Offshore to Nova Scotia

Offshore passage

I began to write this after 3 days at sea.

“We are now located off of Cape Cod having finished our second night. Jenny is below taking a sleep as she is off watch. I have the music on, the doors open in the wheel house, a nice cooling breeze coming through the doors. I am running the generator to charge the batteries, and to make some water.

We are heading NE in nearly perfect conditions. Clear skies, following seas, 1-2’, no boat traffic. This is what the dream was built on.

Our first night out we were passaging off of the New Jersey Coast, maybe 20 miles offshore. The weather did improve as promised. We had a current pushing us northward, and we are averaging almost 7 knots since departing.

New Jersey lived down to my low expectations. During my watch that night (midnight to 4am) I walk the boat to look around decks, and I was assaulted by a stench; fishy smell mixed with a chemical smell. It was a horrific assault on the olfactory organs. Plus we had collected a swarm of horrible black and biting flies. They would swarm your legs, and then you would feel their bite.
I wore out our fly swat, and at sunset; I washed the boat deck trying to wash away the swarms. Dead fly carcasses lie around everywhere.

Finally passing through NJ waters, we progressed further offshore, and were off Long Island Sound, maybe 60-65 miles. The seas continued to diminish; water grew nicer, the sky clear.   We had some commercial traffic, but uneventful.

The second morning, our 24th hour, I spotted some massive splashing west of the boat, several miles away toward Long Island Sound. Watching, I realized I was seeing a couple of large whales playing around. I spotted I think a pair, perhaps an adult and calf. I watched as the splashing turned into a spy hop, where the adult hauls his upper body out of the water and looks around and then splashes back into the water with a massive eruption of white water. I saw the smaller whales plume from his exhaust.

I was sorry that Jenny did not witness this unique and exciting behavior.

The boat feels great, her big diesel, a Lugger, chugs away, just a pleasant hum in the back ground. We take 4 hour ER checks, recording the data. She is running a bit cooler here in this more temperate clime. The systems checks showing nothing unusual.

I noticed our water tanks are at half. So I ran the generator for a few hours the first night off NJ, and was able to close the boat, to have fly wars, and cool off and make some water.

We approached from about 65 miles offshore. Ideal conditions, the water getting clearer and at least has no NJ smell. We had some more dolphins visit and ride our bow for a time. These are large, with white sides. There were two of them, and they raced side to side of the bow wake, turning abruptly away and dashing to our stern wake, then returning to the bow.

Later in the afternoon, Jenny spotted a brown fin on the surface. It lingered leisurely along, as we approached it, you could make our it’s slightly droopy dorsal fin, and 5-6 feet back the top of its caudal fin. This would make it a big 15’ shark. I would guess it was a basking shark?

It is nice to have calm conditions out here. Life on board goes on in a new self-contained manner;   Engine room checks, resting off watch, I like to read when I can’t sleep, preparing food for dinner, having mock-tails at sundown on the fly-bridge.

Music is the main entertainment while on watch at night. We have the IPOD with our music collection, so you can rock out while in your own little world. The pilot house music can be cranked, and you can’t hear it anywhere on the boat if you have the speakers turned down in the salon.

Sleeping in these conditions is good. We use the forward guest cabin with calm following seas. It is cool with the fan blowing on you. If the seas come forward it is often too noisy to sleep in the guest cabin.

Last night’s passage between New York and Cape Cod was interesting.

Jenny picks up the story.
As we approached the main shipping channel approach into New York harbour towards the end of the second day, we were reviewing our planned routing to decide at what point we would need to cross this busy channel, to stay out of the way of the large boats particularly during the upcoming night watches.

While discussing options, Ted pointed out to the water – about 100 feet on our port side were two markers, a large pink buoy and a second smaller white buoy with a pole which we realized had a radar detector on top. We looked around and saw many more of these fishing traps on all sides. This changed our thinking, as it was clear we were going to have to somehow get clear of these before nightfall.

We changed course directly up to the shipping channel, certain there would be no buoys allowed in the channel. And this was the case, but of course there were large ships in the channel, so we continued up to the north side of the channel. And were dismayed to see the buoys and markers resume, even more tightly spaced.

