Walking with mosquitos

Newfoundland seems to be all about scale, be it big or small. Massive granite cliffs power from sea level up to 1,000 feet. Fjords with hidden entrances open up to reveal sedate rivers and sheltered waterfalls. The humpbacks are big, the mosquitos are small. One being more irritating than the other. Dave was resting his eyes yesterday afternoon so I headed off for a stroll around Francois, (pronounced Franz-way by the locals). It’s a place only accessible by boat. I wondered if there is a David Attenborough tv series to be made….walking with mosquitos. Perhaps I’ll pitch that one to a tv producer.

It’s a stunning coastline. Newfoundland is spectacular but more than that, an example of how events at an international level impact on local communities. The small towns, they are barely villages in our sense of the word, that occupy the sides of the deep fjords relied totally on fishing. They were expensive to keep up and the government here provided financial incentives to move away to larger less remote places. Then the cod fishery collapsed, and Canada having a longer term vision than most, instigated a moratorium on cod fishing. Overnight whole communities had no work.

We were in Grand Bruit a few nights ago. There are about 50 houses there. 6 people were in residence the night we stayed. Maybe 20 is the maximum over the summer as families visit their old homesteads. The pattern suggest such places will eventually die completely and these fjords and villages will become totally quiet.

We met three of the six residents, friendly folk who come to chat. Gerry and Joe we called the ‘Cod Men’. They gave us 4 massive cod fillets, caught maybe an hour beforehand. We had cod for breakfast and cod for dinner. Thanks boys.

Isle aux Morts is an island which has a similar story to the Northumbrian tale of its local heroine Grace Darling. A link to our boat no less! Ann Harvey was 17 when she assisted her father and brother in rescuing 163 people from the shipwrecked vessel Dispatch. There’s a tiny museum on the island which we visited. I was able to impress the two local ladies who worked there with my knowledge of Grace Darling as she is mentioned in their dispatches. A few brownie points for me there. History in action. I got an E for O level and a B for A level in history from the auspicious Hayden Bridge High School. Work that one out if you can.

Today the fog has returned. Tomorrow it’s supposed to bugger off again. Let’s hope so. La Hune is next for us. More granite and the bag of rope and bits of metalwork may well see an airing if the rock is dry. Dave may have a sleepless night like a kid waiting for Christmas.

Crab and viper

 

 

One day we bask in close cloying humid heat, maybe 34 degrees centigrade. The next I’m cooking porridge for breakfast like a dreich Tuesday in late November. Goodbye Nova Scotia, hello Newfoundland.

Newfoundland is delivering well on the fog quotient. We have been here in Port aux Basques one night and today was a public holiday. Imagine a typical british bank holiday but with a layer of wet dense fog cloaking the view. There you have it. We, of course, went for a 2 hour hikette along part of the coast. It was quite gloomy. 😀

Rather than being anchored as normal, we are on the public dock. It’s about £6 a night. A load of laundry is 60p. The WiFi is strong and we can pick it up on the boat. We like this kind of pricing. When the fog lifts and the sun shines, it’ll be a very different place. Fingers crossed.

Our last destination in Nova Scotia was Ingonish. We met a lovely local couple on the dock who took us under their wing and ferried us about generously so we could walk a couple of trails. They also treated us a snow crab cookout at their cabin. I’m now a whizz at dispatching, cleaning and cooking said crustaceans. Boy do they taste good and sweet. Allan also has a Dodge Viper, an 8 litre, 10 cylinder muscle car and he took me out for a little spin. In return, we took Allan and Corein out for a sail on Grace. He’s in the market for a sail boat and hopefully we were able to increase his knowledge a modicum. Our time in Ingonish was special.

As I write, the kerosene heater is getting a work out. Dave has an Ikea blanket across his knees as he finishes his book. We’ve watched a couple of episodes of a series recommended to us on Netflix called Longmire which looks promising. There you have it. A summer evening in Newfoundland.

