Paradigm Shift - Season 2, Chapter 2 June 11 - July 29
Bermuda was awesome! We spent time in Paradise Lakes on a mooring, Hamilton at the Hamilton Princess Marina which was expensive but worth every penny, and we spent time anchored in Castle Harbour. I was anxious about coming back to Bermuda. When we left Bermuda in 2005 headed to Cayman, I knew I would be back - for business. I never thought I would return on my own boat to enjoy Bermuda as a tourist. No meetings. No schedule.
Matt and Alex stayed in Bermuda for a couple of days to spend time with their newly graduated niece, Hampton. They stayed on board VAMOS for two nights after we arrived and then they moved to an air BB located in Somerset. I dropped them off at the Watford Bridge ferry stop on a rainy day. Julia and I never wanted to hire crew, but we were very sad to see Matt and Alex leave. They were great to have on board and we hope to have them back again for a future, far flung, adventure. They did some diving and toured the island. We all got back together when we hosted a cocktail party on VAMOS to have an open house (boat) and see a bunch of friends at once and let everyone see our floating home. It was a success! We were also lucky to have our friends Stuart and Regina Joblin host a dinner party on our behalf while we were in Hamilton. We were joined by our Bermuda diving friends Dan and Laura Malloy, Monique and Paul, and others. We ate well and we drank plenty. The dogs had a blast too. It was a three dog night.
June is a month of birthdays. Julia, our Bermuda friend Monique, and me. We are evenly spaced out between June 13 and June 25 so we got together for three birthday celebrations. We went to Huckleberry, the restaurant in the Rosedon Hotel, for Julia’s birthday. Huckleberry didn’t exist when we lived in Bermuda. It was quite nice. Nice enough for us to return at least one more time while we were in Hamilton. We were joined by Paul and Monique, Keith and Romy, and, of course, Tortilla. We went to our old favorite Barracuda Grill for my birthday. This is a place for martinis. We all enjoyed one, but only one so we would remember the evening.
Provisioning in Bermuda was interesting. We knew all the grocery stores and where they were located, but without wheels, getting our purchases back to VAMOS was a challenge. Except for Miles Market. Miles is close to the Hamilton Princess Marina, but it is limited in selection and it is expensive for provisioning. Our friends Keith and Romy dubbed Miles “Tiffany’s”. They also brought their boat, Acqua Dolce, to the Princess Marina while we were moored there. I went to Miles by dinghy and it was very tough to find a place to dock Little V while I was shopping. The marina is small and there is no extra space for visiting tenders. I
eventually found a spot and went inside and dodged old acquaintances. They wouldn’t recognize me anyway with a beard and pony tail! On my way out of the store I ran into two old broker friends and they gave Neptune the once over and asked when I was getting back in the game...
After Hamilton, we stopped to get fuel. I was not going to get fuel in Bermuda because I figured it would be very expensive. Normally it would be, but when we entered, we were given a onetime use duty waiver on fuel. The cost was .64 cents per liter or approximately $2.35 per gallon. This is way cheaper than fuel in the US. I took 800 gallons and wished I could have taken more. Strange thing about fuel in Bermuda. No dye in the fuel. In the US diesel is dyed red. The fuel in Bermuda has no dye. When you mix it with the dyed fuel it looks really strange. It also looks especially strange when you have un-dyed fuel in the forward tanks and you transfer it to the back tanks. As I observed the transfer pump it looked like nothing was running through the filter. Very weird!
