Showing posts with label off shore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label off shore. Show all posts

21 September 2016

Training Run: Off Shore to Cape May NJ

Argon's anchor was weighed in the dark, pre-dawn hours on Thursday 15 September in a windy Great Salt Pond Block Island and to a spectacular full moon setting on the western horizon. As we carefully motored our way out of the skinny inlet in to the choppy seas, the sky became pitch black but speckled with stars as the moonlight diminished. Then, as if waiting for the moon to depart before appearing, we were greeted by first light and a brilliant rising sun behind as we sailed a broad reach in choppy seas and18kts of wind towards Cape May.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

We had two routes to chose from as we sought to make our way further south pulling away from New England. The more common route for recreational cruisers is to stay in the relatively protected waters of Long Island Sound between Long Island and the Connecticut shore heading to New York City; then hug the coast of New Jersey to its southern tip, Cape May. We desired more off-shore experience and chose the direct route to Cape May traveling south of Long Island in the exposed Atlantic waters. As our trip was only 220nm, and not directly away from shore, this was like a training run, a mini off-shore, helping to prepare for the main events that will come later in our trip (650nm to Bermuda followed by 900nm to Antigua).

This is our route from Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island to the southern tip of New Jersey:

The winds had been high and out of the southwest for a couple of days earlier in the week; we were waiting for a shift to a better direction to avoid having to beat heavily up wind. The winds quickly altered about 180 degrees, exactly as forecasted, shortly after midnight a few hours before our early morning departure. And the seas were confused and choppy, exactly as predicted. But we were rested, bundled up, and prepared.  Another thing we did for this trip was enlist our (very) trusty weather router Ken McKinley at Locus weather. We wanted to go through the process of getting forecasts and recommendations and making decisions based on that. Once again, everything Ken said would happen... happened.

We practiced our 3 hours on and 3 hours off shifts which was needed during the initial 24 hours especially as the heavy seas and winds low downwind required diligence and active steering. I had some anxiety going in to this off shore leg anticipating a long, dark, windy night in potentially difficult seas and reflecting on the challenging night we experienced on the way to Nova Scotia back in July. But I also knew it was important to face this unease and get more practice in the open ocean. 

Bundled up for the chilly, windy morning before dawn. Full main and genoa were hoisted just outside Great Salt Pond. The seas were initially confused and chaotic but then fell in to more of a pattern of generous waves in the 18kt northerly winds. (I do not feel as horrified as my face looks in this picture.)
Bob helming as we welcome first light a few hours in to the first day.
Actively navigating the following waves while enjoying the fast speeds. Argon maintained well over 7kts the first 140 nm.

The first 24 hours of this mini off shore passage were in 3 to 5 foot seas with many 6 footers. However, with the winds mostly 18-22 kts (gusts to 26), this was very manageable with diligence.

Brief video midday of Day 1 after the sun had risen, temperatures had warmed and the seas had calmed a bit:

In anticipation of the large following waves and swells, we decided the prior night to not travel with the dinghy on the davits (as is standard for coastal sailing), but rather to tie the dinghy to the fore deck. This requires some rather arduous maneuvering to lift the outboard motor from the dinghy and attach it to a mount on the stern rail (we have practiced a method several times now which minimizes the chance that the outboard, or Bob, will fall in the water); and, using the main halyard with a lifting sling, hoist the dinghy on to the fore deck securing upside down with several dock lines.

Securing the dinghy on the fore deck the prior evening in anticipation of generous following seas. Normally the dinghy hangs off the stern on davits for coastal cruising but it is safer on the fore deck for off shore as large waves may hit up against the bottom of the dinghy causing damage to the davits or come up over and in to the dinghy adding dangerous weight.

The rhumb line from markers near Block Island to Cape May indicated we were to aim for a course of 227 degrees true and the total distance was expected to be 220nm if sailing a straight line. But with the wind blowing precisely the direction we were going, we stayed north of the rhumb line the first 30nm to maintain a broad reach, then jybed over to starboard tracking a bit south of the rhumb line. However, as predicted the wind slowly veered and we were able to gradually curve our way back towards the desired heading as the wind veered more easterly over the ensuing 15 hours. Sailing directly down wind wing on wing was impossible due to the consistently zealous seas and winds reaching 25kts at times. The boom preventer was secured virtually the entire trip as we worked to sail very low and keep the rolling waters from causing us to accidentally jybe.

