Mar 8, 2018
Tuesday: Day 4
From listening to the weather forecast the night before, I knew the gale had passed. A small craft warning was however, issued with maximum winds of 25 knots. Given the confidence I had in the seaworthiness of Celtic Kiss, I decided to head out. Anxious to get going, I awoke shortly after daybreak and had a quick breakfast. After re-opening my float plan and going through the lengthy process of tearing down my camp and restoring the boat, I set off for the most exhilarating sail of my life under reefed main alone.
The gale had left behind very large offshore swells, which made for great surfing. The combination of 25-knot winds and 12-foot waves had Celtic Kiss speeding down the Eastern Shore at over 9 knots for the entire day. My course took me across Pope’s Harbour, Spry Bay and Mushaboom Harbour.
It was around here I noticed breakers offshore as I was entering a very rocky area of the Eastern Shore. Common sense dictates, stay away from the string of breakers or face the direst of consequences. Given the breaking waves over any offshore rocks, it was easy to spot them from a distance. I termed this “breaker navigation” which required a keen eye since Celtic Kiss and I were, in a way, sailing blindly along this portion of the coast. I was never in any danger, but I say sailing blindly because I could not read my charts as they were securely tethered to the mast. Proper weight and balance are integral factors in a sailing dinghy and given the wind velocity and sea state, it was imperative I sit as far aft as possible so as not to bury the bow. Hence my charts were out of reach.
Though I was thoroughly enjoying my sail, and my confidence in the seaworthiness of Celtic Kiss had grown, safety is always foremost on my mind. In my many years of dinghy sailing, I have learned that the difference between calm and chaos can be a matter of seconds. A broken split ring could cause certain rig failure: a dismasting is bad at any time but in an angry sea it could be a disastrous situation. Once I was clear of Beaver Island, I spotted a red spar buoy, which marked the channel into Quoddy Harbour. Though I had told the coast guard I would go as far as Tuffin Island (see second chart, Day 5), I had spotted Quoddy on the mainland and altered course to make a landfall there. To get into the harbour, I had to sail through a narrow passage between two islands with breakers all around. This required some precise navigation and careful planning. I couldn’t fall too far off the breakers because I wouldn’t make the channel, but on the other hand, I could not go too far upwind as I would be at a bad angle to the waves.
Eventually, I was able to thread the needle between the Harbour Islands at the entrance to Quoddy Harbour. I estimated 700 feet as the distance between the two islands where towering breakers marked the sides of the narrow channel with less disturbed water in the middle. To starboard of Celtic Kiss, white foam was within a boat length, and to port I could stare into green water of breaking waves that were higher than the spreaders. Once I had sailed into the lee of the Harbour Islands, the swell disappeared, but the high wind was still evident. I tacked under reefed main into Quoddy Harbour and admired the beautiful homes. One mansion stood out, and I noticed a person standing on the back deck watching my every move as I guided Celtic Kiss to the public dock at Gammons Creek Harbour.
Upon my arrival in the picturesque village, I immediately sought a bit of local knowledge and soon found myself walking up the driveway to the home I had been admiring from the water. Being shy by nature, I gently knocked on the door and was greeted by the young lady who had been watching me entering Quoddy Harbour. As it turned out, Elisabeth and her two roommates were also sailors and quickly made me feel welcome. Elisabeth, Marika and Karin were also sailing adventurers and currently had their sailboat in balmy Mexico waiting for their arrival to go off to far and wonderful places. In great maritime fashion I was quickly provided use of their telephone, so I could close my float plan and contact various family members who had been following my trip.
As my little vessel was receiving quite a bit of attention from my newfound friends, I invited them down to the dock to give Celtic Kiss the once over. I think it was at this point that the gals took pity on me as they saw my sparse accommodation and offered me the use of their studio for the night. Since it was early in the afternoon, I decided to take advantage of the warm sun to dry and generally air out my sleeping bag and assorted items of clothing. I made sure the batteries for my handheld GPS would never be faraway. According to this little wonder, I had reached a maximum speed of 9.1 knots and sailed 23 miles in only 3.5 hours. What a great feeling to know that I was well into a coastal cruise that at one time I could only dream about. As the lazy afternoon wore on into early evening, I could still hear the North Atlantic’s towering waves crash into the many jagged rocks that dominate this part of the coast. I went to bed hoping that the sea state would be a little bit less harrowing in the morning.
Just as the forecast had predicted, I woke up to a dismal day of rain with a threat of fog patches developing late in the afternoon. It would have been easy to roll over in bed and wait for better weather, but the wind speed and direction were in my favour, as was the tide. From a conversation with the local wharf master the day before, I was assured that Liscomb was within striking distance.
Wednesday: Day 5
The shoal waters provided larger swells for an early morning wake-me up. While I was passing the many rocks that were waiting to eat my fiberglass, I encountered the same whistling sound I had heard at Egg Island. And just like at Egg Island, not a sign of sea life except for some seaweed that gave off a distinct odour of fish. After I had passed the shoal waters of Quoddy Harbour and entered the deeper water of the North Atlantic Ocean, the waves became much more bearable and provided a comfortable broad reach towards Liscomb Island. Visibility was rated as fair to poor in showers, so my trusty compass was closely monitored as I sailed towards my next waypoint of Barren Head.
With the fog closing in I navigated my way to the entrance of the Liscomb River with a plan to reach the Liscombe Lodge resort however getting to the Lodge presented a challenge. It is a seven-mile run up the river in steady rain and I had never sailed Celtic Kiss up a river before. While the rain intensified, I was convinced I’d made the right choice in closing the float plan at Liscombe Lodge. Upon arrival at the resort’s little dock, I found a small space to secure Celtic Kiss for the night. I then gathered up my duffel bag of clothes and my charts before taking the short walk up to the office of the Lodge. “Do you take vagrants?” I jokingly asked the office staff. The friendly ladies behind the counter laughed at my remark and were extremely helpful in getting me settled into a luxurious room overlooking the Liscomb River. Having been informed that I must make dinner reservations for the dining room rather than just showing up looking for a meal, I made plans to dine at 2000. When I contacted the coast guard, it was quite satisfying to report to them that after four days of sailing I had finally arrived at an intended destination. And of course, I was able to study my charts and plan my next day’s sail in comfort.
I did my best to find a dry set of clothes and shoes to wear to the classy dining room. I didn’t want to look like an unkempt hippie though I had earlier declared myself as a vagrant. After enjoying a fine meal, the Long Island iced tea was sipped with much satisfaction. It was at this point that a couple stopping here in their Nonsuch 30 Feline Fine spotted me. They were retired and sailing from their home in Quebec City to the Bahamas. I was invited aboard for a nightcap.
– Rob Dunbar
(Rob’s trip continues in our next issue, March 22)