Time stands still

IMGA0246A couple of months ago we were enjoying life in our temporary Kincardine home, with plans to move on to Wakefield and then Newfoundland. A couple of months ago we had plans to visit friends up north, to linger in their company, and to freely travel across the eastern provinces. A couple of months ago we had plans to sail Notre Dame Bay, to explore without schedules, and hopefully to welcome some friends and family for a summer of leisurely sailing.

All those plans have evaporated. It’s amazing how quickly the world can change…

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IMGA0275IMGA0264With the coming of Covid-19, all plans have blown up. We fled to Ottawa where my sister and mom graciously opened their home and their hearts to us homeless vagabonds, giving us shelter, grand company, and a cozy floor to sleep on. Our days are now filled with good conversations, Trudeau’s babblings and video game playing.

Games are nothing new for me, but it’s a new world for Ann. She’s endlessly entertaining. Even my mom has been getting into it. She can often be heard saying “KILL THAT GUY! KILL!!!!!”

 

But in addition to these more brutal pastimes, we’ve also been swamped with lots and lots of cute kitty-cats, thanks mostly to TinyKittens website. Endlessly cute…

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Cacophony1Cacophony2One silver lining in all these dark Covid clouds has been the virtual time we’ve been spending with family out west. For the last month or so we’ve been holding virtual coffee houses where we get together via ZOOM to perform and sing along to some great tunes. It’s a Covid Cacophany of music, and has been a wonderful diversion, and a great thing to look forward to each week.

And as if that wasn’t enough to keep the blood flowing, we’ve also been Zooming in together at the mid-week to explore various philosophical topics. These Quarantini Salons have touched on topics ranging from Truth (or truth), the nature of reality, free will, ‘the good life’, and how one lives their values. All very light and breezy topics 😯 .

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Next week’s topic is “fear”, which should be frightfully fun :mrgreen: .

IMGA0266So we muddle along, day to day. There are good meals IMG_3513, and lots of great local craft beer delivered right to our door (Calabogie Brewing). The two favourites are: beer (but Bleep Bloop is best 😉 ).

 

 

IMGA0287_IGP8175We walk to the grocery stores, and in the nearby parks _IGP8171. Ann goes for runs and forgets she’s a creeky old woman now, so breaks her ankle.

 

 

There have been haircuts IMGA0297 and crosswords IMGA0300. Kathy keeps working hard IMGA0302, and we keep fighting over the thermostat setting. When the two young’uns win, the old gals get cold:

IMG_3510 (1)IMGA0305IMG_0439On May 10th we celebrated Mom with a new plant, yummy roast chicken dinner, nice wine and nummy beer!

So life rolls on. It’s looking increasingly like Ann and I won’t be sailing at all this year. Newfoundland remains closed to come-from-awayers. Given the short season, we may simply not have enough time, even if things do open up in a month. So we are left in a bit of limbo as to what to do, and where to go.

Luckily we have incredibly welcoming and loving family whom we know would always take us in. So whatever happens, we know we’ll be fine. It’s all just life after all.

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Donna’s homemade masks

Sit, interrupted

We arrived at our second Kincardine home and were greeted with this:

IMG_1823Wendy & Bob were out doing last minute socializing before heading south, so we were told to let ourselves in. Cooper was sitting in one of his favourite chairs (he has many), but hardly raised an eyebrow for us. He could tell his people were about to abandon him to this new motley crew of two.

IMGA0157IMGA0162But we quickly gained Cooper’s approval once he realized we were the ones feeding and walking him. In fact, we all went for a drive and walk down along the beach at Barry & Rosie’s beach house that we had just left. We had promised to keep an eye on their house for the final few days they were gone.

This latest house is located just south of Kincardine along the main highway. It’s a fairly large and beautiful home on a multi-acre lot, surrounded by copse of trees, corn fields, and a creek that runs along one edge. It’s beautiful and perfect for Cooper-walks, which we did everyday; in sun and rain (and snow and sleet and freezing drizzle…).

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IMGA0166IMGA0179We settled in for what we thought was going to be nearly six weeks (more on that later). The house is beautiful, and very easy to care for. The kitchen is spacious and fun to cook in. And all the appliances were very modern. Everything from the fridge and toaster to the stove and microwave had it’s own ring, or bing, or chime, or even whole tune that it played. It was a melodious culinary experience.

 

IMGA0220During our time at Wendy & Bob’s place the weather went from Spring-like, to intense blizzard, to torrential rains, then back to sunny Spring. It was wacky. The blizzard blew in and closed the highway — our ONLY road. We were completely isolated for nearly two complete days. But of course, the Cooper walks went on…

 

 

A few days after this massive blizzard the temperatures went up, and then we had a deluge of rain. This melted most of the new snow, and swelled the little creek that runs along the property. It overflowed it’s banks and flooded parts of the low-lying sections of the acreage.

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IMGA0185IMGA0249It was an easy and fun time. We loved getting to know Cooper, and thoroughly enjoyed our time looking after the house. We got into a routine with Ann settling in the living room, and me in the dining area. Cooper would spend many hours curled up with Ann, but occasionally would come to my door and “ask” me to come out (my room was the one area Cooper was banned from). Sometimes Ann joined him…

Unfortunately our time got cut short when the world succumbed to the Covid-19 Apocalypse. Bob & Wendy decided (wisely) to come home a few weeks early, and because they had to self-isolate once they got home, we had to leave before they arrived. We cleaned up, said our goodbyes to Cooper and to Brian (the tenant in the basement), and headed for Ottawa.

Kathy and Mom once again opened their home and offered their floor to these homeless vagabonds.

