October 1 - October 13, 2004

October 1, 2004

Hurricane Jeanne cleared out and we had a great weather window for about a week. Time to move! We left Ballantynes Cover under beautiful, sunny skies.

Ken playing harmonica The temperature was warm enough that we didn't need coats. Ken is taking advantage of the nice conditions to play a few tunes.  

 

Mystery fin While we were waiting to pass through the lock at the Canso Straight we saw a mysterious fin in the water. It was moving around -- clearly alive -- and sticking out of the water about 18 inches. Jaws?  

The lock tender at the Canso lock was curious about us and we had a nice conversation on the radio. Beth is getting very professional on the radio -- she even said "Roger that."

After we exited the lock we had our first bona fide dolphin sighting.   First dolphin sighting

We stopped for the night at the Straits of Canso Yacht Club in Port Hawkesbury. Their docks had suffered quite a bit of damage when Hurricane Juan passed through Nova Scotia last year (at about this time of year!) so there was no power or water at the docks.

When we first arrived, Ken noticed a boat getting bashed against the dock in high winds. He took a bunch of fenders from other places on that boat, put them where they would do some good and got the boat protected. Later we met the owner (Tony-- a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman), and he returned the favor by lending us his key to the club and by opening the gas dock for us.

Here's Tony (below) sporting a T-Shirt that expounds the virtues of being a "Mountie". We never did see his horse -- we suspect it may have tires and an engine.

Constable Tony   Close-up of Toni's shirt

 

Tight squeeze at fuel dock The gas dock was a very tight fit, as you can see in the picture -- we were twice as long as the dock.  

SCOPOLOMINE

The leg from Canso down the Nova Scotia coast would be our first real Atlantic Ocean leg. After our seasickness experience in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we both decided to take some precautions.

We have some prescription medicine called Scopolomine, which you apply by putting a patch behind your ear. It's reputed to be very effective, with just a few side effects. Like hallucinations. The author of one of our reference books said that he had to take scopolomine patches away from two of his crew after they reported seeing dancing girls on the bow at night.

Given this issue, Ken decided to try just half a patch. Beth decided to stick to Bonine, a less potent, over the counter remedy without the exotic side effects, figuring that at least one of the crew should be lucid.

As it worked out, Ken did not get seasick, and did not see any dancing girls. Beth also did not see any dancing girls, but she did get slightly queazy. In light of this experience, Beth decided to try half a patch on the next leg.

Ken was happy about not getting sick, but was disappointed about the girls. Ken plans to try a whole patch on the next leg.

October 2 - 4, 2004

Leaving Port Hawkesbury was a real milestone -- we were now in the Atlantic Ocean. We had light wind, but we sailed most of the time anyway. We love how the boat performs. In 5-7 knots of wind, we could do 4-5 knots. In 9-12 knots, we were making 7-9 knots. And this is with 250 gallons of diesel, about 160 gallons of water and several tons of spare parts on board. Not to mention a year's supply of gatorade and vitamin pills. And the refrigeration vacuum pump. And the two folding bicycles. And the folding Kayak. Etc...

We originally planned to stop at Halifax but we got there pretty late in the day and couldn't get dock space, so we decided to push on down the coast of Nova Scotia. There was a great deal of commercial traffic going into and out of Halifax and we breathed easier once we passed through the main shipping lanes.

The weather turned drizzly and our refrigeration system starting acting up. The system would kick on for a few minutes and then shut completely down. A little while later it would kick on again for a minute or two and then shut off. We decided to turn it off totally until we could get a better look at it once we reached our next stop. Fortunately the holding plates are good for several days so we didn't immediately lose all our food. Also, the air and water outside are COLD.

As we approached our intended stop, Shelburne Harbor, Beth tried to secure the boom in the boom gallows while Ken was asleep on his off-watch. The seas were pretty rocky and with the sail doused, the boom starting swinging wildly from side to side, crashing into the top of the pilothouse. She was able to tie it down to one side, but it still was bouncing some on the top of the pilothouse, so she woke Ken up -- the first time she ever had to get him up on his off-watch.

