Trip to the Madeline Islands

This is it.  The beginnings of a dream of a lifetime.  Notice I say “A dream”, and not “the dream of a lifetime”, because, as I am learning, it is not everyone’s dream.  It is, however, mine.

The boat is a 30 foot full keel heavy (10,500 lb.) vessel.  Our list of “must have’s” included a full keel, a centerboard (less draw, good for Victoria, and the Bahamas), a marine head with holding tank, and a solid hull.  I was willing to do lots of repairs, but did not want to get into repairing blisters, and tearing out sandwiched decks at the start.

We found the vessel we wanted, at a price we felt we could afford (actually, my words were : “ This is a steal!”.  HA!  How little I know.  The more I learn about sailing and cruising, the less I know.  Pot ‘O’ Gold was in Detroit, Michigan, in the states.  I had a survey done by a Canadian Surveyor (insurance company requirement), which of course, I had to pay almost double for.  They survey came back that the boat was in “above average” condition physically, although dirty, and had no upgrades done.  I said that’s perfect, we can make her what we want.

The boat was trucked out in the spring of 2003, and I was so busy at work I never set foot on the vessel.  It was on her cradle beside our house in the country.

I spent the winter  buying parts on ebay, Mary Beth had new curtains made and the cushions all re-covered.

Mary Beth and I both took the CPS (Canadian Power Squadron) Boating course, I also took the VHF course that year, then I passed the Piloting Course the following year (hoo haw, I can now put a “P” beside my name, so the documents say).

This year, 2004, work is slower in the summer, and I have two years worth of vacation coming to me.  The plan was to get the boat ready on days off, then go for a long sailing trip (Iles-de-la-Madéline).  The week off I took was cold, windy, and wet for the entire week.  I got little more done than to prepare a list of the parts I would need.

I wanted to completely re-do the plumbing, had to repair the water tank under the v berth, install all the new fancy instruments I had purchased over the winter, which included running a lot of new wiring, install a furler, solar panel, wind generator, sand and bottom paint, oil the woodwork, run new running rigging, re-wire the mast, and more.

So, I needed another week off, this time, determined to get the work done.  First job, install the new cutlass bearing.  This means climbing over the engine, and working, with two wrenches, behind and below the engine.  Boy, did I get bruises.  And I bled, a lot.  I got it in, but, alas, the hose didn’t fit.  Start another parts list.

I bought a “wireless” depth sounder, knowing that the less wiring I had to run, the better off I was.  Whoever named them “wireless” should be shot.  They have more wires than the regular depth sounder, just not to each other (so there is actually double the wiring).  I’m learning, but I’m a slow learner.

The hole in the V-Berth water tank is re-fiberglassed, and a new plywood top on, I only screwed it on in case I have to go back in.  New cabin lights in the v-berth, and with the re done cushions and new curtains, it looks great.

One of my “must haves” was a good marine head.  We had a porta potty on our last boat, and whenever the weather got rough with big seas, the potty fell over.  Oh yea, and leaked “blue water” everywhere.  All my clothes were blue that year.  Ok, my fault, should have tied it down somehow, but I was too busy, sailing!  So when I re-did the plumbing, I checked out everything on the toilet I could, and everything worked, all it needed was cleaning.  So when the boat hit the water, one of the things I did before heading out was to check out the head.  The only part I could not check on land was the pump to pump the raw water from the sea into the toilet to flush.  I tried that now.  It did not work.  Add to the parts list. When the parts arrived, I took the whole toilet apart, cleaned and replaced the pieces with the rebuild kit.  I tried again, still did not work.  Read directions.  Says the feed line must be primed.  Primed feed line (pour a little water in).  Works like a dream.  Did I need the new parts?  No, but I now have a spare re-build kit.

Since I am talking about the head, it’s the perfect time to discuss installing the new plumbing.  This was a “Great Lakes” boat, which means the holding tank was not allowed to be dumped over the side.  We live on the coast, and dumping over, at least 3 miles offshore is allowed.  Which means there are literally no, or very few working pump out stations, so we need to be able to pump overboard.  This means all the plumbing comes out, and the holding tank (rubber, inflatable) needs to be cleaned and re-installed.  Not a job for the faint of heart.  Now, understand, I have 3 kids.  I never willingly changed a diaper.

I am presently taking Spanish lessons, and the word for wife is “la mujer” (pronounced la muck her), as in muck her hands up with diaper stuff.  Easy for me to remember, because its true.  That’s exactly how it happened in my house, I never had to muck my hands up with diaper stuff, until now.

