Monday, August 4, 2008

Quick Update

Baddeck Harbor, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

We had a great little tour of the Bras d'Or Lakes. Otter Harbor, Baddeck, Little Harbor and St. Peter's Canal. More details to follow (perhaps), but we have now made our way out of the Bras d'Ors and are travelling the Eastern Shore. We stopped at Liscomb Lodge yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, in terrible weather. Expecting even worse weather on Monday we anchored in the river and took a Hotel room for two nights. Lo and behold, Monday has dawned bright and beautiful. Nevertheless, we will stick to Plan A, spend the night in a cozy hotel room and then head further West after breakfast on Tuesday. Owls Head Bay and then we are on the other side of Halifax. We should be in Maine by this time next week. See you all there.

Back in Nova Scotia - Cape Breton

Bird Islands, St. Ann's Bay, Cape Breton

Great Bras d'Or Channel Birds


Entering Great Bras d'Or Channel

leaving South Ingonish Harbor

Facheux Bay, Southwestern Coast, Newfoundland

Thursday, July 25, 2008 (Lampidoes Passage, Bay D'Espoir, Newfoundland)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 (Baddeck, Cape Breton, Great Bras d’or Lakes, Nova Scotia).

[Note: More Newfoundland pictures once we find a WiFi connection - Globalstar - arrgh!]

Where were we?? The last we spoke, it was Facheux Bay. The fiord. The eagles. The quiet rush of the waterfalls at Allen Cove.

Where are we now? Home? Back in Nova Scotia, at least. Almost home. Certainly home-like. Downright civilized some would say.

From Facheux Bay we sailed to Ramea Island on Friday, July 25. Off the Southeastern Coast near Burgeo, we decided it was time to start heading west with some diligence. Entering Ramea we watched the last remaining spectacle of marine life on our ‘checklist’ – the dolphins (“we calls them porpoises”) rising straight out of the water as if with a rocket blast and belly-flopping back in to startle and school their dinner. We’d seen the tourist brochure photos, and finally got our own sighting!

Ramea is an active outport island with regular ferry service. We docked at the public wharf between two fishing boats, but were advised to move back a bit, since a third fishing boat was expected back later that night. Advised that Brian was the harbormaster, we were told that he would find us as he was probably working his day job. Apparently, Brian was the only Ramean with a day job. When we found him he was hefting conduit from his electric company truck. He said he’d find us later, and recommended we eat at C&D Take-Out. His wife cooked there. We assured him we would.

The grocery store delivered our 15 gallons of water to the wharf (hurrah for that; but bottled Newfoundland water is not Poland Springs – we probably bought 15 gallons too many). Canned beer could only be found at the Beachside Store, they told us. A walk around the island was required for that purchase. No delivery needed. Ending up at C&D, Tess diplomatically lost a game of darts to the bartender at Red’s (the upstairs bar), while I marveled at the Ramea knick knacks. Caribou hoofs. Deformed crab shells. Fishing jigs. And the ubiquitous Newfie Chainsaw (a saw handle to which a length of chain link is attached – are we back in Maine?). C&D had the best food in Ramea. The beer was cold, though. Editor’s explanation: “Restaurant” in Newfoundland means fry-o-later. Sometimes the protein is discernible; sometimes the nearest thing to a vegetable is deep-fried and battered salad. Eating on-board becomes part of the next insurance policy.

Oh! We did run into Brian on his bike after dinner. Since he couldn’t make change of a twenty for the $10 dockage fee (with electric), we were told to go back to the C&D and just pay his wife. She is the Treasurer, anyway.

By the morning that third fishing boat had come in. I spent untold hours through the night devising my exit strategy. Back out, point the bow into the wharf, back out some more. After a false start of thinking Plan B might work, and with the encouragement of an on-dock commentator, we made an 0730 exit from Ramea. In the fog. “Fog” he says – think wet wool blanket over your eyes…with last night’s C&D Take Out still in your gut! Out the Southwest channel (rather than the Northeast channel we came in on). Our skills are, necessarily, improving.

To Port aux Basque. The oldest harbor on the Southwest Coast. Found by Captain James Cook and used since the 1500s by Basque and Spanish fisherman on the Grand Banks. We had six full hours of great sailing out of Ramea, but the log of our hourly sky condition reads: Fog, Fog, Fog <1/8 visibility, Thick 0’Fog, Thick o’Fog <1/8 visibility, 1 mile visibility, 1 mile visibility, rain stopped overcast, clearing?, brighter, fog <1/2 mile visibility. In other words, a typical Southwest Coast day.

