Sailing to Cuba

Sailing into Cuba

Havana. Once a beautiful fully thriving city, now a mere shadow of its former self. My god, what this place must have looked like in its glory days… The crumbling buildings and empty shops tell the tale of the poverty of this country. While I’m not fully familiar with the politics and history, I do know that this is a VERY different life from any other country I’ve explored to date. Mostly due to the restrictions the people face in daily life.

Sailing in at dawn, a Spanish speaking person returned my hail on CH 77, but don’t worry too much with the mandatory call in… I didn’t bother attempting to respond as I don’t speak the language.

The entrance wasn’t as bad as you’ll be led to believe, just don’t expect an easy ride in with a north wind of 15 knots, or a strong wind over 25 knots east or west. No cross current was detected, even though it’s mentioned in the literature.

Check-in for a Canadian was simple. Once you pull a hard left, tie up, you await the many people going about their jobs to clear your boat. Paperwork was a breeze. A fake inspection of my boat, with a fake inspection of my medications (I could supply a village for a year with my supply, the inspectors had no clue what was what, they quickly cleared me). Drug dog with messy paws. Questions of meat or vegetables. How long I was staying, ect.

A Passport and registration was all I needed officially.

One thing that was a welcoming surprise, was that they were all young tiny Cuban women in tiny skirts inspecting my boat, and, well, they were quite taken by the fact I sailed solo from Canada. Haha, the beginning of my superstardom, good thing they didn’t see my folding bike that day… more on that later.

I was given my dock number, and the Dock master met me with a crew of people to help me dock, and finalize the inspection. Luckily, he spoke English, and was surprised in my handling of the boat, perfect execution, and not needing them to grab lines or anything as I stepped off casually with both lines and tied off, as they ran to “assist”.

Be on guard for them trying to add extra footage to your boat to get extra money out of you. I also hear they add an extra 10% to your bill upon departing the country.

Once settled, you’re going to want to explore the area. Your Canadian bank card works flawlessly in the Aquarious Hotel ATM, a quick walk away, don’t bother exchanging money as the tax is high. If the bill is ripped a little, add more tax. Want to get smaller local bills, add even MORE tax. Everyone is out to get you, sadly, the results I believe of a society with dual currencies, one being for tourists. Also, you can get wifi cards for 1.5 CuC in Aquarius, the marina pool bar or Chinese restaurant.

Transportation into Havana. The only cheap way, is to do what the locals do, and stand on the road outside the marina and flag down a car. Called a machina (Mackeena), this is a public taxi that is an old car, picks up people along the way for 10 peso to a hub, where you get another machina across the street for 20 peso, and get a ride into town in the jammed full vehicle. The marina tries to dissuade this, saying its only for Cuban people. I believe they get a nice cut from the taxis sitting in the parking lots.

Pay 25-30 CUC for a taxi from the Marina- the easiest but most expensive option. If you can make a connection with a taxi driver (any old car) in Havana, you can negotiate 10-15 CUC each way from there on out, and they’ll do anything for you once you’re “in”. I hear there’s a bus that costs 11 CUC apparently, no idea about this option. I met one couple that took a yellow taxi, and unknowingly paid $75! Don’t take a yellow taxi.

First day in Havana, and in my 5 years of traveling, I finally got to experience my favorite travel moment, something I’ve been waiting to experience. I met the elusive “Can-American”.

That’s what I’m calling a US citizen dressed like a Canadian with serious patriotism issues. (Canadian’s aren’t really patriotic like Americans however)

Pretending to be Canadian by wearing our flag all over their bags and clothing.

I spoke with the couple, from Arizona, they were kind enough, if not a little taken aback by my outward friendliness with them in the streets. After they told me of their disguise and the reasoning behind it, I couldn’t help but to congratulate them on their “dual citizenship”. They were afraid of the Cubans, thinking that they didn’t want them there…

They were a little confused though, as Cubans fully welcome and embrace US Citizens! It’s the US government that doesn’t want their peoples supporting the country with tourist dollars or trade… Everyone I have encountered has mentioned how they like US peoples, so, don’t worry about anything here, other than the cab drivers taking your money, you’re very, very welcome here.

Another experience, one speaking out to the desperation thriving in this world, was when I was having breakfast at a hidden away spot just this morning.

I spoke with a couple of ladies, Europeans from Sweden, an older woman and her daughter. They seemed friendly enough, but I noticed a strange energy within them, nothing devious, but rather, a bit desperation with a bit of a pointed direction in their dialogue. Eventually, while eating outside together, I discovered they were determined to catch a boat to the Bahamas, but their ultimate destination was to sneak into the US from there.

I was offered $1,000 cash, and well, anything else I wanted from the women to smuggle them out. Sex was implied. Me being me, I couldn’t help but think of how it’d make one heck of a story, not taking advantage of the women, but rather transporting the couple and smuggling them into the US illegally… Apparently the people and the culture of Eastern Europe is killing their spirits, no one helps another or cares of those in need, I was told. In the US, they’d have work in the hotel business and be happy, eventually get a dog and a car. The good life…

This was my fourth time in this exact position, being propositioned to marry, or smuggle people out of their countries for sex or cash, so this wasn’t a shock, but rather the three of us talking openly about it all, as people in this world.

I thought about it… Really didn’t feel right though, and they had to choke back tears as I said I wouldn’t do it… I wished them luck and gave them hugs, as I’m going in the opposite direction, to Mexico this week. Later on that day, we had met again, and talked some more. They had found a potential boat possibly willing to take them, and we walked together to the meeting spot. Maybe they’ll make it, maybe they’ll have to keep trying, but it’s pretty easy to enter the US illegally from I’ve learned in our talks. Better build some more walls Trump…

They were extremely opposed to a group picture, so, here’s a cute dog instead, Luna.

On the topic of smuggling people out and into the US, Cubans are forbidden to step foot on a boat. Ever. I’ve also noticed they have a great fear of the water, making me out like a rock-star having sailed solo from Canada into their country.

