paperwork has been done
– surveyor’s reports in, work estimates in, just the final insurance go-ahead needed.
They’ve given us the go-ahead though, and we were hoping work would start on Monday
– the yard wants us out of the way as they are starting a big new metal job soon
and will need all their metal workers. Fine by us, the sooner the better, but as
always, nothing has actually happened yet.
Stan has been fantastic – lent us his car, been in to see us several times to check
that all’s ok, gone more than the proverbial mile to make things as painless as possible.
It’s wonderful to have such good friends.
And there’s always a silver lining. We spent Thursday at the Newport Boat Show –
mainly buying a new chart plotter – bit like bolting the door after the horse’s bolted
I know, but we had been talking about it for ages! So installing that has been added
to John’s already long list of maintenance jobs to be done while we’re out. I’m quite
happy to lounge around with a good book, but not this man! We finally decided on
a Raymarine C80 and will use it as a stand-alone with its own GPS antenna – a useful
secondary if the main Raymarine system goes down. So long as it keeps us off the
rocks, I’m happy!
We also bumped into George & Nancy Marvin at the boat show – witnesses for our wedding
in SW Harbor all those months back – great to see them again. Had a most entertaining
dinner with them and 2 other OCC folks; well, Jeff Wisch is existing OCC, Suzie Homer
is just being inveigled into joining. One of Suzie’s claims to fame is that she’s
one of the original women allowed to join the CCA – she stormed those bastions and
knocked them flat!
We heard the story of the boat sunk in the entrance to Nantucket (see left) – solo
Brit who was forced onto the rocks by tide and wind (in the fog), threw out an anchor,
and caught his leg in the anchor chain. Had to have his leg amputated, and the boat’s
still submerged waiting for the insurers and salvagers to stop arguing. Stories like
that make me realise anew how fortunate we were!
And the good news is that we have found another apartment for my mother, in the same
village she was in, so no stress of moving. Met Barry this morning – he’s a guitar
player and artist who lost his home and studio in New Orleans in the floods – was
not insured – so is up here buying an old boat which he will sail back down the coast.
Says when the floods come again, he wants a house that can float!!! That’s the sort
of attitude I admire.
We took off for the weekend, as no work was going to be done at the yard – in fact,
I think they’d all left by 3pm on Friday to go to the Boat Show! So we went off to
the Herreshof Museum in Bristol, then over to Mystic Seaport for the day. If you’re
ever in the area, make sure you hit both of these – they are both well worth going
the extra mile to visit. And you can anchor off both, which makes them even more
The Herreshof Museum tells the story of two brothers, John blind from age 15, and
Nat, who created an incredible business out of designing and building yachts – including
6 entrants for the America’s Cup! Nat, the younger, was the designer, and everything
started from the half-models he carved. John, the numbers man, then ran his hands
over the model, and came up with the cost estimates – and for the entire time the
two of them were in business they make a goodly profit this way, never allowing themselves
to go into debt, never allowing a yacht to leave the dock unless it was fully paid
for! Some lessons to be learned there.
And Mystic Seaport is a living museum, with working shipwrights and blacksmiths and
restorers of old vessels, as well as two active Tall Ships – fascinating stuff! Suffering
from lack of exercise, John threw himself heart and soul into ‘manning the capstan’
and ‘heave ho-ing’ merrily – fortunately he wasn’t allowed aloft to spice the mainsail!!
By the end of two days, however, we were both museumed out and quite happy to meet
the Jacuzzi at our lodgings – boy, what luxury compared to life aboard!
We trust all the repairs will be completed this week – depending on weather etc!
And hope to be on the water and off again by next week. That’s the plan – but as
you know, plans can change!
Monday 25th September 2006
It’s been an interesting week! Promises of ‘we’re starting work Monday’ became ‘we’re
starting work Tuesday’, and by the time Wednesday arrived we were both pretty fed
up with sitting around waiting. “Still,” I kept saying to John, “they probably have
to call the experts off another job, and better to wait for specialists than let
any old bozo do the job.”
Surprise, surprise! Wednesday morning two brawny Portuguese guys arrived, one with
a blow-torch and the other with a sledgehammer – and these two proceeded to beat
the living bejeezus out of the keel for the rest of the day! So much for specialists
and high tec modern technology. (Take a look at the pics in John’s story of the Wood’s
Still, the brawn stuff worked, and by Thursday morning by dint of much heating and
much beating, we had a straight keel again. Then Mannie, the younger of the two,
brought in the big tanks, and spent the next two days building up the keel again,
little bead of aluminium weld by little bead. Quite fascinating to watch! Alternatively
grinding and building, grinding and building, he recreated our smooth keel, then
left the job to the fillers and fairers to put on the ‘cosmetic touches’. This should
be finished today – 4 layers of primer, and then the bottom paint will go on tomorrow
and as far as all that is concerned, we’re ready to launch.
