October 3rd, 2018 :: Day 101
It was time. We’d been in Halifax getting work done on the boat and waiting for hurricane season to ease up for almost a month, and it was time to began saying our goodbyes. We had definitely grown comfortable here, but the weather was starting to force our hand. Several other boaters had already left or were in the last stages of preparations to leave, and for those that were staying, Armdale was pulling out boats to be put on the hard. Our rigid swim ladder had arrived (exactly on time too, which never happens in the boating world – thanks Binnacle) and was stored in the cabin along with several other parts purchased for the boat that we would be working on on our trip down the coast. The days had become filled with a much more frequent mixture of rain over sun, the winds more boisterous, and the nights found us layering on blankets and pulling out our fleece.
We spent what sunny days we had left cleaning, organizing, finishing up our provisioning, getting propane, and finding the last few things only a larger city could provide… thanks to seeking out a few bargains at Winners, Walmart, and Costco, we were equipped with more warm layers. Now all we needed was a good weather window to head back out to the Atlantic and hop down the Nova Scotia Coast to our jump off point for making the cross over to the US.
Our plans were to leave on Sunday the 7th, and we had called ahead and made arrangements for our next three ports. The night before our departure though, as per usual, there had been a slight change of plans.
We were perplexed by a unidentified smell late at night which, after scouring the cabin and cockpit like hound dogs, we eventually realized was propane. John figured out the reason for the small leak the next morning – our dual propane tank system didn’t have a proper shut off valve between the two tanks – so when one tank was removed (for refilling, as we had just done), and we turned on the stove, the gas from the tank we were using would slowly leak out the other side. It was fixable (and easily avoidable in the future) but we had to clear out any remaining gas *before* we decided to start the engine. Safety first…
We consulted Google, the dock master, and a couple of our boat neighbours. We opened all the hatches and continued to wander around the cabin and lowering ourselves into the bilge, sniffing the air. Our boat neighbour Fred from Roving Kind, who had been kind enough to drive me clear across town the previous day to help us get a few items, leant us his shop vac to quite literally suck out any gas left in our bilge. But as we were moored, and our electrical panel couldn’t handle the wattage, we wouldn’t be able to use the vacuum until we got to the fuel dock. We couldn’t get to the fuel dock however, without starting the engine (serious catch 22) and there was no one available over the weekend that might have been able to tow us in. I called Binnacle back up to source out a propane sniffer (something we had always planned to have on board like a million other items, but one that had not been acquired as of yet). So John went ashore once again to acquire our newest piece of safety equipment and spent the rest of the afternoon hooking it up while I crossed our fingers and hoped that with a bit of luck we’d already successfully aired out the bilge. Otherwise it might take more assistance than what we would be able to muster on a Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Once John managed to jury-rig the sniffer to our electrical system and got the all-clear from it, we tentatively started the engine.
It was officially Thanksgiving Sunday and not exploding the boat was definitely something to be thankful for.
We moved back to the fuel dock to return Fred’s shop vac (that we thankfully never had to use), fill up on diesel and water, and cook our thanksgiving dinner which took every pot that I had as well as some creative cooking with our two burner stove. Thank goodness for store-bought rotisserie chicken.
(Shameless plug: For more food photos of our journey you can follow our galley’s instagram account at TinyRockinKitchen)
October 8th :: Day 106
Thanksgiving holiday Monday, we woke up to a very brisk 7 degrees Celsius and left Armdale and Halifax at first light for our initial stop in Lunenburg Harbour.
A brisk 7 degrees. That’s land temperature, by the way. When you look at the weather forecast, they give you the average for each given hour and area. For. Land. I stress this because it does not take the wind chill into account. And with nothing to block the wind, no buildings or trees or land masses, the wind chill is indeed substantial.
So after a month in storage, our full offshore gear was taken out and worn over many, many layers of clothing.
Thank god that the sun was out because if it were overcast, the five layers I’m wearing in this photo would definitely not have been warm enough…
And let me just say that walking up the companionway, bending over to tie a shoe, or even sitting down (much less be able to manoeuvre to do any kind of work at all) with this many layers on is a whole different challenge. Good thing that steering the boat doesn’t take a lot of body movement.
We arrived in Lunenburg that afternoon and moored in the harbour. Since we had such a great time exploring the beautiful town with our friends Ben and John the previous week, we didn’t see any need to go back in to shore this time around. Instead, I grabbed the camera to take some more shots from our new vantage point in the harbour, and we settled in to watch the sunset with a glass of wine before dinner on board.
We awoke the next morning to an overcast sky and the wind and waves outside the peninsula being rambunctious. Though we had hopes to leave, we decided to hold out for another day in Lunenburg before making the run to our next port. Hurricane Michael had cleared the US coast but was unfortunately heading just offshore of Nova Scotia. We weren’t sure how it was going to affect us but we definitely wanted to find a safe place to be when it passed by.
October 10th :: Day 108
Sunrise in Lunenburg was a spectacular sight. We expected to hit some weather and the seas were going to be a bit bouncy but we needed to find a spot to moor that was more protected from the upcoming storm that was threatening to hit the coast.
