Latest updates from little sark
It's a cool September Sunday in Trois Rivieres, Quebec. The breeze is from the North, reminding me that fall has indeed arrived. My sister came up from Ottawa to bring me some goodies, (a huge thank you to Matt), and we had a great visit. I even was able to use the shower at her hotel. Nice to use warm, even hot water as I've been using cool river water that is slowly getting colder every day.
I also figured it would be a good time to go over what has been happening, and what I've been dealing with ever since I decided to make this dream come true. It really is all-consuming and a little over-whelming at times. As an example, when I sailed across Lac Saint Pierre, it was a beautiful day, the wind was behind, and all I had up was the genoa and was making about 7 knots over the ground, probably 5-6 knots over the water. Sounds like a perfect day, right? It was, but when I woke up the next morning at anchor, I was very worn out and all I wanted to do was sleep. That tells me that I am still adjusting to my new living arrangements, which I knew would take some time. And then there's the fear.
Fear is a strange companion on this trip. Fear of breaking things, of running aground, of running out of food or water…actually, fear can strike at any time and for any reason. Like that night that I nearly lost the mast because I had forgotten to tighten a few bolts when I stepped the mast. Fear is there to remind you that you are doing something potentially dangerous. It is not there to prevent you from doing things, but rather so you can appreciate all that is involved. Fear has followed me around my sailing adventures since I was a kid. I always thought of fear as a negative emotion, when really it has kept me alive over the years. So now when I feel fear, I try to figure out what is silently screaming for my attention. The first night at anchor here, the boat was moving around with the current, and was being pushed around by the wind, and I couldn't really get much sleep because I was worried that I was dragging my anchor and may find myself on a rock by morning. The next day I decided to put out a stern anchor and slept very soundly that night. So I'm learning as I go.
Something else that is driving me nuts is that I have stuff all over the place. I do like a tidy boat and this is not one of them, at the moment anyway. Some things get left out between jobs, and then they pile up, so when you want to just sail away, but you have to secure everything before heading out, or you'll have stuff all over the floor, which is a recipe for disaster. I still have a few jobs on the go (I think I will always have a few things to do on the boat) so I don't really want to put everything away until most of the work is done. I will have to put everything away once past Quebec City, as the river opens up to a big delta, 10 miles wide at Tadoussac, and if the wind gets up, there could be some big waves.
But I can't just stuff things anywhere. I tried. The boat tells you that it is not sitting happily. I think it has taken me at least a dozen times of moving everything to get a comfortable balance. And that's a pain, moving all the gear all the time, or having to dig through everything because you are looking for the dried potatoes, or after moving everything into place, you forgot that your warm clothes are right at the front, under 20 boxes. So having things accessible is key, but they also need to be secured or they will end up in the worst possible place at the wrong possible time. A friend, David, asked me if I have to worry about the balance as I eat through my food. The answer is yes on many counts. But having less food makes it easier to move things around to get the right balance. And since I'm going to be on the same tack for days at a time, if not weeks, I may move things around to make the boat handle better in those circumstances. So weight is very dynamic and with such a small boat, if you get it wrong, you will get wet, or the boat won't behave and will make things very uncomfortable, or even dangerous. If a big weight moves at the wrong time, it could help to capsize you. Taking the time now to find the right balance will help me a ton more once I get to sea.
Navigation has pretty straight-forward going down the Saint Lawrence River. You just keep the right buoys on the right side. Past Trois Rivieres, the tide makes itself felt and that adds something else to worry about. Tides are scary and the currents, if you hit them at the wrong time, can be very dangerous. The key is being at the right place at the right time. As I am going downstream, it makes it much easier, but going up can be tricky. I remember being on Fair Jeanne back in 1995-1996 and going through the Richelieu Rapids, a very narrow part where the currents can reach 5-6 knots. I don't think we did much reading of the tide tables as we were stuck, with me at the wheel, in the rapids, for about 30 minutes, at full throttle, watching the buoy pass alongside ever so slowly. Even a walking pace was too fast. And then a freighter decided he wanted to share the same space as us in the opposite direction. If you go outside the markers, you will hit ground, so I got as close as I could to the buoy as the freighter screamed past at 15 knots or more over the ground. And now i's my turn in my own boat. At least I'll be going downstream..!
