Category Archives: 2022 Voyage

A Chapter Ends

One of the most pleasing sails of our 3-month voyage – on a gorgeous blue-sky autumn day, with steady south-westerlies and warmth in the sun – carried Ariose into Mahone Bay, and us to our destination: Chester, Nova Scotia. Were the conditions really so perfect or were our senses so primed on this last day under sail, that impressions were heightened? Perhaps both.

Shirley fendered up and prepared port and starboard dock lines, uncertain about the configuration of the marina we were heading to.  Tim reluctantly started the engine and we furled and dropped sails for the final time, as late as we dared. Then under motor, we slalomed around markers and boats moored at the entrance to Chester’s “back harbour”.

Glancing up as we approached the dock, we saw our friend George ready to greet us. (Almost said “our saviour, George”, but he reads most posts and we don’t want to ruin him by giving him an overinflated sense of self!) He was a welcome sight! We made it. An emotional voyage complete.

Our approach was abrupt, but George fended off Ariose’s bow saving her nose from being nicked. Shirl stepped onto the dock, secured Ariose, then gave George a hug. He commented, “You guys look pretty good. I was expecting skin and bones!”, referring to some of the rough times – sailing and relationship – we’ve gone through. “Let me get a photo of you for that blog of yours.” And he did:

Made it!

We took a wander around the boatyard. THIS was where we’d be hauled out?! We didn’t expect a fancy marina that caters to the upper crust, but…

This yard had certainly seen better days, and didn’t inspire a lot of confidence as a place to safely store Ariose, but the owner had lots of experience and was respected. There were a couple other boats at the docks, and those who had the half dozen or so other boats on the hard seemed to be ok with leaving them here. Well, most of them did look like project boats, in other words, not seaworthy. The “for sale” sign out front was also concerning. What if the yard sold and new owners wanted Ariose out of there? It’s been for sale for years, we were told, so don’t worry about it going anytime soon. On the other hand, the yard was right in town, a short walking distance to anything we might need – and – the price was right. Now that we were here, there was such a sense of relief, that we pushed aside any thoughts of not staying.

There were no facilities for yachties, other than the port-a-potty propped near the workshop, so George’s offer of an overnight visit to his and Joan’s home to get fed and cleaned, and to enjoy a brief break from the boat was especially appreciated. We tried to recall when we last showered… and as we scrolled backward in our memory of this voyage, we realized that our bodies hadn’t been properly bathed since Iles de la Madeleine, 24 days previously!  We must have been emitting quite the heavy scent of eau-de-sweat & sea, but our noses were immune to it and George, a salty sailor himself, was too polite to comment. Joan, definitely not a sailor, graciously directed us to all we needed as soon as we stepped into their home.

En route, George pointed out highlights in the postcard-worthy towns along the way, most notably Mahone Bay (the town) and Lunenberg. Both are steeped in rich sea-faring history. We watched tourists get a taste of sailing on Eastern Star, a gorgeous wooden schooner which even so late in the season, offers daily excursions. It still feels pretty incredible to us that we have been able to have such experiences, and on our own boat.

Lunenberg is famous as the home of the Bluenose, the iconic racing schooner / fishing vessel built in the early 1920s that is immortalized on the Canadian dime. We wandered over to the Bluenose II, an exact replica of the original. It was built the year Shirley was born, so she can attest to the fact that it, too, is getting old.

We had a lovely evening with Joan and George, and felt absolutely spic & span, clothing our freshly washed bodies in freshly laundered clothes!

 The next day, it was back to the boat, and to the work of preparing for haul-out. We were disappointed to be informed that there would be a delay. The boatyard owner was waiting for a part for the trailer that Ariose would be stored upon. It could be several days or a week or more. We were a little ticked that he hadn’t advised us of this earlier, but perhaps he hadn’t inspected the trailer until we booked in. He seemed surprised that we weren’t packing up and heading out.  He had expected us to leave Ariose behind for him to crane out at his convenience. No way.

We still feel the pain of having had Ariose damaged last year in the hands of a well-run operation that we knew and trusted. We’ve never stored Ariose anywhere other than on our property, under the protection of a boat shed, within view of our front door.  For our own peace of mind, we needed to see for ourselves that she was tucked in well for winter, and resting securely. Ariose is immensely valuable to us. We have put in so much time and labour and love into this boat, not to mention, hard-earned money. Ariose had been through a hurricane after all – it would be heart breaking to suffer ice damage because it wasn’t leveled correctly, or toppled in a run-of-the-mill winter storm, or who knows what other disaster could befall our unattended boat. Nope. We were not leaving until we were confident Ariose would be ok.

We agreed to be patient, after all, what’s a few more days.  

Waiting patiently.

Then, we asked to see the trailer where Ariose would be placed once craned out, and pulled a short distance across the yard to then rest for the winter. He motioned toward a jumble in the yard. Shirley had to ask again, what, within the metal and wood she was looking at, was the trailer that he had promised was perfect for Ariose, as she thought that the one he was pointing toward look destined for the scrapyard. Oh. You DO mean that one.

Tumbledown trailer awaiting Ariose.

She glanced at the rusted assembly. “Trust me, this trailer has lots of life in it”, he assured her. He had nearly 50 years experience running this boatyard that had been in the family for generations before him. We were used to towing Ariose on its trailer at high speed for hundreds of highway miles, so were accustomed to looking at a trailer with different requirements than one that would just be sitting stationary. Hmm.

Looking back, we can now see that we were not in best shape for decision-making. We each had reservations about this set-up, but beyond acknowledging that we could add supports to the trailer, we didn’t really discuss our concerns with one another.  Wanting to move on in our lives clouded our judgement. We leaned toward the easiest option, the one in front of us. That “we’re not leaving until Ariose is secure” resolve was beginning to fade and a bit of uncharacteristic “whatever” attitude crept in, as the need to put this chapter behind grew stronger.

We let a few days pass as we tackled some small projects on Ariose, while also enjoying daily strolls around the charming town of Chester.

Chester is well known in the sailing community. Mahone Bay’s island-filled waters offer great sailing, there’s well-attended annual races, many marinas and boatyards, and a rich history of ship building. We were delighted when a good friend shared with us a personal connection.

J’s brother had built his own sailboat here at Chester, guessing by the hair and clothing styles in the photos she shared, in the 1970s. Anyone who has such skill and fortitude, sure has our respect. As we walked by the present-day Chester Yacht Club, we doubted that they would appreciate fires in the yard, melting lead to pour a keel, as shown in one photo. As J pointed out, “have you noticed when gentrification takes place, it can have an unfortunate result – as in sterile. It needs the old cauldrons of melting lead with the good fumes; the old sea dogs reliving their high sea adventures; some truthful tales , but who cares. Character is what counts. Then you’ve got a setting worth noticing.” We didn’t ask permission to include her words here, because we suspect she’d decline, and her observations are so perfectly stated, we just had to include them. Forgive us, J. 🙂

Chester Yacht Club… not a fire nor cauldron in sight.

On the topic of character, Chester’s motto, “A progressive community” sure lacks it. The homes and the community’s vibe do have interest, though.

The village was founded in the mid-1700s, and had a contentious start.  After the Acadian people were forced out, the government, wanting to repopulate the newly vacated land, saw opportunity in the population boom happening south of the border. Land grants were offered to New Englanders, and thus, Chester was born.

