Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Glimpse of Hurricane Earl

As Hurricane Earl passed through, we decided to keep a journal of sorts, so that we would remember what the storm was like - and would be able to share it with you. Here is what we wrote at the time:

We finished getting the boat ready for the storm last night. Now it's the day of the storm, and Earl is coming ashore as a category 1 hurricane, somewhere around Lunenberg. Our apartment is sheltered - the building is an ell, and much of the time the wind and rain don't affect us. We're waiting for the storm.

8:30 am: Weather: the wind is gusting, it’s foggy out. The air is still warm and humid, after a hot week. It rained last night, and the advertising that always comes off the board over the pizza store started coming off. Now it’s peeling down at the corner, and by tonight it will be gone... Web cams seem a good way to see what's happening, but most of the web cams don’t seem to be working. Our view of the storm will be confined to what we can see from our windows.

Here's what we see. In the Narrows the white caps are just starting, and there is spray where they break on the shore on the Dartmouth side. Small birds have been flying around, sudden rushes of small winged creatures and some things - leaves, paper - are starting to blow around.

9:15 am: The rain is heavy, and blowing sideways. The Narrows are hard to see now, the tree branches are dancing around, the rain is blowing past in gusts. Our windows are still gapped to let fresh air in, very slightly, but not likely to remain so much longer. Ironically, there is more traffic on the road now than there was earlier. Wonder where they’re going, and why?

CBC is checking around the province - power out in various places - mixed weather all over the place, but wind picking up. Power just flicked off and on - if it happens again, time to turn the computers off.

9:45 am: The power flicked off and on again, so I closed down the computer for the duration of the storm. Better not to risk the possible consequences of a power surge.

The rain has eased for now. The wind is blowing the leaves off the trees behind the apartment building, and they are swirling over the roof and down in front of our window. We can see the gulls gathered on the ground by the cove down the street from us, where they are well-sheltered from the wind and waves. The wind is strong enough to make the sign for our apartment building pump in and out...

10:23 am: The wind is gusting hard, and the rain is blowing sideways, in curtains, in the gusts. We are under a hurricane watch, not a tropical storm watch, thanks to the change in Earl’s course which is bringing the storm much closer to us than forecast earlier. The storm is coming ashore close to Mahone Bay, instead of further west. There are reports from Peggy’s Cove that the waves are very heavy, and in spite of the efforts of the police some foolish people have found their way out on to the rocks.

11:11 am: The wind is picking up. The electrical wires running along the road are moving. There are lights flashing by the Narrows, down by the railroad tracks, but we can’t see what is there. The trees are bending, and the advertising boards we can see from our window are moving, waving back and forth around their axes. The board that always loses it’s ad is doing what it usually does - most of the ad that was there has been washed and blown away. Reports on CBC say that the waves along the coast are building; that some sailboats have moved their moorings and drifted, and one that was moored on the LaHave River has been seen moving out to sea.

We can’t see the Narrows any more, never mind seeing across them; what we can see is the wind gusts driving the rain. Small branches are blowing along the road now, and a few bags of garbage. Every now and then CBC fades and comes back; the power flickers occasionally, but it keeps coming back on.

Noon: The rain is blowing in visible gusts. The trees by the bottom parking lot, which until now were sheltered a little bit by the building, are dancing, showing the underside of their leaves and bending and nodding in the wind. The wind looks as if it is picking up spray off the waters in the Narrows, and in the cove where the gulls are sheltering; the bridge across the Narrows which we can usually see, is invisible for now. There are reports of lots of trees down throughout Halifax.

12:12 pm: The rain is streaming so hard down the windows that it’s hard to see through them. The forecasters say it will be another hour or two until the worst part of the storm passes. The wind is gusting over 90 km/h, Earl has lost a little bit of it’s ferocity since coming ashore. Leaves and small branches are flying, swirling in the air and on the ground. People are driving past - going some place they don’t need to go?

12:50 pm: The wind is gusting in excess of 100 km/h, but the sky is growing lighter and we can see the Narrows again. We can also see that the gulls are still firmly planted on the ground.