As I pulled the pipes apart, took two hands, twisting, under the settee, with my head stuck in a 12” X 12” hole, not sure how my arms got in, I gagged.  The overbearing odor of 25 year old sewage filled the bilge, and my nose, and lungs, and mouth.  I of course, threw up.  I am now glad (and so are my wife and kids) that I never did do their diapers, or we would both have been a mess instead of just me, now, in that little hole in the boat.

Eventually, everything came out, and went immediately to the garbage, except the holding tank, which was cleaned, scrubbed, and soaked.

And soaked again, in sweet smelling soap.

New sewage lines, new “lockable ‘Y’ valve”, in case we ever decide to go back to the Great Lakes, (via the water, of course, no more trucking for this boat!), macerator pump (via e-bay).

New lines from the fresh water tank under the v-berth to the bathroom sink (hand pumped), and to the galley sink (electric pump).

Now, water that sits stagnant for any length of time starts to taste funny.  I can put up with a lot, but when it comes to my drink of choice (rye whiskey and water), it must taste proper.  So, another water tank goes in, this time for fresh bottled drinking water, and another tap (hand pumped) to the galley sink.

Bathroom tap works great, the galley sink electric tap did not.  I ran it until almost burning out the battery, then decided something was wrong.  Remember the head?  I learned my lesson, and I primed it, charged the battery and tried it again.  Nada, nothing.  Pulled the lines off and sucked.  Nothing.  Tried the hand pump.  Works, there is water.  There shouldn’t be, the hand pump is hooked up to the drinking water, and I haven’t put any in yet.

It turns out I am incredible at hooking things up backwards.  It seems like I do that a lot.  I do try not to.

Anyway, we now have fresh drinking water (I put some in the tank from bottles, it holds 30 gallons) from the electric tap, and lots of fresh water in the v-berth holding tank, filled from a hose dockside, through the hand pumps.  I can certainly get my drinks fast.

The boat came equipped with an alcohol stove.  Now, everywhere I have read states that alcohol is the safest fuel to use.  Won’t explode, can be put out with water, and is only slightly less efficient than propane.

So I go to the local camping store to buy alcohol.  No chance.  Another thing I have learned in the last 20 years is that if everyone doesn’t want it, you can’t buy it on PEI.  You can however, special order things.  So I order 1 quart (don’t want to overdo it, it might not work!).

I fill the tank (takes ½ the quart), it runs out the bottom, out the top, everywhere until its empty.  Good thing its water soluble.  Fill the bilge with water, hand pump it out.

Write down the name and model of the stove, search on the internet, order parts.

Now, with a rebuilt pump, and the nuts tightened, I pour just a little alcohol in (ha, see, I do learn!).  No leaks.  Now I fill the tank (quart gone), and follow directions.  Pump the tank under pressure, let a little come out into a “cup”, burn it off, then run the stove.  Now, Mary Beth happened to be in the boat watching (boat still on land, beside the house) when I lit it on fire.

It did not explode, it just looked like it did.  Fire shot up to the ceiling, had to pull the curtains down in a hurry, I’m picturing my boat melting.  After it settled down a bit, it worked.

I tried it again, and it worked properly.  Ok, just needed to burn out the dirt.

The next year, after we launched the boat, and are ready for our trip, I try the stove again.

(no, I didn’t buy more alcohol, still had a full tank, remember?).

As soon as I pump it up, all the alcohol shoots out the stove, fills the top of the stove, runs under it, goes everywhere.  I hide the lighters.

Soak all the alcohol up, and go digging through the garage for a portable propane bbq the kids bought me last Christmas.  We will use this for the trip.

The boat is equipped with an ice box.  Now, traveling around the world, looking for and trying to buy ice is not my idea of self-sufficiency.  So, I research refridgeration systems.  The common denominator for refrigeration, is that if you have it, it will not only break, it will break when its almost full, and its hot outside.

This puts me in somewhat of a dilemma, until I read about a cooler using a new type of compressor that uses very small amounts of energy, and will even freeze and make ice cubes!

So, I try to buy one, through my local PEI distributor.

He has none in stock, and it would cost him too much to ship one here, but he can order me one that will only take three weeks to arrive, is not quite as big, won’t make ice, and is not quite as efficient, and costs more than a new fridge for my house.  Do I want it?

I decline, and call the manufacturer of the one I originally wanted.

They have a factory rebuilt I can have shipped today, one half the cost of local, and delivered this week.

I bought it.