After fueling we went to Castle Harbour to meet up with Acqua Dolce. We found an excellent anchorage just inside Castle Harbour near Ross Perot’s house. The wind was blowing steady from the SW and we were sheltered nicely. Julia and I are marina people. We rarely anchor. This may change after our Castle Harbour experience. With help from our friends Nikki and Tony Riker, we used the Mid Ocean dock to tie off Little V. This allowed us to take nice walks in the morning with Tortilla. We explored Mid Ocean golf course, Tucker’s Town, and Castle Harbour condos. We found a very private beach off of the airport property that was easily accessible by dinghy and used this as a place for Tortilla walks. It was awesome! While on anchor we decided to go into St. George’s. This is about a 10 minute dinghy ride. No big deal. Half way across Castle Harbour the motor decided to put itself up. The bow went up, the boat slowed and then the motor revved out of the water. I shut it down and tried to put the motor back down. I had to shut the battery off then put the motor back down. All seemed to be in order again. A couple minutes later it did the same thing. Then again. We got into St. George’s safely and tied up. We decided to take our walk and then worry about “fixing” the motor. We had a nice walk and had breakfast and then back to Little V. I put the engine down, and it put itself back up. I took the engine cowling off and inspected the inside of the Yamaha 60 hp. Huh, I didn’t really know what I was looking for, but I figured there was an electrical short someplace. I pulled a few fuses only to figure that each fuse controls multiple functions. After a few attempts I figured out that the broken tilt switch had completely shorted and once it was disconnected from the circuit all was fine. A bit of sun burn and a dunk in the water for Tortilla and we were on our way.
The weather was awesome while in Castle Harbour. I swam every day and showered occasionally... We snorkeled near the shore and saw plenty of fish life and of course a couple of huge lobsters (Castle Harbour is a protected zone so the lobsters should be big). No, I did not take the lobsters!
Every time I was stuck with my head in the bilge or putting a bandage on bloody knuckles after twisting a wrench in the engine room, I would think of the experience of anchoring in a nice spot in clear water. I would envision the new Fusion stereo and ampli
fier making beautiful music, the mudslide machine cranking out mudslides and the Yeti giving up cold beers and wine. Sort of a Rum Point experience only on a Nordhavn. Well it finally happened in Castle Harbour. We had a beautiful Saturday afternoon and we were joined by Keith and Romy and Nikki and Tony. We had a mini-raft up! The tunes were playing, the mudslides were sliding and we had plenty of cold beer and wine, not to mention grilled fish and steaks. We swam off the back of the boat and enjoyed the sun while on the bow and fly bridge. It was worth waiting for and hopefully it will be repeated when we reach
the Bras D’Or lakes, probably minus the swimming as it will be too cold for most.
To cap off the Bermuda experience we were able to connect with plenty of friends. Some of the highlights - The O'Donnell family cooked us an amazing meal. Nikki (the hostess with the mostest the entire trip) and Tony hosted dinner at Mid Ocean and we had another great lunch with Alistair and Charlene at Coral Beach. We also had dinner with Dan and Laura and Stuart and Regina at Huckleberry and dinner with Greg Morrison and his family at the Hamilton Princess.
We were joined by Eric Jacquard, our friend from Lower Wedgeport, Nova Scotia, a couple of days before we planned to depart for Halifax. We were watching the weather closely and looking for the right weather window to make a safe and comfortable four day crossing. Two days after Eric arrived we got the right weather. It was a Friday morning and it was pissing rain in Bermuda but the front to the north of Bermuda was moving off to the east and the conditions were forecast to improve steadily and the front to our south was moving slowly north and we figured we would keep ahead of it. Before we took off, Nikki treated us to a trip out to the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse on a beautiful day. Eric got to see more of the island than just Hamilton and we made it back to Coral Beach for lunch. It was a great day!
The crossing was largely uneventful, except for a pretty mean looking squall and a later-to-be discovered blown hydraulic pump and power take off unit. Otherwise, we were keeping in touch with Keith and Romy onboard Acqua Dolce who left one day ahead of us. We sent text via sat phone twice each day and kept each other aware of position and weather information. This was the first time we were traveling with another boat - as much as you can call being separated by 160 miles of ocean traveling together. Day one was all down wind and sea with 20-25 kts winds and 5-6 foot seas. Not ideal, but nothing to complain about either. Day two the wind changed direction and we were in 4-5 foot seas on the bow which in some ways is less comfortable, but still not bad going. By day three, the seas settled down considerably and we were back to cruising in calm waters as was forecast. We crossed the Gulf Stream again about 250 miles south of Nova Scotia. This stretch was interesting because the seas picked up but they were disorganized and the current was moving around from different directions forming eddies. The Gulf Stream was about 30 miles wide. When we entered the water temp was in the high seventies and we exited it steadily dropped to the low sixties. By the time we reached Halifax the sea surface temperature was 57 degrees.
