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.

Rolling Seas

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Leaving Maine behind in the setting sun

We left Belfast, Maine at about 3:00 pm with the intent of missing some bad weather that was moving out towards the end of the day and into the night.  The winds were supposed to be in excess of 30 knots with seas on the beam at about 8-feet.  This was not my idea of a comfortable, overnight passage.

The trip down the east side of Penobscot Bay was uneventful and slow.  The wind was less than we expected, but we sailed on regardless.  Each hour that we spent in the sheltered Maine bay was giving the weather more of a chance to move out towards the east.

As night settled, and we cleared the last of islands of Maine, the seas grew to 8-10 feet on the beam, which caused Tortuga to rock back and forth.  While the boat was quite happy to do this, both me and my crew-mate, Bob, were less so.

As soon as the horizon disappeared into the darkness, I lost my perspective, which is necessary for me to fend off seasickness.  I dove for the scopolamine patches, but it was to late.

Bob and I spent the entire night, violently ill, standing 2 to 3-hour watches in rolling seas, plodding along slower than we had hoped.

As the soon the sun came up, so did the thunder storms in the middle of the Gulf of Maine.  Still feeling the after affects of the sea sickness, we rigged the boat for storms and pressed on towards our goal of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

We reached Yarmouth under sunny skies and slack winds, motoring into a well-marked and protected harbor.  Cleared Customs and Immigration, dinner, and then to sleep.

This morning the skies are scattered with little wind.  We’ll press on towards Cape Sable, the southern tip of Nova Scotia, and probably grab an anchorage for the night.

Home Again


I really loved sailing into New England.  The further north we got the more happy I became.  The land became familiar to me; places that I’ve been to, stories, memories.  Albeit the perspective from the water was different.

I grew up in Maine, so that will always be home to me, regardless of where I walk or roam.  One lesson that I learned in life is that no matter where you grew up, every other place that you come to know will always be compared to that benchmark.  I remember standing in 130 degree heat in the Middle East and thinking,  “Wow, this is so much more hot than Maine”  Really?

My son Christopher was onboard, and I wanted him to feel the “special-ness” of New England, specifically Maine.  Of course he’s been there many times as my family still lives in the area, but it dawned on me that his home, his benchmark,  will always be Atlanta.  I watched him struggle with a lobster on a pier on Belfast, and he sprinkled every other sentence with “ya’ll”.

Maine has a way of capturing people.  I can name several people that migrated to the State, and just never really left.  I guess is some way, I migrated away from Maine, but never really left as well.

New York to Maine

We completed another long passage, going from New York to Maine in just over a week.  Aside from Janet and I, we had my son, Christoper onboard with us. We put him through a mini-sailing camp complete with navigation, sail trim, line handling, knot tying, engine maintenance, and general boat cleaning.  It’s an awful lot to ask a 12-year old to live on a boat for 8 days, but he did it like a champ.

I’m certain Janet will write more later, but we alternated anchoring in small coves for the night, and picking up a mooring or a slip. We tried to sail every day until about dinner time, allowing us to make 60+ miles every day under really nice conditions.

One thing that I learned is that it’s possible to walk from Gloucester to Portland stepping on lobster buoys and not get your feet wet. I was astounded at the number of lobster traps in the water.  We had to get pretty far off shore to lessen the risk of getting entangled in one of the lines.

The wind was all over the place; a little bit of everything. We got a chance to reach a bit, but mostly we were running downwind as we made our way northward. We even had the Parasailor up a few times in light winds to see how she flew. What a great sail!!

Tied Up in The Bronx

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We’ve been in City Island (The Bronx), NY for the last several days stepping through some of the To-Do’s on Tortuga.  I personnaly judge my days by if I fix more things than I break.  This has been a good trip, and I’ve gotten a lot of things done.  She’s just about ready for the trip up to Maine in late June.

Some of the things that were accomplished:

The Spectra Rowboat 150 watermarker had to be cleaned out.  It somehow got a biologic infection, which is characterized my smelly product water.  I flushed the system with an alkaline product (SC2) that is designed to fix that specific issue, and then set the system to flush itself with fresh water from the tanks every 2 days while we’re away.  We should be all set now.  I don’t want to attempt to make any water from where we are currently located, as the water here is terrible.  Best to use relatively fresh sea water.

