Tag Archives: solo sailing

Splashing: First sail to Lunenburg!

This Ariosenote takes us into the water at last! Just a minute though. Before we go jumping into the water and getting all wet, lets take some time to acknowledge that I appreciate Darren and the Gold River Marina staff for their desire and in thinking about their clientele and making sure that everyone is treated with respect. I will always champion people and businesses who honestly try to be fair to people. Unfortunately, there are lots who are only trying to take advantage of others. Gold River does not fall into this category. For that, I am eternally grateful and a champion of your marina!! Now, on to wetness!!

Darren, in his colour appropriate attire, inspecting things before loading Ariose onto the hydraulic trailor!
Darren with James who is also the official button pusher to lower the railway travel lift into the water.

Finally splashing at Gold River, my mind was swirling at the sight of Ariose’sunderbelly finally touching the water of the Atlantic once again. I was pretty elated, as you might imagine, to see this all unfold. That’s why there is lots of great video of every step! See Ariose Sailing on youtube (link at the end of this post) for the full video. It’s such a beautiful and natural sight to see a fish out of water, reacquainted with the medium for which it was designed.

Gold River was great, but, I was itching to get out and be on my way. I was excited to be at the helm and begin my new job as the captain of Ariose! I knew that it would be a great experience and I was right. The sail to Lunenburg was uneventful and enjoyable. Of course, I had to motor out of the marina, partly because I wasn’t willing to wait for wind and because as a novice solo sailor, I wouldn’t feel completely confident in my ability to negotiate all of the other boats while leaving the docks. I made sure too, from previous experience backing up a full keel sailboat, that the crew put Ariose into the slip stern first so I could just motor out easily in the morning.

In the morning, after loading up on supplies and getting everything put away for the journey, I prepared to leave the Gold River Marina dock for the first and maybe last time.

My neighbour and fellow solo sailor friend Trevor was there to help me begin the journey. We met in the boatyard, as many sailors do, because we are both working on a dream . I learned about his Vancouver 27 by helping Trevor with it and by listening to his description of it. It’s a beautiful design and has many of the features of the Alberg 30. They’re pretty much the same size; the Alberg just has a longer overhang at the stern which makes the extra 3 feel. The amount of boat in the water is essentially the same, as is the remarkable similarity in displacement (weight). With a taller cabin top, the Vancouver 27 seems quite a lot more spacious than the Alberg and I really liked the layout.

Trevor, also from Ontario, was very quick to offer rides into town; a welcome accommodation, considering the 10k walk into Chester for groceries or hardware. I took him up on his offer a coupletimes which made the month I was stuck at the marina much more palatable. For anyone else in this predicament, there is a great not-for-profit operating in the Chester Basin called Community Wheels. It’s donation based and you can get a ride anywhere in the Chester area for very low cost while your driver waits for you to finish! I used it once and it’s a fantastic model for other areas to adopt.

Sailors are an interesting lot and Trevor and I got chatting about mental health before too long. Turns out we’ve both struggled with addictions and have been on our own journey’s to break the cycle. Since addictions are not a choice and are often the result of trauma, whether ongoing and daily, from childhood or intergenerational, and for many…..all three, it was so nice to be in the company of someone who had learned to be companionate and understanding of the struggles of others. When you have struggled, you tend to realize and accept people with how they present without judgement. I noticed this right away with Trevor. We both know that people go through experiences that are difficult and traumatic and that the worst thing you can do is to blame and punish them……..something our society seems to be completely unaware of.

Anyway……to the water! I got the engine fired up and everything ready for the journey. Then, I called on Trevor to hold the bow line as I exited the slip. True to Trevor’s nature, his final parting words were to offer me a ride, if I needed one! Thanks Trevor!

Trevor and his Vancouver 27. I was just about to cast off the bow lines and I asked Trevor to do the casting!

It was a glorious departure! I was pumped and heading out into the blue to start my journey. I pulled out the mainsail at the first sight of wind, leaving the motor running, just in case. Once I sensed the wind and pulled the stop on the engine, I ghosted along at 1-2 knots, but I didn’t care…….I was free!

Soon more wind picked up and I found myself screaming towards Lunenburg under sail! I sailed all the way up the harbour, with other beautiful sail craft in hot pursuit. There are always Schooners of all sorts plying these waters and you are more likely to see a schooner than any other type of boat (check out the video for the schooner regatta). Even the Bluenose II is a very likely figure on the waters in Lunenburg harbour. The maritime history here is palpable and it hangs on your tongue like a wet, dense and salty fog!

As I came towards the end of the main harbour, I decided to take down the sails before entering an unknown harbour, for the same reason that I left a marina with the engine. One day, I will feel more comfortable controlling the boat in close quarters. So, I furled in the genoa in preparation for turning up wind. Then made the turn, dropping the main which completely depowers the boat and took my time tying up the mainsail. Then, into the harbour I went under motor. Having practiced anchoring in unknown harbours many times on our way down the eastern seaboard in 2016, I was not concerned about this maneuver, although, I had always had someone to take care of part of the process. But, with careful consideration of the order of events, anchoring alone was a breeze! And there it was, my first journey! I was anchored in lunenburg Nova Scotia, just a stones through from the iconic Canadian racing sailboat the Bluenose II. (see the video for a short clip of it motoring out of the harbour.

