2009 Blog

2009 Ships Log

This page documents our voyages, from 3 May 2009 to 31 December 2009 (in other words, year 1). On 3 May, we had a great send off from Kingston.  A number of boaters, relatives and well-wishers were on hand to bid farewell to us.  The weather was excellent, a sure sign of things to come.To see what we did after the boat was finished but before Wade retired, go to Sea Trials (2003-2008).

20 December 2009 

We made landfall in Nassau, Bahamas on 16 November.  Nassau is the capital city of the Bahamas and brings with it all of the positive and negative attributes of a “big” city.  We have taken a berth at the Nassau Harbour Marina, for the period 16 December through to 7 January 2010.  Natalie is flying home to spend the Christmas period with her family in the Timmins/Sudbury area, leaving Wade and Diane to enjoy Christmas alone (well, alone amongst many cruisers at the marina and thousands of locals).  When she returns, we intend to continue South through the Bahamas.  On our first night, Wade treated Diane (and Natalie) to a restaurant meal (a Chinese restaurant), and this is always welcomed – just like at home.  We’ve already had a “walk-about”, buying some local produce, fresh caught jackfish and a “made in front of us” conch salad.  We cooked up the fish on our own back at the boat and were delighted at the fresh taste of the whole meal.  Wade changed the engine oil, and repaired the aft head pump (never a pleasant task) and then we went out in search of a new stock of Volvo engine oil filters.  Although there is no Volvo dealer in the Bahamas, we did find a stock of Purolator equivalent filters that look identical to the OEM filter.  While in Nassau, as usual, we intend to undertake some maintenance coupled with local visiting. We are looking forward to the Junkanoo rushout festivals (carnival) that take place on 26 December and 1 January (in the early morning hours). I’ve heard the bands practising in the distance.

11 December 2009

Just as Johnny Depp’s boat was leaving, the largest privately owned sailboat ever built has rolled in – Athena. I recommend that you check this beautiful luxury Sailing Vessel (SV) out at this website.

9 December 2009

The more I get into this life of retirement, the more I want to avoid stress and slow down. We are still in Freeport. We have an opportunity to head out tomorrow to an anchorage in the Berry Islands (White Cay).  However, the weather is supposed to be stormy on Friday/Saturday, so we took the decision to stay here a few more days. Not that we’ll be exposed, or vulnerable in the anchorage, but the reality is that we’re in no particular hurry, and we should always try to avoid ugly weather.  We were driven around the island yesterday by Scarlet, an Irish expat living on a 49′ catamaran, undergoing refit.  Scarlet took us to the grocery store (where prices were higher than the US, but noticeably less than Bermuda, for example) and then to both an expat suburb (where a really decent home can be acquired for $ 200K) and to several “local” neighbourhoods, where people exist on far less than we have taken for granted.  We reciprocated by inviting Scarlet and Thurber over for dinner last night where we made BBQ’d NZ lamb, at very good prices compared to home.  Early  this morning, Johnny Depp’s boat Vajoliroja pulled in.  I took a few pictures, but there was no sign of the famous movie star – although we were all thrilled to finally figure out who owns these superyachts.  I’m also pleased to report that our solar upgrade project completed a few months ago when in North Carolina has produced sterling results.  I can confirm that we’ll be in Nassau during the period 18 December to 7 January, staying at the Nassau Harbour Club Marina.  Nassau is pretty full during Christmas).  From there, we should be heading to the Eeuthera’s.

5 December 2009

As planned, we left Fort Lauderdale on Friday, at dusk (1730 hours).  We left very late in the day so as to avoid an arrival at Freeport at 0400.  With a trip of only 88 nm, we had to be careful with the timings (and it was unrealistic to do this trip in daytime).  The winds were forecasted SE veering to SW, 10-15 knots and increasing to 20 knots.  The forecasted direction was accurate, but two hours after leaving Fort Lauderdale, we had winds of 25-30 knots and gusting higher.  8 hours after leaving, and just at the edge of the Gulf Stream crossing, we had winds of 35-45 knots, gusting to 50 – and then it’s not fun anymore.  Diane was terribly seasick and I was noticeably stressed.  At 0400, I took the decision to heave-to, basically “stalling the boat” and drifting with a double-reefed mainsail and a partially furled jib.  Sometime during the strong winds, the jib furling line broke – again — and then we had even more sail up than we wanted.  Isn’t it odd how this furling line lasted for 8 years on Lake Ontario, but broke during our trip from Halifax to Bermuda, again from Bermuda to North Carolina — and then again last night?  I had to go up on the foredeck, in the pitching seas – and manually furl the sail with 40 knots of wind.  Not a pleasureable experience! Now we are safe and secure at the Bahamas facility of Bradford Marine.   This is a working yard and not as pretty as our intended landfall at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club.  The reality is that the entrance was not safe with the strong winds and tidal surge.  The entrance only has about 7′ of water at mean low water.  With an incoming surge of 7-10′, we were sure to smack bottom!  So we reverted to PLAN B and went into the commercial entrance at Freeport Harbour.  We have cleared intoI Immigration and Customs. Now we’re waiting on the winds to subside and change direction before continuing. 

