30 Aug - West to Maine, old friends and some technical stuff

Escapade of Rame
Richard & Julie Farrington
Sun 2 Sep 2018 15:17

44:05.8N  69:05.9W

On our return to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, it was time to turn our attention to some defect rectification.  The cooker is a fine Force Ten gimballed affair made, as it happens, in Canada.  So I thought that getting spare parts might be easier than in England, where they have to be exchanged for the Crown Jewels.  I got more excited when I discovered that the ship chandlery just by the jetty was a Force Ten agent, so I breezed in there with a list.

‘Never heard of it’ came the reply.  ‘Lobster boats all run a generator and use 110v electricity for cooking and everything’.

‘Oh. Ok. Do you employ someone called Tanya here?’.  ‘Yes’.  ‘Well, she’s listed as the agent on the Force Ten website’. ‘That internet don’t mean much round here…’

They rang Tanya.  She was dimly aware of her responsibilities, but nobody had ever asked her to do anything.  The manager then rang someone else, who had heard of yacht cookers.  We could get some parts in three weeks.

I returned to the boat and set about dismantling the ignition system.  Inevitably, I couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with it, but when I put it all back together the thing worked.  That was easy, then.

The fresh water system promised to be more of a challenge. We had noticed that over the last few days, the pump was running for extended periods after we ran a tap.  There was a steady drip off the pressure relief valve on the hot water tank and a minor leak on the pump.  Actually, there are two pumps: one copes well enough with normal demand, but nice Mr Oyster worried that when the whole family decided to have a shower and wash up simultaneously, we needed a second pump to step in and absorb the additional load.  The second pump looked very unwell indeed and the primary pump was clearly on its last legs.

It’s a JABSCO system.  They claim to be worldwide, but casual research suggested that the specific pumps I was looking for were as rare as rocking horse by-products.  You can get a basic Jabsco Par-Max pump quite easily, but it may not have the right pressure switches to work alongside the rest of your system.  Over the next couple of days I struck up a very helpful dialogue with the technical staff in UK, but their factory is in Mexico and the modern equivalent of Escapade’s system was a month away at the earliest.  We could sail to Mexico and pick it up in person…

I was more confident about the relief valve – after all, every boiler has one.  I found what I wanted on the Screwfix website for under a fiver but could not believe that such a thing would not exist in Canada.  So I set off ashore and spent the best part of a day walking around half a dozen plumbers merchants and DIY stores, even a caravan shop.  No joy: they could provide something to cope with a household system working at 150psi, but I wanted something simple to work at 45psi.


A typical Nova Scotian lobster boat ‘just cruising’ at the Yarmouth Shark Fishing festival

On Saturday it rained hard all day.  That was a shame as it was the annual Shark Fishing Festival on the pier.  We watched from the boat as the commercial fishermen paraded their immaculate new boats up and down the river, wore fluorescent Guy Cotton foulies and drank their bodyweight in beer.  Each boat is limited to bringing in three blue shark and the winner is the one with the biggest.  They used to fish for Mako, but the environmentalists put a stop to that.  Unfortunately the blue shark has no commercial value, so the dead carcases are donated to the local mink farm as animal feed.  I wonder what the environmentalists make of that?    

On Sunday afternoon we sailed for Rockland in Maine, with enough (prescription) drugs onboard to last me six months, a fully functioning cooker and a shaky fresh water system.  We had really enjoyed our brief sojourn in Nova Scotia: it offers a huge amount for the cruising sailor who is not on a tight timescale.  The people seem less complex than their American neighbours; less materialistic certainly.  I think the cost of living is a bit less, but the pace of life is slower too. Yarmouth proved to be a very good location from which to explore Nova Scotia by car.  It’s easy to get to by sea from further south, the harbour is very safe, but as a destination it’s fairly low key. 

We sailed overnight to Rockland in order to arrive off the coast at daylight, prepared to be hemmed in by a legion of lobster pots.  Sadly there wasn’t much wind, but the visibility was good and by 8am we were about 20 miles offshore and beginning to see pot markers about every half a mile.  They are clearly visible (albeit unlit at night) and not difficult to steer through.  As we approached the land and the depth shelved to around 50m, so the density increased and eventually, about 5nm off the coast, I took over from the autopilot and steered by hand.  The good thing is that the fishermen use weighted lines, so you can pass very close to a pot marker with little risk of entanglement.  Good visibility helped, as did a calm sea.  Our friends Julian and Patricia in A Capella of Belfast (see blog 17 Nov 2017 and after) called us up on the VHF – they were about twenty miles north of us and pushing south after a few weeks cruising the Maine shores.  We agreed to rendezvous further south in the autumn to spin a few dits and Julie and I pressed on into Penobscot Bay.


The Breakwater Lighthouse at Rockland, Maine

We arrived at the Journey’s End Marina in Rockland around 3pm and took on fuel and water.  I contacted the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) people who were quite helpful but told us that we needed to wait for a visit from one of their local officers.  I stepped ashore to discuss plans to lift the boat out of the water at the yard over the forthcoming weekend.  Come 5pm, there was no sign of the CBP chaps, the marina staff were going home and we were facing a $150 charge for an overnight berth.  I rang the local CBP Office in Bangor (about an hour away in a car).  They were as relaxed as you can be and told us to carry on with life, keeping them informed of our movements so that they could catch up with us at some stage over the next week or so.

