Sunday, August 12, 2018: I had been looking forward to this for days. If the weather was right, we would be in an ideal situation to experience one of nature’s incredible wonders in a spectacular fashion. I couldn’t imagine a better place to be than on an overnight passage, one day past a new moon –waxing crescent, 2% illumination – to witness the Perseids Meteor shower at its peak. We were far enough off the coast to not have any light pollution affecting us, and with a 98% dark sky, we definitely had the perfect circumstances to experience the phenomenon fully.
The winds had kicked up at sunset but not for long. We turned into a bit of a rocking horse for a while as we pitched over the oncoming waves, but it quieted down a bit as the first stars came out. With John at the helm, I made my way up mid-ship to find a comfortable spot to take in the show.
Never before have I seen a meteor shower like this. When the first one streaked by, it trailed an electric green tail and I just sat dumbfounded with wonder. Actually, I think I may have yelled out in joy. I was a child enraptured with sparkles and shine.
An hour later, Jarvis (our autopilot) had taken over so our eyes could be trained on the sky, watching meteors dart past: on average, one a minute. It was difficult to tear myself away so I could eventually relieve John from his shift. As I was climbing into my berth I could still see the odd shooting star appear through the portholes and I drifted off feeling an incredible sense of wonder and peace.
My only regret was with the consistent movement of the boat, there was no way to capture the magnificence on camera.
When I woke, the Perseids were still dancing through the night, and I took over for a couple hours until we got close in to our next port to refuel and catch some sleep: Escuminac. We had made such good time in the crossing however, that we were hours ahead of schedule. It was still pitch dark, with no moon, and sunrise was not for several hours.
This time it didn’t go so well.
Not well at all.
Searching for the entrance to an unfamiliar fishing wharf at 3-something a.m. in the morning was not easy. Even with instructions… Especially instructions which conveyed that many parts of the wharf were far too shallow for our boat. We eventually found the entrance, and were at a high enough rising tide that we *should* have been fine. *Should* have. Upon reading the guidebook again, we found a line that basically read: sifting in the channel may occur… keep to the right of the entrance.
First a scraping sound.
Then nothing. No movement. We were at a standstill.
Then the waves took our boat and began repeatedly ramming it against whatever we were stuck on.
This was not fun.
This was definitely not fun.
John revved the engine. Forward. Backward. Nothing. Forward-Backward-Nothing. Forwardbackwardforwardbackwardforwardbackward. Nothing. Then the engine basically told us to F-off. Then it quit.
There was nothing to do but wait for the tide to rise and lift us, or find someone to try to tow us off at 3:30am. John didn’t want to wait. The noise that was was coming from whatever it was on the bottom that we were consistently hitting was not making him comfortable at all.
And then, once again I was on the VHF with the Coast Guard.
They asked questions: most of which I could answer but one I could not… I frankly at the moment can’t even remember what the question was, but when I went up to ask John, he was gone.
The boat was moving. No, let me rephrase… the boat was about five feet away from plowing bow-first into the wharf wall.
What the ever-loving hell was happening?
I could hear John tell me to grab the bow line… from BESIDE the boat. He had lowered the dinghy to try to somehow use it to move the boat away from the rock wall that it had been inching closer to. But the tide had risen enough while he was off, that the boat had set itself free, and all 13.5 tons of her was heading now, powered by the tide and current, for the shallow end of the wharf.
I ran to the bow sprit with the bow line in hand and grabbed onto the ladder affixed to the wharf wall just after a sizeable crunch sound when our anchor made contact with a section of wood.
I hung on desperately to the ladder. Our 45 foot boat spun and I was the axis. At the time, I had no idea what else was happening – I was so fixed on keeping my grip – but John had somehow tied up the dinghy and was climbing up the wall. My arms felt as if they were going to pull every muscle I had but I couldn’t let go. The tides were still rising, the waves coming in had given the boat a momentum and I was positive that I was the only breaking mechanism. The boat swung parallel to the wall and starting sliding backwards. My hands were slipping.