HA!  Now I can make my own ice, and have the best of both worlds.  Make ice and use the ice box, as well as have a freezer.

This “thing” (for want of a better word) arrives, its about twice the size of a regular cooler, and weighs over 80 lbs.

Any place I put it, it will be in the way.

Yes, it makes ice cubes.  Yes, it will keep things cool.  One or the other, not both.

No, it is not energy efficient.  Not by my definition.  Every time I use it, with battery power, my batteries die.  Even with the motor running.   I cannot believe the battery could die with the motor running.

I’m told I don’t have the proper type of battery.  “Yes I do!” I reply, I checked out all the amp hour stuff, and I should have lots.

Then, when I check the alternator, its not alternating (ok, then, charging), when the solar panel is plugged in.  Must be because the solar panel is reading over 13 amps, and telling the alternator that the battery is full, even though its empty.  What?  That makes absolutely no sense to me, but the electronics guy I hired says that’s whats wrong.

Unplug the solar panel when the motor is running if the battery is dead, says he.

I will try that.  At one point, with the motor in neutral, I accidentally kicked the accelerator handle.  Not only did the motor rev way up, but the little guage for the ampmeter went way over to the positive side.  WOO HOO! I fixed it.

“What did you do?” asks my galley slave.

“It appears to be working, which means I fixed it” was the best reponse I could muster.

Actually, it turns out that the alternator does work, it doesn’t matter if the solar panel is plugged in, its just the way the charging system works.  The alternator needs to spin fast enough to start charging, then will continue to charge until the battery is fully charged.  Which is why they make the new “smart chargers” for sailboat applications.  I, of course, did not buy one of those.

I will, of course, now add one to my new parts list.

The only unknown with this boat when I bought it was the engine.  (hey, it’s a sailboat, the engine is secondary.  Yea, right, whoever said this has never owned, or cruised in a sailboat).

When the vessel (it now costs too much to call it a “boat”) arrived at my home on PEI the engine looked perfect.  This boat has sit “on the hard” (on land for you landlubbers) for several years, so the engine should be well treated before starting.

I smelled the gas (its an “Atomic 4”, over 40,000 made, over 20,000 still in use, so its gotta be good, right?), and the gas didn’t smell like varnish, so I tried the engine.

Took a bit, but it started, and sounded good, too.  Looked at the gauges, temperature was getting on the hot side.  Then it got really hot.  Steam was coming from the engine room.  Lots of steam.  Smelled funny, too.  Shut everything off, then read the manual.  This engine needs water.  I’ve never heard of an engine that needs water, but this one does.  I rig up a bucket and hose to the hole that the engine is supposed to get its water from.  It starts (man, this thing starts well!), but gets really hot, really fast.  Shut it down.  Read more of the manual.

The engine is actually below the water line when the boat is in the water, so the water pump does not have to actually pump water, it just controls it.  Now the way I figure it, if I can make it pump up a couple feet, then it will really be a working water pump.  So I remove the water pump, take it apart (they are actually quite simple inside), clean it up, put new grease in the little cup (this cup gets turned every few trips, which forces grease into the pump, and is also part of the pump system, which means, if there is no grease, its pumping air, so it won’t work), and try it again, with a hose and bucket.

It works.  It pumps water, a lot of water.  Seems like a lot of water to me, but then, what do I know?

After doing some research, it turns out this motor (engine) should run about 140 degrees, any hotter, and the salt will precipitate out of the seawater, and clog up the little engine pores.  Any cooler, and it won’t run efficient.

So I try to remove the thermostat and clean it up.  There is no thermostat.  Should be.  I email the PO (Previous Owner, whole new language, this boating), he tells me he just controlled the temp with a ball valve, so there is no need of a thermostat.

Now, to get at the engine, you need to remove the companionway staircase. (stairs going from the cockpit to the galley).  You need to move the staircase somewhere.  You need to get a flashlight to see inside, and to adjust the ballvalve you need to stick your arm in between a hot pipe, and the alternator fan, and it moves very quickly.

Why, oh why, would the PO decide he did not need a thermostat to adjust the temperature automatically, unless he was open to the engine room, a lot!  (starting to get the picture yet?).

I ordered a thermostat (which I have not yet installed, this should tell you something about the staircase being open), new plugs and wires, and a gallon of liquid gold for cleaning called “Marsolve”, which is supposed to clean up the inside of the exhaust and make it “shiny clean, just like new”, and is not harmful to the environment.

