The Great Leap Forward

We departed Ramea early in the morning around 5:45 am, and sailed along the southern coast of Newfoundland towards Port au Basques, our jump-off point to eastern Canada. It was a perfect day on the bay, with 1-2 metre seas, a steady SW wind around 10-15 knots and high temps.

Beautiful calm seas for a sail to Port aux Basques
Beautiful calm seas for a sail to Port aux Basques
Volt meter in hand - always checking to see if its in working order.
Volt meter in hand – always checking to see if its in working order.

The scenery on the south coast is beautiful and I wish we’d had time to explore the area. Passing places like Isle aux Morts and Grand Bruit that are so remote got me thinking about who lived in there and what it would be like to live in such an isolated community. These small towns hugged the coast, with houses clustered close together, all were painted white, except for the ochre coloured fishing sheds. With no time to stop we sailed past happy to have at least seen these places.

I am happy to report that Filbert has become very comfortable with sailing and spends his time out under the dodger, sleeping or chasing us down into the cabin looking for treats.

Chilling Filly
Chilling Filly

I had thought he would adjust, and hoped it would work out but you just never know until you try. Initially he was suffering from some seasickness but thats when he was sleeping in the v-berth. I decided to keep him out of that area and moved his carrier up under the dodger, which seemed to work out perfectly. He loves to lounge here and sleeps most of the day. At night he is very active and we have to watch him carefully so he doesn’t get off the boat at dock or fall in the water while on the anchor.

Crab terrine from St. Pierre definitely helps.
Crab terrine from St. Pierre definitely helps.

After another long and uneventful day of sailing, which was welcome for us, we pulled into Port aux Basques right in front of the ferry, the Blue Puttee.

The Blue Puttee
The Blue Puttee

The wharf in Port aux Basques is a popular spot and many of the locals come down to see what boats are coming in or many are just out for a walk. They have a lovely boardwalk that meanders through the town and continues on out to trails and headlands. Theres also a park next to the government wharf that has a dance stage where they have entertainment 4 nights a week.

A section of the boardwalk in Port aux Basques.
A section of the boardwalk in Port aux Basques.
Boardwalk enstrance
Boardwalk entrance
Cabanas along the park
Cabanas along the park

The day we pulled in a local band was playing traditional music and the turnout was really good. Lots of families hanging out and having a dance or an ice cream. There’s little cabanas set up along the Park, who sell food and souvenirs.

Dance floor and stage
Dance floor and stage
Locals dancing to the Gateway boys
Locals dancing to the Gateway boys
Fishing off the wharf in Port aux Basques
Fishing off the wharf in Port aux Basques

We spent the next day getting ready for our crossing across the Cabot Strait. Al spent the entire next day troubleshooting and finally landed a temporary fix for our navigation light that had stopped working the previous day (see volt meter pic). It was essential to have it working for our trip across the Cabot Strait that night.

Troubleshooting the electronics, which Al said is one thing he doesn't like.
Troubleshooting the electronics, which Al said is one thing he doesn’t like.
Al reassumes his spot in the berth to fix the nav lights.
Al reassumes his spot in the berth to fix the nav lights.

He also filled all the jerry cans with diesel, twice, to ensure we had sufficient fuel for the crossing. The fuel truck at the dock wouldn’t give us fuel but the locals were eager to offer assistance and Gary and Ted, both offered a ride to the gas station.

Its been our experience at every stop so far, that the locals always offer us assistance in any way we need. You don’t have to ask most times, they’ll come out and ask if theres anything we need. Cruising is a lovely way to meet people, often very kind and generous people. It’s reassuring and reminds us constantly to pay it forward whenever we can.

Gary shows Al pics of his grandsons after giving him a lift.
Gary shows Al pics of his grandsons after giving him a lift.

We finished our chores and turned in around 9 pm because we planned on leaving that night for a crossing that would be our biggest yet, 100 nm. We hadn’t done a night sail yet and were anticipating it with some excitement and a little anxiety.

Ramea – Port aux Basques
05:45 – 17:30, 75 nm

Port aux Basques to Bras d”or Lakes

Captains Blog, Sea date, 00012 – The Great Leap Forward

We set sail at 1:08 am and headed off into a warm, calm night with smooth seas and low winds. Leaving the lights of Port aux Basques behind and heading into the ocean that night was heart pounding. Was our boat up for it? Were we? We’d done long trips before at night but there was something different about this one. Maybe it was our first night sail of the adventure, or perhaps it was jumping off the Rock but we were both feeling a bit anxious. I actually love night sailing if the conditions are right. There was some fog outside Port aux Basque so we turned on the radar, set a course to the entrance for Great Bras d’Or and settled in for a long trip.

