Thursday, June 16, 2011

Moving on!!!

Yes, we are moving on. The boat is about to be launched in Somes Sound, Maine, with the ultimate destination for this year likely Annapolis.

We are also moving the Blog. Going forward, it will be maintained on Wordpress. The URL is, or click on this link and bookmark it. The tools on blogger are just to archaic to deal with (WYSIWYG it is NOT). We are told (and hoping) that Wordpress will be better.

Preview of Defense Against the Dark Arts - for more, go to

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Minesweepers: The ultimate solution to the Lobster Pot Problem?

Jon rants:

Over the intervening days after our lobster pot snag, I have been thinking of ways to mitigate the hazard to navigation that the Lobster Pot Problem represents. On the Nova Scotia coast I had been reading "The Caine Mutiny", picked up in Baddeck from the box of exchange books at the marina. Those familiar with the story will remember that the 'USS Caine' is a minesweeper, and in the book is a good description of the minesweeping process:

Paravanes (towed buoys designed to sheer well to the side of the towing vessel) are launched port and starboard, and carry with them abrasive coated lines which run laterally under the surface. When these abrasive lines contact the anchor line of the mine - or lobster buoy - it saws through the line and the hazard floats to the surface, where they are destroyed by 20mm anti-aircraft fire. You can see where I am going with this.....

In the Chesapeake, crab pots are a similar hazard. It is my understanding that there are now "pot free zones" established in some places in order to allow at least some recreational boating to take place unhindered by these fishing pirates. My suggestion is to sweep designated anchorages and channels in Maine using minesweeping techniques, removing these hazards as a public service.

I hope the Maine authorities will act promptly on my suggestion.

Friday, October 22, 2010

October 4,5,and 6- The Final Leg will not be forgotten

Wednesday- At 10:45, October 6th

Ann writes:

Thank goodness we have arrived at our final destination!
I was never entirely fearful, but when we were communicating with the US Coast Guard, I had fleeting visions of them taking us off Anomaly and leaving her to be bashed to bits, trapped in high seas on a lobster pot. And it all can be attributed to the fact that she's a very fast boat. But I digress....

We left Lunenburg on Jon's theory that we would sail through Monday night, Tuesday and night and arrive in North East Harbor (NEH), Mount Desert Island (MDI), Maine by the light of Wednesday morning, but it didn't work out that way. I remember thinking I would rather wait 12 hours and have 2 day legs and one night leg, but the weather report for late Weds. wasn't good. If I'd known it was also a new moon, I definitely would have made that request.
Things started ok with a chilly but lovely parting sunset over Lunenburg, but as total darkness fell, with no horizon and rough, bounding conditions, I began to feel really ill. It also got extremely cold. I had to take more drugs which made me drowsy. I was able to spell Jon on watch for awhile, but he didn't get much rest due to the boisterous conditions and the odd behavior of the frequent fishing vessels. Some of the nautical lighting schemes didn't seem to make sense and it was sometimes difficult to tell what was coming at you. Monday was a rough night that didn't set us up well for the rest of the voyage.

By the time I came up on deck Tuesday morning, things had calmed down a bit in the gulf of Maine. I saw some porpoises, a seal, and 2 different little birds landed on the rigging for a short while The rest of the sailing was actually pretty good, and it became apparent that our good progress had us arriving in the darkness of early morning. There was a definite possibility of tangling with Maine's famous seafood.

The trouble started around 3AM Weds. Jon was finally sleeping and I noted we were drifting slightly from the heading he specified. I knew it probably wasn't significant, but I was absorbed by studying the instruments. It was a dark but starry night, and I became aware of faint shapes zipping by. I finally decided to rouse Jon, and then some of the buoys started hitting the boat, so we definitely were in amongst the lobster pots, more than 9 miles offshore in over 250 feet of water!

Jon decided to turn around, but almost immediately we were stuck. It was 5 am, total darkness, a storm coming, and the sea bashing the transom as Anomaly strained on the lobster pot. It was just about 5AM. I'll let Jon tell the rest of the story, but just short of ordering an expensive rescue 4 hours later, we popped off and were free again. After another 2 hours of dodging pots all the way into the harbor, we arrived.