I recirculated the Marsolve through the exhaust system, making it shiny clean, just like new, changed the plugs, wires, then pumped some environmentally safe anti freeze into the engine, and declared it ready for winter.

In the spring, I rinsed out the anti freeze, and said the engine is ready to run.  On my trial run (about 20 minutes) after launch, it ran fine.  First trip out, it ran ok, loud, but ok, everything looked fine, but there were a lot of fumes.  A LOT of fumes, and smoke.  Looked at the temperature guage, over 240 degrees.  I forgot to open the thru hull fitting, that allows the water pump to let cooling water into the engine.  I do it now.

The engine cooled down, and ran ok, but very loud.

I figure there is still old gas in the tank (of course there is, I never changed it!), and when it gets empty, new gas will fix all.

My first actual voyage was to Summerside, with Mary Beth, we spent the night there, then she had our son pick her up, she had to work the next day.  I spent the night on the boat, then sailed home Monday.

By 11:30 am I was under the Northumberland Strait Bridge, and the sail was going well, but there were extremely heavy tides and currents under the bridge (there is always more there than anywhere else, but due to a full moon, there was even more now).  I called Mary Beth and told her how wonderful it was going, by the end of the conversation, my cell phone was beeping (low battery).

I decided to start the engine to help me through these tides, I was going nowhere.  The engine coughed, choked, and died after running for about ½ hour, very slowly, even more fumes now.

Ok, I’m a sailor anyway.  Six hours later, I finally sail through the tides and currents, and continue my journey.

It is now after 6 pm, and under normal circumstances I could get to home port (Victoria) in about 3 hours.  Now of course, the wind has died.

I decide to call home so no one gets worried, it will be very late when I get home.  The cell phone is dead, naturally.

I try the VHF radio (I have two, brand new ones, one mounted, and a hand held).

No response from anyone.

I try the coast guard on the emergency channel, without a lot of hope.  We live in a dead signal area, and I have never had much success reaching the coast guard from this area, and today is no different.

I resign myself to the fact that very shortly, the whole world will think I have been lost at sea.

I remember from one of my sailing courses that at dusk, and dawn, the warm air cooling will provide a slight on shore, or off shore breeze (depending on which is cooler), so I let the vessel drift close to shore, and guess what?  Its true!!

I pick up a small breeze, and head home slowly, very close to shore.  In the dark.  I have never sailed at night before and here I am, sailing at night, in a crippled vessel.

Now, Victoria by the Sea, PEI is an absolutely beautiful harbor and village.  It is also known by sailors as having a nasty channel to navigate where anyone actually getting through it without going aground has bragging rights.

I’m going to have to do this channel under sail, in the dark, and with no motor to help.

I haul out the anchor, tie it off, and get it ready to throw.  If anything goes wrong, I will fire the anchor over, have a double and go to sleep.  A fisherman will tow me in the morning.

Its now after midnight, and I make it through the channel.  Now, keep in mind, the winds were light, and blowing perfectly.  The mainsail was down, and I was using the jib only, which I can furl and unfurl a little at a time from the cockpit.  I learned to love my chartplotter that night, I just followed it exactly.

When I get very close to the wharf, I decide to try the engine again, and eureka, it started, loud, lots of fumes, but it ran.  Several people, some I knew, were standing on the wharf, I figure there’s a party going on, I ask for help tying up.  They help, all the while telling me the coast guard is out looking, the RCMP have been on site, flares were going off in the Strait, they had given me up for dead.  Go figure.  We call the coast guard, tell them I’m ok, buy the guys a round of drinks.  All because of a non-working engine.

We are supposed to go to the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in a couple days, I suggest Mary Beth change her holidays, and give me a few more days to explore the engine problem.  She agrees quickly, very quickly.  She would have gladly given up her holidays to not have to come at this point.

The next day, I gather my tools, remove all drinking alcohol from the boat, and go exploring in the engine room.  The exhaust pipe cooling jacket is closed right off.  Two things happened earlier (on the trip to Summerside) that did not make sense, but I dismissed them as incidental.  One was the battery went dead (while the engine was running!).  I just switched to the other battery, and forgot about it.  The other is that the centerboard would not drop.  More on this later, but those two things bear mentioning now.

With this exhaust water jacket broken, the water pump that pumps water fast, is simply pumping water directly into the boat.  Look out bilge pump.  It must have never shut off.  I also had the big refrigerator plugged in to the battery, and had the solar panel turned on.  I am becoming convinced that when the solar panel is on, the alternator is reading that the battery is over 13 amps charged (what the solar panel charges at) so does not try to charge.  I now try to unplug the solar panel when the motor is running.  Anyway, this would explain why the battery died.