Shortly after, during the American Revolution, Nova Scotia, enemy territory under British rule, was regularly invaded by the military and the privateers (essentially, pirates on payroll). Some of the ex-Americans were found to be sympathizers, including the founders of Chester who were charged with sedition.

Today, with Chester less than an hour’s drive from Halifax, invaders are from the city and not the States, and clearly rankle some of the folks born and bred in this village.  One fellow who shared his uncensored opinion  with us bemoaned the changes since those city folks started buying properties and moving here.

A couple days passed, and we were still wavering on whether this was the right place to keep Ariose.  The thought of finding another boatyard, and getting there, as we’ve said, seemed overwhelming. Yet we were in sailing-central … there were many options within an hour’s sail. What was the big deal?

We were out of fuel. Still lots in Ariose’s tank; none left in either one of us. Yes, we had enjoyed much of the voyage, but it also required an incredible amount of emotional labour to get here together after we had decided to take a break as a couple. And now that we were at what we thought was our finish line, we were on empty. We were grieving the loss of a dream, our relationship fracturing, processing emotional reactions than had been suppressed along the way…

Then, a closer inspection of the trailer, followed by a restless night, kicked us both into gear. We’re reluctant to include a photo anticipating a chorus of WTF were you guys thinking that you even considered this an option!?  Well… here it is.

One of 3 rusted through supports!

First thing the next morning, Shirl got on the phone to  other marinas in the bay. As she was speaking to one, the current yard’s owner dropped paperwork off to us, asking for a signature. When we reviewed the lengthy waiver, the decision that we had been waffling about was made very easy. If we still had any inclination to stay here, it was gone.

The boatyard had no insurance. Marine insurance is getting incredibly difficult to obtain. Seems there’s no profit, and most companies are moving out of the business. The only insurance we were able to obtain, after considerable effort and a significant expense, was bare-bones liability, so we understood that it might have been impossible or unaffordable for this small yard.  But seeing in black and white that we would need to accept ALL risk, even if there was negligence on the part of this operation that was about to place Ariose on a rusty trailer for the winter or longer while we were a few provinces away? Well that sealed the deal.

Motoring to a new – and final!- boatyard

Within the day, we paid slip fees, and motored over past seals basking on a rock (gotta be a good omen), to another boatyard.  Gold River Marina is nestled in a protected inlet. It has hundreds of boats – almost all in good condition – stored in their yard. There are on-site shipwright services, friendly staff, they have insurance, and require proof of liability insurance from those using their yard.  They even have washroom facilities with showers. This felt MUCH better. As a bonus, George’s lovely Alberg 29, musically named Sh-Boom (… life is but a dream, sweetheart) is on the hard there.

We arrived on a Friday, with no chance of haul-out until Monday. George gave us a lift to Halifax to pick up a rental car. We had a bit of free time, and now the means, to be land-based tourists.

We headed downtown Halifax – such a scenic city. One stop on our tour was The Tare Shop. It’s a great little package-free eco store, and is the entrepreneurial venture of the sister of one Shirley’s kids’ partners. She also has products online if anyone’s interested.

Wandering the waterfront brought back memories for Shirley of her last time here. It was about 10 years ago, but she commented that it felt like a lifetime ago. She was here to present at a national conference with a dear colleague, back when her career dominated. “I still naively believed that I could be a part of major paradigm change in the mental health world.”

We decided to treat ourselves to a restaurant lunch – our 2nd meal out in 3 months! We passed by many options, full of charm, and chose a rather plain, but bustling diner with positive reviews.  What a good choice! We feasted on generous portions of excellent seafood. No need for dinner that evening.

On the drive back to Ariose, we took a detour to catch sunset at Peggy’s Cove. So photogenic!

Again, it brought a flood of memories, and again, from what feels like a lifetime ago for both of us.   Tim was last here on his marathon motorcycle adventure tour in his 20s.  Shirl was last here nearly 2 decades ago on a family summer holiday, part of a month-long road-trip through the Atlantic provinces. A photo of her kids scrambling over the rocks with the lighthouse in the background graced the central hall in her (Maritime-inspired red) home for years.  Time passes. Chapters close and new ones open. 

Sunday was spent finishing up stripping and emptying out Ariose and filling up the rental car. The weather remained cooperative with temps in the mid-teens, and skies clear. It was ideal for spreading the ropes and canvas and bits and bobs found marinating in salt water under the sole and at the bottom of locker on the dock to dry.  We took a run to George’s to drop off items that we wouldn’t be carting home, like sails and canvas and life-raft. They will fare better off the boat and its humidity. Thanks, George and Joan.

This is how you play Tetris

It sounds like a simple task – transferring stuff from a boat to a car – doesn’t it? It’s not.  It’s a physically and mentally challenging reality Tetris, the puzzle game, but 3-dimensionally in an odd-shaped car interior. For starters, Tim wrestled the two 140 pound batteries that are needed for the off-grid system at home, out of their tight space in the cockpit lockers. Shirley was relieved that he did so without injury. We had packed with the possibility of being away for years, and despite having set out only a few months ago, the volume of stuff we had aboard still was shocking. We felt like magicians, pulling out an endless array of things from our hat. We left clothing to the end, placing it in crammab;e garbage bags, but they would not fit. Impossible. We had to removed most items so that we could  shove this t-shirt in that little gap, and that pair of socks, in this gap.  As you can see, we were victorious!

Finally, Monday, haul-out day, arrived. The marina was unexpectedly short staffed, so it looked like we’d have to wait another day. Then, much to Tim’s delight, they recruited him to operate the winch. He was thrilled to be able to play with the machinery. Even Shirl was amazed by the system.

Their massive winch – and as you can see, we do mean massive! – was formerly the windless on a naval vessel. It pulls boats out of the water on a rail lift, then a hydraulic flat-bed transports them to their resting place. They are able to haul vessels more than 10x Ariose’s weight. Tim’s short video at the end of this post captures the process. We rented jack stands (non-rusted, in case you’re wondering!) that, once chained together, will hold Ariose upright over the winter.

We spent our final night at George and Joan’s, and appreciated their hospitality and the warm supportive conversation. They, like many others, were trying to understand our decisions. In between pizza slices and wine, questions were gently posed, suggestions offered, and we tried to explain. In all relationships, there are so many layers of complexity. We’ve shared in our Ariose Notes some, but of course not all, of the issues that have been challenging.

George, who at nearly 20 years our senior, solo sails. He has crossed the Atlantic multiple times and is gearing up to do so again. He wondered why we were so often tired. There were two of us after all! We caught him cringing when questionning the times we chose to stay put and rest when conditions were favourable to move on. We also had equipment with us that could have made our lives aboard easier and safer, but we never figured out how to use it. The IridiumGo, for example, would have provided satellite wifi. We could have been tracking Fiona long before we arrived on Iles de la Madeleine, and possibly would have altered course. The Cape Horn self-steering vane, is another. It could have allowed us to avoid the fatigue on longer passages where one of us had to be at the helm 24-7. We never had the energy to invest in figuring out either. And why?  With hindsight, we realize that the increasing difficulties working together, the relationship tensions, were taking a serious toll.

Melancholic scene, near Blue Rocks, NS

George is not the only one who has had questions. Did we not expect tension when living aboard a small boat? A reasonable query. Yes, we did, and we were hopeful that pursuing our common dream would allow us to rise above the tough times.  Do you think the next time you encounter some of those trying sailing scenarios, that you will be better equipped to face them, and they won’t seem so big? Yes. There’s a learning curve, and if we had continued, the sailing would likely have become easier and easier. You guys just need a little break. Yes, we certainly do. The two of you are so different, but so complementary. Yes, and yes, and we’ve accomplished what we have so far through a tremendous amount of effort.  If only you hadn’t encountered the hurricane. Well, Fiona precipitated our decisions, but they would have been made with or without the storm.