In summary,
2568 nautical miles (just under 3000 statute miles)
6 provinces
2 states
2 countries

Jon writes:

As we turned southwest from Lunenburg along the southern Nova Scotia shore, the wind increased from the east and soon we had 2 reefs in main and mizzen. We dodged one large dragger that completely ignored (or perhaps was ignorant of) our presence. It was quite a rough sea, with 20-25 knots from the east following up on the strong wind from the south over the last couple of days, and neither of us were feeling our best. As we neared the southern tip of Nova Scotia, there was more traffic: cruise ships heading north towards Halifax, fishing trawlers moving randomly, and one peculiar assemblage that must have been a tug and tow. They had been paralleling our course offshore, but closing the distance and then turned to go west. I wanted to be a bit further south to avoid the places on the chart marked "tidal rips", many of which had names like "The Rip", "Tail of The Rip", "Horse Race", etc.  These are caused by the strong currents turning the point out of the Bay of Fundy. When less than a mile distant a powerful searchlight came on from the tug and picked us out. He must have seen our radar transponder and wondered what we were. They finally altered course to pass astern, much to my relief.

As we turned west around Brazil Rock, it became apparent that we were well ahead of the speed needed to arrive in Maine in the morning: we had covered the 93 miles from Lunenburg in less than 12 hours. The next 20 miles to Seal Rock took less than 2 hours, running through the water with speeds often in the high 9s, and carrying sometimes 2.5 knots favorable current. Into the next morning the wind lightened, and nearing noon it was down to 4 knots. Had it stayed strong, we might have made Maine by nightfall. I kept two reefs in both main and mizzen to slow down even more, so that we would not be too early reaching the coast.

At midday I started the engine to charge the batteries, and shifting into gear revealed that we had picked something up on the prop the night before, bad vibration at any speed above idle. This meant that the engine could only be used with care for manueuvering to dock once we arrived in Northeast Harbor. Eventually the wind picked up to 8 knots or so, and it became quite a pleasant, leisurely sail at 4 or 5 knots, calm sea, double reefed though the afternoon and night. Then about 4 AM Ann woke me with the news that she had seen lobster buoys.

This seemed unlikely since we were still 10 miles offshore and in 250 feet of water. We had not seen lobster pots set this deep or this far offshore anywhere in Canada. But sure enough there they were, lots of them. And very difficult to see with a slight chop and no moon. I had planned to hove-to if we arrived early, but as we were already among the pots it seemed inadvisable: hoving-to drifts the boat sideways, making it more likely you will snag one. So I decided to turn around to retrace our path further offshore (and presumable towards fewer buoys) until daylight. Within a very few minutes, it became apparent that we had caught one as our speed dropped to less than a knot and it became difficult to steer. I got the sails down and we were essentially anchored, stern to the seas.

Our route, Lunenburg to Maine (click on chart to expand)

The wind was up to 12 or 14 knots, and the waves were getting getting noticeably bigger and pounding the transom every so often with a resounding thump. The common advice when caught on a lobster pot buoy is to hook the line with a boathook, try to untangle it and if unsuccessful cut the line. As dawn broke I found I could extend the one good boathook (the other had gotten bent by an errant sheet crossing the Cabot Strait and would no longer extend) and by leaning over the transom with the end in one hand, hook the line tethering us to the pot. But there was far too much tension in the line to have any hope of hauling it on board, or close enough to cut. Even holding on to it at all was difficult: the stern was heaving about 4 feet vertically in the waves. I tried taping a saw to the other boathook, but it was impossible to hold the line high enough to reach with the saw reliably, impossible to keep the saw in anything close to the same point on the rope. And then the boathook disappeared. I had been able to hold onto only the end grip when the stern rose to its height on a wave, finally the grip came loose from the pole and all I held in my hand was the grip. That eliminated the possibility of cutting the rope from onboard.

