Never believe the weather forecasts….including marine weather forecasts

Dad at the helm
Dad at the helm

From Murray Harbor in PEI we zigzagged across the Northumberland Strait to get a couple more sailing days in and increase our chances of seeing whales. Many seal and dolphin sightings, but no whales on this trip 🙁

However, we had an amazing day of sailing southwest in the the strait! Waves were low, the west winds were ideal for a close reach the entire way, and we really got to feel how Tortuga moves. Dad even took a turn at the helm.


Pictou Harbor

We anchored the previous night in a coastal town named Pictou back on the Nova Scotia side. It is apparently the birthplace of New Scotland. On display is a replica of the Hector, which carried the first immigrants from Scotland to North America in the 1700’s. The main street has tartan flags of all the clans from Scotland who settled there. We never found Stewart. We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at one of the local restaurants, with a great view 😉 and dinghy’d back to the boat. The winds shifted to the north at night, as expected.  We got a great view of the sunset from the stern of the boat.

View from lunch/dinner
View from lunch/dinner
Entering Charlottetown
Entering Charlottetown
Entering Charlottetown

The next morning (yesterday) the marine weather forecast predicted winds returning back to a west/southwest wind at 9-12 knots with gust up to 15-17 knots and waves around 0.8 meters.  Were we in for a surprise… as as we exited out of the wind protected harbor/bay entrance, we were hit with a northwest wind that was more like double the predicted wind speed. We faced more like 18 knots of wind with gusts up to 25 knots and big waves!  The only other boat we saw in the strait was the ferry that transits from Wood’s Island, PEI to Caribou, Nova Scotia. We were happy once we entered the Charlottetown Bay.  The winds were still brisk but the waves were much smaller and manageable.  What started out to be an easy jaunt turned out to be a long day of hard sailing. We had a very nice welcome from some relatives of Eric who were born and raised on PEI. We found a good local seafood restaurant to replenish us, too.

Tortuga is now tied up to a slip in Charlottetown, PEI. She’ll be here for a few days before she continues her next journey up the St. Lawrence Seaway. We’ve cleaned her up, written down detailed instructions, and prepped her to take on new guests. It is somewhat like sending a child to camp, as we are having a delivery captain sail her into the Great Lakes in the next few weeks. The summer is rapidly coming to an end and Eric’s and my schedules are becoming pretty hectic, such that the hope of us getting her to Chicago before the lakes freeze necessitates us to hire someone to move her along when we can’t.  Tortuga’s adventure continues…

That’s an American Boat!

IMG_0031We’ve heard this a couple of times since we’ve been in Canada while Tortuga’s been tied up in a few of the harbors/marinas.  We wondered whether the people were fascinated by the fact that it is a boat traveling from the United States or for some other reason.  We have not seen that many sailboats in the Canadian waters and big sailboats for that matter. The sailboats we generally see are smaller and local to the area, and likely out for daysails.

So we asked the harbor master in Pictou, and his impression is that people are more intrigued by where the boats come from.

The people we meet in the slips are generally very curious either about the boat and/or about the route that we are taking to get the boat back to Chicago.

Prince Edward Island

View of Tortuga in the distance in Murray Harbor
View of Tortuga in the distance in Murray Harbor

We’re currently in Murray Harbor, PEI on a very quiet and calm Sunday morning.  The water is a bit thin getting into the harbor, so we’re waiting a little for the tide to come in a bit to move over to the fuel dock, and then leave the harbor.

Yesterday’s sail from Port Hawkesbury through the Canso Canal to Murray Harbor was a ton of fun.  We were reaching the entire way with 24-28 knots of wind.  Once the sails were up, and the engine off we were making 7.2 knots over ground, which I was quite happy with.

Halfway across the Northumberland Straits we decided to heave to for a bit to see how Tortuga handled the seas.  With her nose pointed 50 degrees to the wind, Tortuga calmed down and we sat there enjoying what was an awesome sailing day.  Janet was a bit peeved as she had just labored to prepare lunch in the galley while we were underway and heeled over at 30 degrees.

