The slow road home

IMG_1401The days in Ottawa slipped by. We spent more time with Connor and the gang, and drank much more beer due to the bad influence of my baby sister ;-).  Ann’s expensive new chomper (molar) finally got installed IMG_1405and shaped correctly, and we both received a clean bill of health from our new family doctor. We said our temporary goodbyes and headed off towards Newfoundland, and our floating home.

The journey east was uneventful. The flooding that hit New Brunswick earlier in the Spring was long gone. We arrived at our ferry depot in North Sydney, boarded the big boat, and said IMG_1415goodbye to Canada for a few months.

During the crossing Ann assumed her normal ‘on guard’ position 😉

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We opted for the overnight ferry this time, and arrived in Port aux Basques shortly after sunrise. Surprisingly, we both slept reasonably well, so after a quick breakfast, were able to make the drive to Corner Brook. Our fast friends, Paula & Byron, had kindly offered their spare room to us as we got Pachina ready to live on board. This made it SO MUCH EASIER. As usual, we are indebted to all the wonderful people we meet along the way.

We spent a wonderful few days with Byron & Paula and family. Even though they were dealing with a death in the family (aunt), we were welcomed with open arms, and treated to fine food, drink, warm bed, and a constant yarn.

We had plans to move onto Pachina Mia as soon as possible, but weather was still cold and damp. Besides, we had committed to helping install the docks at Woods Island. This was a day-long affair, done with the typical Newfoundland haywire flair. The docks are stored on the island, up a sloping hill. The idea is to attach big wheels to them, then with the help of a skiff, haul them down the hill to the water where we float them into place. Needless to say, it was slightly controlled mayhem. But also needless to say, it all worked out in the end.

IMG_1423IMG_1428After a few days we moved onto Pachina Mia. Thanks to the vigil of our friends Brian, Byron and others, the boat had weathered the Corner Brook winter fairly well. We had a few wet spots, and she had sunk about 20 cm into the ground, but by and large things were pretty good. But living on a boat on the hard is never much fun. It’s cramped, and damp, it doesn’t feel right b/c she doesn’t move, and there’s barely enough space to move around.

But slowly we began to bring her back to life. In addition to just making her livable, we had to replace a transmission oil cooler which had sprung a leak at the end of last season. This job would normally take a competent person perhaps a 1/2 day of work … so naturally it took me more than a week.

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Image of old cooler

I won’t go into the ugly details, but every place on a boat is small and cramped, and none is worse than the engine room. Squeezing my bulk into this tiny space, and then being able to work, was … a challenge. But after much cursing, swearing, blood-letting, and consultations with local experts, we finally managed to get a new one in place.

Early on during the cursing sessions, another new fast-friend at the club invited us for dinner at their place. John and partner Elizabeth put on a grand feast of cods tongue and scallops (two kinds) and lobster. It was grand!

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IMG_2877After that we test the engine, drained much of the old coolant, and got ready for launch. This, of course, was no easy task (“Why is nothing ever easy?!?” … this is my new mantra for the boat). She had sunk into the ground, and our long keel and heavy weight made the task particularly challenging.

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With much help from folks like John and Byron and Brian, we managed to get Pachina Mia back in the water. After a small panic that required the quick change of an impeller, we were floating back at our old dock. It is SO GOOD to be floating once again!

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We’re slowly putting our home back together now. Another minor hiccup with the fresh water system was solved with the installation of a new pump. Hopefully we can get our sails on in the next few days, finish cleaning and stocking, and be off!

Forgot to mention… I had another birthday on the 21st. As they say, the only thing worse than celebrating another birthday is NOT celebrating another birthday, so I’m happy :) .

I received plenty of nice notes from folks, along with a few great presents from Mom & Sis, and my sweet Annneeeeee. From her came sexy undies 😉 , lots of beer!! And a great new collapsible walking stick, which she calls my cane!

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Time to be moving on

_IGP5966IMG_2752The days in Penticton drained away. There was swimming (Ann) IMG_2750, and droning (Mike) , and Maxi to serve … always Maxi. But eventually the days drained away. Dave & Leslie arrived back from their southern travels, and we spent one more lovely evening with them before packing our lives into our little red car to begin the journey east.

It was sad to leave Penticton, but wonderful knowing we’re coming back. Leslie & Dave have invited us back for another winter. So we get to see Maxi again! (And spend more wonderful time at what is feeling like our winter home).

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The drive through the mountains was probably one of the nicest we’ve had of late. There were no storm clouds, no heavy snows or slushy/slippery roads. We actually got to see the mountains through Roger’s Pass. Pretty stunning stuff!

