Category Archive Sailing

Sailing the Northern Atlantic

Leaving Deltaville

For Tim and my first open water sail, we decided to go big.  When Captain Nick Christie asked us to sail his classic yacht Cruinneag III to Antigua in February, we said yes.  That decision was made on a sunny, warm Fall day while we all drank beer together.  “How could we say no?  What an opportunity!” we said.

February 16th came very very fast. And that Monday dawned very very cold.  That warm Fall decision was a distant memory.  Icicles hung off the fenders and Jackson Creek wore a shell of ice.  But when you sail, you need to watch the weather, and though we knew we’d have a cold start, we only had 24 hours to sail around Cape Hatteras’s “Graveyard of the Atlantic” before another winter Stormaggadon raced up the East Coast – there was no time for delay.

The fenders are caked in ice
The fenders caked in ice

We cracked through the ice with the hull while waving goodbye to the gathered Deltaville Boatyard guys.  Even at high tide, we struck bottom on the way out of the channel, but accelerating through it, we were officially underway.

An Icy Exit
An Icy Exit

Cruinneag III proved to be a worthy vessel.  Nick had refit her in Deltaville for two years, including 10 coats of varnish on her 63 foot teak hull.   She is a classic wooden ketch, built in 1936 by A.M Dickie and Son, of Tarbert Argyll, Scotland.  This was to be her maiden, “shakedown” sail after 2 years out of the water.  A 2000 mile sail through the wintery Atlantic was a challenge that she was up for.  We were joined on the sail by Pauline, a seasoned veteran of the sea.  Pauline has spent her last 37 years crewing on boats and took all weather in stride.

Once on our way, we reached the Bay Bridge-Tunnel in about 5 hours. We were running fast ahead of schedule knowing that we needed to wait for a storm moving up the coast of North Carolina to pass on Tuesday morning.  We spent 5 hours circling the bay at Lynnhaven Roads to avoid arriving too early.   While we motored between the giant anchored tankers, snow started to fall.  It didn’t take long for 4 inches to accumulate on the decks.  If you haven’t been on teak decks with 4 inches of snow, it’s very very SLIPPERY!

16812701891_a7f51f17c2_b
Snowy decks outside of Norfolk

We immediately started our watch schedule for the trip.  Watches consisted of 3 hours in the pilot house, watching the seas, the chart plotter, other ships on AIS, the autopilot and monitoring the engine and sails.  Tim and I served watch together and then had 6 hours off to cook, eat and sleep.  Watch happens day and night and there are times when all hands on deck is required.  It surprised me how quickly we fell into the pattern.

During Monday night watch, we passed the lighthouses down the VA/NC coast.  Tim was on his own initially and it was the first time he had seen them from the sea.  The weather steadily got worse and watching these beacons in the thickening snow and wind, he had his first (and only) doubts about whether we made the right choice to come on this trip. We knew we were arriving to Hatteras earlier than we should have and knew we would hit a big blow.  Everyone was tense because with strong Northerly winds, we couldn’t easily go back.

We ended up arriving early and faced 10-20 foot seas, but the winds and waves pushed us south and it felt surprisingly smooth.  Just north of Hatteras, the winds began to propel us East across the Gulf Stream.  At 2pm on Tuesday, it was time to cross.

The Gulf Stream is the advanced class of sailing.  The Continental Shelf drops off and creates a deep trough.  Here the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico race from the south.  Combined with cold winds from the north, the Gulf Stream develops its own storm systems and confused seas.

As we entered the Stream, things got exciting.  The cold northwest winds blew across the warm, clear blue water of the Gulf Stream.   An eerie steam developed.  The steam blew low in the troughs of the waves and we would rise above it as we crested each wave. We were greeted by dolphins and even a sailfish or marlin as we ran down the following 15 foot seas.

Chilly Watch
Chilly Watch

After a rolling night’s watch, sunshine and strong winds prevailed on Wednesday as we left the Gulf Stream behind and moved into the open Atlantic. NW winds meant we could hoist the sails for the first time and continue to run with the weather at about 7 kts using the staysail and mizzen.

On Thursday, the heaviest storm of the trip began to build around midnight and by 2am, it was blowing close to 50 kts.  When Tim reported to watch at 2am, he came up in time to see a cargo ship to port and 3 others on the AIS. Nick was at the wheel and Pauline on with him as he had to manually steer because the wind and waves were too strong for the auto-pilot. These squalls and winds continued through sunrise for over 5 hours and by the end, Nick was exhausted.

The skies slowly cleared by mid-morning but the wind and waves continued all day. We saw some waves nearly 20 feet high, most in the 15 foot range.  I was glad for all 63 feet of Cruinneag’s sturdy build.

By Friday, we were all ready for a calmer day.  Winds dropped to about 20-25 kts and moved around from NW to NE.  The exciting event was a jibe required to adjust to the more easterly winds.  It was a day when we all caught up on some much needed sleep.

