Cheshire Cat Toronto

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Toronto to Halifax

Good health - goodbye;
the last toast;
Bronte Harbour September 3rd, 2002

Noon on Labour Day, family and friends on the dockside wishing us farewell all of us waving and shouting our goodbyes until Cheshire Cat finally turned past the break wall and we were on our own. This was actually IT - we were on our way!

Fare well everyone!!

I thought it was really awfully nice of the Red Arrows and the Snowbirds to appear in the skies above us and provide us with a personal display of their aeronautical skills as we sailed past Toronto - even though the crowds at the CNE and the Toronto islands were supposed to be the main beneficiaries of the display. and almost as heartwarming to think that the firework displays on shore that evening were people's personal way of wishing us well on our Adventure!

Cheshire Cat leaving Bronte Harbour

It took us about five weeks to reach Halifax, Nova Scotia. Five weeks of fast travel because we were late in the season to catch a weather window to cross the Atlantic to Bermuda. It would have been so much nicer to take more time to explore all the beautiful cruising grounds that we passed.

Collins Bay/Kingston. Reading the cruising magazines and stories we'd often seen accounts of how welcome cruisers are made to feel when they are away from home, and our first experience of this was in Collins Bay where we met Michelle who helped us with some computer problems. She helped us install a new program - even came to the boat to see how it worked.

We passed through the Thousand Islands without incident and carried on to the St Lawrence Seaway.

By this time we felt we were old hands at Canal Locks - having been through the Erie Canal and up and down through the Welland Canal, and we had no problems in this larger and more commercial system.

The delays caused by commercial traffic were endless and often for reasons we couldn’t fathom – sometimes we stayed waiting to transit a lock for six or eight hours, and couldn't see any traffic going either way. These small troubles were soon forgotten after Longueuil, a suburb of Montreal. Now we had to contend with tides and currents – all new to us as fresh water sailors with limited experience!

Our arrival in the approaching dusk at Longueuil, a suburb of Montreal in Quebec was timely - we had to sit in the marina to wait for the remnants of a tropical storm system to pass - the first of several systems to delay us for several days. With time on our hands we decided to install our brand new single side band radio.

As we switched the power on something rather unique occurred and we were less than fascinated by several popping noises and the acrid smell of smoke. The smoke was coming from the radio – not a joy to behold. Next day, and several taxi rides later our radio was on its way back to the manufacturer, with a burnt out circuit board. Now we have a separate fuse just for the radio – and hopefully, no more problems should there be another power surge.

We discovered some superb French cafe's and restaurants nearby - and spent a fair amount of time in the local library using their computers for no charge Leaving Longueuil and the port of Montreal brought us our first experience of large container ships up close and they were very intimidating. How do they see where they are going or what is around them. Packed several containers high and wide (looking very bulky and untrustworthy) they vied for space in the same narrow channels that we were in. They, of course, won the space without as much as a whisper of protest from us!

We stopped for a night at Trois Riviere, and left for Quebec at noon to take advantage of the tides. Entering Quebec was a nightmare – night had fallen and the bridges were awash with light, as was the town beyond. There were two incredibly blinding range lights before the bridges, a narrow channel and a myriad of shore lights. I was on the wheel, Mike was lookout. Following the range lights, searching for the buoys took all my attention, until Mike yelled “Hard Port – NOW” Full throttle and a hard turn took us out from under the bows of a large commercial vessel – too close for comfort! Soon after we made it into the Yacht Club du Quebec – late at night and much relieved to tie up in comfort.

Quebec, overlooking the St Lawrence River

We spent a terrific day sightseeing in glorious sunshine. Our taxi driver for the outward trip was very informative, and drove the interesting route whilst relaying historical facts about all the places we were passing. We were unable to met the owners of Thalia - another Cabot at the Yacht Club.

Lady Luck really came our way when we met Helene and Claude on Voldenuit.

They looked after us really well and took us on shopping expeditions as well being a fountain of useful local information. Helene spent ages typing up excellent sailing directions for the trip along the St Lawrence River, including information on tides and currents, with ports of call and alternate stops for bad weather scenarios for the whole route. One hears and reads about this happening, but it was a brilliant first hand experience for us – one of several more to come.The log book says Departed Quebec 14:30. Arrived Quebec 01:30.