_IGP5995We pulled into Calgary and were warmly greeted by Donna & Sam. They still seem to like seeing us, so I guess we haven’t worn out our welcome … yet ;-). Always great to be back with them — especially when greeted by a margarita!

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We spent the next week hanging out with S&D, and meeting Big Sis Peggy and her Philoneos. One day they invited us to visit Spark Science Centre. The main draw was the visiting exhibit on whales, but it was the kids-oriented displays that caught most of our attentions. Ann was her normal pesty self, so we eventually had to wash her potty mouth out.

One sunny morning while having our morning coffee a sudden cloud blanketed the sky. We looked out to find thousands of Bohemian Waxwings had landed in the backyard. They are migrating north and seemed to target D&S’s place as a good spot for a rest stop.

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_IGP6126_IGP6124IMG_2772We spent our days relaxing, droning, reading, being pestered IMG_2790, and being amused by morning puzzles (or in my case, being amused by the puzzlers 😉 ). After about a week, and to ensure we don’t over-stay our welcome anywhere, we moved our lives over to Peggy’s Place on the Hill.

_IGP6136It’s so relaxing being at Peggy’s place. It’s quiet, and overlooks Fish Creek Provincial Park. Lots of deer and pheasants wonder by. Some people have seen cougars. One morning we watched a coyote hunting in the tall grasses. Great place for walks, and for drone flying … which I did one day when Phil brought little Theo over for a visit.

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Hole & Hel

To earn our keep, Ann and I went over to Peggy’s other house to help get it ready to sell. We cleaned and painted some of the living room walls. Then Ann and Peggy did some organizing and cleaning while I repaired a few holes in the drywall.

On the weekend Donna and Sam joined the work team. The boys hauled a lot of dirt and garbage out of the garage and over to the dump, while the gals worked on trimming hops, and cleaning up the front patio area. With the help of a neighbour and two kids they were looking after, they laid down new patio stones.

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Sadly, our time in Calgary came to an end. As a departing gift of song, and at the insistence of Ann, a gang of us (Ann & me, Peggy & Phil, Donna & Sam, Monique & Chris) all went to a Martyn Joseph concert. Small venue, great music!

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We finally said our good byes, and once again loaded up our little red Fit, and pointed the bow east once again. With Stan Roger’s ode to Alberta playing, we headed for the flatlands, hitting Moose Jaw, then Kenora, and finally Thunder Bay.

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View of the GiantWe arrived at the Lakehead to spend time with sailing buddies Paul & Julie, as well as to stop in on our wonderful friends Ben, Sherilyn and their sweet little girl, Olivia. We had a grand dinner with the three of them, and even changed out our winter tires. We’re ever-grateful for Sherilyn & Ben’s generosity in letting us store our storage trailer on their land. You guys are the best!

(Unfortunately, we didn’t take any pics while we were there this time. Gotta remember the camera next time).

JulieJulie and Paul (and Coralie) opened their home and their hearts to us once again. We spent a few nights catching up, eating and drinking, and trying to bully Paul into finally retiring. Not sure what he’s decided…

View from PatsWhile we were there Ann visited our old neighbour Pat, out at Sandy Beach Rd. She also got to see where our house used to stand. Beautiful place. Pat is still holding out against the insanity of the City of Thunder Bay. Good for her!

After a few days of revelry we did a short hop to our friends Cathie and Joe near Rossport. Thanks to their generosity, it is here that we are storing our little motorcycles. I wanted to stop in to make sure the bikes were doing OK. But mostly we love stopping here to renew the wonderful friendships, and to relax at this little slice of heaven; a cabin right on the shores of Lake Superior.

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IMG_1373IMG_2821Our stays are always too short, and in a few days we were back on the road, heading for Ottawa. Sault Ste. Marie was our first night, followed by North Bay. We once again drove the north shore of Lake Superior, and were reminded of what a stunningly beautiful place it is.

 

 

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IMGA0481IMGA0477We arrived safe and sound in Ottawa, and have been hanging out with Mom and Sis since then. Ann has been busy getting her final dental sessions in regarding her new tooth. And we’ve both been to our new family doctor. So far, we both seem healthy.

We’ve also seen Colleen and little Connor (who is getting bigger all the time!). They both seem well, and Connor is making huge progress with the autism challenges.

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IMG_1391Otherwise there’s been too much drinking and eating, and being amused by sweet Annnnneeeeeeeeee:

 

 

 

 

The livin’ is easy

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Penticton life continues to be fun and easy. Winter has come and gone a number of times. We’ve had to shovel out more than once, and we had a spat of cold days (-10 to -15 C overnight), but generally it has been pretty nice weather here in the balmy IMG_1317Okanagan Valley.