4 December 2009

We were planning to be in the Bahamas by now, but detoured to Fort Lauderdale, specifically to address an annoying minor hydraulic leak with our Kobelt hydraulic steering pump. I took this pump out while were were in North Carolina, and shipped it to Fort Lauderdale for repair. Well, the hydraulic leaks are now fixed. The pump and associated connections are now dry, just like they should be.  In the end, the pump itself had a leak around the shaft (simply because the pump was not perfectly aligned in its mounting bracket) and I took the time to address two small leaks around my hose connections. Yesterday, we were tourists for the day and visited the Everglades at the Billie Swamp Safari.   I took lots of photos and made this little movie to chronicle our visit. We also “bombed” the boat in an attempt to kill all of the creepy crawlers / uninvited visitors (while we were out). Apparently, this is normal for this climate and area. Here is our crew-member Natalie:

28 November 2009

We did rent a car for two days, and toured the Kennedy Space Center on Thanksgiving day – an attraction well worth visiting.  It was like spending the day with the Discovery Channel.  The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and lift-off pads are massive. The next day, from our berth, we heard the loud sonic boom as another successful space shuttle mission came to Earth, breaking the sound barrier.  There are several large cruise ships tied up here and they seem to change out every day.  We provisioned at Walmat, visited West Marine and bought a Bahamas courtesy flag, some electronic charts (on SD card) of the Bahamas for our Garmin chartplotter, as well as a new engine starting battery.  I installed the original starting battery in May 2000.  We expect to leave dock later this morning, bound for an anchorage in West Palm Beach, and from there – possibly to Freeport Bahamas, if the winds are suitable for a Gulf Stream crossing.

25 November 2009

During our passage from Fernandina Beach, Natalie saw a shark (in broad daylight). It isn’t often that you see a shark on the open water, and it is a bit of a challenge to discern a shark from a dolphin, and we see plenty of those.  We made landfall at Cape Marine, Port Canaveral Florida – believe it or not – tied up alongside a Canadian boat named JOANA, registered in Quebec City.  Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know there was a marina here. If possible (remember, it is Thanksgiving weekend in the USA), we may try to visit the Space Centre.  I’ve booked a two day rental car with Enterprise, so we’ll see what we can do.  If you’re desparate for a “blow by blow” account of what we’re doing, I recommend you have a look at Natalie’s blogspot. 

24 November 2009

We stayed at the Fernandina Beach Marina for 3 nights.  This is a very nice marina nestled in between two industrial plants, and one is actually a pulp and paper plant.  Who knew that Florida was forested and a source of pulp and paper? Nonetheless, the industrial background hardly detracted from the quaint homes and waterfront. We walked completely across Amelia Island (maybe 1.5 hours each way to the Atlantic beach side) and then back, picking up some more/current dive gear along the way.  We also took the opportunity while here to have an excellent dinner in an authentic Mexican restaurant.  Although Diane balked against the idea, she enjoyed it tremendously.  We introduced Natalie to the wine/fruit beverage called sangria. 

21 November 2009

We consulted with the weather gurus  (that would be Herb) and decided against a direct slog crossing the Gulf Stream to the Dominican Republic etc and instead moved South along the coast of Florida. If you stay close to the coast (depth 40-50 ft) and  about 12 – 30 nautical miles out – you can actually benefit from a current that pushes South (just be careful not to be too far and into the Gulf Stream. At this time, there are N / NW / NE winds and these are good for travelling S and SW.  For the most part, we had easy seas and medium to light winds. Its kind of ironic that we left Beaufort NC (pronounced Bowfort) and anchored just outside of Beaufort SC (pronounced Bewfort). Nonetheless, we didn’t even set foot in SC or Georgia. However, now that we’re just on the edge of Florida, we decided to take a marina berth for two nights. The winds are shifting to S and SE so it makes sense to halt, and wait for the rain to pass through. I changed the engine oil, and we’ve done some boat clean-up so its time to find some fresh vegetables, and maybe something for the BBQ.