We appreciate all the suggestions, concern and support that has poured in. A few seem to feel slighted or even angry with us for giving up too easily. Perhaps they have projected their own unfulfilled dreams on us? In the 10 years that Tim and I have known each other, we’ve lived together for over 6, nearly ¼ of that time on Ariose, and the remainder in a one-room off-grid cabin. So we know intimately the challenges of tight quarters and living in a way that requires a lot of effort and collaboration.  Our shared dreams and interdependence on one another to achieve them, have been our glue. We have considered and tried many ways of making our rather mis-matched relationship work. We intended to continue on this voyage as long as it was fun. It was no longer fun. In fact, it no longer felt safe.   We’re both feeling good about our decisions and the road (waters?) ahead.

Okay, enough relationship explanation, back to Ariose.

 The next day, we completed winterizing the boat. By mid-afternoon, we said goodbye to Ariose – with some tears – and were on the road. The heavily weighted down rental car was riding stern low and bow high, much like our Alberg! Two days later, we were back to northern Ontario.

On this leg of our voyage, we’re the ones passing freighters.

So what now?

We’re composing this wrap-up Ariose Note as Shirley sits in a 9’ x 13’ off-grid cabin, generously offered as a place to land by a dear friend who rarely uses it. It’s small and very basic, but as with everything in life, it’s all relative.

It’s quite spacious compared to Ariose.  She’s appreciating the solitude, the peaceful sunrises, and having land just outside the door, inviting her for long meditative walks.

Peaceful sunrise view from the cabin.

Tim’s back in the strawbale “garage” we’ve called home, re-claiming  his space, and settling into his routines. We’re in touch every day as we sort out what we’d like our next chapters to entail.

In one of our first ArioseNotes, we shared that when Shirley left (paid) work to join Tim as we prepared the boat and ourselves for sailing, her colleagues, as they wished her well, tucked a quote into her farewell card. It’s attributed to Mark Twain, and despite having become part of the inspirational porn peddled on plaques, t-shirts, and mugs, it still resonates for us:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines! Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore! Dream! Discover!

We have done just that. We have connected with so many special folks, we’ve stretched our capabilities, and have had incredible experiences. Just in the last few months alone,  we’ve been surrounded by frolicking whales, we’ve been moved by vast silver ocean-scapes on full moon nights, we’ve been awed by the fury of a hurricane, and so much more.

We have accomplished a lot together, both on and off the water. The memories we’ve made will last a lifetime. We’re full of gratitude.

What’s next? We’re not sure. If sailing Ariose is in our future, we’ll invite our virtual ship-mates back aboard. Thank you for having been along with us.

Best wishes to all for fair winds & comfortable seas!

Final Leg: Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Coast

In our last Ariose Note, Tim and I shared that we had made a very tough decision. We would call it quits, for now, anyways.  We would end our voyage. We would take space to consider whether our relationship had also run its course. And then, as ridiculous as it sounds, we proceeded to spend the next month continuing together in the very tight quarters of our boat, as we sailed a further 450 nautical miles from îles de la Madeleine to Cape Breton, through the Canso Strait, and southward along Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Coast to lovely Mahone Bay.  We’ve talked before about how cruising amplifies experiences. It also has a way of distilling what is important.  No need for relationship counselling when you have a month aboard to help process what you’re going through!

Yes, we could have hauled and stored Ariose in the Magdalens, and been done with it, but aside from the Islands’ remoteness (difficult for us to return to the boat, smaller pool of potential buyers if we decide to sell), doing so felt too reactive. In future, would we question if we had given up too quickly? We still had good weather ahead in the season, and felt it was important to get back on the horse, so to speak. We did not want a hurricane and a break-up to colour our final impression of sailing.

Our good friend George, has become a bit of a sailing mentor for us. Along with wise and encouraging messages of support, he also sent us details of several marinas in his home waters in south-easterly Nova Scotia, that could haul and store Ariose for the winter. He offered his garage for our gear. And a guest bed in his and Joan’s new home. And a shower. And laundry. How could we refuse? We would head Ariose’s bow southward and chart a course to Mahone Bay.

Tim and I were feeling rather raw, and in order to succeed on this final leg, recognized that we needed to be as gentle as possible – with each other and with our sailing. We had no immediate time constraints so once we made the overnight crossing of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Cape Breton, which we detailed in the last Ariose Note, we agreed to only day-sail, and only in favourable conditions. We also vowed to be as patient and compassionate as possible with one another. We weren’t perfect in this intention, but the fact that Tim and I are co-authoring this Note says something, doesn’t it.

Overall, Tim’s in-the-moment focus, without the inclination to worry too much about the future, protected him. I on the other hand, felt fully gutted on some days. The planner in me chided myself for having let the power of our sailing dream put blinders on compatibility issues. Then on better days, I recognized that I had staked hope on the possibility that those issues would fade when Tim and I were in the environment that cruising offers, with a shared purpose. Had we not taken the risk and set out on our adventures, we would have robbed ourselves of memories we’ll treasure for life.

Some days unfolded in comfortable silence. We’d agree on plan for the day, communicate the essentials, and otherwise, give each other as much space as is possible on a small boat. Some days were filled with appreciative reminiscing. Tim and I have shared a lot of amazing experiences, and we have grown through one another. We also brainstormed options for what could be next in our lives. And not unexpectedly, on some days, the atmosphere onboard held more tension than a tightly winched sheet in a blow. But all crew remained onboard, and we still enjoyed much of the voyage’s final leg.

Over to Tim to fill in the highlights of that final leg.

If you google the the Nova Scotia Tourism website, a little sailboat icon will appear as the page begins to load.  How fitting! Even with all of the stress we were under – the hurricane, the relationship whirlwind, and the ‘normal’ stress of just sailing – the trip down the Atlantic coast of the province was amazingly memorable. It’s such a fantastic place to sail. It is very rugged with no end to the inlets, islands and shoals where the large seas display their boisterous and frothy white exclamations!

Entrance to Sambro, south-west of Halifax, shows typical rugged coastline.

Port Hawkesbury, a town southeast of the causeway is where we dropped anchor once through the Canso lock. Not an especially pleasant spot with its highly industrial shoreline – piles of various materials, big cranes and the drone of large machinery – but a special place that reminded me of my motorcycle tour over 30 years ago.

A younger, thicker-haired Tim!

 I was a solo sailor of the 2-wheeled kind, (an 87 Yamaha XT350 enduro, to be precise) and, as such, was much more inclined to create social connections than I usually am. Sitting in the Tim Hortons in 1991, journalling, I struck up a conversation with a local fellow.  Blaize has stuck in my mind for all of those years. I don’t even have to go back to my diary to remember that he was a retired teacher, that he struggled with his alcohol addiction, and that he played a lovely little ditty on an old, beat-up guitar, Cape Breton style, when he invited me to his home for lunch. We were two lonely guys, appreciating a chance to chat about our lives.  Port Hawkesbury was one of many unforgettable stops on my 12,000 kilometer journey of the Maritimes, and Newfoundland & Labrador over 4 months in my 20’s. Guess I come about this travelling thing quite honestly. Sure was nice to revisit the memories. 