Ski Lift

I’m sat in the cockpit with my morning cup of tea. I’ll paint a picture. Ingonish is a bit like a Scottish loch. A long inlet. It’s imperative to follow the narrow, squiggly buoyed channel on entering as a spit extends out from the beach. Wooded hills on both side. Did I mention, Canada has a lot of trees. A lot of trees.

To my right I can see the top of a ski lift on Cape Smokey and two runs cut down through the trees. Not sure if that’s the extent of the ski operation. It’s not very high but skiers will come down to a smidgen above sea level. The sea usually freezes up here to some degree every winter. Although ironically we’re not really that far north. Scotland is further north for example. I don’t think Whistler or Chamonix need to be too worried about the size of the competition here. Sweet though.

Grace is sat in a deep pool. We kept nudging in last night to get out of the wind. At one time I’d have been able to easily throw a stone to the land from where we sit, but I now “throw more like a girl”, (don’t be offended by that comment), that’s a big downside of ageing and surgery to remedy several dislocations. There’s satisfaction to be had in throwing things well. I remember that.

Tomorrow we will head across the Cabot Strait channel to Newfoundland. Our summer objective. Depending where we choose to make landfall, it’s between 80 and 100 miles. We are both aware that it’s relatively easy to keep heading north here. The winds are predominantly south west, from behind. At some point we need to turn round and get south towards Boston before 8th September. That could prove to be a complete bugger. Beating into the wind is not much of joyful point of sail. So we need to make a call as to how long we spend in Canada before turning around and if some north easterly winds arrive miraculously, we need to run with them.

We met Henry, a friend of friends in Baddeck. There are a select slice of individuals who intimidate and inspire me in equal measure. I’d add his name to this list. When I use the word intimidate, I mean in the “wow, you’re bright and your brain and body are working 24/7 and my brain just doesn’t work like yours”. In our too brief time together, we talked mutual friends, him being a direct descendent from the Mayflower, travelling in Ecuador and places to visit in Newfoundland, the reason for visiting him in the first place. He’s a bright, lovely generous chap who visibly adored his grandkids. Thanks Henry. We will return your charts.

 

Cat Security

 

I really rather like a grocery store where the owner’s tabby cat follows you around as you shop. Initial customer assessment starts as you enter, the cat sitting under the counter, a slight sneer emanating as you glance at its pervasive feline arrogance. No other animal does arrogance and distain like the cat.

Security in the d’Escousse convenience store on Isle Madame in Nova Scotia is a moggy searching out a tickle under its chin in between dried goods and sausages. It’s an all round much more pleasant shopping experience than trawling the aisles while Big Brother is watching you in Sainsbury’s or Walmart. It felt like being back in Bickertons General Hardware shop in Bellingham, Northumberland when I was a kid, several decades ago.

Our spend, milk, bread and bananas is unlikely to keep Mog in Finest Gourmet Cat Food and tickling sticks indefinitely. But we’d be happy to return again to this fine establishment and will spread the word about this lovely place. I think in some circles this is called Marketing.

We left Halifax on our way to Cape Breton about a week ago. We’ve had more than our deserved quota of fog and rain. Thankfully the last two days have lifted the fog and our spirits. Until getting to d’Escousse, all our anchorages have felt remote and off the beaten track. Seeing any other boats is a rarity.

Except for West Liscombe which has a remote hotel, about 5 miles up a river. Boaters have free access to the indoor pool, sauna and whirlpool. Oh so nice after a day in damp dreariness.

Weather forecasts feel like they’ve come courtesy of the Donald. We were advised we’d get southwest winds of 15 to 20 knots, great for our intended trip, and in fact were delivered NE winds, bang on the nose slowing progress. When combined with the fog, we were keen for an Obama Meteorological offering.

As often in politics if you wait long enough, ignore what’s being broadcast, things sort themselves out without any interventions. Tomorrow we head to St Peters, through a lock into the Bras d’Or Lake. My guide book suggests….”in summer, the water temperature is so warm (65 to 70 degrees) that fog is rare”. Small mercies.