13 November 2009

Natalie is onboard and we are getting ready to depart. By the way, Natalie has started her own blog to record her events, and you can follow this Blog here.  I started the Volvo engine two days ago and discovered that the raw water pump was leaking sea water – definitely undesireable. Therefore, I swapped it with our onboard spare and then had the pump seals replaced (so we still have a spare).  I also repaired another broken hatch latch that could have leaked ocean water. In the next two days, we’ll have a training session on our new BoomBrake, hoist the RIB on the poop deck and then continue with preparations for our passage.  We are waiting on some more parts from West Marine, and could leave Tuesday.  Destination is TBA but definitely South, and warm. 

8 November 2009

Last weekend, our friend Bob Edwards paid us a visit, since he was on a military exercise at Camp Legeune, about an hour’s drive away. On the same day, our boating friends Mark and Ruth (http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/svwitchcraft/) stopped in at another marina in Beaufort so we went over to greet them and even had a belated Thanksgiving turkey dinner onboard JOANA). It was really good to meet up with friends from Canada and made us feel as though we had never left.

Our last project is now complete.  Custom Marine Fabrication Inc of New Bern North Carolina delivered our solar panel aluminum frame on Thursday. Friday and Saturday, Wade finished installing and testing the two new solar panels (bringing the solar array from 4X 75 to another 2 X 130 = total of 560W). The pre-departure list is now very, very short. We are waiting on a couple of parts (a replacement lifeline gate hook, and a new hatch “latch”). The only thing that might keep us here is that we discovered a hatch that won’t seal (the plastic latch has broken) and we’ve contracted with a local machine shop to make us up 8 replacements so that we can replace all of them. We probably won’t have the parts until mid next week, but it will only take a few hours to change them out.  We are watching the weather every day, and you too can have a look at our favourite site – here. 

30 October 2009

It has been more than 2 ½ months since I made our last posting.  People are starting to email me to ask what we’re up to.  My reply has invariably been “working hard, what do you expect?”.  We’re trying to take advantage of being at a Marina and in the USA, where parts are easily available.  In reality, there is another factor with the speed of Internet service. With the number of people here getting their boats ready to head south, the toilets, showers and Internet services are all under pressure! At Bock Marine, we have befriended both the “permanent residents” (boaters who are living on the hard, while working on their boats) and the “transients” (people like us, who come in for a “short time”). Of the “permanent” residents, there is one fellow that has been here for nearly 14 years, “apparently” working on his boat.  The average seems to be at least 3 years, living on the hard – not enviable from our perspective.  Of the transients to pass through here, one of the most interesting has been Jean-Francois Dine (http://www.jeanfrancoisdine.eu/) with wife, 2 kids and a dog aboard Folle Avoine, a steel hulled cutter (French nationality).  Jean-Francois is a self-published author of 4 sailing/adventure books.   He loaned me an English translation of his second book: From the Orinoco to the Amazon on a ten metre sailboat.  I was overwhelmed with the experience that he has gained since setting out more than 10 years ago.  He is an excellent writer and has amassed a wealth of experience, although it is difficult to get this perspective unless you speak to him in his native language as he doesn’t speak very much English at all.  Like many other cruisers, Jean-Francois and family rolled into Bock Marine and then 10 days later returned to his home country for a few months of R&R.  Another notable couple has been Bob and Connie Benner, from Southern Ontario.  Bob adds a definite artistic touch to their blogspot.  I would be remiss if I did not mention the merits of Charlie Baldwin, long-time resident and very capable individual.  Charlie has built up his “area” of the boatyard with outdoor lounge furniture, a BBQ and even a swing.  Visitors to Bock Marine have to get to know Charlie. 

Two things are unusual and unexpected at Bock Marine.  The first is that despite the fact that we are more than 10nm North of the Atlantic Ocean, in brackish water, nearly every day we see dolphins swimming in Core Creek, just off the docks.  The next thing is that we can hear a constant clatter of shrimp under the boat.  If we bothered to cast a net, the locals tell us that we would be able to catch shrimp. There are often boaters and locals fishing from shore, dock and boats.

New arrivals to the marina who are waiting to have most if not all their electronics replaced due to a lightning strike blow their conch shell  at sunset. The tradition was introduced to us at a Friday night communal pot-luck BBQ held by the live- aboards of Bock Marine. The food was so good that the residents with little or no culinary skills would like to see it become a weekly event. I sure this would improve their dietary and health needs ten-fold. 

We’ve taken two weekends off since our arrival, one weekend to visit Wilmington North Carolina and the second to go the Annapolis Boat Show. We were taken by the fields of cotton, something that we’ve never seen before.  Another thing of interest is the boat lifts and houses built up on stilts. We finally saw cotton fields and harvesters.

We’ve taken two weekends off since our arrival, one weekend to visit Wilmington North Carolina and the second to go the Annapolis Boat Show. We were taken by the fields of cotton, something that we’ve never seen before.  Another thing of interest is the boat lifts and houses built up on stilts. We finally saw cotton fields and harvesters.