I've also realized that having plans is great, but being able to change them is crucial to be able to keep up with changing conditions. So if I'm tired, and I mean really tired, I have no problem stopping for rest. At the same time, if I have the energy, it will be fun to sail overnight once the river opens up….but one step at a time.
Once at sea things will change again. Navigation will be even easier, no land to worry about, and I will be able to get into a set routine. At the moment I am going at the speed I can without rushing. And there really is no point in rushing at the moment. On the East Coast, it is still hurricane season until the end of November, with the busiest months in August and September, so I'm happy to take my time. I just hope there is a warm spell before October. These nights are getting pretty chilly…can't wait until I get into tropical waters….but autumn is a nice time of year to go down the Saint Lawrence. The trees will be incredible once they start turning.
Must get back to stowing the gear, and maybe I'll make a fresh ground coffee. My sister brought me a hand coffee grinder, so I can now enjoy good coffee. I have instant and it really isn't bad, but coffee that you have ground yourself will taste much better I'm sure.
Until next time,
Had a fairly quiet night, but had a hard time actually sleeping, which is why I'm a little slow getting going today.
I did have the pleasure of two tall ships passing me by, and one of them is the very sleek Pride of Baltimore. I don't know the name of the other one. Pretty decent sunset too.
Will be leaving shortly for Trois Riviere, which is only about 20 nautical miles away, but we are expecting contrary winds tomorrow and there is a nice anchorage there I'm told. I will hold up there until the weather comes back around and wait for a delivery from my sister on Saturday.
Need to eat and then head across Lac Saint Pierre...
Just had an amazing sail today! Wanted to leave first thing, but there's always something else to lash down, or you need to remember to eat, and then you need to look around and see what will take a leap, what can take a leap, and then you have an idea, so you need to try that out, and then you remember that you needed to put chafe gear on something or it will eat your genoa sheets....and it goes on. I guess that's why some days it is so hard to just leave the dock.
So, here I am, in the Archipelago of Lac Saint Pierre, anchored out in the middle of nowhere really. If you can see the satellite view of the area, you'll see many islands all around me. What you don't know is I would have preferred to be in the lee of an island (cue the Le and Lee jokes). Two reasons why I didn't go too much further, one, there is a shipwreck further in, and two, my poor little electric motor was struggling against the 20-25 knot winds. So, I just dropped the anchor out of the way, but close enough to the seaway that I could just sail off the anchor in the morning. I will be close enough to feel first-hand the bow waves from the freighters going by. Things are quiet now, but maybe all the oil tankers leave at night...?
Anyway, there is a sunset to catch. And warmer clothes...it seems I'm shivering. Maybe I need to eat again...?
Good morning everyone!
A beautiful foggy morning here in Contrecoeur, Quebec. The wind is expected from the South West later this morning, which is perfect to head downstream. Little Sark is almost packed away and we are looking forward to starting this trip in earnest.
I'm sure most of you are wondering what the heck is going on. I left Ottawa in August and now it's September 20th and I'm still in the Montreal area. I guess I never told people what my plans were after Montreal. I always was going to take time to finish the projects that needed finishing, but I never really knew when or where or for how long. Well, after nearly two months in the Montreal area, it's time to go.
My original timeline to leave Halifax by August is obviously not going to work. And that's okay. The only rush I've been in has been my own doing. Yes it is September, and yes it's getting colder, so there is a little haste to get South and warm up, but it is hurricane season on the East coast, which ends, theoretically at the end of November. The busy time for hurricanes is September and October and things slow down once you get into November. Nova Scotia is a little chilly in November, so I don't think it will take too much to get going once ready.
I have taken some pictures and will be sending them in soon. I am also going through all the gear that will allow me to bring this experience to you. It will take me a little time to get everything organised, as stuff is still everywhere. Trying to fit everything I'm going to need on a 30-foot boat is a fun challenge.