The next day, we started to first feel the warmth of the lower latitudes as we moved below the border of South Carolina. As the weather warmed, we had our first official Happy Hour and brought out Admiral Skully, our trusted mascot of 429-apalooza.  We would later recognize we were too relaxed and heading more south than east, for which we would later pay dearly trying to move east in the Trade Winds. We only have Skully to blame…

Filling watch time with soft shackles
Filling watch time with soft shackles

Sunday brought even lighter winds from the east but heavy and confused seas from storms to the north. Nick and Tim had an exhilarating morning raising the working jib. To raise that sail, Nick has to go out on the bowsprit, hanging 10 feet over the front of the boat. The seas were big and the bow was going under water with each wave. Tim watched Nick get completely submerged as he held on and hanked on the sail. It took us about 2 hours to get everything straightened out and the sail up, during which Tim and Nick received several good dunkings. Seas were calmer as the sun got warmer.  I was able to cobble together our first proper dinner at sea of lamb and mashed potatoes.

The next day the weather continued to change.  We still have many stories to tell and will end our first chapter here with this video.  If you wondered what sailing the Northern Atlantic in February really looks like, this is it!

 

Fleets Bay Getaway

Hot Day and a Cool Dip!

Combine great friends, awesome weather, good food and a pretty boat and you get a little slice of Chesapeake heaven. After 2 weeks of travel or little wind, we finally got a chance to sail with Chico and Mel Viscovich up the Bay to Fleets Bay.

14962124925_f2ede07424_k
Chilling out Friday night basking in a typical Deltaville sunset with crab salsa and fajitas.
Continue Reading…

World of Waterfalls – August on Journey

7908745056_6c6f544cb2_b

Princess Louisa Inlet is one of those places where seeing truly is believing.  Surrounded by rain forest, it’s the home of North America’s highest waterfall – James Bruce Falls, Chatterbox Falls and the hidden Trapper Falls.  Through the forest, dozens more waterfalls cascade down the steep inlet slopes making this a lush and abundant ecosystem.

Our first full day in Princess Louisa Inlet was my birthday and it was an amazing way to wake up at the base of Chatterbox.  We had rafted up to Wendy and Alan’s boat Blue Fin and had an awesome day planned.  Alan was the crack of dawn collecting fresh oysters from a secret stash on shore for fried oysters later.

Tim and I dinghyed ashore for hike while Andy and Demeree explored the shoreline from their sea kayaks.

The BC rain forest glows in the sunlight

 

Blue Fin and Journey off shore

 

At the base at  Chatterbox –  It’s a great Birthday!

 

Moored in Princess Louisa

 

After our hikes and paddles, we all gathered together for a lazy afternoon.  The weather was perfect and we took turns diving into the pristine water.  Wendy fried up perfect oysters for an appetizer and we topped off the day with homemade pizzas.  Tim brought all the fixings for my favorite-as-a-kid Watergate cake, an incredible treat in the middle of the remote wilderness.   We all gathered for candles, champagne and green pistachio deliciousness.

 

Watergate Cake – a beautiful use of pistachio pudding and Cool Whip

 

Happy Birthday Prep – wow that is a lot of candles!

 

Cake flameup – 41 candles creates quite a glow

 

Early next morning, Tim and I hopped into our dinghy and paddled with Alan over to the secret stash of oysters which low tide exposes.  We gathered a few more for that night’s dinner.  This time it was our turn to do the shucking…

HUGE oysters are abundant in the Inlet

 

Our next adventure for the day was to hike to the Trappers Cabin, an old cabin from the 1800’s that sits high above the Inlet.  The trail was impressively rugged and though it was only a mile, it was almost literally straight up.

 

1 mile straight uphill to the Trappers Cabin

 

Overlooking the ruins of the Trappers Cabin – high over the Inlet

 

Trapper Cabin’s views

 

Trappers Falls – we were glad for the watercooled air!

 

Glad for the rope

 

Our kind of trail

 

We were feeling pretty good about ourselves by the bottom and were tempted by homemade ice cream from Malibu Rapids.  It was a several mile dinghy ride, but Andy and Demeree took on the challenge and brought some back in a cooler.  It was the perfect treat after a rigourous day.

 

Andy dangles between Blue Fin and Journey
Andy dangles between Blue Fin and Journey

 

The next morning it was time to go.  Tim and I woke up early and started paddling out the Inlet on the sea kayaks while Andy and Demeree would follow behind several hours later.  It was a magical morning of seals, eagles, waterfalls and serenity.  We were awestruck by the beauty around us.

 

We snuck up on this baby seal on the shore

 

Exploring the Inlet by Kayak

 

Early morning paddling

 

Just another waterfall

 

It’s like kayaking down a waterfilled Yosemite

 

Heading out the inlet

 

Another of the Inlet’s residents

 

Blue Fin begins motoring out of the Inlet

 

We start paddling out to be picked up by Journey

 

That’s my ride!

