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Crossing the Gulf of Maine

7851 Views 7 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  rikhall
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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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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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).
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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