We finally got the boom back in its gallows. Ken later determined that the screws holding the boom vang to the boom had sheared off, causing the vang to be inoperable. The vang supports the boom from below and without the vang the boom will crash into the pilothouse. One more repair item to add to the list.

Approaching Shelburne Harbor We reached Shelburne Harbor near the end of the south coast of Nova Scotia after two days and two nights at sea. It felt very remote and secluded.  
But the fishermen were there -- several fishing boats sped by on their way out to fish in the ocean.   Fishing trawler going to sea

 

Docked at Shelburne Harbor The only spot available at Shelburne was a short end cap and we hung off the end quite a ways. We tied on lots of additional lines to secure the boat as best we could.  

October 5 - 6, 2004

We stayed two nights at Shelburne. The extra day gave Ken a chance to look at the refrigeration problem. It turns out the waterpump for the refrigeration system had died. Fortunately we had two spare pumps and after Ken replaced it the system worked properly again.

There were quite a few other cruising boats at Shelburne Harbor when we pulled in. The harbor is a perfect jumping off point for Maine and other points south.

WIND LORE

The local yacht club operates the marina for the town of Shelburne and several of the club members stopped by to offer helpful advice. One member, Rick (on the bow in picture on left below), is restoring the boat "Wind Lore". The boat had been abandoned in a storm off the Azores after all of the cabin windows were stove in and the crew panicked. It floated, dismasted and abandoned, for several months before it turned up in the Caribbean and was salvaged. Rick bought the salvage rights and began the enormous task of restoration. He had to replace virtually everything above the waterline, along with most of the interior. The boat looks gorgeous now, inside and out.

Rick with Wind Lore   Wind Lore restored

 

Heather and Rob at Shelburne Harbor We also met our first long distance cruising couple, Heather and Rob from Ottawa. Like us, they just started their cruising adventure this summer. Their boat, Siqqittuq, is just to the left of Heather.  

We had some nice dinners with Heather and Rob. It was really weird, but nice, to talk with people who were thinking about exactly the same issues that we faced. Rob had all of Dashew's (the designer of our boat) books, and said he had read the 800 page cruising encyclopedia three times! That's hard core.

Both boats were headed to the coast of the U.S. and we strategized together about how to handle the strong tidal flows off the southern coast of Nova Scotia. The Bay of Fundy lies around the bottom corner of Nova Scotia and the tidal range can be as much as 55 feet. Imagine the currents when all that water comes barreling out of the vast bay! We planned to stay well to seaward of the mouth.

As we pulled out of the harbor, a family of ducks decided to escort us. They made quite a fuss as they followed all the way out of the harbor. Maybe we have some eggs on board that we don't know about...   Duck escort

THOUGHTS ON SAFETY

In the past week we've seen two boats that got into bad trouble -- Nadine and Wind Lore. So it's worth thinking about what we can do to avoid the specific problems that nailed them.

Nadine foundered because she tried to run for port rather than keeping her bow into the seas. Also she had a hatch open. Unlike most sailboats, we always keep our companionway hatch closed at sea. And we wouldn't try to get into a port in really bad weather, mostly because there's too much chance of running into something hard. Whether we would run before a storm or try to keep our bow into it we will have to see. Both can be ok with a sailboat. We carry a sea anchor that should keep the bow into the wind in absolutely extreme conditions.

Wind Lore had its cabin windows stove in, and the crew called for help and abandoned ship. Wind Lore's windows were glass. Our hull ports are 1/2 inch Lexan, which is literally bulletproof, at least for most handguns. It's stronger than the hull, and the ports are bolted outside the laminate, so a wave would have to push them right through the hull to pop them out. Also, we carry heavy plywood cut to fit the ports, so we could improvise a patch if we needed to. The pilothouse windows are a little lighter, but still very tough -- 3/8" Lexan. And we keep the hatch closed inside the pilothouse, so we could lose the whole pilothouse structure and still float.