This is a running summary of our boat work completed: Wade replaced a 12V cabin fan that was too noisy, Wade relocated the Bose surround sound rear speakers, we relocated the Raymarine Wind Transducer from aft of the masthead to forward of the masthead (Wade had incorrectly installed this in 2001, and it has plagued us ever since), we reinstalled the 200A alternator on the Volvo (the 7/16” centre pin broke, we replaced the SS threaded rod with a high strength bolt), Wade purchased and installed a new Uniden VHF UM525 with a WHAM X4 wireless remote (replacing the wired Standard Horizon remote with contacts that failed in the humidity and salt water), we contracted out to have 3 interior doors repaired (they had swelled and split with the heat and humidity), we totally renovated the top loading fridge/freezer (original 6” insulation, but now with new Glacier Bay lids/seals, also changed from fresh-water to sea-water cooling)  (The fridge/freezer in the heat and humidity was cycling more than 80% of the time. We did several tests and it was clear to us that the lids leaked and the water from the integral water tank was warmer than the seawater. After slightly more than 2 weeks of  construction ,we have a 30% duty cycle and we are very pleased with the result), Diane made phifertex covers for the overhead hatches, we had to reverse the jib halyard due to chafing at the masthead, we replaced the jib furling line again (and solved the chafing problem with a new block), Wade removed and fiber glassed over the hole for the forward shower (left in place without the nicro solar vent (which leaked green water), we bought and installed a SS paper towel rack in the galley (where there was none before), Wade applied Cetol over all the exterior teak wood, Diane stripped and applied Cetol over the cockpit table and trays, Diane polished all of the stainless steel on deck (it pretty well needs to be polished once a month), Diane made a rain/wind cover for the foreward hatch out of some old sail material, Wade completely painted the deck and toe rail (the last paint was 10 years old), Wade replaced the NASA Marine AIS Engine with an upgraded module to receive Class A and the new Class B signals, Wade installed the Andersen Line Tender to handle the spinnaker pole car, Wade replaced the Soltek 20A Solar charge controller with an MPPT model from Blue Sky, Wade installed a 2nd identical controller and networked it with the first as part of an upgrade from 300W (4 X 75W panels) to 560W (with an additional 2 X 130W panels) making JOANA a very green boat, we installed our contractor built (www.nccustommarine.com) hard bimini (2” of diviny cell foam, polished aluminum frame, LED lights, water catching), Wade replaced the loud-hailer speaker, we converted our spinnaker pole from on-deck storage to in-front-of-mast storage using and an Andersen Line Tender, Wade replaced the engine zinc anode, Wade patched up some antifouling spots, we thoroughly cleaned the prop/prop shaft and bowthruster and then coated them with PropSpeed (an antifouling), we replaced all hull/shaft/prop zincs, we painted the topsides (last painted in 1999) with Pettit Jade Green brightening up the boat quite a bit, we installed a new Dutchman Boom Brake to prevent accidental jybes, we dropped all the anchor chain and remarked it for depth, Wade fabricated a simple wind generator tie-down strap (in the event of a blow), Wade repaired a hatch that wasn’t “dogging down” completely and Diane removed and fabricated from scratch a new outboard motor hoist harness (the standard Davis strap was just too loose and we were always worried about dropping the motor in the water).

That’s it for now.  At this point in time, there are only 3 jobs left on the “to-do” list.

1. hydraulic steering – fill with oil and work out the air bubbles (we sent the pump away to get some seals rebuilt and have already re-installed it).  This is a simple one-day job and we’ll probably get to it this weekend.  Done 3 November.

2. Move Lazy Jacks attachment point on the mast – this is currently at the height of the first spreaders. We think that the mainsail will be better contained by the lazy jacks if we stretch the upper lines up another 20’ or so.  This will take a few hours, and we’ll get it done next week after we’ve launched.  We changed our mind on this one.  We adjusted the mainsail cover and tied it from the top, instead of the bottom.  We won’t move the lazy jacks higher, it is not necessary.

3. Complete the Solar upgrade project – At this point, we’re waiting on a contractor to build us an aluminum frame to contain our two 130W panels.  All the electrical work is done, its now just a matter of attaching the panels.

We expect to leave Beufort North Carolina, heading South – sometime in November, possibly by the middle of the month.  

14 August 2009

Today, while looking through my cameras, I realized that I had some unused photos from our time in Bermuda as well as short videos taken during our passage to North Carolina. Therefore, I’ve made yet another short movie, that you can view here.

This is a good shot of Diane sleeping in the shade on our ocean passage.

