Monday, 3 January 2011

Blackthorn 2010

Blackthorn spent winter 2009/2010 under cover at Cape Breton Boatyard in Baddeck, Nova Scotia  in the tender care of Henry Fuller. 

We rejoined her in May still recovering from our motorcycle accident in Texas. We rented a cottage in Baddeck and spent a few weeks painting and fixing, trying to be ready to go when Hannah ( Mick & Bee& Toots) caught up with us. Our plan was to cruise Newfoundland and Labrador in company with them.
Bethunes Boat House, Baddeck

True to our reputation, we were still trying to finish when Hannah left Baddeck heading for Dingwall, the northern tip of Nova Scotia. We caught up the next day and crossed to the west coast of Newfoundland together after a few days enjoying Hamilton  Carter’s hospitality in Dingwall. A lively crossing with the anticipated ‘35-40 knots in the Wreckhouse area’ and a breezy beat into the Bay  of Islands.
Two days later, we set out from Bonne Bay on an overnight passage north for the Quebec shore. As we approached the coast, we were treated to a great display of whales spouting around us and off to the horizon across the sparkle of the afternoon sun. What we came for. We anchored that night in the beautiful Anse du Portage in Baie Jacques Cartier with the few summer camping families for company.
Fishing camp - Baie Jacques Cartier
We were treated to salmon, mussels and whelks by a local fisherman.  (See Hannah’s blog … a detailed description).
After riding out a gale, we moved east up the coast for Labrador and got as far as Red Bay.  Now Robin realized that, in trying to free the anchor in Anse du Portage, he had developed a hernia. A trip to the local medical centre confirmed that he needed treatment, the nearest hospital being at St Anthony, Newfoundland.
Red Bay
July & August
So we spent five weeks in St. Anthony while Robin was operated on and then recuperating. Very disappointing to have our cruise curtailed but an opportunity to get to know a special part of Newfoundland and the Grenfell medical legacy as well as a wonderfully generous bunch of fishermen. Grenfell brought much needed medical care to the Labrador coast more than 100 years ago ( Our thanks to the medical staff at Charles S Curtis Memorial Hospital, especially Dr Fitzgerald (thanks Fitz, this old gaffer may get winches yet) and Agnes who made it seem so easy. It was a memorable time which reminded us of another world when people were more important than processes.

We also met a lot of hardened northern latitude cruisers passing through St Anthony. Don Barr helping Peter sail from Florida. Northabout, an aluminium expedition boat that has been through both North West and North East passages, circumnavigating Newfoundland. Steve and Sandy on Hillary. Aussies Jonno and Mike who have cruised Patagonia.  Then Hannah sailed in unexpectedly.
Gaffers gaffing - St Anthony
As Robin was not able to lift or pull, Ham Carter joined as  muscle to help us get Blackthorn south. We stayed in company with Hannah for two days, then they headed back to Quebec while we continued to Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. 
Ham and storm jib

Ham left us for a week then rejoined us for a blissful sail to Liscomb where we headed up river for a sheltered spot to ride out Hurricane Earl.
Liscomb turned out to be less sheltered than we might have wished. The dock we were tied to was insubstantial and side on to the wind. The other  boat tied  to the dock, Dutch boat Pjotter (Seb, Rhiannon and the young 'monkeys') found that dock breaking up so we spent the duration of the ’hurricane’ (luckily daylight and no more than 55 knot gusts) putting out more lines, lashing the dock and staying busy.  
We stopped for a few days in Halifax then headed for Shelburne to meet up with Hannah and their friends Forbes and Yola. They make the most amazing flutes influenced by Forbes’ experience as an aeronautical engineer.  Sadly for us they were off to England and Scotland the day after we arrived but we had a great time hanging out with Jill their daughter for the rest of our stay. Also special to get to know Paul, Bess and Nettie.  Shelburne was idyllic so we did our now habitual Real Estate search.

Late September and we finally left Canada with Hannah, next stop our familiar stamping ground Belfast, Maine. We collected our first lobster pot line motoring in thick fog at night off Isle A Haut. Bad moment but luckily we were able to reverse slowly and free the line trapped by one of the feathering propeller blades (it’s a Maxprop).
Coming to Belfast is a bit like coming home, big hug from Cathy Messier the incomparable Harbour Master whose exceptional qualities we first heard of in Bermuda in 1997. Then meeting all our friends, special thanks to Malcolm and Carol for the use of Brad the truck and great liquid moments. So many other great friends that we repeated our Real Estate quest. Belfast is unique, we keep coming back.
Frosty mornings told us it was time to go. Hannah and Blackthorn set out on an overnighter for Provincetown, Mass.  A bit rough and windy as we left Penobscot Bay but we made P’town the next afternoon. No time to experience the exotic and flamboyant Gay atmosphere ashore as we did on our last visit. The next day we were through the Cape Cod Canal and met the full force of the south west wind on the other side. We struggled 8 miles to Marion for the night.
We were heading for Martha’s Vineyard across Buzzards Bay to meet friends of Hannah. Only 8 miles to Wood’s Hole passage which we had to pass to get to the Vineyard but 35 knots of wind and steep building seas made it challenging. We were glad to pull in to Hadley Harbour for the night.
The next day we sluiced through Woods Hole at speed and fetched the Vineyard soon after. Hannah and Blackthorn picked up a mooring which turned out to be free as it was so late in the season. We stayed for  a week enjoying the hospitality provided by Dennis and Julie who drove us round the island as well as providing great food and showers.

Mick & Julie

We hoped to make Vineyard to Chesapeake Bay in one go, a 3-4 day trip. Weather delayed us until we thought  we had enough of a window to make it before a nasty looking system hit us.  But the wind died on the first day so we headed for Block Island. Group think had both boats beating into a rising wind and a lumpy sea making diddly squat knots. Finally we were close to the poorly lit entrance to the Great Salt Pond in the dark  facing a narrow downwind entrance , entranced by the thought of a warm fire and a strong drink. Suddenly we saw sense (or was it white water), bore away into the night and headed for  New York along the Long Island south shore. NOTE TO SELF- Gaffers sail downwind
We had a great overnight sail but as usual the wind died and we motored into Sheepshead Bay  inside Coney Island. We stayed for two days as the wind blew so we took the subway into Manhattan. A free anchorage, 40 minutes from Fifth Avenue, how strange. Mick suspected he too had developed a hernia so consternation.
Manhattan skyline from Coney Island

Off again in heavy thermals aiming for Chesapeake but happy to get to Cape May early  the following morning after a boisterous sail made more interesting by a barely lit sailboat crossing in front of Hannah and Blackthorn ( he was motoring) in the rough seas of the night.  The entrance to Cape May has the tide running across it with turbulent cross currents to keep you alert but both boats managed it.
Our stay at Cape May protected us from strong winds outside but was spoilt by the Border Protection Agency giving both boats a ‘violation’ for failing to report our arrival in New Jersey waters. Unfortunately the supersized Homeland Security beast has trouble with its own rules so it is easy to break them. Try to report your arrival in New York City and you get bawled out. No consistency but now we have to be more diligent in reporting our whereabouts with or without hernia.  
We left Cape May in trepidation- not much good news in the forecast – fully expecting a beating across the mouth of the Delaware but had it easy. A good sail to Cape Charles where we came on the wind and just  managed to lay the Chesapeake Bridge entrance. Usual mass of Navy ships approaching Norfolk which we managed to avoid. Wind died as we came to Hampton Roads and we motored to our familiar slip in Scotts Creek, Cary and Joe waiting to take our lines.  We’re in our southern home and Cary had booked a doctor’s appointment for Mick.