In the meantime, John has cut an ‘inspection hole’ in the cabin floor near the heads
(where the water came up into the boat) to check why it came in. There definitely
is a small hole there. The thought is that it is an incomplete weld, so this needs
to be sealed before going back in the water again – just in case we hit something
again!! No way it can be welded, however, without taking the whole boat apart, so
it needs to be an epoxy job somehow. As you can see it only by lying flat on your
stomach and peering down into the bilge with a ‘mirror on a stick’, not quite sure
how easy this is going to be.
The week was spent on boat jobs – John fitted the new chart plotter, which involved
much taking down of cabin headlining and rewiring and climbing into cockpit lockers
– and much **!!@!x!** language, and we have been practising and playing with this
before we get into ‘real time’ on the water. He’s put in a separate GPS antenna for
this, so it will act as a stand-alone, a back-up (just in case, as they say!). He’s
also replaced the throttle and gear cables for the engine, serviced 6 winches and
umpteen other maintenance jobs – never stops, this man. I’ve done lots of climbing
up and down the steps against the boat to the laundry room, to the marquee on the
lawn to work on the computer, to meet friends for coffee, to just generally lounge
By Saturday we decided we needed a break from the yard, so took off for Martha’s
Vineyard. As John says:
“We took the Fast Ferry from New Bedford, Mass. through Wood's Hole Passage to Martha's
Vineyard. It was a pretty foul day, rain, murk and 20 knots of wind. Yet this thing
did 35 knots, and didn't even slow down going through the rather tortuous passage!
It was weird to be re-visiting the scene of the accident at such speed - rather like
one of these amusement arcade computer simulations! Still, we survived this time.”
(The pic in John’s story of the accident shows the green buoy inadvertently left
to port instead of starboard!)
Once we got there, we took a narrated bus tour as it was too miserable to walk around.
Drove past the front of Peter Norton’s house (of Norton anti-virus fame), a strange
dark rather Pyscho-type house, past the back of Caroline Kennedy’s 200 acre summer
cottage property - overgrown jungle of weeds and conker grapevine protects you from
seeing anything – down beautiful avenues of overhanging autumnal forests where our
tour guide kept pointing vaguely off to the side to let us know ‘Bruce Willis lives
somewhere here, Christie Brinkley here, some other big name here, but of course we
islanders don’t pay no mind to them!’ Sort of reverse snobbery; ignore the rich and
Oak Bluffs, one of the three main towns, was an old Methodist Campground meeting
place: for years the Methodists came out every summer and put up their tents for
a week or two, to worship and pray.
Slowly the tents gave way to more permanent places, and there is now an absolutely
delightful village of small gingerbread-decorated cottages around the large open-air
tabernacle – well worth visiting.
Other than that, life ticks on merrily. Would be nice to be back on the water though!
Saturday 7th October 2006
Back in the water! We were re-launched Tuesday Sept 26th and by the evening of Tuesday
Oct 3rd we had made our next rendezvous: 460 miles in 7 days, Crab Creek in the Chesapeake!
Some major moving involved – our best day was 72 miles in 10 hours, down Long Island
Sound, a blistering sail.
Once we stopped running down below every 10 minutes or so to convince ourselves the
water was NOT bubbling up into the cabin again, it was bliss to have Al Shaheen back
in her natural environment. No more climbing down 20ft ladders at 4am to go for a
pee for us! And she took to the challenge like the proverbial duck to water – in
her element: you could see her flicking her tail in joy as she danced through the
The trip was interesting as always: good shake-down motor-sail to Fisher’s Island
the first night, then a screaming sail to Rowayton, Norwalk to meet up again with
Scott & Kitty off Tamure (their home base). We had a bit of a fiasco here, trying
to moor bow and stern along a series of buoys down the centre of a very rocky/rolly
narrow entrance, which involved Scott in his rowboat trying to take our line to the
stern buoy – in the process our trusty line cutter chopped John’s brand-new braided
line in half (home-spliced very lovingly just days before)! It was a great story-swapping
Then through New York, no problems going down the East River, overnight down the
New Jersey coast playing with our new chart plotter, to anchor for a few hours just
inside the breakwater at Cape Henlopen at the entrance to Delaware Bay. We’re obviously
just getting used to this new piece of equipment, and it led to some serious tension!
You probably know the scenario well – course all plotted out on the chart, little
ship image now just needs to follow along the dotted line. Conversation coming in
to Cape Henlopen (very shallow!!) went something like this:
John: “How are we looking?”
Me: “Ok, but we need to be further over to port, we’ve gone off the line.”
Boat moves a few measly inches to port. John’s used to following his nose and his
M: “Go to port, sweetheart.”
Few minutes pass, no apparent action.
M: “Go to port, the plotter shows shallow water near the breakwater. I don’t think
we should anchor here.”
J: “We’ll just go around the breakwater and see.”
As we round the breakwater, depth alarms scream.
