Diapensia's 2003 Newfoundland Voyage

Chart of voyage
click for a larger version

Dan Allen (captain), Nat Davis (cook), Tim Allen (navigator), and Harold Smith (crew) made a sailing voyage in 2003 from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Ile St. Pierre, France, and the south coast of Newfoundland, Canada, with a return via the Bras d'Or Lakes of Cape Breton Island, Canada. We sailed aboard the yacht Diapensia, a Cape Dory 36 Cutter.

This voyage entailed several Offshore Passages "...of long distance and well offshore, where yachts must be completely self-sufficient for extended periods of time, capable of withstanding heavy storms and prepared to meet serious emergencies without the expectation of outside assistance."

We took an Iridium satellite phone with us. Although we were never able to establish an internet connection over the Sat phone, we did keep in regular contact with Wendy Allen, who updated this web log for us. In addition, we were able to access e-mail at most of the ports we visited in Canada, and were able to upload pictures from our laptop computer in Sydney (at the public library) and in Halifax (at an Internet Cafe).

Crew Log Update: Leg 1: Portsmouth to Ile St. Pierre

Friday 6/20/03

Rig and load boat at Great Bay Marine in Newington, NH

Saturday 6/21/03

Depart Great Bay for the Isles of Shoals, where we spent the night on a guest mooring, working on assembling the storm jib.

Sunday 6/22/03

We returned to Portsmouth, NH, to exchange one of the ship's two batteries, and then headed to sea once that was accomplished.

Monday 6/23/03

Position at 6:30 pm N 43:09.67: W 069:23.26
Right now there is no wind, forcast has no wind, we are going slow. Wish us some wind. We have tried to make SSB radio contact with no luck so far.

Tuesday 6/24/03

Position at 6:00 pm N 43:08.24: W 068:24.38
We have been sailing (drifting) on a sea of glass, at an average speed of 1-1/2 knots most of the day. We ran the motor for a few hours. We have seen a shark, dolphin, whale, and a oil supertanker.

16-foot Basking Shark

Nat on Deck

Wednesday 6/25/03

Position at 6:30 pm N 43:12.9: W 066:12.2
We have wind! GPS: over 7.4 knots over the ground. But now we are bucking the tide so we are running the motor to recharge the batteries. This morning we saw a pod of about 30 dolphins around Diapensia chasing fish. We have not been able to connect to the Internet to check our email. If you wish to send a text message (160 characters or less), which appears on our satellite phone, email to: 881621419225@msg.iridium.com. Otherwise, please feel free to email Wendy

Tim calling Wendy on the Sat Phone

Harold calling Dianne on the Sat Phone

Thursday 6/26/03

Position at 6:30 pm N 43:54.5: W 064:02.2
We are SSW of Halifax moving at 6 knots down wind. We are trying hard to stay out of the way of Canadian War ships in their firing exercises. We have seen a Minke Whale.

Warship 711, Where are you????

Friday 6/27/03

Position at 6:50 pm N 44:41.3: W 061:42.9
Second day of fog. We are moving 6 knots, with a double reef in the main and towing a water generator on a beam reach. No wild animals today. Last night we were within a mile of an oil tanker. They saw us on radar. Called us, and said they would pass in front of us with plenty of time. We have a weak signal from Net control on our SSB Radio.

Sailing in Fog

Captain and Crew

Saturday 6/28/03

Position at 6:30 pm N 45:29.9: W 059:17.4
Still sailing in fog. At the moment we are being escorted by a whale about 20 feet away. The whale has been swimming on one side of Diapensia, then swims under Diapensia and comes up for air on the other side. The whale is about the size of Diapensia. Harold described life on a boat as "the life of a dog". We play, we sleep, we play then someone feeds us. 150 miles from St. Pierre.

Life down below on the off-watch

Sunday 6/29/03

Position at 6:30 pm N 46:16.6: W 057:21.1
We should reach St. Pierre early tomorrow afternoon. We had fog this morning, but great weather this afternoon. Passed over the Laurentian Channel, 1500 feet water depth or 250 fathoms!