I (along with my son) removed this water jacket, its about 6 feet long and runs from the engine to the rear lazarette, then out a thru hull.  The threads at each end had broken off, the muffler itself had some play, so I figure I’ll just shine up the threads, put new fittings on either end, and put it back together.  Good as new.  Although this sounds easy, it took two days, but looked perfect when finished.

Of course, when I tried to clamp the small water lines on, they wouldn’t fit.

I had installed the water jacket backwards. (remember the water lines?)  Oh well, it should work anyway.  Simply install new heater hose for the water lines.

New plugs, fuel filter, drain the old fuel (wow, it was bad, it separated), new fuel in.

I now tackled the centerboard.

When I installed the new cutlass bearing, I installed new packing in the stern tube (ha, now that’s one sentence that took me two weeks to do).  I figured I was so practiced at it now, I would change the packing in the centerboard tube.  Understand, with these two tubes the only thing between the sea and the inside of the boat is a little Gore-tex packing.  So I turned the nuts hard.  Have to be tight.

Turns out I tightened them a little too much, as soon as I loosened it a bit, the board worked.  Of course, water comes in.

The stern tube packing is still a little too tight I’m sure.  Tough.

So now the centerboard works, the Motor is fixed and runs well, ready to head to the middle of the Gulf for two weeks.

We leave on a Thursday, by Thursday afternoon, the exhaust pipe blew off, motor quit, we’re having a fun start.  We poured a drink and sailed into Charlottetown, rented a berth for a couple nights, and drank some more.

Mary Beth did not say once “I want to go home” (out loud, anyway).

Out comes the six foot long water jacket, this time I call a cab, take it to a welding shop, and we cut the ends off, and weld entirely new ends on.

It bolts back together easily, and I turn it around this time, so its back together the right way.

More new plugs, and a trip to the spark plug store, I want some spares.  Some carburetor cleaner, and we are ready to go.  So say I, the captain.

Next planned port, Montague.  Lets go sailing.  Ok, motoring, no wind.  This motor gets an incredible workout this trip

After leaving Montague, the seas were calm, so we decided to head straight through to the Isles-de-la Madeline, without a stop at North Lake or Souris.  (this means we did not stop for gas, either).  Surely, there would be some wind in the center of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and we would not be motoring all the way!  HA!  We motor, until very late at night.  The motor dies, of course, and we get to experience re-fueling at sea.  Not too bad, in a calm sea!  The last of the fuel is now in the tank, and we are several hours away from shore yet.

We re-start the engine, it coughs and chokes for a while, but finally settles down to a cruising speed (~ 5.3 knots) and we’re off again.

Although I tried very hard not to show it, I was extremely worried about running out of gas in the middle of the Gulf.  Hallejlula, the wind picks up, and we hoist the sails.

Right to the Magdelines, then we have to motor through the channel past entrée-island.

Its very dark, cloudy, so there’s very few stars, so we follow the chart plotter very closely, and the lighted buoys.

We decide to anchor for the night, the channel to navigate to the marina looks impossible in daylight, let alone dark, and we have heard the marina’s are packed anyway.

After we get to an acceptable depth, over goes the anchor (yes, it was tied down to the vessel!).  This was after 3:00 am.

There are several books written on anchoring, and hundreds (maybe thousands?) of articles written, and I have read some of them, and it was actually a part of our course with the CPS.

Did I pull out any of those articles, or even pull them out in my minds eye when planning to anchor?  Nope, I lugged that (what seemed like) 500 lb anchor attached to 600 lbs of chain out of the anchor locker, dragged it across our brand new cushions, over our blankets, and up the companionway stairs, and dropped it in the cockpit.  Then, I had to drag it over the deck, over lines, halyards, sheets, with waves tipping the boat side to side, and shrieking inside everytime I heard a scrape!

Tied down the end of the line (ha, I wasn’t about to forget this!), then went back to the cockpit and waited for the proper depth.  The depth (according to the charts) went to ~ 10 feet.  It was dark, I couldn’t see, and at 25 feet, I chickened out, shut off the motor, drifted until the boat almost stopped, then went up and threw out (threw out, right!, I dropped it) the anchor.

I waited for a bit, then put the boat in reverse (there were no boats around us, so I wasn’t worried about rode length, more is better, right?) and backed up until the boat started going sideways.

“Anchor is set”, I, the captain declare.