A week has passed since we arrived in Beaufort, and we’re getting stuff done. The refrigeration is being changed over from freshwater to seawater cooling. We removed the Nicro vent in the forward shower and epoxied over the hole to make sure that green water won’t come inside on passage. We’ve got several projects either started or in mind, and parts are enroute.  With the next update, I’ll outline what projects we’ve done.  For this weekend, we’ve got a rental car and intend to see more of the local surroundings – and even get to a restaurant.   

31 July 2009

After much thought and discussion, we have decided to leave Bermuda.  We did all of our repair work, and even a knocked off a few of our “improvement” projects, but the anchorage was always too rough for any masthead work – so inspection and replacement of the wind sensor will be done later.  Our original intention was to stay there until mid November; a reasonable place to stay during hurricane season.  Normally, tourists are given a 21 day visa.  We easily got an extension to 60 days, but our request to the 5 month point (20 November) was denied, unless we purchased Bermuda health care insurance, at a cost of approximately $ 900 per month. I wrote to the Minister in charge, twice. The current government policy was that we were required to get local full-blown health care, just like you get at home, including maternity, psychiatric care, organ transplants, physiotherapy etc. They would not accept any form of traveler’s insurance where you pay with a credit card at the hospital and then seek reimbursement from your insurance provider later.  It just didn’t make sense to us, so we packed up, and left for Beaufort North Carolina (the closest port on the Eastern Seaboard).  We enjoyed meeting other cruisers in Bermuda, but our time was up.  I’ve made up a short video to chronicle some of our activities while in Bermuda and I hope that you enjoy it. 

2 July 2009

Diane and I are settling in to “yachtie” life in Bermuda. When we’ll leave and where we’ll go next is in discussion, but may not be resolved for some months. We had a number of things break on the way, or need maintenance or adjustment – and we’re in the midst of doing just that. The most significant thing is that our Rutland 913 wind generator (provided sterling service for the past 8 years) finally pumped out its last electrons during the gale we passed through the day before arriving in Bermuda.  A replacement from the UK has been ordered and should just drop into the old fitting. 

As I reflect back on our journey from Halifax to Bermuda, to be honest, it was at times a bit scary on the open sea, particularly at night.  It certainly makes you feel alive to know that what you do or don’t do will impact upon your life. At one point, it was just too windy to carry on – so we practiced the ancient art of “heaving to”. No photos or videos can really portray that scenario – with the wind HOWLING in your face. I only brought the camera out when it was “nice”.  Of the 6 days at sea, I can honestly say that I enjoyed 3 of them, but definitely did not enjoy the other 3.  We were against wind and against the Gulf Stream for those 3 days.

While I was at the wheel one night, I had an accidental jybe (yes, a jybe preventer was on, but it wasn’t tight enough). That jybe ripped the mainsheet traveler car off the track. It also bent a SS frame that I made for a storm cover (that Diane had made) and ripped the searchlight out of it’s socket. I’ve since glued the searchlight together, repaired the traveler car and studied the SS frame.

During the passage to Bermuda, we frequently had significant waves over the foredeck and the raised cabin.  Consequently, we had quite a bit of salt water dribble over the bunks in the forecabin and also into the shower (where we have plastic bins with things stored in them) – and then the cabin sole. The water ingress was due to 4 day/night solar vents that are not perfectly sealed against “GREEN” water.  We learned from that experience, and since arrival, I’ve made 2 covers and 2 bungs that we’ll put in place next time before passage. I’m confident they won’t let in salt water again.

I discovered that a Volvo exhaust connection leaks a few drips of sea water, and I’ve already made an attempt at repairing that.

The strong winds took a toll on my boom vang.  Of 16 ¼” bolts holding it in place, 4 popped out and another 6 just broke off. I’ve started to repair this using larger bolts, alternating fine and course thread 5/16” bolts instead of ¼” bolts.  We have to wait for low winds to make this repair, otherwise we get cuttings on the deck, that end up rusting.

Dockspace in Bermuda is very expensive (and very rare) and you pay separately for water and electricity.  On the afternoon that Dave departed for Kingston, we had to move off a concrete low wall (that we were pinned against because of the wind) onto a private/leased mooring ball. There is about a 4’ tide here.  When the tide was high, our fenders were popping out because of the surf. When the tide was low, there was risk of our toe rail hitting the concrete.  An hour before we left the wall, while adjusting the fenders in very strong wind and waves “on the beam”, I got my right hand pinned between the toe rail and the wall.  Ouch – there was a definite crunching sound.  We iced it, wrapped it and I’ve been taking anti-imflammatory pills since then.  It still hurts 7 days later, but it will be ok.  It was a dumb accident, and definitely my fault.  Things like this always happen with weather, and time constraints and involve either land or other boats.