J: “Ok, where did you say we must go?”
M: “To port, sweetheart! Like the dotted blue line says.”
Still, the chart plotter is wonderful – I can’t imagine how we ever managed to sail
without one before!!
The trip up the Delaware River was not a pleasant one – we left at 10pm to catch
the tide, and it was a perfectly horrid night. Lumpy sea, miserable weather, drizzling
on and off, and lots of commercial traffic up the channel. I find it very disconcerting
to have this huge body of water, but to be able to sail only along a very narrow
channel along it because of the shallows on either side! And at night these big commercial
vessels look frighteningly large when they power up behind you – how close can they
Anyway, we got to the C&D Canal without any mishap just after first light, and eased
along this until we reached Summit North Marina – pulled into a slip and crashed
for the first good sleep since leaving Fisher’s Island 4 days prior. The next day
we part motored, part sailed as far as the Chester River in the Chesapeake, dropping
the hook early just inside the mouth for a well-earned gin & tonic and glorious sunset.
By Tuesday we had reached the South River, and meandered down this to find Crab Creek,
home of Wolfgang Rueter of Ru’ah fame. Wolfgang is one of these special hosts – his
heart and his home have expandable walls, and nothing is too much trouble for him!
At the moment there are 4 OCC boats rafted up together at his dock, with another
2 in slips next to it, and a further 2 (including ourselves) anchored out! His home
has a constant procession of bodies wandering through to do laundry, use his well-equipped
workshop (“There’s lots of bits of scraps of all sorts there, use whatever you need,”
he says!), plug into his wifi, or just sit with him to hear some of his stories.
He is a mine of information, and a great raconteur. Some of the boats are here to
take in the Annapolis Boat Show, some to join the CCA Rally this weekend: some just
to take advantage of the sheltered creek – but all are having a blast!
The reason for getting here was to go to the OCC dinner in Mears Creek on Wednesday
– and what a blast it was! Well organised, excellent food, fabulous company, some
very very interesting people. I find myself in open-mouthed awe at the sailing/cruising
adventures that most of these people have had and are still having. World travellers
Pot luck at Wolfgang’s the other night hosted Gareth & Annie (Merlin), George & Nancy
(Trumpeter), Gus & Helen (Wings), Mike & Kate (Cutting Edge), Andrew & Denja (Niketti),
Mary & Pete (Noellia), as well as ourselves, Wolfgang & Gemma (Ru’ah), and several
other bodies as land-based guests – what a story-fest!! The food was pretty exceptional
too – surprisingly, almost everyone brought a curry of one sort or another: must
have been the cold weather.
Unfortunately the weather has turned foul, heavy winds and lots of rain, all of which
put a real dampener on the CCA Rally. And as always happens, the drama always takes
place in the foulest weather! Comfortably ensconced reading below, John looked out
to see Cutting Edge almost on top of us – she’d dragged her anchor badly, and was
now on the verge of collision with us. I grabbed their stern rail to push her off
(with Dunno their black Labrador licking my hand in joyful hello!) while John got
our engine started (we’d also dragged, but not as badly). We called Wolfgang (Mike
& Kate were at the Boat Show), and the next few hours were spent in re-anchoring
– and re-anchoring – and re-anchoring! Cutting Edge finally decided sometime in the
late evening to raft up to the other boats at the dock – we continued to drag all
night, but only a little at a time, so let it be – just had to leap up each time
the anchor alarm went off! Very disturbed night.
Most people (ourselves included) opted not to sail to the CCA rally Friday or Saturday,
but to simply drive across the Chesapeake River to join in the parties at the end
– can’t miss a good party, can you! The CCA group are somewhat different to the OCC
crowd, but as full of characters. Like John Hawkinson, who marked out his trees some
30 years ago, cut them down 10 years ago, air-dried them, and is now building himself
an old colonial boat, using old colonial tools and methods!
The plan from here is to join the OCC Rally in the Piankatank next week, and after
that make our way to Norfolk and the beginning of the ICW towards Beaufort. Jeff
Hardesty has agreed to join us on the trip across to the Virgin Islands at the end
of the month, and we’re very pleased about that.
Update: Monday 9th October 2006
We are now anchored in the Little Choptank River in the Chesapeake - miles offshore
because it is so shallow inshore, but still very lovely. Calm waters, full moon last
night, thousands of migrating geese, wonderful sunrise this morning, etc. Now off
to Solomon's Island on the western shore, then to an OCC meet near Deltaville 13/15th,
then Norfolk for maybe 17th/18th.
Wednesday 18th October 2006
Life is getting complicated these days! By mistake I left a top in Halifax, and Zak
has tried to post it on to me – only to be told he needs a ‘certificate of drycleaning’
before it can go through the US mail system!!! What?