Another Adventure! At dusk I went below to get supper ready, and oops! There was water over the floorboards. Not a welcome sight! Man the pumps! I took the wheel, turned the boat back towards what little signs of life we had passed, Mike dived below to look for the source. He opened the engine compartment, checked the head, checked the galley thru hulls. Pumped until the water went down. We switched places – Mike pumped again while I flung everything out of lockers willy nilly, checking more thru hull fittings. We couldn’t possibly sink here – with our adventure barely started! No leaks anywhere. More pumping. Mike went back into the engine compartment, lifted the bilge pump - to find it gushing water back into the boat!! Well – that was easily fixed – but the pumping of our hearts took a little longer to settle down. It turned out that motor sailing on the port tack put the bilge pump thru hull under water, and even thought there was a vented loop, it wasn’t enough to prevent the water coming in. Back in Quebec we installed an in line check valve, and plan to make a new thru hull above the water line when we summer over in Grenada.

Berthier-sur-la-mer was another really interesting experience - we arrived at high tide early in the evening, tied up our dock lines and took note of a twig sticking out of the water nearby. Later on that evening we were amazed to find that the twig had developed a very long stem - in fact it stood about 12' out of the water. Beyond - where there was previously a wide bay - was now a sea of grass! Weird - and a little discomforting to us folk who come from a tide less lake!

Port du Cacuna. We stopped in this little used commercial port for a night, and settled down in good shelter in windy weather. A couple of hours later we were surprised to see another sailboat come in and anchor next to us. Mike was even more surprised to recognize the boat that we had traveled up the Welland canal with four years previously. Unfortunately we were not able to stop and chat the next morning - had to get up and hurry onwards. Travel from the Port de Cacuna to Rimouski proved to be another first time experience - we had impenetrable thick fog all the way!
Rimouski. Luckily the fog lifted as we approached Rimouski which had a very narrow entrance and a very fast and wide high speed ferry which we didn't want to meet in close quarters. The docks were shared by local work boats and fishing boats, and we met Louis. Again we found a helping hand as he was very helpful with local information. We were able to walk to the local supermarket to re-stock.

Travel past the Gaspe Peninsula was spectacular - I awoke one morning to see towering cliffs through the windows - quite a change from the rolling countryside before. And - the instructions from Helene to avoid south winds through the valleys became abundantly clear!! It was very eerie traveling along the shoreline during the night. We could see truck headlights that appeared to be on the water, but in actual fact there was a road running along the base of the cliffs. We made a very brief stop at Riviere au Renard to refueled. Mike got a lift from a complete stranger to the local gas station so he could get diesel, very welcome help, even though there was a slight communication problem - one had une peut French, the other no English!

Then we did another overnight trip to Prince Edward Island. We saw whales spouting - much to my disappointment none of them came really close to us. We had seen Beluga whales in the distance as the St Lawrence widened out after Quebec, but again, not really close by.

Fishing village in PEI

Our first anchorage was at the West Point of PEI. In the dark we couldn't quite make out how to get into the Harbour there, so we anchored just off the red buoy at the entrance. Next morning we were rudely wakened by the boat rolling and bucking, various shouts from somewhere, lots of flashlights shining at us. Fishermen were leaving and obviously didn't expect to see us parked (just) off the channel next to the marker buoy! Needless to say we were up and on our way in great haste only to find ourselves having to weave through acres and acres of fishing buoys. Apparently it was lobster season in that particular area. The buoys are difficult to see at times, and it's hard to understand how those guys know where their pots are, it seems so scattered and disorganized.

Confederation Bridge was quite the sight - I never know how high the spans are on bridges, so it was another case of holding one's breath. Of course I was worrying pointlessly - the bridge is huge.

Mike and Deirdre huddled on the cold beach

On to Charlottetown, trying to make time and get there before dark. (A case of too many night arrivals in unfamiliar ports - very stressful). We had a lovely sail - until the engine suddenly quit. We were at the first marker for the Harbour entrance off the main channel. And - coming out of the harbour towards us - an almighty cruise ship! Luckily we had some wind, and stayed clear. quite soon though, the wind dropped and we eventually drifted into the main harbour at 11 o'clock that night - yet another late arrival. This time a nice friendly green buoy just outside the Charlottetown Yacht club served as our anchor mark, and the next morning we docked in the yacht club, all nice and secure and protected from the tail end of tropical storm Izolda.Charlottetown is a lovely town - very historic and attractive. We had a great opportunity to see some of the north shore and picturesque fishing villages, as well as to learn about some of the history - thanks to Ann (who comes from our hometown of Oakville - small world isn't it) and worked in multi media at Sheridan College.