By mid-morning the next day, Shirl and I were heading south-east across Chedabucto Bay, in a direct line towards Canso Harbour through a narrow series of rocky islands. The conditions were less than ideal. We attempted to sail in the light winds for a few hours but realized that if we were going to get into the intimidating-looking channel at Canso before dark, we needed to call up the Yanmar for a few hours.

We anchored off the town. It looked as though it had seen better days, when it was a fishing hub, but still had charm. It would have been interesting to go to shore, but we were on a mission to get south, so, we left early the next am.

Most of the next day we motored through pine-topped rocky channels, with buoys marking the way.  It was nice to see the land so close and get an intimate view of the coastline, something that often isn’t possible under sail. It felt like we were boating in the Muskoka area, close to our northern Ontario home.

We were a little nervous as we rounded the most easterly part of mainland Nova Scotia and hit the open Atlantic, as we had heard that there can be conflicting currents there. It was fine, though. In fact, the conditions were very mild. There were large swells, but they were so widely spaced they offered no resistance. We had enough of a breeze on the beam to keep us going about 5 knots. Very pleasant.

Strong south-westerly winds were forecast for the next few days, so with our intent to avoid vigorous conditions, we tucked into Tor Bay where we would be protected. This gave us the chance to explore this area a little. I was quite happy to get Poco, our dinghy, off of the deck and head into Webber Cove. A provincial park showed on my terrestrial maps, so I went to explore. Turns out that this bay gets pretty shallow and even in Poco with the 3hp electric motor, I had to be very mindful of the prop. After nosing around a little, I found a deeper channel that took me near the road. I pulled Poco, wading to shore in deep mud, and emerged at a sign we would see in other areas along the coast, warning of contaminated shellfish.

Just a few minutes’ walk down the road was Tor Bay Provincial Park.  It is open to the ocean to the south-east, and also has beautiful inland salt marshes.

It’s a small day-use park, with well-maintained boardwalks and it was free!  It was well worth the effort to get there. I love plants and found myself checking out every one along the path. Most species were familiar – just like those in wetlands back home in northern Ontario – but, every now and again, there would be something new and intriguing! A gorgeous and wild beach with crashing waves over sand and rock was a feast for the eyes and other senses.

Shirl had stayed on board, appreciating some solo time, but when I returned, I encouraged her to make the trek too.  The next day, she did join me for my second trip in, and this time, we avoided the mud by motoring ashore to the gorgeous sand beach just off our anchorage. I went on a hunt for road access, and sure enough, an ATV trail was just discernible through the muskeg-like vegetation and, as hoped, it did lead to the road.

En route to the park, we checked out what looked like an abandoned house that we had noticed from Ariose. 


It was indeed deserted, and was an interesting place to poke around. The house was in pretty good shape and there was an odd 30 year old Isuzu truck with Massachusetts plates beside an ancient barn. It’s always fun to think about the story behind such a house that probably held promise and witnessed a family’s lives, and to wonder what led to it being left behind. The yard was long since grown in with native vegetation. I then gave Shirley a tour of the Park. She agreed, it was a lovely little gem.

That afternoon, we hauled Poco up on deck once again, lashed it down, and got ready to head out early in the am. We used to often forego going to shore as lowering then raising our 120 pound Portland Pudgy dinghy seemed such an arduous task. With all our recent practise, the manoeuvre was getting easier.

Heading out of Tor Bay was one of our more spectacular mornings. The brilliant early morning moon in the west sky lighting our stern, and after pulling up the anchor,  we pointed Ariose eastward into the sun just rising over the horizon!

 These are the experiences that make sailing so worth it! We’ll include a video with this day’s start, and other clips, at the end of the post. There is a peace to end all peace and a wonder that puts your soul at ease. All is right with the world in those moments. 

We anchored that night in Holland Harbour, then a 6am departure next day, allowed us to anchor by 5pm for the night at Sutherland Island.

Despite us having agreed that we wouldn’t rush this last leg, that we’d enjoy the journey, Shirl felt impatient with our inching-along progress. The drive to “get there” seemed to overpower her desire to savour these last days aboard. I was fine with that. We still appreciated the special moments, like a burst of sunset capping off an otherwise stormy day.

There aren’t many opportunities to provision along this section of the coast. Sheet Harbour does have a grocery store and gas station within close proximity to the water, and we were due for fuel and groceries so headed up the inlet. As we were rounding Sheet Rock, a lighted shoal several miles out from the entrance to the harbour, I was in contact with my sister Cynthia and sent this picture to her!

It was really nice to share a part of our trip at the exact moment that it was happening.

The town has placed a few mooring balls, so we helped ourselves to one just off the back-end of a hardware store. Although the docks had been removed for winter, we rowed in, strolled through the “staff only” section of the store’s yard, receiving cheery “good mornings” from the workers. The famous Maritime friendliness abounded, from the chatty grocery cashier, to the elderly woman who,  noticing jerry cans beside Shirl while I was in paying for the diesel, pulled a u-turn to offer a ride.

We were thinking of staying here a couple nights but the wind was now forecast to allow us a brisk close reach, and we looked forward to an invigourating day! 

It  ended up, however, being a torturned sail with wind on the nose and not much progress, so after hours of zig-zagging, we decided to fire up the Yanmar and head in to an anchorage.  We picked a spot behind Cow Island.

Anchored at #77. Tim dinghied to Harbour Point, exploring ashore to Burnt Point and back.

We ended up staying here for 3 nights trying, with only marginal success, to shelter from strong winds. We were in the lee of a cluster of islands that seemed to cause a bizarre redirection of currents and swell. Steve and Lisa’s trick of bridling the anchor to angle Ariose saved the day. We took Poco down and I headed in to the eastern point of Clam Harbour Provincial Park. The waves were crashing on the rocky shore, but once I tucked in behind the point everything calmed right down and I was able to slide Poco up onto a smooth even rock, pull it up with the painter and tie it to a big boulder many times Poco’s size.

The rocks along this shore were endlessly variable from smooth and undulating to jagged and standing on edge. As I walked along, I looked for potential trails installed by the park. There were none, until I came to the opposite point where a trail was marked from the campground.  I took it. Every time I rounded a corner I’d ask myself, should I? Considering that the further I went, the longer it would be to get back. But, every time I countered with “maybe I’ll find another trail that loops back along the other side of this peninsula to take me back to Poco.”

Turns out that there was none, but the gorgeous beach that I “found”, about a kilometer long and a 100m wide, made up for that miscalculation. It was still well worth the several kilometre walk over sand, jagged rock, folded rock, boulders, wave worn rock, pebbles, around cliffs and back to Poco, still holding onto the giant, well, you guessed it rock,  I left it tied to. 

The tide always seems to be working against me when ashore, receding, leaving Poco far from the water, as it had again this time. Luckily, it was a slippery smooth rock slide back into the water and an easy ride back to Ariose. I missed not sharing this little side trip here with Shirl. The remaining 2 days there while we awaited better sailing conditions were soggy and cold with waves too robust to feel safe dinghying in again.  She lamented the chance to go to shore. (Shirley’s edit: Tim’s being kind.  Actually, I was hit with major cabin-fever and spent 2 days darkly moping.) But, these are the Days of Our Lives! sigh…….(Oops, did I just say that out loud?)