I had considered diving in to cut the line, the recommended method #2 if you cannot untangle it with a boathook from the deck. A fine idea on a calm and sunny day near shore, this presented a number of serious challenges on that morning: First, the water was 60 degrees and we had no wetsuit on board. Your ability to work in those conditions declines rapidly after only 5 minutes or so. Second, as soon as the line was cut, the boat would head downwind at 2 or 3 knots, faster than I would be able to swim after it. The line seemed to be tangled on the prop or saildrive so the motor might not be available; in any case we knew from the previous day that something was already wrapped on the prop and it was marginally functioning in the best case. That meant that Ann would have to do a man-overboard recovery under sail by herself. I put my own chances of successfully recovering a man overboard in those conditions with a crew and functioning engine at less than 50%, Ann had never sailed the boat by herself before so with no engine or other crew the chances of success seemed very small indeed. Third, the only way to re-board 'Anomaly' was to put the transom door down (a midships boarding ladder is designed, but not yet built); in the sea state present the pitching of the stern would make this a dangerous exercise even if the boat could be positioned for recovery. In summary diving in to cut the line seemed foolhardy. Nor did I think we would be able to launch the dinghy, from which the line might have been snagged and cut. That would require putting the transom door down and launching into the waves which were already breaking against the transom, occasionally with considerable force.

Sometime during these operations I called the Coast Guard to enquire about commercial towing services in the area. They contacted the BoatUS affiliate who said he was 35 miles and at least 4-5 hours away, assuming he could find a diver (which he somewhat doubted). He thought the cost would be at least $1000, possibly much more and no cap (my BoatUS membership would pay for the first $50...). I asked the Coast Guard for other services that might be closer, only one dive service was offered (and turned out to be a wrong number) along with the phone numbers to the harbormasters in the area who might be able to help. Calls to these numbers got only answering machines, it being early in the morning and after the season was essentially over. The wind continued to increase, and the forecast still called for gale force winds (35 knots or 40 mph) by noon.

Finally I called the boat yard that was to haul 'Anomaly', figuring that they might know someone in the area. To my surprise, they answered at 6:30 AM, were sympathetic to our plight, and started to organize a boat and diver to come out and help. This was a great relief, as other efforts seemed to be going nowhere. So we waited a while, and in thinking about what might be holding us I shifted the transmission to neutral. Normally it is kept in reverse while sailing to keep the propeller feathered and stopped. It occurred to me that if the buoy was stuck on the propeller or between the propeller and drive leg, perhaps letting it freewheel would allow it to unwind or unjam. When I did so, there was no perceptible change. However a few minutes later I noticed a change in the boat's motion, and going topsides saw that we were free and drifting ahull! It was now after 9 AM, we had been stuck on it for over 4 hours.

We were still in a sea of lobster pots and now drifting down on them, so I quickly set the mizzen to get some control over the boat, then started the engine. I tried a very momentary shift to forward and the prop seemed to be free to turn. Shifting into forward, we began to motor normally - in fact whatever had been tangled in the prop the day before now seemed to be gone. And so we motored towards Northeast harbor, altering course every 30 seconds or so with both of us spotting lobster buoys, often difficult to see in the rising seaway of whitecaps and breaking waves. The buoys continued for 10 miles, all the way into the harbor.

We finally tied up to the dock at Northeast Harbor Marina, and I went ashore to begin the customs clearing procedure, as we had come from Canada. The harbormaster said he was one of the ones called to come out and dive on the line but had declined, feeling it was too rough to be safe. It took a couple of hours for the customs man to drive from Bangor, but then we were cleared and back in the USA! Having arrived after the season rate change, the berth which would have cost $113/night only a week before was now just $24/night.