Want to really be a Rock-star in Cuba? Other than have lots of money, bring a folding bicycle and ride it around Havana. I’ve seen the whole city, and everywhere I went people loved my bike, but they absolutely lost it when they saw me fold it up and carry it away. Seriously, I could have been Bono, well, something like that.

One of the reasons I went to Havana, was for some boxing training in a gym that had world champion boxers for $10 a coaching session. Fantastic people, so welcoming and inclusive, I never felt uncomfortable, even around the champ. The trainer though, wasn’t letting me off easy, as footwork was drilled into me day after day. I really appreciate this style of training, much different from the tourist Muay Thai camps in Thailand, you don’t get taught anything until you’ve mastered the previous steps… Tough love!

However, I’m leaving soon. With my boat having no choice but to be in a marina, I can’t justify the money I’m spending every day with my ever dwindling budget… I bought a good anchor for a reason, but that’s not an easy option here in Cuba, especially if you want to go to land.

So, next week, Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where I’ll check in and anchor out in the bay until my friends, and girlfriend arrive in Cancun in 2 weeks’ time.

Then, I’m feeling a conclusion to this lil journey of mine, with thoughts of docking the boat on Lake Ontario soon, possibly selling, to move on to the next adventure.

Sailing Miami to Key West

A week in Key West, Tortuga’s, then sailing to Cuba!

At last, it feels like the adventurous, relaxing boat life I’d dreamed this would be.

Waking up warm, sailing to get to places, as well as on and off the anchor. Key West has some great tropical vibes, interesting people’s from all over, and CLEAR blue waters!

Sailed almost entirely, taking 3 days from Miami to this paradise of the Key’s. Bustling activity, boats of all kinds, triple mast schooner’s and enormous cats moving about.

Touristy, but with a very chill island vibe.

Key Lime pie with koy… Sadly this pie was no good… Gonna have to try others tomorrow 😉

Breath taking sunsets as well, I almost cried last night at the sight of it. My boat belongs in this environment, maybe I do too.

Funny enough, this paradise turns nasty real quick! A 40 knot storm kicked up in minutes last night and boats dragged all over, hitting other boats and tangling rodes. Even mine dragged, but I realized after my scope was far too short!

Now I’ve got 200′ out, heavy weighted chain thrown over the bow to prevent “sailing at anchor”, rolling hitches forming a bridal on the rode… and holding strong for the next storm tonight. The front now looms ominously in the distance.

Repositioned my boat as a big cat was bearing right down on me and just a few hundred feet away!

Before all that excitement happened though, I’m quite the social boater. The first thing I do upon arriving somewhere is meet the neighbors. Boat people never fail to be awesome.

Dean, on a 34′ vessle of similar design gave me all sorts of tips and gossip- the kind that other boaters are interested in.

Which boats don’t hold. How aggressive the Coasties are. Where to get the best pie…

Also learned about his journey as well, which I love hearing about.

I was waved over to another boat, however, I was rowing, and hadn’t eaten much during the 11 hour sail that day. Decided to crack a beer, make some pasta, and finish the last Harry Potter movie instead.

Enough of those thoughts though.

Anchored off of Flemming Key, I bought a week “Dinghy Dock Pass” at Bight marina, where I’ll provision the boat, pick up any last remaining Amazon deliveries (boxing gloves) and get contacts to send me weather updates via my Garmin Inreach texting device. Yes, it has weather updates, but I’d prefer a couple different sources when I cross the Gulf stream to Havana next week. Did I mention this will be the first time I go without cellular service and internet?! Gasp!

First and foremost though, I need to get to the Dry Tortuga’s. An easy day sail from my location, and an exotic bucket list item for many people’s!

How awesome does this place look to be stranded in for a week!!!

A deserted fort of some sort, that for me, happens to be an excellent jump off point to Hemmingway Marina, Havana.

From what people are saying, be prepared to stay a week out there, as the weather permits a day or two of good winds, then a week of gales. Those days that have good winds, also need to be from the south west, or west if I want a smooth sail.

Difficultly in a north wind, only because Hemmingway Marinas entrance is a cut, and north seas create dangerous breaking waves and the entrance is closed. No other options to sail to if closed, or too dangerous an entry either.

East winds of any kind create dangerous waves out in the gulf. Sadly, it’s mostly north and east winds, with a fleeting window for any other direction.

Hence, multiple weather predictions while in Dry Tortuga’s via sat text.

This device has been my offshore text messaging, backup weather forecasting, and has kept track of my entire journey for me. The other main reasons I went this route was the SOS button, which acts as an EPIRB, and it can link to my cellphone so that I can send messages with a keyboard I’m familiar with.

$65 per month unlimited subscription is the only way to go. Unfortunately, practical ocean weather forecasts cost an additional $1 per every update. Sadly, no choice but to pay as the information provided is detailed towards sailors, and businesses love to gouge boaters!

Part of me wishes I had gone the Wifi Sat route for a bit more money, but reviews weren’t too kind for the Iridium Go!

Hopefully one day soon we’ll have affordable access to the web via Satellites.

In any case, loving this leg of the trip, and my dream is near completion! Havana Cuba, I can’t wait ❤

Getting back in fighting shape, while off the boat: week 2

Prior to living on my boat and sailing my way to Florida, I was living and training in a Muay Thai boxing camp last winter on an island in Thailand.

I’d lived in these places before, but never seriously trained. More just to save money and try to get fit… This past year I Was supposed to accomplish one of my goals I’d planned a while back.

To train, fight, and win, in a Thai Kick Boxing match in Thailand.

Unfortunately, waking up in an ambulance covered in blood after a motorcycle accident near killed me, this goal was set back indefinitely.

Concussion lasted for 4 months or so, broken finger, and torn skin here n there… I got lazy, as head injuries can’t be rushed, I gave up on training and donated my gloves.

I also moved on from that past life, and focused my energy towards a new life living full time on a cruising sailboat- fitness was no longer in my priorities, until I realized the desire is still very alive in me. Get back in shape. Get back to the gyms. Get back to training everyday. Plan to win.

I’m still planning on sailing further south to Cuba, Mexico and elsewhere, depending on a few factors, like how seaworthy my vessle is.

