Saturday, 22 September 2018

Coleman Cove Great Chebeague Island ME USA

Passing Franklin Island at the outer end of St George River

We left the delightfully named Maple Juice Cove today, Saturday 22 September at 0935hrs.  The plan was to break the passage to Portland over 2 days, but we were making such good progress that we just kept on sailing.

That seemed to be a particularly good idea because the forecast for Sunday had little wind so it was a case of sail the route today or motor it tomorrow.
Coleman Cove

We didn’t want to go straight into the main harbour at Portland because it is supposed to be quite a rolly anchorage due to the amount of boat traffic, so instead we scouted around in the islands to the north and found a suitable spot to anchor in Coleman Cove beside Chebeague Island (great name!).
 Coleman Cove, Chebeague Island

We dropped anchor at 1730hrs for what is just an overnight stop. Tomorrow we will move into Portland Harbour run some errands whilst on Monday we have a hire car booked to take our EPIRB (emergency beacon) to a service centre for its 5-yearly routine test and to have a new battery fitted.
Coleman Cove, Great Chebeague Island, ME, USA

Maple Juice Cove ME USA

We are whizzing along so fast that we haven’t had time to have fun and write up all of the blog entries.  We’ll get there, but it will be using the system of working on one new (so you know roughly where we are) and one from a few days [weeks?!!] ago.  Keep looking back over the September list on the right and you’ll see the new ones appearing.

We had planned to depart Duck Harbour at about 0930 so that we reached a tidal gate at the bottom of the St George River, 30nm down the coast, no earlier than slack water as the tide began to flood into the river.  Delaying our departure to pull SY Stella Marisoff the rocks was no great worry as far as the tidal gate was concerned – arriving later we would just have more tide to assist us up river. But there was always the question of sunset, should our passage be a particularly slow one.  However, we had calculated the timings based on a speed of 6 knots. The wind turned out to be much more helpful and with full sails set we bowled along at over 7 knots.
The extra speed meant that we made up the lost time and had a fabulous sail.  As always in Maine, there were a lot of lobster pot markers to dodge (hence the desire to safely tucked up at anchor before nightfall) but even with the resulting erratic course, we made excellent progress.  There were a few other yachts also enjoying the conditions which prompted lots of friendly waving as they went past us.
Maple Juice Cove

And then we arrived at the entrance to the St George River exactly on time which meant that we had the first of the flood tide to help us on our way up for the last 6 or so miles to our overnight anchorage, Maple Juice Cove.  We had picked this location partly because of the unusual name but, more importantly, because it looked to offer excellent shelter from the southwest through to the northwest.  Almost as soon as we had anchored the wind started to rise.  The forecast had predicted 35-40 knot winds offshore overnight, hence our decision to find a good sheltered anchorage (staying in Duck Harbour for the night was definitely out of the question!).  With lots of anchor chain laid out and the anchor firmly embedded in mud, Maple Juice Cove worked out brilliantly as a strong wind bolt hole.
Maple Juice Cove, ME, USA

Monday, 17 September 2018

Acadia National Park ME USA

Today we went hiking in the Acadia National Park…

… we started at The Precipice, an 850 ft climb to Champlain peak (1058’) and most of that was almost straight up. Iron rungs, handrails and even wooden bridges had been fitted to help us on the more exposed sections.  Fabulous!

Described as ‘the most thrilling and most exposed hike in the park’, the views were spectacular… just don’t look down! For the rest of the hike, the photos tell it all…

The Bowl

Sand Beach

Climbing down from the Beehive, another iron rung route

Otter Point cliffs

Acadia National Park, Maine, USA 

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Whale Watching in the Bay of Fundy

Leaving Eastport heading northeast

Fish weirs off Northwest Harbour and
Helena Island as we approached Lords Cove
Thursday 13 September was a big day for us.  We had checked into the USA at Eastport the previous day and spent the night on a buoy there but we couldn’t take the most direct route west from Eastport because BV’s air draft is too great for her to get under the 43’ high Roosevelt Memorial bridge that connects Maine to Campobello Island.  Well, to be absolutely correct, if we had timed our departure exactly perfectly at low water we should have just squeaked BV under the bridge but it wasn’t really worth the risk.  Instead we timed our departure so that we weren’t fighting the tides and planned to leave the way we had come in, via East Quoddy Head, and hoped that we might see whales along the way too.
Lords Cove, Deer Island

