Snow Squalls and Weather Windows: A Week in Shelburne

Canada Travelling Video
January 12, 2019

October 14th, 2018 :: Day 112

We had arrived in Shelburne a bit weary after beating into the wind for over double the amount of time it should have taken to make the trip, and after being moored and limited to the boat for 6 days since we left Halifax, all we wanted to do was get a hot shower and check in.  But the marina office was closed.  Shelburne Harbour Yacht Club was on off-season hours and it seemed that the building would only be open for a few select hours during the week and we would have to wait until morning.

We attempted to sleep with the chop of the bay loudly echoing on our hull and our fenders squeaking violently for the first part of the night, an after-effect from the high winds that we fought getting there.  When morning arrived, the temperature had dropped to a balmy 1 degree Celsius and there was frost on the dock.

There was frost on the dock.


Joy*.  (*sarcasm)

I carefully stepped out onto the wood and made sure that I didn’t skate over to the other side and fall into the water.  Moisture on wooden docks can be a problem; it often makes them the equivalent of a slip n’ slide.  The last thing I wanted to do was take an ice cold bath instead of a hot shower.

I found the office open and after I registered us I was told that the docks were due to come out in a few days and if we were still here, we would need to move to a mooring. I came down to give John the news and found him chatting with the other boat owners.  With the winds subsiding overnight for a small window of time, and the sun starting to warm everything up, it seemed that it was the day that all the remaining boats that weren’t heading south were being pulled out of the water. Especially since we were expecting a gale to hit that evening and last throughout the next day.

So taking advantage of the calm morning, we untied the boat, made a large loop in the harbour, and brought her in to the far, more protected side of the finger docks while they were still in the water.

John and I realized that most of the boats were coming out of the harbour.  We were getting a mite uncomfortable.  Where were all the people that were supposedly travelling south?  The sailors in Halifax had told us that there was no hurry, that we could easily wait until the beginning of October.  But it was now already mid month and it seemed like we were alone.  We began to self doubt.  Did we wait too long?

There was one other sailboat, Neleke, that was rumoured to be heading south but we hadn’t met the owners yet.    There was also a power boat, a-once-dive/charter boat turned tug-and-salvage boat, owned by Kerry and Doug. They were eventually heading south to Tortola to manage a small marina though they were not themselves travelling by boat.  Kerry & Doug were hiring a captain and crew for the job while they drove down the majority of the way with Bud, their bulldog.

A few hours later though, Bellaventure I, a beautiful green and white ketch, pulled into the marina. They were also using Shelburne as their jumping off point.  Karen and Robert and their adult son Dylan were making the trip from Nova Scotia across to the US and then down to Florida (where Dylan would be flying home to BC), with Karen and Robert continuing on to the Bahamas.  They had been delayed by work on their boat, and it seemed they were still working on it minutes after docking her.

We were not alone.

As soon as we were both in, the spiderweb of dock lines started being put in place.  We had every line lashed to the dock that we owned as the gale was due to hit just before midnight and continue to dinnertime the next day with windspeeds moving upwards of 45 knots (83km/hr).

This was the strongest gale that we had experienced to date but we were in the safest area that we possibly could be.  We would just have to wait it out.

(Map key: We are the white dot.  Pink wind = bad.)

The following day, when the worst of the gale was over, we all began to emerge out of our respective boats.  The highest recorded wind speed in the area had been clocked at 50 knots but Dylan said the highest we saw at the marina was 39 – which still rattled, pushed, and shook us. We were hoping for a bit of a reprieve but the forecast told a different story.  The winds were due to stay uncomfortably high all week long.  It looked like like we were going to be stuck here at least until Sunday/Monday. On the upside, the yacht club had apparently decided to keep the docks in for another week so we wouldn’t have to move out onto a mooring. Small blessings.

The office was kind enough to let me do laundry in shifts to maximize my time while the building was open.  We hadn’t done laundry since midway through our stay in Halifax and there was lots to catch up on. I finally got my hot shower and there was decent wifi as well as heat in the building.  We maximized our time during office hours in the marina as we had no heat in the boat and the temperatures were definitely plunging to (or near to) freezing each night.

Kerry and Doug were incredibly generous; they had a car at the marina and volunteered to drive John and I around to gather food and more parts (always more parts).

October 18th :: Day 116

We awoke to another 45 knot gale in the forecast with the temperature dropping.  We waited this one out inside the yacht club building however as staff was in and around the building for the majority of the day… I also believe they took pity on us.  When I saw the clouds appearing though I grabbed my phone and went outside in the bitter wind… and witnessed a full on snow squall that lasted all of four minutes.

Welcome to Nova Scotia.  I think we definitely waited too long to start heading south.

October 19th :: Day 117

It was the coldest day yet but we survived. We woke up to the inside of our cabin being a whopping 4C but our kind boat neighbours Doug and Kerry took pity on us and leant us a small space heater so we wouldn’t freeze.  Since we were able to hook into shore power, the heater didn’t deplete our batteries or tax our now struggling solar panels (there just wasn’t enough sun to fully recharge our systems).  We were told that this weather was unusual for the time of year but we could only take what we were given and make due. On the bright side, it looked as if we would have a small weather window opening on Monday. Fingers crossed.

We were thankful as well for the wonderful hospitality – Karen, Robert, and Dylan gave us a chance to be social, enjoy some conversation and libations, offered a couple good hints for boat operations and offshore weather forecasting, and let us bask in the warmth of their boat.  They, wisely, had installed a boat heater.

October 21st :: Day 119

After more rain and more wind for the last couple days, we experienced a sliver of sunset as we prepped for leaving Canada tomorrow along with Bellaventure.  Their boat is faster than us though we would inevitably be trailing behind.  Kerry was kind enough to take me back out to the grocery store to do a last provisioning and I bought extra warm socks, gloves, and a touque at the drug store in addition to ear plugs for sea sickness.  Our trip across the Atlantic was planned at 50-ish hours non-stop and will likely be in single digit temperatures… at least for the first day.

We had spent the day prepping food that was easily accessible: sandwich fixings pre-cut waiting at the top section of the fridge, lots of fruit, granola and breakfast bars, snacks, trail mix, cookies, muffins, and anything that would be easy to grab and graze upon. The rest of the time was spent charging all batteries, prepping and securing everything, moving the boat out to the outer finger dock for an easy departure.  Weather had been checked and rechecked by both John and Dylan.  My mom and worry-prone friends were notified that we would be out of regular communications for a few days but we had the inReach in case of emergency.  We were as ready as possible.

Then again, we’ve never crossed an ocean.  And this would be our longest time on the water yet.  Ready or not, we would have to go.  If we missed this window, we would not see another for at least another week if not more… and the weather was only getting colder.

That evening, once dinner was done and we had completed our mental checklists, we got together with Kerry and Doug (and Bud) on their boat for a few hours.  We hoped to meet them down in Tortola whenever we got down that way, but for now just getting across to Cape Cod was our main priority.

We woke the next morning to another incredible sunrise.  After clearing everything with the office and getting a solid, substantial breakfast as our last hot meal for a while, we were technically ready to go.  I was bound with nerves though.  I was not ready.  My stomach hurt.  I felt uncontrollably emotional and trepidatious. I was doing everything I could not to freak out while John prepped the boat for departure.

I just needed to be brave.

It was only going to be just over two days at sea…

We could do this, right?




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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