Broad reaching towards Cape May with full main and genoa enjoying brisk winds, clear skies, and warming temperatures.

Coffee break. Side cockpit panels were attached on the windward side helping us stay warm.

Preparing for nightfall still moving along nicely at 7+kts.

The skies were clear and beautiful for the entire transit and we were swiftly following a current averaging well over 7 kts for the majority of the trip.

Initial glimpses of Atlantic City with the full moon setting the morning of Day 2.

Welcoming first light the morning of Day 2. Seas have calmed quite a bit since departing Block Island nearly 30 hours ago.
Atlantic City skyline. Another 40nm to Cape May.

We hoisted the spinnaker as the winds lighted up.
Our initial brisk average speed (yes, 7.5kts is fast for a sailboat such as Argon!) was thwarted during the final 30nm. But we still made the transit in a respectable 35 hours. And although this was just a mini off-shore trip, it was good to practice our helming and another overnight in the open seas. The trip to Bermuda will be much longer:  4 1/2 days and 650nm. I guess this is like a another training run for the real event.

Until next time.... we AReGONe!!

17 July 2016

Sailing Nova Scotia = Brussels Sprouts

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Exploring Nova Scotia with our Home
5 July - 12 July 2016

Nova Scotia = Brussels Sprouts
Maine = Fresh raspberries on ice cream

Disclaimer:  Weather likely greatly impacted food equivalents

Key takeaways about Nova Scotia:
  • Seemingly only one point of sail.... downwind.  Whether crossing the Atlantic from Boston, sailing northward up the east coast,  sailing southward down the east coast, transiting around Cape Sable... all downwind. The initial prevailing south-westerlies decided to shift to a much less common northeasterly as if the wind was taunting and following us wherever we ventured.
  • Probably more picturesque than I was able to appreciate but fog cloaked the treasures.
  • Visited Shelburne, Lunenburg, Prince Harbor (opposite side of Lunenburg in Mahone Bay), Lockeport; did not make it to Halifax.  Shelburne was a welcoming first port of call; very much enjoyed exploring Lunenburg by foot; highly recommended.
  • Transited tricky Cape Sable successfully - check.
  • Very happy that we ventured here; tackled some challenging sailing honing our skills.
Tethered in on the bow dressed in full weather foulies and PFD listening and looking out for traffic in the fog.
Sailing to and exploring Nova Scotia was like Brussels sprouts...  good for us; sturdy and intricate; helped us be better, stronger sailors; there are plenty of places I have enjoyed more and it was most certainly never "wine and cheese" sailing but rather a tremendous amount of work and attention.

Note:  I actually like Brussels sprouts but had difficulty thinking of a vegetable I did not like.  You get the point.

Foggy coastline; there is beauty in there somewhere

Overcast coastline; there is beauty in there somewhere

Foggy coastline; there is beauty in there somewhere
Key takeaways about Maine:
  • Why have we waited so long to explore mid and northern Maine coast?!?  Love it by sea and land.  Acadia is a treasure.
  • I will never complain about the amount of lobster pots in Marblehead.... it is like a maze to navigate through the farms of pot markers in these waters.
More to come on Maine with the next post.

Here's the story:

Upon arriving in Shelburne, NS from Boston, we had planned to stay for two nights to sprinkle in some much needed rest and relaxation, but instead departed in the evening of day 2 to tackle a long overnight trip northward up the coast.  (We craved more healthy, crunchy, green vegetables.) The wind had been blowing us hard across our beam all day in Shelburne pushing us tight against the dock, but then politely lightened up as we were preparing to send off for the 80nm journey to even higher latitudes.

It was a long, eery sail overnight in the fog with both of us on high alert listening for traffic and continually examining the radar zoomed in, then out.  I was thankful for the relatively light winds although disappointed that the wind was still on our back.

The scarcity of any traffic was welcome but I kept questioning if it could really be that deserted... Was our radar working?  Was our AIS working? Where were the other vessels? 

Some sea birds, Terns of some species perhaps, were attracted to our navigation lights and would swoop and squawk by us revealing only a fleeting peak through the thick fog as they flew around us. We could hear them but not see them until they started landing on the foredeck and even one in the cockpit.  It was kind of creepy and I tried not to think of the Hitchcock movie.