Monday 6/30/03

Position: We Have Arrived at St. Pierre!
A long toughh arduous beat up wind, starting this past midnight. Strong winds from the NE. Very busy taking care of laundry and showers. Our expected departure time is tomorrow.

Landfall St. Pierre!!!!

Tuesday 7/1/03

Today was a lay-over day here in St. Pierre

Tied up with the aluminum french yachts at the St. Pierre Yacht Club.

Crew Log Update: Leg 2: Southwest coast of Newfoundland, St. Pierre to Sydney

Wednesday 7/2/03

Position: approximately N 47:05: W 055:55 (from memory)
Email from Tim: We are now in Grand Banks, Newfoundland (on the north side of the Burin Penninsula). I'm accessing the internet at the public library here. The forecast today was for fairly strong southwest winds, but we motored all the way from St. Pierre in near calm. We enjoyed eating fine french pastries while we were there. Now we are trying to arrange for diesel fuel, which is proving to be a real problem. Tomorrow we expect to be heading off to Francois on the southwest coast and from there we'll continue west harbor hopping for as long as we can until we need to turn and head for Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Grand Bank Head

Grand Bank Harbor

Thursday 7/3/03

Position: N 47:24: W 056:35 or something like that
I'm writing to you from Francois (pronounced "France-Way") on the South Coast of Newfoundland. This is a tiny remote little village nestled in an ampitheater at the head of a fjord-- the water is about 200 feet deep and the rock walls rise 400 feet above us all around! I don't think the Sat Phone will work from in here. There is no road here -- the only access is by the coastal ferry boat. But they do have internet access!!!!!

We had a long hard beat to windward today from Grand Banks -- it was over 45 miles. But we made it. We did get fuel in Grand Banks after all -- we had to buy a "jerry-can" to lug the fuel from the gas station over to the boat. The harbormaster lent us his wheel-barrow, which helped a lot.

"Thank you marcia, rudy, sue and john.
Bill, it looks like our antenna tuner is shot. We would have used a straight connection to the antenna but we've been too busy at 2:00."

Leaving the Francois Fjord the next day.

Friday 7/4/03

Position: N 47:38.7: W 057:30.0
"Happy Independence Day" We are in a small, out of the way, cove called Doctor Harbor. It is a very nice place

Doctor Harbor (one of many on this coast)

Our View of the Newfoundland Coast -- a blurry RADAR image!!!!

Only when you get really close does it look like this.

Motoring through heavy seas in the fog

Saturday 7/5/03

Position: N 47:40.3: W 058:13.6
Fog, Fog, Fog. We are anchored in a small village called Grand Bruit. Tomorrow we will be leaving for Sydney -- 114 miles, adverse winds and a lots of beating up wind. The passage may take two days.

The waterfall

From the top of the waterfall.

Sunday 7/6/03

Position: N 47:07.0: W 059:02.2
Windy. We are half way across the Cabot Strait. We should be in Sydney tomorrow morning, where we will spend the night.

Monday 7/7/03

Position: North Sydney
Email from Tim: We're in North Sydney, Nova Scotia. I can't remember the coordinates... We sailed all day yesterday and through the night, mostly closed hauled. Got headed and couldn't make the course, so when the wind died this morning we motored the last several hours bucking a current and head wind trying to get into Sydney Harbour. Made it in by early afternoon. Tomorrow we're off for the Great Bras D'Or! A lot of tide runs through there, so timing will be important. Should be an interesting ride.

Tuesday 7/8/03

Position: Sydney


Hello Everybody! There are Gale Warnings in effect all around us, including for the Bras D'Or Lakes, so we decided to stay in Sydney for another night, although we moved from the Ballast Grounds Fishery in North Sydney to the Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club in Sydney (proper). The Public Library here in Sydney has ports for laptop users to connect to the internet, so now I can post some pictures!!!! You'll find them posted more or less on the appropriate date...

Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club

Crew Log Update: Leg 3: Bras D'Or Lakes, Sydney to Halifax

Wednesday 7/9/03

Position: Baddeck
We are in the tourist town of Baddeck. We have heard through the grapevine, one of the two bridges we need to pass through to pass between the Bras D'Or Lakes is broken. We will find out more information tomorrow.