When the boat was hauled, it was very difficult to tell what had happened. There were some rope abrasion marks on the starboard side of the rudder but no obvious marks at all on the prop or saildrive, or on the leading edge of the keel. It is still a mystery how we were tangled, and why we came loose. There was a small bit of gill net wrapped on the hub, all that remained of whatever was picked up off of Nova Scotia. I have since learned of this device, and will be sure to have one in Maine. While this would result in the loss of the expensive trap, I no longer have any sympathy for lobstermen, they show a complete lack of restraint: we saw pots set all over harbor anchorages, within a boat length of docks, in the middle of buoyed channels, and often in large fields less than a boat length apart. Navigation at night or in bad weather is done at your peril, navigation even in good conditions requires constant weaving and vigilance. While they are entitled to make a living, they are not entitled to co-opt the ocean for their own exclusive use, which in effect is what has happened. I am told the density of pots has increased markedly in the last 5 years (there are now over 3 million of them in Maine according the the fisheries department). It is surprising that there is a lobster left on the bottom. In addition, I saw several lobster boats operating without courtesy or regard for anyone or anything. Leaving Northeast Harbor, I watched as two boats came by the No Wake buoy with sufficient speed nearly to swamp it. We experienced the wakes of their coming and going for several days in both Northeast Harbor and Somes Sound.

These rope abrasions in the paint are the only evidence of our "catch and release"
The Volvo saildrive leg and Autostream feathering prop. They appeared untouched by the lobster line.

'Anomaly' is currently on the hard in Somes Sound, Mt. Desert Island, Maine

Thursday, October 21, 2010

10-4-10 Lunenburg

Monday- crisp and sunny

Ann writes:

Needed an extra blanket to sleep well last night. Got into town around 9 am for a yummy blueberry tea biscuit at Sweet Indulgence. It was more like a fritter really. The have wireless internet and terrible, milky mocha's- the waitress tried really hard to make one and asked how it was, so I'm not sure what happened there.

We got to the Atlantic Fisheries Museum in time for the 10:30 Lobster Lore talk. I really enjoyed the young docent's presentation and even got to pet a very unhappy lobster. Amongst other things, I learned:
  • Lobsters can be any one of the 3 primary colors- yellow, blue, or the dominant red
  • Lobsters hate each other and fight constantly. The ones in the tank with the longest feelers are freshest because the feelers get bitten off
  • Boys have bigger claws, but girls have bigger tails (to carry the eggs), so choose according to which meat you prefer
  • Anything bigger than 2 lbs will be tough and more likely to be caught in fishnets than a lobster trap.
  • Rubbing a lobster on the head will calm him down.
We checked out all the outdoor boats on display and had a great conversation with the captain/docent on the Theresa E. Connor. He was from Jersey, which was one of the abandoned outports we saw across from Harbor Breton, Newfoundland. They had much less than Grand Bruit - no outhouses, pails for water, and a warm brick in bed for heat; much later a generator for the town that was started each evening and run until morning. His sailing career of 31 years was cut short by corporate buyout. He tried the Icehouse and Walmart before landing the job at the museum.

After Jon "launched" a schooner, we found the recommended Magnolia Grill with a line waiting for lunch. We finally both had the scaw-lup chowder and fishcakes. I decided they were ok, and more like fish than those at Fisherman's Friend, but I'd rather have straight fish. I imagine that wasn't a choice when they were devised by combining what fish they had with potatoes.

Jon from Napa and John from San Diego launch a schooner in Lunenburg

I zipped through the gift shops while Jon had his latte, but got hung up talking to artist Gail Patriarche. I couldn't believe she was working on a full sheet watercolor paper (300lb) with just a little grumbacher travel kit. She gets impressively rich color for a watercolorist- I wonder if it's because working from pans can lead to using more pigment and less water. She gave me some tips - strongly believes self learning from books is better than classes so that you can synthesize your own style from many artists, not just one teacher. I bought one of her prints to be mailed home. I noticed her bio says she uses Henemuhle w/c paper and Ultrachrome Inks - that means an Epson inkjet!