We’ve spent the last 10 days or so in the Chesapeake, and loved it, despite the shallowness
of the water here. Or maybe it's just that we're extra-aware of shallow water these
days! There are zillions of little back creeks and riverways to explore, some of
which we can poke our nose into, some of which we just wave at as we pass by: but
in so much of this area we anchor in bays and creeks where it is as if time has stood
still. I expect a duck-hunter to be lurking around each bend, twenty long-barreled
shotguns aimed into the sky as he waits patiently for the geese to arrive! Unfortunately,
they shot them all out years ago, and there's only a few miserly flocks that fly
past these days - but all the hides are still here, just waiting.
And there's an ongoing war between the sailors, the fishermen and the motor-boaters
as to who "owns" the waters!! Listening to the VHF is quite an education - these
guys yell at each other, swear at each other, threaten death and destruction when
the one encroaches or gets in the way or (in the case of the motorboats) goes by
so fast everyone on board the sailing boat or the little fishing boat is almost dunked
overboard by the wake!! You can imagine the backchat about the speeding motorboat
called Big Dick the other day! And the Navy use this area for shooting range every
now and then - just been listening to an exchange: "Calling Navy ship on our port
bow, we're crossing ahead of you, will that be a problem?" Navy reply: "We're watching
you, cap'n, and will not fire till you're gone." Huh??? What about us coming up behind?
And am learning to watch my tongue - I keep getting into trouble by making assumptions!
Like assuming this dear frail little old couple sitting opposite at a yachtie do
are (as I so sweetly asked them) "here to support your grand-children?" "Oh no,"
she says, hands shaking as she picks up a glass of wine, "We've just come to say
goodbye because we're leaving for Australia soon." "You flying from Boston?" I ask.
"Flying? My dear, we're circumnavigating!" She sits up straighter in her chair. He
leans over and cups his ear. "What's she say? What's that?" I cringe back in my chair:
here I think I'm this great adventurer, and I've never spent longer than 4 nights
at sea, and then with another couple aboard - these oldies are talking about sailing
around the WORLD, just the two of them!!!
The OCC has shown its party-face over the last few weeks – starting with a pre-Annapolis
Boat Show get-together and dinner where Fred Hallet had us all racking our brains
to see who knew the most about OCC’s esteemed Hump Barton, to the Piankatank rally
at Fishing Bay Yacht Club (where the ‘informal’ informal drinks evening was followed
by the informal drinks evening and then by the formal drinks and dinner evening –
oi vey, my liver!!). In between all this was the crowd of 8 OCC boats camped out
initially at Wolfgang’s dock, then about 15 at the Piankatank, and now 5 at Gary
and Greta’s docks in Norfolk – the party just never stops!
It’s been a great time to really get to know some of the folks though – one of the
hard things I find about this cruising life is the fact that you meet and part so
quickly – usually just as you’re starting to get really interested in the other people’s
lives. Of course, it also works the other way – sometimes you’re only too delighted
to say goodbye quickly – and trust you never meet up again! And it is very very good
to come into some place, and see a familiar face, or hear a “Hello Al Shaheen!” across
So we’re back in Norfolk again – last year when we were here, Lorrigray was anchored
off Hospital Point, and John and Graham had a good old time gawking at the buxom
wenches displaying the wares in Hooters Bar. This time we have Merlin, Trumpeter,
Anju and William Barron for company, and the party has been far more sedate! Greta
and Gary are wonderful hosts for a boating crowd, and the dockside here across from
NOAA is a busy place with all of us rushing around replenishing stores (both food
and spare parts).
Gary also acts as unofficial post office, and we have been able to receive several
parcels here, including a new parachute sea anchor – for if we God forbid hit any
really bad weather en route to the Caribbean. It all looks very dramatic – a neat
little bag affair which gets turfed over the bow of the boat in a storm to billow
out and fill like a parachute – the object is to keep the boat headed up to wind
and moving very slowly, instead of screaming about the ocean at the mercy of the
wind and waves. Hope we never have to use it, but it’s like a liferaft, nice to know
you have it if you need it.
So, we’re off again today, to handle the myriad of locks, bridges and shallow channels
of the ICW – the chart plotter SHOULD enable us to stay out of the mud this time!
And of course, it just has to be foggy today!
THE CROSSING FROM BEAUFORT TO BVI
Wednesday 1st November 2006
Jenny, Jeff (our 3rd crew member) and I left Beaufort NC for the Virgin Islands Tuesday
noon and did about 145 miles by noon today. The weather gurus told us we'd have 10-15
knots of favourable wind, but we have had strong winds of 20-25 kts, are heeled over
so we're walking on the walls rather than the floor and have a nasty sea which makes
it a bit like riding the bucking bronco! Progress is good, however, if uncomfortable.
