Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Earl has to Die!

I am sitting here in St. Pierre (N 46 46.608 W 056 10.490) watching the hurricane track of Earl and the tropical storm Fiona right behind it.  The projected track for Earl will bring it over Reboot on the weekend.  There is some chance that it will dissipate before reaching here and a high probability that it will at least reduce from a hurricane to a tropical storm or tropical depression before reaching St. Pierre.  The highest probability - 40% - is for a tropical storm with wind speeds from 39 mph to 73 mph.  Fiona has not developed to the point where the impact here has been calculated.

I am sitting at a dock at the very east end of St. Pierre.  There are several breakwaters between Reboot and the Atlantic Ocean.  I am on the west side of the dock.  My conversations with the other cruisers here have reached the conclusion that the west side will be more protected as the winds come up from the southeast than the east side of the dock.  Also, there are several floating docks on the east side, if  they were to come loose the big dock I am on would provide a shield.

In the dumb luck category:  Since the main ripped it is off the boat.  I also plan to take the jib down so that there will be nothing but bare poles.  I also expect to reinforce the solar panel array or, if it looks like we are going to be hit hard remove the panels completely.  Taking the panels down would be a big pain in the butt but better than losing them.

In the ironic category:  My boat insurance requires that I stay out of the "hurricane zone" during hurricane season.  The zone is an east-west line from the Florida - Georgia border on the north to an east-west line that parallels the Nicaragua - Costa Rica border on the south.  I had no expectation that at this latitude I would be bothered by hurricanes.  Live and learn.

I had dinner last night with a cruising couple that are waiting for a weather window to sail back to France (that is, the mainland one in Europe.)  We had duck and lots of good wine.  It was a great time.

I am off to see how the mainsail repairs are coming.  More later

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The weekend in St. Pierre

It looks like I will be here through the weekend.  See, this is France and no one in France works on the weekend.  That includes the gas station (where I had hoped to purchase diesel for the boat), the sail maker (if I can identify one, the grocery stores etc.  I have posted a link above so that you can get a nice look at what is a very quaint and pretty place.

As Dr. Pangloss taught Candide "all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds."  ("Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes" in honor of St. Pierre)  Amazing that I remember this as I had to read Candide in engineering school in 1965.  I guess some advice is so good that it just sticks.  Of course Voltaire was writing satire and all sorts of terrible things happen to our poor protagonist Candide.  It is sort of like the way I am feeling today.

Anyway, I have internet and the card reader arrived so I can spend some time uploading pictures for everyone to enjoy.  I will also get around to posting new port guides on the web site of the Seven Seas Cruising Association.

Back in St. Pierre

I am back in St. Pierre after a terrible night.  Tired, so a quick summary:
1.  The wind went from nothing on the bow to 30 knots on the stern.
2.  Wave went from 1 to 3 feet to 10 to 12 feet.
3.  Ripped the main sail
4.  XO puked
5.  Toilet overflowed
6.  TV broke loose and smashed a wall lamp.
7.  Wall lamp bracket got revenge and punched a hole in the back of the TV (the TV apparently still works thank goodness.)
8.  Pretty much everything I had left out ended up on the wet floor.

I love the cruising life!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Current Position

At 9:47 AM on 8/27/2010 Reboot (and I) were at 46°46.31'N 055°36.21'W
heading 277T at 4.7.
Heading for St. Pierre for fuel, long night, double reefed main.
Now wind back on the nose and dying but waves still 6-10 feet

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Crows Nest, St. John's

I was taken to the Crows Nest last night.  This is a (formerly private) officers club in St. John's.  Founded in the beginning of the Second World War as a refuge for the officers supporting the convoy traffic it has remained open and a private club since that time.  With the dramatic reduction in the number of military officers the club has opened its doors to visitors.  The membership requirement is now also "an interest in maritime affairs."  If you are St. John's don't be put off by the private club signs, just go in and introduce yourself to the staff.