Windlore survived after it was abandoned, as sailboats often do. We are determined that we would not abandon Eagle's Wings so easily. Of course that's easy to say, but we really mean it. Getting off a boat in a storm, even with a rescue ship present, is very difficult and dangerous. And a life raft is strictly a last resort -- good seamanship says you should only board a life raft when you have to step up to get into it. We have years of commitment to Eagle's Wings, and we believe she will take care of us if we take care of her.

October 7 - 8, 2004

Heading offshore toward the U.S. from the coast of Nova Scotia was very sobering. This same area had experienced strong gales just a few days earlier but the weather looked promising for several days.

Heading off into the Atlantic ocean As it turned out we have very benign conditions for our run back to the U.S. We decided to head toward Cape Cod.  

Our radar had been acting strangely on occasion and it was up to its tricks again. We could not get images more than about 3 miles off. We spotted boats by eye much faster than they showed up on the radar. Given the unreliability of our radar image, we had to maintain an extra sharp lookout -- scanning the horizon every 10 minutes or so throughout the entire trip, and using the night vision scope to spot fishing boats at night.

We had light winds on the nose, so we ended up motorsailing after the first six hours or so.

During the evening a warbler landed on the boat. He had probably gotten headed by the same south winds that made us motorsail. He was exhausted and wanted a place to warm up. He also seemed perfectly happy to go south at our stately pace.

Feathered visitor   Warbler in cockpit

 

Warbler in Ken's hand

Eventually he hopped into Ken's hand, tucked his head under his wing and went to sleep. Unfortunately, Ken couldn't spare his hand for the rest of the night. We offered our friend a Kleenex box for shelter, but he preferred to huddle behind the folded cockpit table. We felt very protective of our little visitor and put out some food -- but he just preferred to hunker down and sleep.

We were very distressed to find that he died during the night. We don't know what more we could have done. Maybe some heat, somehow... Ken gave him a proper burial at sea.

 

Another warbler came by during Beth's watch. The bird hopped right into the pilothouse, and he and Beth both got a good start when they discovered each other. The bird took one look at Beth, turned around, and hopped back out! We don't know what became of that bird.

Although we'd experienced many beautiful sunsets on the trip, this one was particularly special since it was our first sunset in the Atlantic Ocean.   First ocean sunset

 

We saw more sea life as we got closer to Cape Cod. About 15 dolphins swam nearby our boat -- they didn't jump energetically out of the water, but just moved gracefully and efficiently. We also saw our first whale, but weren't quick enough to get a picture.   Dolphin family

The boat traffic really increased as we got close to Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod. We heard the Coast Guard check out fishing boats and board several to make sure all of their registration papers were in order. Ken quickly put away his (unlicensed) fishing line.

Fishing boat near Hyannis Entering Hyannis Harbor  

We decided to stop at Hyannis, as they had good dock space for us and we thought it would be fun to explore the town a little before heading to Newport, RI. We were in for a rude surprise.

When we were cruising through Canada, we had a special permit (Form I-68) that allowed us to go back into the United States from Canada without going to an official port of entry. So we thought we were all set when we pulled into Hyannis. Customs had other ideas. It turns out Form I-68 only works in the parts of the U.S. that border Canada. We should have stopped at an official port of entry location (Boston or Newport would have worked).

Customs told us (by phone after we called in) that we could not get off our boat. We had to fly the yellow "Q" (quarantine) flag and get to an official port as soon as possible. As it was late in the day, and Ken told them it would be dangerous for a stranger to navigate the very difficult shoals of Nantucket Sound in the dark, they let us wait until the next day to get to Newport.