Port aux Basques has a Traffic Control requirement. This means that you call in at 13, 5 and 2 miles distance to let them know you are coming (or going). You then check in once you are tied to a dock or to get clearance to leave your dock. Whenever asked about visibility in the harbor PAB Traffic always responds “none”. We arrived as the Atlantic Trader cargo vessel was leaving and the Ferry Leif Eriksson was arriving. After every communication with them, PAB Traffic would ask, “Endurance did you read that?” Thank goodness. The reassuring (female) voices of PAB Traffic actually made us feel as though someone cared. Within our ½ mile of visibility, we saw the hulking giants that were Atlantic Trader and Leif Eriksson. At least we had someone to follow into the harbor.

Expecting rain on Sunday, July 27, we were glad to be at PAB for a day’s layover prior to tackling the Cabot Strait. We were greeted by John Haynes aboard s/v Keeper, marooned for eight days in PAB waiting for parts. Good for him to have a new conversation partner; good for us to have a non-Newfie with whom we could actually hold a conversation understandable on both sides. Sunday the rain did not materialize, but Tess went at the boat with a cleaning vengeance and ended the day with clean, warm and dry laundry. I found a pre-lunch beer drinking companion in John. Just what the doctor ordered for both of us.

Saturday night was a near culinary disaster as we heeded the advice of a public wharf spectator to eat at the Harborside. After a 30 minute wait for beer, we realized that all of the tables around us were unhappy, complaining and hungry. We cancelled our order and decided to eat aboard instead. Stopping at the St. Christopher Motel to check on laundry facilities, we spied their still open restaurant. Moose Stew for me and Turkey Dinner for Tess, was just about the only non-fried food we’d seen in Newfoundland.

Sunday we decided to splurge and walk the 3 km to the PAB Hotel where we were told an even better restaurant awaited us. We took John along as an added conversational treat, but the laminated menus and orange upholstery were not good signs. In light of the poor prospects for food I would recognize, I had the Fish & Brewis. Brewis, we were told, is dry bread. Sounds appetizing. Salt Cod with soaked dried bread topped with fried onions and scrunchions (this latter item apparently being fried pork fat – I hope). A bit salty; but truly a meal to be remembered. I have not peed since.

Leaving PAB on Monday, July 28 after the 0715 arrival of the Ferry Caribou (these are huge ferries, always packed with cars and people – where are they going?!), [anywhere Capt., anywhere!] we set off on a 75 mile crossing of the famed Cabot Strait. Tess had previously spoken to 214 people about their views on the crossing; apparently this was intended to – but did not – allay here anxieties. We had a long, but uneventful 12 and ½ hour crossing. About half of which we were under sail. We also saw a good deal of weather fluctuation. Variously reading: Fog, Clear & Sunny, Cloudy, Rain, Clearing, Dark & Cloudy, and Cloudy.

Setting anchor in South Ingonish Harbor at 8:00 that evening was nevertheless like arriving home. We were in Nova Scotia. Looks like Maine. Sounds like English. Newfoundland is truly a magical place, but – unlike Canada – it really is a foreign country. It’s landscape, fiords and harbors are unique (haven’t you been reading this damn blog?), but we are due to return to something more familiar. If we have any regrets though, it is that we could not spend more time there. It would be a wonderful place to spend an entire season of gunkholing and meandering. Not a place for schedules.

Now, since we are headed home, we can take our ease (for a short time, at least). We left South Ingonish for Otter Harbor (in the Great Bras d’Or Channel) at Noon on Tuesday. We left Otter Harbor for Baddeck at 1130 on Wednesday. Both were short motorsails leaving plenty of leisure in the mornings and afternoons. The risk now is whether we can stand so much leisure!

We are trying to figure out the Bras d’Ors. Though we hear they are amazing, we have been to Newfoundland. Amazing is a word we now use with caution. Amazing is Newfoundland. We’ll see how the rest of the world compares. After we recover.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008 (Facheux Bay, Newfoundland).

As hard as it was to pull anchor and leave Brimball, the sky was too inviting to ignore. We headed out with a plan to run up to the Conne River to stop over at the local Mi’kmaq reservation to perhaps have an on-shore (second) breakfast, but the drive-by didn’t appear promising and there is no dock area there for a quick touch and go…, so we continued on to the Ultimate scenic route – Lampidoes Passage. While I’m not certain I could detail the substantive differences between Little and Lampidoes passages, I can attest they are beautiful. The scenery is relaxing not only to the eye, but to one’s very soul. The air is laundry-detergent-commercial pure; the landscape Maine on steroids – sort of lunar-Norway with a touch of Ireland [like Yellowstone filled with water!]. The water in the passages has been millpond flat so the ride is simply peaceful. Lampidoes dropped us again into Bay D’Espoir, and that turned into the mouth of Hermitage Bay closing off that circle back out to the SW coast. We passed over McCallum, Pushthrough, Rotten Row and Bonne Bay to our current anchorage at Allan Cove in Facheux Bay [the deepest fiord in North America]. We went from 91 feet of depth to a nail-biting 7’ before dropping anchor a stone’s through from cliffs on either side in a comfortable 12’ of 65 degree water…, it ain’t Maine, and it ain’t the Chesapeake.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 (Brimball Harbour, Bay D’Espoir, Newfoundland)