I’m in my second week of healthy eating and working out. Cutting back on sugar, dairy, meats and carbs.

Veggies, fish, nuts and rice are my staples.

I have more energy, more stamina, more focus and determination. Mood is better too.

So even though I live entirely on my boat, I still make it to land wherever I can and seek out my people’s… The fitness, wellness, mindfulness junkies that inspire the heck out of me.

Yoga, running, boxing, grappling, Juijitsu, weights and swimming- I try to do at least one activity per day, 2-3 of them ideally, everyday.

God I can’t wait for week 3 and beyond, soon to be back out on the water…

Video of a day, Week 2

My boats an Irwin 34

My before shot… After shot, coming soon

Exercise and eating healthy, while living aboard a sailboat!

A quick video on some of the challenges I faced staying healthy while living aboard a boat, what one average day of exercise looks like, and some of the things I’ve learned from the past 5 months cruising full time.

Sailed from Nova Scotia, now in Miami, A year and a half left to go… Bahamas, Cuba, Keys, Mexico and beyond still left to experience on my Irwin 34.

Goal: Get fit and eat healthy!

I’m a mid-budget boater, meaning I have all the basics but nothing too fancy.

Fridge, but no ice maker. Gas Stove oven, no microwave. I open ports and hatches for air conditioning. Same goes for food. I don’t eat steak or chicken everyday, but I’ve got lots of basic ingredients to work with. Instant Rice, cabbage, sprouts, tomatoes, oranges, eggs, nuts, beans, lentils, bananas, peanut butter, olives, canned fish, and pita bread. These are cheap, last a long time, and won’t leave you feeling heavy.

Lots of spices. Butter.

Exercise can be done anywhere, yoga on the bow while underway, utilize anchors as free weights, resistant bands are easy to store and provide full body workouts, running when you get to land, and of course, every person without a motor on their dinghy was shredded, so, row more, motor less.

Most importantly, have fun, and don’t take life too seriously. Have a beer with the other boaters, eat chocolate if given to you, and if you miss a workout, swim a little longer while cleaning your hull. Enjoy!

The best boat to take you around the world, is the one you own

 

Here I am, bundled up on my boat in St Augustine Florida, toasty warm with 2 heaters blazing, with a tiny amount of fiberglass keeping the freezing temperatures outside at bay. Just over a few weeks ago I motor-sailed 3 days straight, from freezing North Carolina, down to 80 degree heat in balmy Florida, at which point, it promptly dropped back down to freezing.

 

Damn, after months of freezing temperatures in the north, I thought I could finally relax…

Stuck here a month with delay after delay waiting for my new sail to arrive from the Philippines, generator humming silently, this seems like a nice night to chronicle some parts of my trip.

A timeline of events, quirky and mundane, outlining a solo trip, with a new boat and new sailor, along the Atlantic coast.

It’s closing in on 6 years now, from when I first purchased my one way ticket to beautiful South East Asia, on a journey of self discovery. Planes turned into buses and ferries, hitch-hiking, then many more planes, then, decided crossing thousands of kilometers on foot would be fun, as a long distance hiker!

Lived in various temples and monasteries for months of soul searching, joined several boxing camps throughout Thailand, Krav Maga while in India, and, got to see many of the wonders of the world.

Learned to drive a motorcycle and standard car. Lasik eye surgery! Two near death experiences involving emergency ER visits, and, waking up in an ambulance. Graduated college as a Marine Mechanic! Punching pickpockets in the streets, chasing them off of trains, untold amounts of boredom, and splashes of hilarity to keep things fresh.

Tourist trips doing tourist things. Many friends and memories. Finally, healing amongst beautiful peoples and starting something solid within myself.

I craved lasting friendships and love, community and purpose. Lucky enough I found the people and the place. Since then, making friends has been easy and enjoyable, and have already made several strong connections and communities while out here sailing.

Having these people to talk with make all the difference, and adds a special value to my days.

Out here on the water, I’m now apart of a unique world most people only dream about. My own home, to be as cheap or as expensive as I wish. Friends and adventures with similarly unique and strange people’s, and my favorite part… To find your peoples after a lifetime of searching for where you belong.

Speaking of boat peoples

Tania Aebi, Joshua Slocum, and Yves Gélinas. These 3 people and their solo sailing stories are partly the reason why I’ve invested most my money in a boat, and the time to live in said boat, for the next year or two.

No sextant to guide me by the stars. No chart reading classes or knowledge (or paper charts of any kind really). No real sailing knowledge, other than a few race days I partook in. Graduated college to become a Marine Mechanic, watched heavy weather sailing videos, and Youtube repair clips.  I’m a learn on the go kind of guy, one that will ask a million questions, but will always follow my heart, and stubborn to the core.

I have redundancy to the extreme with electronic devices- 6 chartplotting devices in phones, tablets, and computers. 2 handheld VHF along with the main radio. My Garmin Satellite texting and SOS device. I also keep one of the phones and a VHF in the oven to protect them should lightning strike, as a faraday cage.

I take each day as they come, I’ve  prepped for the next leg ahead and studied what I needed to the night prior. This method has served me well over the past few years… no sense in changing anything now. Prior to taking the boat out, I did a two week shake down cruise on a lake to learn how to anchor and sail the boat… then, it was off to the Atlantic Ocean.

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I got a movie projector at the pawn shop for $100!! With a cheap 50″ screen its a proper theater in my lil home… You know, necessities.

Words, routes or plans of caution were given to me in all kinds. It’s difficult to filter out good from overly cautious advice when in new territory, so instead I relied on what I know about myself.

I know for example, that I can travel far for long periods of time and enjoy doing so. I know that if you actually want to do anything, you need balls to take the plunge… lastly, I’ve been prepared and have accepted the risks involved, knowing that there’s a plan for everything that could possibly go wrong. Even if that plan involves sealing up the boat, crawling into a hole, and rocking back n forth to wait out dangerous conditions… luckily though, that hasn’t needed to be done yet.

