Archive for July, 2009

Latitude 50

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

killroy-was-here-smallAnother fitful night of waking, watching, dosing has brought us to Cape Whittle. This is important because I can now turn Northeast and head toward the Strait of Belle Isle and the open ocean. But 50⁰ North is a jealous latitude and has held the CAP’T LEM close to the line for the last 290 miles. A Northeast wind and dense fog conspire to see escape to the north is difficult at best. My hope was the day star could bring the stout and steady west wind of yesterday as it warms the land over Newfoundland but no, it only brought a stronger Nor’easter and more fog.

But, of course, all the wishing in the world cannot change one breath of wind. I’ll just deal with it by climbing out of “Golfe du Saint-Laurent” like a toddler climbs stairs one tack at a time. My job as captain of THE CAPTAIN is to be ready, just be ready. Wind does change.

The fog that came with the wind only sharpens my hunger to see the horizon. I passed two ships at less than three miles, big ships by the size of the radar return, but saw nor heard either one. When I step below I can’t stay for long or the need to look out borders on obsession. The radar, the chart plotter, the AIS all tell me, nothing there, but still the need to see… I want to see that nothing is there. I can only imagine the horror the fog brought to sailors of old.

So I stand in the companion way on the lower rung my head just clearing the hatch cover in such a way that were you the mast looking back you would only see from my nose up. I clasp the hatch combing with both hands, fingers and thumb as though peering over a fence. “Killroy was here!” should be scrawled just below.

By 1500, I’ve had enough of stair climbing and sheet white fog, so I make my way to another anchorage below an abandon lighthouse at Lat 50⁰ 18’ 11.2”W ~ Long. 059⁰ 39’ 43.9”W having traveled 230 nm from Anticosti Island. I’ll sleep the whole night through…unless the wind changes or the anchor drags or the boat rocks…

A wind worth waiting for

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Another night underway waking up, getting up, looking around, resetting the alarm. All is ok as long as I’m making less than 4 knots. In the clear night, I can see 4 times that far and I’m the only light not on shore. CAP’T LEM made 24 miles this way before the dawn broke bringing with it wind speed I don’t want to sleep through. This morning, it’s the wind I’ve been waiting for.

First, it’s 6 knots we jump to, then 8, then 10 and I don’t want to sail 10 knots downwind in a building sea. I much prefer a steady 6, so it’s out to douse the headsail and shorten the main. I let the CAP’T LEM go into irons to relieve the pressure on the main as I bring it in one roll of the boom at a time. It makes me glad I practiced sailing her out of irons back on the lake now that the seas have built 6 to 8 feet.

Oh, but it’s from the right direction! It’s from the west and I want to go east and there is nothing ahead for a hundred miles but water so I press on. By noon the waves are taller the me standing upright in the cockpit and coming faster than my 8 knots. The course I’ve set takes the wind a few points on the port quarter. The boom is down tight and the traveler is secured. I stay ever mindful of a jibe. My motorcycle helmet is kept at the ready should I need to go out on deck to deal with a wild boom, but for now she’s tame.

The waves come up behind and lift the stern. The speed accelerates. It rolls under amidships where it crest in a fizz like a shook-up soda pop, then drops the stern and raises the bow giving the vessel a hobbyhorse ride. And they do it over and over and over. It’s just what waves do.

It looks as though the wind will turn on me one more time before I’m free and clear to head north along the coast of Labrador. But for now I am making glorious head way with beautiful clear skies over all.

My position at 2000 on the 20th of July is Lat. 50° 05’ 04’’N ~ Lon. 061° 00’ 17” W. I’m sailing 6.6 kts under a reefed main alone in a 20 knot wind. The sun has set. It’s going to be along night.

Underway again

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

The sun is setting on “Detroit de Jacques Cartier”, The Strait of Jacques Cartier. The CAP’N LEM sailed with the changing wind after weathering a southeaster in Port Menier on Anticosti Island. There is still a high wind watch but it is from the right direction to push us along or way.

We sailed through a pod of minke whale ten or twelve strong. It must have been a feeding ground because there were dolphins there too.

The weather tonight looks fine to sail on through the night. At 2000 the CAP’N LEM’s position was Lat. 50° 08’ 26’’N ~ Lon. 064° 08’ 27”W. I’m glad to have the numbers back above 50°.

I’ve broke the autopilot again. I have to go onto the stern to raise and lower the motor, and while I was back there I slipped just enough to fall against the disengaged autopilot and broke the pivot pin lose. Nothing a generous helping of epoxy could fix. “She ain’t purdy, but she’s a workin’.” Such is life on a solo sail.