We were made very welcome at the yacht club and were invited to a club barbecue. Terry introduced us to the gastronomic delights of a local Irish pub and we could have participated in Race day. we took the time to rest and sightsee, but The races were very competitive and as the breeze was strong there were plenty of ripped sails, broken booms and even a collision!! We also saw yet another Cabot - one we'd read about in a magazine - that had been caught out in a hurricane some years previously and had survived.

Woods Island. After our great visit in PEI we hopped across to Woods Island - weird how the travel information office and the beer store there are side by each! After a night sail across to the single lock at the Straits of Canso, we were entertained by a glowing show of blood red lightening across PEI behind us, and took only a small rain squall with no mishaps. Our second narrow miss with a big boat at the entrance to the lock took place (radar would be nice). However, we tied up to the lock wharf in something like 20 knot winds, at 3.30 am, no mean trick when the walls are way above your head, and cleats are non existent! Of course - the lockmaster told us we could have gone straight through, but we had really hoped to wait for daylight, so we could see our way into Port Hawkesbury. But we had to leave anyway, to be locked through before a tug and large boat went through. Nice surprise - no charge! Also - no effort as it is a tidal lock only. We went through very easily, put the engine into neutral and drifted down towards Hawkesbury until daybreak.

Canso Strait Yacht Club. Port Hawkesbury. We were made very welcome and comfortable at the Canso Straits Yacht Club - nice warm clubhouse with good showers, laundry, TV, comfortable sofas and computer access. What more could you want?Roy lent us his truck so that we could go and get beer - oops I mean refill with propane. We checked the visitors log - they had quite the list of international guests - including Nancy and Tom Zydler who writes for Cruising world. We met Jim and Carol Ann Organ who had just returned from a year in the Bahamas. They not only gave us invaluable information on the East shore of NS, including a passage to cut out the notorious Canso Ledges, but also invited us to dinner - a real treat! And Carol Ann - may I have the mandarin orange recipe please? It was delicious.Somehow the weather decided to stay pretty miserable, so we spent quite a lot of time climbing up and down the hill by the Canso Strait Yacht Club. Good exercise (just in case the person who told me that one doesn't get any exercise on a sailboat reads this - I beg to differ)

Canso Marina

Eventually we set off again - (several days of gale type weather forecasts. winds seem to change from north to south at the drop of a hat here) - supposedly heading for Lunenburg. However - we made another unscheduled stop at Canso Harbour. We managed to get ourselves confused shortly after entering the narrow entrance channel - stupidly mistaking a green mark for a red and trying to go around the wrong way (dumb!) and shortly afterwards our laptop with electronic charts packed up, so we called in at the marina there for a night. Not a lot of space in the marina for maneuvering a full keel in wind. Next day we made it through the inside of the Ledges on a route that appeared perilously like the notorious Minicognashine in Midland Bay. We were entertained by curious seals popping up nearby to watch us pass. (there is a green buoy missing in the middle - so we were pleased to have Ozi Explorer up and working on the laptop). A good night sail found us at Halifax Approaches to the harbour at daybreak.

Armdale Yacht Club. We settled into Armdale Yacht Club very quickly, finding the people there very friendly and helpful. Our single side band radio arrived from the manufacturer, and Mike installed it without trouble this time. I had time to sew flags using the clubhouse as it was pretty chilly on the boat by this time.

Yet again we found a really good friend, Valerie, who took us sightseeing, opened her house to us so that we could do laundry and introduced us to some other really nice people. Nick arrived to join us for the ocean passage to Bermuda, and we contacted Herb the Weatherman on the newly installed radio to ask for his help with weather information.

Halifax was a lovely town - we were quite amazed by the way the traffic stopped if we looked as though we wanted to cross a road - quite a change from busy Toronto. Exploring Halifax City and the harbour was interesting, Mike investigated local pubs and we found an excellent fish and chip shop very near the club.

We never did make it to Lunenburg, and this was our first experience of the way cruisers plan - plans typically set in Jell-O and subject to change at a moment's notice!

There was frost on the decks by the time Herb told us there was a bit of a weather window and I was beginning to think we would be staying in Halifax for the winter. By the time we did last minute grocery shopping and cast the lines off, it was October 29th, and we left on the heels of Hurricane Kyle out in the Atlantic

Michelle; Helene and Claude in Quebec; Louis in Rimouski; Terry and Ann and Wellington in Charlottetown; Jim, Carol Ann and Roy in Port Hawkesbury; Valerie in Halifax - thank you all for the truly invaluable information, terrific help and great hospitality we received from each of you. We might never have made it without your friendly assistance and advice.