Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In the Bottom One Percent

2010 09 29
New Bedford, Mass

Cruising Nova Scotia Style

Schluss, thud.  Schluss, thud.  Schluss, thud.  Meredith's clipper bow cut through the 2 metre swell of the North Atlantic with the regularity of a swiss watch.  We were part of a ballet, a pas de deux, starring boat and ocean, precisely choreographed and gently syncopated.

It was a glorious playing out of what had been an inglorious escape from Halifax. 

After a successful 2 week furlough in London, Ontario to visit family and friends we knew we were cutting things close for sailing out of Nova Scotia.  September is not a sailing month out here, not even the glorious September that this city has enjoyed this year (discounting Hurricane Earl of course).

Our arrival at the yacht club in Halifax on September 21 was ill timed.  We "forgot" there was an hour time difference.  The Atlas misreported the distance from Moncton to Halifax as 178 km while it is really 278.  Rand McNally is hearing about that one.  We arrived in Halifax during rush hour.  The car rental clerk was working alone and could not drive us back to the marina.  We got lost.

If I believed in auguries...

Arriving at Armdale Yacht Club we loaded up the tender with baggage and groceries to be ferried out to Meredith.  The usually taciturn tender operator was unusually talkative.  Almost effusive.  He offered the observation that we were the first people to use the tender in 2 days.  He did not expect to be piloting the tender at all for the rest of the week.

His loquaciousness knew no bounds.  Several boats were being hauled out at that very moment he informed us.  In the local way that prompts blunt talk to be clothed in light disguise it was proferred that it was possible we were viewed by the yacht club members as a bit odd.   No one cruised NOW.

Intending to head out next day making for Shelburne from Halifax we spent the day aboard doing nothing as wind howled out of the Southwest at 25 knots and waves were 2 to 3 metres.  Right on the nose.  It was a bleak day.  The wind seemed to echo the tender operator's words: No one sails NOW.

On the 22nd September we found ourselves away.  Dressed like Scott of the Antarctic perhaps but underway.

Two hours out the wind died to 5 knots leaving just its waves to remind us of its presence.  As we have done so often since Montreal we turned to the Beta and sought its reliable aid.  At 2:00 a.m. we numbly pulled into Shelburne, in the dark under a glorious full moon.

We picked up a mooring ball in the dark and quit for the day.   Tomorrow we knew we could sleep in: the fuel dock in Shelburne does not open until 9:00 a.m. ADT which is 8:00 a.m. on our clocks.  Still this was a 2 hours reprieve.

Our plan from Shelburne was to make directly for Cape Cod Bay crossing both the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine in a single 220 nm leg.  The morning weather report scuttled that.  Winds out of the South blowing to 20 and more.

There is a huge tide in the Bay of Fundy which a South or South East wind will quickly render uncomfortable and all too soon dangerous.    Coast Guard operates a life boat out of Clarke's Harbour on Cape Sable Island right at the southern tip of NS just to account for such situations.

Our plans needed a change.  
While in Shelburne we found two other cruising sailboats eager to  get underway.  

We are reliably informed that somewhere around 300 to 400 boats visit Nova Scotia each year. 

So we were one of three boats left in the province.  Out of 400.  

Talk about bottomfish.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meredith in Halifax, Crew in Portsmouth NH well Maine actually. It's quite confusing.

We set off this morning at 10 a.m.  after 2 glorious weeks with the family and friends in London Ontario. 

Portsmouth NH was as far as we got.

This is for the kids.  So they will know we are ok.  We are staying at the Blue Roof Inn. 

Who knows.  Maybe it is. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Videos and Such

2010 09 05
Armdale Yacht Club, Halifax, NS

In this clip, taken at 11:00 a.m. ADT, the wind is clocking about 45 knots on the deck by a hand anemometer.  It maxed out later at 56 somewhere around noon.  The force of the wind at 56 knots is 55% stronger than it is at 45 knots.  

For those of you who doubt that the increase in wind force is the square of the increase in wind speed I enclose a clip taken at 9:00 a.m. ADT when the wind was running 35 to 40 knots.


2010 09 05
Armdale Yacht Club, Northwest Arm, Halifax, NS

As a concept "Hungover" most accurately describes our condition this morning.  But only if you have passed middle age and know what a hangover is really all about.

Perhaps "numb" applies.  The Budget Committee was heard to remark that it did not feel very special to have survived the Hurricane; that she felt that nothing had really happened.  Hers was the best description.  I have no memory of the event.  When asked about the day my brain just skips over the events of the past 24 hours; all my synapses will produce is a very brief video of wind blown rain.  It is as if it did not happen.

An interesting effect.