So, after three days and two nights at sea from Port Shelburne, we couldn't even get a good restaurant dinner. More importantly, the Customs snafu caused a critical resupply problem. We hadn't shopped for food since Quebec. We had plenty of fuel and water and basic food, but -- with absolutely precise inventory management -- we had eaten our last Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookie as we approached Hyannis! Unable to resupply as planned, we were forced to cover the overnight shortfall by dipping into the fudge inventory. We are considering an irate letter to Customs.

(Actually we're happy they didn't throw us in jail.)

October 9, 2004

We left at 6:30 a.m. sharp, just as the sun was coming up. We thought we'd have to do a lot of motoring, but the day turned out to be a spectacular sailing day and we made great time under sail.

Tall ship in Nantucket Sound We passed this beautiful schooner on our way out of Nantucket Sound. The waters of the Sound can be very trecherous because it is shallow, with shifing sand and numerous shoals. Luckily the wind was moderate for our trip and the tide was also in our favor.  

On the way to Newport we found ourselves going the same way as a very large (70 foot or so) sloop which was flying a big headsail. Two sailboats going the same way is a race, and we worked hard to keep our speed up. We held them off for three hours, making 8-9 knots in light winds even though we only had our main and jib up. Ken wanted to put up the Code Zero reacher, but Beth pointed out that we would be at Newport by the time we got it up.

We made great time to Newport, but the Customs person who was going to meet us in Newport couldn't wait and decided to clear us through via cell phone even before we got there. She was really very nice and didn't give us a big hassle about our faux pas of putting in at Hyannis. So we never actually got boarded by Customs.

As we got close to Newport, the sailboat traffic increased dramatically and we saw some large and unusual boats.

Strange house on rock in Newport Harbor Interesting boats in Newport Harbor  

 

Cruise ship in Newport Harbor Newport is also a port of call for many cruise ships. There were two large cruise ships in the harbor when we arrived. They use their lifeboats as water taxis.  

After spending weeks in the remote wilds of Canada, we were a bit shell-shocked sailing into Newport. As we passed the numerous hundred foot sloops in our new Marina and dodged the 170 (??) foot three masted schooner in front of our slip, Ken said "Beth, I don't think we're in Waukegan anymore!"

Normally we like to get an end cap, but when the yard heard that we were 60 feet long, they said we wouldn't be able to get one -- those spots are reserved for "big boats."   Very large schooner at Newport Shipyard

October 10 - 12, 2004

We were grateful we were able to get dockage at all in Newport. This was Columbus Day weekend and most of the marinas were full. Newport Shipyard is a very nice facility but WOW it was expensive. We paid $2.50/foot per night. And this was the REDUCED off-season rate (normally its over $4/foot).

Pricey Newport Shipyard dockspace

This spot cost us $150/night. Electricity is extra at $8/night. Internet access would have cost $15/night. Plus we had to pay $4/gallon to dispose of oil we removed from an engine oil change.

That's $55 thousand a year, without electricity. (Or internet or oil disposal). And that's the off season rate.

You could rent a very nice house for that price in most cities.

 

After walking the docks and checking out other options, we lined up an alternative docking facility, but we wouldn't be able to move for several days, due to the high winds and holiday weekend bookings.

We gulped hard and swallowed the price at the Newport Shipyard for a few days. We took advantage of our stay at the Shipyard to walk the docks and check out the behemoths berthed there. The names were exotic, like "Scheherazade", "Forza", and "Far Niente".

Below is a replica of the famous J-Boats. The boat must draw 20 feet. Beth (on the left below) is dwarfed by the underside. The combined overhangs at the bow and stern on this boat are about as long as our boat!

J-Boat dwarfs Beth   Huge overhang on J-Boat

Big as these boats are, we were told of an even bigger boat that visited Newport Shipyard this summer -- a 300 foot power yacht that carried a 60 foot sailboat on deck as a "water toy"!