Later, Jon looked up giclee and it's just the French word for inkjet, spraying through nozzles, and was coined to distinguish from off-set lithography. AND, more importantly, the original giclees were printed on very expensive Iris printers with dye-based inks, whereas todays pigmented inks are far superior in quality. Bottom line: My prints are giclees!
(n.b. apparently have to use the term with some caution in France where the actual term, having to do with nozzles, has taken on an obscene meaning in some regions.)
We returned to the museum a lot later than intended, which meant, fortunately, I didn't have a lot of time to linger over the displays covering death at sea. The Bluenose history was much more inspiring and encouraging, and with that we finally sailed out of Lunenberg around 6:15 pm.

Jon writes:

We walked around town looking at the peculiar bay hip dormer that is called the "Lunenburg bump" by the real estate people here. There were a few in Mahone Bay but quite a lot in Lunenburg.

The distinctive Lunenburg Bump

The next two days were forecast to be winds from the northeast and then east at 20 - 25 knots, thereafter clocking around from the southwest and west  at 35. The course is southwest down the coast of Nova Scotia, then turning the corner at Cape Sable west northwest to Mt. Desert Island. So it would be downwind to Maine for the next two days, but upwind for several days thereafter: a guarantee of a slow and uncomfortable sail. Based on that, we decided to leave Lunenburg just before sunset, sail through the next day and night which would have us arriving the 2nd morning if we could maintain about 6.5 knots average. This seemed preferable to sitting out another several days on the Nova Scotia coast waiting for better weather which might never come in October. So we slipped the mooring and left Lunenburg, hoisting sail just outside of the harbor and tacking into the southeast wind out to sea and towards the USA.

Leaving Lunenburg harbor, Maine lies 230 miles ahead
'Anomaly' is currently on the hard in Somes Sound, Mt. Desert Island, Maine

10-3-10 Mahone Bay to Lunenburg

Sunday- Bright, cold sun

Ann writes:

     A 3rd night in a row of not sleeping well- this time I was too cold. I had asked Jon to put the summer side of the travesac on the bed and of course, the weather changed, AGAIN.
The sun looks like blinding glitter on the water. We saw a seal and 2 harbor porpoises that were so close you could hear them almost snort as the exhaled upon surfacing. Around 11:30, an unnamed Nonsuch sailed by.

     We arrived in Lunenburg around 1 pm. There is surprisingly little accommodation for recreational yachts in this town famous for it's shipbuilding history. We motored the length of the waterfront, and none of the floating docks that were advertised in the Waterfront Development brochure were there. We finally settled on the small Yacht Shop floating dock only to be told that it was scheduled to be removed at 8 am the next day (it was not). The Bluenose II reconstruction foundation now owns the property and wants everyone out due to liability concerns.

     We walked up into town trying to find more info, but the Yacht Shop was closed on Sundays and the Excursion ticket office didn't know, but thought there might be a harbor masters office in the Atlantic Fisheries museum. The clerk at the museum was at least able to give us the harbor masters phone number, but even better, she paged one of the captains on staff at the museum. He came out presently and assured us that the moorings were the best way to go, so that's what we ended up doing.
He also recommended the Ice House or Dockside for food, so we tried the Ice house which is in the museum building. My scallops (pronounced scaw-lups in NS) and Jon's fish N chips were very good. They also had bottomless, unsweetened ice tea which is almost unheard of in Canada. Unfortunately, no expresso, so Jon had to wander about to find that elsewhere. I got really overheated with all my boat layers, and had to go back to the boat and change.

     By the time we got the boat moved to a mooring, it was after 5 and although there were several streets to explore, only a few places were open. One place that is closed for the season is Laurie Swim's absolutely mind-blowing quilts. There were several shops carrying prints of her work showing Nova Scotia scenes. Unbelievable how she captures landscapes, sea and skies with fabric. Jenny's Jib is a shop also worth a visit with items not normally seen in the familiar tourist trade, like custom painted lamp shades. 

Lunenburg Street Art - The Lunenburg Fish Project by Huck Fisher metalworks

     We spent the rest of evening wandering around and viewing the old homes and their distinctive "Lunenburg bumps". Lunenberg is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site due to it being a classic example of a historic British colony in North America and the care with which it has been preserved.
We tried to eat dinner at Dockside, but it appeared to have been taken over by a very large and noisy family, so we tried Banker's Grill instead which was very expensive for chowder and salad.