Day four was the interesting day. Eric and I were on the bridge enjoying a coffee at the beginning of his shift. The seas were calm but the boat was rolling a bit more than normal. The stabilizers which are continuously active keeping the boat from rolling were not working. Ugh! This is not a good system to lose. We lost it once before and while Nordhavn’s are heavy, comfortable boats, they roll like a son of a gun in any sort of sea. I went below to investigate and found a “low oil pressure” alarm on the stabilizer panel. I searched further and the water cooling pump which keeps the hydraulic oil for the stabilizers cool was not running. I went into the engine room and checked the level of the oil reservoir to make sure we didn’t have a leak. The reservoir level was steady at the correct level. I began to suspect some sort of electrical issue, but in the meantime I wanted to get the stabilizers working again. After a couple of minutes I realized that the wing (“get home”) engine has a pump to drive the hydraulics. I fired up the wing and engaged the hydraulics. The water circulating pump came to life and the fins were back in service shortly thereafter. I got on the sat phone with a couple of hydraulic experts and started diagnosing the problem. We all agreed that as long as the wing engine was taking care of the immediate problem we should make our way to Halifax and then start the process of diagnosing the issue.
While Acqua Dolce and VAMOS are both Nordhavn’s and they both travel at a leisurely pace, VAMOS is slightly longer and as a result slightly faster. In the normal course this wouldn’t make much of a difference, but over the course of 750 miles it made exactly one day difference. We started 160 miles behind Acqua Dolce and we made up approximately 40 miles a day. About eight hours out of Halifax, we contacted Acqua Dolce by VHF radio. They could hear us clearly but they were transmitting a weak signal and we could only hear that they were trying to respond but could not make out the message. By this point, we were both in thick fog which hinders VHF transmissions (as well as many other things).
Halifax is a busy harbour. We were approaching in the fog, in the dark, but with a secret weapon on board - Eric. Eric knows the harbour well and directed us in during a busy morning with as many as a dozen ships and supply boats also entering the harbour. The marine traffic control operators in the harbour were very professional and we were being monitored closely to make sure we stayed out of the way of the ships. Acqua Dolce slotted in right behind us and we made our way to the wharf near the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Waiting for us on the dock were Clark and Michele Haley on their 47’ Nordhavn, ROAM. It was great to see a familiar face on the dock! We docked, washed down and cleared customs and immigration within about 90 minutes. Eric’s niece picked him up on her way back to Lower Wedgeport. Before you knew it, Julia, Tortilla, and I were hunkered down getting some much needed rest. Another 750 miles behind us!
When I woke up I started to try to diagnose the issue with the stabilizers. After a couple of calls, everything pointed towards a faulty pump. This was not good news. I was hoping that the issue was a fried solenoid that was stuck and not telling the pump to do its job. The next day, with the help of Keith and Clark, I pulled the pump apart and performed two procedures to see if there was debris in the pump that was keeping the valves from working. I succeeded in making a real mess with several gallons of hydraulic oil all over the engine room, me and a bunch of oil soaking pads. They next day, a local hydraulics expert came and removed the pump only to find the gear that drives the pump and the shaft for the pump were both completely shot. Ugh! This was going to be costly and time consuming. After all of the work on the boat I was only slightly familiar with the hydraulics system. That was all about to change. I started a crash course in hydraulics over the phone with ABT TRAC experts and I went through the parts manual for the engine and consulted with Bob Senter, the foremost expert on Lugger motors. I ordered the parts for the main engine and the pump. Now there was nothing to do but wait as everything was being shipped from Seattle. During this time I decided I was competent enough to install the new gears and pump. I found the relevant instructions to install the gear in a John Deer manual (the motor is actually a John Deere but it is marinized by Lugger) and Dave Wright from ABT wrote step-by-step instructions to install the pump and adjust the pressure.