Eventually, we got back underway. We took a direct route along the off-shore buoys where at  5 nautical miles out, we could avoid the many shoals. The ocean on this day was spectacular. There was only the slightest breath of air, so we had to mainly motor. This was boating on hilly terrain, though, with swells coming from winds that were perhaps hundreds of miles away.  Waves were several metres in height, but with such widely spaced periods, they were just large rounded hills and valleys. We’d motor up-up-uphill, feel like we could see forever in the view from the top, then slide down-down-down before heading back up. Very gentle. All day.

We made our way across the open expanse of Halifax Harbour, all the way to Sambro, keeping an eye on our AIS for other vessels. After spending more than a month on the St.Lawrence River, often with a freighter in view, we had expected the same along this coast since Canso lock provides a short-cut for shipping, and we assumed Halifax Harbour to be a major port. After leaving the St. Lawrence, aside from occasional fishing vessels and a couple of other sailboats, we found that we were alone out there.

Lighthouses certainly help you feel less alone on the sea. We’ve seen so many along the way, and here in Sambro, yes, another.  There’s no mystery on why the road that snakes along this coast is known as the lighthouse route by the N.S. Tourism authority.

Net day, we glimpsed Peggy’s Cove, the iconic landmark, in the distance as we sailed across St. Margaret’s Bay. Its lighthouse remained but a little elf with its tiny red cap, surrounded with smooth rounded, barren rock. We were way too far out to appreciate it. We’ll visit Peggy in the next Ariose Note.

Then, before we knew it, the end of our voyage was just ahead. Back to Shirley:

There it was. The distinctive red/white fairway buoy that signifies safe water to mariners. Buoy “MA” guided us between Little Tancock Island and Sandy Cove Point, welcoming us into Mahone Bay, a gorgeous sailing area, and our final destination.  

Emotions for me, ran high, and like some of the seas we had sailed, they ran confused.   There had been days in the last weeks where I wanted nothing more than the voyage to be over, and to move on to whatever our next chapter would hold. And now, as we made our way to where we expected to haul, I was hit with waves of deep sadness and loss, conflicting with uplifting feelings of accomplishment. Watching Tim on this final approach, he seemed less affected. As usual, he whistled his way across the bay, enjoying the perfect conditions we had that day.  We even considered anchoring with the bay, just to extend our time a little longer. But the marina was expecting us, so we shouldn’t dally. And truth be told, I couldn’t shake a superstitious feeling that we would be tempting fate, that if we spent even one more night at anchor, something disastrous would happen. As a logical, fact-based thinker, that I was harbouring such irrational worries concerned me.

As we sailed into the bay, we both revelled in the gorgeous day with steady breeze. It really was a perfect day, and we wanted to hold the memory, the sensation, painfully aware that this could be our last sail on Ariose.  We’ll end there for now, and wrap up this voyage in our next Ariose Note.

Until then, if you’d like to sail along with us a little more, here’s some video clips … no high-seas, just some typical day-to-day sailing (& motoring) caught by Tim’s GoPro, mounted on the stern rail. Enjoy.

Pre-Fiona: Gaspé to Les îles-de-la-Madeleine

This Ariose Note is going to back up a little, to the time before Fiona, a time that feels so very long ago, when we were hiding from winds. They were in the 50 km/hr range, gusting to 90 and were not conditions we wanted to be out in. Little did we know that the following week we would find ourselves on a punishing sail in similar winds. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to mid-September…

(Length warning: Ariose Notes are a personal journal that Tim and I enjoy sharing with others. Writing helps us appreciate and process our voyage. Gotta let you know that this leg needs a LOT of processing, so consider yourself warned!)

We arrived at the town of Gaspé in the wee hours of the morning, motoring in the moonlight to the sheltered western shores of Gaspé Bay. We had been unable to sleep anchored off Forillon’s peninsula due to some unruly swells (we have since been offered some great tips to deal with dreaded at-anchor rolliness – thanks Steve & Lisa).  We were now surrounded by hills as natural wind- breaks and nestled behind the long sandspit that cuts off the town’s shores from the Gulf of St. Lawrence’s seas.

Random thought: How the heck did the word “swell” ever came to have positive connotations? It would seem to be more suited to being an expletive, or at least a descriptor of things that cause great discomfort. Maybe it was an early one of those annoying opposite-appropriations, like where ‘bad’ means ‘good’, and ‘it’s been a second’ means ‘it’s been a really long time’?

Anyways, the next day, we had a good weather window to continue on to les Iles-de-la-Madeleine, our next destination, but we let it pass. Tim and I needed a break. We were already tired, and the prospect of an overnight  or two, with heavy conditions looming just a few days beyond meant that the passage would be burdened by the anxiety of getting caught in nasty conditions if something came up to slow us. So many things can go wrong on a boat (as anyone who has been with us on ArioseNotes knows).  We try to allow a generous time buffer if we can. So stay we would.  

Gaspe, at about 15,000 people, is the largest community in Gaspesie , and serves as the gateway to Parc Forillon on one side and Roche Perce/Bonaventure Island on the other.  It’s a good place for a break.

We took a berth at the Club Nautique Jacques Cartier, whose name, like much in this region, honours this early European invader. Gaspé proudly proclaims itself, and in particular, a small point of land along the York River near where it empties into the bay, as the Birthplace of Canada. In French, it’s labelled the Berceau (cradle) of Canada. We cringed at this completely tone deaf-to-the-harms-of-colonization tourist promotion. Yes, there was a nod to indigenous peoples in some of the displays, but the audacity!

A cross, a huge 42 ton granite monolith, quarried far up the St.Lawrence and with much ingenuity, transported and erected to mark the 400th anniversary of Cartier’s arrival, is the centrepiece of this historical site. It’s a bit of one-upmanship to the wooden cross placed here by Cartier to claim this land for France.

One of the excerpts from Cartier’s journal carved into a sculpture on the museum lawn speaks volumes:

“I am more than ever of opinion that these people would be easy to convert to our holy faith. They are the sorriest folk they can be in the world.”

Surprisingly considering Quebec’s deep Catholic roots, the Jesuits failed in their effort to establish a presence in the area. Perhaps those disheartened priests would find their spirits boosted by the Cross of Gaspé. Based on the many steeples lining the coastline that we’ve witnessed from Ariose, their efforts in the “new world” were not completely evangelically bankrupt. A few hundred years later, though, there’s push back, as the t-shirts of the youth captured in this lens-based art exhibit along the waterfront, proclaim.

The plaza, with recreated historical structures, has stories posted of the early days of European exploration and settlement, and the infoboards continue along a shoreline walk.  Much of the focus is on entrepreneurial folks – men that is – who developed the first wharf, launched the first business, erected the first warehouse, etc. and generally made money. Gaspé became an important international seaport. This landmark commemorating their achievements is backed by a modern day tribute to commercialism, the Place Jacques Cartier mall. Ironically, the last of the historic docks and buildings were demolished to allow parking for the mall.

400 years of commercial development. Progress!?

Tourism is clearly important. Cruise ships have been stopping by since the early 1900s. Two anchored in the bay while we were there, and we watched the parade of orange tenders ferry folks to and from the docks.  I had an amusing encounter with one passenger in the tourist info building adjacent to the marina. This elderly woman emerged from the toilet cubicle facing the one I occupied at the exact moment as did I.  She startled for a split second, then in a charming slow southern US drawl, explained,  “I thought you were a mirror”. I wasn’t sure how to take that. A person, looking to be in their late 80s, mistook my nearing 60 presence for her own. I’m still adjusting to the aging appearance of my reflection, but that glimpse into my future that she gifted me was a little much.