I updated the B&G Zeus Touch chart-plotter software and electronic charts.  It’s been a struggle getting the right electronic charts that we need to take us from here all the way back to Chicago.  There are so many different makers of charts in an array of formats that work with some chart-plotters, and not with others. I think that it’s sorted out now.

I found a ready solution for the worn mainsail hanking system.  It’s an odd system where half of the points that hold the mainsail to the mast cars are done so with a white stretchy cord.  The cords have stretched themselves out and needs replacing.

Tortuga Blog (1)My plan is to do it with 3mm Spectra line, but I need Janet to help as we have to raise and lower the main sail as the line is being looped and tied on, and it also needs to be cut with a hot knife.

I’m having the local sail loft make sone new UV covers for the two AnkaTortuga Blog (2)rlina lines that are attached to the aft rails.  The heavy web lines are in great shape, but the neoprene covers that protect the lines from the degrading UV have given up the ghost.  The lines have a million uses but are mostly used for attaching a stern anchor or trying off to a distant rock or tree.  The loft is making covers from taupe Sunbrella fabric to match the rest of the canvas.

What else got done?  The Racor fuel filters were changed. The long-range Wave WiFi antenna was brought back on-line after I traced the loose connection.  Engine oil was topped up. The marine toilet (MSD) was serviced.

The more time that I spend onboard the more familiar I become with the various systems.  I feel very confident with all of the key systems, and am still learning about some of the more esoteric ones.

All good.  Next stop….Maine.

First Passage Done

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Sunrise indicating the end of our night watch

We spent three and a half days moving Tortuga from her winter home in Deltaville, Virginia to a temporary mooring at City Island, NY.  The sail was a mixed bag.  We set out and did a 36-hour sail to Atlantic City, with an off-shore, overnight passage up the Delaware and New Jersey coasts. The winds increased throughout the morning and we sailed hard with 30 knots off the port beam screaming up the coast.

In Atlantic City, we grabbed a slip for the night, got cleaned up, had a decent meal and passed out early.

The next day brought a nice breeze as we sailed towards New York’s Sandy Hook. We even set the lines to put up the Parasailor up until the wind kicked up again. You could still see and feel the effects of Hurricane Sandy along the coast. The ghosts of the epic winds and waves made for a bit of a lonely and eerie experience.

Just after dark we dropped anchor in a protected cove with a distant view of the Manhattan skyline and the lights of Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

The next day was strictly a motoring affair across a crazy NYC Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty, along Manhattan, up the East River, past the United Nations, Riker’s Island, and finally to City Island Yacht Club. It was like having a close-up tour of New York from a perspective that many people don’t get to see. The navigation was not hard, but there were certainly places where you could misstep and find yourself in a spot.

We spent a whole day fixing things that broke along the way, cleaned some clothes at a nearby laundromat, and closed Tortuga up for two weeks as we returned to Chicago and our day jobs.

The plan is for me to return to the boat in late May and continue to fix a couple of items.  It seems that the “To-Do List” is an ongoing animal.  Janet and Christoper will come onboard in June and we’ll set out up Long Island Sound and towards New England.

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Janet helming with a nice breeze
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New York skyline back there somewhere
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Janet up the mast before we left, checking the rigging
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Tortuga’s saloon
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Crowded NYC Harbor. That’s us (black triangle) in the middle of it all.

Getting Ready To Go

Janet, 70-feet up the mast working on the rigging
Janet, 70-feet up the mast working on the rigging 

Over the winter Janet and I made a “to-do” list for Tortuga that was almost five pages long.  We put everything on it that we could envision needing to be done.  For the past month I’ve lived aboard, both up on “sticks” and afloat in a slip, stepping through the daunting list.  Janet has been back and forth from Chicago a couple of times, carving days out of her busy schedule to lend a hand and moreover to inspect my progress.

Today, we are pretty much set.  All of the tasks have been completed, the things that I broke along the way have been repaired, and new tasks have been identified.  It’s an on-going struggle to keep all of the systems running in optimal shape.  The engineering education has been staggering.

We plan to spend a day or so here in Deltaville waiting for our weather window to head north.  Our first stop will be City Island, NY.  This is a 30+ hour sail depending on the weather.  We’ll break it up over two or three days.

Once in NY, we plan to put Tortuga on a mooring ball for a week or so while we return to our day jobs, and prepare for another push north up into New England.  We’re taking our time, waiting for good weather and tide windows, fixing and improving things as we go.