susys running away to sea

"The rigors (sic) of an expeditionary lifestyle"

Friday, June 30, 2006

Le-eaving, on a sailboat, don't know when I will post again ...

So, it's farewell, and fare well, for a while - keep checking, if that's your fancy.

Lots of love to everyone who knows me, and to everyone else, too.

Suse xx

Eve of Canada Day

The Toke (updated)

Bought J a Newfoundland took (pron. tooook), he being mightily pleased with same. In Rhode Island, it is called a teeeeek.

* * * * *

“Vegetables!” exclaimed J, recoiling to the far reaches of the saloon, and viewing the pretty heaps of chopped pepper, celery and scallions for supper’s Spanish omelette in horror.

So I wrote him his own menu:

St John’s Special – Meat and Muffin Omelet

and placated him by adding ham and cheese.

Today I bought some broccoli aboard….

* * * * *

Tonight went to Nautical Nellie’s for supper with Alan and his wife Laura. Had only met Alan once before (and prior to that, only through his helpful advice on the internet) and I had assured him I would be my normal quiet self. I reckon I frightened him yesterday, with a massive attack of manic verbals. He looked sceptical … It was such a pleasure – A and L’s company, and the meal. And they did suggest meeting up again when we get to Conception Bay, so must have behaved.

* * * * *

Smuggled a cake aboard today, for J’s birthday in a week’s time. It’s now cowering at the bottom of the fridge, trying to avoid detection. J doesn’t know I know about the b’day.

* * * * *

The waters of St John’s Harbour are the same milky turquoise of the Caribbean. A young woman walked to the end of the jetty to wash her hands. It had only been the day before, when we tied up, that we saw we were sailing through shit. I suggested she wash her hands again, somewhere else, and rather thoroughly.

This local phenomenon is known as the Bubble, a cute euphemism for discharging the sewers directly into this enclosed bay. Although matters are being addressed, I have forbidden J to let any of the lines touch the water, or HE has to wash them.

* * * * *

Took a taxi to The Rooms, the archive, museum, art gallery do-it-all on top of this rock. It’s not quite a year old, very modern architecture, and is suspended over the cliff below. Called The Rooms, from the old cod fishing days, when the catch was dried and processed along the bays’ edges, each section being called a room. The view from the top is stunning – a panorama of the Harbour and the Narrows, today in sweltering sunshine. After a strong dose of culture, we sit in one of the windowed walls over coffee and juice, just staring out, and talking of beliefs and non-beliefs. Set him on a subject close to his heart, and J will talk, and I will listen. He’s a very interesting man.

* * * * *

Then it’s downhill all the way, blown on by the funneling wind. We stop at a restaurant for lunch. I’m not going to name it for reasons you will read later. Anyway, we’re seated upstairs in the gallery – old deep magenta clapboard on the outside, tres moderne inside, with menu to match. The waitress comes to take our order, hands clasped behind her back, dark curly hair pulled back in a low ponytail, hornrimmed glasses, slim, wearing a pair of jeans and a snug black teeshirt – covering the BIGGEST TITS I’ve ever seen. Can’t tear my eyes away and order soup via her chest. So this is what men do. It’s a first for me …

* * * * *

The little park next to the boat, with the two dog statues, has a band playing – black and white musicians – the audience sit cooking gently on the grass round the little amphitheatre. Loud and groovy. This place is great for live music of all sorts, at all times, all through my sleepless night last night, writing. Mind you, when someone yells “Ahoy!” at first light, and you think it’s next door, and you stick your groundhog head out of your burrow, to be asked by a chatty local drunk how many stars are on your ensign, the pleasure of broken silence is smartly diminished.

I Left My Heart in St J's, Newfoundland

It slipped out accidently the other day, before J was aware of it.

“Extravagant and Frivolous!” he said, referring to my footwear – pink rubber boots, pink Gummibears flipflops, stinky trainers, two pairs of heels. I was delighted he had recognized the effort involved in cultivating this persona.

* * * * *
Getting Ready To Go Out

Downwards survey of current outfit and decision reached not to change – 1 second
Run fingers through hair, slick of lippy, squirt of scent, earrings already on – 5 seconds
Choose shoes – 54 seconds
Grab bag and avoid reflection in mirror
Total time: 1 minute

Thorough wash and brush up, inc teeth, hair, shave, aftershave and check self in mirror – 30 minutesLay out selection of clothing – 5 minutes
Select clothing, including shoes – 5 minutes
Dress, check pockets, put on watch, get wallet, check wallet – 20 minutes
Check boat overall – 1 hour
Total time: 2 hours

* * * * *
Instructions for washing hair (nautical)

Equipment required:
1 cockpit, dock, jetty, wharf etc as available
1 bucket, size immaterial
1 small plastic glass or mug
1 tin solid shampoo (cheers, Salli!)
3 glasses of cold water in a container

Lean over bucket and apply one glass of cold water over hair.
Shudder carefully to avoid spills.
Scoop water from bucket and apply till all hair is wet.Apply just enough shampoo not to work up a lather.
Scoop water from bucket to rinse.
Apply one further glass clean water for final rise.
Towel and wind dry.
Congratulate self on saving last glass of water.

PS Use water in bucket for thorough all over wash.

* * * * *

By Blow

Humourless Know-it-all: “ You know the Moody dealer in the Hamble?”

Straightfaced Smart Alec: “Oh, yeah – the one dealing in dodgy gear?”

HKIA (repressively, suspecting leg pull): “No, no. MOODY – the yacht people, blah, blah, blah."

SSA looks abashed – but not really!

NB: Dictionary definition: Moody (adj): item or items probably fallen off the back of a lorry, or otherwise gained by nefarious means. Dated 60’s slang from SE region UK, still in common usage among persons of a certain age and class.

Home Thoughts From A Broad

“Oh my America, my Newfoundland!” panted John Donne, taking his bliss with his mistress. Which puts me in mind of the fact that some of the metaphysical poets were actually more physical and less meta. JD stands out, literally, but there’s also Marvell’s persuasive little poem to his coy mistresse. Write these things to me, guys, and success is assured!

* * * * *

Newfoundland and Labrador are bunched together, and here in St John’s is a statuesque tribute to their best inhabitants. At the top of the wharf where we are docked are two bronzes of dogs, one for each place. You just have to love somewhere that honours its dogs. I miss my labrador, Finny.

* * * * *

More impressions of St Johns – on the approach. Elderly crumbling defences at the entrance to the Narrows. Cabot’s Tower on Signal hill on the opposite high hill. Painted wooden houses tumbling down the cliff sides. St J’s is famous for its painted houses – and reminds me of Valparaiso, but in better nick, wood rather than corrugated iron. Apart from Tobermory in, or rather, off, Scotland, we in the UK are very timid about colouring our houses, and we end up looking a bit beige.

* * * * *

The taxi driver who brings me and the groceries back to the boat spent 20 years at sea, until his wife died, leaving him with four kids in school.

* * * * *

Our French neighbours on their aluminium boat are leaving this afternoon, heading for Greenland. Wish I could be in more than one place at a time …. The more French I speak to them, the more like Ted Heath I sound: “Excewsay-mwah.”

* * * * *

New neighbours from the US arrive on a very expensive boat from the the Great Lakes via New York, heading over to Ireland. Boat – a Mason 43.

* * * * *

J is extremely neat and tidy and runs Fortune in the same way. He is remarkably forebearing about his crew, who has turned his forepeak into The Burrow, kicking out clothes behind her like a groundhawg.

* * * * *

Thursday, June 29, 2006

St John's is grrrr-eattttttt!!!!!

Last night J and I went clubbin' - to O'Reilly's bar on George Street. Famous for having the most pubs/bars in the world in a very small space or something like that. Everything here is unique, so they say - and I believe it.