I have been in several situations that had my knees shaking and my jaw sore for days. You’re stuck wondering why the hell you’re out there, alone, boat possibly about to smash itself apart in howeling wind and waves…  then seemingly forget all about it and go back to boat life the next day…

 

This video was just before the winds picked up, and waves got angry real fast, 3 hours offshore

Brutal waves relentlessly pounding for hours above standing head height while hours away from land. Main rigging dangling in the water while heeling 25 degrees in 20 knots winds, while hours off the coast of Nova Scotia. 30 knot winds sailing in weather warnings, and 40+knot winds at anchor. Blind entrances at night/fog/rain, in rough weather conditions with little room for mistakes, or otherwise the waves and currents throw you towards large steel bouys or rocks. I’ve had 2 instances just like this south of New York and don’t care to repeat them. Sorry, no video of these events as it’s difficult to think of grabbing the camera, and impossible to let go of the wheel in those conditions.

Drinking rain water I had caught because I used up my onboard water too fast in the winter (port taps all closed off due to freezing temps), I actually found that enjoyable though being “self sufficient”.

Anyways, onto my daily account of being a solo beginner sailor, with my new boat, out into the ocean and down to warmer lands.

So, stretching back 4 months now, Monday August 28th 2017, hugging my friend goodbye, I set off from the Saint John River in New Brunswick, out towards the Reversing Falls in the fog. My first real day it felt like, and I was so very nervous. Circled around for half an hour waiting for the right time to motor full speed though the falls, and out towards the Bay of Fundy, home of the worlds largest tides and currents…

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My friend Erica joined me for a few days, and got out just before the Bay of Fundy

I didn’t yet fully know what tides were or how currents worked, but I figured I’d learn eventually.

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I get to do the Reversing Falls in the fog? Yay!

I sounded like a lost puppy over the radio, not knowing any of the proper terms or phrases… even in flight school I hated talking over the radio, but no choice but to learn now.

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This harness and tether system keeps me on the boat when i wander around the deck

First day, I set out not knowing the destination. No point in planning too hard as things can change in an instant. Maybe you’re tired, bad weather vs fantastic weather, or a friend wants to meet up. I found it’s best to have several destinations and reach for the furthest.

With no wind, water like glass, there was a bit of disappointment when  I arrived at Gran Manan Island. Dodging the huge, fast moving ferry, I grabbed the free mooring ball with its massive line, and rowed into town where a local pizza shop owner gave me his car so I could grab diesel fuel! How awesome was that for my first day out?! I had a few people following along back home and several boaters giving tips and advice, and grateful to have had that early on.IMG_20170829_070022-EFFECTS

Notes in log “accidentally left propane stove on for 3+ hours, didn’t blow up…” “fuel gauge not moving anymore after overfilling my tank yesterday” “stuffing box leaking bad, tightened”

Can you tell I was a bit dishevelled from my first days log?? Luckily things eventually improved once I got familiar with cruising…

Up at 4am, and departed by 5 on my second day August 29th, after 11 hours I was in Yarmouth Nova Scotia. Got some great sailing in finally!! Saw huge ocean whirlpools and whales, and upon arrival, eagerly awaited to be met by family.

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Except my family couldn’t make it that day however, as my nephew thought he could fly, and smashed his face on a boulder just before everyone was driving down…

Notes in log “drilled & epoxied engine mount” “cleaned & greased winches” “Valve clearances snugged” “Oiled steering cables” “painted water tank lids”IMG_20170816_151532

On my third day sailing, I was rounding Cape Sable Island in waves just below standing head height in a wind against tide situation. A “situation” because wind going against the current produce some of the worst kind of waves one can experience: quick, steep, choppy and confused waves that pound you into exhaustion. Pound it did, but I pushed on to get around and dropped anchor at the first chance in Barrington Passage. Wind against waves? No. It’s Wind against Current that needs paying attention.

I was exhausted mentally and physically, and a bit shook when the 30+ knot winds arrived only 6 hours later, as I was against the tail end disturbances of a hurricane I thought was a full day away. SeaStorm_Hurricane_Tracker.jpg These conditions also alerted me to my rigging being too tight, as the compression post started to falter and bulkheads creaked loudly, partway through the rounding of Sable. I stayed here a while and got to see family finally, and jerry rig some repairs, but really, I just needed to slacken the rigging. Notes in log “Slow steady leak from somewhere I can’t find, exhaust water box??” “went on date”

Wednesday September 6th left 11am arrived 5:45pm with 20-25 knots wind, second reef in. Made it to Shelburne Nova Scotia, a small town I had once briefly lived in. Briefly, as I simply wasn’t ready to settle down in a retirement town full of old people… My neighbour bringing me food leftovers and our random porch chats were of my fondest memories.

2+ hours going past Mcnutts Island to get to the picture perfect town of Shelborne, 11 nm from the ocean, it’s a boring and grueling trip through heavy fog, or even on a clear day for that matter. Anchored just off the mooring field, proud of my Mantus anchor, the thing is as stubborn as I, and simply won’t budge. Notes in log “11am, left for Shelburne 23 knots, second reefed main, great day of sailing, arrived 5:45pm”IMG_20170909_185432

Saturday September 9th After visiting family, I hightailed it out of there and encountered my first AutoPilot issue… it wouldn’t track anymore! As a solo sailor, you need a reliable auto pilot, and luckily, it just needed recalibration, meaning, I spin slowly in circles until it tells me otherwise… Notes in log “Departed Mcnutts Island after recalibration 12 noon, big gentle rollers, no wind, arrived Liverpool 7pm 100kms. 7 knots avg w motor”

Met family once again here in Liverpool, I stayed free at the dock for the night and talked sailing as I was tied up next to my previous boat, Heike, an 18′ Edel! So cool to see the current owner installing a woodstove and full living conditions on the tiny craft.IMG_20170910_133754

The next day was to be an eventful one with an emergency stop for repairs following a shocking sight while sailing in 20+ knots. This next video was just a couple hours prior before the winds picking up.

