Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Transit from Brooklyn Nova Scotia to Providencetown, MA

XO and I left the Dodgers (actually they left me and went to LA when I was still quite young) in Brooklyn in the company of three other boats: HOBO II, H2OBO (Water Hobo) and EXCALIBUR.  The plan was to go direct to Nantucket Island.  We of course knew that if the winds were unfavoable we could hit the USA anywhere from Grand Manan (an island still in Canada) all the way along the Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts coast.
Our first event was Bob on Excalibur lost his engine.  He changed the filters out and got it restarted but believed that he had water in his fuel and was concerned about continuing.  He decided to turn back to Brooklyn.  This was a particularly hard knock as Bob had been in Brooklyn for over a month trying to get things sorted out and was delighted to actually be back underway.  It reminded me of my frustration over getting my outboard motor fixed which essentially kept me in Key West for the entirety of last winter.  We have dropped him an email but have not heard back yet how things worked out.
As our group proceeded down past Cape Sable Island we got a wind shift and some higher seas.  We decided that we would proceed up to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and take refuge until the winds calmed and shifted back in a favorable direction.  This was not an inconsequential detour (about 50 NM when all is said and done) but we all agreed that we had made the correct decision.  We stayed in Yarmouth for about 36 hours.  Our plan was to depart at midnight to take advantage of the favorable tides and wind shift.
Symmetry is a wonderful thing.  It can bring joy to the eye.  That is why, when the clock struck midnight, the fog was as thick as pea soup.  (You may remember that when I came into Canada at Yarmouth the fog was as thick as pea soup!)
While in Yarmouth the s/v Meridith arrived.  I had met Connie and Bob at the St. Mary's Thanksgiving Gam last year.  They were also on their way back to the States.  We discussed their participation in our group but they decided not to leave with us at midnight.  They were headed for Plymouth (they knew what we did not, which is the ports of entry into the United States!)
Once out we were hit by tide rips.  Al thought we expected it to be lumpy it is never fun.  The further we got from the Nova Scotia coast the more the waves converted into longer period rollers.  After about a day on a beam reach, broad reach, and run we got the call from Hobo II that set us all on edge.  Jim, who was single handing, reported that his autopilot had failed.  He declared that he was going to head for Gloucester, MA.  We had already decided that we would head for Cape Cod to position ourselves better for the next leg so this was a diversion North about 75 miles.  Apparently, since the distances were about the same, Jim felt that the autopilot or the boat could hold a better course to Gloucester.  It is a very strange and scary experience to watch another boat in your company disappear off the AIS and then off the radar and be GONE!  We still had over 100 Nm to sail so we sailed on.
We arrived in Providencetown, MA in the early evening.  High on the list of things I hate is getting into a new port after dark.  US ports are well marked and the charts are very accurate but it is still a nail biting experience.  Since I had lost my boat hook overboard during the transit from St. Pierre to Halifax I was not really big on trying to pick up a mooring by myself in the dark.  So I called in to find out the slip rates.  - /RANT ON I am not even going to try to tell you the ways that the Providence Marina fails at life.  They quoted me a rate over the radio.  The next morning they told me that actual rate was three times the amount.  They have internet.  It took 12 hours for them to enter my MAC address so that I could use it.  Then I went to take a shower.  The showers require you to purchase tokens to use.  I was surprised that the toilets were not pay toilets.  I will never, ever, come to this place again. /RANT OFF.
When I arrived I called Customs and Immigration.  Guess what, Providencetown is not a port of entry.  So I could not check in (nor could H2OBO.  The good news is that the C&I officer accepted that we had the "right to innocent transit" since we had come into port to avoid bad weather.  We could come into port, but we could not leave our boats until we had voyaged to a port of entry and been checked in.  So I spent the day on board, and Bronco and Maggie spent the day on a mooring ball.
Just before leaving Brooklyn my inverter went nuts.  It drew the batteries down to about 25% power in about 30 seconds.  So I spent the day debugging.  What I found was a lot of arced wires.  I decided that I could no longer trust the inverter so I removed it from Reboot.  Since I was already in a bad mood from my experiences with /RANT ON the f.....ing useless marina /RANT OFF the fact that I was going to have to drop a big dime on a new charger inverter didn't go over well. On top of that my fresh water supply pump has not worked (I am waiting for a replacement to be shipped) so I was in a foul mood.
The good news is that the weather has been warm.  For the first time in about 1 1/2 months I am actually sitting in shorts and not freezing.  XO got to sit out in the sun and bake.
Tomorrow I hit the fuel dock at 8 AM for the transit to Groton CT and the Navy Sub Base.  I talked to Squeak on POW-MIA and he is going to try and make it to Long Island Sound to hook up.  And, after not hearing anything from Jim on Hobo II I asked my friends at the Maritime Mobile Service Net to see if he had made it into port successfully.  They contacted both the Canadian and US SAR Coordination Centers and finally located Jim safe in port.
So as I sip my small glass of Oban scotch and prepare for tomorrows departure I am content to know that we are all safe.  Life is good.
Good night.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brooklyn Yacht Club Cruisers' Dinner

