Paradigm Shift, Season 2, Chapter 3
July 28 - August 20, 2018
The Bras d’Or Lakes turned out to be everything that was promised. It is a very protected waterway that sits inside of a bowl that helps keep the fog out and the warm weather in. The sea surface temperature inside the lakes is in the mid-seventies which is 15 or so degrees warmer than in the ocean. There are few large boats cruising the lakes although we saw a couple that were 150+ feet. Most are 25-35 foot cuddy cabin types of boats that make sense for calm water, lake cruising. Our group of boats was somewhat conspicuous and since we were moving about from little town to secluded anchorages, when we showed up someplace everyone came out to say hi and find out more about our group. We call them the welcome committee.
After Roam and Acqua Dolce left for Newfoundland, we stayed in Baddeck for another night to meet the people from Liberdade and Trixie. Liberdade is an Ocean Alexander 54 and Trixie is a Nordhavn 76. Bob and Dori own Liberdade and Bruno and Beatrice own Trixie. Trixie hosted a dinner on board and we got to know these four (soon to become traveling companions) over drinks and fish tacos. Bruno and Beatrice have a beautiful boat with lots of space to entertain. They handle a 76 Nordhavn by themselves which is quite a feat in my humble opinion. We have had thoughts of moving up to a larger boat, but after a brief experience on a different Nord 76 we decided our cozy 55 is plenty of boat. Everything gets to be a bit more work when you move to a bigger boat. From washing down to servicing the motors (twin main engines plus two generators as opposed to a single main, a wing motor and a single generator on VAMOS) to handling much bigger fenders and lines and finding docking space. However, you can have a much bigger tender and more toys and entertain more people on a 76 than on a 55...
We had already been in Baddeck for a few days and we planned to be back in Baddeck to join up with three or four boats that would be coming to Baddeck in a couple of days. So we decided to go a bit further north and east to a little place called Otter Harbour. This was all of 13 miles from Baddeck, but it got us moving. On the way to Otter Harbour we passed an out of commission cable ferry that was shut down after a bridge was built further up the waterway. It looked in good shape but we later learned from two locals that it was becoming an eye sore and so the community got together to restore it to an acceptable state. From the water it looks great and we questioned if in fact it was out of service - but according to the google machine it is! We anchored in Otter in a really nice spot. We took the dinghy around and found a couple of spots to let Tortilla have a run. Along the way we collected a dozen or so oysters and muscles that were visible from the shore. After we iced them down we steamed them in a white wine and garlic butter sauce and enjoyed a nice lunch complete, of course, with a bottle of wine.
The next day we went exploring a little bit further in the dinghy and found a small town with a dock and a camp ground. We tied up at the dock and took a nice walk past the camp grounds all the while keeping an eye out for eagles that might like to swoop down and steal Tortilla. Later the same evening we found another beach very close to the boat which was obviously used by locals for campfires and drinking. We explored around a bit and then headed back to the dingy which we had pulled up to the beach. There was another couple in a small dinghy looking at the same beach. We chatted a bit and invited them back on VAMOS for a beer. We came to find out that the two worked on the ferry from Sydney to Newfoundland and they were on their first day of two weeks off. They anchored around the corner from us and were enjoying a beer or three while looking around. They were very nice and gave us some local knowledge including the bit about the cable ferry. While in Otter Harbour, we realized that this was actually the turn around point for this trip. It is very surreal to realize you are half way through a trip like this although there is no need to define a turn around point. We recorded the GPS coordinates because this now marks the furthest north and east that we have been. N 46.13.251 / W 60.31.446
After Otter we headed back to Baddeck to join Liberdade, Trixie, Bluewater (Nord 47), Happy (Nord 47), April K (Nord 55), Gratitude (Nord 64), Last Mistake (KK48) and The Good Life (KK44). We hosted a cocktail party onboard VAMOS which was well attended and lots of fun. Each time we get together with other boaters you learn a lot because we all share our experiences from our travels and of course all of the tales of bad weather and breakdowns, etc. It was a beautiful evening so we were able to entertain on the boat deck and the flybridge. We missed out on most of the social aspects of cruising last year partly because we didn’t know anyone and partly because we got started heading north quite late. This year we have really enjoyed having other boats and people around. We will surely run into each other along the way. Or as they say, “cross wakes.”
