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.