July 12, 2013
Provincetown Cape Cod to Shelburne Nova Scotia
By Captain Bradley Rosenberg with Editorial and Photo Assistance from First Mate Kathy Clark
This was one of those crossings you usually only read about in others’ blogs. This is one of the big reasons we cruise – for these types of experiences. Let’s recap – We departed from Prudence Island near Bristol, RI at 0500 (5am) on 5 July. We had a wonderful full day passage to the Cape Cod Canal, through it and over to P-Town. (If you have not yet visited this place it is worth a couple of days. Great protection from all but strong southeasterly winds.) We arrived and had the anchor set by 18:00 (6pm) after taking a slow tour of the harbor trying to figure out where to anchor for both protection from a 30 plus knot late afternoon sea breeze and access to town without having to off load our tender. We had already made the decision to spend the night; more about that in a minute. The guide book indicated a launch service was available for both moored and anchored boats. (Not true as we found out later.)
We decided to anchor where there was the most protection from the wind and give up access to town for the day as we were not planning on launching the tender. We anchored inside the cape, just east of the light house in 18 meters of water. We put out 70 meters of chain including snubber. Not quite the normal 5 or 7 to 1 depth ratio, but as the water deepens you can safely reduce the anchor scope, especially when working with chain. As you can see from the below picture, anchoring is a little more art and science than first apparent. This unlucky boat, anchored a little too close to the change in depth line. The combination of a little wind shift during the night and a 3 meter (9ft) tide drop, made for an uncomfortable morning. As the tide rose, all was well and he motored off to the town dock.
We were not planning on launching the tender; because we had made the decision that Saturday the 7th would be a sleep in and rest day. Two factors affected our decision. One, our return dreamer guests, Sid and Stefani had taken the redeye in on 4 July and had a very busy 4th, followed by a very early and long 5th . Also Team Shear Madness had had a very busy week fighting last minute gremlins that always appear prior to major trips; this guy Murphy is really a pain in the @*%. The Captain felt we would all be better served by resting for a day and making the crossing refreshed. Second and equally important, a detailed review of the weather indicated that while a direct crossing from the Canal, which was an option we had kept open, “predicted” (we all know about economist and weather forecaster accuracy) the weather would be even more settled if we departed Saturday evening. The reason for the evening departure in both options, is given the distance ~ 270 miles, and our estimated speed of 7.5 knots, we like to arrive in the morning, allowing us plenty of time to push back arrival and still arrive in daylight. While the good ship Shear Madness and crew has the technology and experience to arrive in most places at night, prudence suggests arriving at an unknown port is best in light.
While we did not exactly sleep in (the captain was up at 03:30 using the internet (too slow in the day time) to finalize the sale of his mother’s home, and the guests were up at 05:00 for the sunrise), we did all retire very early after a wonderful dinner of Lasagna with garlic cheese bread. However we did have a slow lazy morning. The water was a very comfortable 72 degrees, so Kathy and Sid took the inflatable paddle board to shore for a walk, while Bradley and Stefani swam for an hour. Bradley then spent some time working on the bottom, cleaning out some through hulls and cleaning the paddle wheel on the speed through water sensor, which had grown some barnacles which that prevented the little paddle from spinning. We all re-assembled on SM around 13:00 (1pm) for a hardy lunch and afternoon siesta. Our departure target was 16:00 (4pm) with an estimated hour to make all final preparations for the crossing. Because we had spent the past 7 days anchored up a river we did not make water so our supply was down to less than 30% of our 800 gallons. Our trip plan was to start out running the generator to fully charge the batteries, fill the water tanks and then switch over to the hydraulic alternator for the remainder of the trip, there by arriving at Shelburne with full batteries and full water tanks.
Team SM was successful; at 16:00 the anchor came up and we were on our way. Based on the forecast we were expecting winds from the SW to W at around 15 to 20 knots and falling through the night to 10 to 15 by 0600 Sunday. Waves were predicted to be from the South by South East at 1+ meters, also declining. What we had instead were winds SW at 5 to 10 and less than 1 foot swell. We opened up the flybridge and drove from it most of the trip. What a start. In addition we had a little current with us for the first several hours so we were making 8 to 8.2 knots over the ground. That would put us in at 23:00 Sunday evening. Our private Chef, Kathy had prepared a crock pot surprise for dinner, it had simmered all day while we played. It was ¼ of a turkey cut up bones and all with broccoli, corn, mushrooms and corn bread topping. Boy was it good. The Captain had two helpings, one at dinner 17:30 and the second just before bed at 23:00. Lots of swimming in NS to make up for that.