We viewed a video taken from the cockpit of Meredith about 11:00 a.m.  I took the video.  But when I watched it there was no recognition of theimages, no sense that I was there, that this was my boat.  The video just does not register with me.


Hydro was out at the Yacht Club yesterday, as well as 60,000 other places in Nova Scotia.  Even after the storm died out the tender was not running and we were left stranded aboard Meredith until this morning.

Today we put the boat back together, came ashore, showered, enjoyed the breakfast buffet and discussed our plans.  We agreed we wanted to spend the day apart.  There is nothing to share between us. Today we are uncomfortable in each other's company, tense, uneasy.  Connie is wandering around a mall somewhere.  I am aimlessly putting flesh to keyboard and joining random conversations in the Yacht Club Bar.

It is a nice quiet day.


The Hollow Men Battle the End of the World

2010 09 05 - The Day After
Halifax, NS

The sound and fury are past and all is well on Meredith and almost all the other boats on the east coast.  One man decided to swim after his boat when it slipped its mooring.  He drowned.

The Safety Idiots at the Power Squadron and the Coast Guard will be very impressed.  He was wearing his lifejacket.

Before it hit land Earl changed course and rather than track up the Bay of Fundy it tracked the East Coast of Nova Scotia - exactly where we had sought refuge.

Winds hit a maximum of 56 knots on deck and apparently hit 65 knots at the masthead.  We were able to leave the companionway hatch open as the rain was literally horizontal.  Nothing came in the open hatch.  Here  is a stream of consciousness recording as the day unfolded aboard Meredith. 

7:00 a.m. ADT

To bed last night the Canadian Hurricane Centre informed us the track of Hurricane Earl was locked in and that the storm centre would glance off Yarmouth and proceed up the Bay of Fundy. 
Sitting as we were on a mooring in Halifax this was good news.  Less storm for us but of course more for others.  Overnight the fickle bastard named Earl changed its mind and we woke to fresh reports on CBC of the storm hitting land at Lunenburg, only a few miles south of us.  Public radio can be a real drag.

Yesterday had been spent tearing Meredith down, removing anything that would give us a bigger profile in the wind, anything that might blow off.  Tying down the bits we could not remove.

The genoa was taken down and bagged.  The dodger and bimini, solar panels, all steel superstructure were dismantled and stored below.  The man overboard pole, lifering, lifesling, and BBQ were taken off the pushpit.  Fenders were stowed out of the wind.  Anything that could catch wind disappeared from the deck.

Articles that could not be stored or removed were tied down: the mainsail was wrapped in line, the halyard for the main boom was doubled up, the staysail boom was dropped to the deck and tied securely. Jerry jugs with diesel and gasoline were tied to the fender boards which were themselves securely wedged in the rigging.  Dinghy was tied to handholds with multiple lines.

A longer bridle was secured to our mooring ball.  In hurricanes a real risk is that water will be blown into an inlet such as the Northwest Arm where we are moored.  The result is water that piles up and that  can be 10 or 20 feet deeper than normal.  If you have only a normal bridle in place you could find your bow 20 feet under water when the surge hits.  We rigged longer lines around the existing lines.  If circumstances required we could simply cut the existing bridles and our new longer bridles would allow the bow to float freely.

It was our decision to remain on Meredith through the storm.  This can be argued but when made it appeared a sure bet that Earl would pass well to the west of us and wind effects would be well within manageable limits. 

Friends had written during the day yesterday to suggest extra precautions and put forward ideas based on their experiences.  Every idea has been discussed in detail and adapted to our boat and state of preparedness.

8 a.m. ADT

CBC, source of all our bad news, was interviewing PEI potato farmers worried about damage to their crops.  Excuse me, don,t potatoes live underground.  They are already in their bunkers.

9:30 a.m. ADT

Rain has started.  Wind is gusty running off a 40 knot base.  Hurricane is not expected to land until noon now.  Conditions are tolerable and mirror our past experience.

Point of landing for Earl has changed from south of Lunenburg to somewhere between Lunenburg and Halifax.

We just heard on radio from a guy out of Goderich on a motor sailor named Annandale.  He is holed up somewhere on 200 feet of chain and cannot possibly be as calm as his email attempts to portray.
The CBC radio interviewees are growing increasingly strident.  Tension is mounting amongst the land dwellers.

A lobster boat just motored by from checking his traps.

10:00 a.m. ADT

Wind is growing and shifting direction. Rain is steady and not quite horizontal yet.  That will come.

Dartmouth Farmer’s Market, right beside Halifax, calls the CBC to complain that they are open and no one is coming. 

Some chicken farmer called in to say his chickens are not trying to get out of their coop this morning.  Usually he tells us his chickens are very eager to get free.  Somehow this guy thinks the actions of his chickens portends a storm on its way.  Perceptive chickens.  The chicken farmer not so much.