That evening the SIM card in our Puerto Rican mobile phone refused to work, so I went ashore to find a replacement.  Amazingly, I ended up buying a phone and a phone package in the local Walmart for about £40 and was back onboard in time for supper!


Alongside Rockland Public Landing to take on water and empty the holding tank

The following day we were joined by Julie’s good friend Anne and her two children Emily and Monty.  Emily is out here running the sailing programme at a nearby Camp America site whilst Monty is one of Julie’s Godsons.  We took advantage of some glorious weather (sadly without wind) to push north up the bay to the picture-perfect fishing village of Camden, where we anchored for lunch and an expedition ashore.  We explored Clark’s Island, which guards the harbour entrance and reminded Julie and I of Garnish Island in Glengarriff, Ireland.  Garnish has a rather ornate Italianate garden which is well worth visiting, but Clark’s has the same aura of calm, natural beauty and a fine little lighthouse to boot.  A family live there in the summer as caretakers and it was lovely to see a couple of young children living the true ‘Swallows and Amazons’ story on their own little piece of paradise.  Ashore, the town is quite touristy compared to Rockland, but in an attractive way, so long as you leave the credit cards onboard and confine yourself to window shopping.  Art Galleries, organic grocers and shops selling essential trinkets for your third home… alongside a harbour full of beautiful boats.  The Americans hereabouts love their ‘windjammers’, have a passion for dark blue hulls and are addicted to gloss varnish.  There is an abundance of all these in every shape and size, not to mention a regular drumbeat of superyachts.  One, La Cattiva, we first saw in St Georges, Grenada, back in December.  I don’t think they recognised us…


Julie with Anne, Emily and Monty at Clark’s Island, Maine

It poured with rain on Wednesday, so Anne and the family stayed in their accommodation and we stayed onboard.  Around lunchtime I ventured ashore to the Lyman and Morse boatyard, which has a reputation second only to Hinckleys for craftsmanship and fine boatbuilding.  They have a canvas shop who could make some minor adjustments to our bimini (sun shade) to accommodate our beautiful new mainsail, and I wanted to talk to a proper engineer about my fresh water pump ideas.

Thursday was perfect.  The canvas lady came out to us a 7am and took the bimini away for some sewing.  We met Anne and Monty ashore and the Lymans engineer agreed with my proposed solution for the fresh water, so we sailed in good heart for some islands just offshore: Vinalhaven and North Haven.    We anchored for lunch in the peaceful waters of Southern Harbour, watched by a handful of seals and several shoals of fish who proceeded to taunt our young crewmember with his fishing rod.  Later that afternoon we had a splendid upwind sail back to Rockland, ready to lift the boat out the following morning.


Camden, probably the prettiest harbour we have seen so far in the US

We spent the weekend in ‘refit mode’.  Journey’s End Marina proved to be an excellent location: we were set down right next to the shower and laundry block; the ‘ship’s store’ had the paint, the pressure valve and the new fresh water pump that I had ordered a couple of days earlier, there is an excellent Hamilton Marine chandlery a hundred yards up the hill, right next door to the Tradewinds Motel where we slept.  We ate ashore in a restaurant called Miranda’s Café which offered some of the best tucker we’ve had since leaving Spain at a reasonable price and we slept well.  The town boasts some decent coffee shops, a plethora of art galleries and a thriving lobster industry which rather dominates the architecture (think big warehouses rather than piles of wickerwork pots) and had everything we needed.  Blessed with perfect weather conditions, Julie brought the topsides back up to Boat Show standard whilst I spent all of Friday and half of Saturday removing old antifouling; Saturday afternoon priming and then Sunday applying two coats of some very smart dark green ‘hard’ antifouling from the American firm Pettits.  My research showed that this is the most respected antifouling paint amongst the long-distance cruising community – although inevitably the disciples of Coppercoat tried to convert me.  I like the idea of Coppercoat, but the cost of sand blasting the hull, holding the boat ashore for two weeks to dry out and applying the (very expensive) paint in perfectly controlled climate conditions is a non-starter unless you can live at home and keep the boat in a shed…


Escapade looking resplendent in her new green underwear!

We relaunched the boat on Monday morning and moved back out to anchor in the bay where I turned my attention to the fresh water problems.  The new pressure valve (which came from a brewing supplier in Florida) improved things a bit, so I focused on ensuring that the accumulator tank was working properly before changing the pump system.  Fortunately, I acquired all the bits I needed to test and repressurise accumulator tank in the local bike shop and pronounced it fit for purpose on Tuesday afternoon.  The removal of the old system and installation of the new Par Max Plus pump (tracked down to a warehouse in Arizona) took most of Wednesday to fit: inevitably it did not line up exactly with the twenty year old twin-pump system that it replaced, but after a couple of trips to Hamiltons where I cleared their shelves of metric pipe fittings, we now have a working system! 


My smart new fresh water pump fully installed (with galley discharge pump behind)!

We celebrated with a ‘lobster dinner’ at the Rockland café.  Effectively lobster, coleslaw and chips for £12, so you get what you pay for.  Not as flavoursome as an Irish lobster and certainly not afforded the ‘gourmet’ treatment that our French cousins would apply, but not bad for a local ‘fast food’.  We have located a source of live ones, so plan to buy a couple and prepare them ourselves to my late Mother’s exalted recipe…

[Note: the editor in chief thinks that the photo of the water pump is bizarre. Apparently some readers will be interested, whilst others will just chuckle.  So, everyone’s happy then!]