The daily temperature here is 27-28C and the water temp is nearly the same. Diane and I have a saltwater swim off the transom every day, followed by a fresh water rinse.  Since we’re on a mooring ball, I need to run the genset about 2 hours per day (breakfast and dinner time) in order to make hot water, fresh water and sufficient electricity to meet satisfy our extravagant lifestyle.  If we had more sun and less rain clouds (and rain) then I could run it less. At least we didn’t need to give the deck a freshwater rinse on arrival, we had that with the rainwater – probably 10” over 4 days.  We do have high speed internet and even 3 English language TV channels – which is much more than we had in most of the province of Quebec.  We’ve BBQ’d only once since arriving, eaten at a restaurant twice and the remainder of our meals have been cooked by Diane on the JennAir or the microwave (great, as usual). Restaurant meals are very expensive, but we can afford it once a week.

We took a touristic day off a few days ago and ventured to Hamilton, the capital. We have yet to get into snorkeling/diving, but it will come.

We’re currently on a 21 day visa. According to the Immigration website, it is possible to request an extension to 5 months during hurricane season as it can be very difficult to find a safe weather window to get anywhere. To be honest, I find 21 days too short and 5 months too long, but we’ll probably be trapped here because of the weather systems that end up rolling up along the Eastern seaboard. The likelihood of a hurricane running over Bermuda is slim, and if it does, there is a “hole” nearby.

A few days ago, we met Keith (Aussie) and Kevin (UK/Maltese) who were delivering a Norwegian yacht from Columbia to Norway (and now at the halfway mark).  These guys were a wealth of info about the Caribbean and it was my pleasure to install and configure their SSB for WINLINK operation (email and weather). I was glad to be able to help out such seasoned sailors.

22 June 2009

While in Halifax waiting for our “weather window”, we had some computer problems with one of the laptops. Since I don’t want to go offshore without 100% redundancy, this repair became the top priority. Therefore, with the help of my friend Earle Hatt, we plodded through and got it back up and running, and also secured and imaged a spare hard drive as well.  Earle/Nola and Ellen Hatt treated us to an excellent surf and turf dinner in their home. We also caught up with our son Jonathan, who has by now finished Basic Training and has been posted to Halifax for subsequent maritime training.

We left Halifax bound for Bermuda on Monday 15 June. Clear weather and oddly enough, no fog predicted. On the way out, we found there was little in the way of other vessels, but we did have a Navy Frigate steam by, and later on – a Canadian submarine.  During our first real blue water voyage we occasionally saw a commercial ship, first appearing on our computer screen as an AIS target and then within visual range. The computer display of AIS is particularly valuable at night when you’re trying to discern possible intersecting traffic.  We saw no other sailing or private motor yachts.  We had a wide range of weather and sea states to experience.  During the 6 day trip, we had moderate weather for the first two days (hot meals were possible but Diane was very sea sick and Dave slightly ill, therefore we ate crunchy bars and junk food), very rough weather for 2 days (no hot meals, very unpleasant rolling), and also two more moderate days where I cooked Lasagna and shepherds pie. I used the watermaker twice to top up our tanks and we even took showers once while underway (this is not possible if the boat is pitching/rolling significantly).  The problem with the sea state is that we were opposing either the Gulf Stream or its eddy currents for much of the journey.  For planning purposes, the journey from Halifax to Bermuda on the rhumb line is 742nm. However, on arrival in St Georges Bermuda our boat log showed 843.32nm. This is as a result of: a. not following a direct path (we have to deviate in order to accommodate either wind or sea conditions) or b. opposing the Gulf Stream.

We must have taken on some dirty fuel a month ago at Riviere de Loup. When I switched to this tank, the fuel filter clogged 3 times after running only for 5 or 6 hours. Now the tank is nearly empty and the dirt has passed.  For two days, we had some extreme wind. One night (while I was on shift), I had an accidental jybe (yes, the jybe preventer was on, but it was not secured far enough forward on the deck to be 100% effective) and this ripped out the block from the mainsheet traveler.  It was time for all hands on deck to stabilize things and engineer a jury rigged solution. This will have to be repaired before we leave Bermuda. On Day 5, we had steady winds of 35 knots, gusting to 45.  Even with a reduced jib and double reefed main, I felt it was not safe to proceed. The photo below shows one of the rare times that we took in so much main sail that we down to the third reef.

We had to heave-to (this backs the jib and effectively stalls the boat) for about 3 hours. It would not be fair if I neglected to mention the significance of temperature and sea state on crew morale. When we hit the Gulf Stream, the temperature inside the cabin went from 17C to 28C, over about two hours. We were in shorts and T-shirts and the cold conditions were no longer sapping the energy out of us.  I made two videos underway (Day 2 and Day 3). Here is a photo of our dolphin escort.