The weather we were expecting to hit en route, certainly showed up in spades. We watched the clouds snake and move and the wind whip suddenly in the opposite direction. I took the helm and turned us into the wind so John could get the sails taken down as quickly as possible. I was not happy. Our boat was being tossed about as the weather cycled around us. Although it didn’t affect us for long, the time seemed to stretch far longer than I would have liked.
In a moment between bouts of panic, I managed to quickly snap this picture of the of the weather front that was now behind us before it dissipated.
This was the first time I’ve seen a cloud this ominous since the one that hung over Quebec City while we were safely tied up in the marina. And as a note, being on open water certainly makes these clouds more detrimental to blood pressure than being safely docked does.
We arrived in Brooklyn Nova Scotia late that afternoon and moored in the bay. Though we were assured by the person on the phone that the depth would accommodate our draft, the charts were making it seem nervewrackingly shallow. We were also informed that Brooklyn marina had already started dismantling their docks and the only dock left would require some manoeuvring which neither one of us was looking forward to. The boating season was definitely over. Trying to contact someone at the “marina” (an extravagant term for the facilities offered) was also a bit of a curiosity. The main marina number got us to an older gentleman that could not understand me, and I was given a cell phone number of another person that obviously kept forgetting his cell phone at home. His wife and I had a couple brief but nice conversations though. We were instructed to grab a mooring ball if we didn’t want to come in to the dock. I asked him which one to take and he said it didn’t matter. Any one of them would do.
We moored in Brooklyn for two nights waiting out the wind and rain that accompanied hurricane Michael. Thankfully by that point he had been downgraded to a tropical storm so John wasn’t overly concerned but the weather forecast seemed to hold it’s unpleasantly damp, chilly, and incredibly windy predictions for a while. We stayed on the boat and huddled under blankets, keeping an eye on the leaks appearing throughout the cabin, listening to the wind whistle through our rigging.
I called the cell phone number that I was given before the end of the work-day so I could hopefully pay for the mooring ball over the phone and not have to row our dinghy into shore. (Our dingy motor had broken while we were in Halifax but we hadn’t gotten around to fixing it yet.) We were surprisingly told not to worry about it, the mooring ball we had hooked up to wasn’t owned by the marina anyway. So much for it not mattering which ball we took on our arrival…
For those that are not in the know, PINK WIND = BAD.
The rain finally cleared the next morning into another glorious sunrise and thankfully there was also a break in the wind. We decided to leave at sun up to jump a bit further south. It didn’t seem ideal by any stretch… our weather windows were getting smaller each day, but we had to keep going.
We debated which weather forecast we considered to be better… no wind but big swells, or small swells and a lot of wind. What we discovered was that a calm wind and big swells were actually incredibly comfortable as long as the swells were far enough apart. They also make for a very unique journey. It’s probably the closest on that boat that I’ve felt to driving in a car through long country roads over rolling hills. Lots of dips and valleys, and then gliding up to the peaks of each gentle, but sizeable wave.
We arrived in Lockeport at White Gull Marina in early afternoon (again, “marina” being a generous term). As we pulled into the harbour, John looked around and said “Is THAT it?”. One lone U-shaped dock that seemed enough space for possibly two or three boats at best. There seemed no other option so we pulled up and tied off.
White Gull has a family style restaurant on the top of the hill that also doubled as the marina office. John and I headed up to register and grab a couple of burgers while attempting to ignore the terrible top-40/hip hop radio station that was obviously the choice of the young server (I’m assuming the daughter in a family run business) working that day. The place was friendly enough. Once we finished our meal, they offered to let us stay until close so we could take advantage of the wifi in the building but we thanked them instead and returned to the boat. Our plan was simply to sleep and head out again first thing in the morning.
October 14th :: Day 112
Arrival in Shelburne
Large swells and little wind are definitely preferential to lots of wind and small swells. Especially if the swells are choppy. And even more so if the wind is on your nose. We made the small jump from Lockeport to Shelburne – basically from one inlet to the next, which was only about 15 nautical miles. At our normal cruising speed, it would take about 3 hours… The plan was to be there around lunch. It instead took us almost every daylight hour we had. I watched the wind meter creep upwards of 29 knots of wind and was incredibly nervous. We were lucky at times to be moving 3 knots – sometimes only 1 or 2 – as the icy wind beat against us on the nose in high gusts coming into the long inlet. We fought our way in and finally managed to finally tie up to the unprotected side of the outside dock. The wind thankfully was pushing us towards the dock and John managed to pull us alongside to secure ourselves. It had been an exhaustingly long day with painstakingly slow progress but we had made it. After assessing the space, we decided to stay on the outer edge of the dock as the wind was far too powerful to move to the protected finger docks. We’d wait for the wind to die down a bit and take some time to unwind before thinking of moving again. The boat thrashed a bit in the waves that night and our fenders were working hard but we would be fine. We had reached our final destination in Canada and all we needed now was a decent weather window to attempt our first ocean crossing.