We cast off from Harbour Breton with a forecast expecting mostly heavy cloud cover and rain headed for Hermitage Cove, around the head point of Burin Peninsula. Student workers warned us “there’s not as much happening in the next few towns as there is here in HB.” It’s all perspective my friends! As the day went from early to mid morning, the skies went from gray to blue. We had a lovely sail with engine off by 8:00 am traveling at a respectable 7.5 knot average. Once in Hermitage Bay proper the engine was back on with the wind on our nose, and we marveled again at the magnificence of this geology and its absence of most human imprint. We circled in to Hermitage Cove for an on-board “look see” and circled right back out to take full advantage of the now pristine sky and the penultimate scenic extravaganza of Little Passage. Little Passage connects Hermitage Bay to Bay D’Espoir (locally pronounced Bay Despair – gotta love ‘em). The passage was narrow (like Route 3 to Boston seems narrow) and deep, with waterfalls, tree-lined cliffs, fishing eagles, and tiny tuck-ins throughout. We never saw one other boat, despite the small penned aquaculture farms. We eased our way out of the passage, and into Brimball Harbour to set anchor about 12 feet from a granite cliff with two waterfalls. Head-in to the wind and anchorage was a small spit of sandy beach, to starboard the cliffs, to port a few rocks and the 100-150 ft passage. Hot showers with good sun and some all natural air drying, a lovely dinner and reading in the cockpit to a sunset which turned from rose to purple to golden. The only sound other than the waterfall and birds was the occasional hum of our refrigerator. A hard day to beat.

Fish Plant in Harbour Breton

Fish Heads

Girls on the Line



Thirtieth Anniversary Photo

July 22, 2008 (Harbor Breton, Newfoundland).

[Left] Downtown Crossing; [Below] Harbour Breton; [Far Left] More of Harbour Breton; [Bottom] Sunny Cottage

What a great day! Though we planned to leave for Hermitage Bay this morning, early morning rain led us to change plans and hunker in instead. Thanks to Tropical Storm Cristobal touching Nova Scotia. We fired up Tim & Paula’s propane heater early and got nice and toasty then took hot on board showers and changed into dry clothes. A Newfoundland luxury.

By 1100 the rain had stopped, so we took a walk to Scottie’s Restaurant for lunch. Once across the bay we were informed that we were headed in the wrong direction. The result was a gratuitous ride across town to Scottie’s. The Fisherman’s Platter was recommended by our driver, but I wouldn’t have it unless Cod Tongues were included. It was explained that they were short on Cod Tongues in anticipation of this weekend’s Come Home event, so they were only serving them with the Fisherman’s Platter (scratching the Cod Tongue & Chips meal from the menu). What luck for me!! Next on the menu – Newfoundland Seal Fin! Can’t wait!

After Scottie’s we hit the grocery on that side of town and I was happy to carry home a sack of potatoes and two liters of water while Tess hefted the lettuce and bananas. Equal division of labor, I say.

After dropping groceries back on the boat, we again headed across the harbor to Sunny Cottage. A beautiful Queen Anne style “mansion” with a great, personalized guided tour for two dollars each (including tea and cakes afterwards). They even took us to the top of the widow’s walk (“we have no insurance, so this’ll be at your own risk”). What a great view. What a great opportunity. What a great place.

After more water hauling back to the boat (Tess carried the yogurt this time), we followed up on an earlier tip suggesting that we could get a guided tour of the Fish Plant. Now, the plant has been closed for five years (it used to process frozen groundfish from the Grand Banks) and only re-opened in January of this year. It now processes only fresh, farm raised salmon. Within two and a half hours from leaving the water, this salmon is filleted and sent on its way (fresh, on ice) through New Brunswick to your table. An amazing process. A clean and friendly work environment. And everyone is happy to be at work. The pictures (can you believe it – pictures!) tell the whole story.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Arriving in Newfoundland

Fortune Baot Names.

For Gil....

More from St. Pierre, SPM

French pastry.

Paddleball Spectators.

French Street Scene.