Monday September 11th I promptly departed 8am and arrived 4:30pm to Lunenburg NS, an eventful 72 km trip. The bad kind of eventful, and time for my 10% terror. 20-25 knots of wind, pounding waves on a close reach 10 miles offshore, I noticed my main standing rigging dangling into the water… which means, not much was holding my mast up if I were to round up into the wind on the other tack… Basically, in those conditions, my mast could have come down if the boat had changed direction.

Autopilot, just hold the damned course steady… Rails bouncing in and out of the water, I clipped into the line that allows me secured movement on deck in my harness system. Reached over the fast moving water with a deck pole and grabbed the stay, I knelt down and paused as I realized I had nothing to secure it with. The pin was gone. Fuck. I tossed the stay back over the side, and climbed into the cabin to look for something to ram in the hole. Tore open cabinets, stainless shit everywhere and cursing, finally just shoved a screwdriver in and made a hard left to Lunenburg, an unscheduled stop to replace the pin. My planned stop was treasure island just a few hours further north, sadly, I wouldn’t get to find any buried gold this week…

To be honest, it was a strange feeling, not fear, but a “just get it done” mentality, absent of emotion as the boat sailed hard and water sprayed up and around as I wrestled to get the stay, chainplate and screwdriver to stay put together.

 

This is an hour prior the winds picking up, you can see the stay loose, but I had no idea it’d undo itself entirely, and i was still learning how quickly the weather can change

Lunenburg was a treat to motor up to! A gorgeous little seaside town full of life and boats, I once again dropped anchor aft the mooring field and rode the dinghy a long way to shore… destination pub, for wings and a Guinness. (actually, I’m gonna grab one now… yum).IMG_20170911_180435.jpg

Met a young man in the bar, seemingly out of place, he came to Lunenburg to attempt a romantic dream of becoming a wooden boat builder. No experience with boats, or wood, or working… he expected someone would take him on to teach him the trade… poor fella, as it turns out, there are many just like him wandering the streets, lost and in love with the romantic notion of boat building in that town.

As a young boat welder and marine mechanic myself, I can tell you boat work is horrid work at times, claustrophobic spaces, heavy lifting, leaving you with cuts, scars and burns on a daily basis. Notes in log “Stbd rigging pin lost, stay dangling on port tack!” “beauty town” “long Dinghy ride”IMG_20170911_162515250

Tuesday September 12th Left Lunenburg the next day under sail at 3pm, after getting pin and supplies. Destination The Roost @ 25 nautical miles. The Roost, an old rum runners hide out was gorgeous and dead calm. A passing motorboater laughed at me for where I dropped anchor, saying it was much nicer further on in. I was happy in my little spot, why aim for more when already content? Notes in log “Fixed lazy jacks” “fixed Stay”

Wednesday 13th 8am Roost to Halifax 1pm arrival.

I was quite unnerved to see a huge cutter rig on my Starboard beam emerge alongside me in the thick pea soup fog- there was nothing on my radar! Due to this experience, I installed one of those little tube radar reflectors- except, now I’ve learned, the reviews show it as a useless waste of money. Still, I like to pretend it does something…IMG_20170918_143724

I also always use the emergency reflector as well though, when at night or in heavy fog as backup. Now, I’ve learned to copy the big working lobster boats, and run with a bright fixed spotlight on my bow. You can see me from the spacestation, and I can see what’s in front of me a quarter mile out!

I installed the spotlight partly for visibility for others, but mainly to avoid running down the billion lobster pots that would soon become life in Maine. Night sailing was impossible without it, and it’s fantastic to be able to see reflective bouys a quarter mile away in pitch blackness! Yes, I have a good radar, but the lil floats just don’t show up most of the time and I have yet to foul on a line! Many other sailors have had a tangle or near catastrophic moments with those things, including another Irwin that got disabled back in Virginia (strange, as I didn’t see any pots out there…) In fact, after Maine, no more pots.

Heading to Halifax with no traffic, saw one other cruiser making way with me, I anchored out and promptly made dinner, went on a date, and went to bed exhausted. Oil change was due. My VHF cable had fallen into the mast, and I had been communicating with my handheld the whole trip, and would continue to use my handheld all the way to florida, where I type this out now. I climbed up the mast, cursed, then pulled the cable out and removed the antenna. No point in removing the mast just to run a wire. I’d either run the cable on the outside, tapping clips along every 5 ft, or jerry rig it somewhere else.

Got to make friends with a nice sailor Louise, with whom we toured the city, and she even helped me get supplies, we’re all planning on meeting up in Mexico this spring, a very cool invitation I can’t turn down, and one that adds a nice direction to my journey.

Sunday 18th Left Halifax 1pm. Weather grey, foggy, and damp, but, my fridge is rammed full of beer. I left late because it was to be a two day journey to Yarmouth and my longest push yet at 29 hours and 190 NMs. 15 Nautical Miles offshore, the wind, waves and everything were perfect for the whole trip. Motor-sailed most of it, I was met with many challenges. One: a yanmar motor is dangerously loud when hearing protection isn’t used for long stretches, I learned this the hard way. Two: I had 4 leaks I needed to fix this run, but only fixed three of them. For some reason, I never looked at the front of the engine this run, and it turned out a pinhole in the cooling line was spraying salt water all over my engine for the whole night… and now the alternator squeaks 4 months later, still… Three: I couldn’t sleep at all, and was terribly tired. Seems the sound of the motor kept a nagging feeling in my mind, which wouldn’t allow me to drift off… I hope I can sort this issue out, I’ve always had difficulty sleeping in cars, planes, or otherwise…

I pushed hard as there was a storm coming, and I was meeting an old friend from California, who for some reason was showing up via ferry to Nova Scotia as the start of his Canadian road trip! He had just figured out his own path in life, a diver and dive instructor, he spends much of his time in warm climates and exotic locations. He lived on board a few days and we talked boat stuff and travel life. Went on a tour of a local deserted island, tried fishing, had a midnight fish fry, tour of the city, and then he continued on north, to the city I had just left from. A cool introduction for a new country I think.

