When we last posted, we were enjoying the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Newfoundland. Since then, the season has turned to fall and we have sailed the boat south retracing much of our northbound course.
First stop was a return to Newfoundland for a second pass along the south coast of this stunning island. (Which, incedentally, is the largest island in all of North America.)
By happy coincidence, we happened to return to Newfoundland during peak bakeapple berry season. This unique and prized berry can only be found on Newfoundland and Iceland. It’s a close cousin to the cloudberry and is excellent for jamming. So excellent, a cup of the prized berries commands an extraordinarily high price. Berry picking this time of year is so profitable that the local fisherman stop fishing and instead tie their boats to shoreside bushes and scamper up the hillsides hunting berries. That’s something you don’t often see in New Bedford!
The strangest part about this phenomena has to do with the spruce trees that occasionally dot the otherwise treeless hills. They look like regular sized trees and from afar you would think they might be 20 or 30 feet tall like a normal spruce. But instead, the Southern Newfoundland spruce trees are dwarfs standing only 4 feet tall. The illusion of scale doesn’t matter much until a human berry picker walks amongst the dwarf trees and appears to be a giant. That’s what we’ll remember about bakeapple berries, giant fisherman scouring the hillsides on the hunt for prized little berries.
We love Newfoundland. (Pronounced: New-Fund-LAND. Remember it this way: UnderSTAND NewfoundLAND.)
From the rolling spongy, surprisingly dry and easy to walk on tundra:
To the unexpected sandy beaches:
To the majestic mountainous fjords filled with surprisingly warm water. (Yes, we swam. We swam a lot actually. The air and water were both warmer than we had expected.) :
To the small settlements and their welcoming residents:
This land is unlike any other we have seen. Chris is writing a piece for SAIL Magazine on this portion of our cruise and we’ll save some content for that story. In short, we fell in love with the place and her people. We found a house we liked for sale here for $18,000. Zero skunks, zero snakes, and zero ticks on this island. A person could get used to a place like that. Could we end up here when our sailing days are done? Maybe.
Then a day came when the weather forecast was favorable for sailing West. We took advantage and reached thru the Cabot Strait, and thru the night to our next destination, Les Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec. (Also know as The Magdalen Islands or The Maggies.)
The beautiful and fashionable Magdalen Islands are a popular summer retreat for the well-heeled from Montreal. The beaches are sandy, the water is warm, the dunes are covered in lush green grass. It’s a world-class kite surfing destination and on any given (and windy) day you can watch the kite surfers scream across the bays. There’s an abundance of house pride, Acadian pride, live music, and fine dining. It’s a French Canadian Nantucket with hills.
The Marina de Havre Aubert is our favorite of all the marinas we’ve visited so far. The facility is well built, well cared for, and located in the center of a charming town. The marina office is also a popular local bar where you can get a drink and/or a light meal. A gaggle of old men are constantly playing cribbage in the corner and the deck is the center of the town’s social life. We could have happily stayed all summer. Go there and visit!
Our friends Claude and Sophie were about to arrive and we were looking forward to spending a few days on the island with them when we discovered a problem: Our toilet seawater intake seacock was leaking. Effectively, this meant the boat was sinking. Fortunately, the leak was slow and the offending crack in the fitting was above the valve. With the valve closed, the problem was temporarily solved. But with the valve closed, we had no toilet. The fitting definitely needed to be replaced and to do that the boat would definitely need to come out of the water. We were overdue to haul the boat for routine maintenance anyhow, but now the stop for work on the hard had taken on some urgency.
There are a lot of places in the world where you can haul a boat out of the water for work, but none are better than East Boston, MA where Chris knows the landscape and the people and has easy access to tools and supplies. So that’s where we went. Quickly.
Alex-The-Russian (not to be confused with Alex-The-Wife) is the new owner at Birch Marine. He rolled out the red carpet for us when we arrived. Supplies had been ordered, tools were at the ready, even the old paint splattered boots Chris wears exclusively for bottom painting had been dragged out of a back corner and sat at the ready.
In addition to replacing the offending seacock, we sanded the bottom, applied two coats of bottom paint, cleaned the waterline, changed the zincs, cleaned and greased the prop, went up the mast for a rig inspection and a minor repair to the windex, repaired the screen in the forward hatch, and changed the transmission fluid with the handy Birch Marine pump built for this job.
We were welcomed warmly in Hull, housed in luxury by friends in Newton, and much socializing occurred around the edges. It was good to see old friends, but we were primarily in town for work and sadly didn’t manage to visit with everyone we would have liked to. With the yard bill adding up and the weather getting colder, we were itching to sail south. Five days after arriving we were back in the water and on our way once again.
We made a stop on Martha’s Vineyard and attended to a difficult decision. Heidi, our red tender, has been placed on sabbatical. We found a safe place for her on The Vineyard and she’s happily resting there quietly re-centering and focusing on her work/life balance goals. She’s been a great tender, but with blue-water sailing in our future she also presented us with a dilemma: We can’t tow her across an ocean and she gets in the way on the foredeck. We either need a bigger boat to accommodate our beloved tender, or a smaller tender for our beloved boat. One great option would be a thing called the Spindrift 9 nesting dinghy. This little boat breaks in half for storage and would fit nicely on our foredeck. These boats are hard to find tho, and we haven’t found one yet. Instead, we are managing with a small inflatable raft that we will keep hidden in our cockpit locker when not in use. While still red, the new dinghy is no match for our beloved Heidi’s beauty. There will be no photos.
On the flip side, we feel good about retiring Heidi with dignity. Many tenders are lost one way or another, Heidi was not. We rowed and/or towed her for over 40,000 miles during the past 24 years. She never let us down and we never let her down. We’re proud to see her resting clean and easy, raring for more. I wonder when, and under whose command, she’ll work next.
Meanwhile, on the mothership, we made a stop in Baltimore that included a long car trip for a family event. Then a familiar and pleasant ride down the ICW to Beaufort, NC. Then a mind-blowing 375 miles offshore downwind sleigh ride to Jacksonville in only 57 hours (3 days, 2 nights). Along the way out there, we logged a 165.1NM day, the most milage in 24 hours for us in the ten years we’ve owned the boat.
Suddenly, zip, bang, boom, here we are in Florida again.
Thanksgiving and Christmas in The Bahamas come next.
Exciting plans to visit new places lay ahead for 2024.