Our luck continued through the night with the winds going even lighter than forecasted. It was a clear night with a new moon, so the stars were out in all their grandeur, one of my favorite aspects of cruising. The swell got a little more confused, but at less than 1 foot and our stabilizers working as designed (thank you ABT), we were having the perfect ride. In fact the wind got so light and the batteries filled up so quickly that we needed a way to put extra load on the generator, while continuing to fill the water tanks. (In a perfect world generators like to be run at 75% load). So with the temperature inside the master and crew cabins at 85+, the captain turned on the AC. We cooled right down and the generator loved the load.
After taking the first watch from 18:00 to 22:00, Bradley arrived back on watch at 07:00 to a wonderful whale show and a super tanker on a collision course with us, 30 minutes in the future. The tanker was extremely pleasant and called us to request that we hold course and speed and he would alter course to starboard, to pass on our stern. We told him we would, and had only recently slowed down to avoid a whale off our bow. While we technically had rights in the situation (for the tanker, not the whale), it is not uncommon for us not to be able to raise anyone who speaks English on the bridge of commercial ships. Thank you Captain for your extreme courtesy.
It needs to be noted that when the Captain is off watch, he wakes every 1 to 2 hours to check on the watch and make sure all situations are under control. I am able to do this with no alarms, just by drinking lots of water prior to going to bed. As I arrived back on watch at 07:00 we had another wonderful whale show. It is hard to convey to our readers just how fascinating it is to see the beautiful mammals of the sea up close and personal. Spouts blowing all around us several times that morning. It is, however, difficult to get great photos of them! The Captain and crew were then surprised by a wonderful breakfast of oven baked Cinnamon Sticky buns and fresh fruit. Thank you, Kathy.
Our speed slowed down a little dropping in some cases to 6.9 knots, thereby stretching out our arrival time to 0300 EST or 0400 local time, by which time the sun would peeking over the horizon. Sunday continued to be perfect, with the temperature dropping into the mid 60’s and water temp. the same. The fishing line was out for the day, but no luck, so dinner was grilled sausages with onions, peppers, a salad and other goodies. During the day we were treated to fresh baked brownies meaning even more swimming in NS.
As evening approached we continued to have Westerly winds in the 8 to 12 knot range, with very settled following seas of less than 1 foot. The Captain returned to watch at 0200 on Monday morning, as we were approaching the turn to head into Shelburne.
The good news and bad is that we had made better time than expected and were going to have to make the run up the river while it was still dark. With the Captain and 2nd mate Tyler on watch we were working our way up the river and all was going well, until we came across a small green light that was not on the chart. When returning to ports (in North America, the rest of the word is different) boats are supposed to keep Red lights on Starboard and Green lights to port. This light was just to our starboard and the chart showed we were in plenty of deep water. Luckily earlier we had slowed the boat speed to be conservative in the dark, because just after we passed the green light on the wrong side, we began to see shapes in front of us. A quick reduction in speed and inspection with our spot light showed we were heading straight for a fish farm anchored in the middle of the river. We altered our course and slipped safely past the farm.
As we arrived in Shelburne proper, we knew to find the Yacht club dock, tie up and contact Canadian Customs CBSA. After a little looking and the sun beginning to rise, we found the dock but it was full. We called Customs to report in, explained the situation and after asking us some questions cleared us in with no issues. Thank you CBSA.
It took three tries to get the anchor to hold properly, but when she did, there was no doubt it could handle any wind. By then it was 0500 local time, the sun was up and the boat needed a good cleaning. With the water tanks full, we set about giving SM a detailed bath and Chamoising. She was very happy and was the prettiest girl at the ball.
In the middle of the wash, our 2nd mate, being from Alabama found out our guests had never had grits, so he cooked up a wonderful batch for breakfast along with some fruit and pancakes. We completed detailing SM, took a siesta and then around 13:00 headed into Shelburne to experience the town.
We would like to thank Neptune and Poseidon (Gods of the Sea) and Aeolus and Jupiter (Gods of the wind) for such a wonderful crossing.