And the cars STOP for the pedestrians to cross the road! The pedestrian light (a red hand) never changes to the little crossing man, anyway, so it's just step out and go. And as I was about to walk under some scaffolding over the pavement yesterday, a woman said "I wouldn't walk under that if I was you - something fell down on someone the other day." So I didnt - and said the same to another woman at the other end - pass it on, pass it on. People say hello in the streets. Everyone sounds Irish. Auntie Crae's is a fantastic deli. I have run out of superlatives. You may guess I looooove it here.

Just going shopping for the next two weeks, having thrown out or rebagged stuff in the haha dry locker, which like the rest of the boat is running with condensation according to J, (or leaks, according to me). The weather is hot and sunny, and windy and I can feel J wanting to cast off and go. How he restrains himself, I dont know. He's definitely much more of an obsessive sailor than I am - he travels hopefully, I hopefully arrive.

Alan W - a contact from - who has sent some very welcoming emails over the months, dropped by the boat last night. It was excellent to meet him! He later kindly dropped us off for our orgy of Irish music, coke (J) - no, not that sort - and wine x 2 (me). Introduced myself to one of the musicians, Fergus O'Byrne, and he did a request (Peggy Gordon). Little old man did great dance - Silver Riverdancer!

Am I having fun?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wednesday 28 June

Been semi-adopted by a former Brit, Frank - who hijacks Jack (haha) and whisks him off to the chandlery. I find this internet place at the visitors centre and hog it. St John's is a fantastic, anarchic place, full of pseudo-Irish pubs. Everyone sounds Irish, though. Staying here till Saturday, which is Canada Day, and we are going to get up early to see the sun rise on the most easterly tip of North America.

Note: There is a shop sign on Water Street: "Menswear", owned by a Mr Chafe. Is this then "Men's Wear", or "Men Swear"? Bet it makes their eyes water...

Love, Susy

Tuesday 27 June 2006 - My sister's birthday + whales

Happy Birthday, Jilly!!!!! I faced East and sang to you - hope you heard. Loads of love!!!!

Anyway, today we left Fermeuse Harbour, and I was woken up really really early - not by J wanting to get to sea again, but by something shining in my eyes. Torture! - then I held my hand up to the little port, and something red was reflected off my palm. Oh, what now, I groaned. And it was the SUN, and I saw a sunrise for the first time for days and days, outlining the dark hills. And it carried on this way all the way to St John's, only the tiniest of fog banks dropping in for a quick visit.

I was sitting at the back of the cockpit in my usual fair weather place, back propped against a couple of fenders, suncream at the ready, when a few yards off the port bow was a quick puff of spray - whale blow! Then a smooth gray hump, and a wave of the tail - and gone! Oh, oh, oh, oh - it was all I could say to get Jack's attention, pointing like a loony, while he grabbed his camera. All over in seconds, but so clo-ose. Close enough to see it was a humpback, confirmed in my whale watching book - words cant even begin.

Later, we saw 2 more blows, several times, but they were further away - still, at least it shows there are some whales around. International Whaling Commission is again supporting hunting minke and some endangered fin whales - see Greenpeace, join Greenpeace against this - I went to the Antarctic, South Georgia, where whales have been virtually exterminated, and it is a tragedy to do this, benefiting us not at all, and ruining the ecology of our beautiful planet. No apologies for this rant.

Entering St John's harbour is via an invisible cleft in the cliff face - The Narrows - then turn left into the main waterway. A hidden harbour. We are directed to a tiny wharf with a floating pontoon - oh dear, no ladder - and tie up next to a wreck. Except it isnt a wreck, it's off tomorrow to cross the Atlantic to Ireland, single handed by a charming Frenchman. J asks me if I am jumping ship to go with him - Fuck, no, I reply.

Foggy Sue, Foggy Sue, foggy foggy foggy foggy FOGGY Sue

The view from the front porch is?
And the view from the back porch is …?
Yup, a-all da-ay lo-onnngg.
J insisted on taking down the main when he was about to come off watch, so I had the pleasure of seeing him, lifeline on, admittedly, haring around the cabin top in the dark. Even deck lights have dark places. This I don’t like, and told him. Well, enough.
After motoring all day well off Cape Race, we rounded the south eastern corner of the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland’s most easterly region, and crawled up the side of this invisible land. Fermeuse Bay and Harbour are about 40-odd seamiles from St John’s, so this is just an overnight stop. As we approach the fjord-like entrance to the bay, the sun comes out – hot! – and the fog starts rolling away. It looks as if the sea is steaming, smoking, as the land is revealed. Ahh! A rifted, glaciated rockscape, covered in dark green pine forests. To port, the jagged rockface has been eroded, or has fallen, or both, to make deep huge caverns. We are looking at the bones of the earth, rising from the sea.
To the top of the bay, and a few mainly white painted houses make up a couple of settlements. Fishing boats are tied up, and many are out of the water. J drops the anchor, I turn off the engine.

The Schlepping News

The Schlepping News is brought to you tonight by A.R.C.I.E (the Association of Randy Crewmembers In Extremis) Inc.

Correction, that should read Random Crewmembers, of course.

The following Notices to Mariners carry a severe humor hazard. Some heavy weather may be expected in order to preserve Seamen. Seamen canNOT, repeat NOT, be preserved by the old method of sucking on a Fisherman’s Friend, or any other remedy for deep throat problems. There are other preventative measures to ensure better penetrative action. Please accept this warning with the smallest prick of excitement.

And now, Entertainment News, from our On Watch correspondent, the Radar Junkie.

Tonite’s program will commence with a singular disco “The Skipper Sleeps Tonite”, with your fave DJ, RJ!

Yes, folks – be your own iPod! Singalonga medley of your own favorites – TOTP featured here are hymns ancient and modern, the joy of pop tunes, songs from the shows, folk songs and sea shanties. Surely, something for everyone! Bop to the fog in the cockpit! In the likely event of rain, this event will be transferred to the foot of your stairs, where you can also expect to be entertained by ‘Bloc’ and his ‘Sanit-Aires’. Lighting effects are by the Circles of Green Delite. And the bar will be providing enough tea to float your boat! See y’all there, dude, as we pitch and rock and roll through the night!

Some ideas for party games, now the joint’s jivin’! And talking of which, why not spin things along with our novelty roll-ups – finely shredded horse blanket, subtly marin-aded in the sweetest bilge oil, and all in a wrap of our dankest bogroll? Mm-mmm! Hi-igh there!

Back to our games slot – and number one is: How long can YOU stand in the middle of our swinging saloon – look, Mommy, no hands! Current record and broken collar bone is a whopping ten seconds! And DIY bonesetting service is included FOC.

Holy Moly, that joint REALLY works, guys – could have sworn I saw J, Master, fare thee well, very well, wander past in his knickers! A truly gladsome sight!

Deck games now – and it’s hard to beat the all time goodie – wey, hey, and up she rises – to the top of the masthead, followed by the headlong, headfirst hurtle. Who’s gonna hit the deck first? And the winner, by a head, of course, has to be the one without the bosun’s chair! We have a choice of two masts – high and higher still. Why not try both, and get two prize nuts?

And for the ultimate thrill – regardless of safety - take your life in your own hands and try our near-death experience! Timed races round the deck!! Hah! Nothing to it, I hear your derisive chortles. But this one, folks, is outside all! And no cheating - no deck lights, no wimpy lifelines. Yeah!!

A bonus for some - last but not least on this good ole Yankee clipper, no sir, is the Queasy Susy experience – or she who barfs first, barfs longest. Excellent!

The Radar Junkie is proud to present as our finale for tonite – “Trip the Skip”! A new concept in no holds barred boss-baiting. Rules are simple – all skippers get what they deserve! All further suggestions are warmly welcomed, but here are just two for starters.