Fix us a double.  Another.  I look around, if the anchor does drag, it will drag us out, not in (unless the wind changes), so we’re safe, lets sleep.  We are exhausted.

In the morning, this whole thing is going to have to be hauled up.  By the time I am finished, I am ready for another double and to go back to sleep, my work for the day is done!

Start a new list of “must haves” for the boat.

One is an anchor roller, with a hole over the anchor locker.  I know there’s a proper name for this, I will search it out later.

Another is anchoring lessons for Mary Beth, she needs to drive the boat while I do this.

We slept for the night, arising several times to check we weren’t dragging.

When we woke up in the morning, the wind was blowing north, so we decided to head for a marina we could sail to, instead of having to motor.  Save those last morsels of gas!  We sailed under jib only, looking at the scenery and the other boats anchored in a lagoon.  The charts say there should be an entrance to a small marina just before the big marina, for fishing boats and ferry’s.  We could not see it, but I didn’t want to get tangled with a ferry when the gas ran out, so I followed the charts.

Mary Beth kept telling me I was going to crash on the rocks. Just when I felt I WAS going to crash on the rocks, and was going to turn around and play chicken with the ferry, we saw the entrance.

There was an empty berth straight ahead, so I went for it.  Right in, even had help standing on the dock.  They had probably heard my motor, it was very loud at this point.  We tied up, and I told the guy I needed gas, and the weather forecast was calling for 30+ winds, so we were going to rent a berth at the marina.

Turns out this fellow was the commodore of the marina (Cap-Aux-Mules), and said I could stay right where I was until Friday (woo-hoo), and said it was a good thing, too, because there was no gas on the island.

Tanker vessel was due today or tomorrow, but until then, no gas.

I must have shown the disbelief in my eyes, because he offered to drive us to town (about ¼ mi), and we took him up on it.  The gas pumps all had signs saying “fermez” (more on this French nonsense later), and he called out to the gas station attendant for gas, and the attendant said there was none.

So, we are to spend a few days here.

Slept a lot the first day.

The food here is delicious.  Seems like everyone, including the kids have their own car, and they spend all day driving up and down one little street.  Walking across main street is taking your life in your hands!  So many cars.  I will have to research later just how many people actually live here, and what they do for a living.  And why they drive so much, and burn so much gas!

Since I have time, and rain is being called for in the next few days, I decide to re-visit my alcohol cook stove.  I have no alcohol.  Surely, at a place like this where there are hundreds of boating visitors, there will be alcohol.  I walk downtown, one end to the other.  There are camping stores, boating stores, general stores, and convenience stores.  None of them either have, or have heard of alcohol for a stove.  The SAC store (liquor store) is just up the road, however.  I end up going there, buying canned beer and whiskey, and give up on the stove. I have a feeling this stove is going to end up on my new “must have” list.

After listening to the weather forecast, we decide on Thursday to head for home on Friday morning, at 0600 hours.  We still have no gas, but the tanker truck did arrive on Tuesday, and took all day, including part of Wednesday to unload, so it should be at the gas stations by now.  I see lots of people carrying “jerry cans” of fuel around, most driven by the commodore, Rosaire.

When it comes to organization, I like to feel I know more than most people, so I’m fairly sure there’s an easier way to get gas (no pumps on the dock?  Hundreds of boats, lots coming and going daily) than to bug the commodore for a ride to town and cart jerry cans around.

I go to the local Irving fuel outlet, and ask them for a way (small truck perhaps?).  At least here, they speak English, and aren’t afraid to admit it.  They tell me no, their truck has 3” nozzles, and would fill up my little tank so fast it would blow all over, but the local Irving station has a small tank on the back of a truck, and will look after me).

We walk to the Irving station, and again, the attendants all speak English, and were very helpful, agreeing to have a man bring gas on the truck.  I made it clear I was willing to pay for this additional service.

The man who was going to deliver it came out, and spoke not a word of English.  Everything had to be translated, pictures of where the boat was drawn, and everyone seemed happy.

I was quite proud of myself, wouldn’t have to carry jerry cans of gas around, wouldn’t have to bother the commodore, and wondered aloud why more people didn’t do this?  In fact, I wondered why there wasn’t a sign at the marina office, advertising this service (it could be set up at a specific time each day, even a teen could organize it).

We went back to the boat for lunch, and to wait for the gas.  Enjoyed the sun, had a few beers, waited for the truck.

Went for a walk, watched for the truck.