1:24 pm: The skies are continuing to grow lighter. The wind has come around and is out of the SW, and is blowing hard against our windows. There are reports of lots of boats dragging in the Bedford Basin, at the top of the harbour above the Narrows, in the mooring field around the Bedford Basin Yacht Club. The wet flags on the roof below our windows are blowing hard now, flapping and making lots of noise.

2:15 pm: The skies are growing lighter still, and now there are a few birds in the air. The electric wires and the trees are still dancing in the wind. One small tree is leaning over into the parking lot of the aesthetics school across the road. Some of the shingles on the side of the apartment building, on what looks like alcoves, are lifting in the wind. The ads on the board above the pizza shop beside us are completely gone, and something is flapping around on the front of the store. People are starting to come out and look around, to see what has happened.

2:22 pm: A glimpse of the sun! Low clouds are moving past very quickly, but the weather is definitely lifting now.

2:44 pm: There is more and more blue sky and the clouds are higher. The wind is still blowing hard out of the SW, but the sun is shining. The storm is passing; tomorrow, except for the clean up, it will be as if it had not been here.

We stayed home for the rest of the day, though we were itching to go and see how Into The Blue had fared. We knew that there were many trees down, and some roads were blocked, and nothing was going to change between that afternoon and the next morning as far as the boat was concerned. The roads, however, should be clearer.

When we did go to the marina the next morning we found some of the traffic lights out along the way, piles of tree branches and bits by the road, and crews out working to restore power and clean up where they could. We got to the marina before the electricity did, and found Into The Blue, thankfully, just as we had left her - and, so far as we could tell, all the other boats there were fine as well. While we were there some boats started returning from where they had hidden from the storm, up the North West Arm, and some that had been hauled were being put back in the water.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer into Storm Season.

August is winding down. The weather is warm, the skies have been mostly sunny, and summer has been kind to us in many ways. We have spent many weekends working on the boat. So far we have taken many things apart, reconfigured some, and spent many hours sanding. Many, many hours sanding. Odd how large the boat seems at time like this...

We are doing a major refit, and so - for the benefit of those who are interested and those who have said they would like it - we have decided to describe the things we are doing in a separate blog.

Introducing the refit blog: Refitting Into The Blue.

Now we just have to get through the hurricane season without storms creating even more work.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Springing into Summer in Halifax

It’s been a while - too long - since we updated this blog. We have been adjusting to being in a different phase of life, at least for now. With the boat in need of a major refit, we have settled into living on land for a while. There is work to do so we can live comfortably, raise money for the refit and save for things we need now or will need in the future. Our plans and expectation are probably much more realistic now than they were when we first set out to cruise; but cruising is still our dream and our goal. Next year we plan to be back on the boat, and back on the water. In the meantime, we’ll keep sharing what we’re doing.

There’s a lot to catch up on, so here are some of the things we’ve been up to, in an easy-to-read format, starting with:

The Model Show at Shearwater Aviation Museum

Every April there is a model show at the Shearwater Aviation Museum, and proceeds from the show are used to support the museum. It’s a great show - tables and booths are arranged throughout the museum’s hangar space, and models share space with the aircraft and other exhibits normally on view there. The models are of all kinds of things, and there’s something to interest just about anyone. We looked at:
* model houses and stores, beautifully made and decorated;
* models trains, static (I loved the wooden ones best) and moving through a model town, past a model station;
* planes, static and radio-controlled, including radio-controlled models of sailboats and powerboats with electric and glo-plug engines, and helicopters;
* boats of all kinds, including the small scale, battling naval vessels made to battle by the men of the North Atlantic Battle Squadron.
* a home-built flying remote camera!

The train is passing through...

A very cool flying camera

The miniature saddlery!

Now that's a beautiful wooden train.

You can see the North Atlantic Battle Squadron’s pictures of the show by clicking here. They had a demonstration of the kind of firepower used on their ships (air fired pellets), and we saw video of their battles - and heard the sound of men being hit on the legs by the pellets when the battles came too close to them. They might complain, but they were too intent on the battle to move!

The Refurbished Dartmouth Harbour Walkway

With the return of warmer weather, we’ve spent time walking and biking along the walkway that runs from Alderney Landing along the Dartmouth waterfront. There are more signs of development there now than there were last time we passed by. The former Dartmouth Marine Slips are being cleaned up in preparation for being part of large a housing development, and visitors are discouraged from trespassing on the spit they are on by numerous signs - though we saw a rusty ship sitting at anchor there.