We made landfall in Bermuda at 1930 on Saturday 20 June.  Our crew-member Dave Sutton will return to Kingston on 23 June.  How long we will stay in Bermuda and what will be our next port of call, is still under discussion. I have a list of repairs, modifications and improvements to make (which I won’t list here) before we proceed. 

12 June 2009

After two weeks in Summerside PEI, we finally left for the Coast.  Dave Sutton joined us on Sunday 7 June. The next morning we took a 24 hour run to Port Hawkesbury Nova Scotia. Travelling through the control lock at Canso was “interesting”.  Due to the difference in tidal flow on the East Coast versus the Northumberland Strait, a lock is operated with a difference in water flow that changes every hour, entirely dependent on tides. At the time we went through, the tidal flow was about 3 knots East, and the wind about 25 knots from the East. We were “screaming” into the lock.  Normally, I’d be able to put the transmission in neutral and “glide in” and then use the engine in reverse to “stop” the boat next to the wall.  However, in this case, I put the engine in 3/4 reverse about 300m before the lock to try and slow the speed down. It was weird, steering the boat as it slowed down from 8 knots to zero, with the engine in reverse. Unfortunately, Port Hawkesbury Marina was under repair and had very little to offer in the way of services. The townspeople made up for it by offering to give us a ride or help us in any way. We left the next morning bound for Halifax, another 24 hour leg. We were surprised to see seals, 5 miles off the coast as well as in the Halifax harbour. The seals were just as surprised and inquisitive as we were, but too quick for photos. In downtown Halifax, we spent 1.5 hours driving around looking for a wall/berth.  At 1700 we moved to the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron, where we were very well treated and had all services.  We are now sitting here at a berth, doing some maintenance and minor repairs, waiting for a good 5 day weather window/forecast. We took a video while sailing in the Northumberland Strait.

1 June 2009

We have cleared the St Lawrence River.  Mostly, running downstream was a sleigh ride, but as we went further North towards Gaspe Bay it became increasingly windier, colder and just miserable when on watch at night.  

We also made two short videos: Motorsailing Number One and Motorsailing Number Two.  

We are currently berthed at the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club (open year round) at Summerside Prince Edward Island.  This is a lovely place to rest.  From our last log entry at Cap a L’Aigle Quebec, we went to Riviere de Loup (where we took on diesel).  We arrived at 30 minutes before high tide.  After taking on diesel, we discovered that low tide would have had us seriously stuck in the mud — so we got outta dodge and left at 30 minutes past high tide while the wind was houling at 30 knots.  We then committed outselves to an overnight journey to Riviere au Renard just before Gaspe (docking and anchoring sites were limited). We arrived at Riviere au Renard a full week before the Club Nautique put in their docks for the season.  We had no services and had to use the tender to get to shore.  After three days/nights waiting for the wind to abate, we left for Summerside PEI. Shortly before arriving in Summerside on 23 May, we realized that the radar wouldn’t turn on, the watermaker high pressure pump wouldn’t start and the 125A high output alternator on the engine failed.  Therefore, we decided to stop in Summerside for an extended period to rest and make repairs.   Since then, we have discovered a poorly crimped +ve lead was responsible for the radar malfunction (repaired at no cost); the watermaker high pressure pump wouldn’t startup because the switch had been “stepped on” when we swapped out the washer a month ago when in Kingston (repaired for $ 20) and a bracket broke on the alternator.  The alternator repair has taken more time.  A local repair shop swapped out the housing with an alternator cover from a Chevette (that was nearly a perfect fit) for only $ 25 and spun it up.  Much to our amazement, the alternator still worked.  Therefore, 2nd mate Jack MacDonald and I fitted the old alternator again, but this time with some beefier brackets made out of angle iron. We also ordered a custom built 200A alternator and fitted it with the same heavy duty angle iron brackets.  You can definitely stand on this bracket and probably even lift the engine with it. Jack was tired after working on this.

We rented a car and the 3 of us went on a genuine tourist trip driving to Charlottetown yesterday.  The people are incredibly friendly, genuine and helping.  We love this area.  We’ve eaten lobster several times.  We could stay here for a while yet, after all, we’re retired.