Viewed a “Tall Ship” that had arrived from Holland, absolutely incredible!

This was a “Square Rigger” that had headsails installed.  Woodwork was immaculate, I could imagine myself going backwards in time, and being Captain of a Corsair, my new name being “Captain Pirate Joe!”

Still no gas truck.

Its now after 4:30, and I’m sure they go home at 5, so I go hunt down the Commodore, Rosaire and ask him for a ride.  I have one jerry can, and he has one, and I know the gas station has one.  Rosaire is quite hurt I didn’t get a ride from him earlier.  (whether its because he feels I didn’t believe him, or he is busy now, I’m not sure.  Regardless, I need the gas today if we are to leave at 0600).

I see the man who could speak no English, he shrugs at me, and says “we got busy, I didn’t get time, then trots off”.  The other attendant who was very talkative and friendly the first time completely ignores me!

The new attendant, what appears to be a student, can speak no English either, and Rosaire asks him for a jerry can, which we fill, all three, then drive back to the boat.

I was very hurt and upset over this entire gas episode.  Seeing an Irving Station made me feel great relief in the “land of the unknown language”.

It was like an oasis, knowing I would have people who could talk to me, and provide me with a service (for a price of course, but then, we expect that, everyone needs to earn a living).  And I was right, right up to the point where they actually would provide the service.

They then followed suit, refusing to speak English, and not providing the service.  They acted just like others, for want of a better word I will call “separatists”, who made me feel this part of the world did not belong in my country, by their choice.

We jerry canned our gas to get filled.  Rosaire had a smirk on his face, like he knew this was going to happen all along.  He was right not to say anything, I don’t think I would have believed him.

Later that evening,  Rosaire came over and said we would have to move our boat.  The owners of this berth came home early, and we would have to move.  We did, but the motor sounded awful loud.  I put it down to being well-rested, and we went to bed early.

At 0600, I started the motor ready to make way, and it sounded even louder.  I opened the lazarette to look at it, and another nipple had broken off the muffler.  Now, there is only 3 nipples on this muffler.  I had repaired two, then replaced the two.  Now the third one is broken.

We pull the whole unit out, and clean it off on the dock.  It’s the same as the other two were, it was broken off at the threads.

Choices are, we can patch and go on, like we did last time, then try for a permanent repair at sea, or fix it properly now.  I’m not that slow a learner.

Wrap it in a towel, and go for a walk to town.  There are a couple guys in two pickups talking, one truck is new with writing on the side, so I ask him if he knows where I can find a welder.  He smiles, nods and says yes.  I ask him where, and he smiles, nods and says yes.  I look at the other guy, he just shrugs.  We walk on.  He drives by about 4 times, pretending to ignore us.

A government garage has a door open, and a guy is working with a grinder.  I speak to them, show them what I need done, and he suggests he can help me.  He makes a phone call, then comes back, gives us a ride to a welding shop about a mile away, and the owner of the welding shop pulls in.  (keep in mind, this is about 6:30 in the morning).  He drives off after we thank him, in french (merci beaucoup!), and he waves, saying “compliments of the Quebec government!

The owner of the welding shop knows exactly what I need, does it, and drives us back to the marina.

This is overtime for a welder, use of his shop, and delivery, all in all about an hour, and he charges me $20.  We are very, very grateful (mucho merci beaucoup again!).  Without his help, we would not have gotten away Friday.

Bolt it together, and start the motor.  All the time this is going on (from 0600 to 0730 Friday morning), Mary Beth is telling me how stupid I am.  I should have fixed the motor earlier (I didn’t know it was broken!).  I am now learning how to fix things with someone telling me that I am careless and stupid.

We motorsail a lot of the way (poor wind), and the wind starts picking up as we get close to the North shore of PEI.  Its cold, raining, and not a real enjoyable trip, weatherwise.  We are, however, very proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished so far.  Perhaps we really are sailors!  (was never any doubt in my mind 😉

Its getting dark, so we decide to pull into North Lake Harbor on the North Shore of PEI, what used to be known as ‘Tuna Fishing Capital of the World’, and is apparently starting to catch them again.  How can they miss with the 2000 boats (ok, that’s an exaggeration) they have wedged into a marina designed for a couple hundred?

The whole of the Gulf of St. Lawrence funnels into the entrance of this little harbor, which is, according to my book of sailing directions, 46 feet wide.  Slightly wider than my boat is long.  Good thing, too.