To all who have e-mailed me, thank you so much! I’m sorry but I can’t answer them now. I can only receive them. I do read them all.

Anticosti Island

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Daybreak brought a gentle wind…dead on the nose. Time for a change in tack. I had hoped for one more day of fair wind and following seas but it was not to be. There are two Straits between me and the Atlantic Ocean, The Strait of Jacques Cartier and the Strait of Belle Isle. I want a fair wind. I need a fair wind. But sometime I get neither what I want nor what I need.

Now there is a gale blowing across the north of Anticosti Island and of course from due east. I take a page for the “Captain Lem’s Verbal Handbook” and run-hide at Latitude 49° 48’ 44” ~ Longitude 064° 21’51”. From what I can tell of the chart plotter, it’s called Port Menier just inside of Cape Henri. The holding ground is lousy. I was blown out of my anchorage twice before giving up and coming in to moor in the barge basin. There is one other sail boat tied up in here doing the same thing. Kelp was the problem. It tangles with the flukes and does not let them bite.

Captain Lem was a hurricane fighter. This little blow in nothing like he would battle just about every year the last 20 years of his life. It seemed as if every hurricane that came up the east coast came looking for him, but he had his “hurricane holes”, places where he would take the TONI AND DONNA and just wait them out.

I remember him telling me about Hurricane Floyd. It came ashore around Georgia or South Carolina, I don’t remember all the details, and then turned to head back out to sea across North Carolina right where Captain Lem was hiding. Captain Lem was all anchored down in his hole when the eye of the thing went right over him. But Ol’ Floyd was a strange one because when it didn’t get him the first time, it went out to sea, stopped, revved up, reversed course and came back ashore for a second try at him. The eye passed right over the top of him again. Then, when it didn’t get him a second time, it reversed course again and went for him a third. The Cap told me he was getting pretty tired of Floyd by then so right in the middle of the third pass Captain Lem went out on deck, looked Floyd in the “eye” and shook his fist. Well, that was all Floyd could take, so he huffed and puffed and blew all the water out of the bay so the TONI AND DONNA just sat on the bottom as stable as a rock while Ol’ Floyd moved out to sea again and by the time the water came back into the bay, Floyd had blew himself into a nice summer breeze. Then the Cap said this, “Every hurricane has an eye, but they don’t see worth a dang.”

Well anyways, that’s the way I remember Captain Lem telling it.


Open Water

Friday, July 17th, 2009

The CAP’N LEM is clear of the Saint Lawrence River and is well into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. They must have thought a lot of Saint Lawrence to have names such grand bodies of water after him.

I miss the interesting detail of the river bank and the islands. I miss the comfort of a safe anchorage with a good muddy bottom to hold the CAP’N LEM put. But it’s good to be in open water, water with waves and swells and unbent wind. Things change on the open water. The stress of many boats and few mariners is gone. Those out here are sailors whether motor, steam or sail. They have a reason for being here and that makes them easier to deal with, much less unpredictable.

Open water gives the mind freedom to roam the past, the present and the future. It gives the body so measure of freedom too. With fifteen miles of view all around it’s acceptable to go below to cook, clean or just tinker. I prefer tinkering. I put extra lashings on the trampoline. I made some new preventers using Cunningham hooks. Very useful in holding down the sails and boom to reduce chafe in the new added motions from the swells. I can read or write. I can even dose if I remember to set my alarm so as to not over do it. Something inside just won’t let me take my eyes of the horizon for very long. I search the horizon, check the radar and AIS for any hints of company and note my position on the chart. I’m right now seven miles off shore on a parallel course and making 2.5 knots. It would take me hours of being on the wrong heading to run aground, so that’s not a problem.

This longing to look is a leftover habit of many many sea watches. I loved getting a new ensign fresh out of the academy, to break in on watch on the POLAR SEA or the POLAR STAR. With binoculars around my neck I would jester out the windows and say something like this. “Your business is out there. Look at the radar, look at the chart, look up, look down but never forget to …look out! That’s your business. Out there. Best the Captain see the back of your head ‘stead of your smiling young face when he comes through that bridge door. It is your watch.” Later, when they were getting it, I would add this, quieter, for emphases, “Never. Never let the terrible weight of responsibility slip from your shoulders for even a moment of your watch.”

Now those days are gone. I only have myself to tell. “Never let the terrible weight of responsibility slip…” It’s my watch and this time my watch is endless.