Waking up to this view….(pic through the porthole) gave me a taste of the experiences yet to come!

The next 2 weeks I had relegated to finishing some small projects, getting my first blog/vlog posts out and getting whatever supplies ready for the first major sail out of the harbour.

I awoke to the beautiful regatta of Schooners in the am and thought “so this is what people in Lunenburg do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon”. Pic

I found that it was super easy to walk to groceries and hardware and pretty much anything else. I found great places to go for walks and some interesting shops to wander through steeped in maritime history.

Some things I’m not that good at taking pictures of but here is a pic of the Lunenburg Welcome Sign and a nice trail I found to go for morning jogs!

Having a vibrant sailing community, the government organization that looks after marinas in the province provide very nice and clean washrooms open 24/7 and even all winter! Heres a pic of the government marina building that I spend a fair amount of time around. I was just filling up water jugs for my first attempt out of the harbour (have I told you yet how many times I attempted leaving the harbour for my first overnight sail?) Then, if a shower and laundry was required, a scant 5 dollar fee got you into the room for 5 bucks! Pretty good deal! For someone living on a boat, that kind of service is rare and very welcome. (Pic of me letting my hair dry)

Like me, Poco is a different sort a feller as evidened by the dinghy dock in Lunenburg!

I was prepared, but, I still had anxiety about the upcoming potential Hurricane Franklin. I found two handheld gps’s to set anchor alarms on. The Hurricane Franklin which was downgraded to a sub-tropical storm by the time it hit the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, but still, the wind really tugged and pulled at the bow of Ariose and swung it around on it’s anchor quite violently. The worst winds were to hit in the middle of the night and I only managed to stay up until midnight and the anchor was still holding well, so, I closed my eyes! At 3am, I awoke, probably due to some loud banging noise, and checked on things during the worst of the wind in excess of 40 knots, but, Ariose had still not budged. I watched until 5am and then fell asleep again feeling pretty confident that there was no danger of Ariose dragging.

What I really love about the experience of going through a hurricane is how the morning after Is like “sitting on the bed with a dazed look, after a tumultuous sexual encounter”. Yahooo! Fiona was like that last year. The sky can be clear, sunny and almost smug with the forgetfulness of the events of the last evening. It’s like, “don’t you remember dear, how angry you were last night?”. Apparently not! And, so it goes.

The time came when I was preparing for my 2 nd voyage and first chance to try over night sailing. I stocked up (pic of poco with jugs above) and got Ariose all ready. In the morning, it was a beautiful and uneventful motor out of the anchorage at 10 am. Brimming with confidence, I left the anchorage. Once I got out in to the open harbour I experienced my first trouble. In the tension leading up to leaving I had forgotten to untie all of the lines that I tie at the bow to reduce noise at night. So, when I first unfurled the genoa, it just got tangled in a mess of constricting lines. Mistake number one. Mistake number 2 was when I thought that it was a good time to reef the main. A squall was coming so I dropped the main a little and proceeded to pull on the reefing lines. What ensued was a vivid portrayal of a comic of some kind, as I pretty much just got wrapped up in lines and strapped to the deck like yesterdays catch of the day, barely alive but still flailing! It was hilarious, if it wasn’t so darn demoralizing and self un-affirming!

I pulled out all of the long reefing lines fed to the cockpit to free myself and the mainsail and continued on. Someone didn’t install those correctly, I said to myself outloud!

It was getting late in the afternoon and I was becoming more and more cognizant of the oncoming overnight sail, my first! I realized soon thereafter, that my anxiety was rising to epic levels and suddenly, with very little consideration, hove to. (stopped the boat). I sat there bobbing, floating, meandering for half an hour at least thinking hard about what I was about to encounter at night, all alone, on the Atlantic ocean. Then, a snap decision occurred, and I turned Ariose around and headed back towards Lunenburg upwind under motor! An anxiety attack is nothing to fool with. I felt good about the decision to turn around because the alternative was not a viable option. I needed to regroup.

I seriously considered ending the trip, thinking that I just didn’t have the ability to control my anxiety and extreme fear to complete this voyage. I mean, was I fooling myself, thinking that I could control this beast that had pasted me to the floor on several occasions while I was sailing with Shirl, rendering me nothing more useful than a stick of driftwood, jetsam of the tides? It took me a few days of reflection before I could even entertain the thought of trying again. After a few days, with the level headed thinking of my mentor George, came a plan to leave Lunenburg with a more manageable expectation. His idea was to day hop down the coast, little by little, before gaining enough confidence to try an over night in good conditions. A sensible approach, I’d say.

So, a few days later, I made a second attempt. Leaving the harbour in a dense, yet, sun illuminated fog………..it was a beautiful experience! And what of that overnight plan? The plan that had me leaving the harbour and heading straight for Cape Cod Maine, a distance of close to 400Kn miles (750approx kms) and 3-4 overnights? Maybe a tad bit too soon? Maybe…..I’ll be on American soil in the next Ariose Note?! I’ll leave you with these lovely couple of shots of Ariose parked in front of Lunenburg.

Fair winds.