Will apparently encounter even stronger winds Thursday night but are told these will
moderate over the weekend, inshallah! Please don't be concerned if we don't email
every day as it takes enormous effort to type on such a wild platform! But, we'll
try! Only about another 9 days to go! All well on board. Noon position N34 deg 40.1,
W 074 deg 26.3. John
Friday 3rd November 2006
Well golly gee whiz, who conned me into thinking this was a lark??? I lost my dinner
in the cockpit crossing the Gulf Stream first night out, and haven't recovered since!
The seas are horrific, waves twice the size of the boat, one side of the boat under
the water most of the time as we're heeled over so far, while the waves break over
the other side and dump gallons of wet water right down your neck!
Had 'some bad weather' (guru term for ohmigod weather) yesterday that forced us to
heave to (first time ever for Al Shaheen) where she is officially stopped in the
water while the storm rages all around - 45 knot winds and some (supposedly a severe
gale). I buried my head in the pillow and pretended I was somewhere else. We are
running under a main sail with 3 reefs and the small storm sail - bright orange for
danger and also never been used before!! Both Jeff & I are popping seasick pills
like peanuts, and even cast-iron stomach John has acknowledged a touch of the green
gills. Jeff brought some motioneze stuff, so we all waft around in a haze of comforting
lavender dabbed behind the ears. Are we having fun yet??
Currently at 32'30N and 070'43W, about 250 miles west of Bermuda. Hopefully nowhere
near the triangle. All things actually going well, if very uncomfortable. Jeff has
been an absolute star - huge help. Typing this with one finger and one arm around
the computer to secure it. Jenny
Saturday 4th November 2006
Survived another night, hove to again waiting for storm to pass. Horrid huge lumpy
seas, gale force winds outside, boat heaving like my stomach. Wanna go home!! Had
a cracking day's sailing yesterday all the same, did 118 miles from last email. ETA
BVI Weds next week at the earliest. Oi vey. Jenny
Sunday 5th November 2006
Well, well - scrub all previous complaints - the sun's up, the seas are down, the
storm's gone and we're storming along at 8.5 knots towards latitude 65 (commonly
called the I65), the latitude where we turn south definitely towards the Caribbean!
It's a glorious day!!
I have to say though that yesterday was the worst day ever, nerve-racking as both
our weather gurus (Chris in the am and Herb in the pm) promised dire storms, huge
seas and very heavy winds. All of this made us decide to heave to for about 5 hours.
A good decision in terms of letting the storm go far ahead of us, but a disastrous
decision for already feeble stomachs. I now know why they call it 'heave to' - I
did!! By nightfall I was ready to jump ship - cooking up the evening meal of fried
chicken & veggies did me in finally, and I collapsed onto a pitching berth stoked
to the eyeballs with seasick pills: I passed out for some 10 hours and the guys valiantly
did all my watches (I think they'd decided they wanted to retain a cook on board!).
However, by today the pattern's changed, we're way past the dreaded Bermuda Triangle
(we made it Mom!), and I suddenly feel on top of the world. Breakfast bacon and eggs
were devoured by all, and we're making very good progress. I've decided the sailors
of yore were called 'old salts' not because they sailed the salty seas, but because
after months of being at sea they must have been absolutely encrusted - we are all
coated with salt (my hair has doubled in weight, and I've given up trying to comb
it, just put a cap on it!) Showering is a waste of time, as you can never co-ordinate
getting your body and the water in the same place at the same time - the boat pitches
and dances so much it's a major achievement just staying upright. Still, the bruises
are at least turning a nice shade of green already.
We've made several adaptations to the interior - now have ropes tied from point to
point all over her as handholds - it's quite a sight to watch someone lurching along
from the galley to the heads, crashing into everything available. Eating is a major
effort - we've all taken to sitting on the floor for stability. I am looking forward
to land again, where both the plate stays in one place in front of you and the food
stays on the plate! Everything is uphill - even sleeping! If you sleep in the downside
bunk your face is continually squashed into the back of the bunk, while sleeping
on the other side you are constantly being almost thrown out of bed!! Not to mention
rising a foot off the berth every time a really big wave slams into us!
Jeff is an absolute Godsend - if a speed fanatic! He's constantly wanting to make
the boat go faster (he spent most of his sailing days racing, and it shows). This
draws mixed reactions from John and myself: he is torn between worrying about the
stresses on the boat and really enjoying the exhilaration of seeing Al Shaheen perform
above what he normally pushes her to. Me? I just want to get to the Caribbean asap!
Tuesday 7th November 2006
Life on the ocean wave is a washing machine thing - one minute monstrous, 24 hours
later great, then even more monstrous, a period of recuperation, then horrid again
From the beaming email gleefully sent previously, things degenerated once again:
this frontal low pressure has stalled and is not going anywhere, which means we have
been sailing along it, in it, supposedly through it, then back in it again for days
now - feels like weeks. Every day the weather gurus tell us "It's going to get better
tomorrow", but you know what they say about tomorrow - so far it hasn't come.