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Back to the (inland) sea

IMG_1799IMG_1810We pointed the car east and began our trek towards our new temporary home on the shores of Lake Huron. The drive was mostly uneventful, although we did hit a nasty stretch of white-out blowing snow in the Prairies, and then icy conditions through northern Ontario.

Because of our very tight schedule we blew past Thunder Bay and Rossport. This was  hard to do, and pretty sad :sad:. Normally we spend time with all our wonderful friends up there. But time did not allow it. The only consolation is that we expect to have more time in May so we can hang out with everyone 😀.

IMG_3492IMG_3493We did spend one (expensive!) night in our old home town of Marathon. It felt weird being there. So many good memories are tied up with that place, but most of the people we knew are gone (or we’ve lost contact with). But the town looked pretty much the same, and Pebble Beach is still spectacular.

 

 

We arrived at our new temporary home and were warmly greeted by our new hosts: Rosie and Barry. We got moved in, and Barry gave us a quick tour of the surrounds, including a drive through Kincardine. The house is located about 15 minutes outside of town, right on the shores of Lake Huron. The home, the views and the area are spectacular.

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IMGA0106The first evening we joined Rosie and Barry for dinner with their neighbour, Jan. We’d agreed to look after her place as well, so we got the tour of her lovely cottage, and had a yummy meal to boot! It was great to meet them all. Barry and Rosie are definitely fun loving people. Really great to be around.

IMGA0113The next day we saw them off and got settled in. The house, and the location, really are wonderful. We had a clear view of the Lake, so get to experience its changing moods. Over our time there we watched it move from calm and clear to churned up and stormy. It was so nice being close to water again.

 

 

IMG_1813Shortly into our stay my mom accepted my invitation (and all our encouragements) to come visit for a while. This place really is a little slice of heaven, so I was happy when she said yes. So I hopped in our little car, and headed off to Ottawa. The drive was longer than I normally do, but other than getting through Barrie, it was pretty easy, and I arrived in time for a pub night!

I’d planned to spend an extra night in Ottawa, but a storm was threatening, so Mom and I piled into our little car and headed back the next day. Again, the drive was uneventful, and we only got lost a couple of times 😉 .

IMGA0118IMG_1818We spent the next week and a bit just hanging out, reading, cooking, eating, and generally taking it easy. For our anniversary (32 years — it’s getting serious!) Mom took us out to the Erie Belle. It’s a locally famous Kincardine restaurant that claims to have the Best Fish ‘n Chips. Not ‘in the region’, or ‘in the province’, just “The Best.” I was skeptical, but after tasting them I’m now a believer 😛 . Or maybe it was just the good beer talking 😉 .

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IMG_1814Mom spent about 10 days with us, and then I drove her back to Ottawa. Hammi missed her too much 😉 .

The days moved on. We enjoyed the walks, the snow, the bird watching, and of course Ann enjoyed the swimming. Mostly we just loved being in such a beautiful place. It was very much like a holiday.

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IMGA0169IMG_1830Sadly though, our time on the beach came to end. But happily we get to move onto another beautiful rural home in the same area. Wendy and Bob are friends of Rosie and Barry, and it just so happened that they needed house sitters at just the right time. They have a wonderful home on its own acreage, with a beautiful copse of trees out back, and a huge front green space that runs along a creek.

But best of all they have Cooper!

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Our little house on the prairie

IMGA0066 (1)We settled into our new temporary home just north of Cochrane, AB, and slowly got to know the critters and the routine. It took a bit of adjusting for all concerned, including having one of the cats tell how displeased he was with his new servants. A nice pile of poop was left on our bed that first night 😯 .

_IGP7984But it didn’t take us long to become best buddies with most of them — most especially little Rocky, the killer chihuahua who everyone learned to love.

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IMG_3475But it wasn’t just little Rock-a-dock who demanded attention. The big horse Tucker was on a special diet of beets, oats and molasses that he got three times a day. We had to prepare the mixture and deliver it on time. If we were late Tucker would stand by the gate and stare at us through the kitchen window.

IMGA0637Ibn, the other horse, became a bit jealous of Tucker’s special food so we started bring him carrots as a treat. We became best of friends after that — unless we forgot his carrot.

So, with five cats and two parrots inside (along with little Rocky), and the two horses and two donkeys on the outside, we kept rather busy. All these critters meant a lot of cleaning and feeding. And then there was the shoveling out of the stable every morning. But it really was rather fun.

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One of the really great things about this place was how close it is to Calgary and the Ann part of the family. So with the full blessing of our wonderful house owners, Carol & Pete, we were able to invite everyone to visit, and even to stay overnight. But the highlight was that this allowed us to host a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmin’s  — something we’ve never been able to do.

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Ann did the turkey and everyone else brought one of the side dishes. We drank the wine Mom and Kathy special ordered (and sneakily shipped to Donna 😈 ). Everyone says they had a good time. It certainly was fun for us, and nice that we could finally play host for once.

The days rolled on, and we celebrated the coming of the New Year — except we only made it to Newfoundland time. Ann’s getting old you know 😀 .

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IMGA0619IMGA0623Over the six weeks of our stay the weather was mostly pretty nice. Temperatures hovered in the normal range (not too cold), and we only got a few small dumps of snow — nothing major. But we did get a number of foggy days, which seemed very strange for Alberta. It did produce some pretty spectacularly frosty scenes though.

So the time moved on. I experimented with some new bread-making techniques IMG_3481, and drank lots of good local beer. Ann made good use of the Cochrane fitness centre to go swimming as much as possible.

_IGP7980_IGP7978We also both tried to teach the parrots new phrases. Mine was “Eat me!” It didn’t work, but Merlin did start saying phrases that sounded like us. This was his way of getting back at us because it would cause each of us to start yelling at each other, “What? What?!?!