IMG_1322Maxi the Cat rules the roost and keeps his staff in line. And Ann and I enjoy the warmish weather with the occasional walk IMGA0377, swim (Ann), droning (Mike) IMG_2688, hot tub soak (Mike’s legs) IMGA0415 and generally taking it easy.

On Feb. 8th we celebrated our 30th Anniversary. Holy Crow it’s gettin’ serious 😉 . Here’s Ann doing her best Mona Lisa pose at the pub. Hard to tell who’s who :-)

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We also celebrated Little Connor’s 4th birthday from a far:

Our Penticton house is in the city, but kinda on the edge, so is semi-wild. Our neighbour recently spotted a cougar and bear, and a coyote is apparently hanging around the area. After one of the snow falls I followed these canine tracks through our back yard, down our driveway, and up the hill. I’m sure they were a coyote. So lots of interesting wildlife around.

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Last month Ann spent two weeks volunteering as a chauffeur to the curling stars at the national women’s curling championships, the Tournament of Hearts. It was held in Penticton this year, and Ann decided to volunteer.

She got assigned to the transport detail, which mostly meant she had to shlep players and officials around the city and between airports. Seems like she had a great time though, and even came out of it financially on top when she was part winner of a 50:50 draw: $350!

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As she’s done a few times in the past, Ann also got rather motherly around a few of the younger teams; most particularly the one from New Brunswick. It was all very cute.

IMG_2733Following her stint as a curling driver Ann disappeared into Olympics TV coverage. Even Maxi got seduced into watching.

IMG_2737A few weeks after the curling ended, Donna flew in to spend a few days with us. She’s always a lot of fun.

 

 

 

IMGA0433With her as the instigator we got out to see a few places like Apex Ski Hill, and visited some excellent restaurants. It was a hoot to just hang out with D. Too bad she was only able to stay a few days…

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_IGP5944We’ve got a few more weeks of Penticton life before we start our trek east again. In the meantime we’ll be preparing for the sailing season, and I’ll be working on my droning skills.

 

 

 

All one big blur…

IMGA0295Funny how time can slip away so easily. Hours turn to days and slide into weeks, then months, and no sooner than you can say “Winter Solstice,” or “holy crap I gotta stop drinking so much (Kathy’s fault 😉 )” the season has changed, and a New Year has begun.

IMG_2150Our time in Ottawa was wonderful, as usual. We had a great time hanging with Mom and Sis. Ann celebrated two firsts: turning 55 (making her a Senior Citizen in the eyes of Shopper’s Drug Mart) and officially beginning to receive her retirement pension (as of Dec. 31).

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During our extended Ottawa stay Ann had more dental work done, we spent some great time with Colleen and Connor, and even managed to visit our sailing friends in Belleville. It was great to spend time with Marvin, Gary, Frank & Aloma, Erton & Jenny, and of course Deb & Chris (whom we hope will pass us by in their boat someday soon!).

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Marvin’s cat PITA

But our time in Ottawa did eventually come to an end. We once again packed our life’s belongings into our little red car and began the trek north and then west, stopping in a few places along with way, and visiting good friends in Rossport (Cathie and Joe and Maggie Muggins) and then in Thunder Bay.

 

 

 

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While in Thunder Bay we spent an evening with our sweet friends Ben, Sherilyn and amazing Olivia. And then we hung out with old buddies and sailing mentors Paul, Julie and daughter Coralie. Ann reconnected with many of her work pals, and we had a great breky with my friend & colleague Elle and her Glen. Finally, with a new set of winter tires all installed (not thanks to Honda!), we headed off to Winnipeg and eventually Calgary.

IMG_1270The Canadian Museum for Human Rights was our first stop along the way. It was something we’d wanted to see for a while, so not being under any time pressure, we booked a wonderful AirBnB and stayed for a couple of days. The museum is not something you want to rush through, so this gave us a whole day to follow its path from Inferno, through Purgatorio, and finally to Paradiso  at least that’s how I interpreted the design.

 

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It was a moving exploration of the idea of human rights. Some of it was brutally hard, yet there was light as well. I learned a few new things, and was reminded about the evil that lives in all of us. It is well worth a visit, but give yourself time to take it all in.

The drive across the Prairies always seems the longest part … especially in a car. I’m sorry, but it is flat and boring. I try and see the beauty, but from the inside of a car whizzing past at 100 km/hr, I just don’t get it. At least Ann and her new Fitbit were entertaining…

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IMG_2619We arrive in Calgary and pulled into Hotel du Donna & Sam where we stayed for about a week. Their kindness and generosity is ever appreciated by us homeless vagabonds, and this stay had the added benefit of coming during Ann’s official birthdate.