Tuesday 26th Sept Left Yarmouth back to Gran Manan Island. 830am-830pm exactly for a 131 km trip. Grabbed the same ball, this time the field was empty, and it was getting colder out…  Got sick, and stayed inside for a couple days doing nothing. Eventually fixed the leaking rudder-box. A temporary fix it would seem.

Thursday Sept 28th Lots of condensation, puddles on floor, left Gran Manan 12:30 arrived North Head 630pm dusk, into a strange and eerily quiet fishing village. 49 kms Notes in log “No leaks” “I feel awkward in this strange place”IMG_20170926_093853073

Friday Sept 29th To Saint Andrews. My boat broke free from where I was tied to last night, my poor knot tying abilities and exhaustion led for my morning time surprise.

Nothing like having your boat almost drifting down river on ya whilst asleep… Started the day 6am in the dark, and out on the Bay of Fundy the waves were surprisingly big, with no visibility. Timed a favorable current up Western Passage then fought 20-25 knot winds, eventually had to raise sails to make any headway as under two knots in those conditions isn’t much fun. Tough slog. Notes in log “Mooring ball, Clean, laundry, repair window and secure hose” Met up with Erica, and toured the town together this weekend.IMG_20170930_170341

Before I started into the United States, I felt one last trip to the hospital to stock up on meds would be useful, unfortunately, I caught a horrific throat infection that my body couldn’t fight off for an entire month, and needed IV antibiotics to clear it up… Insurance came through for me luckily… Damn the irony…

U-S-A!   U-S-A!   U-S-A!

Friday October 6th Left Saint Andrews 1pm. Engine mount loose and fixed. Cold wind head on, arrived in Maine 2 hours later… prop fouled for the first time! Weeds…

Saturday October 7th Throat cold, up at 3am no sleep… Weeds again fouled prop, jump in again balls naked and freezing. Arrived in Cutler 4pm.

Sunday October 8th... Rest… Sick… Monday.. up at 5, out at 6… damned lobster pot wrapped on anchor line and around rudder. Fuck. Jump in the water AGAIN to defoul. USA, seriously, work with me now… 3 foulings in 3 days, and I’m really, really sick 😦

9 hours and 100kms to anchor in Bar Harbour where I fixed a small propane leak in my system. In Bar harbour I stayed on board for several days, quite sick, hoping to heal, but needing supplies and water… Tourist trap this townIMG_20171019_154221

Friday 13th Left at 745 am, unsure of where to go, sailed 8 hours to Carver bay, a beautiful and rare day full of sailing! 4pm arrival… I love it, also have the bay to myself.

*** My notes stopped at this point, due to sickness, I got lazy apparently… Made it to Rockland Harbour where I stayed a week or so, again, trying to heal up but unsuccessful… Moved several hours towards Tenants Harbour, as I didn’t have energy for a full day. Next day a big push to BoothBay Harbour, not many memories from this leg of the trip, I was trying to get to Portland, where I’d catch a flight to my friends Californian wedding! The next day made it to portland where I anchored off the eastern Fish Point, and met another Irwin couple. Rowed over to their boat to say a cheery hello, and got a tour of their ship. Unfortunately, while helping him take down his head sail, his boat launched full speed towards mine, narrowly avoiding damage at the last second… he should have gotten a Mantus anchor…

October 26 Arrived at Dimillos Yatch Club, where I’d dock my boat for the wedding, and go on a date with a cute girl named Ashleigh. (She was smitten with me over gluten free pizza, and we still meet up in freezing climates to this date…)

Portland turned out to be a really nice town! I even considered getting a job and staying at dock with the other live-aboards in this cool little city over winter. Nice energy. So, my only planned destination was to be California with my friend for her wedding. The day I left, hurricane force winds started up and had me worrying about my home… Away from my boat, a strange feeling, but everything went smoothly out in LA. Cheap hotel and rental car. The wedding was beautiful, and as expected, I cried haha. It was a real inspiration to see the two together, and worth the trip.

Picked up an Emerson pocket knife to make my new edc (every day carry). Love my knives n flashlights…

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Back in Portland, I had many more dates with Ashleigh. We hit things off pretty nicely, however found out pretty soon that the sealife was out of the question for her, as she gets terribly seasick, even at dock. There went my plans to kidnap her and make her my sea wench…  Made some friends at the marina, Eric, a musician, he and a couple came for pizza on my last day. I was tempted to stay, but happy I chose to move on. Things were getting extremely cold.

I had found a nice liveaboard community, a job offer, and cute girlfriend. Portland, why’d you have to be so darn cold??

This trip is an important one for me, personally it didn’t feel right to not to continue on.

Tuesday November 14th Left Dimillos 7:15am 7.5 hours 50 NM to an island off of Portsmouth. Notes in log: “autopilot no good” “stuffing box spraying water” “need to wire in Spotlight” “getting very COLD”

Wednesday November 15th 650am out sailing… Notes in log: “tightened stuffing box tiny bit” “Cleaned Autopilot, replaced belt, tightened clutch, working 100%”

Thursday November 16th 7am-840pm 135kms in 14 hours. Island to Cape Cod Canal and through the Canal at night, I got lucky with currents and pushed on hard. Engine ok and spotlight working excellent, nice big gentle waves and happy my auto pilot is working again! Moored just off in a designated area just outside and to the left of the canal, a nice spot.

Friday November 17th From the ball at Cape Cod to Newport rhode Island! Weather craft advisory made for a good motor sail, 25 knots of wind and choppy seas, 84 kms in a Gale Warning, not too bad this time. I arrived in my first thunderstorm, circled around in blackness and pouring rain with my spot lights and found a spot to drop anchor. Here I’d stay to test my anchor out in unprotected waters with 35 gusting 40 knot winds.

Of course, this was also the week my partner Ashleigh would join me, not knowing what she was in for, she toughed out the storm with a moderate amount of sickness and attempted mutiny… we survived though, and the anchor never budged an inch. Love my Mantus! Newport is another really nice town, and I’m grateful to have arrived end of season where I had the whole bay to myself. Cute tourist town, lots of shops and such, laundry was just a short uber from the docks to the Sailor Church Institute- a place where sailors can go for showers, rooms, and food at good prices and hospitality… I like this place 🙂 Notes in Log: “Change oil” “Changed primary fuel filter”received_10155066709774147.jpeg

Friday November 25th 6am depart, 104 kms in 12 hours, 730pm arrival time to Old Saybrook, North Cove.