Longer arms

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I got it into my head that we needed to do a Peter Kay “Big shop”. A full on purchasing extravaganza so we could avoid supermarkets for a couple of eons. The cupboards, fridge and freezer would bulge like a 1970’s orange space hopper on a particularly warm day. We could stock up for the next two months on the boat meaning no more big shops till we come back from our month in the UK in October. What a dreamy prospect.

The flip side of achieving stock up heaven is you have to spend actual time in supermarkets. Home delivery to a boat anchored in the middle of a waterway is currently not a Walmart option. From compiling a list, dinghy-ing to the shore, walking to the requisite food emporium, buying stuff, reversing the travel logistics and finally hiding our purchases in appropriate places, 6 hours had passed! 6 hours. We had visited 4 shops in total; a wholesalers, two supermarkets and the liquor store. We’d made two trips with a rucksack and two shopping bags each. That’s 3 hours for each trip. My arms are now 4cms longer. I look like a gibbon.

Our time in Halifax ends tomorrow. We will start to sail East up the coast towards the Bras d’Or lake. The inland lake sits inside Cape Breton Island. It’s maybe 150 miles to get there but we plan to day sail it rather than do an overnight passage.

Halifax has been good to us. We have become part locals, having built up a little network of friends. Yesterday, some friends from the Armdale yacht club took us to their fabulous home overlooking the water and fed us tea and cake while we watched the 3rd place play off match. Well done Belgium. You were the better team. Then in the afternoon we walked down to a local park and then into town along the waterfront. We spotted a local boat know to us, shouted to Dan it’s owner and ended up having a beer with his extended family.

And today in the bar where we have watched the previous England games, we spoke to our Brazilian football friend who was enjoying the final and the barman came out to chat to us as he’d seen us on the water in our dinghy a few days ago. It’s been easy to fit in and relax.

Even though we have a boat rammed to the gunnels with food, we bought and shared a slice of pizza on the way home from the watching the World Cup final. That’s unnecessarily extravagant.

Canada

Canada seems to suits us. Halifax, Nova Scotia we’ve decided is a place where we could both live. This feeling doesn’t always stir as we travel around. I suppose it’s not too far removed from an attractive place in Britain, making fitting in very easy. Same language, similar culture, a cosmopolitan vibe, a clean environment, lots of waterfront space, cheap shopping, well anywhere is after Bermuda and chilled out, helpful, seemingly content people.

We’ve been here 5 nights now. Our crossing from Bermuda took 5 days 20 hours. A mix of fine beam reach sailing, some motoring and ultimately ghastly fog for 36 hours which is weird when there’s plenty of wind about too. My own aspirational wish came back to bite my bum as I’d mentioned to Miv that I was missing looking at a tv screen, meaning the World Cup and Wimbledon were on the telly. My wish came true as either Dave or I were required to look at the radar screen every 5 minutes or so for 36 hours. We were practically in the harbour in Halifax before our long distance vision got a work out. It was good to get in and stop moving.

I’ve posted a couple of pictures here. One of something that look like a low sitting barge, only for us to realise a couple of minutes later it was actually a massive cruise ship, faintly visible as the fog thinned and lifted. We knew it was there as we’d talked to each other over the VHF radio. The fog phenomenon still played with my limited head space.

Our plan is to make a plan. Now England are through to the semi finals, we (well I mean I) need to be near a telly on Wednesday for semi final trials and tribulations. Can’t / don’t want to miss this one. We went to a bar downtown to watch the Sweden game. I think the bar claimed to have 26 TVs plus a big screen outside too. We sat at the bar between a guy who was a puppeteer and a Brazilian chap who was sad as his team had been eliminated the previous day. Nice chats.

Monday / Tuesday this week we plan to get out of Halifax waters for the night and find a quiet anchorage somewhere a few hours sail from here. Also need to keep a quiet ear on the weather as a depression is brewing off North Carolina and may be on its way here with a bit of nastiness. Post football shenanigans, we want to get to Newfoundland.

