Sunday, June 23, 2013

Whales, sails, and puppy seas

Listening to "Time and Tide" by Madison Violet

Day 1

I thought I would feel better than this, but I'm still battling with sea sickness.  The conditions as we left Lunenburg were lovely, but the moment we got around the protection of the harbour the rolling seas began and then got worse.  Huge swells that seemed to swallow Paragon...far enough apart that they never crashed on deck but instead rolled us from side to side.  

Wishing I felt better
20˚ to port.  25˚ to starboard.  10˚ to port.  20˚ to starboard.  15˚ to port.  Up down up down.

And sloppy.  While going from side to side, the stern is moving back and forth.  It feels as though an entire sea of golden retriever puppies is coming at us.  Floppy, unsure, and coming from every direction the waves playfully loll and pounce.  There is no malice intended, but they still trip me up.   

I'm keeping watch, but my first dinner didn't quite stay in place.  Let's just say that it wasn't as delightful the second time around.

Things are not quite as dire as they have been though.  At least I'm able to get up and keep watch.  I'm eating lying down in my bunk (sitting at the dinette does not quite work), but when I get up to go to the head or grab some gear I am no longer hit with an instant and intense wave of nausea.  My first offshore trip I was sick for eleven days.  The second I was down for four.  The last one was two and this time I've been up and about almost immediately.  Perhaps there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Day 2

It's interesting being out here with no contact.  My phone has been put on hold, there is no wifi, we do not own a satellite phone, and the VHF is really for hailing or emergencies.  I am occupied only with my thoughts and companions.  

Already a prolific dreamer, I find I lose myself in elaborate daydreams.  I remember books I have read, conversations I have had.  The wind is light, which means that we are running the engine, and the diesel fumes turn my stomach every time they are blown into the cockpit.  Don't think about it.  It's all in your head.  I snort because I know this is bullshit.  There are few things I despise more than throwing up and I cannot believe my mind would abandon my body with such blatant treachery.  Nonetheless I take deep breaths and try to think of anything but the rolling boat.  

Ever the playful optimists, a pod of dolphins surrounded the boat today and made me forget any cares I may have had.

Day 3

Whale!  There was a humpback (or perhaps fin) whale that breached the surface and then dove with its tail smacking the water.  Then, with its body underwater, the tail resurfaced and flipped up and down, smacking the waves while we watched in breathless excitement.  I am in awe.  It is ethereal, wonderous, breathtaking, and magical.  I feel that if I ever reach a point where a seal or dolphin or whale ceases to bring a sense of wonder and elation to me then I am as good as dead.  Gazing at this giant I am suddenly and fiercely protective...and thankful.  Thankful that it has shared itself with us, if only for a moment.

Photo courtesy of Eanna Ryan
The funny thing is I had just finished my watch and Eanna was settling into the cockpit.  My head had just touched the pillow when he shouted "WHALE!  THERE'S A WHALE!".  Drake and I both jumped out of the settee and were on deck so quickly that Eanna joked "In the future, if there is ever a fire aboard Paragon, I won't shout fire.  I'll just scream that there's a whale and you guys will come running."  

Day 4

There is a steady wind from the southwest that is propelling us forward at a reasonably comfortable pace and motion, but I feel a bit ragged.  I should be feeling better, but after a couple of days of vomiting my stomach feels like it's been roughed up with a cheese grater.  Even though this time has been better than any other, getting sick so often takes a toll.  When I'm moving around the boat on my way to or from a watch I still don't have that overwhelming sense of nausea and vertigo, but I've been sick enough times to build up a general sense of malaise.  

I can't shake this metallically taste in the back of my mouth...if only I could start fresh from THIS point I think I would be much better.  I've been popping antacid tablets with the hope that they will settle the fire in my belly.  To pass the time I begin to make up ads for the antacid companies in my head.

•You thought you were still young enough to pile jalapeños on your food.  You were wrong.  TUMS!
•Settle the fire in your belly.  TUMS!
•Today Ur Mucho Sick.  TUMS!

Okay, that's as far as I got.  You can clearly see that I have not, in fact, missed my calling for the advertising business...

Day 5

Last night we were hit by rough seas for a few hours.  It didn't last long, perhaps four or five hours, but it was violent enough to toss Paragon around and make sleeping almost impossible.  Every thing was strapped securely down, but the shelf holding the tea, coffee, and sugar broke and the containers flew across the cabin and sent their contents crashing down.  

At one point a huge wave crashed into the port side of Paragon with a resounding SMACK and flooded into the cockpit.  The zippers on the enclosure were partially open which ended up being a good thing. The force of the wave was so powerful that Drake thought it might have ripped that panel off if it had been entirely closed.  

My watch was to start at 2 a.m., right in the middle of the craziness, but I felt so sick that Drake took over and completed the watch for me.  I lay wedged in my berth, eyes squeezed tightly shut, and tried to think of anything but my heaving stomach.  

Morning arrives as though nothing has happened and there is a new excitement in the air.  We are close enough to St. John's that we are checking our milage to make sure that we won't arrive at the entrance to the harbour in the dark.  It is possibly the most beautiful day yet with calm seas and a mixture of sun and fog.  There has been quite a bit of fog on this leg of the trip which is a first for me.  At times it has been so thick that we can't see more than a boat length away and it almost feels as though we are not moving forward.  