One of the many things we learned while anchoring in Bermuda and the Bras d’Or Lakes was energy management. VAMOS has a fairly large generator and a bank of eight 8D batteries connected in series to provide 24 VDC. The batteries feed an inverter which uses the 24 VDC to create 120 VAC. When the generator is running it supplies power to run anything and practically everything on the boat simultaneously. Running the generator also allows for the batteries to be charged. You can run the generator quite a lot if you like and if you are using a decent amount of power for things like the oven or air conditioning. If you run the generator often without putting a load on it it will cause problems with carbon build up. In my naive way of thinking, I should limit the amount of time to run the generator so as not to “wear it out”. Ha, this was wrong of course! The generator is built to run and likes to run frequently with a load on. The battery charger shows the state of charge for the batteries. I had set up the program to charge the batteries when I installed the batteries last year, but since we rarely anchored, I didn’t pay much attention to the battery charging cycle because we were either plugged into power or underway and the engine alternator is charging the batteries. Anyway, I kept monitoring the batteries to see when they were fully charged. The display board would normally show “charging”, “floating” or “silent” as the state of charge. What I didn’t understand is how long it takes to fully charge the batteries. Apparently I had been charging the batteries to a point less than fully charged, which if you do this continuously, will damage the batteries. It took a call to the inverter help desk and the battery help desk to refine the programming for the charger and for me to understand how much time it takes to fully charge and how long I should be able to operate solely off of the batteries. Turns out, it takes five hours or so to fully charge and we can operate for about 12 hours on fully charged batteries before they need another charge. As you can appreciate, this all takes some consideration when you are on anchor for two or three weeks straight. I don’t like to leave the boat for extended periods while the generator is running, you want to have a load of some sort on the generator and you need enough time to fully charge. This really takes some creative thinking and liberal use of air conditioning even when you don’t need it - sometimes with all of the windows open. By now, we are experts! Add ‘energy management’ to the new resume!
After Baddeck, we decided to go to one place that we picked on our own. We wanted to start heading back to St. Peter’s canal which is the entry and exit point to the lakes. So Julia and I found a nice, secluded cove about 18 miles from Baddeck. We headed off on our own again and just after crossing through the Barra Straight Bridge (a lot of current here) we got a call from one of the other boats in Baddeck. The swing bridge at St. Peter’s Canal was out of service and they had no idea how long it was going to be out. Immediately my problem solving brain goes into action and starts planning every possible scenario for how we get out of the lakes and continue on our journey. Of course, we have a total lack of information and in fact there is no problem because we have no place we really need to be. The only items on the calendar are a board meeting that I will attend telephonically and a fishing tournament two weeks out about 350 miles west of our current position. I could actually miss either one without any consequences. But that is not how I’m wired. Problem. Solution. Or at least multiple variants of possible solutions to consider. This was a great help as a CEO but it is annoying, even to me, as a retired person with no schedule. Having now studied my own faults at great lengths I realized this but it didn’t really change the situation that much. My head is screaming “turn around and start heading north to exit the lakes on the North East side and go around the long way!” Do we have enough fuel? Yes! What is the weather forecast? Where can we stop along the way? Guess who is receiving all of these questions??? Ha, yes, Julia. Keep in mind that we are headed 18 miles in calm lake waters to a secluded anchorage. No real need for stress, unless you like to create stress. Long story short, we arrived at our destination, anchored, had a beer, and went exploring. It turned out we had anchored in the middle of an Indian reservation. When we took Tortilla to the dock about 10 minutes away in the dinghy, the fellow on the dock asked us “Where are you coming from?” We said we are from south Florida. He said, “You didn’t come from Florida in that boat (being Little V).” We said no we are anchored around the corner. He said, “You must be on the big, yellow boat.” Word travels really fast on the Indian reservation when someone arrives.
The next morning we took Tortilla for a walk on the beach which was a rocky beach but pure and beautiful. I usually carry a sea bean in my pocket for good luck. Julia and I collect these beans. They originate in Central America and float to Cayman, the Bahamas, Mexico and other places. Whenever we walk the beach we end up searching for sea beans. When you find one it is supposed to be good luck. So we are walking Tortilla on this rocky beach, in the enclosed lakes of Bras d’Or, Nova Scotia, and Julia finds a bean. I had been trying to have her find this bean for several days. I was throwing it on the beach when we did walks but she didn’t see it so I would pick it up and try again someplace else. She finally saw the bean this morning. Without thinking, she says, “I found a bean - the bridge is going to be fixed.” In another 30 seconds or so she realizes that there is no way a sea bean from Central America found its way to the Bras D’Or Lakes of Nova Scotia. We had a great laugh on that one!