1. Choose a rough, wet night for this rib-tickler, better known as ‘Skipper’s Wedgie’. Shorten the shoulder straps on the skipper’s salopettes and/or his life jacket crotch straps, as available. No need to know which side he dresses – this will be rapidly irreverent, er, irrelevant. To use to best effect, choose any urgent situation and frighten him out of that warm cosy bunk, quick as you like. Watch him dress! Hear him swear! Learn new words – this could be educational!

2. and our last offering, is a Radar Junkie special. Do this only in deep fog surrounded by lots of bits of hard land for best results. Take one piece of cling film, or similar, cut to size of radar screen. Apply to screen while unobserved. Take one fluorescent highlighter pen, any make, to match screen color – pretty green, here, folks. Plus black pen for erasures. Add your own geography to the cling film.

Why not directly on the screen, you cry?

Silly you – this thing’s got value as salvage.

How long will it take for Skip to notice something’s up? How long will the Mayday take to be answered? How long before the salvage tug arrives? How much will they charge? Have you stowed the radar securely in your waterproof bag by then?

Hey, now it’s a quiz, too! This sure is great value!!

Signing off now, on watch, in charge, still floatin’! See you, guys!

The Radar Junkie

* * * * *

It’s been a slow night.

So far …

Gee, that's SWELL!

Been feeling a bit queasy today. Wearing acupressure wristbands – hope over experience.
Wearing two pairs of trousers now beneath the waterproofs, so I can get two pairs wet, dank and smelly all at once, instead of one at a time. Obviously, this is not the best day. We’re going for Cape Race, off the south-east tip of Newfoundland, where gusts up to 35 knots have been forecast (sound familiar?), and thence up the right hand side to Fermeuse Bay.
Actually, there has been one thing which lightened the day and that was a small pod of common bottlenosed dolphins. There were about five or six appearing above the surface, one doing backflips for joy. They were only there for a minute or so – that we could see.
I have a theory that all sea mammals will appear behind the boat, and we shall miss them, rather like the rollerblading pandas in an advert. But I caught this lot out, but coming up on deck and spotting them!
I see several more dolphins over the course of the day; only a handful at a time, hunting, their fins cutting through the water, creating a bow wave quite distinct from the surrounding waves. The smooth grays of their bodies are also different from the choppy wavelets.
I have noticed that if you see shearwaters gathering, today this has meant there are dolphins about. When the shearwaters land (?) on the sea, they dunk their little faces under the water looking for fish – endearing!
“Out across the endless sea …” I carol.
I have decided on a dragonfly tattoo – now where to have it? J says it defiles the body, so I said mine’s been defiled for years and jolly good fun it’s been, too.
We’re skirting the northern edge of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. One dubious pleasure is not having to play dodgems in the fog with the fishing boats. No fish = no boats. As a species, to what extent is our stupidity? “Endless.” Thanks, Norah.

PS - just heard a whaling charity is now approving whaling again - no details yet, but really ...

Sunday 25 June - at sea

Left St P in the rain, fog and a soupcon of wind.

“Il pleut sur les toits/Comme il pleure dans mon coeur”. Tears of joy, I think. Look it up - Lamartine, Sartre, Johnny Holliday quelquechose comme ca.

So, it’s not “au ‘voir”, more “adieu”, St Pierre.

Today has been frankly rather boring, motoring through this interminable fog, trying out sails when J imagines there to be enough wind. I know what’s going to happen on my watch from 6 – 10 pm. He will have left the main up and the wind will rise, and the autohelm will squeal like a piglet – and I shall have to fucking handsteer in the cold....

Saturday 24 June (later) - What SHALL we do with the drunken sailoresse?

Final night in St Pierre, and we go to La Voilerie, a very smart and very French restaurant along the harbour front, recommended by one of the Customs men – and incidentally run by his sister. I’m in heels and hairdo, diamonds and decent black, and full warpaint – I’m eating out in France.
We turn up at 6.40, to find it still closed beyond its 6.30 opening time. J rattles the door and I press my pauper nose hungrily to the window. Personne. As we turn away, the door is unlocked – the treat is on, after all! Fusion food and amazing combinations of spruce and lamb, shellfish and eglantyne cream, and (someone’s been to Japan), scallops and kelp and miso sauce. That’s my choice, served in a bamboo steamer, with chopsticks. J has onion soup – when in France – with a thick cheese croute semi submerged. Courses are served at a civilized and leisurely pace – lamb and duck follow. And so does the conversation. J tells me about previous female crew members. One is still a friend and 30 years younger than he is. I raise my eyebrows and J turns lightly pink and smug round the edges. Another one lasted less that 24 hours after she complained about his fridge. And “You’ll need another glass of wine,” said J, signalling Madame, the third was a somewhat bigger built lady, “but attractive,” he added, who stayed for an allotted three weeks.
“But didn’t you notice?’ said a friend of J’s later. “She had man’s hands?” No, he hadn’t.
“You didn’t …?” I ask. No, he hadn’t – damn another good story spoilt.
Two glasses of wine, and I’m mellow. Outside, later, after an excellent meal and company – I twirl in the middle of the main road – no traffic – and hope I’ll be able to get back on board. The wooden wharf is slippery with rain and has a dodgy ladder starting a couple of feet below the dock. But I’ve changed my heels for red flower seaboots; the tide is high and J hauls the boat in. This lovely evening is fully rounded off by a) sorting the washing, b) filling the water tanks and c) drunkenly whacking my forehead on the chart table – Jack, concerned about his chart table, knows how to give this girl a good time.
Insomnia, and in my bunk – the foghorn hoots mournfully somewhere across the harbour, the rain hammers on the hatch above my head, and a stray howl of wind clatters in the rigging. I gotta get out of this place …

En route and all at sea - before we got to France

Wearing his blue beanie with the flag of Canada on the front, J’s face appears in the companionway.
“When I get to St Pierre,” he declares, “I’m gonna have to get a new toke.”
Well, stone me! I’m stunned.
“Did you say toke, Jack?” Then, in view of his age and position in life. “D’you know what a toke is?”
“Course I do. You Brits.” Meaning: Think you know everything. Think we know nothing.
“Toke,” he repeats, pointing to the maple leaf of Canada on his hat.
Ah – toque.

Later, I’m humming “Puff the Magic Dragon”.

Saturday 24 June

Woke rather early, so took washing to the bloc and had a shower – my clothes have smelled of all the different places they have been washed – home in England before I set out, my daughter Rachel in Chile, my sister-in-law Heidi in New Jersey, and now boat washing powder. A journey by scent, with my perfume clinging to a pullover.
Jacques and I decide to find a café – and after several wrong turns, we end up at one down a back street. It has been raining, no, p*ssing, all night, and continues today, so we are streaming water as we push through the door. M’sieur the waiter lets us find our own seats – we are the only customers – and help ourselves to menus, then enquires into our requirements. Oh lor’ – when in France – so it’s Croque Monsieur (“That’s a ham sandwich, yes?” asks J, grinning) and crepe au sucre for me (“Ensemble?” murmurs the straightfaced joker of a waiter) and J has 2 crepes. The waiter almost gets enthusiastic when I ask about the flag on the wall – drapeau de Bretagne – Brittany – is he far from home on this wet, wet islet?
J and I have been talking about hiring a taxi for a tour of the island. I have seen a map of a tour in the windscreen of a coach.
“What exactly do you get on a tour?” asks Jacques. We have walked round and round the Centre-Ville, so he thinks we might have done this bit already, and doesn’t want to fork out for a repeat visit.
“Mm, well …” I run the coach map through my head. “There’s the Pointe de Savoyarde. You know, the waypoint we used to get here.” I try to sound encouraging.
“You mean they’ll show us a view of the water?” he smirks. I’m crying over my Croque Monsieur. I try to compose myself. I look at the photos of Brittany life on the walls. It doesn’t work.
“Erm, there’s also a visit to the Cemetery,” I offer, but it’s too much for both of us.