Sailing into the Great Bras D'Or, approaching the Seal Island Bridge

Outcrops of Gypsum along the shores of the Great Bras D'Or, as we're approaching Baddeck.

Thursday 7/10/03

Position: N 45:43.5: W 060:49.0
We are now anchored in Cape George Harbor. After signing a release waiver, we were able to pass through the broken bridge. One of the working bridges is a swing bridge for a railroad track. The broken bridge was a draw bridge with only one side working. Tomorrow we will enter the St. Peter Canal.

Nat, at the helm!!!!!

Friday 7/11/03

Position: N45:08.36; W061:36.92, Harbor Island Cove off Drum Head, Nova Scotia
Email from Tim: This morning we passed through the St. Peters Canal and Tidal Lock from the Bras D'Or Lakes back into the Atlantic Ocean. We then motor-sailed about 50 miles around Cape Canso to an anchorage we picked out in Harbor Island Cove off Drum Head, arriving about 7:00 in driving rain and building easterlies. We saw several seals, heads bobbing up above the waves to give us a good look, as well as a bald eagle, great blue herons, harbor porpoises, etc...

Entering the St. Peter's Canal

Approaching the Lock

The Lock closing after we had entered.

In the Lock waiting for water levels to equilibrate.

The anchorage was something of a road-stead. Through the evening the winds continued to build and around 10:00 pm we awoke to find that we had dragged anchor across the cove and were washed up on the beach. We tried to kedge the boat off, but we just pulled the anchor to the boat. We got out the dingy, inflated it (it had been packed away unused so far), got the outboard going (after some struggles with shear pins, etc...), and hauled the anchor out again. Again it didn't catch, so we repeated the exercise. This time the anchor seemed to hold, but we couldn't pull ourselves off the beach because the tide had fallen. We were hard aground, heeling into the beach at an angle of about 25 degrees. All the while it is very dark, driving rain, and winds of 25 knots pushing us on to the beach. Fortunately the waves were small, but there was a period where we weren't sure we were going to be able to save the boat. "At no time were our lives in any danger." By this time (midnight) a Canadian Coast Guard Rescue Boat responded to our call on the radio, encouraged us to keep tension on the anchor and wait for the tide to come back in, while they stood buy. They also offered us the use of one of their large heavy anchors, which we accepted (we were about to run out our own second anchor, but their anchor seemed a better bet than ours). So they launched their zodiac, brought us the rode and set their anchor. With their anchor led to our stern and our anchor off our bow, we winched and winched until we had the boat heeled away from the beach (still grounded). The wind abated, the tide kept coming in, and eventually we were able to winch the boat free from the beach.

We were floating! No water was coming in the hull anywhere! The engine was running fine! We retrieved our anchor, while still tied to the CCG's anchor, then passed their rode back to the guys in the Zodiac while we motored off after the Rescue Boat who lit the way for us to the wharf at Drum Head, where we tied up (at 4:00 am) for the rest of the night. Then the Rescue Boat went back to retrieve their anchor and the rest of their team (the two guys in the Zodiac).

Sorry, no pictures.

To illustrate our night of drama, here's the chart showing Harbour Island. We washed up on the beach next to the wreck, shown on the chart by the funny triangle with the tipped mast, at N45:08.36; W061:36.92. The presence of this wreck made us that much more anxious about our predicament. Clearly this other vessel had been unable to extract itself from the mud; fortunately we were able to. All that remains of it is the boiler, the rest of the ship having rotted away. Nonetheless it was an eery presence looming through the dark.

Saturday 7/12/03

Position: N 45:00: W 062:00
Email from Tim (Sat. night): This morning one of the fishermen at Drum Head arranged for a scuba diver to come check out the boat. We'ld rubbed off some bottom paint (but no fiberglass) and polished up the bronze at the rudder heel, but that's all he could see. Fortunately for us, the beach we had washed up on was soft mud...