So winds regularly in the late 20s, gusting up to 35s regularly, (which I have learnt
is gale force on the Beaufort Scale of measurement!) we have sailed almost the entire
trip with 3 reefs in the mainsail (minimum sail area) and our until now previously
unused storm sail, and we're still screaming along at 7-8 knots lots of the time!
Wild sleigh ride!! To add insult to injury, yesterday we lost the use of the auto-pilot
when Jeff fell and slammed into the instrument panel - mild panic on board as the
boat skewed around 180' out of control! Of course, it just so happened to be my watch,
so it fell to Jeff and I to be up in the cockpit fighting to regain control of the
helm while John frantically tried to re-instate the instruments. Huge waves crashing
into the cockpit, both Jeff and I were totally deluged several times - I'd just managed
to have a shower and wash my hair for the first time in five days, and in one short
hour managed to put all the salt straight back into it again.
Never did get the auto-pilot working again - it kept steering us off by at least
90', so we eventually abandoned it, and installed the wind-vane monitor, very nice
piece of equipment which runs the boat by a separate rudder attached to a windvane
aft. Only problem was the latch holding the rudder down kept jumping out, necessitating
wild dives to the stern of the boat to sort it out again. By this time John was equally
saturated, as only he knew how to fix it! Fixing it entailed hanging over the stern
of the boat, tied on with two tethers, trying to re-latch a rudder that sits some
4 feet below and when necessary 'massage' it with a hammer - all under water off
a pitching boat of course! All very fraught. But the alternative was hand-steering
the boat for the next 600 miles, and this did not seem like a good idea.
Perseverance paid off, and we spent most of yesterday and the whole of last night
on the windvane - we're now about 400 from the BVI, plan to get there by Fri morning.
The weather gurus this morning say the weather is going to change for the better
- tomorrow!! Jeff is calling for breakfast - he has stalwartly done french toast
at 35 knots, with a stove that is swinging like a monkey on a rope!! Jenny
Wednesday 8th November 2006
Finally, finally broke through the low pressure system late last night and woke this
morning to calmer more manageable seas and lighter winds. And we now have less than
200 miles to go. Am I pleased or what?? Of course, nothing is ever quite that simple
however. It appears the winds are going to fall off completely later in the day,
and we have not managed to get as far east as we needed to, so we will land up having
to motor the last 100 miles or so. This means we will have to hand steer for perhaps
a day or so - a problem of a different kind. Do you know, I really can't remember
signing up for all this drama - I'm sure my contract stipulated blue skies, calm
seas and white beaches!!
Still, it could all be a lot lot worse. We monitored a panpan call yesterday from
a boat who'd just had an electrical fire on board and lost ALL their instruments,
were taking on water, and are on the edge of a 2-day storm forecast with 50-60knot
winds. That's not funny. They are frantically running for Bermuda, but may not get
there in time, in which case they will have to sit out the storm off Bermuda, as
it will be impossible to get in through all the reefs etc. And Kimberlite, friends
from New York just ahead of us, were 'pooped', when a huge wave crashed their stern
down, followed by a 2nd wave which burst a gland in the rudder stock and they have
water pouring into the aft cabin! The sea can be very unforgiving.
The SSB radio has been an absolute blessing - it is our one major point of contact
daily, and we listen to the weather gurus and the various 'nets' throughout the day,
reporting our position and listening in to see where others are. It gives a great
sense of security, just knowing someone else knows where you are and is waiting for
you to check in! But I have to say, I've decided I'm not a circumnavigator after
all - I like land closer to me than this, and don't really enjoy the days and days
and days of sea and drama. So, the Pacific and Australia is out, I'm afraid, unless
we fly! Jenny
Thursday 9th November 2006
It's 7pm Thursday, dinner of pork tenderloin & rum prunes (bottle left in locker,
courtesy of Sheena!) over, Jeff's washing dishes, I've showered (yay!!), Cap'n John's
on watch - and we have just on 60 miles to go to Virgin Gorda! Should be there by
about 7am tomorrow. That is of course if the last bit of string holding the monitor
together holds! The poor thing has been working so hard through all the bad weather
that it has developed severe frayed spots, one not so serious, one quite serious.
Bit like those soapie cliff-hangers da da da dah, da da da dah, does the heroine
survive the last few miles, does the hero save the day - again? Wait till tomorrow
to see!! Jenny
Friday 10th November 2006
Have just finished a 40 minute shower, a huge bacon & egg breakfast, cleared in to
customs etc, and while the guys are cleaning up the boat I'm sitting on solid land,
typing this. Have to sit, or else take seasick tablets to cope with the lack-of-motion-sickness!!
The Caribbean is showing its best to us today, a glorious palette of blues and gold
- when we came into the Francis Drake Passage this morning it was so beautiful we
sailed on for another hour, reluctant to turn in to the marina!