Waypoints show our track from NL to NS
Waypoints show our track from NL to NS

Theres a buoy outside Port aux Basques harbour that drones as the water raises and lifts it with the tide. As it comes down it makes a very low, mournful sound and it was so eerie to hear as we passed by in the dark. I made us a cup of coffee but we weren’t sleepy or cold, it was just nice to have a warm cup of java. It turned out to be a gorgeous night for sailing.

And then we saw them! It started slowly but the further we left the lights behind the darker the night became. With that darkness came the coolest and most awesome meteor shower. Fortune found us out on the ocean during the peak time for the Perseid meteor shower in 20 years with some predictions of up to 200 meteors per hour. Some of the meteors burned across the night sky, brightening into a brilliant spark before dying while others quietly streaked past with lightening speed. We lay in the cockpit and stared out at one of the best fireworks shows either of us have seen. I felt incredibly lucky! I wish I had images to share. I did try to capture some pics and set my GoPro up for a nighttime lapse but unfortunately captured nothing on camera.

We took turns monitoring the radar to ensure all was clear. We did encounter one ship and it proved difficult to monitor as it would come and go on our radar screen. Being out on the water at night and not being able to see whats around you or know what is potentially coming your way can be scary. We’ve been discussing getting AIS technology aboard. AIS stands for Automatic Identification System and allows ships to exchange data with each other. Information such as position, course, speed and a unique identifier can be communicated to another ship who uses AIS. Once we set sail for the Caribbean it will definitely come in handy.

As the night sky faded, so too did the meteor shower. The sea was almost calm and we took turns taking naps while the other watched. Filbert pretty much napped the entire way across and was not too concerned about anything, ah the life of Filbert.

The morning on our crossing was lovely.
The morning on our crossing was lovely.
Filbert checks out the great big blue sea.
Filbert checks out the great big blue sea.
Having a wee nap in the sun.
Having a wee nap in the sun.
Enjoying the nice sail across the Srait.
Enjoying the nice sail across the Strait
We've been having leftovers for lunch which makes it much easier when seas are high.
We’ve been having leftovers for lunch which makes it much easier when seas are high.

After nearly 13 hours we finally reached the mouth of the Great Bras d’Or entrance, a most welcome sight! We’d made great time and arrived a couple of hours earlier than we had predicted. We motored into a quiet and secluded cove, put out the anchor and popped a cork to celebrate our achievement. We had a great meal and had the best dessert with poached apples, granola, maple syrup and Fussels cream.

Captain Al is happy to arrive at the Great Bras d'or Lake entrance
Captain Al is happy to arrive at the Great Bras d’or Lake entrance
We finally made it!
We finally made it!
A wee drop of champagne to celebrate our crossing.
A wee drop of champagne to celebrate our crossing.
Fussels cream, Ive discovered is almost the same as creme fraiche.
Fussels cream, I’ve discovered, is almost the same as creme fraiche.

We were both relieved and a bit stoked that it had gone so well and gave each other a high five for another great big sail before turning in for a much needed long sleep.

Port aux Basques – Bras d’Or Lake, 102 nm
1:08 am – 16:12 pm

Author: tess

A full-time adventurer, I am sailing our 37-foot Tartan with my husband and kitty, to the Caribbean from Newfoundland while documenting it on our blog, greatbigsail.com

6 thoughts on “The Great Leap Forward”

  1. YO Captain, First Mate and Relunctant Mouser. Looks like you are having a wild and wonderful experience…..some would say “the trip of a lifetime”, but I know the difference….this will be just one of many “lifetime trips”! Al you remember back in Long Harbour when I said “you’ve already retired, you just don’t know it yet”? Now I ask you, how can you ever go back?? LOL. We’re following the blog religiously with great respect, admiration and and a wee bit of jealously!! Cheers.

    1. Hey Brian & Mel! Your comment about going back made us laugh. 😄 But you’re right; who can ever say that this is ‘the’ trip? You guys would know, you’ve travelled so much that you know, once you start you just want to keep going. We love that you’re following us and that will keep us writing! TGIF.

  2. Great to hear about the adventure! Ray and I will be in NS on labour day weekend and planning on taking Bella out. If you’re near we should try to connect…supper?)

    1. Hey Andrea! We probably won’t be here then but if the list of work keeps growing then who knows? If we are still here we definitely want to see you two! 🍾

  3. Sounds like you saw an amazing meteorite show…👍🏻 Happy to hear you made your destination without any glitches and safe and sound for now…😜 The sound part! ⛵️

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