A footnote. For you boaty folk, we now transmit on AIS. Dave wired the new unit in today. Only a modicum of naughty words and heavy sighing. Look us up on Marine Traffic – Grace of Longstone. You can stalk us.

And a second foot note. We’ll both be back in the UK from 9th September to 6th October. Flights booked. Usual schedule….work, friends, family. Not necessarily in that order…

And finally… we’ve upgraded the blog site to get rid of the adverts and associated *hit. It should look cleaner and it’s given me a bit more space for writing / storing stuff.  Don’t expect any changes. The world moves slowly on a boat. About 5 to 6mph.

 

 

North to Nova Scotia

Today, weather permitting we plan to head north towards Halifax in Nova Scotia Canada. Maybe 6 days ish at sea.  We will depart before the England football starts. Sacrifices. Dave keeps checking, ‘do you really want to go north?’ as we swim in warm sea water and prat about on our paddle boards. Well its time for a change.

There’s a raft of safety things to,tick off…..rig check, bilge pumps, grab bag, electronic charts working etc etc

I’ve made a big pot of stew and some bread in preparation. Both worthy contributions I believe.

Red dot should start moving when we head off. Some friends have the same red dot system as ours and theirs stopped working about a day out from Bermuda. Is that triangle thing working it’s mysterious magic? More likely a dodgy bit of electronics.

Looking forward to being back moving and catching some atlantic fish.

preperati0n for going to sea

Anniversary

On the 25th June 2018 we will have been aboard full-time for 2 years or 24 months or 730 days. That’s how long we’ve been living in a space, 43 foot by 12 foot, at its widest part, our floating home. Not massive. It only works as it moves around. And we spend lots of time outside. Seeking out interesting, attractive places where possible.

We have many of the systems and niceties you have in your home; hot and cold running water, loo (x2 in fact) shower, gas cooker, fridge, freezer, stereo, car….(well dinghy), spare bedroom, heating, bbq, email, matching crockery and and a few random kitchen utensils that have bought thinking, oh they’ll be useful but of course aren’t after you’ve used them twice.

Our two year anniversary. It could be deemed an occasion for wise poignant words. Nah. I don’t have any to share, so I will prattle on in my usual way. But with a warm feeling inside as this feels like a positive anniversary to celebrate.

Two years away. With occasional trips back to the UK, 5 for me, 1 for Dave. Some real highs, some downers, some incredibly happy times plus a few sad ones. No different to living in a cottage or a house or a caravan. We’re still here, (Bermuda being here st the moment), enjoying the lifestyle, with aspirations to go further.

On our sketchy timetable when we left the UK, we are at least a year behind where we thought we’d be, maybe even two as we had this mad idea we’d be through Panama in spring 2017. That was a ridiculous thought. Too soon, too many places to stop and enjoy, too many unknowns about the boat and her general health and too much time at sea rather than enjoying the land when you reach it.

When I started writing this tome, can a blog be a tome? I had no idea how long I’d be motivated to keep it up. Thankfully it doesn’t feel like a monster that hangs over me, that needs feeding constantly or that’s impossible to let go of. It’s a fine record of where we’ve been, a little of what we’ve done and what I was thinking about at the time. Apart from you supadoopa regulars who tune in, thanks folks, I have no idea exactly who looks at it. Who does digest these words? I’ll likely never know.

STOP PRESS

i have to selfishly make reference to this so when I look back in 10 years time, I can remember such an occasion. England scored 6 goals in a World Cup match. Boom.

Me watching football

 

 

 

 

 

Early Early

A start early, finish early party. I get it. Sounds great. I’m now in category four when you have to tick a box as to how old you are. You know the data collecting drudgery, I mean when it’s better for your soul to lie and forget the ageing truth. Also I bloody well hate all those data collecting companies so I’d rather lie and bugger up their statistics. There’s no benefit to me. Why should I tell the truth? Similarly, if I’ve just bought a lawn mower, don’t target me with advertisements for lawn mowers. I’ve just bought one you lowly imbeciles who design web marketing.