Vendredi le 23 Juin. Merde! Me voici en France - qu'est-que ce que ca?

Grand’ erreur de navigation, alors? Nous sommes arrives en France a 3 heures de l’apres midi. Pretty quick crossing, eh?
We’re on St Pierre, a tiny rock just off Newfoundland. Together with its neighbouring island of Michelon, this is French territory, jealously guarded. During the Second World War, de Gaulle came here, just to be on French soil.
We had approached via a waypoint on the southernmost tip, Pointe de Savoyard, and it was now I could believe the old sailors’ tales of islands that moved, for everything was invisible, save the green highlighter pen scribbled on the radar screen. Jacques gave me courses to steer, turning starboard round the top of Grand Colombier, the island off the northern end of St Pierre. And then out of the fog, it appeared, a mountain of an island, brown and gray, and beyond, the mainland stretching away. Oh, magic! And then again it vanished like a mirage. We approached the town of St Pierre, weaving among the scattered islets and through the breakwater, and at the public wharf, were directed – en francais, bien sur – to the marina, la bas! Where? A leap of faith, and going real slow, we motored round and up to a wharf with two other sailboats. An immigration man was there to help with the warps – bureaucracy with a friendly face. He had also asked the Customs to come along – three people and a dog. How civilized – no trudging to offices and waiting around. All official business finished in minutes and I was free to explore.
We are right next to the Sailing Club, where they have a washing machine and dryer, showers and elegant scalloped-edge loo seats – this is a superior bloc sanitaire. The entry code is 1789 - vive la revolution encore! Enough plumbing details, this time, I think.
Pretty tired, so after a walk round town (I can tell I’m in France – the streets are covered in dog shit) – children grimly riding on a pink magic roundabout in the fog; a bit dismal and closed; all the streets named after famous French people and dates; the architecture an attempt at painted wooden shingle and clapboard plus unpainted cement – not very French – I pulled the spring to bring the boat to the jetty, scrabbled aboard, did Sudoku for a bit, J asleep, ate cheese and biscuits, and went to bed.

Thursday 22 June – It’s not the leaving of Louisbourg that grieves me …

Left Louisbourg at about 7 in the morning, feeling our way out of the foggy bay via radar, to the mournful mooing of the unseen cow at the lighthouse. Looking back where the two headlands form the invisible entrance, we had sailed out beneath the arch of a dense white fogbow into the sunshine.
In the sky are skytrails of aircraft, zipping their way back to Canada.
Fog crawled up on us later, as we set sails – fog and wind. Wind coming up from the prevailing south-west about 15-20 knots. Jack sets a course going East …

Wednesday 21 June

Forecast not so good, so we stayed another day – actually, we have ‘done’ Louisbourg, so today is spent being talked to by lovely Mom in the diner, over cups of coffee. Another boat ties up to the wharf, an aluminum Ovni (French boat), about 46 feet long, all bells and whistles. Makes us look even more traditional, which I like. They have just come in from Iceland – 12 day trip – en route to delivering the boat to New York. The crew is: a cheery Australian girl, a glum British girl, and an even glummer skipper, who barely acknowledges us. Hmm – guess which boat I’d rather be on.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Tuesday 20 June

Tonight is a visit to the Globe Playhouse. Nope, not that one, but the quarter sized replica created by Disney for a film set here way back when. This still lives vivid in the memories here, such are quantities of events too numerous to mention.
Anyway, the Louisbourg Playhouse, as it’s now known, was resited near our wharf after the film wrapped, and is now a thriving musical arts centre during the summer months. We are to be entertained by a three piece Cape Breton group, electric piano, fiddle and guitar. And they are excellent – even the front man’s jokes are told so badly, they’re good! The music is composed within the last 20 or so years, apart from rejigged oldies, so happily for the audience, I can’t hum along. And it swings! The influence is strongly Scottish, so we have reels, jigs and probably my favourite – strathspeys.
The audience tonight is: a small baby, bouncing and singing on her mother’s lap, a handful of locals, J and I, and a couple of tour coaches of golden oldies (some of whom had thought they were going to see a play – surprise!). The toons are introduced by the fiddler, whose accent is nothing of North America, but a mix from the Old World - Scottish, Irish and gaelic undertone. Cape Breton is on the edge – between worlds.
The music gathers speed as it goes – as it gets faster and faster, so the girl on the piano bounces higher on her seat, and the fiddler’s time keeping leg – tap-a-tap-a-tap – is joined by his other leg, jumping in unison. Oh, away go our feet, keeping up with the exuberant acceleration.
At half time, we halflings in the pit are treated to complimentary cups of tea and oatcakes, served in the gallery upstairs, overlooking the hexagonal apron stage. There is an exhibition of plasticene lighthouses in CD covers by the local schoolchildren – one of them has detailed seagulls, even down to the feet and legs in tiny coloured rolls of dough.
The audience for the second half is much diminished – one of the tour buses has a schedule to keep to – and there is another exodus of snowbirds half way through the last few toons. It’s a bit sparse now, but we clap twice as loudly to make up, and even get an encore. I love it. And so back to the boat and to bed.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Chasing the French away

We walk to the bus depot - a visit to the reconstructed Forteresse - rebuilt on the foundations of the original 18 century ruins. Five minutes' walk - oh no - more like half an hour - Mom thought we had a car. Then by tour bus five mins to the fortress - with reenactors in period costume, pretending to be French colonists making sure none of us were British or their allies. As my eldest daughter thinks my French is a figment of my imagination, I thought I would show off, and declined to speak English to the guard. He was, of course, totally convinced.

Excellent place - and the actors knew their stuff and more. And did it all in French and/or English. The real stuff 250 years ago is actually dopey. The French were invaded, besieged, defeated and deported twice - both times by the English, and both times - both times within 15 years - the same way. So, the French defended the seaward side and the Brits invaded by land behind them. You would have thought they'd learn from the first time - or even think of it before it happened the first time - I remember similar things happening to/by the Greeks (not personally tee hee), so it wasn't news 250 years ago.

By the time we'd walked back into town, we were a bit tired (oh, yes) and J ended up sleeping from 9 to 9. I'd been up since 2 that morning, and even I was flagging ...

Monday 19 June

A passer-by on the wharf (actually, you dont pass by, you actively come and see what's up) tells us there's a Mom and Pop cafe opposite and we go and have breakfast there. Mom is super - very talkative and full of what we can do here - the fortress, the lighthouse - and all within 5 minutes of where we are. So, after breakfast, we stroll along the high street, looking at the thoughtfully provided map of Louisbourg. This is quite a sad place - fishing's gone, all but lobster and crab from the bay - and there isn't much else to take its place. Tourists are few this spring, what with the dollar exchange rate being unfavourable. There are plenty of RV (campervans) parks, but they are virtually empty. There is little or no traffic on the main road - I walk in the middle and only look out of habit. It's a bit forlorn, though everyone seems to be trying to make it all work. Mom in the cafe told us there are about 30 houses for sale - people moving west. And this is a small place. I like it - painted clapboard again, but shabby, old uncut dandelions in the unmown grass down by the waterfront deck.

Sunday 18 June

J says there's a dodgy weather forecast, so we're going into Canso, on the northern tip of NS, excluding Cape Breton Island. This, rather than pushing on to Louisbourg on CBI. Northern NS is nothing like as well to do as Southern NS.

All change as from 130 pm - on to Louisbourg after all, as the forecase is vile for Mon and Tues ...