The club is less a club than a museum.  Plaques from many of the ships that have called at St. John's adorn the walls.  Models of Canadian Forces aircraft hang from the ceiling.  In fact the club has so many artifacts that most of them are put away in storage.  The best piece is a WWII U-Boat submarine periscope.  At the end of the war a U-Boat surrendered off the coast of Newfoundland.  It was towed into St. John's.  After the Canadian Forces had reverse engineered the boat it was sunk off the coast.  However, someone managed to snag the periscope and forward it to the club.  So one can now peak out from the Crows Nest and view the harbor.  This actually happened during WWII when a U-Boat crept up to the entrance.  While the submarine net was lowered to let in some traffic the U-Boat fired torpedoes into the harbor.  Apparently they missed everything and hit the shoreline.  It reminds me of the line from the movie (I think it was the Wackiest Ship in the Navy) "sighted ship sunk truck."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Irish Loop - Newfoundland

I rented a car with another St. John's visitor and we drove the "Irish Loop."  This takes you from St. John's down to Cape Race, over past Trepassay, and then back up the west side of the Avalon Peninsula along St. Mary's Bay.  The weather was overcast with occasional showers.  More important, the wind was from the Northeast at about 15 to 20 knots.  What a difference that made.  As we drove down the "South Coast" (which is actually the East side of Newfoundland - go figure) the wave trains coming into the port cities were awesome.   I was happy to be on land looking out rather than sailing by.  In fact, when I got back to Reboot Randy, the skipper of the whale watching boat docked behind me, mentioned that the waves were 20 to 25 just outside St. John's harbor.  Strangely Dennis, the other Wisconsin boat in the harbor, decided this was a good time to set off to the Azores.  Wind in his face, heavy seas, go figure.  Particularly since he has been here for almost a month.

Down near Cape Race we found the Loran C station.  Loran is an older form of location finding that has been replaced on most boats by GPS.  The decision was made to shut down the service in 2010.  The US Loran "chains" were shut down in February.  The joint Canadian - US chains were kept operational for a couple of more months because of treaty obligations but were finally shut down about 3 weeks ago.  I wanted to go up to the building and the gates were open but the "Restricted Area - No Trespassing" signs kind of put me off.

The peninsula is  quite rural,  We finally stopped at about 2 pm for lunch.  Our choice of resturant was easy.  It was the first we had seen in 30 km.  It was a bed and breakfast and quite inexpensive.  When they brought out the dishes there was enough food on my plate to serve a family of four.  Quite a great feed.

I am starting to cycle up for my return south.  I expect my package to arrive from the States in the next couple of days and then I will be looking for a weather window to start back down.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ham Radio - British Sports Cars - XO - Beautiful Women - Music in St. John's

I started the morning by taking a cab to Avalon Mall, St. John's big shopping mall, to meet many of the Newfoundland Ham Radio operators that have been supporting me and tracking my course across the Maritimes. We had coffee and great conversation and I was offered a ride back to Reboot. There was some laughter about my ability to fit in the car, and it was not until I got out into the parking lot that I understood.
Graham, my host, had driven his 1969 Lotus Super 7 sports car to coffee. This is a classic British sports car. Think Emma Peale in "The Avengers." I climbed in and wiggled my butt down into the very form fitting seat, attached the 5 point racing safety harness and we were off. Graham fired up the engine with its open exhaust and every head in the parking lot turned. Off we went to purchase coffee and drive me back to the boat. Of course, given that it was sunny, 75 degrees, and about as beautiful a Newfoundland day one could ask for the coffee run quickly converted into driving around St. John's to show me the sights. Everywhere we went people just smiled and waved. It was great fun.  BTW - Graham's is red!