Boats this size need some heavy-duty equipment to haul them around. When we first came in, we noticed a 70 ton travel lift -- not much bigger than Manitowoc's. Ken said "that's probably their spare travel lift." Sure enough, we went around a corner and saw the 330 ton travel lift! There's also a 1500 ton marine railway.

330 ton travel lift Here a boat is being hauled by the yard's 330 ton travel lift. We need about a 25 ton travel lift to hoist our boat!  

 

Everything is REALLY BIG on these boats. This 4-bladed feathering propeller is almost as big as Beth. And look at the rudder.   Beth with huge propeller

 

Crew polishing stainless

We spent two hours rinsing the salt off our boat and Beth scrubbed the soot off the transom. Meanwhile, the (already spotless) boat next to us had three paid crew polishing all the stainless steel fittings for an entire day. The next day they all scrubbed the deck.

When J.P Morgan was asked what it cost to maintain his giant yacht, he said "If you have to ask, you can't afford it." We can see what he meant.

 

 

We didn't meet a single boat owner during our stay at the Newport Shipyard. All the people on these boats are paid crew and they were usually too busy working on their boats to talk with us. Scheherazade pictured here is manned by a fulltime crew of 6! They live on the boat, and the owner comes aboard once in a while for a sail.   Scheherazade

Maybe it's sour grapes, but we wouldn't want to trade Eagle's Wings for any of these boats. They are too big and too complex, and nobody even thinks about sailing any of them with just two people. Also, they totally depend on hydraulics and electrical power, and we just wouldn't trust all that at sea. There aren't even manual overrides to furl and sheet the sails.

We asked one of the crew on Scheherazade what happens if they lose power -- the response was "we don't lose power". Then we asked about all of the communications domes in the spreaders, thinking the owner must use all of this high tech equipment for his business. The crewman said "we need that stuff to stay in touch with the people who do our electronics and hydraulics." Yikes! Would you really want to be 2000 miles away from help on a boat like that?

October 13, 2004

We finally were able to move our boat to a more "economical" location and plan to stay here several weeks while we do repairs, maintenance, and other provisioning.

Newport may be expensive, but we've been astounded at the availability of high quality people to help us with our various projects. You can pretty much find any kind of marine specialist you can image. We even saw a truck that said "yacht theaters" on the side! Even the radio stations carry ads for marine services.

Next

Our plan is to find a weather window to Bermuda and then the Caribbean sometime after the first of November -- after the hurricanes and before the big fall storms. Then it's "warm summer breezes and french wines and cheeses," to quote Jimmy Buffet. That's the theory anyway. First we have to get there...

SCHEDULES AND BREAKDOWNS

Now that we're safely in Newport, it's worth thinking about what went right and what went wrong on the boat.

We've been racing for two months to get to Newport on schedule by mid-October. Any later and we couldn't get the crucial east coast work done (on our watermaker system) and still jump off in early November. If you miss the very short November weather window then you can't go to the Caribbean because the late fall Atlantic storms will eat you...

So we needed to cover the 2700 miles from Waukegan to Newport without taking any substantial time to repair breakdowns. Even one serious problem that took more than a week or so to fix would derail the trip for a whole year. And of course we were traveling through some really remote regions in Northern Canada -- the Gaspe Pennisula and Nova Scotia -- where help could be hard to find. So the pressure was on.

Considering all that, our breakdown record was remarkably good -- we've only had one unscheduled layover day to repair a breakdown, and we haven't had a show-stopping problem. Or, to put it differently, lots of things have gone wrong, but we've been able to fix them or keep going despite of them. Here's a partial list.

Refrigeration

  • We had a refrigerant leak in Waukegan just before we left. We fixed the leak, evacuated the system and re-charged it. (Making use of our status as licensed refrigeration technicians.) We are carrying enough 134a refrigerant for two complete re-charges, along with a big vacuum pump.
  • The refrigerator water pump failed in Nova Scotia. We were carrying two spare pumps for the refrigerator, so the fix was easy, but it did cost us a day.