IMG_2639We along with D&S and Peggy & Phil, had an amazing night out at the Bow Valley Ranch, which is a very fancy (and $$$ — thanks Donna!) place in Fish Creek Park. We ate and drank and toasted the Birthday girl, and even enjoyed some fresh oysters. Fun, fun.

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Over the coming days we just relaxed IMG_2667, played with my drone IMG_2662, and did some cooking and curling-watching IMG_2652. Later that week Donna played hostess to many of the extended family cousins IMG_2624. It was great to reconnect with them all.

IMG_1294IMG_1300After about a week our schedule told us to move over to Peggy’s place. This Chalet du Peggy overlooks Fish Creek Park, and is a wonderful refuge in the midst of this very big and fast-moving city. We moved in and made ourselves right at home. We even got to see Big Connor.

While hanging out at Peggy’s place Ann and I did what we do best. She worked hard to help Peggy organize her files, and I played with my drone.

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IMG_4402One day we even got invited over to play with Phil’s cute and wonderful grandkids: Theo and Vida.

The days slipped by. There were files to organize IMGA0367, walks to take IMGA0360, and snow to shovel IMGA0370.

And droning … lots of flying the drone:

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_IGP5866With X-mas approaching we moved back over to D&S’s to see Monique and Chris (before they left for X-mas in Vernon), and to spend a few more days cavorting and conversing in the house of easy living and fascinating discussion. Ann helped Donna with her files (Ann’s a Filing Beast!), we enjoyed Wally, and we assisted with the Big Meal on the Big Day.

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Our time in Calgary was wonderful, as usual. But all-too-soon the call of the Okanagan took over, and we were headed off to our winter home in Penticton. The drive through the mountains was challenging IMG_1308, but uneventful. We pulled into our  now-familiar BC home just as the sun was going down. Luckily, Maxi-the-cat seemed to remember us.

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So, after digging out from the largest snow fall we’ve seen here in Penticton IMG_2682 IMG_2685, we’ve settled in for three months of easy livin’ … including plenty of drone flying:

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Becoming landlubbers once again

IMGA0132IMGA0142We arrived back “in Canada” via the big ferry and began the  journey back to Quebec (City), and then onto Ottawa. The drive was easy, beautiful, and fast — at least fast compared to the last few months.

Speed of travel is an interesting thing. I’ve heard it said that we experience life at the speed at which we move. At boat speed, which is usually about 5 knots for us (~10 km/hr), life is very different than zipping along at 100 km/hr or more (especially when Ann is driving 😉 ). At boat speed I see things, smell things, feel things in a way that I just don’t while driving in a car. In a car it’s all so clinical. I feel cut off … more isolated.

But of course, car speed also means we can get to places before the next glaciers appear, which is a good thing. Life is full of trade offs. We all gotta find the right balance…

IMGA0144IMGA0147In any case, our zippy two-day journey from Corner Brook to Quebec City was easy and quite beautiful. We found a couple of cheap, but decent, motels, and we even found Donna and Sam’s old digs in Oromocto. The trees were revealing their true colours, and the journey along Bras d’Or Lake  was rather stunning.

Once we got to Rivière-du-Loup we began retracing our route along the St. Lawrence. We saw some of the islands we had anchored beside, and reminicsed about the journey that already seems so long ago.

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IMG_2471IMGA0207On our way down the river we completely bypassed Quebec City. Ann had never been, so we decided to spend a few days in the old city. Ann found us an AirBnB right in the heart of the city. We arrived just as the sun was going down and the drizzle had begun.

Navigating the old city roads is challenging at the best of times. We did manage to find the place after only missing our turns twice. Gilles, the owner, greeted us and we moved into our room which overlooked some of the oldest homes and streets in Canada.

The next day we wondered the streets of the old city. We climbed up to the Plains of Abraham and saw where the battle over Quebec’s soul began. We meandered through the cobblestone alleys, just taking it all in.

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IMGA0189After lunch I went back to our room to rest tired ankles and Ann carried on by herself. She hiked down to the marina and discovered numerous art installations.

IMGA0166She watched a sailboat go through the lock that separates the marina from the St. Lawrence, and she also found the same trimaran that we had met a month (or so) earlier; the one with the young family and all the many, many kids.

 

See August post

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IMG_2524Later we met up for another yummy dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.

IMG_1211After a couple of days we said goodbye to our host and headed for Ottawa. Approaching Montreal, and getting through this big city’s traffic, is always interesting, but we made it and were greeted by Mom, Kathy, and two cute kitties. The accommodations at my sister’s place are not quite 5-star, but at least the company is great.

IMGA0212The following days, which have bled into weeks, and is now looking like more than month, has been a blur of good food, beer and wine, great company, and lots of Connor. It has been great to spend time with niece Colleen and her growing son Connor who is doing great. We’ve been going to parks with them, and Ann even visited his “school” to see how things were going with his program.