Jon writes:

We motored from Mahone Bay to Lunenburg in light wind, watching the tour excursion sailboats drift out of the bay.

Approaching Lunenburg
Here is the Bluenose II, undergoing restoration (remove old hull, install new hull...) though they will not let you near it.

The 'Bluenose II' undergoing deconstruction
We picked up a mooring after exploring the waterfront. The brochure handed to us in Halifax by the Waterfront Redevelopment manager showed a choice of floating docks, none of which are there anymore. 

Panorama of the Lunenburg waterfront (click to expand)

'Anomaly' moored among the schooners, Lunenburg harbor
'Anomaly' is currently on the hard in Somes Sound, Mt. Desert Island, Maine

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

10-2-10 Exploring Mahone Bay

Saturday- Pouring rain, sun, another squall

Ann writes:

Waited out the rain and then headed for the laundromat which was a real rip-off. The washers were $3 /load, and the attendant was very condescending, telling me how "commercial washers and dryers worked". The bottom line was he wanted us to load them less (and he'd get more $$) I felt like telling him I've been using commercial machines for the last 6 years, and they worked better for less money than his ratty old hardware. We had to sit there the whole time because he said he'd charge us even more money if he had to unload a machine to make room for someone else.

We treated ourselves to an excellent lunch at Mateus Bistro where I had the chicken caesar. The wind picked up making transit in the dinghy wet and unpleasant, but we unloaded the laundry and went back to get Jon a cinnamon biscuit and latte at Jo-Anns. That was the last biscuit, so I had to settle for the pumpkin muffin instead. I also sampled the oatcake which was not nearly as good as the other items.

JoAnn's Bake Shop, a fixture in Mahone Bay

I cooked rotelle arrabiata on board, and then we went back at 7pm for the pumpkin display. We could hear the celtic singer way out on our mooring in the bay. There were 150 pumpkins carved by only Jo-Ann and Linda with exquisite detail and grouped by themes- nautical, Picasso, churches, candles, flowers, cats, hearts. It was THE event of the week and packed like sardines with people of all ages and nationalities.

Nautical jack'o lanterns

A scary Starry Night

A homage to Pablo in squash
'Anomaly' is currently on the hard in Somes Sound, Mt. Desert Island, Maine

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10-1-10 Chester to Mahone Bay

Friday- Grey and foggy, humid fog, sun, then rain

Ann writes:

We had a rough night bobbing up and down like a cork on the mooring ball. Very few signs of life in Chester. We followed Captain Cheryl Barr's route in the Nova Scotia Cruising Guide past Indian Point. I tried to guess which house was hers. It was windy, but we didn't sail because there were a lot of rocks to avoid.

A modest cottage on a private island in Mahone Bay

The village of Mahone Bay looked more promising than Chester except for the zombies that appeared to be all over town. Once ashore, we discovered we had arrived during the annual Great Scarecrow Festival. 

Three churches at the head of the harbor are Mahone Bay's postcard

We had a nice late breakfast at Eli's where I had a delicious smoked salmon omelette, but don't order the mochacino. It was so sugary I had to throw it out. Once fortified, we were able to cruise through all the shops, even the shoe store sale. 

There were tourists all over town for the Scarecrow Festival

 We hurried back to the boat around 3 because the weather looked really threatening, and we didn't want to get drenched in the dinghy, but it didn't start until 11 that night. I cooked dinner on board and spent the evening painting.

Jon writes:

We motored to the town of Mahone Bay and picked up a city mooring off the wharf. The town was having a festival going into the weekend and crowded with tourists - us among them. There turned out to be many famous residents of the town:

The Harem of Mahone Bay

The Witches of Mahone Bay

Alice's friends from Wonderland and the Looking Glass

Political Dignitaries

Many rock stars live there

Very nice local couple with colorful hairdoos
'Anomaly' is currently on the hard in Somes Sound, Mt. Desert Island, Maine