In fact that's exactly what I've been doing. There is a lot of gear to bring along, not just food and tv gear, so packing things away is a delicate task. Too much weight in the wrong place can severely affect the way the boat moved through the water. What I needed to do was to put all the really heavy stuff as low as I could. So I moved as many cans as I could and placed them in my old sanitary holding tank, which I don't need while in the middle of the ocean. Once the cans were in place, the boat a lot better. The boat leveled out better and takes the passing waves much better.
Before packing the forward cabin too tightly, I had to remove most of the gear to run the wiring for navigation lights. Yeah, I know, they should have been installed when no gear was aboard. But, sometimes you can't finish a job before you have to move onto something else.
And sometimes your body tells you it's time to rest. It is important to listen to what your body has to say, even if it's to ignore what it tells you. Sometimes, when running, your body starts to scream at you to stop this foolish activity. Then it makes something hurt, like a muscle, or a tendon. Sometimes you can power right through the pain because it is normal pain. Sometimes, however, the pain is a warning and you need to heed the warning. That's what was going on with my arm. I'm sure it was only tendinitis, but left untreated will cause more damage and more pain. So, I took a rest. It was about time too. I had been going straight for about a year or more, it was time for a little downtime.
And this is where I am at. Foggy morning, no wind until later. Time for a fresh coffee I think.
p.s. One of the great things about going on a trip like this, is that a lot of old friends come out of the shadows, and new friends are made. It really is a magical time. On the day that little sark was taken out of the water in Ottawa, an old shipmate came by and gave me a sweater. His name is Steve and I sailed with him on Black Jack down to New York City in 1986. Unfortunately I did not have the time to chat, what with the radio interviews, the TV interviews, etc... So a big thank you to Steve.
For all the old friends out there, it is nice getting back into contact with people you've known over the years. I'm a firm believer that we are a combination of all the people we have met over the years. So please feel free to get back into contact. Be nice to see who all is out there.
And to all the new people following along, I'm sure we will all be great friends very soon.
The sun is breaking through the clouds and the wind is rising. Will be time to go very soon.
Until next time,
It's a sunny cool morning here and energy and morale is good. The wind is from the NW and will be shifting to SW over the next day or so, which will be ideal. I will attempt to get everything ready for an early morning departure.
While I am resting my arm (pulled muscle or worn tendon), I have been getting used my new floating home. I still have stuff all over the place, but now I have a better idea how to pack the boat a little better. Every day I try to visualize what it will be like in the North Atlantic. Being this close to departure is pretty exciting, but I am reminded every morning that winter is getting one step closer.
It is also an interesting place to be, to be this close to realizing a long-held dream. It has been a dream for so long that the reality of it all has been pretty foggy. Now that I can see the starting line (figuratively), it's hard to think that I am actually here, nearly ready to go. There is a certain fear, I'm sure to keep me safe, that reminds me that this is no game and that there aren't any do-overs if one gets into trouble once at sea.
The past year has been pretty intense, and it has been nice to get some rest before seriously heading down the river. I feel my personal batteries have been recharged and am anxious to get going. While the wind isn't in the right direction today, it is forecasted to swing to the SW by tomorrow morning, which will be perfect for the next leg. While tomorrow is a Friday, and sailors never start a big voyage on Friday's, if the wind is right, then it's time to go. But there is no hurry, other than the cooler weather sneaking in. If I can get to Halifax before it gets much colder, then a late October departure is still possible, and even early November wouldn't be terrible, except for the depressions that start to come through a little more often and with more vigor. Once at sea, things will start to warm up with every mile I make towards the South, so I should be back in shorts by December if all goes to plan. At the moment I am wearing pants. Hopefully soon I will be back to shorts :)
Today's objectives are to wire up the wind generator, repack the boat (I have stuff everywhere at the moment), run my reefing lines, do a good clean to the boat, and then wait for the wind! Sounds so simple, eh?
Arm is still sore, so I will take it really easy, but it's time to get going. The fun will start very soon...