Friday, October 1, 2010

Crossing the Big Water: Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine

October 1, 2010
New Bedford, ME

Waking up in Yarmouth NS the morning after our late night foggy arrival was easy.  Often I find it easy to wake up when some moron is banging on your hull with a log and yelling for all he is worth.

That is how it seemed anyway.  In fact it was the very decent harbour master who had been sent out to our boat by Canadian Customs and Border Protection to demand that we present ourselves for clearing in.  Given that we were Canadian and in Canada and had not left Canada I was inclined to take the offence.  However the harbourmaster was such a nice guy I just could not do it.  I don't know or care what happened to the CBP apes who seem to swarm over the Yarmouth docks but I hope it involved animal fecies.

We arranged with the harbourmaster to move from the mooring ball we had picked up in the rain and the wind and fog the previous night and move to the dock.  Then Peter Loveridge who, with wife Heather, lives just out of Yarmouth called and our day was set.

We shared lunch at Rudder's Seafood restaurant downtown.  I highly recommend the fish and scallop combo.  With chips of course. Afterward Peter drove us to a good fuel station and the grocery and liquor store where we restocked and then it was off to this couple's home for drinks and talk.  Peter showed us the fishing pens where the fishermen keep their boats - 30 to 50 boats in the tiniest little protected harbour you ever saw.

Peter brought out the manuscript for his newly revised Cruising Guide to Nova Scotia - a reem of paper printed both sides with full colour drawings throughout and set it in my lap.

I sat dumb.  What do you say to a guy who has just put 3 years of his life into a work as he hands it to you.  Flipping through the pages and offering "nice work" platitudes seems a bit rude.  Peter had emailed us 3 chapters of his new work as we made our way south along the coast of Nova Scotia and we knew the contents were  not only researched to the millimeter but we had tested several of his recommendation.  The book was solid and Peter and Heather knew it.  In the end we talked about publishing in the small Canadian book market.

We are now on the list for an early copy - No. 1, 2 or 3 I hope of the book, due to issue by year's end.  I want a signed copy of course and an invitation to the launch party.

After checking on Peter's Internet we returned to Meredith about 10:30 p.m. sated: well fed, well watered and very tired. 

Three boats had been at the municipal dock when we tied up in the morning.  They were leaving overnight and asked us to join them.  We had declined their offer to join the group as we did not agree with their timing.  (of course we did not say that to them, pleading exhaustion and overconsumption of alcohol)

Next morning we walked the streets of a closed up downtown Yarmouth, had liesurely breakfast at the waterfront hotel and set off when our tide analysis, backed up by Peter of course, indicated we should. 

Departure was about 9:00 a.m. on Sunday.  The end of the good times.

Weather was forecast  at very light North East wind, running 10 to 15 knots max over part of the morning and then falling to near zero for 2 days.

Instead the wind started at 10 knots south east and built over the day to 15, 20 and ultimately 25 gusting 30.  As the south east wind met the ebbing tide of Fundy the result was holy rollers on a short leash - very tall short frequency confused sea slammers.  Meredith, with 3 reefs in the main and the staysail flying loose was  rocked from gunwale to gunwale.  Every third wave grabbed the stern and just moved the transom wherever it damn well felt like - never the same place twice. 

All was pandemonium, chaos.  In 30 minutes every item on the boat that had not been adequately stowed away was  on the cabin sole either thrown there by the waves or taken down by the Budget Committee and placed on the floor in a desperate bid to anticipate and avoid further damage.

Depending on whether the tide was ebb or flow for the next 30 hours we were in 4 to 5 metre waves or 3 to 4 meter waves with the occasional rogue wave thrown in just for fun. 

At one point the auto pilot lost its hold and the boat swung around as a stern wave grabbed us and moved us out of its way.  The Budget Committee swears she was standing on the walls of Meredith to remain upright.  I was pretty busy trying to shut off the autopilot and regain some measure of control.  We tried everything we knew to ease the motion  of the boat and enjoyed limited success.

Mainly we just rode it out.

We did not  have fun. 

Midday on the second day out the wind died.  On went the Beta.  In came the fog.  Thick, heavy, barely see the bow of the boat fog.  Out came the radar reflector and the fog horn.  At least it was calm.  And quiet.

About 11 p.m. on the second day out we knew we were close to Race Point, the tip of Cape Cod.  On the course we chose it was just at Race Point that we had to cross the Boston Harbour Shipping Lanes.  The damn fog was becoming more than a nuisance.

Taking another of Peter's tips we made a Securite call, announcing our position and intention to cross the shipping lanes and giving an estimate of how long it would take.  All that echoed back to us was fog muffled silence.

We girded ourselves and crossed, every sense tuned and pinging for targets as we did so.  It took about an hour and a quarter.  We survived.

About a half hour after we began crossing the lanes we heard another boater make a securite call, the only radio traffic for the entire trip.  Peter's advice helped keep safe more than one sailor that night.

Our plan called for an original destination of New Bedford MA but we had alternates set for Plymouth, Provincetown and Cape Cod Canal.  As Meredith made her way across the shipping lanes the fog lifted.  The Budget Committee and I discussed our plan and agreed to finish the trip as originally set.

Three a.m. saw us at the Cape Cod Canal which was perfect timing tide wise.  The tide carries along the black, sodium lit canal at 10.5 knots.  That was pretty cool.

Exiting the Canal we ran into the shallow water of Buzzard's Bay and then we found the real waves.  Seems the South East wind had just moved a bit and now rose up to greet us as we entered Buzzard's Bay.

I don't think I have ever done a wheelie in a sailboat before.  The waves were tall, close together and right on the nose.  We tried tacking, slowing down and speeding up.  We did not turn back.  It was bearable.  We watched the chart closely for the promised deeper water and in about 30 minutes found it and sanctuary.

The rest of the trip was a no brainer.

Which was about all the brain the Budget Committee and I could muster  between us.

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