So we set off in thick fog, navigating by RADAR, for Liscombe Lodge, a posh place Dan and Nat had stopped at on their Nova Scotia Cruise some ten years ago. We all got hot showers, a soak in the hot tub, a delicious dinner, and all our wet clothes in the laundry. Now it's off to bed -- we'll think about tomorrow's destination tomorrow.

Is this a fixer-upper or a push-er-over?

Liscombe Lodge is located at the head of navigation of the Liscombe River.

Sunday 7/13/03

Position: N 44:53.1: W 062:24.9
Anchored at Beaver Harbor. Diapensia's GPS alarm set to go off if we move during the night.

Why do we have the sail reefed? The winds seldom seem to live up to the forecast. (Sailing back down the Liscombe River)

Enjoying a nice sail before an obnoxious jetskier threw us a wave that washed over the whole boat and got us soaked.

Monday 7/14/03

Position: N 44:46.0: W 063:01.0
Jeddore Harbor. Tied up to a fishing boat, tied up to a dock. Motor sailed through fog most of the day. Uneventful day.

Tied alongside the fishing boat "Tickled Pink II" at the public wharf in Jeddore

Sunset over Jeddore

Wednesday 7/16/03

Position: N44:38.1; W063:36.8

More Pictures!

Hello Everybody! We're here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Big Harbour. We arrived yesterday after a boring day of motoring in light winds, lumpy seas, and rain. At least with rain, as opposed to fog, we can see where we're going. Last night we were treated to a wonderful dinner at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron by the brother of one of Nat's long-time friends. Today we are running errands (in the sunshine) and provisioning for the last leg of our voyage.

Theodore Tugboat at home in the Big Harbour!

The Prison at Armdale Yacht Club -- a hold-over from the Napoleonic Wars.

How they move boats around at the Armdale Yacht Club. Travel-Lift? Hydraulic Trailer? Nah... a log skidder!

Once the cradle has been skidded on to the platform, the boat is launched with this Marine Railway.

View of the Armdale Yacht Club from our slip.

Crew Log Update: Leg 4: Halifax to Portsmouth

Thursday 7/17/03

Position: N44:03.3; W064:07.3
Fog. We are motor sailing. Not enough wind to make any head way without the motor. We are ready to come home.

Friday 7/18/03

Position: N 43:06.7; W 066:08.9
Great day of sailing. Less than 200 miles to go. This morning Tim and Harold saw a giant sea turtle about 5 feet long.

Saturday 7/19/03

Position: N 42:54.9; W 068:39.4
Motor sailing. We should reach Portsmouth tomorrow. Once we arrive we will call Customs. We are unable to get off the boat until we have been checked out. Hopefully, they are open on Sunday.

Sunday 7/20/03

Sunrise, still about 35 miles out from Portsmouth

The colors and textures were just fantastic!

Monday 7/21/03

Position: Pepperell Cove, Portsmouth Harbor

We're Home!

We tied up at the public docks at Prescott Park in Portsmouth mid-afternoon on Sunday, from where the Captain attempted to contact the Customs Office. Eventually he got through and we were cleared back into the country. Then we moved the boat to a Portsmouth Yacht Club mooring in Pepperell Cove. Harold called Dianne and arranged for her to pick him up at the Kittery Point Town Dock.

Meanwhile, we worked on de-rigging the boat. Dianne arrived around 6:30 pm just as we finally got the outboard on the dinghy going, and Tim ferried Harold and Dan ashore. Dianne and Harold then gave Dan a ride to where Nat's car was parked, and Dan returned with it to the PYC in New Castle, while they went home. Tim took the dinghy back to the boat and picked up Nat, and they met Dan at the PYC.

Tim's truck was in the Storage Barn at Great Bay Marine and he wouldn't be able to retrieve it until Monday (because there would be nobody in the office there late on a Sunday evening), so the three of us remaining spent Sunday night on the boat. Monday morning we ferried gear and crew ashore to the PYC, drove up to Newington to get Tim's truck, and then headed home!!!!

Diapensia on the hard after the voyage, with Bennett, glad that his Dad, Grampa, Nana, and Harold are home again.

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Last Modified March, 2004