From the walkway you can look out across the harbour and see Georges Island. The small island, close to the harbour entrance, is being prepared for people to visit after years of being largely ignored. It played an integral role in the defence of the Harbour and was an important military site right up to World War II. Now the island and some of the fortifications on it are being made ready for visitors. There are rumours that once there was access to the island through hidden tunnels from Halifax. It could be really interesting to explore those!

The walkway itself has been improved. It has a nice new surface in some places and a good place to cross the train tracks that also run along the watefront. We lingered on the bridge over the Schubenacadie Canal, and stopped to look at the paintings on the walls of some of the neighboring buildings. We found more art to than we had seen when we visited last year, including an official graffiti wall. The official walkway peters out, at least for a while, close to the graffiti wall. I took a little bit of exploring to find the next part, and we haven’t walked or biked that far yet - maybe next time we will.

Georges Island, through the branches of a tree

The official graffiti wall

The bridge over the Shubenacadie Canal

Rusty ship off the former Dartmouth Marine Slips

Pow-wow on the Commons - Membertou 400

In June we went to a pow-wow on the Halifax Commons, held to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the baptism of Chief Membertou of the Mi’kmaq nation and 20 of his family into the Christian faith - they were among the first aboriginals to become Christians. It seems to have been a strategic move, the basis for an alliance between the French and the Mi’kmaq nation that lasted 150 years. The pow-wow was interesting - there was a Mi’kmaq Cultural Village, a marketplace and free samples of a variety of aboriginal foods.

We walked to the Commons over Citadel Hill (good exercise!), and were greeted by the sight of tipis, the sound of music, and the activity created by lots of people, including lots of children, walking around, looking and listening. We spent time watching the grand entry parade, with flags and beautifully dressed dancers and drumming. Then we turned to the stage to watch and listen to Buffy Sainte-Marie. She and the band she was working with played and sang old favorites, powerful anthems and songs from her new album, Running for the Drum. It was a great show, the band she was working with responsive and enthusiastic, and after an encore they all left the stage singing.

If you enjoy her work, here’s a taste...

Purcell’s Cove Marina

The marina is where you’ll find us now, most weekend days. It’s our new weekend haunt, where we spend time on the boat repairing and strengthening parts of the deck, fabricating (so far) a new anchor locker, sanding and re-sanding lots of stuff, and discussing and figuring out what works and what needs changing. We have a much better idea now of how to set things up to work well for us underway.

Whoever is working outside can - at least until we put up a cover - look out over the marina and across the harbour. There we can see other boats sailing, racers passing by or jostling for a start, and container ships and other vessels coming and going. We saw the start of the race to St. Pierre, a race which included Spirit of Canada - and, we later found out, a boat which carried a friend from Ontario as crew. The sun has been shining, and we both have farmer’s tans - brown about the arms and face, and winter white elsewhere.

Looking out across the harbour...

Looking toward the hill behind the marina...

Our Refit

The boat has now been emptied of most things that can be taken off. We have begun some repairs on the deck, strengthening where the anchor windlass was and will be again. We have, filled in the hole where our chimney once was, taken out and filled in where the pumpout fitting used to be (we don’t need it with a composting head - and it was leaking). Holes in the wooden bulkheads, acquired over years of putting up hooks and fittings, have been carefully filled in. The bow has been well cleaned inside and we are part way through making the new anchor chain locker, which will sit low down in the hull. Generally, we are trying to work our way back from bow to stern. We divide the work up so that one of us is usually outside when the other is working inside...

We are thinking about setting up a separate blog to track our refit - if you’re interested in following along in more detail (complete with pictures and how-we’re-doing-it) please leave a comment or e-mail, and let us know!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Men Who Are Passionate About Oceans

One of the greatest pleasures of going to the Halifax International Boat show is the chance to meet and talk to people who are passionate about the oceans we travel, live and work on. This boat show there were two men whose dreams we want to share with you.

Derek Hatfield, solo ocean racer:

Derek Hatfield is now getting ready to set out on his next great adventure, the VELUX 5 Oceans single-handed round-the-world Race. And he sees his entry into this race as important not just because he will represent the many Canadians who support him but because he will also be doing something he believes in - taking an ecologically friendly approach to ocean racing.