The next day, we decided we would start heading towards St. Peter’s canal and call them at 10:30 a.m. for an update on the bridge. If the information was bad we would go north and exit the lakes from the north side and start the much longer route around Nova Scotia. If the information was good we would continue on towards St. Peter’s and plan to exit via the locks and the swing bridge. The update was promising. The bridge was operational again and about to pass several boats. We said we would call back in half an hour when the boats were cleared through and make sure all was fine. It was! We headed back to Marble Mountain where we stopped on the way east, to meet Liberdade and Trixie. While we were there, we discovered a vineyard. It is like a sixth sense for us. If a vineyard exists close by we sense it. The next morning, six of us were piling in Little V and headed to the dock to be picked up by the vineyard owner of Eileanan Brèagha Vineyards to do a tour and tasting. (Eileanan Brèagha is Scottish Gaelic for ‘beautiful islands’). There is nothing like a 10 am pick up for wine tasting. The views from the vineyard were nothing short of spectacular but the wines were - - - Nova Scotia Wines. The season is too short for growing really good grapes. We bought a couple of bottles and we did enjoy the visit.
Right afterwards, we headed to St. Peter’s and spent two nights. We were the only ones leaving. We pulled up anchor and the anchor roller was squeaking something fierce. It was slightly embarrassing to hear this squeak coming from our boat while in a totally quiet anchorage. Another project in the making. When we got to St. Peter’s we procured more lobsters and we provisioned more food and liquids and we were ready to head 350 miles to Yarmouth.
The weather in the Bras d’Or Lakes is its own little climate because the lakes are pretty well protected by the hilly area around the lakes which protects them and because the water temperature is much higher than the surrounding areas. We rarely saw fog and if we did it disappeared quickly. Although the wind can kick up in the lakes we didn’t experience it and so the cruising conditions were nothing short of spectacular. We moved about unimpeded by the weather and had little cause for concern for wind protection when anchoring. In short, we were really spoiled and you realize it the minute you exit the lakes.
We exited the lakes on August 11. Since the bridge had been closed all weekend and it was a good day to travel, we figured the lock would be crowded at 8:00 a.m. for the first opening. We were first in line and the lock was crowded.
After exiting we headed south to Goldsboro which was 58 miles down the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. This was the first of several legs that would eventually get us to Yarmouth which is near the southwestern end of Nova Scotia - closest point to crossing into Maine. Over the next week we stopped in Jeddore, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg, Cape Negro Island, rounded Cape Sable and then arrived in Yarmouth. We mixed up anchoring and staying on the dock. We covered 350 nautical miles and we had good to very good weather on each leg. We also had two unfortunate incidents. While on anchor in Jeddore, we were harassed by a local fishing boat. For some reason he didn’t like us being anchored where we were and he approached VAMOS at speed and veered off at the last minute and then stopped 50-60 feet off of the stern. The drunken crowd on the back deck waved and we returned the wave half-heartedly. He came back about an hour later and buzzed closely by the boat waking us pretty badly. I figured that was it for him, but he showed back up at 1:00 a.m. He stopped 50 feet off the boat and shined the spot lights in the boat, blaring his music and making a fool of himself. No harm but it made for a poor sleeping night. The next night we went to Mahone Bay - a beautiful little NS town of 900 people, mostly retirees. We opted to stay on the dock and get a good nights sleep. At 2:00 a.m. were awakened by voices. Three teenage boys were on the boat and not being quiet. Two of them were on the swim platform and the other, unbeknownst to us, was above on the boat deck. The two on the swim platform took off running and jumped in a car and left as soon as we opened the back door and started yelling! The third slipped from the boat deck and fell onto the railing in the cockpit and then Julia helped him by pushing him the water. He must have been hurting but was probably too drunk to feel anything at the time. He got out of the water and ran off before I could grab him - probably a good thing. The funny part was that he was wearing nothing but underwear! The really funny part was that so was I!! My excuse was that I was just rolling out of bed. I’m not sure what his excuse was...Maybe his “friends” convinced him to do something stupid like jump off the top of VAMOS. I don’t know, but it led to another sleepless night. I really believe that Julia and I just hit a bad streak. I still think NS is a great place to cruise, although it does heighten your awareness to security.
One of the cool items that we added to VAMOS over the winter was a cellular antennae connected to a WiFi router that can take a cellular card. We have a T-Mobile card installed in the router. If you can get a cellular signal you can have WiFi on the boat. It works spectacularly and we have had WiFi all throughout the trip despite being in remote locations. This was a huge upgrade over last year where we fought every time we arrived at a marina trying to get connected to WiFi.
In the next update I will tell you about the results of the 15th Annual Wedgeport Tuna Tournament. I’m participating with my friends the Jacquard’s. We are hoping to land a thousand pound blue fin tuna and win the tourney!! We will soon see.
And no posting is complete without at least one photo of Tortilla!