Part of our trip was to Signal Hill where Marconni received the first Transatlantic radio signal in the beginning of the 20th century. An appropriate stop for two guys with a long history of high frequency radio.
We eventually did buy coffee and headed back to Reboot. Graham joined me for a beverage and we let XO sit up in the sunlight with us. Just a minute or two after Graham left two pretty young ladies showed up and asked if they could come aboard to see XO. Boat, sports car, kitten - the trinity of chic magnets. Of course I said yes and we had a pleasant conversation. One is finishing her PhD in marine sciences, the second is an actress home for a visit before going back to her traveling company.
I eventually headed up to George Street for dinner. As I was strolling and listening I was once again struck by the fact that the performers actually had beautiful singing voices. So much of what passes for modern music is sung by people who can not carry a tune. This part of Newfoundland has a strong Irish heritage, in fact the peninsula down to Cape Race is called the "Irish Loop." For whatever reason, and much to my delight, St. John's is a center for music and the arts. It seems that just about everyone plays some instrument or sings or dances or all three. Every restaurant/bar has live music, usually starting in the late afternoon and continuing late into the night. It is not unusual to hear three different groups in one place over the course of the evening. I am discovering the truth in what other cruisers have written, Newfoundland is not a place to miss.

Friday, August 13, 2010

George Street St. Johns's Newfoundland

Last night I treated myself to a martini and steak at a high end steak house here in St. John's.  As usual I ate at the bar and the restaurant was sufficiently crowded that I ended up talking to several groups of people over the course of my dinner.  Since I finished later in the evening I decided to take a walk up to George Street.  It had transformed itself into the loud party street for which it is famous.

I had not made it more than half a block when one of the groups that had chatted with me at the bar spotted me and adopted me for their pub crawl. So up and down the street we went.  Most bars had live music and their outdoor speakers competed to see who could be the loudest.  Shades of Summerfest in Milwaukee, the sound levels were overpowering.   Every type of music was represented and the crowds ran from in their 20's to old geezers like me.

The guys also promised me a free pass to one of the whale watching tour boats.  I am looking forward to being out on the water without the obligation of handling the boat.

I ended up in an Irish bar with a four piece band playing Irish music.  At one point they played a song about being a Newfoundlander.  The entire place went nuts singing and dancing alone.  Very cool.

Off to do some minor provisioning today - XO has burned thru a lot of cat food and I am out of coffee.  Planning on a larger provisioning trip after the weekend.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

St. John's Newfoundland

I arrived in St. John's yesterday afternoon.  The entrance is quite narrow protected by granite cliffs on each side.  One in the harbor widens to a long bay.  I am rafted up at the far southern end of the bay.  Would you believe that I am rafted to another Wisconsin sailboat?  Dennis is planning on leaving on Saturday for the Azores.  It really gives me pause, but I don't think I am ready.  We will see if I get crazy or head back down to Florida, Mexico, Belize and Guatamala as I originally planned.

I walked along George Street last night.  For my friends from Key West, it is Duval Street on steroids.  The only things on George Street are bars and clubs.  No shops.  Just bars and clubs.  Of course I went to bed long before the street came alive - I am guessing close to 10 PM or so.

I am looking forward to exploring Newfoundland over the next week or so.  I have done a lot of short stays in various places so that I could get here during the summer season.  So it is time to lay back and enjoy the fruits of my voyaging.

The weather for the past couple of weeks has been rain and fog with occasional sun.  Everything on Reboot is damp.  I ran my cabin heater - recently installed - for about 6 hours this morning in an attempt to dry things out.  It did make some progress at least the main cabin felt dryer.

XO spends most of his awake time in my lap.  With the cold and damp it is nice to have a very warm lump of fur puring away while I read.  I do have to figure out a way to keep him from climbing onto the log or computer or whatever other project I am working on.