Parts were ordered on Friday, June 7 and the last parts arrived Monday, June 16. I thought Halifax was a big city but UPS and FedEx don’t have weekend deliveries! We walked the city every day. We went on a great wine tour of the local vineyards (there are 21 of them but we only visited 3), we toured the museum, we had a much needed spa day and we lost our company. Acqua Dolce and ROAM departed for the lakes. We can’t blame them for taking off, but it was way more fun when they were with us. The day the final package arrived, Julia and I rolled up our sleeves and got to work. It took several attempts and about nine hours but we succeeded in installing the new gear, the new pump, changing oil and filter, and all of the fuel filters. We were exhausted and in need of dinner. We had a healthy serving of left over beef stew and a bottle of Paoletti wine and then we hit the sack. Tuesday morning we took VAMOS for a two hour sea trial in the harbour. We watched everything closely and somewhat to our surprise, all appeared to be in order. An 11:30 a.m. beer never tasted so good!
We were ready to leave Halifax and catch up with the other boats, but Wednesday was a miserable, rainy, foggy day, so we stayed in Halifax one more day and left on Thursday. We headed off early for Liscomb, about 90 miles east. Eric’s friend, John Mills had stopped by one evening in Halifax and gave us the benefit of his expert knowledge of the lakes and the journey from Halifax to St. Peter’s canal which is the entrance to the lakes. Liscomb is a cool little lodge that is hidden away at the end of a narrow channel. Once you’ve been in the channel it is not very difficult, but for the first time it was nice to have Chester, the dock master, escort us via his pontoon boat. We only stayed one night, but merits consideration for a return appearance on the way back to Yarmouth later in the trip. After Liscomb we headed directly for St. Peter’s canal, about 75 miles east. The trip to Liscomb was rolly and the trip to St. Peter’s started the same way, but about half way there the seas calmed and it was smooth sailing. Julia and I were both on the bow of the boat looking for marine life while the boat steered itself to St. Peter’s. Very cool! The lock for St. Peter’s is open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. We made it easily arriving at 4:00 p.m. and the lock operators were ready for us with the lock open from the ocean/southwest end. The lock dropped us down 2 feet or so and we exited when the lock operators had opened the swing bridge immediately after the lock. There were plenty of people waiting at the bridge and they mostly had exited their cars to watch the boat go through so it felt like we were being welcomed to the Bras D’Or Lakes by the locals. In actuality they were probably bitchin’ at the boat holding up traffic.
St. Peter’s was nice enough, but the highlight was the Tim Horton’s. We stayed long enough to host a cocktail party for our group of three boats plus three other boats that were at St. Peter’s and also affiliated with our loosely organized fleet. No surprise, we all got along well and swapped plenty of stories about getting into cruising as well as the ups and downs along the way. The best part of St. Peter’s was finding the lobster pound - Lobster’s Are Us. It is not lobster season in most of Nova Scotia, but there are local lobsters available from the lobster pound and they are fresh. I bought a dozen, 2 lb lobsters and the first night on anchor after leaving St. Peter’s we had a great lobster feast for VAMOS, ROAM and Acqua Dolce.