He talked with great enthusiasm about having the chance to enter the race in the Eco 60 class, a class which transforms older Open 60s and gives them a new life as wind, solar and electric powered ocean race boats. This gives the racers sailing them the pleasure of racing in a way that is both less expensive and more ecologically friendly. Note - less expensive. It still costs a lot, and once again Derek is offering those who support his challenge the opportunity to travel round the world in spirit with him, with their name on his hull. And more to those who are able to contribute more.

As those who have had the chance to talk to him know, Derek is both a fine sailor and a gentleman, someone who never hesitates to share both his enthusiasm and his knowledge. He represents the best of Canada both in the water and in person. I hope you’ll be able to help support him - you can find all the information you need to learn more Derek, the race and the adventure here.

Captain Art Gaetan, the Sharkman, of Blue Shark Charters:

A great story teller, and passionate about sharks, Art Gaetan has built a substantial body of knowledge about these creatures, and managed to develop businesses that respect and teach others about the oceans, sharks, and their role in the ocean environment. And to have fun doing it.

Yes, he fishes for sharks, but every shark caught is tagged and released and every detail entered into a scientific database; every experience adds to the store of knowledge about their lives; and as we found out any experience may become the fodder for a great story.

His presentation was a mixture of facts, explanation and just plain great stories. The last story had us laughing so hard there were tears in our eyes. We are not fishers of sharks, but if you ever want to catch a shark, here's the man to help you do it.

Halifax Again, February 2010

February in Halifax was a little warmer than normal, so they said. Warm or not, it was still a time when the fronts come through one after the other. February is a month when you’re glad you have a warm place to live in, and that your boat is as secure as you can make it.

And the boat show. One of the highlights of February in Halifax, for us, is the Halifax International Boat Show. It’s a chance to look at gear, attend any talks we’re interested in, possibly run into a few people who are doing the same thing. This year we were pleased to find a Canadian East Coast distributor for the electric motor we are going to buy - and to see the actual engine, up close and personal. We had a chance to learn a bit more about the heating system we’re planning to put in (Webasto) and see the heater itself as well; checked out a radio that would keep our iPod dry and safe while at sea; learned about the superwind wind generator; checked out a small butane stove, just because it looked like a good idea (but still not as safe as our Origo). We heard from Derek Hatfield about the work he is doing to represent Canadians in his next solo ocean race, the VELUX 5 Oceans Race. We were entertained by and learned from Captain Art Gaetan, who talked about sharks, shark fishing, and how he turned his passionate support for sharks into a multi-focused business. We found the Windbag Company of Nova Scotia, which makes bags out of old sails and old seat belts and other reclaimed material, and, an extra touch, includes in each bag the story of the boat whose sail went into the making of it.

Then to remind us that we should not get complacent, on the last Friday in February a strong easterly blew through, bringing rain, a high surge on a high tide, and gusts up to 135 km/h on the bridges across the harbour. In Purcells Cove, where the boat is, the wind and the surge brought waves up over the shore and into the area where the boats were stored. The water softened the ground, and the combination of wind and soft ground caused three boats to blow over. Into The Blue stayed safe on her cradle, but one of the sailboats in front of us blew over when a stand dug in, and came to rest with its mast resting on the powerboat beside it. The big docks that normally mark the outer edge of the marina, the only docks that stay in during the winter, were almost all blown off their moorings, and some of them badly damaged. The overall conditions might have been less severe but, thanks to the wind direction and the surge, the damage at the marina was worse than the damage there in Hurricane Juan. Nature is a very powerful force.

Now it’s the beginning of March, and the ice is melting out of the small lakes. The water birds are enjoying the change, feeding happily in the water, and in the mornings we can hear other birds singing, see them in the trees, on the wires, on the roofs. The days are growing longer. The Spring brush fire season has started. Time for us to start working on the boat...

2009 Ends, 2010 Begins

November there was NaNoWriMo, the month of writing 50,000 words. December there was recovering from NaNoWriMo, and getting ready to travel to Toronto for Christmas then further south after.

Before we arrive, it always feels as if there will be lots of time to do everything we want to. After we arrive, we realize that the time we thought would stretch out blankly before us is actually already full of things to do. And this time it was also shorter than we had planned, as headed south early for family reasons.

