Tortuga underwent some significant updates over a long winter in storage. She now looks like new…new lifelines, a new Gori prop, cleaned sails, and a fresh polish of the aluminum hull. We put her in the water this week, though she looks like a motor boat right now without a mast 🙂
The next few weeks we will be cleaning and fully commissioning her for her inaugural sail down to Chicago. We are excited to finally have her berth in her new home on Lake Michigan. We are looking forward to some great sailing on the Great Lakes this summer, after an epic journey from the Chesapeake and through the St. Lawrence waterway last year.
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.
The Hector in Pictou Harbor
Streets of Pictou
View of Pictou from Tortuga
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.
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…
We’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.
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.
Eric is on Tortuga heading in to Canadian waters. He, along with another crew, did a 150 mile overnight sail across the Bay of Fundy to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Winds and waves were up, so I imagine a night in a slip is a welcome reprieve. I just got a text from him… now that he is back within cell phone coverage… that he went through immigration and entered the the harbor there.
Not sure if this is common throughout Canada, but Yarmouth has a city/town webcam and I found Tortuga motoring into the dock! It’s the boat with sails down just in the middle left of the screen. Pretty cool!
Tortuga is on a floating dock in the Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, Maine.
We are leaving her here for a few weeks as we head back to Chicago. This shipyard opened in 2011 and is located on the revitalized and transformed waterfront. They are a complete shipyard with over 100 employees working on anything from boat building to electronics to carpentry to cleaning. You name it, they can probably handle it. When we arrived, there was a tug boat being hauled in on their huge yacht lift and in its yard was Boston Fire Department boat undergoing repair. Some impressive private yachts were also tied up into the slips and on sticks. A town path along the waterfront traverses the town center, through the entire shipyard and crosses the Passagassawakeag River (don’t ask me how to pronounce it).
We have seen this flag on a couple of boats and it was hanging in the Front Street Bar, where we grabbed a drink on land before dinner the first night we arrived. Turns out it is the flag of Marshall Islands, an island country located in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. It is actually part of Micronesia. Curiously enough, there is also a Marshall Island in Maine, out towards the open Gulf of Maine in Jericho Bay just south of Swans Island. It is one of the largest undeveloped islands in the eastern seaboard per Wikipedia. Not sure if this flag is a play on Maine’s Marshall Island or really that the boats we saw with this flag really hail from Micronesia. I’d guess the former.
Good food and home
Belfast is about a 30-minute drive from where Eric grew up and his parents still live. This city has really become a gem along Midcoast Maine. Eclectic shops and a great food scene has transformed the Belfast that Eric knew, which was an industrial poultry processing area, associated with feathers, chicken fat, and not-so-good smells. It is the county seat of Waldo County and is still full of agricultural history.
There are some requisite food stops whenever we are here visiting family. One of them is Young’s. It is one of the best places to have a quintessential Maine lobster dinner with a killer view of the sunset. We always bring cloth napkins, unbreakable wine glasses, two to three bottles of good chardonnay or rose wine, and the requisite lobster picks and crackers for everyone and set it up on the outdoor picnic tables where people can enjoy the view and eat once they choose their fare from the live lobster pools. For us, the fare is always a ton of steamer clams with drawn butter for the table and 1-2 lobsters per person. It is a feast, to say the least! And one that we had twice on this trip.
We also tried a new Neapolitan pizza place housed in a restored building in the center of town. ‘Meanwhile in Belfast’ is a true Italian pizza joint, run by an Italian, and is certified by the international association of Neapolitan pizza. It’s a charming place with delicious and authentic wood-fired pizza. I’d go back again, although they were sticklers in keeping to the menu and didn’t allow substitutions. Hopefully that will change in the future.
The rest of our time we spent with family. It was good to see the parents, siblings, nieces and nephews who we haven’t seen since this past winter. We avoided a string of rain storms that dumped a bunch of wind, fog and water on our “day off”, but Eric and I were able to take a day sail into Penobscot Bay where we tested our gennaker. This sail is a cross between a genoa and a spinnaker and it is good for downwind sailing. I think we both found it surprisingly easy to set up and we were able to make almost 6 knots with the sail in very little wind! With that, we have now set up, at least once, all the different sails that we have at our disposal on the boat.
We’ve spent a couple of days sailing up the coast of Maine. After a morning hike on Little Stage Island we sailed into South Freeport and rented a slip for the night. The perspective from the water of coastal Maine in and around Portland is so different than what you see from the road. Lots of water. Lots of greenery. Lots of lobster buoys.
Also, as opposed to the Long Island sound and the Cape Cod area, almost all the boats are either sailboats or fishing boats. On the way into the harbor, we had our first seal sightings on the water. They are funny creatures, bobbing their heads out of the water to check out the scene and then dunking their heads back down and up again.
Instead of taking a taxi to Freeport for dinner, there is a popular lobster stand/restaurant near the public dock where we ended up eating. When it gets busy in the summer, people are known to order and eat their meal on the hoods of their car if all the picnic tables are full. We ate our first lobster rolls on this trip, along with a pint of fried clams, calamari (Christopher’s favorite), and dessert.
Towards Georges Islands
Our stopping point is about half way from Freeport to Belfast in the Gulf of Maine. We have gone through Casco Bay, are in Muscongus Bay, and on our way to Penobscot Bay. We are now anchored in Burnt Island. It is part of the Georges Islands chain, located about 4 miles offshore from Port Clyde. In the 1800’s, farming and fishing families lived on it. Today, the Hurricane Island Outward Bound outpost is there. When we arrived, there was a group of about 12 people on a small wooden, primitive, viking-like boat floating on a mooring ball off shore. Our best guess is that it is an Outward Bound group, testing their on-the-water survival skills for the night. I don’t think that a large, kitted-out sailboat anchored in viewing distance helps. 🙂
Christopher and I rowed the dinghy onto Little Burnt Island, which is just to the north of the main island. I had read that depending on the season, this island is full of raspberries. We were hopeful. There were a lot of raspberry bushes, but no raspberries yet; end of June is still a bit early. However, what we did find hiking around the small island were a bunch of abandoned lobster buoys and lobster cages that had washed ashore, and MUSSELS! We gathered about 3 dozen mussels, which will make a great lunch tomorrow.