Some sea birds, Terns of some species perhaps, were attracted to our navigation lights and would swoop and squawk by us revealing only a fleeting peak through the thick fog as they flew around us. We could hear them but not see them until they started landing on the foredeck and even one in the cockpit.  It was kind of creepy and I tried not to think of the Hitchcock movie

Continued vigilance sailing in the fog as morning broke
Daybreak brought some welcome brief glimpses of an attractive coastline. Little did we know this would be about all the coastline we would see for the rest of our days here.


Lunenburg is a picturesque yet authentic coastal town.  The buildings are mostly from the 1800's and early 1900's and retain their historical beauty.
I got to explore the town while Bob stayed on Argon writing code.  Dan take note.

Lunenburg is a picturesque yet authentic coastal town.  The buildings are mostly from the 1800's and early 1900's and retain their historical beauty.
Lunenburg is a true working town with a lively fishing and boating industry.  In order to compensate for the contracting fishing commerce, Lunenburg made a conscious effort to grow its tourism industry over the past decade or two to prevent it from succumbing to economic disaster that has afflicted many coastal fishing towns.  Although filled with shops and art galleries popular with tourists, Lunenburg lacks the sometimes artificial, sterile quality of many towns that have converted to tourism.  While beautiful, Lunenburg is also salty and genuine with abundant construction and working life activity. The couple of days in Lunenburg were my favorite of the Nova Scotia leg of this trip.

Although filled with shops and art galleries popular with tourists, Lunenburg lacks the sometimes artificial, sterile quality of many towns that have converted to tourism.  While beautiful, Lunenburg is also salty and genuine with abundant construction and working life activity. 
Adam and Knickle Ltd. Fishing company was established in the late 1800's and is a mainstay of Lunenburg.  The company is owned and operated by the third generation of the two original families, currently with a woman running the operations which is unusual for a fishing company. Originally focused on salt cod, Adam and Knickle shifted to scallop fishing in the mid 1900's.
Adams and Knickle Advantage Magazine 

Adams and Knickle is a third generation family fishing company and a cornerstone of Lunenburg
We spent two nights docked next to the Maude Adams.  This 49 Meter vessel was originally commissioned in 2003 but only recently purchased by Adam and Knickle and had a major refit doen in Spain. Maude Adams is one of three scallop boats for the company and is by far the largest and most modern.  In addition to catching and processing the scallops, she has the capacity to individually freeze the scallops immediately which the company is touting as optimal for the scallops that will be shipped further away. The Maude Adams was scheduled to depart on its first scallop run for Adam and Knickle the following week and will be at sea for about 14 days. When these big scallop boats return to port with dozens of young, recently generously paid and thirsty young (mostly) men, the town apparently gets a bit raucous.

Argon docked next to the towering 49 meter scallop boat, Maude Adams
I spent a lovely morning exploring the outskirts of Lunenburg by foot including poking around their weekly farmer's market:

I had a nice chat with Jason about his honey and bee hives; bought local maple syrup and the best pancake mix available for my son Christian

Yes, I am in Canada
Gail Patriarche Gallery:  Gail is a self taught water color artist specializing in boats and seascapes. If I ever return to Lunenburg, perhaps I will ask Gail to do a commissioned painting of Argon.

This painting is in progress
Gail was not there but I spent quite a bit of time chatting with her husband, John.  In addition to painting and sailing, we talked about Trudeau, Trump, Obama, Cameron and Johnson.  (We are politically aligned so it was not a contentious discussion.)  

Savy Sailor:  Settled in for a glass of red wine and cup of haddock chowder overlooking the lovely cloudy and rainy Lunenburg Harbor while I studied charts and cruising guides to figure out options for our next ports before leaving Nova Scotia for the states.

The friendly hostess at the Savy Sailor placed me specifically at Table 23 since this is the spot where the free town WiFi seems to be the most reliable.  Thank you!
Fishermen's Memorial:  During the peak of the fishing industry, Lunenburg harbor was dotted with hundreds of fishing vessels.  In the early part of the century, prior to sophisticated navigation aids and meteorology data, accidents and deaths at sea were common.  