These days I am thoroughly spoilt when we go on a road trip. I never renewed my driver’s license, thinking that I would not need for it (I forgot that even when not cruising plans are carved in jelly), so I have lots of time for watching the landscape as we pass through it. There is a lot of landscape on the drive from Halifax to Toronto. Happily it includes goodly amounts of beautiful landscapes, trees and hills lit by the sun, glimpses of water, stretches of city. In places you are reminded that nature is not always benign. There are the areas where trees charred by fire below sprout green above. Then there are other areas where landscapes roughly shorn of trees and plants remind us that our behaviour is not always benign either.

We paused overnight on the drive to Toronto on the outskirts of Quebec City. The room was warm, but when we woke in the morning it was achingly cold and the car was reluctant to start. A day later, in Toronto, we used their well thought out directions to find our way to the friends we were staying with. The days passed quickly, Christmas came and went. We saw more friends, but mostly we spent time with family. Then shortly after Christmas we set off to drive further south - earlier than we had planned, called by family business in Miami.

That journey too went well. We drove during the day and stopped overnight, and arrived there late and tired on New Year’s Eve. The next three days were relatively quiet - then we drove to Atlanta one day to take one of the family to catch a plane, stopped overnight with other family, and drove back the next. It helped a great deal to have a friendly place to lay our heads overnight in between drives!

January passed in and around Miami, taking care of business. The best that could be said about the weather there for several days was that it was warmer than Halifax or Toronto - we managed to get there in time for a record-breaking spell of cold weather. We walked many days; we enjoyed the brightness of the sun. Hearing news of storms in Nova Scotia, we followed the weather reports and paid attention to the direction of the wind, cheerful when the boat would be sheltered from the gusts and worrying when it would not. But all remained well there while we were away.

Our long drive back to Halifax was made much more pleasant because we visited with more friends along the way back. But we knew we were back in the land of snow and winter the fourth day along, when the snow no longer hid among the trees, where the shade lay, but glittered at us from the sides of the roads. When we pulled into the ploughed parking lot of a snowy rest stop that completed the confirmation.

Much of our driving was through hills and mountains, especially leaving the maritime provinces and on our route through New York and Massachusetts. Some of the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, some of the drops awe-inspiringly precipitous. One morning we looked down on the fog rising out of a valley below, lit by sun above and shading the homes and fields and roads below.

We crossed back into Canada on the evening of our last day of driving, bent on getting back in time for Richard to have a day of rest before going back to work. That last day of driving was a long one, but we looked forward to being in our own place again. A day to readjust to life in Nova Scotia, and we edged back into our land-based routine again.

Some Pictures:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Haiti - A Way for Sailors to Help

A quick note for all those who have not yet heard through other sources. OceansWatch North America and some of our cruising community are coming together to send help to Haiti as it tries to cope with the devastating earthquake and its aftermath.

OceansWatch is involved in helping put together a flotilla of vessels to carry needed aid to Haiti. All who can are invited to contribute, however they can. As news stories indicate, the need continues to be overwhelming, and every little bit anyone can contribute helps.

If you want to know more about their efforts, please go to their page describing what they are doing and how you can help.

You can find the information here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Busy Times in October

October flew past in a flurry of activity. Richard went out to work, I worked at home (home for the present, anyway), blogging and writing and making arrangements and generally getting ready to go to Toronto for my art show. In between we finalized arrangements for taking Into The Blue out of the water at Purcell’s Cove Marina. We agreed on a nice sheltered spot, since she will be out for a while, and a friend offered us a cradle there we could use. Things began to fall into place.

Richard went to work on modifying the cradle so that it would fit Into The Blue. He cut, moved supports, and generally tried to make it ready. Then they moved the cradle into place, and that revealed a few weaknesses that meant trips to the lumber store, for 4 x 4s and 2 x 4s to reinforce areas that had grown rotten. After that, it was time to think about getting the boat from Alderney Marina across to Purcells Cove.