 

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While in Ottawa Ann has carried on with her Tooth Saga. Seems that despite all the wine drinking, her gum has healed over nicely and the dentist is now ready with power drill and jackhammer so they can pound a new post into her jaw and glue on a new chomper. I keep offering to build her one out of epoxy and fibreglass, but for some reason she wants to go with the “professionals.” So we’re hanging around Ottawa for a few more weeks to get it all done.

This will give us time to visit some of our Belleville friends, and for me to play with my baby sister some more.

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A fond farewell

_IGP5808 (1)IMGA0018End of season is always a hard time. It’s physically hard just getting the boat stripped down and ready for winter. It’s functionally hard as we try and keep our living space livable. But it’s the emotional side that weighs the heaviest.

Pachina Mia has housed us these past six months. She has kept us warm, (mostly) dry and safe throughout the long journey. She has taken us through some of the most stunning places in the world and has allowed us to live freely and simply. She’s a part of us, and we will miss her dearly these coming wintery months. But we know we’ll be back next Spring to carry on. In the meantime there’s is much to do…

_IGP5800The tasks of getting the boat ready for winter are many and hard. And some are a wee bit scary, such as climbing to the top of our mast to remove our anemometer and lazyjacks. Ann won the fight this year, so she got to go up — to the general applause of the gathered boating audience.

IMGA0026Later that day, with a rising tide, ‘the boys’ moved the tractor and large hydraulic trailer down the ramp and we slid Pachina Mia up onto the pads. She came out with little effort, but then the challenges began as ‘the boys’ led by John and Keith and Ray and many, many others figured out how to get her settled on the ground. With a bit of head scratching, a few failed experiments, and lots of practical engineering, the task was eventually accomplished.

 

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IMGA0087Over the next few days we got her all winterized, cleaned up, tied down, and covered. We’ve been continually warned about the ferocious winds and huge amounts of snow Corner Brook gets (average of 16 feet), so we spent extra time making sure the tarp is as snug as possible. Our spot is pretty protected from most wind, and thanks to our many new friends, we have plenty of eyes watching out for Pachina Mia, so I’m sure she’ll be OK … I hope…

But as the wise old saying goes, all work and no play makes Mike a pouty, grumpy boy. Luckily the friends we’ve made ensured there was no risk of that. Paula and Byron and their daughter Andrea feel like friends we’ve known for years. Byron and Paula are fellow boaters living the same watery dream. They have already helped us in so many ways. And just to add one more to the list, they had us over for a grand Newfoundland supper of traditional island fare. A few days later we all went out for supper at one of the swanky Corner Brook restaurants, and the manager almost had to kick us out. The stories and the laughter just kept rolling long past dessert and well into the night.

If all that wasn’t enough, the whole yacht club got together to throw us this amazing going-away party, complete with food and booze and a live traditional band:

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OK … maybe it wasn’t for us ;-). Keith, one of our other new friends who has been so great to us, was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary at the yacht club. He invited us to come, so we did. And what a joyous evening. We sang and danced (and drank) until the day turned into the next.

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The following morning Gord and Leona has us all over to their boat for brunch. Such amazing people, and such great food! But geeze, it can be hard to get any work done at all 😉

IMGA0091But work we did, and now Pachina Mia is all tucked away. We tied the last tie, disconnected the batteries, and headed off to Port aux Basques to catch the ferry “to Canada” as they say around here. We’ll spend the first night in Sydney, NS, then head over to Ottawa via Quebec City.

 

 

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It’s sad to leave this place, and to say goodbye to our boating lifestyle, but knowing we’ll be back, and that we have friends like Brian (another wonderful new friend who would give you the shirt off his back … literally!) makes it all OK. For now, new adventures beckon. Adventure, and some catching up on sleep 😉

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The end is nigh!

… And I’m not just talking about Trump’s UN speech 😉

IMGA0997It’s been nearly three weeks since we pulled into our new home here in Corner Brook, and tied up to the dock. We were greeted quite literally with many open arms as a 1/2 dozen members stood ready to take our lines and help us dock … I guess they thought I’d be on the helm ;-). As it was, Ann brought us in smoothly and expertly.

_IGP5695We tied up and spent the next few days getting to know our new home. One thing we learned right away is the fabled Newfoundland generosity is no fable. Within hours we’d been greeted and visited by many members, all asking what they could do for us. When people heard we were without a car we were given the keys to a car (thanks Byron!), and offered many others. And our engine issue was diagnosed, and assistance and parts were offered.

I love this place!