Sail through the feckin f*g - and then it clears. I have the 2 oclock am watch (It must be Monday now), and watch the sun rise - a red disk - reminds me when I saw it in Egypt, and on the tomb paintings. By 5.30 we are off the entrance to Louisbourg Bay, and as we turn at the entry marker, a pretty hexagonal white lighthouse to starboard, so the f*g creeps up behind, gradually obscuring the 18 century reconstructedFrench fortress to port. J gets the mizzen down, covering me in canvas again, Jack? "Of course." And all the time, the f*g gets closer. We get to the wharves and tie up, just as it catches us.

The feckin' F word

And when I get up, it's morning, the rigging is dripping with moisture and a thick white fog blanket is cuddled up close.

Susy in the sky with diamonds

Stargazing, I run my fingers through them to make them sparkle.

At 0140 on the horizon to starboards, is a tangerine flame - what is that? I peer through the bins - trawler deck light? No - no fishing done here now. So, what? Ah nooo - an orange smoke? But there's nothing on the radio and it's getting brighter. I wake J and run up on deck again. The incandescent glow, rising and growing is a perfect half slice of moon. I have never seen such a wondrous colour to the moon as it takes off from the smooth surface of the sea, a hanging furnace, a beauty, a tangerine segment in a marmalade sky.

Funny - you probably had to be there

J saying he'd like (affected Brit accent): "I'd like cucumber and watercress sandwiches. With the crusts cut orf."

Sans usual draw- wl. I shrieked laughing - so did he when I asked if that's how Americans thought we spoke and ate. (I think they do.) Lots of stereotypes on each side, with some truths in them, too.

He's a funny guy - likes being teased, and does it too - and oh rare beast, has a sense of irony and the ridiculous. How weird it is, both cooped up as strangers - seems to be working so far ...

Sat 15 June 2006

Slipped fron the old Scotia Trawler wharf at 7 on a bright sunny morning - just the sort of day you want to go for a sail. The viz was perfect, the water calm and close in to Lunenburg, a small whisp of wind from the SW. We are carefully timing departing from L the day the tall ship Picton Castle returns home after a year away, her holds bulging with exotic cargoes gleaned from faraway lands. Items, such as the eyeball fork, about which I heard over the sound system at the Mall in Bridgewater - dang me, to miss the eyeball fork - my life is in ruins. All the items are to be sold on the waterfront this afternoon. Oh my - and I bet I could find a use for that ole fork, too.

Anyway, we motor out and round the corner to Lunenburg Yacht Club - about 2 hours - approaching through a maze of islands and wicked rocky shoals. The Yacht Club is to one side of beautiful Mahone Bay, to the north of Lunenburg Bay. It has, they say, 365 islands, but hey, who's counting?

Left YC at 11, J having manoeuvred the boat brilliantly into and out of an enclosed set of pontoons (Britspeak for slips), turning this hefty lump virtually in her own length. Green with envy.

Wind up now, sun scorching, all three sails up - 7 knots and steaming - posey time with swimsuit, visor and shades at the helm - bit of weather helm but great for the arm muscles, and a comfortable angle of heel. Wind SW 4-5, sea that deepest iron green. As we got to to the entrance of Mahone Bay, sea and wind pick up and it's a lot colder - have to get more clothes on. Bother!

Turn NE up towards the Eastern Shore of NS - Halifax and beyond and we sail all day, J tweaking and tinkering incessantly - hyper! Me - I'm good at cruisin'. But it makes me feel guilty ("Good" said J, when I told him), so he gets REALLY thick sandwiches for lunch.

My watch till 6 pm, then haha try to sleep, or even rest, till 10pm. No chance! J decides to throw all metal objects into the metal sink, then it's up with the main, and torture the winches, and away with the genny, and stomp loudly on deck. Then at 9.30 it's engine on time - but better still - engine doesn't bother me actually - fiddle with the damned engine, removing the sound proofing - the roar of the anguished beast in it's lair gives me such a grumpy jump, I give up and get up.

"Did you sleep?" asks J benevolently - cos he's been having a great time.

"No." (Mumbled.) "You're so NOISY, Jack!" I shriek, trying to keep a grin pinned in place - he's such a boy.

"But I gotta keep the boat going." Some excuse, he's still the 1949 "Bargin' Jackie" of the prize plaque stuck on the saloon bulkhead. "I though I was being as quiet as a mouse." (Yup, even they are bigger in America.).


A pause. Me: "That was a tantrum."

J (cautiously): "Oh." Pause. "Is it over now?"

Me (quietly): "Till the .." (Loudly) "NEXT TIME!!"

Friday, June 16, 2006

OK, so which would YOU choose?

It's p*ssing, really p*ssing, with rain and you urgently need a cr*p.

Do you:

a) struggle into already wet sailing gear, climb a slippery metal ladder while water pours up your sleeves, also while leaning outwards at a 45 degree angle, traipse across a flooded wharf, ford newly scoured rivers, find the elderly combination lock wont work until you hammer the door in frustration after the tenth go, divest yourself of your now entirely sodden garments, and all for the pleasure of a civilised lavatory with flush handle, hot water from the taps, a scrap of soap for hygiene (what?) and your trouser leg for a towel, then reverse all of the above to get back to the boat?

Or b) do you use the dark malodorous cupboard, dank loopaper, dwarfish looseat and a hellish pump action/twist knob/pump action/twist knob again flushing combo, with no privacy, but right next to your bunk?

Which do you think I chose?

* **** *

Actually, I was given a lift to the mall, and went there. And of course, therein lies another tale. If you've read the bit about the autoflushing US loos, this one beat them 100 percent. As I relaxed in comfort, I wriggled the TINIEST bit, and the bloody thing exploded. This was just so ridiculous, I couldnt stop laughing, and during THIS wriggle, off it went again! Douche included, no extra charge. But when I stood up, nothing. Not a thing. Only after I started exploring the mechanism at the back of the appliance, did it spring into life. Maniacal!

* **** *

Off towards Cape Breton and the swinging town of Canso tomorrow (Saturday 17 June, in case I get the days mixed). May be able to get to a computer there, but who knows. I've been spoiled here in Lunenburg - DO visit - you'll want to stay, like A and V (and me). But it's heyho and on we go.

See you around xx

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Thursday 15 June

Having done the cozzy in the cockpit and got a tan yesterday, today is p***ing with rain. Had to ford the rivers cut across the fishery dock. I dressed, put on foul weather gear, and went and had a shower. Now why didn't I think, and just step into cockpit nekkid?

A musical soiree - or, singing for my supper

J has a friend here who works, or doesnt work - it's a bit uncertain - for a former fishery concern down at the docks. Last night J and I, and friend A and his wife V (really friendly and lovely couple) went out for a meal. A drove us round the countryside - they are both originally from Hull, but have lived here for decades, and call it "heaven" - it's green and rolling, cut into all the time with fingers of water. The ice age ended up here, smoothing the hills, and leaving massive round granite boulders as its terminal moraine - these now used to ornament and shore up dock walls. Architecturally, the style is New England - beautiful, large dolls' houses. And so much space! Compared with England: Lunenburg has a population of around 3 thousand, and is very definitely a town; my village has 5000 people - yet is only a village. How squashed we are! I love the expanses.

Yesterday (June 14, Wednesday) I took a horse-drawn carriage tourist trip round Lunenburg, saw off the Sail Training Vessel Unicorn from the berth across from us, went out for the jolly meal and pub quiz (meat pie, bread pudding on the menu), and then back to A and V's for the evening's entertainment.