 

IMGA0052A few days into the new year slave-driver Cailan showed up to assess Ann’s health and create a slave-driving workout plan. Ann’s loving it, of course, but she is a bit of masochist 😉 .

IMGA0041IMGA0054Later Peggy and Marc came to visit for a few days. We ate, drank, played silly games, and generally made merry. It was really great to spend time with everyone.

 

 

IMGA0010_IGP7972The days rolled on. Horses got fed, donkey stalls got shoveled, cages and litter boxes got cleaned, bread got made and laps got swam. It was both relaxing, yet busy at the same time.

As we moved closer to our end date the weather forecast started getting scarier and scarier. We’d had it pretty easy so far, but now they were calling for a deep freeze of near record proportions, with temps dipping to -44ºC.

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Pete and Carol were also watching this from their warm spot in California. They decided to head for home early — news we were happy to hear.

It was sad though, because it meant we’d be saying goodbye to all the critters a bit earlier than expected _IGP7971. We’d both become rather fond of them all — even the parrots, which sometimes drove me bonkers! But I’ll miss even them…

IMG_4368Carol and Pete did arrive back five days early, so we said our goodbyes to everyone and moved back into the welcoming bosom of Sam & Donna. This was an unexpected bonus because the original plan would have had us staying only a day or so. This way we got to hang out, do some work, and even get to see the new Star Wars movie with Sammy (wild horses couldn’t drag Donna to sit through another Star Wars movie).

So now we weather the deep freeze that did indeed settle over all of Alberta. It’s been very cold — thankfully it’s a dry cold 😉 . But at -40ºC it doesn’t much matter.

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We expect to begin the journey east in a day or so. We head to Kincardine next, where we’ll meet Rosie and Barry, and get to look after their wonderful looking house right on the shore of Lake Huron.

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Winter wanderings begin

IMG_1149 (1)IMGA0441The next couple of months went by all too quickly. We moved into our little nook at sis Kathy’s place and spent our time hangin’ with Mom, Kathy, Hammi, and occasionally Colleen & Connor. It’s wonderful that this vagabond lifestyle of ours now lets us spend more time with family.

 

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Of course no sooner did we arrive in Ottawa that Mom and Sis took off for their little rented cabin in the Prince Edward Country woods. They left us to look after the little Hammi monster IMGA0445, cook our own turkey IMG_3402, and do a little painting IMG_3410.

As Halloween approached one really fun thing we did was make Connor a Jack-o’-lantern, or as it became named, a Jack-o’-Connor.

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Time went on. We celebrated birthdays (both late and early), we had fun playing in the park, we got in our various health checks (at least one of us is still perfect 😉 ),  watched lots of movies, went to a concert, and drank copious amounts of beer and wine.

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While in Ottawa Ann took in the Rememberance Day ceremonies downtown IMG_3427.JPG, she visited Kathy’s office at the National Gallery IMG_3441, and we both spent a couple of lovely evenings with new sailing friend Mark IMGA0468who also happens to live in Ottawa. We first met Mark when he sailed into Corner Brook. Then we followed him around Newfoundland and reconnected in Lewisporte. Funny how life happens.

But like sands through the hourglass, so too were the days of our lives in Ottawa :) . Eventually the time came for us to pack our little car, and head off into the western sunrise once again. Our first house sitting gig began December 5th, so we were somewhat pressed for time.

IMGA0569IMGA0497We left Ottawa and headed north. A winter storm was brewing, so instead of our normal stop in North Bay, we pressed all the way on to Sault Ste. Marie. And it was a good thing we did. The winter storm dumped about a foot of heavy wet snow. It closed the highways, and forced us to stay put for two nights. We even lost power for a few hours in our little rented cabin. Luckily it came with a wood stove.

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Shangri-La (1)The storm abated and we headed north, first to our good friends Cathie and Joe near Rossport, and then on to Thunder Bay. It’s always such a joy spending time with Joe and Cath. They live in a little Shangri-La on the shores of Lake Superior. And they are always so welcoming.

We arrived in Thunder Bay and reconnected with long time sailing friends Paul & Julie. We were able to spend a couple of nights reveling in their warm hospitality, and also made good use of their car jack and torque wrench to make the switch to winter tires on our car.

IMGA0527IMGA0532Our tires, and indeed much of our other landlubber stuff, continues to be stored at Ben & Sherilyn’s farm west of Thunder Bay. It’s always a joy to reconnect with these wonderful people. And best of all, we get to spend time with the cutest little girls: Olivia and now Molly.

 

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IMGA0567With time ticking away we had to say goodbye to our north shore friends, and keep pressing on towards Alberta and our new temporary winter home in Cochrane. Although we both are sad not to be heading back to Penticton this year (and we miss Maxi the grouchy cat 😉 ), we’re excited about the coming weeks. We get to look after a small farm which includes,

One small dog (Rocky):

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Two parrots (Merlin & Jade):

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Five cats; Indoor cats, Oscar, Ayla & Luna, and then ‘barn cats’ Sassy and Mukluk:

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And finally, there are two horses (Tucker and Ibn) and two miniature donkeys (Mercedes and Angel):

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This whole barnyard of critters is normally overseen by our hosts, Carol and Pete. They’ve packed up their RV (taking two other dogs with them), and headed for warmer climes. And they’ve graciously left their animals and their wonderful home in our hands. It’s all a bit of a handful, but we’re loving it.

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Homeless once again

IMGP7816With Dorian behind us we got serious about getting Pachina Mia, and ourselves, ready for another winter. One of the more pleasant tasks is getting up the mast to remove our lazy jacks and our wind instrument. It was my turn, so I strapped into our ascender, and climbed the nearly 50 feet of our mast.

