Sunday, September 25, 2022

Bye, Fiona

We are underway westbound along the southern tip of Nova Scotia, bound for Yarmouth. We are happy to be done with Fiona, our 13th named tropical cyclone aboard Vector. Our four nights in West Head Harbour cost us just $40 in US cash, since I was out of Canadian, and that was really for our 30-amp power hookup.

I could not capture in photos the sheer number of fishing boats in this port. The majority are on the hard until lobster season in November. This is one small piece of the yard.

After my last post and in the proverbial calm before the storm, we walked around the port a bit. The only retail business is a seafood takeout place rumored to have excellent pies, but they were closed when we walked by. In hindsight I should have returned later in the day, before Fiona trapped us on the boat.

Other than the stroll, we spent a good deal of our two pre-storm days preparing the boat. We brought in the e-Bike and all the flybridge cushions, tied down the tender, removed the flybridge windscreens, taped up the lockers, and tied the covers down on the flybridge plotter and the BBQ.

The boats in the water also fish for other species. "For Fish Sake," I'm thinking ...

I made up a quick-disconnect for the 30-amp power setup using a pair of straight plugs. That would allow the two cords to pull apart cleanly in the middle rather than ripping one of the twist-to-lock ends off if the wind pushed us too far from the pier. The disconnect arrangement added another couple of feet as well, making the situation a bit less tenuous.

We also added another four lines, for a total of ten lines on ten different cleats. Eight of those lines went to Atlantic Triumph (for the curious boaters that was two each of forward and aft breasts as well as forward and aft springs), and two went to bollards on the pier (one each forward and aft breast). I neglected to take photos, but we had to be creative. One aft breast came across the starboard rail and across our aft deck to a port cleat; we tied a red ribbon to it for visibility since it was right in the way.

A different small slice of the yard. Still plenty of room.

Friday morning captain Steve, owner of Atlantic Triumph, arrived to add some lines, and we exchanged numbers. Like so many other folks here he offered to drive us anywhere or lend us a car. I learned that the five foot aluminum extension on the transom of his boat has to come off for lobster season due to a 50' length limit; he puts it on for halibut season.

Last photo Thursday evening, while I could still get ashore.

His arrival was timely, inasmuch as we had just tripped the shore breaker, and I was puzzling how to even get ashore to reset it. We had to carefully manage loads on the shore connection and we must have gone over just a tad; the wind was already blowing the boats so far from the dock there was no way ashore. Steve's answer is just to grab one of the lines off the dock bollard and put it over the hitch on his pickup truck, and use the truck to pull the boat to the dock. I ran over and reset the breaker while he was still there.

Once Steve departed we were again trapped on the boat, literally until the winds shifted early this morning. We had a comfortable dinner aboard Friday evening before the storm force winds arrived, and after dinner I ruminated about taking the Starlink terminal down for the storm. Ultimately I decided just to lower the mounting post to reduced the moment arm, so that we'd have our high-speed Internet for the duration. It ran through the whole event, even during the fairly heavy rain.

Friday morning at 10am and we are already seven feet from the pier. We stayed like this until this morning.

Also Friday afternoon we had a visit from local commercial diver Donnie Mahaney. I had called him on Jason's recommendation Thursday morning to see if he could come out and look at our fin and check for any other damage. He agreed to come out Friday mid-day, before the storm hit in earnest. Donnie came well-prepared, changing into his dry suit in the back of his panel truck.

It turned out that we have no fin damage at all; what had looked to me in a murky photo like fiberglass damage was in fact just white marine growth, which he scraped off. No damage to the prop or rudder, either, and all he found was an area on our beefy keel where we had basically just scraped off the barnacles. He also told us there was not enough growth on the hull to bother cleaning. Such a relief, and worth every penny of the $150 charge. That sounds like a lot for a ten minute dive, but not when you consider the cold-water equipment and willingness to do it. I had to hand him the cash in the water, since we could not reach the dock. He simply swam to and from the boat from a ladder on the pier.

Windscreens off, doors taped, deck chairs moved and tied. All set.

Gale force winds started around 9pm Friday, and escalated through the evening to around 40 knots or so. I stayed up till 1:30, periodically checking on the lines, but all was holding well and I turned in for the night. It was still blowing just over 40 when we awoke in the morning, where the highest our weather station had recorded was 42 knots. I don't think it went above that.

After-dinner rainbow Friday evening, the final calm before the storm.

The high winds persisted all day yesterday, not only trapping us on the boat, but also keeping us from getting anything done outside. I was finally able to relocate a few things and get the flybridge ready for travel after dinner. The windscreens are still off and the cushions are still below decks; we need a good rinse before we can put them back.

With the cushions off, I tape the locker doors on the settee to keep some of the water out.

We had a good rinse, of course, through the early hours of the storm, which dropped plenty of fresh rain. But the steady gale force winds out of the west yesterday crashed up against the breakwall and sent an atomized salt spray all over Vector all day long. I found the Starlink terminal, which is most of the way aft and on the upper deck, completely coated with 1/16" layer of caked salt. The flybridge and pilothouse are similarly covered. We don't have enough fresh water to wash it all (there was no spigot on the pier), but we should have some rain tomorrow.

The fenders, similarly salt-covered, swung in big arcs all day while the wind held the boats apart, doing a number on our paint. That needs to be replaced anyway, so no harm done, and we'll just tell people they are battle scars.

Video: Saturday morning, waves crashing over the breakwall some 10' or more above the water.

I was hoping I might be able to get off the boat yesterday for a little walk. Perhaps even go to the store about a half hour away and pick up beer, since we finished the last of our meager supply, or even pick up a pie at the take-out. But even after dinner as the winds laid down some, it was impossible. That gave us some concern we might be stuck right there in the harbor for another few days. Louise checked the forecast just before bed and determined there was a slim but non-zero chance we might have a one-day window today.

She was up before me and checked again, rousting me for an early start. The tide will become unfavorable this afternoon so we wanted to make tracks while we had some with us for at least part of the way. The winds shifted overnight and I was able to step onto the pier to take off our lines and unplug the power cord, and the harbormaster met me on the dock to collect the fee.

Last night's sunset, from the flybridge.

The plotter says we will arrive in Yarmouth at 2pm, but I don't believe it. We'll be pushing against the ebb for the last several miles, and the tides here are extreme. With luck, we'll be in quarters before dinner time. My next post here will be crossing the Bay of Fundy, whenever we get a weather window to do so, likely toward the end of the week.


  1. Great to read the Starlink held the connection through the storm. The only extended disconnect we've experienced was for about 20 minutes of an intense thunderstorm in Canada this summer. We were tied to a lock wall waiting for locking to resume and the lightning around us was intense.


  2. Glad all is well aboard Vector. I was thinking about you while watching weather reports on the TV. Take care and safe travels.

  3. Thanks for relieving our minds about your safety - and the video made it real.


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