The tide was coming in, which means there is a LOT of water coming through that little 46 foot wide hole.  The waves had been high coming in, so we did what we usually do, we wait until we get in the harbor (calm water) before putting up the side fenders and lines for tying up.  Big mistake here, there is nothing on the other side but boats.

Mary Beth hurries to tie on the buoys and lines, I shift the boat into reverse to slow us down, and pull along side the breakwall, figure we’ll tie up here until we figure where to park.  Looking behind us, I see several fishing boats that have stopped, not entering the harbor.  I wonder why.

For about a second.

I can’t stop this boat.  I get along side, going slow, grab the wall (there is no line at the stern yet) and the boat is ripping me in two.  What a tidal force!

Mary Beth has the fenders up, and has the bow line tied.  Oh oh.

Stern of the boat whips around.  Takes up the whole channel.  In that fleeting second I understood why all the fishing boats stopped.  Mary Beth had the foresight to get a fender moved, fast, so when the boat hit after spinning the hull didn’t disintegrate.  I, of course, stood there gawking at all the people (seemed like hundreds) who were watching, pointing and smiling.

“Tough harbor to navigate”, says one fisherman.

The harbormistress suggested we move back some, or we were gonna “rock and roll” all night, these boats fish 24 hours a day.

I moved back.  Another experience, and lesson.

I read somewhere that experiences were tough because you took the test first, and the lesson later.  I failed another test.

The winds picked up that night, a lot.  In that rough channel we banged, rocked, and had a very rough night.  Several times I got up to check my lines.  I could just imagine my lines ripping loose, and crashing into the fishing boats.

There were some tuna caught, they are a big fish.  We got some nice photos, had a great fish dinner, then hit the sack.  The plan was to start at 0600, and just head straight out (we were already pointed in the right direction!).

HA!  It worked this time.  We actually motored out, and on time.  No issues.  I wanted to celebrate and have a drink!  Mary Beth, the sensible one, of course said no.

The sky then opened up.  It was supposed to be a cloudy day, chance of showers, with little wind.

I cannot fathom the number of non windy days we have had this trip.  This is the Gulf of St. Lawrence, only one step away from the Atlantic (every time I say that, Mary Beth cringes).

Regardless, we are motoring, and the rain is teeming.  No problem, course is set, Otto is driving (that would be my amazing auto-helm that has not given us one minutes trouble since we left), and we are at the dinette, playing a game of gin.

Every hour while sailing, we take a fix and mark it on our paper charts.  I learned this at school, as did Mary Beth, and it makes sense.  If we ever get hit by lightning (there’s that cringe again), we will need to navigate by “dead reckoning”, (she hates that word) so we will need to know where we were within the last hour, and our course, speed and time.

This fix, had us way off course.  We had been going in a circle, Otto had failed!

“Its wet” says my qualified crew.  “Its an outdoor instrument”, says I, as I don my waterproof clothes (HA!) to take the helm.

I handle the tiller, Otto lays on our dinette table, on a towel, all warm and toasty, and it rains harder.  We cannot see a thing, and the fog is setting in as well as the rain.  Turn on the radar, there is a ferry due sometime.  Even the radar shows dark everything.  I’m guessing its reflecting off the rain.  Need to read the manual on this thing.

Waterproof would not be the word to describe our rain gear.  Water resistant would be an exaggeration.  I’m thinking more like ‘might absorb a few sprinkles’ would be a good name for our gear.  My mind flickers back to the boat show (it was dry there!) where we bought the gear because it looked good.  We never did check out the waterproofness (is there such a word) of it.  It doesn’t look as good when its soaking wet, and on me.

My great crew (Mary Beth, I quit calling her ‘Galley-Slave’ the first time she took the helm) spelled me after an hour, I changed my clothes to dry off.  The rain let up.  My turn.  Rain just screamed down.  Try Otto again, doesn’t work.  Back on the warm table, wrapped in a towel, just in my view.

This goes on for several hours, until I’m out of dry clothes.  Mary Beth never did change, it never rained on her watch.  Go figure.

We decide to go to Montague, just a short motor up the river, and familiar territory, before heading home to Victoria by the Sea.

We learned a lot about sailing, cruising, anchoring, refueling, and people.

2 Responses to “Trip to the Madeline Islands”

  1. OscizeNiz Says:

    Outstanding website. Will definitely come back again soon!

  2. Dennis Says:

    Hey Joe –
    I’m enjoying your learning experiences – and Mary Beth’s attendant comments! My adventure will begin in another year or two, meanwhile I’ll read a bit more of your pleasures and perils. Thanks for sharing.

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