Since the early 1900's, more than 600 men and 150 ships have that have sailed out of Lunenburg have perished in the North Atlantic.  Forty of the sunken ships lost everyone on board.

The Fisherman's Memorial is comprised of granite columns that form a stylized Compass Rose with its eight directional points.  The names of those who have been lost at sea are engraved and read aloud each September during the Annual Fishermen’s Memorial Service

There are particularly numerous names listed under 1926 and 1927 -- 130 men died at sea in these two seasons due to being caught in unexpected early season gales in August both years.  Notice that there are many of the same surname.  Some families lost all of their bread winners and were not only emotionally devastated, but economically ruined.  After 1927, no more than one man per family was allowed out at sea on the same ship.

After a couple of nights in Lunenberg, we did a short 15nm sail out in to Mahone Bay venturing up the very well protected Prince Harbor in to a very secluded anchorage which was only a couple of miles from where we had been docked prior.

We cast off our lines from the dock in Lunenburg to sail in a big U about four hours around the peninsula in to Mahone Bay ending up just 3 nm away from downtown Lunenburg anchoring for the night in Prince Harbor
We anchored comfortably for the night in Prince Harbor is just on the north side of Lunenburg near Lunenburg Yacht Club.

We indulged in chocolate chip cookies baked with dough I had mixed up while still in Boston the prior week
Another Challenging Sail - Ugh!

We set our alarms for 0430 the next morning to begin a long trek southward to Lockeport. We had anticipated a tough downwind sail with potentially large seas and our expectations were met during this extremely  challenging 16 hour sail, one of our top 5 most challenging trips ever.  In addition to being cold, cloudy, misty and somewhat foggy... this was the fourth day of north/northeasterly winds bringing the North Atlantic gushing down the eastern coast of Nova Scotia.  We spent an exhausting day of active steering downwind with 6-10 (and some 12) foot following seas.

Moods still good despite the huge following seas all day; we experienced hours of these monsters up our stern
Btw...  It is common for people to wish us well by stating "may the wind be at your back".  Although well-meaning, sailors generally do not like the wind at their back (unless consistent, light and accompanied by flat seas).  But high winds at our back create large seas and it is quite challenging to handle the boat and avoid gybing.  A better tiding would be to wish us winds across our beam.... or, perpendicular to the boat...  But I have yet to hear a pleasant, sing songy phrase that wishes perpendicular breeze or a beam reach.?  Suggestions welcome!

Bottom companionway hatchboard was inserted in anticipation of a wave washing over in to the cockpit; this would prevent our living room from becoming a wading pool; luckily, no waves broached the transom but many were close

Bob declared he was "in the zone" during a many hour long steering shift; one can get in to a nice rhythm with the seas

Most of the sailing along the eastern coast of Nova Scotia felt like sailing in November in New England
Rude Awakening:  I made the mistake of resting on the windward cockpit bench as it was a bit warmer (well, less cold) when a particularly aggressive wave came upon our port quarter and bumped me violently up and off; I hit my head and shin quite hard resulting in a couple new bumps and bruises.  Bob administered a cognition test (I was still about as smart), I took some ibuprofen, and then moved to the leeward side while Bob continued steering.

Messy lines not yet re-organized after more sail changes
The Elusive Coastline:  I suspect that the Nova Scotia coast is beautiful, but alas, we did not see much of it despite more than 200nm of sailing up and down the east coast.  

The depth of solitude of the coastline was surprising... where were all the pleasure boats in peak season?  What about all the fishing and commercial vessels?  Was everyone in port (except us) because the conditions were awful?  Even when we were sailing within 10nm of the coast.... rarely a boat in sight not only when it was foggy but even with decent visibility.  Even on AIS and radar... where was everyone?  Had the weather been clear, I probably would have relished in the solitude a bit more.  However, when having to rely on instruments, it was a bit odd.  Perhaps I have been a city dweller too long and overly accustomed to the Boston area sea traffic.

Bland Lockeport Harbor (perhaps I was tiring of the fog and grey)
I was very happy to finally be nearing our evening destination.  After negotiating a rocky and narrow channel in the early evening, we did a messy docking along the empty tie up in continued high winds in Lockeport.  Lockeport is a fairly bland little harbor with several lobster and fishing boats but seemingly no pleasure craft or ambition to be an attractive port.  It felt like a ghost harbor and certainly did not have the activity expected of early July.  We settled in for a restful evening and prepared for another early morning departure.