I hope to get a shipment of parts that will include a card reader so that I can upload some pictures for you enjoyment.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On the way to St. John's

I left St. Pierre this morning after a delightful two days. This French island is very small making it possible to explore in a short time. I met a professor from Marymount Manhattan College quite by chance. She overheard me saying that I had lived in New York City. It turns out that she lives in Styvasant Town, the same place I lived between the Navy and going to graduate school. It was owned for many years by Metropolitan Life where my father spent his career. Recently it was purchased by Tishman. With the housing crisis it is worth 1/2 of what they paid for it so they simply walked away.
St. Pierre is a storybook place. Most of the homes are brightly painted. It exists as a tourist location. But even that is low key. There are very limited services, a couple of bars, several restaurants, two grocery stores. It was a fun stop.
I am now on my way to St. John's, a trip of about 180 nm. It will take me a couple of days. As I was doing my chart plotting I realized that from St. John's I am only about 1300 nm fro the Azores, about the same distance that a direct voyage would take back to Hampton Roads. It is also about 1,000 nm closer than any departure from the East Coast of the US to Europe. It is making me wonder.
The winds have been light all day making sailing difficult. I have had to motor a couple of times. At least we got some sun. The downside of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland is constant fog and damp. It seems as if the entire boat is drenched in sweat.
Almost ready to turn North and head for St. John's.

Monday, August 9, 2010

St. Pierre - St. John's - Azores?

I left St. Pierre this morning after a delightful two days. This French island is very small making it possible to explore in a short time. I met a professor from Marymount Manhattan College quite by chance. She overheard me saying that I had lived in New York City. It turns out that she lives in Styvasant Town, the same place I lived between the Navy and going to graduate school. It was owned for many years by Metropolitan Life where my father spent his career. Recently it was purchased by Tishman. With the housing crisis it is worth 1/2 of what they paid for it so they simply walked away.

St. Pierre is a storybook place. Most of the homes are brightly painted. It exists as a tourist location. But even that is low key. There are very limited services, a couple of bars, several restaurants, two grocery stores. It was a fun stop.

I am now on my way to St. John's, a trip of about 180 nm. It will take me a couple of days. As I was doing my chart plotting I realized that from St. John's I am only about 1300 nm fro the Azores, about the same distance that a direct voyage would take back to Hampton Roads. It is also about 1,000 nm closer than any departure from the East Coast of the US to Europe. It is making me wonder.

More later.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

In France!

OK, not the one you are thinking of. I am in St. Pierre, an island off the south coast of Newfoundland (N 46 46.6 W 056 10.5). This area (including Nova Scotia) was settled both by the English and the French. Although the Nova Scotians take great pride in their Acadian heritage the truth is that most of the French were deported for their unwillingness to pledge to the English King. However, the French held on to St. Pierre. It is my understanding that the French did not have "colonies", rather their non-European possessions are "departments" of France. So, like Alaska and Hawaii in the United States St. Pierre (and the Ile aux Chevaux next door) have the same representation, laws and rights as if they were a European province in mainland France.

The transit from Port aux Basque, Newfoundland was a 30 hour mixed bag. XO and I left Friday in late afternoon fog expecting it to clear and get warm overnight. We also expected favorable winds. The fog persisted for most of Saturday and the winds were on the bow most of the way. With the waves on the beam this meant a great deal of rocking and rolling. It did not clear until late in the afternoon. As we approached St. Pierre the winds kicked up to 30 knots. I was quite concerned about getting in and setting an anchor. The winds moderated to about 20 knots inside the harbor. I pulled up to the customs dock and was advised to head over to another dock. I tied up with the help of a gentleman from another boat. The customs and immigration people walked down the dock to greet me. As I was checking in XO decided that he needed new friends and started rubbing against the officials demanding attention. He made a very pleasant check in even better.

I am slowly getting more comfortable with Reboot. In the past 30 knot winds on the beam would have made me very nervous. Now it has happened so many times that I just take note of it. On the other hand I don't think I will ever get over the anxiety of being on a lee shore (in this case rock) under power. Every change in engine noise makes me nervous.

I am off to explore this morning. I have been told that the restaurants here are excellent so I am sure I will pig out at least once. I also need to purchase a courtesy flag as I didn't expect to need one for France. St. Pierre seems to have a unique version of the French flag so perhaps I can find one of those.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Port aux Basque, Newfoundland, Canada

I made it to Newfoundland. I am currently on the Southwest coast in Port aux Basque. This is the ferry terminal for the run from Sydney so I got to watch the ferries avoid me all night long. At least up until the last few minutes. At that point in inbound ferry was standing off waiting for the outbound ferry. Needless to say I waited for them both to clear the channel before proceeding in.