I remember saying, “I can’t hold on” and somehow, miraculously, John was standing above me on the wall and replied “You don’t have to”.
“Throw me the rope”.
He tied her off.
We were stopped. And only about 12 feet away from a fishing boat that had been tied up directly behind us. My arms were jelly. The boat was fine. The other boats were fine. Other than a slightly indented two by four, the wharf was fine. John and I were… well, as fine as we could be with that much adrenaline coursing through our systems.
We were safe and stopped and in the shallow section of the wharf. This would not do.
High tide was only a couple hours away. There was no sleeping, but for the two hours until the tide reached its peak, we basically lied still and tried to will ourselves back to some sense of calm. I could still see the meteors through the windows. Unfortunately, they had lost their magical charm.
Once the tide had risen in the early morning light, we got into the dingy with the depth finder and checked out the entire entrance area to map our way back out. And with our newly confirmed path, we started the engine without issue, and got the heck out of there.
Never again. Lesson learned. Do not break the goddamn rules.
Four hours and far too much sleep deprivation later we were anchored off Bay du Vin island. A spot reminiscent of Northern Ontario cottage country, beautiful, and entirely remote. The only diesel or provisions to be had was apparently back in Escuminac.
John and I were wiped, fairly cranky, and in need of a shower, but we anchored successfully and then completely crashed.
We were so tired that we didn’t really notice the intensity of the mosquitoes the first night. But by our second night in Bay du Vin, after we were treated to a lovely and peaceful sunset, we were fully thrown into the plot of both an Alfred Hitchcock movie and a “Dangerous Insects” documentary once the sun had set. These buggers were tiny. Smallest mosquitoes I’ve ever seen. So small, that I’m quite positive that they were coming through the screens. Sleep was intermittent between staccato-ed swats. We woke with red welts, sometimes bites on top of other bites. During daylight hours, we were thankfully granted reprieve.
By Tuesday, we had caught up on sleep, lowered our cortisol levels, and were well onto our way to leaving our debacle behind us. I spent the day in a cleaning frenzy in an effort to find some control and normalcy over the space and our still very new-to-us live aboard life. My bout of cleaning, although beneficial in many ways, also had the side-effect of finally emptying our 50 gallon water tank. We hadn’t been at a marina for two weeks and hadn’t had a convenient opportunity to fill up with fresh water. This was the first instance that we had managed to empty the tank with regular day to day tasks. Admittedly, I was also not being particularly careful with water since we were basically jumping from marina to marina for most of the trip. We had enough drinking water to last us for at least a few days in our cabin jugs, so there wasn’t much of an immediate concern, but now we knew; our tank was good for two weeks of munificent water use.
With our main water tank empty, and an unknown (though assumed low) amount of diesel in the fuel tank, we had to move on. But where? John thought our best bet would be to head upriver to Miramichi but not only were there no slips available for us, their diesel hadn’t been hooked up yet. We consulted our charts and Google but came up empty. There was nothing nearby that had easy access to diesel or the ice that our still busted fridge demanded.
We kicked ourselves for not hiking with the Jerry cans in Shippagan for fuel, but we hadn’t encountered this amount of remoteness before. Who knew diesel would be so difficult to find? (And this, by the way, is the reason why we have Rule Number Four) So John, gallantly, climbed into the dinghy and motored for two hours to Baie-Sainte-Ann and then hiked to the only diesel provider we could find, bought the fuel, lugged it back to the dinghy, and motored the two hours back to the boat. I would have joined him, but the extra weight would have slowed us down tremendously. As it was, he arrived back, five-ish-hours later, soaking wet.
And again. Another lesson learned. And if we didn’t get it the first time, here was yet another reason to never break the goddamn rules.
With two Jerry cans now full of diesel, we were confident that we would have enough fuel to get us back to the site of our misadventure: Escuminac. Hopefully we would fare better this time.