 

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IMGA0435The folks at Lewisporte had already made us feel very much at home, but it is different than Corner Brook. Lewisporte Marina is big — much bigger than Bay of Islands Yacht Club. It claims to be the largest marina  in Atlantic Canada. So while it is wonderfully set up for folks like us, it doesn’t have the same intimacy as our little home in Corner Brook.

IMG_3341Luckily though, we’re gone (from Corner Brook), but apparently not forgotten. Our good sailing friends Paula & Byron drove all the way across Newfoundland just to see us :) . We spent a wonderful day and evening with them. We swapped stories about our respective summer journeys; theirs down south to the Chesapeake, and ours around the northern tip of Newfoundland. The contrasts were stark.

IMG_3345We had a wonderful breakfast with P&B the next morning, then said goodbye and got back to the job of taking apart our floating home. One significant task was to retrieve our winter cover which we’d dropped off with Carl Drover, a master sewer who lives near Corner Brook. But this was perfect because Byron & Paula had invited us for dinner at their place. So we got to ignore work for another few days 😉 .

We spent another evening with them, and with some of our other wonderful friends from Bay of Islands Yacht Club: Gord & Leonna, John & Doris, Don and Lisa, and of course Dukie — Paula’s baby, er, I mean dog.

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The next morning we headed back to Lewisporte, with winter cover (mostly) restitched. We had to get the boat ready for haul out. Unfortunately the day we had booked turned out to be way too windy and stormy, so with the enthusiastic agreement of the yard’s manager, we postponed to the following day.

IMGA0430IMGP7831The haul out went beautifully. Lewisporte Marina has a travel lift, and professional staff that made the job easier than we’ve ever had. It was weird to be so useless. We hardly had to do anything. And best of all, Pachina Mia was placed in a secure location, and seems to be positioned better than she’s been in many years.

The following days were a whirlwind of winterizing activities; building the cover frame, then getting the canvas up, and tying it all down. Changing the oil (which we did in the water), draining the bilge, decommissioning the head, general cleaning and sorting stuff for the coming six months. On the final full day we turned off the fridge and winterized the water system. Luckily, Lewisporte has a beautiful clubhouse that the members are encouraged to use … so we did.

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IMGA0433IMG_3353Unfortunately, we discovered the door zippers on our newly re-stitched winter cover had been missed. So Ann spent six hours hand-stitching the zippers. The weather through this process was cold and rainy. Ann became hypothermic, but she did it, and the boat got all safely tucked away.

We packed our little car, said our final goodbyes to Pachina Mia guarded by our little treasures IMG_3352, and headed off to the ferry. We’d booked the overnight sailing, so arrived early evening and boarded around 9:30 pm IMG_1737. We settled into our upscale seats, and snoozed while heading back to Canada.

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We landed the next morning and headed to Ottawa, with one overnight stop in Edmundston IMG_1746.  We arrived “home” and promptly ended up at the pub.

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Coming (to our new) home

IMGA0365IMGA0357We motored then sailed out of Harbour Round and began our rounding of Cape St. John. Just like so much of this trip, the geography along here is stunning. With nothing but the open Atlantic to one side, it’s easy to imagine the pounding these prominences take in a big storm.

 

IMGA0366As usual, the wind predictions were less than accurate, so we ended up going from a grand easy sail, to zero wind that rapidly shifted to huge gusts, to a tough wind on the forward quarter once we rounded the cape that rapidly built an ugly sea. Yup … it was another one of those hard (motor) sailin’ days. Good thing we had Barnacle Annie at the helm :-) .

 

 

We’d now entered Notre Dame Bay, the place we will call home for at least the next few seasons.

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We’d read in the cruising guide that the season here usually ends in late August. The weather here on the east side of Newfoundland increasingly takes on harsher tones as you head into the Fall — something we were beginning to get a sense of as another Newfoundland gale (not a hurricane — not yet 😯 ) was heading our way.

Luckily the wind and seas allowed us to enter Little Bay Islands with its two protected bays. Naturally we chose the less populated one, which is kinda unfortunate because later we learned the village of Little Bay Islands was the latest one to be resettled by the Newfoundland government. This time next year the outport that has existed for hundreds of years will be no more. Sad…

_IGP7744 (1)_IGP7735After another long hard sailing day Little Bay Islands was a welcome respite. We sailed in, all salt-encrusted once again, and looked for a good spot to anchor. Unfortunately the best spot was already occupied by a mooring ball, making it all but impossible to anchor. Fortunately the ball had this sign on it:

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We both much prefer to use our own anchor gear. One never knows what a mooring is made of, but this one seemed stout. Still, with only one line attaching us, I was a bit nervous. So much to the amusement of Annnnneeeeeeee, I proceeded to tie additional lines and rolling hitches to the mooring pennant (line).

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IMGA0371_IGP7756It was another beautiful spot. While waiting out the gale we were entertained by eagles, loons and a gorgeous fox that trotted nearby on shore. It had the colouring of Hammi (our former cat, now Mom/Kathy’s), with blacks and ruddy red browns. Unfortunately it’s hard to see in the pics _IGP7752.

IMGA0375A couple of days later the wind gods opened up a space for us to make another hop. By then we’d started to hear rumours of a serious blow heading our way — something called “Dorian”. We both thought it the better part of valour to be tied to the dock in Lewisporte when this monster hit, so we headed out to Fortune Harbour, which had a nice ring to it.

As we headed along we spotted a distant dolphin pack (school? gaggle? clutch?). We’d seen quite a few dolphins along the way now, and they’re always wonderful to watch. But this group was leaping high into the air, seeming to be just loving life:

Then, after a short while they seemed to notice us, and the whole group swam over and began swimming right beside us,

and even under us. What a treat — and a privilege.

