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post #1 of 8 Old 09-12-2009 Thread Starter
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Crossing the Gulf of Maine

I am a relative newbie considering sailing from Penobscot Bay in Maine to Nova Scotia the end of next summer. When I say relative newbie, I have sailed in Penobscot Bay for 25 years, but almost exclusively as a day sailer. I purchased a Pearson Ensign 10 years ago and it has been a wonderful tool to learn basic seamanship and sail trim. My father traded in his Pearson 32 for a Baba40 two years ago and I have taken it for several 3-5 day cruises along the coast (next one in two weeks to Frenchman's Bay and back). I actually look at these trips as not cruising so much as a series of day trips - I'm generally in familiar waters in manageable conditions on a boat that's overbuilt for its purpose. So my question is this: what tactics/skills should I be practising on these short cruises to prepare myself for a trip to Nova Scotia?
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post #2 of 8 Old 09-12-2009
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Anchoring comes to mind.

Generally, crossing the Gulf of Maine to Nova Scotia will most likely involve an overnight sail, so you might want to practice sailing after hours (so to speak). Practice picking out lighted navigation aids (buoys, lighthouses, etc...) against a background of shore lights, and familiarize yourself with the running light patterns of the different types of vessels.

The passage is short enough that, unless you have some other factor driving your schedule, you should be able to pick your weather. Still, you ought to be familiar with the procedures for reefing and un-reefing the sails on the boat you're going to take.

I'm sure there's more, but these are some ideas to get you started.

EDIT: noticing your other thread on learning navigation, another skill that you might practice is steering to a compass course, as on your passage you will be out of sight of land and other landmarks that you might use to steer by.

Related, how are you at steering/navigating in fog?

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Last edited by catamount; 09-12-2009 at 12:51 PM.
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post #3 of 8 Old 09-12-2009 Thread Starter
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Catamount - thanks for the reply and the ideas. I feel pretty good about anchoring, although I've never had occaision to put out two anchors and may practice that. Your ideas about night sailing and recognizing lights against a shore is a good one. Also, regarding your question on fog, I had intended to practice with the radar and gps during what I hope is good weather (my previous technique for fog has been to not sail)

I noticed that you have experience sailing those waters - do you have any recommendations regarding routes? Also, I'm thinking of allowing 10 days to two weeks for the trip and would like to get to Roque Island first, over to Nova Scotia and then back to Penobscot Bay - not sure it's enough time and don't want to box myself in too tight on a schedule. Any tips on crossing Petite Manan Bar?
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post #4 of 8 Old 09-13-2009
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Quote:
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Catamount - thanks for the reply and the ideas. I feel pretty good about anchoring, although I've never had occaision to put out two anchors and may practice that. Your ideas about night sailing and recognizing lights against a shore is a good one. Also, regarding your question on fog, I had intended to practice with the radar and gps during what I hope is good weather (my previous technique for fog has been to not sail)

I noticed that you have experience sailing those waters - do you have any recommendations regarding routes? Also, I'm thinking of allowing 10 days to two weeks for the trip and would like to get to Roque Island first, over to Nova Scotia and then back to Penobscot Bay - not sure it's enough time and don't want to box myself in too tight on a schedule. Any tips on crossing Petite Manan Bar?
I think you definitely want to get some experience sailing in low visibility.

Where in Nova Scotia do you want to go? My experience in Nova Scotia is limited to just in and out of Yarmouth, and then Halifax and beyond to Cape Breton Island. Oh, and I've been on Nova Scotia's Fundy shore from land, but I don't think of that as having a lot of interest from a cruising perspective.

Remember that Canada is a foreign country and you will need to clear customs going there, and more importantly, coming back!

My own inclination with the Petite Manan Bar would be to go outside, but I haven't been there in a looong time (ie. like since before GPS has become commonplace).

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I absolutely agree with you that more low visibility experience is a must. I have frankly missed out on a lot of good sailing days because I know there are a couple of fog banks out on the bay that I don't want to get stuck in. Any advice in that regard other than just getting out and doing it? I assume that I need to become more proficient at using the radar and gps. Not sure how to prepare for losing the gps other than really work on navigation, steering a compass course and maintaining an awareness of position.
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post #6 of 8 Old 09-13-2009
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Fog -- get out and do it. Start in familiar waters where all the hazards are well marked by sound signals (bell buoys, gong buoys, whistle buoys, fog horns at lighthouses and the like). Stay away from ferry corridors and shipping lanes. Listen to Ch. 16 on the VHF for securite calls from shipping. Go slow and use your ears, and your eyes -- watching for the "loom" of land, listening for surf or barking dogs, etc... Radar and an electronic chartplotter are helpful, but don't concentrate on them to the exclusion of your basic senses. Go slow -- the rule of thumb is you should be able to stop the boat within half the distance that you can see. Don't expect that other boats will see you on their radar (they might not even have radar! I don't -- yet!), but hoist a radar reflector anyway.

Sailing in Fog pictures:








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Great advice - thanks for taking the time.
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post #8 of 8 Old 09-13-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndrewMac View Post
I have sailed in Penobscot Bay for 25 years, but almost exclusively as a day sailer. . . . I actually look at these trips as not cruising so much as a series of day trips - I'm generally in familiar waters in manageable conditions on a boat that's overbuilt for its purpose. So my question is this: what tactics/skills should I be practising on these short cruises to prepare myself for a trip to Nova Scotia?
Andrew

We live in New Brunswick and have sailed your area in summers for almost ten years. You can go from where you live to Halifax as "a series of day trips". Start by heading east up to Jonesport, go into Roque Island, yes, go through the Petit Manan Bar (it is very well marked) and go up into the north cove on Trafton Island. Spend some weeks exploring there. Once you get up past Jonesport and Mistake Island go to Cutler, then on to Eastport ME. From there, go the short distance inside to Saint Andrews, NB and clear customs into Canada. (When going home - clear at Eastport ME - their Customs / Homeland Security people are the friendliest and nicest we have met anywhere. Do some serious whale watching ten minutes off Head Harbour on Campobello Island. Head Harbour to Black's Hrbr is only 8.3 nautical miles, Dipper is only about 20 nautical miles, Saint John is only another 18 nautical miles. And, anytime you are sailing in the Bay of Fundy we have the friendliest "traffic controllers" called Fundy Traffic. They are on VHF 12 and 14 (depending upon what part of teh Bay, and you only call them if you want to. If you call them, they want to know who you are (boat name) where you are, where you are going and your ETA. They will tell you of any known traffic and ask you to call in at the next check point. They keep you informed and are never intrusive.

If you can sail the Maine waters - you can sail up to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Lots of harbours, lots of places to visit, no long passages needed.

Let me know when and we'll do all we can to help. PM me if you want more info.

Rik

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