Friday, September 14, 2012

Road trip home

On the ferry from Riviere de Loup to Saint Simmeon

La Baie
Quebec City

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Shediac NB to Halifax NS

Mike joins the trip
August 5.  A short hop to Shediac.  Left early as there were high wind warnings for the afternoon.  SW 10-15 when we left and S 15 - 20 when we arrived.  Point de Chene Yacht club entrance is very narrow, one needs to blast the horn when entering and leaving the club/marina.  Ended up docking on the SW side in a newly constructed area that is part of the marina. Did not know that marina and YC were two different places until we had already booked a spot. As we went to our assigned slip we had to go back out the entrance and around the point into a smaller protected area.  Had to get a bunch of people who were diving off the wharf and swimming to move out of our way so that we could enter, a little tricky with the increased winds. The next day was to be a rain day so we decided not to go anywhere. Turned out to be a nice day so we stay at the Bear's and got to know our hosts better.

sunset in Shediac

leaving Shediac NB
August 7.  The winds were out of the NE @ 10kts when we left at 6:45am and sailed with both main and genoa at an average speed of 5.5kts. Had some current with us as we went under Confederation bridge around 1pm. Then the wind gradually died and sailed with main and motor for the rest of the afternoon. The afternoon and evening was partially cloudy and by around 11pm fog patched started to develop. These patched increased as we watched the ferry heading to PEI gradually disappear into it with its fog horn blasting at regular intervals. During the night the fog was quite thick, could not see a thing, pitch black, rather intimidating. No wind, the sail hung like a wet rag.

the little speck off in the distance is Mike and I sailing along Northumberland Straight's sand dunes

Confederation Bridge in the background

Mike plotting our route

We took turns at the helm, and followed a shift schedule through the night allowing each of us several hours sleep.  During the night in the fog and against the tide we were motoring at an average speed of 3.5kts.  This increased to 4.5 - 5 kts by morning with waves less than 1ft.

early morning fog lifting

We rounded into St. Georges Bay by 7am as the fog started to burn off and then had clear skies for the rest of the day.  Proceeded to the Canso lock and bridge, which is on request, the only link between north and south NS. Stopped in Port Hawksbury for fuel.

Mike had the dock attendant fill the gas tanks while I went to the washrooms, when I came back the jerry cans were full and the attendant hands me the nozzle at which point I realize he is giving me the diesel hose and he had filled the cans with diesel.  Had to have him empty and rinse the cans before refilling them with gasoline.  Good thing we got to the boat in time before he started to fill the tank on the boat.

Left Port Hawksbury by at 1:45 and decided to continue on.  It was sunny and warm and the forecast was one metre waves diminishing to less than one by evening.  Winds were around 10kts from the SW and we were able to motor sail with main only. By 7pm we rounded Canso point on the Atlantic. Skies were still clear and the winds were now out of the SE at 10-15.  With the main only we were averaging 5kts. As we continued on and we got further out the waves increased to 1m rollers with 1m waves on top.  We were no longer able to sail as we were heading more into the wind and ended up motoring through the night. At one point, around 11pm we tried to seek shelter in a place called Fisherman's Bay but decided against it as it was too dark to make out anything and find a safe anchorage. We used the opportunity of the calm waters to add fuel to our tank and then continued on through the night.  The winds and waves did not subside as forecast.  Once the moon came out we had good visibility and no fog as forecast.
arriving in Shoal Bay NS after 60hrs of sailing

By 5am the waves finally subsided to 1ft but the 1m rollers continued.  The morning brought clear skies and light winds, still on our nose, so we continued to motor, averaging 5kt.  A big improvement from the night when with the wind and waves we were able to only manage 2 to 3.5kts.

By noon there was a slight increase in wind but not in a direction that would be of any help. Still on the nose and thereby reducing our speed.  At around 4pm we left the ocean and entered the approach heading to Shoal Bay and tied up @ Carters Point Public Wharf. Tied up for the night for the first time since we left Shediac, 60 hours ago.