17 May 2009
We have made some good miles since passing through the locks.  However, we’ve had to wait 5 days at Montreal for delivery of our liferaft (which was good because we spent some time with Jonathan), and then again at Trois Rivieres and at St Laurent because of weather.  Normally, we’d like to ride downstream on a falling tide. At Quebec City, the tidal range is 17 feet.  When the wind comes from the East or North East (contrary to normal winds), it makes for big waves when opposing that strong and receeding tidal stream.  At Trois Rivieres, we hunkered down while a Gale blew threw.  We had steady winds of 35-45 knots and reached a maximum of 57 knots at dockside.  We had to strip the deck of unnecessary gear and really tie things down.  With good Internet, we caught up on our favourite TV episodes.  We are currently at Saint Laurent on l’isle de Orleans (just past Quebec City), again waiting for good weather.  We did have a great trip from Montreal to Trois Rivieres and again downstream to Quebec.  Waiting a day or two for good weather pays dividends.  No fog yet.  Next leg will be to Cap a L’Aigle.

11 May 2009

We’ve now made it through all 7 locks and are in downtown Montreal at the old Port. We’ve taken on new crew – Jack MacDonald from Kingston.  We’re sitting in downtown Montreal, awaiting the Midland Courier shipment of our liferaft.  On Day 1, we stopped at Brockville. Day 2, we stopped at Iroquois. Day 3, we made it to Cornwall and tied up at the Coast Guard jetty where we discovered free wireless. JimmieThom accompanied us downstream for the leg from Iroquois to Cornwall, and as expected – he is first class crew.  On day 4 we travelled downstream from Cornwall to Valleyfield.  This was a good run since there were no bridges and no locks.  On 7 May, Jimmie helped us to transit the last leg from Valleyfield Quebec to Montreal.  This was the most challenging leg to date.  We took 12 hours to transit 4 locks, 3 lift bridges and approximately 47nm.  Lift bridges were a nuisance since we could not communicate with the bridge operators and had to circle in front of the bridge patiently waiting for the bridge operator to acknowledge our presence and lift the bridge. The Seaway Guide says that the lights will change from RED to FLASHING AMBER when the operator acknowledges our presence and then to GREEN when we are authorized to transit. Yes, of course we have a VHF radio and a cell phone – and we tried everything to call the bridge operators.  For all 3 bridges, there was no sign of life in the office. At the first bridge we circled for 90 minutes before asking the Montreal office of the Canadian Coast Guard for assistance with the bridge operator at St Louis – very disappointing.  We were told by lock operators that the pleasure boat traffic has dropped off in the past few years, due to the economy and the cost of fuel, but we were clearly the first pleasure craft of the season to transit all 7 locks in the St Lawrence Seaway system. We also passed through each lock SOLO.  Nowadays, they don’t allow pleasure boats and commercial traffic to transit at the same time. 

3 May 2009 Departure from Kingston

On a sunny spring day, according to plan, we departed Kingston for our projected life aboard. My mother Marlene and brother Brian came down for the send off. There were dozens of people dockside, some that I barely knew – wishing us well for the departure. 

Dave Sutton on MV Ilona escorted us at least an hour out of Kingston as we headed for the St Lawrence Seaway. Unbeknownst to us, the Royal Military College (RMC) was marching across the Lasalle Causeway, just a few minutes after we left dock. It looked as though we were getting a colourful military send-off, although it was just a coincidence. We had to circle around the bay for 15 minutes, causing me to be anxious.

On day 1, we successfully navigated through our first lock. It was extremely easy, with only about a foot of difference in water levels. The others took a little more care.

29 April 2009

Diane and I have moved out of the condo in Ottawa and consolidated into the boat (no small feat). We sold some things (our car) and gave plenty away either to Jonathan or relatives. We are currently installing/fixing/maintaining things so that we have a better chance of meeting our planned departure date of 3 May.  We had to remove the Miele washer and replace it with a Maytag (the ONAN genset wasn’t able to produce two-phase power). The mounting bracket on the high output alternator cracked so I replaced the 1/4″ aluminum bracket with a 3/8″ SS one. After moving from the condo, we swapped the 4 port USB hub with a 7 port hub, and now all the comm port assignments shifted.  With a printer/scanner and NAS installed, the laptop was then configured to accept the NMEA inputs from three GPS, AIS and NAVTEX.  All communication systems are now working aside from having the AIS projecting onto the cockpit Garmin navigation device. No big deal at this time.

We changed all our halyards. The sails are hoisted and ready for action. We welded in place a bracket for the new downrigger on the pushpit.  Diane fabricated prototype #1 of our cockpit storm cover.  We discovered and repaired the raw water pump seals on the ONAN genset (only 72 hours – but nearly 10 years).

The expected date of departure is just days away and we are ready other than provisioning. The list is made and will be filled within the next day or two. Most of our goodbyes have been said other than Wade’s family who expected to be at dockside when we leave Sunday.

The route for the first week has been made and refinement to the plan may be needed as we are underway.