10:15 a.m. ADT

Wind unpleasant.  Boat motion unpleasant.  Crew at Defcon 3.  Boat heeling unexpectedly.  We are on a mooring and should be swinging to face the wind not presenting beam to.  Not bad enough for me to check yet.  I am thinking those chickens didn't have to be that smart not to want to go outside.

10:20 a.m. ADT

We have turned the radio off. 

Boats talk to you, if you listen.  Each creak, each thump, each critch, each tremor tells you something about your boat’s health.  The tense voices of the suburbanites calling in to CBC are drowning out that of Meredith.

Meredith wins and we shut out the voices of bored suburbia. 

There is an immediate calming effect.

10:40 a.m. ADT

Incessant and irregular pounding on deck.  A sound not heard before.  On deck the rain as now pretty much horizontal.  Thank goodness for the large lens on my eyewear.  The pounding is the furling swivel which we have neglected to tie down.  The swivel is sliding up and down the forestay foil with all the force of a pile driver. 

The Budget Committee had prepared a kit of small stuff, short lengths of line, at the ready for just such situations.  She got a line and turtled out the companionway to hand it to me.  The swivel was easily secured.

On my last excursion on deck I thought we had been out in conditions similar to those I found.  I am not so sure anymore.

The Budget Committee was wearing a white T Shirt when she emerged briefly from the companionway to hand me line.  She was soaked to the skin.  I noticed appreciatively.

11:00 a.m. ADT

Visibility is down, rain is horizontal.

Despite the boat being buffeted mightily we are adapting to the ebb and flow of the wind and waves.  We are quite a bit more at comfort than an hour ago despite intensifying conditions.  Not having the radio on helps.

At this point not knowing is helping. Our survival plan stands on a tripod of preparedness, state of readiness and willingness to act.  Of the three only the final leg has not been tested.  We will see. 

Here we sit, hollow men on a ship of fools, contemplating the arrival of the worst of Earl.

11:15 a.m. ADT

Sending text messages to the kids so they can stay informed and will know at least that our thumbs still work.  One child is in Cuba and the other two are likely sleeping. 

The Wind is beginning to hold my full time attention.  Rain has stopped.   Barometer has fallen from 1010 mb last night at bedtime to 980 - 981 at 11 a.m. Make that a 30 mb drop in 12 hours. We have never witnessed that before.

The Budget Committee and I agree that it is unnerving to have other small boats moored nearby. Lacking Meredith’s inertia these light vessels are being thrown around quite dramatically and as their masts whip by the portholes they seem parlously close.

12:30 p.m. ADT

It is done.  We are in the eye and must but exit the storm in conditions less demanding than encountered at the entrance.

The mighty hurricane has been naught but a bunch of wind and at that not terribly uncomfortable and never terrifying.  

We will dine ashore tonight at the yacht club.  If someone prints a t shirt we will not likely buy one.  Earl has been a fraud. 


Is That All There is?  Is That ALL There is?
 If that's all there is 
Then Let's Keep Dancing                                                                                          
Let's Break Out the Booze and Have a Ball

 Peggy Lee

This is the way the world ends        
This is the way the world ends    
This is the way the world ends     
Not with a bang but a whimper. 

TS Elliot, The Hollow Men                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Thursday, September 2, 2010


2010 09 02
Halifax Nova Scotia

Meredith is in Halifax waiting out the passage of Earl.  We had been out of touch with society for several days as we sailed bits of the Bras d'Or lakes and the Eastern Shore.  No cell phone, no internet, no people.

Yesterday morning we got the first mention of winds forecast at 50 knots gusting 60.  The forecast is a bit higher today.  The marine broadcast dealt exclusively with the diminishing threat from Danielle.  No mention of Earl.

Anyway we heard the word yesterday, pounded all day into 25 knot winds and big choppy waves to get to Halifax.  We are esconced in the Northwest Arm on a mooring ball at Armdale Yacht Club.

We expect to spend tomorrow tying stuff down, removing sail and superstructure to reduce our windage.  Not much we can do about surge except ride it out.  At least the storm, forecast to hit about 7 a.m. Saturday morning (Atlantic time) begins at low tide.  Surge on top of tide can do odd and unfortunate things.

As between being at a dock or on a mooring ball we are unsure.  Docks are too often the cause of damage and reduce the options for a crew to take action.  Once you are tied down you are committed.  The far end of the Northwest Arm looks to be as protected a place as we are likely to find.

We are unlikely to post anything further until post storm.  We have a lot of work to do and the wireless does not reach our mooring.

Thanks to all who have voiced concern.  All that can be done has been or will be.

Another adventure awaits.