IMGA0006Unfortunately the leak that was causing us to sink faster than normal turned out to be in the transmission cooler. I had no idea we even had such a thing, but we do. And it also turns out it is a heat exchanger, with sea water flowing on one side and transmission oil on the other. Because it had sprung a leak on the water side, we decided it best not to run the engine much for fear that water might leak into the transmission. I’m not a mechanic, but I believe salt water in a transmission would be bad.

IMG_2454So we’ve sat at the dock all the time, just relaxing and living, and slowly getting the boat ready to haul out. We’ve also started to get the feel for our new little city of Corner Brook. At about 30,000 people, Corner Brook is Newfoundland’s second largest city. It’s a bit of an industrial town with a pulp/paper mill at the core, but the area is stunningly beautiful, and of course the people are amazing. I’m already looking forward to getting back here next season.

After about 10 days Marvin from Belleville arrived here with our little red car. He and his girlfriend Tatik (who is visiting from Indonesia), drove it all the way here as part of their Atlantic holiday adventure. We spent the next few days exploring the area by car and foot. This included finding a decomposing carcass of a right whale (sorry, no pics). This is one of the ones that has likely been struck and killed by fast moving freighter traffic in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

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IMGA0009IMGA0007Marvin and Tatik took off to explore some other areas using our little red car as we whiled away the time doing odd jobs, and slowly getting the boat ready for winter. It’s always hard as the season comes to a close; mixed emotions, a sense of ending, plus all the practical aspects of having to take the boat apart while trying to keep it still livable.

Happily, one of our new fast-friends let us tag along when he went out to the Woods Island anchorage to sink his mooring for the winter. Ostensibly we were there to help. In reality, all we did was go along for the ride, eat his food, and play with his dog. But it was great to be on the water again.

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While awaiting our haul out day we got to know another newcomer to the club: Paul. He came in a few days after us in his 43-foot steel motorsailer. Paul is an incredibly accomplished photographer (Paul Souders) who soloed this large boat all the way to the tip of northern Labrador. Turns out this is a minor adventure in his long and varied career.

It was pretty amazing to hear some of the things he’s done. We shared a beer, and swapped some stories. He says we should take our boat up Labrador next season. We’ll see…

Our time here is rapidly coming to an end now. We plan to haul Pachina Mia out in the next few days. It will likely take us another five or six days to get her all ready for winter, then it’s back to Ottawa for a few weeks of hanging out with mom and sis. After that we’ll slowly make our way north through Thunder Bay and on to Calgary for more family bliss time.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

BANG! CRASH! SMASH!! I was abruptly and harshly awakened two hours into my four hour off-watch sleep when my body hit the ceiling of our forward berth. We had come crashing down from a huge wave. Then another…

We were within 15 nautical miles of the Bay of Islands, but the gods of Easy Crossings and Gentle Seas had handed things over to whatever gods Ann has pissed off in the past. We entered nautical hell!

… but more on that later.

IMGA0943IMGA0935We left Mingan at about 11 am, heading out on about a 230 nautical mile crossing to Bay of Islands which houses Corner Brook. This would be the longest continual sail we’ve ever done, but only by about 50 or so miles. We’ve crossed Lake Superior before, and that was close to 180 nm … or was that 140?? Ah well, close enough… Anyway, we’d found what looked like the perfect weather window for what should have been a 40 hour crossing for our little boat.

Everything went according to plan for the first two days and most of two nights. The winds came up steady and moderate (10 to 15 knots most of the time) from the SW over the first day and through the night, but the seas were moderate and the direction remained pretty constant. We had swapped out the normal heavy headsail (yankee) for our light air drifter, so we moved along nicely all through the night. Aries, our windvane, steered us through those first 24 hours with nary a complaint.

no landThe overnight sky gave a stunning stellar display. Other than a somewhat close encounter of the freighter kind that required a course change (1.8 nm seems awfully close in the dark), everything was great. We ate well from the stew I had made the previous day. We slept, and just enjoyed the solitude. There’s something stunningly beautiful about being alone on the sea with nothing around you but water, wind and waves.

IMGA0940The sun rose on the second day, and as predicted, the winds began to drop. We expected this to happen so eventually dropped sails and turned to Grampa Tractor to push us along. We’d covered close to half of our distance by then, so things were going well.

The sun set as normal. We’d had our second hot, warm supper of stew and bread, and I had been off for my last watch, when… well, you know.

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(These were taken well after the big wind and seas had passed.)

I clawed my way up to the cockpit to find Ann hanging on to the tiller, working very hard to keep us on track and safe. We were still motoring at this point, and naturally, things were looking odd with the engine. “The oil pressure is dropping!” yells Ann. Oh goodie… Our engine loses oil. It’s always done this, so we just keep adding a bit after every motoring day. But we’d been running for nearly 20 hrs now, and Grampa was running dry.