Boom Vang

  • We blew out the spectron line on the way to Manitowoc. Manitowoc Marina respliced it and also built us a spare. (Our splicing skills for high tech line are still theoretical -- that stuff is hard to splice.)
  • A heavy shackle came unscrewed and then blew out under the load. (See picture below). We replaced it, and Ken went around making sure all the other shackles on the boat were seized with wire so they couldn't unscrew.
  Broken shackle  
  • All of the screws holding the boom vang fitting to the boom sheared off. The vang is still attached to the fitting, which pokes out from a slot on the boom, but the fitting is totally loose and the vang can't be used. We decided to keep going and fix it in Newport. Who needs a vang, anyhow?

Autopilot

  • It sucked some air and started hunting. We recharged it and bled it in Rochester. We carry about a gallon and a half of hydralic fluid, enough for several complete changes.

Genset

  • Ken discovered a broken mounting bracket for the alternator. We had to make electricity from the main Yanmar for several weeks until a new mounting bracket caught up with us in Rochester. We ordered two, so now we have a spare.

Radar

  • The radar appeared to die in Rochester, then came back to life, but it was never quite right. We started seeing other boats by eye before they showed up on the screen. Sometimes we'd be looking right at high bluffs on land a few miles away and the radar would be totally clear. Other times the land would show. Gave us zero confidence at night and in fog.

We decided to limp on to Newport without trying to fix the problem, because diagnosing the exact issue was complicated, and Furuno doesn't produce good shop manuals. Made for some long night watches. Also lots of work with binoculars and our night vision scope to see those little fishing boats at night. Fortunately we didn't hit fog.

In Newport we found (with professional help) that the display unit/brain had a defective board. Furuno's turn around time to fix this stuff is measured in months (for a nine-year old system), so getting it fixed would cause us to miss our window and be stuck here all winter. We could go without, but night watch keeping is MUCH harder without it.

Fortunately, we just happened to have a whole spare display unit. (See picture below. The electronics guy we hired had never seen anyone carry a spare display before.) So we're good to go. The new Furuno board will catch up with us somewhere. It's funny, because the spare display unit seemed like the most ridiculous, over-the-top spare part we were carrying. And it saves the trip.

  Ken with spare radar display he insisted on bringing  

Windlass

  • In Harbor Beach (Lake Huron) we discovered that Ken had wired the windlass up wrong. Fortunately we figured it out before we fried the motor, but it got pretty hot. After some reflection we ordered a whole spare windlass motor, which caught up with us in Rochester.

Computers

  • We had a charger for our military-style laptop short out and dump current into the computer and into the cable from our B&G instruments. The B&G cable got real hot and one of the B&G displays stopped reading. Very fortunately the display recovered and we don't seem to have done any permanent damage -- but this could have been really bad. Could even have caused a fire, since the B&G cable wasn't designed to carry any current and wasn't fused. The charger was fused, but way above the capacity of the B&G cable.

Beth had a spare computer charger, so we kept the computer going. She has now ordered two new chargers of a different design.

Watermaker

  • The Balmar watermaker on the boat had never been run (we couldn't test it in fresh water). Complex systems that haven't been run for eight years on boats aren't going to work when you push the button. So we knew we had to get to Newport with enough time to get some serious work done. (You can't expect to find watermaker expertise in the midwest -- no salt water.)

Not surprisingly, the professional verdict was to rip it out and start over. (Of course the professional was selling a competing system, but we knew enough to believe he was right.) So we are going to install a whole new state of the art system in the next week and a half. We will then have rebuilt, repaired or replaced every major system on the boat since we bought it. This is pretty normal for boats. (If you want to get them in good shape for a long trip in remote areas.)

The upside of all this is that getting rid of the old system may give us room for a scuba tank air compressor. :-) Goody -- more things to break!