 

And speaking about amazing wildlife, I’ve neglected to say enough about the gannets. These birds were constant companions for much of our journey, and utterly fascinating to watch. They look a bit like very large sea gulls, but with very sharp yellowish bills, and striking black tips on their wings. But what is truly amazing is how they fish.

They dive from massive heights, spearing into the water at very high speeds. It’s incredible.

 

_IGP7771 (1)IMGA0391Fortune Harbour is actually on a peninsula of the mainland. So unlike Little Bay Islands, it has a road connection to the rest of the province. Our anchorage took us down one of the arms of the harbour, past a funky looking mussel farm _IGP7778, ending up quite close to the road. It was odd hearing fast moving traffic after so many weeks of nothing but wind, seas, and the occasional motor boat (dory). But as with every place we’d been, this too is a beautiful spot.

IMGA0390Once again we were hiding from another near-gale, so planned to be there for a few days. The day before the big blow it turned warm — so hot that Ann got into her summer dress. The ensemble worked well when fitted with funny socks and big work gloves:

 

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By now our weather router Donna Boh Bonna had been warning of this little thing called Dorian. We finally got good Internet coverage here in Fortune Harbour, so looked it up.

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Yup … looked bad. We had to get to Lewisporte before it hit.

We weathered this latest storm, and then pulled up anchor for one more sail down into the bay where Lewisporte is located. Much like the testing we got while approaching Corner Brook, Newfoundland’s gods decided to make sure we were still worthy. The day went from big wind and seas, down to lighter winds, and finally back up to gale-force just as we got close to Lewisporte.

Instead of trying to enter a strange marina in 35 knot winds, we chose to anchor one mile north in behind an island. As we approached the spot I started to see what looked like very shallow (and hence very scary) uncharted rocks. Turns out they weren’t rock. They were plumes of jellyfish!

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We were completely surrounded!!!

 

IMGA0392IMGA0389We spent one last wonderful afternoon and night swinging from our own anchor, and then headed into the big town of Lewisporte. We arrived with just enough time to get settled into our slip, and get the boat all ready for the coming hurricane.

 

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_IGP7789We prepared well, and survived just fine. One nearby boat did almost lose their foresail though (and perhaps their mast) when a part of it started to unravel in the wind. Luckily a bunch of us got there quickly and were able to get it under control.

 

 

 

 

IMGA0413We were lucky with Dorian. It was a mere post-tropical storm by the time it hit us. Even still, the winds were ferocious, and the seas in open water would have been massive. I was glad to be securely tied up in our new home.

With the journey’s end we’ve now been working on taking our little floating home apart for winter. It’s always a sad time of year, but necessary. And we know we’ll return next season with plans to explore the immediate surrounds: “Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour, All around the Circle…” 

 

Whales tales in an uncharted water

Heading out of St. Lunaire we were greeted with a whale display straight out of National Geographic. At least two, perhaps more, large humpback whales were leaping into the air not more than 500 metres from us. They’d lunge straight up, then come crashing back with a great splash. Then they would seem to swim along on their sides or back, waving their massive fins in the air, as if to say hi.

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There are no words to adequately describe it all…

_IGP7559_IGP7565We carried on south, pushed along by the will of Boreas and the power of Perkins. The scenery along this coast continues to amaze. I’m sure a geologist would have a tale to tell of the differing rock structures, going from granite to some form of reddish, gnarly metamorphic sedimentary. Too cool.

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_IGP7574IMGA0274We motor-sailed through the whole day and surfed our way into Canada Bay by late afternoon. There is the community of Englee here, but as usual, we sought the solitude of our own anchor in nearby Wild Cove, which was the perfect tuck in to protect us from the coming high winds.

IMGA0267The following day while making lunch Melvin motored over from his nearby cabin. We had anchored not far off his moored motorboat. He came over to have a yarn, and to say what a lovely sight our boat was to him. We chatted and he then told us his place was wide open and that we were welcome to go stay there, take a shower and replenish our water if needed.

There are no people kinder and more generous than Newfoundlanders :) .

Unfortunately the weather that was shaping up to turned into a true Newfoundland Gale! Winds were now predicted to be 35 knots from the wrong direction, with seas building to 4 metres (which is an average, meaning 8 metres is not uncommon). Way too much for us chicken sailors 😳 . But it also meant we had to move anchorage as Wild Cove was going to be open to the coming worst.

_IGP7575_IGP7579We woke to thick fog, which luckily lifted enough to see our way out. We then made our way north a short distance to another small bay which appeared to offer better protection from the coming blow. Along the way we saw a seal and at least one minke whale.

 

_IGP7581IMGA0284Tucked into yet another stunningly beautiful anchorage, we waited for the next weather window to open up so we could either sail further south, or go more directly on our route across White Bay. As it turned out, we had to wait a few days, but the holding was good and the scenery was spectacular. _IGP7591

After three days we hauled anchor and headed out of Canada Bay and back into the blue yonder. The scenery continued to be stunning, and we even caught sight of Wade’s Coast Guard cutter, the Pennant Bay. It was a good sailing day, but as is so often the case, the wind and seas dictated that we travel more south, rather than directly on our route.

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IMGA0301IMGA0302We arrived outside of Orange Bay. Winds were still pretty high, but crew-Annnneeeeee got the sails down like the old salty seahorse that she is. Then we motored deep into the bay towards what looked like a promising spot.

 

The bay was a long way in, and was a bit tricky to navigate to given the shallow waters and our poor charts, but it was beautiful and calm once inside. It had no name on the charts, so we just called it “Our Shangri-La.”

