Anchors, Dinghys, and Smoke on the Water

Canada Travelling
September 16, 2018

August 1st, 2018: There had been several jobs that just didn’t get done before we departed Hamilton for our adventure.  We weren’t concerned, they could all be accomplished at some point while underway, but a few of them needed to happen sooner rather than later, namely the sorting out of our anchor locker.  Without the locker being organized, our anchors were basically decorative, and we were forced to dock in marina after marina and subsequently blowing our very modest budget.  Marinas can vary in price dramatically depending on location and services rendered: the average so far seemed to be about $1.80 to $2.10 a foot per night, which for a 50-ish foot boat overall (including our dinghy and davit) added up dangerously quick.  Anchoring, on the other hand, was free.

We had talked about finding a secluded, protected spot to practice anchoring several times in our first month (as John nor I had ever anchored any boat before) but it just hadn’t happened, so many other tasks and challenges taking precedent.  But after three days in Marina de Gaspé, and with weather looming on the horizon, this would be a perfect opportunity.

John had worked at organizing the anchor locker while we were at dock, and after our small engine blip the day before, we head out into the bay, just outside of the marina, to give it a try.

With John on the bow and me at the helm, and after working out hand signals for forward, reverse, and neutral, (it’s almost impossible to hear each other only 40 feet away when the engine is running), John dropped the anchor and almost a hundred feet of chain into 20-ish feet of water (anchoring is recommended at a four or five to one scope) and we did what we were supposed to do: rev the engine in reverse to secure the anchor.  When you stop, you are supposed to lurch forward so you know that the anchor is indeed set.  There was no lurching.  None at all.  But we did not seem to move from our spot… we kept a sharp eye on the landmarks surrounding us to make sure that we weren’t dragging.

Other than the lack of lunge, our first anchor attempt seemed a success.  After everything we had been through with the fridge, the wind,  the fridge again, the engine, the engine again, the weather, and oh, the engine, we truly believed that this would be another big challenge.  But so far, so good.

For a first time anchoring, Gaspé is a gorgeous place to be.

Our dinghy now served as our main transportation to land and we had to be careful not to overload it.   With two jerry cans of fuel, two tote bags of groceries, and the two of us, the dinghy was packed.  The motor works well but isn’t extremely powerful.  We’ll have to see how it handles waves as we get more into open water, but it should do well at least for the time being.  John had created a fibreglass turtle shell for the outboard before we left Ontario, which couldn’t have been more appropriate.

We stayed for another night in the bay even though the storm had passed us by… but not without gifting us with the most incredible sunset.

The next morning, John hauled the anchor up by hand (he hadn’t hooked up our windlass yet) and we departed on our quest to reach Prince Edward Island. We motored around the point to Percé and passed a pod of unfriendly, introverted dolphins (apparently Harbour porpoises are one of the few breeds of dolphins that don’t like playing with boats or their wake and quickly turned the opposite way as they noticed us approaching).  We also passed by what I’m sure was another Minke whale fin and Percé Rock – one of the world’s largest natural arches located in water – which is also located directly across from Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé National Park: home to the largest migratory bird refuge in North America with a colony of 116,000 northern gannets (thanks Wikipedia).  I would have loved to have stopped on the island for photographs, but John and I were both getting anxious to leave Québec behind us.  At this point, it just seemed like the never-ending province.

I did manage to grab some incredible photos of both the natural monument, a few seals, and a company of gannets from the boat.  To watch those birds plunge into the sea from heights of up to 200 feet above the surface (at up to 100km/hr) is an incredible sight.  Also, thanks to the internet I learned that a group of gannets can be called a “company”, a “gannetry”, and a “plunging”.  Makes complete sense.

It was a stunning day, and we soon left Percé Rock in the distance as we pointed toward open water to cross down towards Prince Edward Island.  We had a beautiful wind and was able to fully sail for a while before the wind spun to our nose and waves came out of nowhere.

John was napping when I woke him to say that the winds had begun to gust towards 20 knots and he immediately came up on deck to start the process of taking down the sails.  We were half way through when the winds picked up yet again, the waves rising up, confused and quite angry, and we had to spin around, putting the wind behind us, to get the sails secured.  Things started crashing around the cabin again – yet another lesson to be had in securing items better, and I was admittedly utterly freaked out by this point and a bit motion sick.  The waves just seemed too large from my vantage point and we just felt too out of control.  John of course had everything under control but my stomach and brain was having none of it and we were both unwilling to do another 180 and continue battling past dark as we had shockingly made it halfway back to Percé from our about-face.

Once again, we started searching for a safe spot to stop.  The only place close by that we could reach easily before dark was a tiny marina in L’Anse-À-Beaufils, Quebec.  Unfortunately the marina was full but we were told that we could raft up to one of the fishing boats as their season was over.  Upon arrival though, it seemed everyone was rafted up.  The boats were all two-deep and the area that we had to work with was tiny.  John managed to tie up to a whale watching boat that hadn’t been claimed as of yet and with no accessible facilities, water, or fuel, we planned to leave at sunrise the next morning just in case the boat we were tied to needed to depart.

After walking a kilometre down a dusty highway to Resto De L’Anse: a local family-run diner with the best pizza I’ve had in an incredibly long time, we returned to the marina, full and exhausted, and promptly crawled into our berths.

I should note that beside the marina, probably about 40 feet away from our boat, and strangely out of place for the area, was a large building containing a rather high end, café-bistro that was playing harmonica and blues from it’s outdoor patio speakers.  It was loud but tolerable and we attempted to drift off into sleep.  The restaurant was incredibly busy though, cars and motorcycles with reverberating mufflers forever coming in and out of the parking lot, and it seemed to get louder as the evening progressed.  And then at about 10pm came the electric guitar.  The live electric guitar.  And whoops and shouts from what seemed a stadium sized audience.  A heavy rock cover band had set up outside and pierced the night and our eardrums with their amplifiers, drums, and eternal guitar solos.  What I can only imagine from his voice to be a leather-clad, ego-rich, Francophone Rico Suave, was growling and belting out lead vocals with a surprisingly sumptuous voice.  Had I been in the mood to be at a hard rock concert, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it.  But being overtired, physically exhausted, and coming down still from an adrenaline kick, this was like being trapped in the sixth circle of hell, and being helplessly bound there until the encores ended and the vehicles begin to depart at 2am.

With only a couple hours of sleep, we got the heck out of Dodge as soon as the sun came up.

I never want to hear Smoke on the Water again.





Michelle Kauntz
Wild Blue Yonder

Seems you've found us. I'm one half of the charming and somewhat frustrating duo that is John & Michelle. (I'm Michelle) We once had this one-day idea that we wanted to sail around the world. We made a five year plan. After ten years of talking and two years of prepping and postponing, we are finally underway. Feel free to follow us and live vicariously though our pratfalls and adventures as we take our almost-as-old-as-John Bayfield 40 Cutter Ketch out of the safety of Lake Ontario and out into the world. On a shoestring budget. With two fiercely independent people. In basically 300-ish square feet of living space and with not a heck of a lot of sailing experience (yet) ...This is going to be fun...

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