Some of you mugs may know I will sing, rather variably, at the drop of a hat. A is a singer and karaoke fiend - he has TWO karaoke machines! With a couple of G&T's under my belt, and having refused the bread pudding earlier, I was up for a round of I Got You Babe, sung as a duet with A, The Way We Were, and a few other warbles. I had singing lessons last year (million thanks, Daisy - daughter - and Phil - singing teacher), oh and there's no stopping me now. Quick a capella version of Peggy Gordon, and I got clapped!!!

Then I had to climb down the lean-back ladder in high heels. And so to bed.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Stairway to Heaven

In gorgeous Lunenburg, painted pastel houses climbing the hills - all petite, people friendly!

I think mountain climbing people call it rappelling - climbing leaning backwards round a bulging bit of rockface. Anyway, that's me, mountain goating my way up the metal rungs of the ladder, bag in teeth, flipflops wavering, knuckles bonewhite. My first landfall for nearly 2 weeks - nearly slipped and kissed the ground. Come to think of it, DID kiss the ground, which still, a couple of days later, continues to rockkkk - oops!

Into the showers - fisherman quality - nowhere to hang the girly bag. Tried to peel off the clothes, but too welded to skin, so I soaked me and them, until lamination took place. Reached into bag, got out wire brush, applied to skin, removed a couple of layers. My God! I actually have a pink skin, not that yellow grey stuff. The joys of a shower after almost two weeks without, living, sleeping, everything in the same clothes! I did do the old trick - reach into the dirty clothes bag and pull out some old trousers - and yes, they really werent too bad!!!!!

Later, (13 June), took huge bags of Jack's and my washing to the laundromat. Really strange feeling, washing someone else's smalls ..... But at least we both smell nice, in body and clothing.

See you later

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Charting the depths

Approaching Nova Scotia, and more names kick in - starting with the place itself, of course. They were sailors far from their home ports - Yarmouth, Clyde River, then later Liverpool, Medway Harbour. The French had Port Mouton and Joli - not so much yearning here, but always an interest in food (find out later, P Mouton named after a sheep that died here - draw your own conclusions about being far from home, also cf the sheep hype at Valle de la Muerte in Chile. Must be universal tee hee.) However, rather than the settlers' names, it's the unsettling naming of certain features which worries me - The Salvages, Little Hope, Coffin Island to name but a few.

But we're heading for the first waypoint here - Brazil Rock - nut shaped? Named by a nuit? Fondness for nuts? Got swept further north than expected? Nut crackers? Who knows, but we'd better not crack ourselves on it - I know who'd win.

(PS This was written before the storm)

Saturday 10 June

Got up, thunder and lightning, went back to bed.

Friday 9 June

Sunny, strong winds forecast. May leave tomorrow. Had to check diary, radio and J’s watch to decide which day it is.

Thursday 8 June

Today, still raining, still strong winds. We boatkeep, read and sleep some more. As I write this, so Jack sleeps again, on his bunk in the saloon, breathing deeply and peacefully on his side, his back turned away.
Later this evening, Jack lets me beat him at Scrabble.

The Day After Yesterday

Today, I will clean my teetch, pluck my eyebrows, rub cream into the skin of my legs and hang my shoes above my head to dry. Today I am human again. Yesterday, for many hours, I was just being. My last entry in our log noted the sea was bouncy! With that exclamation mark. In fact, the sea was pouring and chopping at us from all directions, wave heights 4, 5, 6 and more feet, a little wind still coming from the NE – our direction of travel. The beast still roared triumphant in his padded cell, taking us towards Brazil Roc off the SE corner of Nova Scotia. It would have been about 10-11? in the morning. I was on watch, but Jack was still up and about. He checked a weather forecast – gale warnings for that evening and night. We contemplated the charts, Jack having visited here some times before. But it wasn’t until he proposed lighting the cabin heater that I knew I might have a problem.

“If you don’t want me to be sick, please keep it off,” I begged. “I’ll go and sit on deck.”

He put on another pullover, but I still went and sat beneath the dodger/sprayhood, at the top of the cabin steps. I’m always a warm person – the cool air was refreshing and then I was OK. I could also watch the radar from here – we were dipping in and out of – mainly in – fog patches – and I could come below and plot the course ½ hourly. I put on my shoes and waterproof jacket against the chilly wind. J unearthed great slabs of charts from the chart table, from beneath buns, finding ones he needed. By this time he had decided to make for early shelter – the Port la Tour – just past the Cape Sable on the SE point of NS. Port! Ah! Docksides. Dry land. People!

By now, and this must be mid-afternoon, but I have lost track of time, the ‘bouncing’ has become too much. J down below, and I above drift in and out of sleep, minutes, seconds at a time. The cushion I am sitting on is a puddle, soaking through trousers and pants. I am numb with cold. I have to go below. I’m slightly worried about hypothermia.

“Are you OK?” asks Jack, who has been up for 12 straight hours, by this time. Conditions are worsening – waves higher, foaming, wind rising, rain starting to fall. Thankfully, no fog.

This time, instead of a cheery ‘yes’, I can only mumble “No”, as I grab pillow and blankets and huddle on the cabin sole, our row of fresh water containers curled into my stomach. The boat races on, thudding into solid water, as she rears and falls, corkscrews and falls, rolls and falls. I feel really badly for Jack, as he tries to carry on round me.

“Sorry,” he says as his foot nudges in passing. He’s sorry? I pull a piece of blanket over my face and moan at each jolt. At least Jack can’t hear that. Water drips freezing on my head.

The boat seems to hurtle on – why aren’t we near this port yet? We must have gone far enough up the channel? The noise is terrific – terrifying – everything escapes from its lashings and hurls around the cabin, back and forth – there is the sound of glass splintering – glass? – but it’s only the metal coffee pots and cups flying across the cabin. The cage of the beast has come open – roar, muffled, roar again, muffled, on and on and on, as the boat swings way over to port, and up and over to port again, and to starboard. Everywhere is drenched – me, the rug, the sole, the bunks, the charts. Jack is in the cockpit in his foul weather gear.

‘Susy!” he yells – and I think he’s being encouraging. I turn away, and am promptly sick in my hand. It was so quick, I could do nothing, and throw up again, this time all over myself. I grab the nearest thing – the rough haired horse blanket I was wrapped in, and dab feebly at the damage. But I keep on vomiting – how far can a single banana, eaten 11 hours ago, go? Both the blanket and I are in a sorry and disgusting state. At last it stops. I want to change my clothes, wash, feel clean, normal – but it’s impossible in this mad fairground ride.

“Susy, you’ve gotta help me!” yells Jack – ah – not encouragement, then, urgency.

“I’ve been sick,” I whine selfishly.

“That doesn’t matter. You’ve got to come on deck. Get your foul gear on!” It’s an order. So, on go the waterproofs over the smelly damage underneath. See to that later.

Up on deck, the seas – seas, not sea – are enormous, green-gray-black, mountains heaving and heaving. Waves are crashing over the bows, the foredeck, the dodger – sweeping across the boat altogether. As we plunge yet again, the propellor, now out of the water, spins madly out of its element, and the boat falters. Gratefully, the prop grips the sea, as we buckjump back. Jack needs to check our position. He goes below, and falls heavily backwards as the boat lurches again. Please God, gods, anyone, is he alright? Oh, yes, yes, oh, thank you.

He checks the soggy chart – “Go to 330!” he yells. All day the autohelm has done its work, now I pull the wheel to free it, and the boat turns to port. Waves take us broadside on. The boat rolls, rolls, rolls, as the bows try to turn us towards them. Broach – no, she a drowned vessel below, but she’s built for this, and she comes back, time after time after time. J sets the autohelm on its new course. He is saturated, the rain and the waves pouring from him. He asks me to look for marks. I’m still confused and misunderstand – I look at the radar, and where we are, a bright green star in the centre, is now a splatted starburst. What does he want me to do? Ah – sit in my old place beneath the dodger and look out for land, buoys, anything that will match the chart. We must get in before dark; the sky has already darkened rapidly with the storm.