Provisioning hike, with Ariose waiting in the background.

With the prospect of a longer passage coming up, we took advantage of the short walk to re-provision groceries. We use propane for cooking and when needed, heating, and had just finished the 1st of our two 10-pound tanks, so tried to top that up too. Tim squeezed the tank in his increasingly worn backpack and we headed off to the only place in town that would fill it. “Just go to the Esso”, we were told. Oops, not the one a couple blocks from the marina, the one a couple kilometers up the hill, yes that huge hill. It ended up being an enjoyable Saturday afternoon hike, prior to our Sunday departure. Good thing it was pleasant, because the propane place was closed until Monday morning. We can wait.


We ended up remaining in Gaspé for a week, as I’ve said, intending to rest and hide out while the strong winds moved through. It wasn’t particularly restful, though. The atmosphere between Tim and I echoed what was going on outside. Conditions, relationship-wise were also heavy.

Heavy clouds over the Club Nautique Jacques Cartier, echoing heavy discussions within Ariose.

Cruising brings extremes, from the ultra-highs that swing to gutting lows, the moments of wonder to the monotonously mundane. For Tim and I, like most cruising couples, especially on a small boat and small budget, relationship dynamics are also intense. It brings out our best and worst qualities. When we’re on the move, or in crisis mode, we often work exceptionally well together. Our differences are complementary. We can be a tight team. During down periods when there’s time to reflect, like when sitting in a marina for a week with the howling winds disrupting sleep, having such divergent ways of communicating, of processing information, of experiencing the world… those differences no longer feel harmonious,

Conversations turned deeper.  The excitement we felt on our maiden voyage in 2016, that dopamine rush that propelled us through the trying times, has waned.  This is not to say we are not enjoying incredible moments, but so far, the jury is out on whether they outweigh the accumulated minor adversities. Will this turn around once we hit those warmer temps and the gorgeous southern waters? Are we even going to make it that far, or should we pull the plug? (Terrible choice of words when living on a boat… I mean figuratively not literally!) We are less than 1/5 of the way to the Caribbean.  If we decide to end the voyage, it would make sense to do so while still in Canada.  Are we more interested and are we more suited to preparing for the dream than the sometimes grind of living it? Are we out here because we’ve talked about it for so long, planned for it for so long, and publically committed to it for so long? Or are we here because we really want to be doing this?  It wasn’t all heavy discussion. We also engaged in some major Netflix binge-watching. Light stuff. As you know, we did decide to carry on…

… right into the path of a hurricane. Once again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

5 days after departing Gaspe

Since we’ve been in the outer St. Lawrence, we’ve been keeping an eye on the US National Hurricane Site. While we were in Gaspé, Earl flitted off Atlantic Canada, and Fiona was yet to be born.  By the time we left, she was a storm of concern, but far, far away.  The day we left Gaspé, we had a vigorous sail out of the bay- a little too vigorous in fact – but we appreciated the half-day head start on the crossing to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdalen Islands). We would then just have a day and a half, rather than a two day sail.

We were pooched, but  as we rounded the peninsula, we anchored with appreciating the break it gave us from the wind and our surreal view of iconic Roche Perce. Before retiring, we checked the weather. Fiona was now building, and projected to head north with about a 50% likelihood of reaching the Maritimes. Most hurricanes that do, brush by and spin off eastward in the Atlantic. And if Fiona did visit Canada, her arrival was expected to be a week away.  It was a concerning, but we decided to continue on. With hindsight, we realize we were influenced by the itchy feet of having just spent a (long) week waiting for weather in Gaspé. Returning to Gaspé for another week would have been prudent. Hindsight.

Early the next morning, a slight deviation in our direct line course to les Îles-de-la-Madeleine allowed us to swing by for a closer view of the iconic Gaspésie landmarks of  Percé Rock and Bonaventure Island.

Bonaventure is a bird sanctuary, and an important northern gannet colony on this side of the Atlantic.  Over 100,000 of these lovely birds call it home. If you look closely, you can see that each ledge has been decorated with their “icing”. I had hoped to catch a good photo as we passed, but no. We will carry lots of images of them zooming around us, and doing their impressive dives, but these need to remain in our memory.  Not a single decent photo.

We had a mutually startling incident with one unfortunate gannet. In an earlier Ariose Note, I talked about the great force of their dives, followed by their buoyant  rise up which almost pops them up and out of the water. With this particular bird, we hadn’t noticed its dive, but couldn’t help but notice its surfacing . I was at the helm, and Tim was sitting comfortably wedged against the bulkhead, both in our usual zone, gazing around at the surroundings.  Suddenly, we were startled by a thud and flurry of large wings splashing at the waterline beside the cockpit, accompanied by a agitated squelchy-squawk.  No idea where this offended gannet entered, but bad luck that in such an endless expanse of water, it chose to come up – hard – under Ariose’s belly!

Albatrosses were believed to carry the souls of past sailors, and having one fly above was considered a good omen. The voyage would be a safe one. We had 30+ hours ahead of us and having a gannet clunk Ariose from below seemed an ominous omen. It awkwardly fluttered across the waves, sat for a bit collecting its thoughts, then took off. We carried on as well.

We maintained good speeds sailing close hauled the entire way to Les ÎIes.  Motion was relatively comfortable, far more so than when on a broad reach or running, but we still both found it hard to sleep. So hard to turn off the amygdala’s alarm whenever genoa sheet fairleads clunk or that errant waves hits broadside. I took first shift at sunset and at 2 am, tired, and thoroughly chilled by the damp sea air, handed over the helm to Tim. I crawled into the settee- turned-berth, appreciating that Tim had pre-warmed it, and rested. Around 5, I relieved Tim, and we both enjoyed the sunrise, guiding us toward our destination.

An hour or so out, we were able to get a cell signal, so with this Fiona storm on our mind, checked weather. Neither of us had been sea sick but that update did cause some queasiness. Fiona was now full-grown, battering Puerto Rico, and there was a strong likelihood she was on her way to Atlantic Canada and quite possibly, les Iles-de-la-Madeleine. Had we just sailed into the path of a hurricane?  Did the gannet incident have something to do with this? But it was Tuesday, and if the predictions about Fiona were accurate, she wasn’t arriving until Saturday. We reminded ourselves that there was still some possibility of it spinning off eastward across the Atlantic. We had time – not a lot – but enough that we didn’t have to make a decision immediately in our sleep-deprived state. 

A little tangent… one of those reality-is-stranger-than fiction tangents. What contributed to Fiona veering west, not east, you might be wondering? After Fiona was named, the subsequent storm was christened according to the next letter in the alphabet, “G” as per storm-naming protocol. Tropical Storm Gaston, brewing near the Azores, and occupying the central north Atlantic, shouldered Fiona right into our path. That storm shares the name of my ex-husband. Go figure. Back to our crossing…

By mid-afternoon, we were at Îles-de-la-Madeleine. An easterly wind for the next 24 hours meant we could stay put anchored off the Etang du Nord beach on les Iles’ west coast for the night. Winds would be an appealing 10-15 knots for most of the next day, before picking up, so we had a window to move.  Once we reached out to Richard, a fellow Alberg 30 owner (who I introduced 2 posts ago – our hurricane saviour) to ask about protected locations on the island, we retired. Time to sleep. We’d decide on next steps in the morning. That was the plan.