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There were tons of gulls and terns around, along with bald eagles, dragon flies and loons!

 

We stayed nestled in our little Shangri-La for a few days. We relaxed and read IMGA0325, we cooked yummy meals _IGP7675, and enjoyed our fine boxed wine _IGP7674. We were waiting for the next weather window so we could travel across White Bay and make some headway along the final large peninsula that would take us around Cape St. John and into Notre Dame Bay. We got the right forecast, hauled up anchor and headed out.

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… but as is so often the case, the forecast and reality seemed to disagree. And as we all know, reality always wins :-( .

IMGA0322We left our Shangri-La and sailed into unforecasted thick fog and high winds and seas. This turned our easy sail into a hard-fought slog. We managed to work our way across the 15 nautical miles of open water, and eventually made the headland which only came into sight when we were within a 1/4 mile.

We’d already planned to bypass the first bay because out charts lacked any detail, but given the growing sea state, we chose to risk entering uncharted waters rather than carry on. It was the right choice.

IMGA0338Fleur de Lys turned out to be a lovely safe anchorage. We dropped the hook just out of the fairway not far from the village wharf. And then we proceeded to recover and dry off from our rather challenging and wet crossing. Ann’s shoes had got soaked, and soon became rather aromatic.

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We stayed in Fleur de Lys harbour for a couple more days to once more wait for a decent weather window to move us along. Shortly after we arrived another sailboat came in. This was the first time we’d shared an anchorage since leaving Corner Brook. Heck, this was the first pleasure boat we’d seen (outside of Wade’s in St. Lunaire).

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Oceanus was carrying a couple, and their small dog. They’d sailed all the way from Toronto and seemed to have had a much harder time than us. Their main engine died almost before they left. They fitted an outboard on the back, which got ripped off their stern in the Strait of Belle Isle. Their boat is smaller than ours. They had come a lot further, and were planning to go beyond our destination of Lewisporte. I hope they made out OK…

Just as we were getting ready to leave Fleur de Lys a dory came over with two guys in it. They pulled up and asked if we wanted some cod which they had just caught. “Do we ever!” So we set sail knowing that evening’s dinner would include fresh cod!!

 

We headed out of the harbour and made our way to Harbour Round, which is not to be confused with Round Harbour — a different harbour not far away. The sail there turned out to be one of the nicest ones we’d had in a while.

 

IMGA0347True to its name, Harbour Round is a small roundish harbour surrounded by a fishing village. We dropped anchor out of everyone’s way, and settled in for a good feed of cod and cabbage-caesar salad. Yum! This was our final anchorage before rounding Cape St. John and entering Notre Dame Bay.

This cape, like most others, is not to be taken lightly. Winds and seas love capes. So we studied the forecasts and relied on our expert weather router Donna salty-paws Phillips to plan our next move.

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Griquet, Rhymes with Cricket

IMGA0177_IGP7322After our dance with all the whales we headed into Garden Cove near L’anse Aux Meadows. It’s a moderate sized cove with decent protection from the predicted blows that were coming in. And from here Ann could walk to the famous Viking landing site. There’s a community at Garden Cove as there is in just about every semi-protected nook along the Newfoundland shore. We anchored out of the way and watched the activity at the wharf.

_IGP7319_IGP7449Throughout our journey we’ve been seeing plenty of fishing activity. Most of the wharfs have buzzed with the comings and goings of dory sized fishing boats. But we’ve also seen a number of larger draggers and long liners (we think … hard to know for sure). We just wave, and try and stay out of their way, including avoiding all their nets hung down in the water.

With the anchor down, we got back to the important parts of life; reading _IGP7439, eating, watching gulls on the dolphin rock _IGP7366, getting less stinky IMGA0180, staying warm _IGP7473, and most importantly, avoiding storms.

The predicted scary weather finally did blow through overnight. It was one of those massive electrical displays where the darkness and light were almost balanced. Luckily our anchor held well, and we were protected from the worst of it.

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Let the bells ring out and the banners fly — ANN WROTE THIS!!!!:

_IGP7373_IGP7382I rowed to shore and walked to L’Anse Aux Meadows (about 3km) along the road. My boat-trained body parts complained quite a bit about this unfamiliar walking thing, but the trip was worth it.

Joining an interpretive tour hosted by a local man (from nearby Griquet — rhymes with cricket), I learned that Vikings lived at this location for 30 years around 1000AD, that Leif Erikson was among them, and that their sails were made of wool.

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_IGP7414_IGP7419Beyond the site of the remains there is a reconstructed Viking village where the park interpretive employees dress up and bring 11th century Norwegian existence to life. The interior of the sod hall felt cozy especially since dark rain clouds were approaching as I left its warmth. The walk back was quick and a bit wet.

 

 

Although the weather had been pretty nice these last few days, the winds had turned to the east. This built up a large swell and big waves that locked us into Garden Cove for a few extra days. The entrance went from this:

_IGP7428  to THIS: _IGP7464.

It also turned our formerly calm anchorage into a rolly, uncomfortable bay. After three days of living in a rolling home I was glad to haul anchor and point the bow out. As we headed off we were greeted with our second iceberg sighting, and this one was much closer.

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There was still a large swell on as we headed around Quirpon (rhymes with harpoon) Island. There is a narrow passage between the island and the mainland, but it’s a very shallow and with the swells running so large (must have been five meters from trough to crest), we decided the long way around was the safer way.

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Finally, at the tip of Quirpon Island we reached the most northerly tip of our journey. We turned the corner, managing the largest swells either of us had ever experienced, and started to head south — heading toward where the butter starts to melt (well, maybe not that far south).

