Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sun 22 Jul 2007 17:18

1500 Position:  43 36.9 N  064 56.6 W

Course: 050, Speed: 6.5 knots

Wind: South 15 knots


Having waited patiently for a southerly wind for two days, yesterday evening (Thursday July 19) we had pretty much given up on it.  We had worked what little wind there was and now we were only 25 miles from Shelburne.  While barely a ripple disturbed the water’s surface, a short swell rolled under the hull causing the sails to slat constantly, shaking fat dollops of dew from the boom.  The fog was thick.  Five hours of motoring would see us at anchor for the night or we could sit and wait forever for this seeming mythical wind.  After a brief crew consult and a decision was made: down sails and on motor, cautiously we pushed our way into the murk, sounding our little fog horn conscientiously every two minutes, a feeble attempt to penetrate the barrier barely an arm’s length away.  Every ten minutes we would cut the engine to idle and listen for any engine noises or fog horns that might indicate other traffic.  Occasionally I would hear a loud “awrk” and an ungainly slapping of wings and feet as a sleeping gannet, rudely surprised by our approach, would awkwardly scramble to get out of our way.  I fell to speculating about navigating at sea prior to GPS, after all this time in fog we would by now have been hopelessly lost and there was no way we could have thought of trying for harbour.  As it was we crept in dead slow, our eyes straining to peer through the red and green penumbra of our sidelights.  In the conditions we opted to anchor short of Shelburne Harbor proper, just north of McNutt Island where we could be fairly confident that there would be minimal risk of encountering other yachts.  The chain rattled out, stopping at 30 meters to hold us fast for the night. The only confirmation that we were anywhere near where the small GPS unit said we were was the fact that the water was now still, the swell had ceased and the anchor found bottom at eight meters which agreed with the chart.  Apart from these two indications as far as we could tell we were simply in the same small circle of fog which we had been in for the better part of the previous four days.

At 6 a.m. I awoke and cursed a small sailor’s curse, I could hear a fresh wind humming through the rigging.  After carefully considering the pros and cons of remaining at Shelburne or continuing north, I decided a fresh southerly wind was too good to waste.  If we are to find an iceberg this summer without risking gales later in the season we have to be making tracks.  Paul wistfully looked ashore, muttering something about bacon and eggs and coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice, and then manfully faced to sea.

It wasn’t long before we were back out in the open ocean, once more in fog, but this time with a fresh breeze in our sails, making good a steady seven knots, wondering how far and to where this wind would take us.