BUT – sailing has a way of reminding us how futile human intentions can be when nature is in charge.

Richard snapped this photo of a very insignificant looking Ariose, from the beach at L’Etang du Nord, just after we dropped hook. Thanks Richard!

The next morning, we awoke to our 6am alarm, and experienced another kind of alarm when we checked the weather. Those fierce winds (unrelated to the hurricane) we expected much later that day? They were here.  And Fiona was on track for an earlier arrival.


1 – Run back to Gaspe. Those fierce winds now upon us, and our post-overnight passage hung-over state caused us to rule this one out. It did not feel safe to pull off back-to-back overnight sails especially with a hurricane on the way.

2-Tie up at the neighbouring commercial wharf, a mere 15 minute motor away. Richard had secured us a spot next to a friend eager to swap sailing-to-the-Bahamas stories.  When Fiona hit, despite travelling northward, her spin would cause the most forceful winds/waves/surge to hit from the north-west. Satellite images showed a sturdy breakwall, which was good, but its orientation directly exposed it to Fiona. Hmm. Not so good.  Sadly, in the aftermath of Fiona, we learned that  other boat would never return to the Bahamas. It had been destroyed.

3- Richard, upon consulting with more experienced local navigators, recommended a well-protected  harbour on the inner curve of the opposite side of the island.  As a member of the board, he assured us we could have a berth. Scouring our charts and google satellite images, we agreed. Cap-Aux-Meules marina seemed to offer the best protection possible on the island. This was our best option (see this post if you’re interested in more details).

We estimated that what would be a 10 minute overland drive from our current spot on the west of this sandspit of an island to the sanctuary on the east, would be a 6-hour sail. We needed to head south, then east, then north-west.  That was ok, but what was not ok was that the winds were now at 28 knots, gusting to 52 (multiply that by 1.8 if you think in km/hr).  We are relatively inexperienced at ocean sailing, and have never been in anything close to those kinds of conditions. In fact, we hid out in Gaspé the previous week to avoid similar winds. Nothing like the prospect of a hurricane barreling toward you, though, to inject bravery. We set out immediately.

The strength of the winds in the southerly starting leg was surprising, considering we were in the lee of the island, but seas were tolerable, and even with the 3rd reef in the main (first time we’ve ever gone this far) and the genoa furled to less than 1/3, we made good time. (Reefing and furling sails makes them smaller so that they don’t overpower the boat in heavy conditions).  It might even have been a fun sail, had we not been weighted with the anticipation of what we would be met with as we rounded the southern end.  Tim and I were both nervous.

Anxiety and seasickness, we’ve discovered, are close mates. When anxious, most people are far more prone to being seasick, and being seasick tends to ramp the anxiety up way higher. When anxious, our body pumps out histamines, and histamines can trigger nausea. The medicinal ingredient in Gravol, the standard anti-nausea med is, not surprisingly, an anti-histamine. Tim and I figured out this connection on our first voyage, and, being prone to seasickness (and anxiety!), he now takes Gravol prophylactically. As our turning point neared, we both chewed up a tablet.

Moments later, we rounded the cape, and bam! We were hit full force. Brutal winds. Huge seas with a short period between waves. As Ariose crested one, her nose would be buried in the next with walls of water crashing over us. My Gravol stayed in my body; Tim donated his, and all his stomach contents to the sea. And he continued to do so for the next 9 hours, most of which time he was on his knees on the cockpit floor, curled in a ball. This was déjà vu to our first Atlantic experience in 2016. The trauma of that experrience returned forcefully. I was in fight/flight mode, which for me means feeling responsible to deal with the situation on my own. I was already not thinking clearly enough to remember that I might have been able to help Tim get back on his feet. We had Gravol in a “back-door” form that cannot be vomited up, and stronger anti-anxiety meds that Tim’s doc prescribed for just this kind of situation. But neither of us recalled those options until the next day.

This was the most punishing sail we’ve ever experienced.  I tethered myself to the binnacle, but was still thrown from side to side as I steered with one hand and tried to brace myself with the other. It was taxing. What we expected to be 2 hours of beating into the wind before rounding the next cape took 8, and felt like a lifetime. I could not point Ariose high enough to make progress. Usually, we can make 45-50 degrees to the wind, but I was only managing 80ish, and at that rate, we would never make it. Thinking it was the choppy waves and likely a coastal current holding us back, I did what I knew was the right thing to do, but as a life-long land dweller, feels scary. I headed us out to sea so we’d be less affected by the island. I also started the motor to provide a little more propulsion. It probably had little effect beyond the psychological, and may have even made it more difficult to sail well.

At some point, we had another psychological boost. A songbird, maybe a pine warbler (Kevan?), hitched a ride . We were not alone in our distress. Watching this fragile little creature hop from Tim’s shoulder, to grip various lines, gave hope. Eventually it ended up a stowaway in the cabin.

I was so grateful for Tim’s work on our bilge pumps. Even in the deeper seas, we were still getting lots of water over us, but a quick check verified they were working.  We were now making (slow) progress, and as long as I didn’t think about the torture Tim was going through, my confidence was climbing. I could do this, I thought. Then an alarm sounded. I looked into the cabin and felt a stab of panic.

Buoyant items stowed under the sole had pushed up the floorboards. Water was nearly over the starter battery. Had we been holed? Or was there that much water from the waves crashing over us making its way in? The pumps that were capable of expelling huge volumes of water were not keeping up. I realized the alarm must be the high-water one meant to alert us to this very situation. Tim was able to rouse himself enough to get the manual handle in, and to start to pump. I confirmed the water was going down. Breathe.  The alarm stopped.  The pumps had just been temporarily overwhelmed, I thought.  We’re ok. The potatoes stored under the sole (floor) will be soggy, but we will have an exciting story. Tim resumed his heaving huddle, and I was back to the helm.  

Within minutes, the alarm sounded again. Adrenaline spiked as I pumped with my left hand, steered with right, and tried to wedge head and knees to prevent myself from being thrown around. Alarm would stop. I’d breathe. And then the alarm would sound again, and I’d feel my panic spike. Alarm – panic pump. Over and over. Thirty pumps then breathe then repeat.  Muscles burning through the cold. I wasn’t sure I could keep going, so I made a plan.

I turned back toward the island – thankfully it was a sandy beach and not rocky shoals. I knew that the waves in the shallows would be horrendous – and they were – but we needed to be close. I would continue as long as I could, tacking back and forth close to shore, and once the water in the cabin neared the top of the stove, I would call a Mayday and run us aground. It was a dreadful prospect, but I could think of no other options. We were in desperate straits. My body felt numb and my brain disassociated as I watched the scene unfold. Tim was blissfully oblivious, or as blissful as one can be while soaked and incapacitated on the cockpit floor.

Tim had no idea of my panic. He just saw me at the helm, dealing with it. That’s what I do: Keep up an appearance of “dealing with it”.   His reality was completely different than mine. He wanted the passage to be over, but felt no fear. This, for him, was just another issue with one of our boat systems, that he would get to correcting, once able.

Over the next hour or so, as I realized I was keeping up and we weren’t sinking, I allowed myself to feel some grains of hope. I vowed to NEVER allow us to be in this kind of situation again. 