Many times in my experience when stopping in a yacht club one becomes yet another boat at the dock.  After paying whatever fees and getting fuel etc. you just become another person passing thru.  This has not been my experience in Brooklyn.  This is a yacht club of the old tradition.  I (and HOBO and H2OBO have been adopted by the club.  We have been run into town for food.  Today all of us ( and EXCALIBUR) were run into town so we could use the laundromat before our planned departure tomorrow. But last night was the ultimate experience.   Wayne ("I'm just a cook - see Assault on a Queen) from the club asked us if we would like a special dinner.  We all said yes.  So last night we had steak, scallops, potatoes, and lots of wine, beer, alcohol, and great company.  What a terrific evening of cruiser comradary..  I know that if I am up this way again I will clearly stop here again.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dodging the bullet

When I was in St. Pierre one of the other cruising boats was Veleda IV.  Judy and Aubry were great friends.  We did the trip to Longlade and Miquelon together.  We also did a lot of cruising things - like heading to the store food shopping and so forth.  Judy was the person who gave me my tutorial on using my Sailrite sewing machine.

Veleda IV left about 6 hours before me on its way across the Cabot Straight to Sydney.  You may remember that when I left St. Pierre I had to turn north to avoid heavy seas and went the entire way around Longlade and Miquelon to avoid the bad weather.  I then turned south because the forecast for the Cabot Straight and Banquereau was getting very ugly.  I then ran south for 24 hours to avoid the weather.  Even so it was not fun.  (Of course the next day I was becalmed - that's sailing!)

I received an email yesterday from Judy and Aubry.  It starts with "in our 9 years of cruising..."  I read on, expecting the worst.  Net of the story: they saw 40+ knot winds in high breaking seas.  Their dinghy brackets failed.  They continued to tow the dinghy but the outboard went into the water.  The outboard and dinghy brackets banging against the stern of Veleda IV damaged the stern.  And of course they were both seasick.  The good news is that they got into Sydney harbor without personal injury and are safe.  They are now waiting for an assessment of the damage and repairs.

My lesson from this is that no matter how long one has been cruising bad things can still happen and one has to be both prepared and take prudent steps to avoid unnecessary risk.  I was frustrated at being stuck in St. Pierre waiting out hurricane Earl.  With 12 hours of leaving I knew I should have waited.  Within three hours I considered and rejected going back into port - going back in was really the correct decision.  I had a very uncomfortable 24 hours of sailing but came thru without damage.  I consider myself very lucky.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Waiting out Igor

What could be a better name for a Himmicane than Igor?  Once again XO and I are sitting in port hoping that we will not see any real problems as Igor passes.  Even after Igor clears out we then have to deal with another set of winter gales to get out of Nova Soctia.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Winter Gales

I am in Liverpool/Brooklyn Nova Scotia waiting out yet another forecast gale. It is really quite amazing. The wind today was almost non-existent. The forecast for tomorrow is once again light winds but the waves are kicking up from Igor - forecast to be 10 to 12 feet. Then on Monday winds building to 35 knots, Tuesday diminishing to 20 knots, and Wednesday increasing back to 25 knots from the Southwest (which is of course the exact direction that I am trying to go. When I wake up tomorrow morning the forecast could have changed completely. This is because the weather up here is very unpredictable. The combination of the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current really stirs things up.

I have been joined by two other (Canadian) boats - HOBO II and H2OBO (Water Hobo.) We are all trying to get South, HOBO II to Panama, H2OBO to the Bahamas. Just at dusk another boat pulled in - 4 guys on their way to the Virgins. Have not really gotten to know them yet, we will see if they join our happy band.