Anyway, back to the story, this is turning into Ronnie Corbett like ramblings.

Starting early makes infinite sense to me so bedtime remains the same. Ha. A start early party in Bermuda starts EARLY.

We were anchored just off a small island in Hamilton harbour and at 5am, boom boom, my slumber is rudely awakened. An early start to the day can be invigorating, joyful, a recognition that by waking up early you can cram more good stuff into your day, be that drinking tea quietly for the first two hours or for example, analysing the mad recent North Korea / America love in.

This wake up was ratty, unnecessary, sour and furthermore the music was crap. I know Bermuda isn’t strictly in the Caribbean. It’s a North Atlantic Island. But it feels closer to the Caribbean than Slough. Classic reggae music would sit okay with me. The temperature makes it sweaty so moving slowly in a languid fashion to the beat makes sense. But hip hop inspired reggae should be hung drawn and quartered. Perhaps web marketeers and hip hop reggae writers could buddy up and self implode somewhere. Ideally quietly and without a fuss please.

So the tunes were done by lunchtime. 5am to 12 noon. That’s a start early, finish early party. We went to the library and worked. The library is tip top in my opinion. A whole room had been set aside for World Cup football watching. A darkened room, an eight foot screen, air conditioning. Well done Bermuda. You get libraries. I now know where I’ll be watching England when they play their first match.

Sailing wise, we had a gentle four hour sail round from St Georges to Hamilton. As it’s the weekend we’ve come to spend the time among a group of islands just a couple of miles from Hamilton but its much quieter and a good low key weekend destination for swimming and paddle boarding.

Plan is to start to weather watch before we make a run North, about 750 Miles towards Halifax Nova Scotia.

Small World

My first night back was not quite as chilled and relaxing as I’d planned. We’d had a lazy afternoon and evening, the weather being hot and sultry so a squall was not unexpected.

We were down below avoiding the pinging rain when there was a thud. Or a thump, not sure which. We both scrambled out onto the deck and the noise was a boat that had dragged it’s anchor, coming into contact with our bow sprit. No one was onboard and while Dave tried to push the boat away, I tied fenders quickly down the guard rails to protect Grace.

Two other eagled eyed sailor folks had jumped in their tenders, one rowing another motoring to get across to us and help. Thankfully we suffered no damage and the naughty boat was re-anchored with the help of our fellow sailing superstars.

By this time we were all soaked to the skin and keen to talk to the boat’s owner to explain what had happened. So a round of gin and tonics later, a guy turned up out of the darkness, no doubt perplexed as his boat wasn’t in the same place as he’d left it. Thankfully, he moved behind everyone so should the same happen again, he’d not be our problem. Relief all round.

Today, our rowing saviour came over for a chat. A Frenchman from Brittany. We chinwagged about our love of the Brittany coast and the Spanish Rias. Then he mentioned he’d spent time on his boat down in the Falklands. Turns out he spent time down there with our good friends, the Kiwi’s, Phil and Linda. Small world.

Day two back was much more relaxed. We got our new inflatable paddle boards out of their wrappers and went for a mini expedition around Smiths Island which sits in St Georges Bay, Bermuda. We bumped into a chap, not literally, we had more control than that, who runs a market garden business but used to own a Hans Christian 43. In fact he’d sailed it to Australia. Commonalities lead to story swapping and we hope a food parcel will arrive for us with lots of fresh veggies in the next few days! We are a bit short of fresh goodies.

What else? We went for a swim before breakfast today and a chap snorkelling nearby got stung by a Portuguese Man of War jellyfish. His skin rose in welts like whip lines and his face scrunched in pain. Make a note to avoid these beasties. They are pain inflicting blighters.

And our new gas bbq works a treat. It was gift from the Kenny and Nancy who run the boatyard in North Carolina. Pork loin in teriyaki sauce for dinner. Pity it’s not self cleaning. That’s an ask too far.