Shoal Bay NS

There we met with Catherine who had driven 2hrs plus from the ranch she was staying, bringing us dinner. Though before dinner ended up doing a 40min trip, each way, to the closest gas station for fuel.

Once we were back, had dinner on-board and relaxed, and enjoyed the quiet evening.  Mike plotted a couple of  courses for the next stretch so that we could use  the GPS only if there was fog and either go through the eastern passage if there is visibility or through Halifax harbour entrance if visibility is reduced.
Shoal Bay NS, morning fog
August 10.  6:45 am. Light fog with light winds from the S-SW and calm waters as we pulled away from the wharf.  The fog then thickened and we had to follow the course set out on the GPS.  Mike would blow the fog horn every couple of minutes to alert anyone who might be in our path.  Once out on the ocean there were fog patches and several fog arches.

Fog arches
Eastern Passage
The first time we saw an arch in the fog it was like a gateway and once we were through the sky was clear.  We were able to see a fishing boat and land.  Then another fog arch and back to little to no visibility.  This happened several times until the fog lifted completely around 10am.
Even with the increased winds to almost 10kts we continued to motor since we were again heading directly into it and at this point just wanted to make our next port, the final destination.

As we approached the Eastern Gap we entered another fog patch, luckily it cleared in time so that we could go through the Eastern Gap.  The Eastern Gap is a narrow channel and shallow at one point and would not be possible in the fog.

Easily cleared the gap and made our way to Sheerwater Yacht Club and tied up at a service dock for the night at 5:10 pm.

2581 km or1394 nm and 46 days.  Toronto, ON  to Dartmouth, NS.  Done! Time to celebrate.

Sheerwater YC, Darthmouth NS

Mike and Ashley

Handing over the ship's papers to the new captain of "Woodwind"

"Woodwind" at its mooring in its new harbour

Port Dover, Lake Erie, ON to Dartmouth, NS

Chandler QC to Shediac NB

July 29, Another beautiful day with clear skies.   Left at 6:15am and arrived at 2:40, now in Atlantic time zone. Winds were light, 5 - 10kts and from S - SW, which meant motoring all day as my heading was S - SW.   Headed to Shippagan where I was hoping I would be able to get through the bridge and gully which would split the trip to Escuminac or Miramishi into two manageable days as opposed to one long 18hr day.  We sent an email to Janie and Guillaum of "Terrien2" to see if they are in the NB area.  We had initially met them this past Christmas when we were in Cuba @ Marina Hemingway and they arrived on their Alberg 30 as part of their trip to the Caribbean. Visit their blog @

planning for the next leg of the trip
July 30, Got an email back from Janie to say that they are actually in Shippagan with their boat, which as it turns out I passed on my way in, and that Guillaum would meet us.
We met with Guillaum, who first assured me that the bridge is no problem to get under and if I head through the bridge and gully at least an hour before low tide, I would have no problems.  He showed me which markers to stay clear and what path to take when we went for a car tour of the area.

Two Alberg 30 captains

Lobster dinner in Shippagan
July 31.
Clear skies and light winds started the day.  Left an hour and a half before low tide.  At that time the bridge had a clearance of 47' so no trouble clearing the bridge. The tide against me was running around 3kts making for slow progress through the "Gully" but manageable.  What makes it difficult is where the Gully meets the ocean.  There it can be quite rough when the tide and ocean are in opposition.  There is a reason it is called the "Gully", it is narrow and shallow. At low tide you can see the mud banks on either side.  The depth ranges from 11' to 13' although the shallowest part was once I passed the last marker which is on the ocean, it read 5'.  A big thank you to Guillaum who put me at ease allowing me to travel through the Gully.

Once out on the open the winds gradually increased and started to come from the SE. This was the heading I was going and therefore ended up having to motor again. With the strengthening of the wind came an increase in the wave height, 1-3ft waves.  Tried to pinch and motor sail but ended up having the engine temp rise drastically so I went back to my slow motoring into the wind and waves. Managing a mere 3.5 - 4.5 kts with the higher waves.  Closer to shore the waves would decrease and I could motor sail a bit a 5kts.  Reason for the temperature increase on the engine, the warm waters of the Northhumberland Straight. The water temperature in this region is around 25C in the summer and waves usually are never over 3' thanks to PEI which acts as a giant break wall.