Bob is convinced that Terrance and Phillip is even funnier when watched in Canada
Preparing for Cape Sable and Bay of Fundy 
Our next transit would be a long haul initially southward around Cape Sable, northwest across the southern section of the Bay of Fundy, then westward skimming the Gulf of Maine back to the US. Ken McKinley from Locus Weather was in communication with us about the return crossing and suggested that Sunday would be a good day to depart for Maine. His prediction was that we would have ENE winds but they would slowly back to the Northwest. His suggestion was to leave as early on Sunday as possible (even though the weather would be rainy and chilly) in order to get as much of the trip done before the winds turned on our nose. After examining charts and tides, we set on another early morning departure to ensure we would round the Cape with the current.  We departed again in the fog focusing intently on the navigational markers, chart, and GPS to avoid the plentiful rocky shallows in the windy early morning hours.  Although the northeast winds continued, the seas where much more manageable compared to the prior day as we mentally prepared ourselves for the approximately 36 hour sail to Maine.

Rounding Cape Sable at the southern most tip of Nova Scotia needs to be approached with planning and caution.  The currents run strong, up to 4 kts!, and one should definitely avoid wind opposing current which can churn up the seas substantially in the fairly shallow waters.  We timed our arrival to grab the front side of a favorable current and were able to ride this in modest winds for about 30 miles. As we rounded Cape Sable, the winds were not really showing any signs of backing to the N or NW yet and we were making very good time.

We were able to perfectly time a slack tide in a variable but comfortable 15kt wind as we pointed about 300 degrees to thread our way south of Mud Island and north of Seal Island before entering the Bay of Fundy.  

We were briefly startled when a seemingly fishing vessel crossing our path abruptly changed course heading straight for us.  It soon became apparent that it was some sort of tourist boat (very odd given the complete lack of any traffic whatsoever) and the passengers were excitedly taking photos of us.  Perhaps they were excited to see another boat out on the vast waters.  They passed close enough for us to exchange good mornings across the misty water.
Just after passing between Mud and Seal Islands, we noticed the promised backing of the wind to the North. Suddenly, we had switched from sailing very low off the wind to sailing very high. We decided to "put some in the bank" and aimed slightly north of Bar Harbor. The current in Bay of Fundy can also be quite strong and goes hand in hand with huge tidal swings along the western cost of Nova Scotia up to 26+ feet!  We knew that our favorable current would be changing and slowing us down as we crossed the southern Fundy and in to the Gulf of Maine.

The difference between course and heading caused by the Bay of Fundy current set is very apparent in this view of our GPS track
I welcomed the refreshingly flat seas and... we were not sailing downwind!!  Instead, we were close hauled and still leaving our ultimate Maine destination to be determined by the wind.  Customs check in limited us to Portland, Camden, or Bar Harbor and we eventually targeted the northernmost of these choices as we beat in to a modest north then northwesterly wind able to average about 5kts against the current.   
Relishing the very flat seas and easy upwind sailing across the southern Bay of Fundy heading back to the US
It was decadent to sail overnight with clear skies and flat seas!!  The AIS remained eerily sparse with only a handful of fishing boats and a couple of tankers detected all night.  

Another beautiful sunrise at the end of a night of sailing; good bye Nova Scotia; hello Maine
Morning brought a beautiful sunrise but also a shifting wind, as expected.  We continued to sail high but eventually had to fire up the diesel and motor the remaining 30nm in to a headwind.  The first glimpses of Mount Desert Island were originally mistook for low clouds hugging the horizon.  But no, this was the 1500 ft elevation of Acadia National Park.  

Mount Desert Island appearing as we motored the final leg in to Bar Harbor
Maine has been an unexpected delight. Although I have lived in New England most of my adult life, I have been acutely aware that my Maine exposure has been scant.  We know of Maine being a sailing destination of course, but other than Portland, we have not explored the northeastern coast.  But boy, do I get it now!  From the first far away glimpses of Mount Desert Island, to weaving around dozens of rocky islands, anchoring in secluded harbors, and visiting coastal towns... More to come on my love affair with Maine.