Route Halifax St. Pierre 2008

Dawn Treader arrives in Ste. Pierre.
Dawn Treader Crew.
Our Sailor!
Endurance on its mooring.
New driver (watch out!).

Bastile Day, July 14, 2008 (Ste. Pierre, SPM, France)

Bastille Day Crew.
Followed us everywhere.
Real French sailors.
Saint Pierrais.
The Translators.

Monday, July 21, 2008 (Harbour Breton, Newfoundland)

[Left] Arriving (again) in Canada. [Below] Preparing Vin de Honor.

[Left] Vin de Honor. [Below] Signalman at work.
[Bottom] It does say "Viva la France".

It’s been a while since our last update. We are now on the famed Coast of Bays-- The Southwest coast of Newfoundland. Known for its imposing fiords, wild scenery and both populated and abandoned “outports”. The outports are those small fishing communities with a tenacious hold on the cliffs, but a less secure toehold in the current economy. Most abandoned and resettled with “confederation” and finally with the ground fishing moratorium. Harbour Breton is reputed
to be the largest such settlement on the Coast of Bays. We haven’t left the boat as of yet, since the rain started to come down hard once we were alongside the floating docks at the new Town Marina.

We left Fortune, NF at 1020 today trying to beat the rain; and we mostly did. We sailed the entire way, harbor-to-harbor at between 5.0 and 7.5 knots in winds from 12 to 17. fairly good visibility despite the drizzle and light rain. We arrived on a forbidding coast though. Tess’ immediate comment was that it looked like the terrain from Lord of the Rings; and it does. Huge cliffs, topped with green meadows and stunted spruce forests. You can imagine a sea monster coming out from behind one cliff, picking up an outlying island and hurling it your way. We are excited to have this opportunity to explore.

So far, everyone we meet in Newfoundland invites us to stay till the weekend. They all seem to have week long festivals beginning about now. I explain that they need to know that they are competing with our Bastille Day in Ste. Pierre, SPM (“like a whole Town family wedding; or like a whole town drunk”). “That’s right”, they say. “We do that, too.” Should be an interesting weekend wherever we are.

As to our week in Ste. Pierre? Paula and Katie owe us their log entries to be posted. The rest of the crew had contributed their share.

For now, know that if you are going to celebrate Bastille Day, France is the place to do it. We started in the Town Square at noon with the Mayor’s Welcome and a toast with the Vin de Honor (a brandy fortified wine). Where else does the government spring for free liquor? Several glasses of that and most people would go home for barbecue (or a nap). But liberty, fraternity and something else kept the entire Town out until after midnight. The bands played, we all danced, it was great!

We also got to know several boats from France participating in a rally from LaRochelle, France to Quebec City, Canada. The French are, if anything, the only real sailors in the world. We were rafted up two and three across and these guys (and women) spun their boats around without a care, hop off and say Bonjour as they grab their first drink after a 14 day crossing; as if they just went to West Marine for a spare beer cooler. We learned to drink Ricard Patisse and viewed incredible on board wine storage compartments. They too are well fortified on their Atlantic crossings.

But, we came for Route Halifax Saint Pierre 2008. It was great! Some 18 boats competed in three classes, plus a double-handed division on one. We were shooed off the Yacht Club Wharf to a mooring on Wednesday so that the race boats could all raft up together. Thank goodness. Their post-Race decompression lasted (on the first night) till 5:30 a.m. Thereafter, things settled down at about 3:00. Dawn Treader was first to finish, but second on corrected time by a mere 70 seconds. But 2010 is another race year.

The highlight of it all was, of course, having (most of) the family here to celebrate. The food, the wine and the friendship of Ste. Pierre are unparalleled. I even considered entering in 2010, just I could come back.

The family and our dear friends Paula and Tim flew out on an 0930 flight to Halifax. At 1120 we were off to Fortune. Though a light wind motorsail, we were happy as ever to be sailing again. We “visited” the Ecological Park at Fortune Head (a two hour walk, each way) for some great views of the cliffs and the ocean, and met a lot of great Fortunates, but unfortunately, no fossils. Apparently, Fortune Head has been designated a World Cultural Heritage Site as it hosts a place where Pre-Cambrian fossils meet Cambrian fossils (or something like that). In short, it is where we almost, but not yet, crawled out of the ocean. Alas, Mini-Me, I knew you well.

Honest, he hasn’t been drinking here yet but that entry sure sounds it! It is rainy, but not cold. It is beautiful, remote and friendly. Birding has been great, seas have been easy, winds have been favorable and kind. No more pie a la floor, and back to good Canadian Beer in lieu of fine wine. No worries, no cares!