More of the stories of my transits from hell over the next couple of days.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Current Position

At 11:58 AM on 9/14/2010 Reboot (and I) were at 44°36.91'N 062°08.50'W
heading 256T at 3.4.
Heading for Halifax for fuel and update on weather.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I am departing St. Pierre at about 1300 UTC heading back toward the East coast of the US.  Will keep you posted on my progress

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Worse than Earl

Those of you who follow my blog may remember my trepidation waiting for Hurricane Earl to hit.  I, and the other cruisers here in St. Pierre nervously watched the hurricane track forecasts each day and made plans for the worst.  Well, it missed, but we still saw some strong winds.

Today however, Reboot is being hit by winds stronger than we encountered when Earl passed Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.  The highest wind gust reported so far is 46 knots.  The difference for me is that Reboot is now on the windward side of the dock, not the lee side.  I have already had two fenders blow out and the winds are predicted to continue at this level for another few hours.

I found the margarita mix and the tequila so it can't be all bad.

And the winds came

The problem with weather forecasts is that they can be right.  Last night I was sitting on the dock in dead calm with gale warnings forecast.  Today the winds hit.  Unlike Earl when I was on the lee of the dock I am now on the windward side.  It is also a spring tide so the water level is almost at the top of the dock.  Reboot is being pushed hard against the fenders.  One of the now lee side cruisers lent me two big ball fenders and that is helping a lot.  A wind shift is predicted that will put the wind more on the bow but it is still several hours away.
In the meantime I am just sitting out the discomfort.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dead calm

I am sitting on the doc\k at St. Pierre and it is dead calm.  The water is like glass and the wind is non-existent. The forecast is still for gales tomorrow morning and in fact the clouds are coming in but it seems so unlikely at the moment..

My neighbor Judy taught me how to use my sewing machine.  I have now started to repair the various panels of the dodger where the stitching has worn out.  It lacks that totally professional look but it is not longer falling apart.  I did not take the big center section down.  It needs both zippers repaired and a lot of other stitching.  I will do that when I get to a warmer place.  It requires disconnecting all of the sheets and halyards that run back to the cockpit and I decided to work on other projects.

I got the water maker reinstalled today but can't test it as this harbor is full of crud.  So when I get offshore I will start running it on a daily basis again.

This afternoon I took everything out of the back stateroom for the first time in over a year.  This is like cleaning your basement or garage.  Am I bored?  You bet I am.

More tomorrow, as I will not depart until Friday.

Up East

The title is a play on the expression "Down East" for the New Hampshire and Maine coastline.  They are "down east" because the prevailing winds making sailing these coastlines down wind.  Down wind, the wind coming from the stern of the boat, is the most comfortable way to sail, particularly if the waves are running in the same direction.  Since we are talking prevailing winds the waves do in fact usually also come from behind.

The unfortunate part of going "Down East" is that sooner or later most of us have to go back "up east."  We describe this as a "slog."  I am still in St. Pierre waiting to start my slog back up east.  The problem is that the weather is not cooperating.  There are two problems:  The winds are quite strong, and (you guessed it) they are pretty much from the wrong direction.  I can't do much about the second problem - hence the slog, but the first is keeping me in port.  It helps to understand relative wind.  Now, lets say that the wind is blowing at 15 knots.  This is not a real big deal for Reboot.  If I am going downwind the actual wind that I see is the true wind speed less the speed of the boat.  So, at 6 knots of boat speed (a comfortable cruising speed) the wind is coming across the deck at 9 knots.  We use lots of sail area.  On the other hand if Reboot is heading upwind at a 45 degree angle (a good upwind point in the open ocean) then the wind is coming across the deck at (.707 * 6) + 15 knots (remember the 45 degree angle) or an effective wind speed of 19.2 knots - quite a difference in sail trim.  By the way, it makes no sense to point up higher in the ocean since the autopilot can't react fast enough to keep the boat out of irons when it gets hit by 4 to 6 foot waves.  I am still in St. Pierre because the forecast is for 30 gusting to 45.  So gusts of 45 heading "uphill" are more like gusts of 50+.     Not a fun time.  An ideal wind speed for going upwind would be about 10 to 15.  The forecast says I might just get that on Friday or Saturday.  In the meantime here I am.

I went shopping yesterday.  It was quite revealing.  If you live anywhere in the US you expect that your local store will always have enough of everything you need.  Not so here.  After I took 24 cans of diet Pepsi they were out of stock.  The situation was similar with other items.  The variety offered was quite good, the stock levels were just thiner than I anticipated.  I am sure that as I move on to less wealthy countries I will find this experience even more commonplace.