We followed John’s hints and went to Marble Mountain first. It was a very nice anchorage, protected from three sides with a good muddy bottom. We spaced out with plenty of room and immediately went exploring on the dinghy’s. We came across an eagle’s nest that was right in front of our boat. The baby eagle, which looks enormous, was practicing flapping his wings most of the day until momma arrived with dinner and then baby squawked and ate for quite a while. We were hoping that we would see the baby take flight but it didn’t happen while were in Marble Mountain. This was a great stop, but the bugs were kinda bad - flies and mosquitos. Fortunately, Julia had our screens repaired before we left Florida and we were really glad she had! While at Marble Mountain, I got up the nerve to leave the boat while the generator was running. This is sort of a big deal. The generator needs to run approximately four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening to recharge the batteries. If you are tied to the boat all of this time then anchoring is not as much fun. However, leaving the boat with the generator running and no one on board feels strange. So we decided we would leave it run while we took a 20 minute walk. We arrived back after our walk and the generator was not running. Ugh! What could have happened? I did a quick look around and found that the alternator belt had given out and the generator stopped circulating water and eventually overheated. I replaced the belt from my spare parts and had it running again without too much trouble. Just funny that it happened the very first time we left the generator unattended.
After Marble Mountain, we went to Maskell’s. This was a very protected anchorage with a couple of beaches for walking dogs. This is a big consideration for us doggy owners. The first night we had a dinner on Acqua Dolce and by the end of the evening I thought I had everyone talked into Sunday Funday on VAMOS the next day - even though it was Wednesday. I was gearing up in the morning when we received word that some in the group were over-served the prior evening and not up for mudslides. Despite my assurance that a mudslide was a sure cure for a hangover, we canceled the mudslides, but we agreed to have a beach BBQ and bonfire. It turned out to be a great swap. We set up our little infrared grill on the beach and Clark and Michele collected sticks and built a bonfire. (Note to everyone - stand back when using gasoline as the lighting agent of the fire.). We had a great time grilling out on the beach and hanging around the fire. I had a few mosquitoes bites to remember the evening.
After Maskell’s we moved on to Baddeck. While transiting to Baddeck, I was on the phone and not really listening to the chatter between the other two boats. I heard something about jellyfish but didn’t really hear the story. Anyway, about 10 minutes later I just about had a heart attack! The water in the lakes is pretty clear and as I was looking over the side I could see the bottom and it was coming up fast! Ugh!!! I pulled the boat out of gear and started to prepare to hit bottom, but then I noticed the depth finder read 150 feet. How can I see the bottom in 150 feet of water?? As we looked closer we were in a huge swarm of jellyfish. The sun was reflecting off of them and they looked like the bottom. Apparently Keith had been describing the same thing while I was on the phone earlier. I could do without that feeling again for the rest of my life.
Baddeck is a small, touristy town but it is so far from Halifax by car that the tourists are manageable. The town is protected by a barrier island and we tucked in between the town and the island and found a good anchorage. After being alone in the prior two anchorage’s Baddeck felt crowded even though it is not. We were expecting winds to increase and as an inexperienced anchorer I was nervous about having the boat drag and eventually run into something - like a super yacht! The winds did increase and despite me being awake a good deal of the night to monitor things, the anchor held just fine and gave me the confidence to leave the boat for ten hours the next day to tour the Cabot Trail. We awoke to a rainy, foggy morning and I was ready to bag the 10 hour tour by bus. I didn’t and it turned out to be a good thing. The weather cleared and we had a great day with Keith and Romy - Clark and Michele had done the tour the prior year. The trail takes you to the far northeast of Nova Scotia with many scenic stops along with lunch - and a couple of naps if you are a good sleeper like me. Below are a few good pics from the day. In case you were wondering, while we were on the Cabot Trail tour, Tortilla had a doggy day care day with Clark and Michele and their two four legged kids, Sailor and Tugboat. The next day we toured the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. He was a native of Scotland but moved to Baddeck and lived his last 28 years with his wife. After inventing the telephone, he went on to be involved in so many other endeavors including the hydrofoil, airplanes and kites, teaching the deaf to speak and function better in normal life, and studying the human genome. Much of this took place at his research lab in Baddeck. Really interesting stuff!
Acqua Dolce and Roam depart for Newfoundland. We await the other Nordhavn’s in the group to arrive in Baddeck. More stories from the lakes to come…