Real fear and anxiety today with high winds and waves entering in between breakwalls, I had shaky knees and clenched jaw as I entered the narrow inlet. I had to motor max power pointed sideways directly at the breakwall to keep a straight path as the choppy waves and winds pushed 90 degrees to the mouth- they’d pick me up and carry me towards the other wall and channel markers… all in pitch blackness at night. Made it through exhausted and a wreck, when a large fishing boat that had been behind me the whole time, in close proximity, gave a loud horn blast to signal passing on my port… I was already tightly wound, did not need that…

Snuck into a channel, where an anchorage was supposed to be waiting at the end of it… an unfamiliar work vessel was parked directly in my path, and I barely managed to sneak by it, grounding my vessel for the first time. At a reading of 3′, i was gently plowing through mud and managed to get by to anchor into a deserted protected area… turns out it was closed for dredging, but no one minded…

Monday November 27th Push to New York or Die trying! So, my first really rough weather that I decided to call it quits in, and shouldn’t have attempted in the first place…

This video was just before the wind increased to 30kts+, and the waves became choppy monsters intent on tearing my boat apart… I called it quits 3 hours in, and hightailed it to safety behind a breakwall a couple hours west of me. My nerves were shot after this

While inland there were light winds, and my weather apps said 15 knots, I decided to push due to cold weather and wanting to get to New York City. I didn’t check the NOAA weather unfortunately, as I wandered out into rough but ok weather, that turned south real quickly. A weather warning was posted for my area that I got lazy and didn’t hear about… Spray and waves hammered me, pouring down in massive amounts all over my full enclosure, from the bow reaching all the way astern the waves crashed… standing height breaking waves with relentlessly short periods, a new wave would hit just as the last passed, burying my bow many times over. I was waiting for my anchor to rip loose, I was waiting for the boat to tip, but with motor and storm sail up, she remained steady, with noises and a pounding the likes I’ve never experienced before in a boat… I was ok, getting tired quickly, my poor Irwin didn’t sign on for this… I wasn’t making any ground in 4 hours, so I tacked and headed back to a protected spot behind a breakwall 2 hours away… 10 Nautical Miles in 6 hours towards warmer climates… not worth it.

It died to a flat calm and had a beautiful sail, so I did an all nighter and sailed silently closer to Hell Gate, NYC… Notes in Log:” Jib sail is tearing, held well in high winds, need new sail”

 

Tuesday 28th November Arrived Port Jefferson at night, 104 kms in 12 hours. Anchored and slept after that all night sail. Up to get an Uber for diesel, no docks or marinas open, running low on water… weather is cold… having difficulty filling my composite propane tank, I should have gotten a cheap steel one to swap easily instead.

Wednesday 29th November 6 hour and 67 kms Port Jefferson to Manhasset Bay

This is where I met my new friend Stephen. I motored over to his boat to see if he wanted to make a landfall with me, his dinghy lashed to his deck and not looking like it was coming off anytime soon. I went aboard and met his cat and living quarters. He’s an odd fellow from California, a liveaboard for the past 6 years, he purchased this boat as a way of becoming self sufficient in what he feels is a country gone corrupt. Laura, his cat, was a bit high energy, and climbed and jumped on me and my head for a little while till she tired out… and we talked gadgets n what-not… Presently, he’s stuck grounded, with waters slowly freezing around him up in Virginia where he’s run into bad luck, time and time again. He doesn’t keep up with technology, so he doesn’t have the resources like Navionics or Active Captain… instead relying on guessing and charts as to where to anchor out… In any case, I convinced him to get tow insurance, and tomorrow, he’ll be free after a week of storms and ice while aground in ever lowering waters… fingers crossed he gets free!

On that note, all the other boats I’ve met have had serious set backs and delays. Still sitting in North Carolina or Virginia… I guess I’m rather lucky. I purchased this boat for the sole reason that the previous owner took excellent care and pride in her. Regular maintenance and upgrades, I could have purchased a heavier ocean going vessel, but would have had to sink tens of thousands in upgrades and repairs and many months or more, of labour into them… This one, while a lightweight racer/cruiser, is solid and in good condition, and is proving a solid choice for coastal cruising.

I still want to experience foul weather in an “ocean going” vessel of similar size to compare the differences in safety and comfort a heavier vessel may provide… Why do so many people say not to take this boat out into the ocean, is the question I’ve been thinking over this trip.

Thursday December 1st Throgs Bridge Hell Gate to Atlantic City, 20 hours, 112 NM.

Left Throgs Bridge 6am and made it to HG in 1.5 hours. Uneventful and an easy trip, was calm and interested in NYC. Made it to Liberty Island and anchored a stones throw away, where I thought I wanted to anchor out over night, however, conditions were perfect for pushing on further, and I sailed on out with the current at 9 knots!

Sunday December 3rd Atlantic City to Cape May (1PM depart)12.5 hours 141 kms Anchored in the channel, I hopped into the dinghy and struck up conversation with a local fisherman at the old Trump Casino and Marina, got the passcode and tied up, walking in like a local. The key to trespassing is to go up to people and ask common questions that they can answer, with confidence and gratitude, looking them in the eyes, it erases any thoughts of you being a stranger, I’ve found. I’ve been given peoples personal cars, free fuel, free propane, and free dockage just by being talkative and friendly with people. Went directly to the Roulette Tables and walked away with a free jerry of Diesel in winnings… Thanks Atlantic City!

I left shortly afterwards… To get to Hampton, Virginia to start the Intracoastal Waterway, or, as I call it, the Long horrific slog through a narrow channel with bridges that constantly breakdown, on timed openings, with grumpy american operators… YaY! How delightful, kill me now.. or let me escape asap.