All went well the last few miles, we managed to sail most of the way, the piece of
string held up, and we only had to hand-sail for a few hours. John and Jeff have
been absolute towers of strength - I have to confess to finally losing it in my last
watch in the early hours of this morning. The combination of knowing that Anegada
with its treacherous reefs was off to port somewhere, exhaustion, end-of-trip collapse
and complete lack of wind just finally got to me! The monitor could not handle the
lack of wind, and suddenly I could not control the boat, no matter what I tried to
do (we were motor-sailing at the time, but the monitor was controlling the course).
My vivid imagination took over as a sudden squall hit and the heavens opened, and
I freaked! Kicked the motor back so we almost stopped dead in the water, and yelled
for the two sleeping guys. "Get up here now - I can't control this boat!" Two heads
appeared like magic in the companionway, and a calm John said, "It's ok, I'll take
over." "Well," said Jeff "It's almost time for my watch, would you like me to take
the helm, Jenny?" "Oh yes please," I replied meekly. While in actual fact every nerve
in my body was screaming "Take this fucking wheel, NOW, Jeff!!"
John and Jeff are already talking about the return trip to Nova Scotia - well jolly
ha ha, I'm flying! Signing off on dry land at last. Jenny
Monday 10th December 2006
Is it Charlotte Amalie or the buying of rings that is the problem?? Feb 2005 John
proposed to me here in the anchorage – and the next day we rushed out to the shops
to buy an engagement ring. Two days later I was back on the plane to South Africa
for an emergency. Now, November 2006, we anchor in the bay again, and John suggests
it’s time to finally buy a wedding ring – which we do. Two days later he’s on the
plane back to UK for an emergency! So what’s the moral of the story – don’t anchor
in C.Amalie or don’t buy any more rings? This is a country of contradictions, to
say the least!
Sitting in the internet café the other day, I was somewhat taken aback to see the
large policeman across from me – in uniform, nametag on his chest, butt overflowing
the stool, intently flipping from port site to porn site! In the line of duty???
In direct contrast, I went over to Honeymoon Bay for hamburgers on the beach the
other night. As the sun set, a sheet was tied between two palm trees, popcorn was
passed out, and we settled down to watch Santa Clause 2 under the stars. An occasional
squall chased us under the trees, but as soon as it was over, we were back in our
So, I’m sitting ‘home alone’ on Al Shaheen in Crown Bay Marina while John has rushed
home to see to his aunt Va (almost 101 years old).
Life is a bit different when you’re a woman alone on a boat – the admiring glances
thrown at the boat suddenly take on another meaning, and the casual smiles you throw
around need to be definitely casual! But I’ve made fast friends with Lindi at Tickles
Pub at the end of the dock – and as soon as she sees some guy coming on too much
is quick to interrupt with “Hey, have a cold one, her husband’s coming back soon!”
Sort of mom-behind-the-bar.
The pub is made up of a lot of the usual group of boaties – some aging derelicts,
some local workers, some visiting yachties, some young crew waiting to pick up some/any
type of work. But the vibe is good, it’s a family sort of feel: all the waitresses
smile a warm welcome and my virgin pina colada hits the counter before I’ve even
sat down. Saints only know what would happen if I changed the order to a real pina
Tickles has live music – well, it’s live anyway! Open mic night is an education –
why do so many people think they can sing/play?? And on Saturday we had The Two Pop
Tarts performing. Despite being dressed to fit the part, they were nice enough to
be anyone’s granny, and the Pop part was more country & western without Dolly Parton!
Tomorrow is the Anna Cheek Band – wonder what delights that will bring us?
Right now sitting working in the pub (cooler than the boat): on one side is a group
of civil servants having a working lunch discussing how necessary it is to get more
cruise ships in – 7 a day is not enough?? At the same time bewailing the fact that
crime is on the increase – something to do with the porn-peeping policeman’s example?
At the other table is George, a pedantic little old man who has spent 20 minutes
whingeing about the mis-use and abuse of language in the islands. “Will a soldier
in the desert desert before dessert?” he keeps asking. I think I’ve missed his literary
Stan, solo sailor who’s a retired hypnotherapist is waiting for a weather window
to go across to Puerto Rico to meet a friend. We’ve spent some entertaining hours
discussing the big issues of life – I think the first conversation covered religion,
death, baseball, sex and Bush – what else is there to talk about now?
And we’ve done the tourist thing together – been to Bottoms Up pub in Independent
Boatyard (now there’s material for a people-watching exercise!) where the iguanas
come up from the mangroves for lunch, over to Coral World to watch the tourists ‘feed
the fish’ underwater, wander round the Main Street amongst the cruise-shippers. And
now Doug has just moved in to the slip next door – another solo sailor, just landed
from Bermuda, having jammed his mainsail in the tracks, twisted his wind generator
so it can’t spin, split his jenniker, gummed up his engine with bad fuel from Bermuda
– quite a trip. Introduced himself by asking if I’d hoist him up the mast, please!
What can I say, people-watching is fun! But John is due back tonight, thank goodness.