Finally reached the little fishing port of Escuminac @ 6:00pm. Plenty of room to dock as there were few fishing boats, it was in between fishing seasons. Dinner at the wharf dinner, deep fried clams, very good and inexpensive.

low bridge

Shippagan Gully

August 1st. Stayed an extra day in Escuminac as it was a rain day. Breakfast at the dinner, again inexpensive. No facilities at the wharf and poor cell reception, that was the downfall of the area. Went for a drive towards Ricchibucto. Lunch of deep fried clams, then back to the boat and hang out.
Rain day in Escuminac = road trip again

Escuminac tucked away amongst the lobster boats
August 2.  Partly cloudy.  Left @ 8:10. Had to wait a while for the the fog to lift.Winds were light from the SW so had a pleasant sail until I got to the point and has to head SW.  Back to motoring into the waves and wind. Had thought about making it a very short day and putting in at Point Savin fishing harbour but as I was passing the range to enter the harbour the waves subsided.  The skies still looked menacing as thunderstorms were in the forecast, but only ended up with some light rain. Got to Ricchibucto in good time.  The guide book says to pay close attention to the markers, but the harbour is very clearly marked and very easy to follow. Small but friendly marina, with one shower/bathroom. Everything is close by.  Decided to stay an extra night as we were going to meet Janie the next day and we were early in meeting up with Mike in Bouctouche or Shediac. Time to do an oil change. More fried clams and scallops.

preparing dinner

Cottage fest at Roy and Marcie's home in Cocagne

August 3. Stayed in Ricchibucto. No thunderstorms as forecast, instead a nice summer's day.  Oil change in the morning and then met up with Janie and her parents. Quiet evening on board.

August 4. Left early as there were high wind warnings for the afternoon with the possibility of thunderstorms again. Left at 6:45 under clear skies with winds from the NW to NE at around 10kts.  Winds decreased a bit around mid trip and then picked up as I was going to enter the channel leading to the harbour. As with the previous harbour, it is a long winding way in.  The previous harbour had range markers to guide you past the sand dunes and the shallows, this harbour had a narrow, private, staked path that winds its way up the river to marina entrance. A well maintained marina right in the town again. There we met with Mike and followed him to their friends place in Cocagne for "Cottage Fest"

Matane to Chandler

July 22. Left Matane at 5:25am.  The wind has been consistently from a westerly direction, either southwest or northwest' and less than 10kts, enough to fill the sails and combined with the current and tide they help make good progress.  The  waves are on average 1' - 2' unless the tide is against the current then it can become uncomfortable and skies have been a mix of sun and cloud. The average run these last few days has been approximately 40 to 45 nm, an average of 8 hrs on the water.

Today was my first close encounter with a large whale. By close I mean a couple of hundred feet away. What caught my attention was what looked like an explosion in the water.  A short while later another explosion and the whale gently came to the surface and slowly slid back into the water.  I was about the same size as my boat.

whale off in the distance

Catherine with painted driftwood sculpture in St. Anne des Monts
Forecast predicted a front to come through so I decided to stay in St. Anne des Monts.  This was a welcome break as I had been traveling several days in a row without a break.

St. Anne de Monts has some very interesting driftwood sculptures.  Each year they have a competition in creating driftwood sculptures.

On one of the rest days we got to see the first boat of the Transat race go by.  This is an event that takes place every four years.  Boat race from Quebec City to St. Malo, France non stop and round several marks outside of some of the cities along the Gaspé before they head across the Atlantic. Initially the boats were to round the mark at St. Anne des Monts around noon but because the winds died down it was not until much later that the first place boat crossed the path with the bulk of the fleet coming through in the middle of the night and the last two, early in the morning.
driftwood sculpture in Sainte Anne des Monts
Transat race boats enroute from Quebec City to St. Malo France pass by Saint Anne des Monts check point.