Wednesday December 6th Cold and wet here in Hampton, I did an oil change, filled tanks, and found out where the heck this ICW thing is… Notes in Log “im not even in the ICW yet and I already don’t like it…” “retightened stuffing box”

Thursday December 7th The ICW, as predicted, was exhausting and constricting. Can’t go to bathroom, eat, or leave the wheel even for a second… Prison, Defined, ICW. 8am-530pm for 45NM and 9.2 hours. I anchored for the night in extremely shallow water just off the path, with the lead line reading 4′.

Friday December 8th Nightmares and no sleep last night… Added a jug of diesel and took off 5:45am… Cold and wet, in 20 knot winds, the Alligator bridge broke down for an hour, leaving me and another to anchor off and wait in choppy waves and wind. Brutal following seas made one hell of a ride! Damn that was intense. Felt sick, coughing. Anchored as soon as I found wind protection.

Saturday December 9th 10 am departure 8.5 hours and 84kms… I’m bored out of my mind but can’t relax on the ICW… It’s cold and wet, everything is damp, the only thing that keeps me sane, is music and dancing at the wheel!

Notes in Log “possible weather window for offshore soon!”

Sunday December 10th 8 hours. Cold. Beaufort arrival… Cold.

Monday December 11th I was desperate to push, soon, I’d be free to leave the ICW and go outside, better yet, I’d be clear of the Frying Pan shoals with several days of calm weather! The Shoals, extend 20 some odd miles out, requiring boaters to waste an entire day gaining no ground, just to get around it. I had taken the ICW route to and just past this point… and soon it’d be a direct line to Florida, a sunny and warm dream land full of oranges, manatees and old people… or so i thought. Current and winds extreme, making no grounds, 9kms in over 2 hours pounding, made a decision to anchor in a cove just outside of Beaufort.

Wednesday December 13th 1130am winds died down and allowed for me to make a 5 hour trip and knock off 30nm more. Anchored in a military zone, helicopters were practicing maneuvers all day long overhead in this protected anchorage.

Thursday December 14th  820am departure, 77kms, arrived 430pm… Cold. Damp. Tired. Anchored just shy of South Port. Strong currents, I needed to plan this right the next morning. Notes in Log “added 10 gallons fuel”

Friday December 15th Quick and easy 2 hour trip to South Port, where I anchored in a tiny cove, and was gratefully given the keys to a young fishermans truck! I was able to purchase Diesel, heat glove and toe warms, water and food for the upcoming journey! tomorrow was to be my escape from the Intracoastal! YeeHaw!

Saturday December 16th Today was the day I’d been dreaming of since the first mile on the ICW… I took off from Cape Fear, gleefully into the blue. Dolphins dancing all around me, whales blowing as they surfaced, and big lumbering sea turtles that’d disappear into the water when I tried to chase em down… 53 hours and 300 Nautical Miles without any issues. That night however, was rough. Winds came head on at 20 knots and the waves were pounding me. I attached my epirb, strobe light, and VHF to my safety vest for this part, as I was a bit scared, 30 miles offshore in the blackness. Waves always seem worse when you can’t see em coming at you. Managed to get some sleep though! Bits here and there, I tried day and night to get 30 minutes down, poke my head up, and go back down for another 30, and it kind of worked… I felt ok when I arrived in Jacksonville Fl. Unfortunately the tides were against me in the extreme… never before had I seen such ocean currents fighting against one another as the water poured out from the Saint John River directly at me. I anchored and slept till it changed, and saw ships bigger than ever pass along beside me. Then anchored again first chance I got, and went to bed.

Monday December 18th 

I have no love for Jacksonville. Nuclear plants, factories and an army base was all I saw until I arrived 3 hours later to the town center… I anchored just away from it, not knowing where I would be staying, and the currents picking up again. The plan was, I was to have my cute girl Ashleigh join me somewhere warm for the week of Christmas, and I wanted an enjoyable experience for her…

Oh wait, the Police are now questioning me ” we got a complaint of a sailboat with a dinghy around here…” “mmm I just arrived, actually, i was behind you as we entered” Officer “oh, ok…”

You see, they don’t like boats anchoring in Florida, and the Police will hassel and/or taser/ pepper spray you for making such an offensive move, or so I’m told.

Tuesday December 19th I go to the city marina, the only show in town near amenities. Wait for the bridge that only opens a few times per day, then have the Marina manager ignore me, as he doesn’t want to deal with a sailboater. The guy working there, said he was going to be a used car dealer for his next job, and he fit the profile… I didn’t like this place, at all. Uber to town, supplies… now try to go back the way I came, towards St Augustine… Broken Bridge, leaving me circling for an hour in extremely high currents and high winds… I couldn’t escape, and my girlfriend had to talk me down from ramming the bridge just so I could leave this place… a sour taste left in my mouth you could say… Anchored in my original spot at night, I was hopeful the next town would be better. My stuffing box however, was leaking bad, and any further tightening was causing temperature to be above 100’F… sigh… I ran it slopping water until I arrived in the next town, where I got the proper tool and flax and fixed it once and for all…

Finished Hiking Canada’s Longest Trail!!!

30 days, 4 hours exactly to complete an end to end hike of Canada’s oldest and longest marked trail. Through the rain, subzero temperatures, rocky terrains -the sun shined and the views were incredible. Bears, rattlesnakes and porcupines were some of the exotic animals we walked amongst. Sea stacks, grottos, and impossibly lush forest were some of the sights witnessed.

All in all this journey has been more than I imagined it’d be. The people who make the community of volunteers and hikers are of great character. Helpful and fun, and always interested in meeting an “end to ender”.

This was to be a 900km meditative walk in Canada’s finest forests, to test out my equipment and determination for the Appalachian Trail this month.

There were some moments of clarity and mindfulness- however the challenges and push each day required made it much more taxing than i had imagined.

If the AT is a go, a lighter pack is needed. That, is for sure.

Otherwise I can’t see the AT offering anything more substantial than what the Bruce Trail offers- other than endless mountains of course…

Extremely happy to be in Tobermory, and, I even found a ride back to hammer town!

So, where to next?

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