It’s easier to hold on to the dodger tubes and stand and go with the movements of sea and boat. I have never seen, been out in, such massive elemental forces. I feel – no frightened, not sick – somehow part of it. And as I peer through encroaching gloom – glasses discarded in favour of unaided eyesight – I am humming. This will make my children laugh. For I am doing what I have done all their childhood – the song subconsciously matches a mood – and it’s no, nay, never, no, nay, never, no more, will I play the Wild Rover, no, never, no more!

For I had contemplated leaving the boat when we got to port – I can’t take this weather all summer. But here, under the dodger, waves crashing over us, despite the seasickness and the words of the song, I have a place here, thanks to a sturdy boat and an indefatigable sailor.

Over to port, a darker gray, low hump appears. Land! I scream to J over the howl of the wind and he comes up to check. “Good.” Then after a while, more land to starboard. I am commanded to look for a buy – and all at once, through the slashing rain, it appears on the port side.

“Now tell me what it has on it.” All buoys are named or numbered. I try with the binoculars – please, again I pray, let me see. I have trouble with binoculars – the optician’s diagnosis of a wandering squint? I only use one lens. Daren’t tell J the problem, daren’t miss the number. I try with and without the bins. Everything is jumping and out of focus. And then, miracle! The bins and I agree to agree – and I see the letter N white against the dark background, clear and sharp. And a bell. I shout this down to Jack.

“There’s another one, beyond!” I yell. J adjusts the autohelm repeater by the chart table a few degrees to port and we head for the second, red, marker. Unlike the UK, the system here is Red, Right, Returning; we have to keep this one to starboard.

J comes up, a book, a pilot book, in his hand, and shoves it at me. “Tell me the directions!” and grasps the wheel. Rain falls across the pages, smudging some earlier red pen markings. There is a green marker, too, on a rocky outcrop. We must go between them and make for a bay guarded by white wharves on each side. J steers – quite dark now – but we can just see enough. Past a small harbour entrance to starboard, then straight into the bay – wooded, grassy, a group of white wooden buildings. We head towards them, into the wind; the waves are quietened here, though still quite a fetch. J gets the anchor ready, lets it go, the boat snubs up as it holds, our stern towards a little island in the middle of the bay. Fortune curtsies, and begins her dance to the wind, rain and waves. The beast is silenced. We have stopped.

Down below is wetness, no, water, rubbish, charts, sail bags, my book – all thrown about by a giant child in a tantrum. I sort a bit out, J sorts a bit out. He has soup straight from the saucepan, leaning over the sink. I bag up the vile blanket and my clothes.

J rings – a phone, a modern marvel – in this chaos, a link to a different real world. We are in Canada, “forced into Port la Tour by the weather” J explains to a cheery Customs man, who takes our details – bureaucracy among the basics. I hear history echo in his description of us – he is an American citizen, I am a British subject! I can hear the Customs man is warm, dry and stationary. We are soon warm, if not dry, when J lights the cabin heater – that same one I asked him not to light so many hours ago. It’s 9 oclock at night, black dark. The wind rattles the rigging and the rain hammers on the hatches. My bunk, a small precious marvel, is merely damp, and J’s berth cushions are dry.
I don’t get up till one oclock in the afternoon of the next day.

What am I doing?

I am on my knees before a seated man. He directs me to grasp and point his somewhat rigid appendage towards the middle of a red plastic pot, in order, he says, to avoid splashes. Gallons of liquid suddenly gush forth, and some does indeed splash on my hands. But the liquid is red. What is happening?

Tuesday 6 June

Woke up grumbling – at least J can’t hear me curse and swear and moan, so I can do that as much as I like! I don’t want to get up but my hips and knees ache from the relentless motion. It’s alright when I’m up.

J greets me with “Fog” – how strange it is to go on deck, see the sun above – it’s very bright – but all around is the cold white fog. J has got 2 GPS systems working now, and the radar, so no excuses for being lost, nor bumping into the occasional fishing boat darting around out there. Still like to look out, though. The chart tells us we are in the North Atlantic Ocean. No weather reports for here at the moment, but it would seem to be a choice of either: fog, gale, dead calm. I’ve seen The Perfect Storm twice, thank you, and I’ll stick with fog and calm. It might mean motoring to Nova Scotia (Nouvelle Ecosse – all charts now bilingual), with what small wind there is dead on the nose, but the alternative … If it carries on like this, fingers crossed, I will have crossed the North Sea, Biscay, S China Sea and now part of the North Atlantic Ocean – how I love the enormity of the word Ocean – and all flat enough to walk on! Keep it up, gods.
A word on the engine – a demented, howling, screaming, demonic beast, yet we can’t get anywhere without it. J tends to the beast as if it were his delicate, precious baby – which I guess it is.

Monday 5 June

Yep, weather forecast good – sunny, some cloud, wind from the SW, about 4 knots. Up anchor and I’ve found a perch behind the strange wheel. Crouched like a monkey and usefully using my foot on the throttle, we weave our way out of HC, along Scraggy Neck and into the smooth depths of the dredged Cape Cod Canal. V wooded, pretty, some white painted Cape Cod bungalows and newer houses line the bank part way. Only a few other boats and a Cruises-along-the-Canal boat with 3 tourists. At the end of the canal is a power station with a tower visible, J say, 50 miles from the seaward side. Top up with fuel and water at the marina in its shadow – cheerful couple serving on the pontoon – married 46 years, and good for at least another 46, they say!

Main and mizzen up, wind behind us, current with us, autohelm on and at 1400 (now) I’m on watch. Sun shining, cozy one, could be a tad warmer. Great!

Watch system kicks in officially at 6 pm – me for four hours, then J, then me again 2-6 am. I watch the sun go down and bleed across the sea, then see it rise again reborn at 3 the next morning. When J calls me at 2, the sky is clear black and the stars have come down. So this is why I love night sailing. All the jerky, jolty, rocky, rolly for the magic of a star-filled sky. I am entranced.
Off watch, and sleeping in the saloon, when J decides the engine needs checking. Oh, the fearsome, terrible roar, as the insulated boards are removed – Jack, how could you? I grab my pillow and scrabble into the peace of my bunk among the sails in the forepeak. Better risk being sick and cold here, than be tormented witless. I sleep, feet tucked into my trouser bottoms for warmth. You didn’t think I’d change into my nightie, did you?

Sunday 4 June

Staying in Hospital Cover because of the weather. Fortune dances in the wind around the snubbed anchor chain. Going tomorrow if forecast is OK, so I get food ready – cutting, slicing, chopping, bagging – carrots, onions and a cabbage. Also red pepper and garlic and ginger chopped fine for tonight’s stir fry – which is a fantastic success with Jack, due mostly to his nephew’s BBQ sauce! (And a bit of me.)

Have read Servants of the Fish by Myron Arms, an intelligently researched and written account of the collapse of the cod fishery off Newfoundland. Due to overfishing, what a surprise! And even fishing out the spawning grounds, would you believe? Like Easter Island the last tree. Now they’re busy clearing down the food chain, and in another of J’s books, I saw one man say “Maybe we don’t want the cod back”, because they’re wiping everything else out to make a current living, and can’t wait to see whether the North Atlantic cod can ever recover – maybe 20, 30 years, if that? They never recovered off Cape Cod. Tragedy and greed.

Also reading Ahab’s Wife, by Sena Jeter Naslund, and I’m back 180 years to Nantucket Island and whaling days. Beautifully written – lyrical and weirdly bizarre. Might be a girls’ book – J tried it and didn’t like it.

History is all around in New England. Many names are Indian, or ‘New’ something from the settlers, names copied from home, whaling days of the 19th century, and more current, Martha’s Vineyard – all shades and ghosts.