But to time the tides to be in our favour, we needed to leave Eastport no later than 0900 to carry the very last of the ebb out of Friar Roads and Head Harbour Passage but if we turned to head southwest outside Campobello Island at that point we’d be bucking the tide roaring up the Bay of Fundy for the next 4 hours – not a good state of affairs! So we decided to anchor in Lords Cove, Deer Island [Ed: yes, in Canada, but we weren’t going to go ashore] for the intervening period and so make East Quoddy Light just as the tide turned south and west in our favour.  Lords Cove is a beautiful spot and, had we had more time, we could quite happily have spent several days here.  We didn’t have that time but we enjoyed our extended coffee break in the bay, oohing and ahhing at the early ‘fall’ colours and enjoying watching the tide rise and cover all the interesting hard, lumpy, bits.
Mirages creating ‘upside down islands’

We had been told that the best time to see whales off East Quoddy Light is around high tide so at 1250, about an hour before high water, we raised the anchor and headed out to the eastern end of Campobello Island.  It was a beautiful day with little wind and mirages caused the distant islands to gain upside-down doubles.  As we motored towards the lighthouse we could see a couple of boats stationary in the water….
‘Thar she blows’!

… and then we saw the first indications of whales – the blow.  To be honest, at the time we thought we were looking at finback whales but the photos clearly show these as humpbacks.  It didn’t matter what species they were though: they were whales; big, breathing, diving, don’t drive your boat into them, real live whales.  Wow!

There were a couple of commercial whale watching boats and 2 small, privately owned motor boats as well as us enjoying the spectacle of the whales (2 we think, perhaps 3) gently trundling south on the tide, having a spot of lunch.  Nothing terribly exciting, just up and down, on the surface for a bit and then dived for a bit and, it seemed, not at all bothered by having spectators at their dining table.

Every now and then one of the whales would show its flukes when it dived.

It didn’t happen very often but I was lucky and managed to get a couple of reasonable pictures of the event.

After about 30 minutes we felt we should move on and give the animals some space so we trundled southwest along the coast and within 5 minutes had sight of another whale which was being watched by only one other vessel.  We joined them and were treated to a real close-up encounter with another feeding humpback.
Two dive sequences.  Top set – whale in surface recovery mode.  Lower set – whale diving for extended period

This humpback showed its flukes far more frequently than the first ones we had seen.  It would surface from a more extended dive, ‘porpoise’ on the surface for a while and then take a final deep breath and dive, showing its flukes, for another extended underwater period.

It was fabulous to watch but, of course, we had no idea when the animal would next surface or, indeed, where.

And then it surfaced almost right in front of us!!  Nicky squeaked, thinking that she was about to run into it but we weren’t moving fast (maybe a couple of knots) and the whale obviously knew better than to surface directly in front of us – it was a little to one side.  So it ran down our port side, whilst I rapidly snapped away and Nicky pointed out that we could clearly see one of its pectoral fins shining white just under the surface.  Perhaps just a little too close then….

And after a couple more breaths….

…it dived away again; and we thought that we’d probably had the best of its time and headed off too.  What a fabulous end to our time in Canada!
The Bay of Fundy off Campobello, NS, Canada

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Friars Bay Campobello NB Canada

Making good progress across the Bay of Fundy.  Southern Wolf Island is ahead and left

So, the alarm call on Monday 10 September was hideously early!  So early that I don’t have any pictures of our departure from Westport, but then it was pretty dark.  But we achieved the aim and had a gentle 1½ -2kts of tide helping us out of the northern entrance of the channel between Brier and Long Islands, rather than being squirted out madly in a rush of, as the charts warn, up to 6kt of tide.  With full sail set and a very pleasant 10-12kt easterly breeze, we had a great sail north towards and past Grand Manan Island and onwards to the southern tip of the Wolf Islands.  It was very cool again for most of the passage and the person on the helm needed to be well wrapped up with an oilskin jacket, fleecy hat, gloves and a scarf.  But by late morning it was quite warm enough for the person not on the helm to sit in the shelter of the sprayhood in trousers and a t-shirt; the sun’s warm but the moving air isn’t.
Southern Wolf Island

About halfway across we were lucky enough to see 2 puffins flying in formation, stiff wings flapping furiously as they headed out towards Nova Scotia and, presumably, the North Atlantic beyond.  Our books say that puffins leave Maine and New Bruswick in August and spend the winter on the ocean so these must have been 2 of the last ones to leave for the overwintering grounds.  Neither of us had ever seen puffins before that moment [Ed: amazing really since they breed on the cliff around Herm], so we have our fingers crossed that they have good fishing and survive the winter well so that we have the chance of seeing them in their breeding plumage next year.