With my art show coming up rapidly, and the date for climbing aboard the train to Toronto even closer, we chose the best weather day we could find to move the boat. Winds had been blowing out of the north and the east, strongly. This day it was cold but, in spite of grey clouds building to the south west, the winds were good and the water pleasantly smooth. Richard fired up the outboard, thinking of a smooth trip across the harbour and around the shallows off Point Pleasant Park to Purcells Cove. We left it to warm up, while we got the sails ready - just in case. We always get the sails ready, just in case.

The outboard went one step beyond warming upn -it overheated. Then it refused to start. Time was passing. The clouds were building. The choices were diminishing. We pulled the sails up and went. The sailing was good. We went to Plan C - Richard called ahead to say we were on our way without an engine, and what were our options?

The wind was from a good direction for sailing down the channel into the cove and to the marina. It seemed our option - the one we ended up using anyway - was to sail in to the dock, where someone would meet us and take our lines. The only snag there was when the main decided to jam and not come running smoothly down. We kissed the tyres on the outside docks and everyone stayed well clear of the boom as they took our ropes. Then they held us long enough for us to get the main lowered, handed us down to an empty slip and left us to tidy up and take down and put away our sails. With that accomplished I left Richard to finish haul-out preprations while I prepared for the show.

During that week he took the mast down, worked more on the cradle, and generally go the boat ready to be hauled. Then, while I concentrated on last minute preparations in Toronto, the boat was hauled in Halifax. By crane. Those who have boats will know the feeling of seeing your boat lift from the water hanging on two straps over water and then over rocky land... Richard got to witness the lift directly - I only had to look at the pictures afterward.

Putting the boat on the cradle revealed a few more spots in need of reinforcement, plus some slight miscalculations. More lumber, more cutting, more shoring up - but now as you read this Into The Blue is sitting on her cradle, waiting for us to erect a shed around her to protect us and boat from the worst of the weather. Meanwhile we’ve started doing more unloading of gear and bits. It’s still amazes us what we can fit into a thirty foot boat.

For me, the time in Toronto was a welcome interlude, a chance not just to present my art and ideas but a chance to see some family and friends, and share what I had been doing. The time was almost all spent preparing for my art show. There was a lot of walking, meeting - and finding refuge in a friends apartment, where I could do all the writing and printing and computer checking that needed to be done. As for the show - you can read more about it on my art blog. Here I’ll just say it was exciting, tiring, and rewarding and that I’ll be doing another one next year, with a whole new group of paintings and prints.

In the meantime prints from this show are available online now, at an online store I’ve created, and as with paintings and prints sold at the show part of the proceeds go to support artists working with teachers and children to improve access to and the quality of education in one of the poorer areas of Nicaragua. Some of you already know a lot about the show and how it went, and I would invite anyone else who’s interested to visit my art blog and store site.

So now the boat is resting on it’s much strengthened cradle; I am back and recovering from the burst of activity in Toronto. And the winds and weather of a Nova Scotia fall are coming and going, sometimes tempestuous, sometimes calm. We are looking ahead to weekend days of planning and measuring and remeasuring and discussing and boat work. On and off the boat.

Refit time...

Haulout pictures courtesy of Swedish Joe, who had his camera there.

Friday, October 09, 2009

September Wanderings

The leaves are turning, and the temperature is getting colder. There has been a little time for exploring, but mostly we’ve been working, each of us in our own way. Richard did have to take a little time off after being injured (he’s recovered, pretty well), and that was a challenge. On the other hand, we have settled on a place to keep Into The Blue during her refit, thanks to friends in Alderney Marina, and expect to take the boat over to Purcells Cove in the next week or so. It will have to be in the next week or so, since I (Margaret) will be leaving soon for Toronto, and my much-looked-forward to get-together cum art show cum fundraiser and the haul-out date will be before I get back. Betwen haul-out (by crane) and event the weekend of October 24th/25th will likely be a somewhat nervous time.

We have taken a little time out to explore. We found interesting public art while walking along the Dartmouth waterfront. We dropped in on a car show that offered rides in old British cars (the proceeds went to charity) and swapped a few tales with a British Leyland Mini owner. One sunday we spent a little time talking to a very friendly group of model sailboat racers by one of the lakes in the middle of town. One even gave Richard the chance to sail in one of the races. It may not be the same as sailing our own boat, but he had fun. Something to do while the boat is being refit? All work and no play...

There are no pictures from the time spent with the model sailboat racers, but here are a few of the pictures we did take.