Saturday 3 June

Up anchor, and motor out of Potter Bay. Cloudy, rain threatening, fog threatening.

Passed a crazy old tumbledown wooden house on an islet to starboard. These islets are called the Dumplings (!). Passed mansions – summerhouses – Billionaires Row-on-Sea, to port. Then out into Rhode Island Sound, and already the fog is gathering. Pretty soon, the mansions have vanished, the rocky coastline too, and we turn northeast into Buzzards Bay. The last thing we see before the fog closes in is a distant freighter and then nothing – we’re alone in our own small circle for the next seven hours. J turns on the radar – there are invisible targets all around – boats, markers, mysteries. And so we go, up Buzzards Bay.

J is navigator, in the dry down below. I am helm and lookout, in the drizzle on deck. The autohelm is on, so I don’t have to try and work the wheel. This wheel is the weirdest I’ve ever seen – it’s towards the stern, angled backwards, low down, and prevents anyone steering from behind it. Apparently, you sit to one side, but as usual I can’t see over or through the dodger. So, I stand, one hand reaching for the wheel, when the autohelm isn’t in use.

Now, for those of you, and I am one, who learnt to sail using a tiller, where you reach to the side, or behind you to steer, and push right to go left, or pull left to go right, it’s easy to see that in the same position the old tendencies return. How often, so far, have I turned that danged wheel like a tiller, and gone the wrong way? Just hope the ancient neural pathways don’t take over when it’s serious.

We’re heading for Hospital (Hospitable?) Cove, near the head of Buzzards Bay, ready to go through the Cape Cod Canal tomorrow, weather permitting.

Under radar, J directs the steering from one invisible marker to another, until at last we see one. The steadying mizzen sail is dropped and we motor in. I can see land to port and starboard on the radar, and at last I see its loom, darker gray against the whiteness of the fog. It reveals trees, houses among the trees, some boats, markers, a winding channel. This is Scraggy Neck (!) The anchor is dropped and bites.

Fri 2 June

That night the weather forecast threatened thunderstorms, high winds, rain and fog. Hmmm. So today is a lost day. We are staying put.

Oh my, but this surely is a man’s boat! It’s functional and it works, but apart from a couple of rugs, it does lack a woman’s touch. I decide to start spring cleaning. And the rate I’m going it’ll be all Mom and Apple Pie here soon.

From here on in, we might be going back in time, when Dad went to work and Mom stayed home wearing a pretty summer dress protected by a flouncy apron, her makeup immaculate, her neat hair patted into place, her home kept in perfect order.

How we have reverted so quickly under these circumstances. While J is ‘at work’ fixing the compass light, sorting out the fridge, spreading enormous boxes of tools, sorting out waypoints on his new GPS, I am doing the housework. I have already scoured the taps, the sink and the worksurfaces in the galley. Today, it’s the turn of the pots and pans and kitchen equipment. Unfortunately, J is occupying the galley, so – no sink. Also, the fridge has all but drained the batteries, so – no water from the tank. Also, a large toolbox is on top of the cooker – so, even if I could get water, I wouldn’t be able to heat it to wash out the locker and wash up the saucepans. So – what to do?

Picture me, my children, squatting crosslegged on the saloon floor, swilling a few precious centilitres of ‘found’ water from a bottle and a couple of drops of washing up liquid in my new sink – the largest saucepan. I am now washing the contents of the galley locker in this saucepan and putting them to drain on an adjacent drying up cloth – my new draining board. I also clean out the locker, sweeping it clear of a remarkable amount of flaking paint and ‘extravagantly’ throwing away the old rusty non-slip liner of yore. Into this new, hygienic, relined locker, I replace the shining contents. It’s actually pretty well stocked. J wanders by, remarking that it wasn’t that dirty, was it? He seems happy to let me potter, so I just give him a grin and warn him I shall now nag him about oily hands. He grins back – a joke, right? – but little does he know …

I shall expect J to be saying ‘Hey, honey, I’m home’ every time he comes below.
Next stop, the heads. Glad I’m not squeamish.

Thursday 1 June

Thurs 1 June

Up early and of to ferry the final stuff out to the boat, having taken the food on board yesterday. I’m clutching a black plastic sack of electronic stuff – mobile, camera and various accessories. I’m desperate it shouldn’t get as wet as I did yesterday. ‘You’re a good sport’, J had said approvingly. Today, I’m in my knickers – panties – and stay dry.

Fortune, the boat, is 36 feet long, and very well equipped – radar, GPS (position finding), hundreds of charts. J’s a navigation nut and keen on safety. I’ll give this thing a go.

We waved goodbye to Dell, who I hope was watching from a window, got fuel and water from a nearby yacht club, and motored down the near-windless, sunny Narragansett Bay, past the islands of Prudence, Patience and Hope, and the Rocks of Despair. A Puritan pinched sense of humour?

By the time we reach the Newport-Jamestown Bridge, we are overtaken by mist, and then fog. The bridge is sounding its foghorn, sounding like a police siren. We anchor in a bay by the bridge. At night, when the fog has gone, the bridge is lit up with catenaries of fairy lights.

Wednesday 31 May

Weds 31 May

Morning: out to the boat by dinghy, I am a backward-looking figurehead, with a swamped butt.
Afternoon: shop for the trip, collect the outboard
Evening: cookout to meet some of J’s many relatives – it’s his bon voyage party. Despite J saying New Englanders are notoriously reserved and proud of it, they are cheery and talkative, friendly and affectionate to each other. Can I judge someone by his family? J doesn’t drink, but I do – we all have a great time.

Dell tells me she has had 5 children, 16 grandchildren and 20 greatgrandchildren. One of her daughters, Dolores – such a vibrant person – is about to retire from real estate. She’s only 70, and means to keep a close eye on her mother. Later, it turns out, Dell’s children are naturally concerned about their mother. They are a close family – J has had quite a few phone calls on the boat.
About this age business, Jack at 72 with two replacement hips, had demonstrated his disdain for aging earlier today, when he went to clean up the impellor under the hull. Descending the ladder at the stern of the boat, he fell backwards halfway down, sinking below the peat-coloured water of the bay. I watched in horror as he disappeared from sight. I knew I should have insisted on doing this. But then up he came, blowing water and puffing air, making his way round the hull. They make strong fellows in Rhode Island.

Tuesday 30 May 2006

By Acela, the express train from New York, to be met by Jack – “Hello, Soo-zee!” at Providence, Rhode Island. This is our first meeting – two strangers – how will it be? We have only corresponded by email, couple of phone calls, and are setting up to sail round Newfoundland. Jack is a sturdy chap, not tall, very friendly, with a slow, lilting way of talking, dragging out some of his vowels. He is maybe a few years older than his photograph, but as I later find out, age means nothing in his family. We shake hands and he offers me lunch at a deli in part of old Providence. The old buildings are painted clapboard and now scrupulously preserved. Again, an American tells me they aren’t very old, compared with those in Britain – but they’re well over 200 years old. How old is old, then? It would seem quite a few Americans think we live in thatched mansions of extreme antiquity. I think of John Prescott and his plans to demolish large swathes of Victorian England. I think of the tower blocks of the 60s.

We are staying at Jack’s mom’s house at Warwick – War-wick – at Cedar Tree Point. Most of the houses are small, wooden, shingled, painted, adorable as doll’s houses. Once they were summer houses, but Dell (J’s mom) has had hers updated and now lives there – and it’s directly on to its own private stretch of beach. J’s boat floats at its mooring a hundred metres offshore. It is perfect.

Dell greets me, welcomes me, makes me at home, tells me I am now one of the family. She’s 95, plays bridge, drives, does all her housework and shopping and cooking. She is French Canadian and impeccably a lady.