Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shediac to Halifax - The Ocean at Last!!!

We had just finished reefing the headsail in a 26 knot wind the other day, when Pat turned to me and said “we’re getting pretty good at this”. That simple statement from a lady whom you all know as being gentle and modest, really encapsulated our personal growth thus far. The cruising books, seminars, and magazines provide knowledge, but in the end the only thing that really counts is getting started and doing something…. anything! The confidence comes from the figuring out process, not just from the end result.

We were crossing the Northumberland Strait from Charlottetown to Ballantynes Cove N.S., not a particularly interesting trip because it was a 65 mile run which was too far offshore to really see anything, but far enough offshore to get the winds and waves of the southern reaches of the Gulf Magdalene. In the past, a trip of 65 miles would have been a major endeavour requiring days, if not weeks of preparations. Moreover the strong winds advisory which forecast winds of 20-25 knots with gusts to 30 would certainly have kept us tied to the dock. Yet here we were, surrounded by water, motor sailing on a run with a full 155 headsail. The furling of the head sail down to a more manageable size was a non-event. The true accomplishment was getting to the point where it was a non-event.

When we turned the corner into the ocean at Canso NS we went from reaching and running to hard core beating. To make matters a little worse, there are not very many viable ports on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, so we had to stretch our legs somewhat and make longer trips than we would normally have chosen to take. The water is a different colour here, and most interestingly it sounds different. In Lake Ontario, you can judge your boat speed, by the gurgling of the water against the hull. In the ocean, the water does not gurgle, it hisses and foams. Previously sea foam green was the colour of a paint chip, but this week, I know that it is actually the colour of the wake of a sailboat in the ocean. The paint designers must be sailors!

We had left Canso early to make the hop to Liscombe about 70 miles away. Since this was our third day out from the relatively civilized confines of Charlottetown, I was in desperate need of a shower. The fishing ports we had been using were not exactly marina grade and so it came to pass that I got up the nerve to take my first shower at sea.

The sails were set for a close haul in about 15 knots and the motor was also running in order to make decent speed over the bottom. With all sources of power, we were only making about 6.5 knots against the current. Everything seemed stable, so the itchiness of my scalp, urged me to take the plunge so to speak and head for the shower. As you may recall, Threepenny Opera had a very nice shower compartment in the very bow of the boat. You may also recall that I am blind as a bat without my glasses on, so once I got into the shower, I was pretty much doing everything by touch….to bad I was alone.

When wet gel coat, is covered with shampoo, it produces a totally frictionless surface, so I suddenly found myself bouncing around in the forepeak, stark naked, soaking wet and desperately trying to find some position stable enough to both enjoy the relief from the stinging hot water and to scrape off 3 days worth of sea grime from my person. It seemed pretty easy when I got in, but once my glasses came off and the water went on, I became an oyster sloshing around in the shell.

After I finally dried off and got dressed. I went back into the cockpit and found Pat straddling the winch and grinding in a few last turns. The incline-o-meter showed we were at 25 degrees of heel, and in the few minutes that elapsed during my shower the wind had veered forward even more and increased to 20 knots. What a difference a little experience makes! In the past, the mainsheet would have been out of its clutch and the screams of reef, reef, reef would have been rising! Instead here was Pat trying to eke out the last possible bit of drive from the shifting winds so we could keep our plans intact.

My theory is that the 1500 miles we have covered thus far have been just the ticket to building our skills and confidence gradually. Many people were surprised to hear that we were planning to descend the St. Lawrence and go around the Atlantic Coast instead of the usual snowbird route of the Erie Canal to New York City. I could tell by some of the polite murmurs that many people thought we were either swashbucklers or crazy to follow such an ambitious route. I am almost certain that if we had used the canal route, our first ocean experiences would have been much ruder and certainly less comfortable

We are in Halifax this weekend after covering over 75 miles of windward beating yesterday. It is our intention to hide from Hurricane Kyle by taking the weekend off and maybe even seeing a movie! Hope you guys have a great week, I know we will.


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Click on the pics for the captions and choose slideshow to run them fullscreen


Daniel and Diane Gallant said...

Hello Pat & Addison!

As promised we are keeping up with your progress. Glad you're in Halifax and will stay put for the weekend with Karl approaching. Danny has been voluntering at our marina helping to lift boats out. Karl should bypass us and hit Saint John and Halifax more. Still, we're expecting high winds with storm surge. Aweigh is still in the water. Danny is golfing today (tournament). Happy to see you're doing fine.

Diane & Daniel

Daniel and Diane Gallant said...

Hi Pat & Addison!

Glad to see you're in Halifax for the weekend with Karl fast approaching. Love to read your updates. Photos are beautiful. It's almost (but not quite) like making the voyage with you! It is our dream to sail south as well... one day... we envy you this wonderful adventure.

Bonne fin de semaine,

Diane & Daniel Gallant

Odette said...

Bonjour Pat & Addison,
It was a pleasure meeting you at the other PCYC (Pointe Du Chene Yacht Club) a couple of Fridays ago. We very much enjoy the pics and the accompanying narratives help us put into perspective some of what you are experiencing. Looks like you’ve had an interesting journey so far. Glad to hear you are sheltered in Halifax awaiting for nasty Kyle to pass, hope he’s not too fierce.

Best of luck as you continue on with your adventures, we’ll be checking up on your progress and cheering you on from Shediac.

Richard & Odette

Jeanie said...

Reading your blog is a real education both in geography and nautical jargon. Thank god for the instant gratification of the Internet to answer the continuous "huh???'s" that arise. Provincial maps are now added to my Favourites, and I guess they will soon be replaced with states along the eastern seaboard. On with the Up Trip!

Bruce and Esther said...

Hi guys, just catching up on you blog as we were wondering where you were for Kyle. Glad you are in a safe port. Looks like the worst is over. Looking forward to your next adventure. Your blog is making us both homesick for our boat again. We had just a great trip doing what you are doing that we are feeling a bit jealous! Bruce and Esther

jeffrey said...

Great entry, hope you hide well in Halifax. The Globe and Mail today showed them hauling boats out in preparation of the Hurricane in Turo NS.
Good to see that Pat is progressing in her sailing skills as you need to operate as finely tuned team.
The statement about the Erie Canal made me smile as I spoke to ypu about shipping the boat to Chesepeake Bay.
How are you doing versus your plan to be in Florida by Christmas.
Plotting your progrss on a large map is proving to be interesting as I can see where you are on a daily basis.