My July 16, 2009 position report: Lat 50° 07’ 40”N ~ Lon 065° 43’ 36”W. WX wind w 4kts, swell sw at 4’

Partly cloudy with distant cumulous. C- 090T S-2kts

Temporary Post

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

– This is Ken, helping out Tommy here on shore.  Sometimes posting at open sea can be a bit of a problem, two-way communication through the geosynchronous Satellite has a 43,000 mile round trip and posting on the web isn’t always friendly. Looks like today Tommy’s blog got garbled on its way to the Internet.   He read all your comments, and his picture came through just fine, but the text got cut off somehow.   He’s long out of cell phone range, so I’ll get him on the Satellite phone tomorrow morning and let him know.   News is his stern light is all fixed.  For now, here’s the latest, somewhere along the Saint Lawrence.

Moored in Sept-Isle QU

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

2000hr position 50 drs 12 min 9 sec North 66 drs 23 min 08 sec West

Moored in Sept-Isle QU to fix stern light.  Couldn’t do it underway.   Made 102 nm in 24 hours including low wind in the night.

Afternoon WX was wind w at 15  with a swell from south at 6-8 ft.

Sea Room

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

July 14, 2009: 2000 position report. Lat 49° 01’ 58” N ~ Long 068° 03’ 36” W course 056°T speed 3.9 kts WX: broken clouds, thunderstorms on horizon, wind W @ 10kts dying traveled 79 nm since 0730.

Sea room! Finally I have sea room to run, tack, hove-to, whatever I need. I feel rich with room. Not an ocean worth mind ya, but room I haven’t had before. Oh the lakes were big enough, but they were crowded too. Here, I’ve passed within a mile of only one vessel, a small sailboat making her way across the bay. The traffic lanes are to the south and my AIS is working great. There are tight spots up ahead but tonight I have sea room.

I saw a minke whale right off the little harbor I anchored in last night. I recognize him from his smallish fin located on his back. I have not seen any more belugas though. There is lots of interesting sea birds. One looked like a swan all white with a long neck and black tips on its wings. It soared dipping close to the water then up high again. Of all things not to have it’s my Audubon bird book.

I’ll stay underway tonight. I’ve got to start getting used to being underway over nights. Oh, I’ll make a few stops along the way but mostly it will be just sail. The wind will drop around midnight and I’ll hove-to then and sleep very lightly…in my clothes.


Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

I chided myself for waking late. 0630 is late when there is a change of tide to catch. But the bay that was my home for the evening was so calm and I was tired from a good days sail. I could see by the wet tide line on the boulders on shore I had missed at least two hours of ebb. It’s the ebb tide I need to help the CAP’N LEM make the most of whatever the wind has to offer. But even at that, I still couldn’t get moving. So, I drank coffee, ate cereal, and then made some minor repairs. I just can’t rush away from a place so lovely. There is even a water fall at the end. I think of Yosemite Valley in miniature and it is mine for the anchoring at Latitude 47° 57’ 28”N ~ Longitude 069° 48’ 19”W. How was I to know what unexpected delight waited for the CAP’N LEM just outside, and that the timing was perfect? The timing is always perfect on a voyage such as this.

Finally, my chores done and the morning full on, I upped anchor and felt my way through the shallows of the bay and into the ebbing currents that would carry me toward the Saguenay River. Then it happened. First on the right, the water broke with a whoosh and a blow of air. Then on the left and behind at the same time. They had found us. The white whales had come to us! The Beluga had come to dance with the CAPTIAN. Oh, and dance they did. I ran below for cameras, back on deck and they would disappear. I put the camera down, back they would come. First the biggest and whitest of the males would charge then, as if to inspect the hulls, would dive under and swim the length. Next, the females, a mottled gray to their whiteness, came with their young at their sides swimming in perfect accord. I could sense their pride as they paraded by showing off their babies like proud young mothers strolling a park.

I called to them. I laughed at them. I blew them kisses. I would have sung to them if I had known a song. I remembered a Jacque Cousteau documentary on gray whales in Baja. They took a boat up to them and Cousteau jumped on the back of one and held on for as long as he could then slip free. He said this. “To touch life is to know life and to know life is to love life.” How many years ago was that, 40? I have never forgotten it.

No, I did not touch them, not physically. It would have not been appropriate. But I did touch them with my eyes and with my heart and my voice. And the CAP’N LEM turned this way and that in the tide rip. They left and came back then left again to not come back. I waited, but it was over so I sailed away. But for a long time, off in the distance, I could see them come to the surface to breathe the same air as me.


Google Maps

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Looks like Google Maps does just about everything. I’ve made a rough Chart of the last few stops over on the Chart His Progress page.