Port aux Basque has VTS, that is,Vessel Traffic Services. At 5 miles out I reported in. From that point on not only did they give me traffic advisories but they warned the other traffic of my presence. Not a bad deal.

I was greeted by a local man who waved me into the dock and then helped me with my lines. One problem with coming into new ports is you are never exactly sure where you can tie up. I have learned to tie up and then ask questions since driving around rarely helps one figure out where to go. It took me a minute to realize that my helper was carrying his oxygen bottle around with him. He told me he greets all of the inbound boats. Very cool.

I checked in with the Harbor Master who informed me that my arrival was anticipated and the entire town was throwing a festival in my honor. The beer tent is less than 100 yards away, and the bandstand about 1/4 mile. (Actually I made that up. This is "homecoming" for people who have left Newfoundland. They travel back to visit and the town holds a festival for them.)

The accents here are different than in Nova Scotia and I am having difficulty getting used to them. I wonder if they will change when I get over to the east side of the island.

The weather forecasts here are not very good. I was warned but did not fully appreciate just how much local conditions could vary from the forecast. Last night the forecast was for wind from the South at 15 to 20 knots. I got wind from the nowhere at 0 to 5 knots until I got to Port aux Basque. Then of course it blew at 20 toward the rocky shore I had to get around to get into the port.

Off to explore and find out when the beer tent opens. XO is sleeping off a long night standing watch!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sydney, Nova Scotia

I came into Sydney yesterday morning. That was not the plan. I intended to spend the night in Louisberg, NS. When I arrived around midnight I could not make any sense out of my sight picture and my chart. It appears that they have moved the buoys. This is not unusual as when local conditions change the buoys are changed to keep one safe. In fact as I learned on the Alligator River exit you always follow the buoys, not the chart if you don't want to run aground. I made three approaches to the Louisberg Harbor. It is not a friendly place with rocky shores on either side. After the third attempt I realized that I was not willing to go in any further without daylight. The moon had come up but it was only a half moon in clouds so I didn't get enough light from it either. It was a very quiet night so I considered just dropping the hook. Unfortunately the bottom drops away quite quickly. I was already freaked out by the rocks so even though my radar told me I was well offshore. I decided to just press on.

The problem with pressing on was that my choices were either Canso, another not so friendly port, or to continue on to Glace Bay or Sydney. This added considerable distance to the trip but meant that I would arrive in daylight. Glace Bay has no apparent services based on my charts so I continued on to Sydney. It is a long deep port with a very open entrance channel. In fact there is both commercial traffic and a deep water ferry that runs over to Newfoundland.

Of course the wind was on the nose the entire time. This was primarily because it was very light and the motion of the boat created lots of apparent wind. It was only on passing Glace Bay that I was able to get any drive from the sails. Of course I ran low on fuel. This required me to transfer fuel from the jugs I keep on deck into the fuel tanks.

I anchored out last night as both marinas in town did not have an obvious place to tie up. I decided not to launch the dinghy as I am planning to head for Newfoundland this morning. I did find the Dobson fuel dock but was concerned about getting into it as there was a large fishing boat tied up at one end and rocks at the other. This morning I approached it rigged from the port side (I normally use the starboard as that is the location of the fuel tank fill.) I pulled up alongside the fishing boat and then backed down into the fuel dock only to find that there was adequate room. I went to the marina office. They informed me that the bartenders had the keys to the fuel dock and I would have to wait until dinner for fuel. Of course that was two people being misunderstood in the same language. Dinner in Nova Scotia (and the rest of the civilized world) is what we colonials call "lunch." So I am now waiting at the dock.

Underway

Underway to Beltung. 548 nm. 5 to 6 days or more dependent upon wind. 1 POB + 1 Cat Fair winds and following seas :)