Off Southern Wolf Island we furled the genoa, slowed down and had a good peer around.  Cate and Murray Basingthwaite (Coolchange) had told us that whales can often be seen in the area, sleeping on the surface.  We saw a couple of whale-watching boats and headed towards them but, as we did so, they headed off back to the mainland, presumably at the end of their tours.
A rather blurred, and very distant, photo of, we think, a fin whale.  The whale was too far away and not on the surface for long enough for me to get any more pictures

And then suddenly we saw a blow! We headed over towards where we had seen it but, by then, the whale had disappeared.  We did this a couple more time and eventually got close enough to see the whale surface and dive a few time, and I also managed to get just the one picture.  We never saw the whale’s flukes (which is, apparently, typical of fin whales and Minkes) but, equally, we didn’t see the blowhole at the same time as the dorsal fin (typical of Minkes), so we assume it was a fin whale.  It led us a merry dance for about half an hour and then just slipped away.  So we carried on, under mainsail alone towards East Quoddy Light at the eastern end of the Canadian island of Campobello.
South of East Quoddy Light and the entrance to Head Harbour

Making our way into Head Harbour
We thought that we might spend the night at Head Harbour, so off East Quoddy Light we lowered the mainsail and motored into the inlet on which the harbour’s situated.  It’s quite a long way up the inlet to the harbour but when we got there we found it to be full of fishing boats and lobster scows and, whilst apparently it is the done thing to raft onto a boat or a scow it didn’t look terribly inviting and they looked busy getting ready to go.  So we decided to head round to Friar’s Bay on the northwestern side of the island.
East Quoddy Light from the northeast

By this time, because we had spent time whale watching, sailed slowly from there to Head Harbour and also explored the harbour somewhat, the tide had turned and we found ourselves bucking 2-3 knots of outflowing tide as we motored along the northern side of Campobello. East Quoddy Light took quite some time to disappear in the rearview mirror!  But at one point we did pick up a very useful back-eddy, which had us whizzing along at 9-10kts over the ground.  Unfortunately, all too soon we lost that and were back to fighting our way along.  We considered stopping off somewhere at anchor until the tide turned or slackened but by the time we reached a suitable bay we were tucked far enough into the shore that the tide against us wasn’t so bad, so we just continued onwards.
Friars Bay on Campobello Island - Canada

To our port side is Eastport - USA
We eventually reached Friar’s Bay and dropped anchor in the southern corner, between the big jetty for the International Park and the enormous fish farm.  With the wind forecast to be around 20kts from the southwest the next day, this was definitely the most sheltered place to be.  So, on one side we had Campobello (Canada), on which is a little piece of both Canada and the USA (see below) and across the channel on the other side was Eastport in the USA.  And, a little further east, but also across the channel, we could see Deer Island (Canada).  The boundary between the 2 countries zigs and zags around the channel but is most clearly marked at this time of year by the lobster pots – none on the Canadian side; loads and loads on the American side!
The jetty/dock to get ashore to the International Park and President Roosevelt’s summer cottage

Campobello is famous as the island on which President Franklin D Roosevelt had his summer cottage.  His wife, Eleanor, survived FDR by about 20 years and after her death a large portion of the island as well as their summer cottage, was gifted to the Canadian and American Governments to become an International Park, celebrating the many years of friendship between the 2 nations.
Rain – and suntan lotion(?)

Reflections on a rainy day!
We had planned to go ashore on Tuesday 11 September to explore but when we woke up it was raining hard……..and it continued to rain all day.  We could have been big and brave and gone ashore anyway but it would have been pretty miserable.  So we decided to make the best of it and try to catch up the blog somewhat and leave FDR, Eleanor and North American friendships for the next day instead.
Friars Bay, Campobello, NB, Canada

Monday, 10 September 2018

Westport NS Canada

The first indications of dawn at our anchorage in the outer part of Yarmouth

It was a cold and early start from Yarmouth, NS on Sunday 9 September.  The alarm went off at 0545hrs and we had the engine on at 0620hrs, with the aim of catching (nearly) the first of the north-going tide to get to Westport on Brier Island.  With sunrise at 0645, as we left we could just make out the edges of the bay in which we had anchored in the dark the previous night and the dawn was beautiful too.
Just like sailing in the English Channel – working the tides and wearing lots of kit to stay warm!