We’ll leave Murray Harbor in a flooding tide and make our way to an anchorage in Pictou for the night.  Tomorrow, we’re off Charlottetown to tie up for a few days.


Sunset in Jeddore Harbor

We are anchored in Fisherman’s Harbor on the coast of Nova Scotia tonight.  It has an abandoned fishing dock in a cove.  We did not secure ourselves to the dock, but anchored a few yards away from it in a protected cove. Protected from the waves, that is, not from the wind. The wind is blowing at about 15 knots consistently (even at night) with occasional gusts, however due to a ‘short’ fetch (weather term that determines waves and storm surge), the waters are very calm. No other soul is out here, save a few houses on the shore and some birds on a gravel breakwater.

One surprising thing along the entire Nova Scotia coast is that it seems well connected. Even though we are pretty remote, we still have an LTE signal. Good for us to keep in touch with family and work.

At anchor in Jeddore
At anchor in Jeddore

This is our second night at anchor since leaving Halifax. We arrived in Halifax early yesterday morning, around 1am and had a late start after getting the boat ready and provisioned. After a quick stop to get gas at the Royal Nova Scotia Squadron Yacht Marina (yes, that is a mouthful), we sailed on to Jeddore Harbor, getting there by dinner time. Typically, the predominant winds are southerwesterlies, however yesterday we had a north east wind. Eric and my dad had the gennaker set up and ready to go for the day, however, we ended up sailing close hauled all day long.

Dad underneath the gennaker
Dad underneath the gennaker

My dad is joining us for this journey. He is getting a little bit of everything: wind, waves, sun…a quick sailing inauguration on the open ocean. We had some pretty strong winds yesterday and it was a welcome reprieve once we got into port and settled in for the night. After dinner, another great sunset with fishing boats docked along the coast.

Today, we had the gennaker up all day. The wind was behind us all day. There were a few other sailboats out there in the morning, but most of the day we saw no other boat on the horizon. While we had a bit of weather early in the morning, it turned out to be a good day of sailing.  Some sun, plenty of wind.  We made up our half day by putting in about 65 miles today.

Tomorrow, we hope to get into the Canso Canal. It’ll be an early start and another long day, but this will get us into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which we are told is warmer, much more protected, and have a good chance to see humpback whales!



A Brief Respite


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We set out yesterday in a slowly lifting morning fog.  The original plan was to reach for PEI, but because of the fog delay I felt like we were trying to force the miles, which became less-fun.  We decided to sail the twenty or so miles to Halifax and tie up at the city marina.

Once that decision was made, the pressure of trying to achieve as many miles as possible was lifted.  One of the enduring maxims of sailing is, “Do not sail to a schedule”.   I now see the wisdom of that philosophy.

Halifax is a very dynamic city with more than a few mega-yachts in port.  We pulled into a very tight space, essentially parallel parking a 45-foot sailboat between a multi-million dollar motor yacht and the city wharf, with a few hundred people looking on.  No pressure.

We took the opportunity to hose down the deck and take on a little water.  Once bright and shiny again, we moved Tortuga over to another, less crowded berth behind the Marriott Hotel, where she now peacefully sits.

Janet and I will be back in a few days, along with her father, to move Tortuga further northward and up the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway.  More to follow.

Running for Cover


We set out this morning from Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia headed for the northern part of the province and the Canso Canal.  The plan was to do an overnight sail for the 130+ miles.  Shortly into the trip the wind picked up, which sailors love, but thunderstorms began chasing us up the coast.

Looking at the  radar, the storms were popping up all around us, so we ducked into the first harbor that we found, which was Sambo Harbor, just shy of Halifax.

Sambo Harbor is a commercial fishing center.  The nearest restaurant was a mile walk, and there are no showers or any other amenities.  We’re sitting here tied up to a commercial dock, and have decided to leave early in the morning and continue our press towards the Canso Canal, and then the 80-mile journey to Charlottetown, PEI.

The weather is supposed to be better over the next day or so.  Light winds and little chance of thunder showers.  The boat can handle the weather fine, but sailing through the night being ravaged by storms is not my idea of fun, and after all, this is supposed to be fun.