I spent some of this morning trying to figure out the relationship between Picasa 3 and Picasa web albums.  Major fail!  Well, I will have lots of time in the future to continue to work it out.

I received some questions about the AIS map.  When I am in port there is no reason to run the AIS system.  Apparently the web site does not remember my last location but rather just puts up a random chart.  So, no, I did not teleport to the Far East. LOL.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Earl peaked at 41.7 knots

All of us in St. Pierre are glad last night is over.  Earl tracked north of us but we still got a bit of a blow.  Winds were continuous in the 35 knot range all night.  The peak reading recorded was 41.7 knots or about 48 mph.  I was fortunate in two ways:  the boat was on the lee side of a large dock that broke a lot of the wind and chop and the tide went down as the evening progressed so that at peak wind the deck of Reboot was actually below the level of the dock.  That did not prevent the wind on the mast and boom and jib from bouncing me around a lot.  About 2AM I set the anchor drag alarm and went to bed.  (The theory behind the anchor drag alarms was that if I broke free of the dock my position would change and the alarm would go off.)

This morning it is clear - except for the fog at the harbor entrance.  I never realized you could have fog in 25 knot winds but as the locals say "welcome to the Maritimes." Wave reports are still pretty ugly but I had already expected to hunker down today and set sail tomorrow morning.  The wind is still whistling through the rigging of all the boats here, it should be Halloween night!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Waiting for Earl

Doubled up - extra dock lines
Battened down
Main off
Extra lines over solar panel array
Cat in Lap
Waiting for Earl

AIS Live Tracking

I have mentioned the automatic information system (AIS) before.  A fairly new innovation in shipping AIS consists of a transmitter and receiver that sends digital data via short range (VHF) radio.  Each equipped ship (like Reboot) broadcasts an identification number (Reboot's maritime mobile service identity {MMSI}is 366958630), course, speed, heading, and type of boat.  Class "A" - commercial - ships also broadcast additional information.such as their next destination.  The receiver decodes the digital data and places icons on the chart plotter showing where the other ships are in real time.  This is very handy, particularly when it is raining hard as radar becomes quite useless.

Watching "live" ship tracks has become for some a hobby like watching flight data from airplanes. Clicking on this posts link will take you to Marine Traffic (Live AIS), a site that displays live AIS data from ships all over the world.  I have added a box to my blog so that you can see Reboot in relation to both my current geographic location and other ships in the vicinity.  I will leave it up top for a while and then perhaps move it to the bottom of the blog when I get a new cute picture of XO.

A couple of things to know about AIS:
1.  It is short range.  If I get very far out into the ocean I am going to disappear off the chart.
2.  Not every boat carries AIS.  In particular fishing vessels and tugs don't seem to show up very much.  Military vessels are also frequently missing from the charts.
3.  In some parts of the world -for example Singapore - AIS is required on every vessel.
4.  The network of shore based receivers is like many things internet voluntary.  So coverage is based on who felt like setting up a receive site.  It works kind of like the weather underground.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Small (cruising) world

Today a new Canadian boat came into St. Pierre.  Originally out of Toronto, Aubrey & Judy have been cruising for 11 years.  I went over for the requisite "sundowner" and we talked about future plans.  Well, first we talked about Earl, but everyone here talks first about Earl.  Imagine my surprise to find that Veleda IV is planning the same trip as Reboot, that is down the East coast of the US, Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.  In fact their plan is to leave the boat in the Rio Dulce in Guatemala for the summer.

Tomorrow I plan on visiting the other two French islands the archipelago:  Miquelon and Langlade.  These islands are connect by an isthmus.  I am taking a tour boat/bus so I will not have to worry about getting around.  I will get some pictures and post them tomorrow night.

Tracking Earl - Worrying about friends

It is both interesting and frightening to track the course of hurricane Earl.  The marine forecasts still say "the track is too uncertain to predict marine weather."  As I watch three or four times per day I continue to find pre-hurricane tasks to add to my list:  take down the jib, take down the dodger, reinforce the brackets for the solar panels (or do I take them down.)  Today I realized that the track is very close to New Bern, NC where several of my friends have elected to live on their boat for the summer.  All indications are that they will be hit far harder than St.Pierre so my thoughts and prayers go out to them.