Finally, we threaded the needle of the channel between Havre Aubert and Iles Grand Entrée. This well-marked pass, which we shared with a large fishing vessel  and some menacing rocks, would have been routine on another day, but with nerves fully frayed, it felt terrifying. We then sped along in improved seas, on a 90-minute broad reach to Cap-Aux-Meule harbour. Our sanctuary. Tim began to resurrect himself. Sadly, our inspiring stowaway didn’t fare so well.

Our intended 5-6 hours to relocated from the west to the east side of the island was11 hours in total, and it felt like it took several years off our lives.

Days later, once settled in safely at a motel, we realized that our situation was never anywhere as dire as I had thought. What I interpreted as the bilge alarm telling me we were sinking was not that at all. One pump was getting jammed on hoses in the bilge, so the pumps were overwhelmed at times, but the alarm triggering my panic was in fact the propane sensor, set low in the boat to alert us to leaks. It was malfunctioning due to having been submerged. I could have just ignored the annoyance. Perception is reality, though. My fear, unfounded as it was, was real.

I don’t have words to describe the relief in getting to Cap-Aux-Meule, but there was no time to celebrate. We now needed to get ready for a hurricane. We then set about  using the next  2 days to prepare for Fiona.  And that story, as you know, has a happy ending.

Ariose upon arrival at Cap-Aux-Meule marina. Safe.

We’re fine…

… and very, very grateful. We’ve just woken on the day after Hurricane Fiona’s hit. This has been our first full-night’s sleep in a week. We’ re fine, and Ariose is fine. Many others here on les Iles de la Madeleine (Magdalen Islands) and throughout Atlantic Canada have not been so fortunate.

Friday night, Fiona howled, the hotel creaked and groaned, and we tried, unsuccessfully, to rest. Tim and I spent a very long Saturday between the common room, catching the coverage with others sheltered here, and watching the live show from our room.

CBC had set a camera just outside our balcony, capturing the scene we were watching. It’s one of the images being shown over and over again on the news. And this is the sea’s fury on the sheltered side of the islands.

Image copied from CBC news feed.

When the waves grew even higher, it appeared as though this massive breakwall , this gargantuan barrier that we were relying on for Ariose’s protection, had broken open. With forces capable of that destruction, we began to process the sickening reality that we quite likely had lost our boat, the boat we have put so much of our hearts and hands (and money!) into.

Not too long after, a message was relayed to us from the marina: “your boat is like a seagull in shelter”. Relief. And a few tears.

By afternoon, winds were reported to have dropped to 80-90 km/hr with gusts to 120-130. When we popped our heads out to see for ourselves, they seemed less strong here at Cap-Aux-Meules. We suited up in our foulies, and with Fiona’s helpful push at our backs, hiked down to the marina at a blustery pace. (The hike back was not so easy!!) It was a pleasant shock to see only a few signs of damage along the way. Other areas on the island have not emerged so unscathed.

Some structures at Cap-aux-Meules harbour were rearranged by Fiona.

Sure enough, Ariose was sitting calmly, and perhaps even content with the vigorous fresh water power-wash she had received.

Last night we slept. Finally. We awoke to sunny blue skies, making the last few days feel like nothing more than a bad dream.

Fiona has forced a reality check. Even had we not placed ourselves near the eye of a hurricane, this has been a challenging couple weeks for Tim and me on our adventures on Ariose,. We will now take some time to re-evaluate and plan what’s next.

In the meantime, thank you for your concerns and kind thoughts and wishes.

Fiona, We’re ready for you

A lot has happened since our last Ariose Note, but that’s for another time.

This is just a quick update. (I’m not sure if it takes the force of an impending hurricane for me to be a little less wordy or if it’s the week’s accumulated fatigue, but either way, this will be brief!) We’re getting lots of “hope you didn’t cross to Magdalen Islands” and “holy sh*t, did you know you’re about to be hit by what’s likely to be Canada’s strongest-ever storm?” kinds of messages.

Umm… yes. We did and we know. And we really appreciate everyone’s thoughts and messages of concern.

Thanks to the generosity and connections of Richard and Raymonde, fellow Alberg 30ers living here on the beautiful Iles-de-la-Madeleine who we met through an owners facebook group, we’re in as safe and prepared a state as possible for the imminent storm.

Richard delivering still-warm home-baked sourdough bread and cerise-au-terre jam to fortify us as we prepare for Fiona. (Richard & Raymonde already generously delivered us their car for use during our stay!)

Les-Iles are an italicized “i” shaped slip of gorgeous sandstone bluffs and dune beaches in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Iles de la Madeleine – unlabelled slip of islands in this screenshot, north of PEI.

We look forward to sharing more about this very special place, but that, too, can wait for another post. According to the most recent forecast, we are just off-centre of Hurricane Fiona’s projected eye. It is just a category 1 storm, so although serious, it could be MUCH worse. We’ll get to meet Fiona in a few hours.

Here’s a screenshot of the current state. As I type, Fiona is clearly barreling down on Nova Scotia. (Our thoughts are with you and Joan and ShBoom, George.) We’re the small green dot in the following images. I won’t bother with providing a legend as it’s kind of self-evident: red indicates the “Oh sh*t” force winds and black/grey the “Oh F*CK” force winds.

Fiona barreling down on Nova Scotia at the moment.

Fortunately, with modern meteorology, we have warning of what to expect, and fortunately, hurricanes usually don’t linger. Fiona’s visit will be mercifully brief.

We’re told to expect sustained winds of 100 km/hr, gusting to 140-160 km/hr. “Torrential” rainfalls are forecast. Who knew we’d get the pleasure of tropical rains in the Gulf of St.Lawrence? Ariose will get a much-needed fresh-water rinse. Winds are certainly a concern, but the more significant danger comes from the sea. It is the waves and storm surges that are most destructive. We’re being warned that waves will range from 11-15 metres in height, with dangerous storm surges. Fiona will hit from the north-west, and there will likely be brutal impacts on the land and people along that coastline.

But this Ariose Note is supposed to be alleviate concern, so I’ll move from those alarming facts to our reassuring situation. We are so grateful to have Ariose nestled – or should I say spider-webbed – into a exceptionally well-protected marina in Cap-aux-Meules, on the leeward side of the main island. We likely will have less severe winds than those forecast, and should not be subjected to the dangerous waves nor storm surges.

Can you spot Ariose? Sadly, the freighter that had been offering us a welcome windblock, has moved on.

The winds will first hit Isles-de-la-Madeleine’s opposite coastline, so we have several barriers to protect us: the island itself, a massive curved breakwall that serves the commercial harbour / ferry docks, and then another concrete roadway and breakwall that surrounds Club Nautique Cap-Aux-Meules. That’s a lot of reassuring defenses aligned between Ariose and Fiona’s fury.

We’ve had 2 days to prepare, and if you are interested in details, we made a 4 min, uncut, rather bumbling video giving an overview of most of what we did to reduce the risk Ariose faces.

If you’d rather not watch, here’s a couple photos of stripped-down Ariose that give you the same story.

And to reduce the risk we face? We’ve packed up essentials (food, water, communications, passports, charge devices and power banks , etc…. oh yes, and wine) and have hunkered down for the next 2 days, in a motel overlooking the harbour. This indeed, is a room with a view, to what we hope ends up being a not too exciting a show.

As for us, we’re confident that we are safe, and whatever happens to Ariose, she is after all, just a boat. Our thoughts are with the many others who are in a much more vulnerable place than we are. Until next time…

Calm before the storm as a great blue heron greets us upon arrival at Cap-Aux-Meules’ safe harbour.