The shoreline all along this northern peninsula had been stunning. As we turned the corner the character became harsher — rougher. With nothing till Ireland or Norway, the ocean waves can build to monstrous sizes, till they crash into the cliffs of Newfoundland.

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_IGP7503After a few hours we spotted the entrance to our next temporary home; St. Lunaire Bay. As usual, there is a village in this fairly large bay. But also as usual, we headed towards a more remote part of the bay so we could anchor away from all the busyness.

We went down to the end of the bay and found the perfect spot.

 

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IMGA0199IMGA0197Later that evening we noticed a small boat approaching. It carried Wade and Coleen and their dog Freddie. They came over to tell us we were anchored close to an abandoned mussel farm. Although they had removed most of the old gear, there was still plenty of junk on the bottom to get snagged onto. Luckily Wade had been involved in laying out the farm, and he thought we were probably safe — as long as we didn’t drag anchor.

The forecast called for nothing but moderate (15-25 knot) winds from the southwest. One of us ( 😳 ) decided we had to try and sail these conditions, otherwise we could get stuck for days, Weeks!, even MONTHS!!! So we went out the next day into a large sea and big winds. Here’s how that turned out:

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Yup.. it was one of those days :-( .

_IGP7518_IGP7519We limped back to St. Lunaire, this time choosing a cove not filled with old mussel-farm junk. It was another stunningly beautiful anchorage, so not too hard to put up with :) . And there we waited. From our little experiment we knew we needed a north to westish wind to make any headway. So we waited…

The next day our new friend Wade came by with his two brothers to deliver us some amazing cod that they had just caught. There is nothing like fresh cod. It is succulent, and sweet. It is nothing like the cod we buy at the supermarket.

 

IMGA0207The forecast was calling for some favourable winds two days out, which we decided was our best bet to make some distance. Wade had offered to help us replenish our diesel, and anything else we might need. So, we hauled up anchor the next morning — in the rain — and motored over to the wharf. This would be the first dock we’ve been to since leaving Corner Brook.

IMGA0206Nearly every community has a public wharf. Some are rougher than others, but they are all designed as working-boat docks. They are also fixed, meaning we rise and fall with the tides but they don’t. This makes tying up to them somewhat of a challenge for us prissy-boat sailors. But we managed.

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Wade met us at the wharf and not only drove us into the village to refill our diesel cans, but also gave us a tour of St. Lunaire. Coleen had a doctor’s appointment in the neighbouring big city of St. Anthony (~2,500 people) and they kindly offered to let us come with them, which we did!

IMGA0230Wade is one of these people that seems to have done everything. He and his brothers were commercial fishers until they sold their boat. He’s also owned a restaurant, ran (still runs) a small sawmill, piloted a tour boat, and is currently a coast guard officer on the St Anthony-based cutter the CCGS Pennant Bay. This is one of the Coast Guard’s newest vessels, and a mighty fine one she is.

We also got a tour of their other sailboat, the Kuan Yin. She’s a ketch-rigged steel sailboat, all fully equipped and ready to go. Wade and Coleen are selling her for the incredible price of only $25,000, so if you’re interested in a boat that would truly go anywhere, including the Northwest passage, this is an incredible deal.

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IMGA0233While in St. Anthony we spotted two other sailboats tied up to wharfs. They are both headed to Lewisporte, but the one from Europe had a pretty tight deadline, so we probably won’t see them again till next Spring.

The kindness of Newfoundlanders seems to know no bounds. Coleen and Wade not only helped us restock and gave us these grand tours, but also invited us back to their home for dinner, oops, supper. There we met their grand daughter, along with their five house cats. What a wonderful day it was!

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IMGA0210IMGA0265Wade finally drove us back to Pachina Mia, and we settled in for a night at the dock. We said our goodbyes, and then climbed back on board. The boat never feels right tied to a wharf, and there were very odd bumps and bangs that kept us both awake much of the night. We also had to leave with first light to make our next destination.

IMGA0264It was a chilly, early morning. But the winds were workable, and the seas had dropped. We headed out of the bay and pointed the bow south. Not far along we were greeted with a sight straight out of a Newfoundland tourist ad:

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Parting is such sweet sorrow

IMGA0050IMGA0058With the fridge in and working perfectly, and all our stuff either stored aboard or moved to Lewisporte, we finally ran out of excuses to stay. We had one final cockpit drinkies/going-away party with our good friends Gord & Leona, along with Brian. Then the next day we were off.

 

 

IMGA0063On the way out we passed another of our many Corner Brook friends, Kenny. He was just coming back from a night out at Woods Island. We said our so longs as we passed by, sadly going in opposite directions.

Given what happened to us last year, we were somewhat nervous about stopping at Woods Island. Last year we did that and didn’t move for almost two months. But it was the perfect jump off point to leaving the Bay of Islands. So we slid in through the narrow passage and dropped the hook one last time. It felt like coming home!  

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IMGA0074We waited two nights for a good weather window to open up for our first big hop north to Bonne Bay and mountains of Gros Morne. It’s a 35 (nautical) mile jump, and the longest we’d travelled in over two years. We passed  Weeball (Gurnsey Island) and headed north.

IMGA0091The last time we had been to Gros Morne it was on a road trip some 25 years ago. It was quite a bit different arriving here again in our own boat.

 

IMGA0099IMGA0094The sail up was great. It felt wonderful to hoist the old rags and feel Pachina Mia show us what it meant to be a sailboat once again. And though the wind and seas piped up a bit, we made it safe and sound in a few short hours. We sailed, then motored up the fjord to Neddy Harbour, then dropped the hook just outside of a mooring field.  