I have decided I am neither long-distance nor solo-sailing material – I do like my
Tuesday 11th December 2006
It's the morning of the 11th, and John is back - hallelujah. Although minus his luggage
which stayed somewhere around Miami - and his hair as he had a No.4 cut before coming
back! As there was only a bit to start off with, the result is akin to the skinhead
era!! But it does look good, I have to say.
Va's emergency seems to be in hand, with Emma picking up a lot of the slack - and,
I think, the flack! It's very difficult being nearly 101: most improvements she refuses
with "Don't worry about it, that ....whatever... will see me out".
Needless to say, he's delighted to be back - where's it warm, and away from British
red tape and attitude. Wait till he gets back to the BVI - the attitude's still there!!
Friday 5th January 2007
Another year to get through in Paradise – not sure how we’re going to do it! Still,
I suppose someone has to take on the job, and it might as well be us.
John’s aunt Va is recovering well after the unexpected upset. In fact, she’s already
making loud noises that the care-givers now installed are no longer necessary: “I
can do it myself,” she says – at 101, that’s quite some statement! She’s somewhat
confused as to how the new washing machine in the kitchen got there, but does admit
it makes a handy extra cupboard! Trust both John and I live that well that long.
Once John got back from his unexpected UK trip, we moved down island, taking a bit
of a hammering first day out in short steep seas. The plan had been to make Antigua
in one overnight passage, but after 20 hours we both looked at each other and said
“this isn’t fun anymore!” So bailed out and crouched behind St. Kitts for a day to
recover and wait for the seas to go down a bit.
Then sailed to Monserrat – first time I’ve ever sat directly below a volcano! Lots
of steam and hisses from the active volcano, and the decks were covered with fine
ash the next morning, but there was more excitement in the Miss Teen Monserrat pageant
booming out across the anchorage – first prize was a weekend in Antigua, second prize
I guess must have been two weekends!! And finally on into English Harbour, Antigua
– oh dear, someone else has anchored in “John’s spot” opposite Catherine’s Café.
Oh well, the water’s nicer for swimming in Freeman’s Bay, so that’s where we’ll be.
Not the most beautiful of islands, the British island of Antigua more than makes
up for this lack in its ex-pat hospitality and party-throwing ability.
The Christmas/New Year period especially is one continuous saga that leaves your
liver damaged and your stomach distended – not to mention the fact that your hips
have increased! I mean, take Christmas itself: started with a hefty tot of rum with
the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua & Barbuda (always a bad start to any evening!!)
then a rip-roaring dinner at Calabash on Christmas Eve, a champagne and loud music
brunch at Nelson’s Dockyard that lasted until early afternoon Christmas Day, followed
by a huge pot-luck dinner later in the day. Even Dunno the dog had his day!
We did a lot of catching up in Antigua, meeting up with old sailing friends that
we hadn’t seen for a couple of years – wonderful. Kate & Mike on Cutting Edge arrived
battered from their trip from Beaufort to St. Martin – a month later than us, and
they had had a really bad trip with lots of damage. Including Penny, their most magnificent
Mainecoon cat, whose dignity and feelings were decidedly upset by being solidly doused
by waves into the cabin! And it was great to spend time with John & Christine off
Oriole with son Robert and girlfriend Dani – who very appropriately announced their
engagement to us on 1st Jan! All in all, there were 9 OCC boats in Antigua during
this period, and we all did our bit to keep the OCC flag flying high throughout all
the festive activities.
And of course, don’t forget the Tot Club! Scene of many a serious gulp of rum (oi
vey, why people drink Pussers from preference is beyond me!). And we joined Mike
Rose on a “Rhum Run” – a trip out to visit Bushy at his post office. Bushy, a mid-60s
something originally from Maderia, runs the so-called post office, which also has
a very rusted but active petrol pump outside, and shelves stocked with umpteen bottles
of various heavy spirits interspersed with engine oil and anti-freeze! Locals pop
in frequently for their ‘tot & spot’ (tot of spirits followed by half-glass of water,
and whiteys like us stop in to buy Bushy’s special concoction – 151% proof rhum that
he cuts down and ‘mellows’ to his own recipe – and sells at 33EC for a gallon – that
is approx. £6 or R60 a gallon!!!
We sampled it – when you arrive, he plonks an open bottle on the counter and you
don’t leave until it’s empty – and bought a gallon. We now have several bottles of
unmarked dark liquid floating around in our bilges!!
Friend Carol Martin arrived from Cape Town on 29th and is with us until we haul out
on 9th Jan for a short hop back to UK to meet Dan, John’s son from Australia. So
it’s Green Island (pounding introductory sail for here), then down to Guadalope (another
wet, spanking sail). Was supposed to be a couple of days, but the weather’s turned
a bit nasty so we might be here longer than expected! Still, there are worse places
to be, and the pain chocolat with café au lait each morning is worth the change in