I got on my foulies, and crawled out onto the foredeck (harnessed and tethered) to raise a double-reefed sail and staysail. No easy task in the large bouncy seas, but we got the job done. Once we got the sails up Ann was able to keep us moving through the seas, so we shut down the engine and I managed to get down below, get the engine room opened, and get enough oil back in to make Grampa happy once again.

Things were looking good. The engine was purring away, and winds that had risen to high teens had dropped back a bit. Seas subsided a little and we thought we were home free. But Newfoundland was not happy yet. We still had to prove our mettle.

IMGA0955By about 3 am wind and seas started building again. The nor’easter that the forecast promised wouldn’t hit till late in the day had overtaken us. We were now facing near-gale wind right on the nose, and rapidly building seas. By then the day was dawning and we could at least see the land. Of course we could also see the big waves … sometimes it’s better not to see them 😉

Anyway, it took us the next six hours to travel the few nautical miles to enter the Bay of Islands. With Ann’s expert helming (she wouldn’t let me touch the tiller till the worst had passed), and Pachina Mia’s awesome nature, we managed to make it inside the big bay. Once inside the bay the seas dropped off, giving us a relatively easy sail to our anchorage.

We found our way past the shoals and entered Wood’s Island anchorage. It was about 9 am and we were just about to drop the anchor when a skiff came roaring over to us. “Welcome to Corner Brook Michael O’Reilly!” yells the one fellow … ?!?

Not often does one sail 62 days only to have the very first words you hear being your own name.

Turns out the fellow was/is Byron. He is a member of the Bay of Islands Yacht Club — our new yacht club. I had emailed the Harbour Master a couple weeks earlier, letting him know we were getting closer. Turns out the whole club seemingly knew we were coming b/c we later met a few more boaters in the anchorage who knew all about us. Gotta love small communities!

Anyway, we encountered a few more problems getting the anchor down (the chain pile had completely flipped over in the locker with all the huge seas), then discovered one of our hatches had leaked onto the bed. The boat was a general mess, and the composting head had flooded from water coming down the air vent.

It took us a few more hours to sort all this out. Then we ate something. Had a quick toast to Newfoundland, and went to bed. We slept for a goodly long time before waking up to the stunning beauty of the place.

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“This is why we left Lake Superior!”

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Wood’s Island was once a thriving fishing community. It was apparently the largest community on the west coast at one point. Now all that remains is a small collection of camps.

_IGP5652The anchorage remained peaceful and calm the four days we were there. But we were warned the winds can become pretty fierce, even in this protected bay. And as evidence, we could see a house that had blown over — yup, blown over…

IMGA0978We spent the last few days relaxing and sorting out a few more problems on the boat (turns out, we were sinking faster than normal…). We rowed ashore and met a few more of our fellow club members, all of whom had heard we were coming. Don & Lisa, and Gordon & Leonna greeted us warmly, gave us (me) beer, and fresh-picked chanterelle mushrooms which we ate and drank with gusto!

_IGP5693With weather predicted to come in we decided it was time to officially end our journey. We had a great sail, coming into the Bay of Islands Yacht Club. This feels like home for the next few years (at least). The warm welcome continues.

_IGP5696The friendliness of Newfoundlanders is legendary, and accurately earned. Everyone has been amazing. When we casually mentioned that our car wouldn’t arrive for another week Byron casually said, “no problem. You can have one of mine.”

We love it here already!

 

Mingan magic

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We spent two more days hiding from the weather and enjoying the Sept-Îles scenery. In those days we watched storms pass, seals sunbathe, cruise boats go by IMGA0845, wood being delivered via helicopter IMGA0848, and minke whales surface right next to our boat while at anchor (and I do mean RIGHT NEXT — within 10-feet!!! — sorry, no pics).

Finally, the long-awaited weather window opened up for us, so we said goodbye to Sept-Îles, and headed off on our first overnight sail in over three years. Much like Lake Superior, this area is not to be taken lightly. Seas and winds can build to overwhelming sizes. And the cold air and water makes mistakes unforgiving, so we planned well, and were cautious.

Along the way we were treated to numerous close encounters of the whale kind, including many minkes and what we’re pretty sure was a small pack of fin whales. Fins are very large, and a group passed not far in front of our boat.

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IMGA0861Luckily our overnighter went exactly as planned and we arrived in the Mingan Archipelago National Park just as the morning sunshine was creeping over the hills. We grabbed a free mooring off one of the main islands and promptly when to bed for some well-deserved sleep.