Radar is our friend at this point.  I watch the radar and AIS and marvel that a massive tanker is slipping past just a couple of miles away, yet there is no indication other than the blip on the screen.  How do you sail these waters without radar?  We couldn't possibly avoid such a fast moving ship with this kind of visibility, and I cross my fingers that we will never have to try.  

Day 6

We're here because we're here because we're here!!!  Yesterday was the first day I didn't sleep most of the time I was off of watch so I'm a bit tired, but land is near and we're almost there!  Eanna was taking photographs and didn't want to stop, so he let me sleep an extra half an hour which was marvelous.  I rolled out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to discover we only had a little over an hour to sail before making the final turn towards the harbour in St. John's.  

It's been a lovely trip, but I think we are all ready to do some exploring on land.  This is also the first port of call that is completely new for Drake.  From here on out it is new territory for everyone!

Water spouts from the whales
We woke Drake up and everyone sat in the cockpit eagerly looking at the land that rose off of our port side.  Just in case we weren't excited enough, three whales starting surfacing near the boat...spouting water in huge puffs before diving back down.  Behind them another pod of dolphins popped up and I had to pinch myself to see if I was still dreaming.  There was a part of me that almost wanted to sail Paragon in a lazy circle all day to watch the whales and dolphins playing in the water.  Almost.  But not quite.  

Our first glimpse of St. John's

The lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour
We called the harbourmaster on the VHF, got information on where to dock, and slowly motored into the harbour and into our next adventure…

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Sorbet houses on a hill

Listening to "The Next Time Around" by Little Joy

It has been three months to the day since we undid the dock lines and pushed off from North Carolina.  Today I sit in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia finishing up some laundry and mourning our impending departure.  Tomorrow we leave for St. Johns, Newfoundland where we will do one last provision before waiting for a window to sail the longest leg of the trip (over 1,100 nautical miles) to Nuuk, Greenland.  

The view of Lunenburg from Paragon
It's an exciting prospect, yet I wish, WISH, that we had more time to spend in this lovely town.  The first day we sailed into this harbour it was grey skies with a steady drizzle falling, but all was sunny and colourful on land.  The houses of Lunenburg are painted like so many flavours of sorbet...LAVENDER! RED! BLUE! ORANGE!  On a grey day it brightens your mood, but on a sunny day it is spectacular beyond measure.  Added to this eye candy is a luminous green hill that rises behind Paragon which my eyes gobble up after the flat blue and grey monotones that make up a crossing.  

The view of Paragon from Lunenburg
The first day, though exhausted after four long days, we explored the local area with the help of a woman visiting from Toronto.  She showed us where the local liquor store was located, and also directed us to a pub Drake wanted to visit for dinner.  When he was last here he visited The Knot Pub with his friend Kevin and wanted to share this slightly off the beaten path establishment with us.  Sitting down to a cider and a plate of fish and chips I couldn't help but release a sigh and think "It's good to be home".  

Now, I am not from Nova Scotia, but I did spend a great deal of time in Montreal as a child and one of the things that I miss is whilte vinegar with french fries.  Ask for vinegar in The States and you'll most likely receive a puzzled look, a shake of the head, or perhaps a slightly dusty bottle of malt vinegar that hasn't seen the light of day, well, ever.  As soon as the waitress set down my plate she asked if I wanted vinegar with my fries which made me want to hug her.  I know.  I'm a cheeseball, but it's the little things that I miss about Canada.  Vinegar with fries, smarties, milk in a bag (you read that correctly) as well as my many friends and family.  So's good to be home. 

The next day the boys decided they wanted to fly the new quad-copter (from this point on referred to as Harry) while I wanted to explore the town and perhaps take some photographs.  They went left while I went right and, I have to say, I think I got the better end of the stick.  Walking down Montague St. I stumbled upon the Ironworks Distillery located on the corner of Montague St. and Kempt St.  

The Ironworks Distillery
What a delight!  It's in a picturesque building that used to house a marine blacksmith's shop, but now produces spirits ranging from rum to flavoured vodka to fruit liquors.  When I walked in I was greeted by a lovely woman (and her dog, Phoebe!) who gave me a bit of the history of the place and guided me through a tasting.  I ended up with a bottle of the Rhubarb Esprit Liquor with which I'll make a celebratory cocktail when we reach Greenland.  Or perhaps Iceland.  Or Ireland.  Maybe all three...?

After leaving the distillery I wandered up the next street to get a proper look at some of the colourful houses and the gardens surrounding them.  Many have nameplates attached giving a brief glance into their age and original owners and, now that the weather is a bit warmer, the flowers everywhere are bursting into bloom.  I also felt such a sense of the areas history of shipbuilding and it's bond with the sea.  Every nook seemed to have something to do with the ocean from the anchor door knockers to a dory I found leaning on its side in an alley to a local sailmaker.  The whole area has such a salty feel that's intoxicating.

The afternoon was winding down and I headed back into town to meet up with Drake and Eanna at the restaurant near the museum.  Just in time for happy hour (hey, I'm happy!) I ordered a rum cocktail with local blueberry juice and, to my delight, some fresh mussels which are my absolute favourite!  Apparently they were someone else's favourite as well because not long after the mussels hit the table this little beggar appeared.  He came from one of the boats on the dock, but I think the smell of fresh seafood  was too much for him to ignore.  

The fresh mussels were to die for!
"You will bend to my will", he seemed to say.  Unfortunately he left disappointed.

Leaning back, I couldn't help but think I had found my mantra for this trip.  

"I wish I could stay longer…"

A sunset view of Lunenburg from the dinghy dock