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A Tale of 24 Gales - and still counting

Storm brewing in Trepassy

First - apologies to our followers for the absence of blog posts over the last couple of months. We have been busy - well - surviving errr navigating the Newfoundland winter. There is really no way I could keep, you, the reader engaged long enough for me to describe all we have encountered, endured, witnessed and yes - survived during that interim. So I will try to give you some Hi/Lowlights we have encountered during some of that time.

We have spent an inordinate amount of time dodging storms, dodging freezing spray, enduring freezing rain, watching it snow, shoveling snow, thawing frozen dock lines (I tell people you haven't lived until you spend hours thawing out your dock lines so you can leave said harbor...), repairing an array of issues that have crept up onboard, and most importantly - staying safe as best we can in this incredibly unforgiving North Atlantic Ocean during winter. It's a LOT of work - with little time for play.

Frozen dock lines. Frozen docks. Frozen boats. Everything freezes.

We have also been really busy building our YouTube channel and photography stockpile - this adventure / expedition has NOT been a vacation - as most people would assume life on a sailboat (anywhere) should be. Ha!

Since November 8 when we first went in the water, we have endured no fewer than 24 "Gale" ranked storms (storm force 8 - on the Beaufort scale where winds are over 40 mph). We have encountered at least two storms that were storm force 9 - 10 (winds reaching 55 mph) and a nearly devastating storm where the gusts were hurricane category 1 strength at over 74 mph! If 74 mph winds weren't enough - consider the raw temperature (not including wind chill) was a frigid -14 C or 7 F.

Thats 27 Force 8 or greater storms in 4 months...

No doubt we were warned about how cruel and unforgiving the North Atlantic is during winter here - but we (and most other knowledgable local sea farers - albeit with the echoing caveat of: "With the right weather..."), really thought we would be in Maine by Christmas (NOT Fermuse) and well clear of Newfoundland by the time winter threw its harsher and more brutal blows. Yep...

Its forecast images like this that make my stomach turn. Where is Newfoundland you might ask? About to be blown off the map apparently. This has been a common pattern.

Our worst impediment was obviously our late departure in November. But the final blow (pun intended) preventing us from making the leap south was being stuck for over two weeks in St John's for a string of Nor' easter and Easterly gales whipping the seas up into colossal 50 and 60 foot waves. I will never forget standing on the edge of Cape Spear getting blown off my feet while trying to photograph these intimidating behemoths. A surfers delight and a Bahama dreaming guy's nightmare. This delay really set us back - and we could only sit by and watch the last throws of good natured weather on the South coast sail south without us. Those effervescent weather windows would have allowed us to cross the Cabott Straight to Nova Scotia with better tempers - had we been better positioned on the South Coast. Earlier...

The power of Nature... Cape Spear fury...

After St. John's we were consistently delayed, sometimes for a week or more in a single location, before we could continue moving towards a "jumping off" point for Nova Scotia. On our way to the South coast of Newfoundland we had two untimely malfunctions and one pesky issue come together at the same time encouraging us to ask a near by Canadian Coast Guard vessel (CCGS Teleost) for assistance in the form of a tow into Trepassy bay during a night time blizzard, white out conditions, and 8-10 foot seas.

This was our first true mechanical issue where the Oceanvolt battery system lost vital communications. Only 8 of the 16 batteries were communicating/reporting with the computer system and was giving us conflicting dashboard information on our "remaining power" level for motoring. This meant our range was instantly and dramatically reduced and we could no longer "confidently" motor to Trepassy as we originally planed after rounding Cape Race. We do own a "sailboat" after all, and we were determined to sail into Trepassy.

Then issue #2 crept in. Hakluyt had WAY too much "lee" helm (where the boat won't sail to windward well). We tried almost two dozen sail combinations and we just couldn't point anywhere closer than 80'ish degrees into the wind. After an hour of sailing our forward progress yielded only a few hundred feet instead of miles. The winds were against us, the considerable waves were against us, the snow was collecting on deck much more than was predicted and our visibility was gone due to darkness and blizzard conditions.

Sometimes the fjords are protection from the wind - other times they punch you in the face knocking your teeth out.

While we could have sailed the duration into Trepassy - after what would have been a epic marathon night tacking out to sea in adverse conditions - the tow was the right decision - enter CCGS Teleost (Thank you lads!). Upon arrival into Trepassy bay, issue #3 reared its head in the form of "now" NON functional motors - despite the dashboard showing some juice left in the (uncertain) batteries. The props would spin - but they failed to engage and articulate out of "feather" mode properly into "propulsion" mode. They would only churn the water like an egg beater. Thankfully the crew on the Fast Response Craft (FRC) from Teleost were still there to guide us safely to the dock. Hats off to "Stan" and crew of the FRC!

The battery issue was resolved after rerouting the communication cables and bypassing a failed communications port. The Oceanvolt motors were ultimately brought back to life after discovering there was a loose fuse in the servo prop control box. And the lee helm issue was largely resolved (if not completely) by redistributing weight from the aft/stern of the boat to the bow. Whew...

While the landscape is nothing short of jaw dropping at times - its almost as if it is trying to tell you something like "Stay away"...

This series of events took the wind out of our collective sails for a bit - fearing the "what if's" yet to come. But we were only hours away from New Years Eve - and a new year. The new year we hoped would bring better fortune with some apologetic weather. Looking back - all I can say is - its nice to want... Mother Nature was just getting started and we were about to settle in to two months of storms that would roll in every 3 or 4 days. I have never been a boxing athlete - but I imagine that if I stepped into a ring with a legit boxer - every four days for two months - I would emerge less scarred.

The keel developed a nasty "clunking" sound during the previous 400 miles, and we felt it required inspection and repair before we attempted a large open water crossing. Deduct another 7 days from our ability to head south as we hauled out in Harbour Breton... This is where we endured our first Force 9 storm and thank goodness we were well tied up as gusts hit 54 knots (62 mph). We were in the "jog" at the time (incorrectly identified as a slipway in our YouTube video) and we were simultaneously being blown into one dock and blown off another dock - a bizarre situation that required a spiders web of dock lines to keep Hakluyt safe.

Hakluyt in a tight space. The jog at 360 Marine Service Center, Harbour Breton NL

Low tide while Hakluyt is in the jog. Snow rarely falls straight down here. Just sideways on its way - somewhere else...

Much of this is chronicled in our YouTube videos (along with the accompanying Force 9 storm) so I will spare you the details there. Suffice it to say - all current issues have been remedied and Hakluyt now sails like a champ!

Every harbour we have visited has literally greeted us with open arms and we have met some amazing people we now call dear friends. Even if we do get punched in the face after we arrive - the South Coast of Newfoundland in Winter has been delightful in more ways than I ever could have imagined.

Hakluyt's beard... Stern Ice formed up overnight freezing in the rudder. This amounted to about 150 pounds of ice!

There is a lot to come in our future blog posts including an incredible and terrifying attempt to spend the rest of winter in an abandoned (literal ghost town) community. In the meantime you can get the visuals on our YouTube episodes here: SVHAKLUYTSADVENTURES


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