IMGA0863We were awakened to an odd sound. A kind of clattering bump, bump, bump. Looking outside we saw a line of “campers” who were using the freely-provided luggage carts to haul their equipment to the various camp grounds. How bizarre…

IMGA0903Turns out our anchorage area was a hoppin’ spot for locals and tourists alike. We arrived on a Friday and were witness to a few large parties of local folk, either “camping” or partying from their boats. They were all pretty respectful of the peace, if not the quiet, of the place.

IMGA0898IMGA0902The second night another classic-looking sailboat grabbed the mooring beside us. On board was a young family of mom, dad and three kids (~10, 7 and maybe 1). They also had with them what looked like a sister of mom, and likely their father. We waved and exchanged a few words back and fourth in our broken English and French. I’ve been increasingly sad that there is this language barrier. Should have paid more attention in French class…

That evening the mom came out with a violin, and left Ann in tears as she played hauntingly into the open anchorage. The following day the dad pulled out a banjo, and then the sister brought out her violin. We were deeply sad to see them leave.

Mingan is one of those stunning places of beauty. It is a protected area for many reasons, not least of which are the flower pot structures that line many of the islands. We went ashore to explore.

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We stayed on the mooring for a few more days, resting and planning for our next steps. There is one more good anchorage about forty miles east, and then it gets pretty sparse. The shoreline becomes treacherous and the few possible anchorages are poorly protected and hard to get into without local knowledge. So it’s one more Quebec anchorage, then ‘Hello Newfoundland’ … at least that’s the plan right now.

IMGA0915IMGA0922We left our beautiful mooring and made the sail (mostly a motor) past the town of Havre St-Pierre, to our protected anchorage behind an island. We arrived here just ahead of predicted strong winds and rain, and the forecaster was not wrong, but we’re in a safe, if foggy, place awaiting our good weather window to make the leap to The Rock. It will be the longest run we’ve ever done, but only by a little bit.

With a little luck, and good planning (which we are doing), the next missive will come to you from The Bay of Islands.

Addendum: At our last anchorage in Mingan we were treated to another type of sea life: Jellyfish. These guys were swimming all around our boat most of the time we were there:

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Hotel Sept-Îles (or Stuck in Sept-Îles)

IMGA0794IMGA0788We left our dock in Baie-Comeau fully loaded with diesel, water, food and wine. The weather and wind forecast was not what we wanted, so we decided to do a short hop to Anse St. Pancrace, a deep bay about 10 miles east of the marina. Similar to Thomson Island or CPR docks in Lake Superior (our boating friends will know what this means), the local sailors have a dock that people can use.

The dock is in a deep bay with steep hiking trails and a beautiful waterfall very close by. We spent some time walking around and exploring a bit.

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_IGP5418_IGP5438The next day we headed east again. Weather and distances between viable anchorages are becoming more of a challenge now, but we’ve got a few mapped out, and are moving along as best we can. By the end of the day we made it to Baie-Trinité and anchored about a mile offshore of a large sandy beach. The shore offered some protection against the predicted west winds, but little from the big rollers coming in from the south and east. It was a rolly, ruckus night. Pretty though, watching the porpoises, distant whales and tons of gannets.

We left shortly after dawn the next morning as the seas were starting to build. The wind piped up to around 30 knots and the seas built from 2 to 3 to 4 or more meters. Our planned anchorage some 30 miles away turned out to be a dud, so we pressed on all the way to Sept-Îles, which was more than double our planned distance that day.

The seas were too large and building as we closed in on the seven islands (which is really only six), but thankfully the wind had been in our favour, and quite strong (hence the large seas), so we made good time. Along the way we saw distant large whale spumes. Never could tell what they were, but they were BIG!

IMGA0804We passed the Sept-Îles entrance shoals just as the sun dipped below the horizon, and managed to find an anchorage and drop the hook in the dying light of dusk. Happily the anchor grabbed right away, so we finished the job using headlamps and crawled into bed after nearly 14 hours of hard travel that day. We were both exhausted.

We woke up to a beautiful protected bay sandwiched between two islands. With seals and whales and beauty all around us. Almost makes you forget how hard it was to get here.

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IMGA0823IMGA0816But like the Eagles song Hotel California, it seems that we can come to Sept-Îles, but we can never leave. A two day stay turned to three and four as weather remained dubious. Then the wind changed and we had to move anchorages within the seven (six!) islands and we sat for another couple of days. Then wind changed again and we moved back to our first anchorage.

The problem is, we have a long sail to our next safe anchorage (100+ miles), with a long straight fetch (so possibly large waves) and strong currents that sometimes run in opposition. We need a good weather window to do an overnighter, but each time it seems to emerge in the extended forecast, it then gets closed down with the wrong wind or thunderstorms, or huge seas, or thick fog.

So we wait… and wait… and wait… At least the scenery is beautiful

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At least we’re getting some good reading time in.

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