By 0715hr we were well clear of Yarmouth and had full sail set, hard on the wind, heading in the general direction of Brier Island.  The wind, forecast to be from the northeast, was a little bit more northerly, so we couldn’t quite lay our destination and had to put in a couple of tacks.  Not only was it early but it was also jolly chilly. Autumn has definitely arrived and we needed warm hats, thick gloves and decent windproofs for stints on the helm. On the other hand, the person sitting in the shelter of the sprayhood, was toasty warm in the sunshine and out of the breeze.
Entering the channel between Brier Island, NS and Long Island, NS.  (Top) Arriving, just after getting the sails down.  (Bottom) Two views of the Peter Island light (left) from the southwest (right) from the north, almost through the main tidal race

Getting detailed tidal stream data of this area seems to be difficult.  In Halifax Nicky had bought the Canadian Hydrographic Service tidal atlas for Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy, within which the big picture tidal flows are clearly shown.  So, with the tide in the main body of the Bay of Fundy still flowing north and east, we had assumed that the tidal flow through the channel between Brier and Long Islands would be in a northerly direction when we arrived.  Not so.  We arrived off the southern entrance to the channel, about 45minutes after high water at Eastport.  By the time we had the sails down and were making our way in through to the east of Peter Island (the small island in the middle of the entrance) the tide was flooding out at 2 knots, and increasing.  It took us 20mins to fight our way from the position at which I took the bottom left hand picture above, to the position at which I took the bottom right hand picture above, a distance of about ¾nm, and the tidal had increased by about a knot in that time.  Coming from Guernsey, we’re used to strong tidal flows and big tide ranges and but the lack of detail in the tidal atlas for the Westport channel meant that we were on the back foot somewhat.  It all felt a bit amateurish given that we had wanted to arrive at, or around, slack water.
Westport Harbour just after high water – one floating pontoon filled with fishing boats (rafted up to 3 deep) and the search and rescue vessel, and the west side of the harbour dries

We got past the area of strongest tidal flow and made our way, still rather crabwise, across to Westport harbour. Our pilot book suggests that it is possible to tie up alongside a fishing boat in here but it looked rather full alongside the floating pontoon (the fishing vessels were rafted 2 and 3 deep) and the west side of the harbour dries.  We decided to have a look at anchoring close to the fishermen’s moorings just to the southwest of the harbour, close to the fish farm.  The pilot book talks of a contributor anchoring here in the past and finding good holding, out of the main tidal flow. That as maybe but now the moorings take up all the space where one could have anchored.  One, in particular, was just exactly in ‘our’ anchoring space, how inconsiderate!  With a 5.6m range (a little less than that in Guernsey) and thus an enforced starting depth of about 9m and an unknown tidal flow through the area, we really wanted to put out at least 40m of chain but there just wasn’t enough space.  So we decided to pick up one of the moorings and stay on board.  The pick-up buoys on the first mooring we looked at (the one that was just where we really wanted to drop our anchor) were so tangled around the riser that I couldn’t get a line on.  So, Nicky motored us across to a very smart, very large buoy which was extremely close to the fish farm but just far enough away to be OK.  It had a large ring on top through which I threaded 2 lines. Interestingly, in amongst the moorings the tidal flow was opposite to that in the main channel and, with the wind against the tide, BV sat right up on the buoy, rubbing against it.  We were in danger of the buoy scratching the paint to shreds, so I pulled the mooring lines tight so that BV sat with her bow on the buoy but with the paintwork protected from rubbing by the bow protector mat that we use when anchoring (to save her from dinks from a swinging anchor) and when mooring in this sort of situation.
Moored next to the fish farm

It was a beautiful afternoon and, since we were on someone-else’s mooring we stayed on board and just enjoyed the view, whilst we read, did some chores and started to try to catch up with the blog.  A fishing farm boat came out and spent several hours spraying pellets into all the fish farm enclosures, much to the delight of the local seagull population, and periodically Nicky peered through binoculars at the tidal flow in the channel to try to work out at what time slack water would occur – important for timing our departure the following morning.
Minke (?) whale close to our mooring

Part way through the afternoon we were treated to a visit by a Minke whale (we think!).  It didn’t come very close and it didn’t spend much time nearby but it was there long enough for me to get some pictures (we identified it afterwards from comparing the photos of its dive sequence with pictures in a book we have) and for us to have a good enough view.  Our first big whale close up.  Wow!
Low tide, evening light and a whole new view compared to when we arrived

Low tide was at 1735hrs and by that time Nicky had confirmed that the tidal flow was relatively slack from about 1½hrs before LW until about ½hr after LW.  Since we didn’t want to end up being squirted out of the northern end of the channel in an uncontrolled manner the next morning, that meant that we would need to be up and off before 0600hrs.  Ouch! The joys of working in a very tidal environment!  But the evening light was lovely and the scenery very different from when we had arrived (we’d gone down 5.6m, about 18ft, so there was a lot more land and seaweed on view) and our tidal eddy was now operating in the other direction (still in opposition to the main tidal flow and rather stronger on the flood than on the ebb).  It was a glorious evening to enjoy sundowners in the cockpit.  Tides, whales and great scenery, what more could you want?
Westport, NS, Canada