Ted was exhausted and had not been sleeping well. I knew I had to take the first night watch but I just couldn’t imagine how we could avoid all these obstructions. I understand the fishermen need to make their living, but like the crab and lobster pots elsewhere along the coastlines, it makes transiting these waters so much more challenging for recreational boaters. Apart from not wanting to interfere with their livelihood, or have an irate fisherman hailing us on CH16, these things can do real damage to our underwater systems. We have line cutters in front of our stabilisers and propellers, but you never really know whether they will work, particularly when you are not sure of what sits underneath the markers. A worst case scenario would be a line wrapped around the main propeller, rudder or one of the stabilisers which would mean having to stop the boat and dive under it and try to free the line, in the dark, in the ocean (thinking about the large shark we’d seen earlier). Ted still can’t go into the salt water with his wound, so it would be me getting into my wetsuit.

We turned on the two radars and kept one at 12 miles for large vessels, and the smaller one Ted set down to .5 of a mile, at which range the markers showed up as small red dots. He went to bed, telling me to trust my instruments and steer around the markers. Okay, but as it got dark, and my radar showed dozens of these red dots, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to dodge around them. I changed my course back towards the shipping channel, which my 12 mile radar was telling me was clear. And my AIS confirmed that my closest ship was 40 miles away at that point.
I steered Southern Star southeast until all the red dots were on my port side, but now I was close to the ship channel. So I eased back north until the dots were about half a mile away on my port side, and the channel was a mile away on my starboard. I kept this course until I could see large ships approaching. At night we like to have at least a 2 mile clearance to any large vessel, so I had to retreat back amongst the traps and steer around them.

When Ted arrived on watch at midnight, he was better rested. But he looked at my radar screen and exclaimed “What are all those?” “Fish traps” I responded. And then showed him the three large vessels bearing down on us on the other side which were forcing me to dance a narrow path through the markers.

Of course once I went off watch, Ted reported that the traps thinned out, the big boats all passed by, and he had a boring time of it until I returned on watch at 4am.

I had about an hour of darkness until the first light started to show in the east. With the obstacles gone, I only had a few fishing boats to watch, and could relax and enjoy the special time of a night watch. I went up to the boat deck and looked up at the two radars turning slowly above the fly bridge, grateful for them being my eyes and enabling me to avoid all the pots, and keeping me informed on the other vessels around me. I listened to the dry exhaust humming with the reassuring sound of our diesel engine, and then sat up on the fly bridge enjoying the dawn and the lovely cooler temperatures we are experiencing as we move slowly north.

But now we have a new navigation challenge… fog.

The rest of the trip goes without any events. We celebrated Ted’s 60th birthday at sea. We had mock-tails to toast the day. No presents, no cake, nice and quiet, just the two of us.

The seas are calm, and we have a good passage. We learn to adjust to the fog, learn to trust the radars. We find the temperatures dropping, and it feels good to pull on a jacket and long pants.
We enjoy the warmth and comfort of the pilot house, as we motor along in our own little cocoon, we turn on the fog horn which sounds every ten minutes or so over our loud hailer. It is comforting to know we are putting out a sound to warn other vessels of our location.

We finally make the approach to Halifax in fog which leaves us with less than ¼ mile visibility. As we make the Halifax channel we call into Halifax harbour control, who tells us of a Canadian Warship approaching behind. We see it on our AIS and on the radar. He is making 25 knots, and we can’t see him. He passes us, and we can only feel his wake as we never saw him.

We were tired and happy to make our way over to the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron on the Northwest arm of the harbour. The fog clears for our final approach.

This passage took us 4 days and 675 miles. Our longest passage so far and we feel pretty good.
Southern Star performed perfectly, we had good conditions, with the seas following us, and only our introduction to fog to add any challenge.

We docked on the RNSYS docks, Wayne the dock master was very welcoming and friendly, and he loves his Nordhavns.

We cleared Canadian Customs that morning and are now in Canada and ready to meet our friend Gordon, flying in from New Zealand.”


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