 

 

_IGP7204_IGP7194People think of Newfoundland as wild and remote. It is that, but it is also thinly but pervasively populated. It seems that nearly every nook that is remotely safe from the elements has some sort of town, village or just gathering of shacks. And so it was in Neddy Harbour.

 

 

IMGA0103While we waited for a good weather window to make our next big hop (over 80 nm) we relaxed in the relative calm of this snug little harbour. After a few days we had our chance.

 

 

 

 

Getting up before dawn, we ate, hauled anchor, and  motored, then sailed our way north to Port Saunders area.

_IGP7218IMGA0151It was a brisk sail with 25+ knots of wind, and large rolling seas. Luckily, most of it was on our aft quarter, so we managed with reefed main and small jib. We flew into Hawkes Harbour just south of Port Saunders, and found a beautiful little bay to drop anchor and enjoy the life around us.

 

 

IMGA0118Our next jump was to be an easy and relatively short one. Unfortunately the weather had not checked with the forecasters, so instead of south winds blowing us along, we ended up with north winds on our nose. This, along with a counter-current, produced those steep choppy waves all sailors love to hate. The short easy sailing day turned into a long, grinding slow slog.   

 

 

IMGA0138IMGA0125 (1)We finally made our destination for the night: St. John Island. At the mouth of the bay we were greeted by some very odd shaped rock outcroppings, and a reminder that not all boat journeys end well. 

  

 

IMGA0134_IGP7234Inside the harbour we found a couple of fishing camps, and gentle waters. and were treated with our first new animal sightings; first caribou, then moose. I’m used to seeing Lake Superior caribou. This big boy looked twice as large!  

We left early the next morning for yet another large jump, heading for Flower’s Cove. With Ann at the helm we pointed our bow north once again, heading for the opening of the mighty Strait of Belle Isle. On our way we spotted our first seals, and then some dolphins!

Someone once called the Strait “the world’s most dangerous waterway.” 😉 This may have been a slight exaggeration, but it is certainly a stretch of water to take very seriously. The cold Labrador Current cuts through here. Winds funnel and build, and the tidal currents ebb and flow, sometimes reaching over three knots. We had to get both the current and winds right if we were to have an easy passage.

All this meant another stay, this time anchored just inside the harbour mouth of Flower’s Cove. We dropped our hook off the fairway and set up to watch the trawlers and smaller dories go about their constant business as they fished the waters off the cape.

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IMGA0150While sitting in Flower’s Cove we enlisted the aid of Donna to help  us figure out when we should run the Strait. We needed to find the right combination of tides and currents; a task that Donna took to like the old crusty salt that she is (or dreams of being 😉 . With Donna’s guidance we found the right moment, so hauled up anchor once again, and headed around the cape. 

_IGP7279The sea temperatures, which had started at a balmy 15 ºC in the Bay of Islands (Corner Brook), was now down to around 7.5 ºC. This quickly makes everything a lot cooler, so out came the fleece and toques. It truly felt like we were north.

 

We left with the early light of morning.There are few safe harbours along the Newfoundland shore of the Strait, so we had to make our next anchorage before the tide turned. This was another 40 nm hop. Our TOP boat speed is 7.5 knots, so we were counting on the current and winds to push us along fast. 

IMGA0163The currents did their job. Unfortunately the wind never really materialized until far later in the day. So our grand scoot through the Strait was done entirely under motor. Easy peasy… Who ever said it was the “world’s most dangerous waterway” 👿

 

 

But while the journey itself was uneventful, the sights more than made up for the boredom of motoring. First there were the gannets torpedoing from great heights to spear their fishy prey. Then there were the dolphins and whales which were becoming a regular, but always exciting, sighting. And finally there was the distant white thing on the horizon. 

“Is it a ship … nah.” “Must be a building on the Labrador side of the Strait … but that doesn’t make sense.” Wait!! It’s an ICEBERG!!!!!  Our first Iceberg!

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It was distant, but unmistakable. What a sight! 

IMGA0165_IGP7293We eventually rounded Cape Norman and Cook’s Point and headed into our safe refuge of Ha Ha Bay. On the way in we spotted numerous minke and humpback whales. I’ll never tire of seeing these amazing animals.

In Ha Ha Bay we anchored somewhat off the village of Raleigh; a “traditional fishing village” — or so the tourist signs said. We didn’t actually see any fishing activities. But the bay was big  and beautiful, and the village looked tough and rugged and very northern.

We had seen a number of whales as we entered Ha Ha Bay, but they seemed to stay outside — until nighttime! 

I awake to a “poosh”. Then another, much closer. Then our boat starts rocking as if a big rolling wave had just hit us. Then more poosh, poosh. Whales! There are whales swimming right next to our boat! 

I bolt out of bed, and run to our cockpit. It is nearly pitch black, but I can hear a whale swimming very close off the stern, and then I hear it breath: poosh! And then I can see the boiling froth of water not 20 feet from our stern as the whale breaches and breathes. 

By now Ann is up and we both watch and listen with amazement. But it’s freakin’ cold, especially in naught but our skins, so we head back to bed, only to be awakened shortly thereafter by more poosh, poosh as another whale comes in to take a look at us.  

Amazing… 

IMGP7309The morning dawns, and a somewhat threatening forecast convinces us to to move on from Ha Ha, and head a short distance over to what looked like a better protected bay. It was also close to L’anse aux Meadows — a place Ann had to visit. So, perfect.

We head out of the bay to navigate a short, but tricky cluster of islands and sunkers. No sooner are we out of the bay that we begin seeing our nighttime visitors once again. Whales are incredible.    

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As we round one of the trickier points I spot a large vessel washed up on one of the islands. This is a reminder that this land takes no prisoners. It is beautiful, but we can’t get lulled by this.

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