Transat race: Quebec to St. Malo
rain day = road trip

The next day was a rain day which meant that I was not going anywhere.  Instead it was a road trip day. I got to experience some of the beautiful countryside from the shore.

2m + following seas and 20-25kt winds

July 25.  Left at 5:35 with winds from the west at 10 - 15kts. A great day for sailing.  What I didn't know was that the forecast changed an hour after I left. Winds ended up being 20 - 25kts and the waves became more than 2 metres.   I started out with the full genoa sail out but found it too powerful  once I was doing more than 9kts with the wind and current. When the waves started to come in over the stern, I reduced the sail somewhat.  I called Catherine wondering if it the conditions were better at the destination to see whether I should find a place for the night earlier.  She assured me that things were fine at the next stop, Riviere de Madeleine and so I continued with my surfing.  It became very tiring trying to control the boat, sail and surf down the waves.  The harbour that I was heading to was not on the charts so based on the instructions in the guide book and instructions from Catherine I headed into the harbour.  A little tricky as the waves as I entered the harbour were on the beam causing the boat to rock violently. Once inside the break wall everything was calm and serene.

I was now at the northern most part of the trip.

Later the day we went for a drive to find a gas station for some fuel. It was at that time that I got a call from my mother with the sad news that my cousin in Italy, Christina, had passed away that day. She had lost her battle with cancer.

I'm the tiny little speck in the distance

Riviere de Madeleine

Riviere des Madeleine, northern most part of the trip
July 26. I was now heading south (actually southeast) looking forward to getting back into summer like conditions that I am used to. It has not been warm enough to wear shorts since I left Quebec City.
Music festival in Riviere au Renard
The regular weather pattern has returned, clear skies, winds <10kts out of the SW shifting to NW and waves less than 1m.  The current was still noticeable providing an extra 1 - 2 kts and the high tidal range was no longer and issue. All of this allowed for a comfortable motor sail with the genoa at an average speed of 7.5kts. This also means I arrive at a destination early enough to enjoy the day ashore as well.  That evening were entertained at the marina of Riviere au Renard with live music.

sailing past Gaspé
July 27.  I was able to leave a little later as the distance for the day was the shortest in a long time, a mere 37nm. Winds were light and constantly changing direction. First NW then W then back to NW and finally to NE allowing very little sailing instead mostly motoring. Early in the morning it became overcast and I was able to watch the rain clouds approach. Rain was light to moderate along the north side of the Gaspé bay and finally cleared up just in time so I would have great photo ops as I sailed past Percé Rock.
Catherine had driven on ahead as usual and secured a spot on the wall at the tiny hamlet of  Anse de Beaufils.  -->

Once there I found out docking is at a first come first served basis and boats are moved around to accommodate as many as possible. Initially we had another Alberg 30 raft next to us, who then moved behind us and then back next to us to make room for two other boats, one of which was quite large and whose owner did not look impressed when another boat that had children and dogs on board raft next to him.

Everyone was charged $1per foot, even boats that rafted, and the harbour was full in the evening. The washrooms/showers were inside the museum/restaurant and were closed overnight.
Percé Rock

Chandler, on the Baie de Chaleur, done with the St. Lawrence
July 28.  Another short day and therefore did not leave until 7:45am.  The skies were clear and the winds were light, 5-10kts from the SW. I no longer had a current to help me move along, speeds would now be much slower.  I ended up motor sailing on a beam reach to Chandler QC on the Baie de Chaleur.  This would the last stop in Quebec.  The next day I would be in New Brunswick.

Again Catherine had arranged a spot for us and as it was early when I arrived we went for a short drive in the afternoon.  Found a florist and arranged to have some flowers sent for Catherine's mother who turned 80.  Once we got back we treated ourselves to some marinated salmon and sangria at the marina. Very tasty.
Marinated salmon and sangria in Chandler