 

The sun breaks through

 

Our last views of Princess Louisa

 

Malibu marks the entrance

 

Wait, who’s driving the boat?

 

We sailed all day on our way back to Smuggler Cove for the night.  We got back just in time for yet another spectacular BC sunset.

 

Sunset back at Smuggler Cover

 

Princess Louisa Inlet – August on Journey

With Gardens and Customs under our belt, it was time to do some sailing. Tuesday morning we started with Cowboy Omelet, pulled up anchor and motored out of Butchart. Next up was the port at Ganges where we’d stock up for our next few days in the remote Princess Louisa Inlet. We wouldn’t see a grocery for a week so it was time to shop.

 

Ganges – Home of Thrifty Mart and the best hardware store around

 

The two forms of transportation around these parts

 

Float Planes are like taxicabs

 

Once we had provisioned Journey, we got back underway.  Our next destination was Wallace Island to meet up with Allen and Wendy on Blue Fin.   A storm was brewing in the distance, which brought some brisk breezes and an amazing sunset.

 

Demeree sails towards a squall

 

The wind picked up and skies were black

 

But the sunset we arrived to on Wallace was spectacular

 

and kept getting better

 

On Wednesday we’d take our biggest sail yet, across the open waters of the Strait of Georgia – the waterway which separates Vancouver Island from mainland British Columbia.  We set out early in order to miss the high winds of the afternoon.  We motored cork-like across the choppy seas and finally reached the BC Coast after 3 hours.  We sailed protected waters East of Texada Island and the winds went from 10 mph to 20 mph.

Though we’d reached our destination, the perfect sailing weather was too good to pass up and we spent the next 2 hours close hauled to the wind with a heel of 30 degrees and testing how fast Journey could go.

 

Crossing the Straits of Georgia

 

That’s right 0 degrees is level, we are sailing now!

 

After our afternoon of sailing we tucked into Smuggler Cove, a beautiful hideaway.  Andy and Demeree toured the cove on their sea kayaks while Tim and I rowed the dinghy, exploring the lagoons.  After a dinner of curry, we rinsed our dishes off the back as the water glowed with phosphorescence.

 

Smuggler’s Cove with Allen and Wendy

 

Here Tim and I decided upon our Pirate names: Mr Tim and Barnacle Betty

 

Here Tim and I decided upon our Pirate names: Mr Tim and Barnacle Betty

 

The next morning we set sail for our final destination.  The remote Princess Louisa Inlet.  The day was spectacular and though the winds came and went, it was an amazing trip into this remote corner corner of the Pacific.

 

The Lay of the Land

 

Sailing up  Prince of Wales Reach

 

The Winds pick up

 

Maximizing the Wind with Wing on Wing

 

A  different perspective

 

Blue Fin in the distance

 

The Malibu Club guards the entrance of Princess Louisa Inlet – Once an exclusive resort, it is now a Christian Youth retreat.

 

Blue Fin poses

 

Journey takes her turn in front of the waterfall

 

Demeree on the front of Journey

 

This great shot is too good to not take advantage of

 

Malibu Rapids is the  very narrow entrance to the Inlet

 

Beautiful views!

 

Approaching Malibu Rapids

 

The Malibu Club with its guardian totem protect the Rapids

 

Inside the Inlet

 

Demeree takes a stand!

 

The head of the Inlet.  At the base is beautiful Chatterbox Falls with North America’s tallest falls cascading down the cliff on the left

 

Blue Fin anchored at the base of Chatterbox

 

Here we setup our anchored camp for the next 3 days. At the base of Chatterbox Falls, miles away from a town, road or cell tower, we were truly away from it all.

Canadian Blooms – August on Journey

Once we entered into Canada, we were off to Butchart Gardens.  There are only 4 moorings available in the Garden’s small harbor and we got there just in time.  We relaxed on the boat for lunch and then went to explore the enormous gardens

A Precious Butchart Mooring

 

A perfect picture of Demeree and the boats beyond

 

One of hundreds of fountains

 

A&D

 

ML&T

 

Pistachio Goodness

 

Butchart’s Il Porcellino (Italian “piglet”) – rub his nose for good luck!

 

An Obligatory Self Portrait

 

And from the other side of the lens – thanks to Demeree

 

High Above

 

Plants of all shapes and sizes

 

You never know what you will find around each corner

 

A quiet moment

 

Totems

 

Yes it is as big as it looks

 

I mean come on, who isn’t going to have fun with a mirror ball

 

Serious studying the Roses…hmm

 

Now that’s more like it.

 

Magic

 

and fun

 

and more magic

 

Journey in the harbor

 

Even the dinghy ride is a great time with Andy and Demeree

 

1 2