The Narrows

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 1 Aug 2007 23:28

Position:  47 34.010 N  052 42.132 W.

Alongside St John’s Harbor


Yesterday afternoon we were approaching the Narrows into St John’s.  The wind was gusting to 30 knots and it seemed likely that the wind would funnel out the entrance to the harbor so I took the precaution of putting in a second reef to the mainsail and rolling the jib to about 50%.  Just as well, for sure enough as we approached the entrance the wind headed us and soon we were short tacking up the Narrows (very aptly named) giving Paul and me a thorough work out on the jib sheets.  It took 14 tacks to get into the harbor and, at the very end and the narrowest part - only 150 meters wide, a fishing vessel decided it needed to leave.  It was an anxious moment as we converged, the fishing vessel slowed and stopped as we sailed across her bows, and I was going to have to tack again in front of its bows, either that or run into the rocks.  Approaching the end of the board I luffed* a little, he took the hint, gunned his engines and motored past us allowing us to tack behind him.  Once into the harbor the wind followed the contours of the land and we had to continue tacking up the harbor.  I had previously spoken with the harbour master who had indicated there was no traffic in the harbor apart from a couple of small vessels and that we could come alongside a small dock near the pilot berth.  We sailed up to the dock to assess whether it was feasible to sail alongside; it looked good, a small floating dock with some tyres on the windward side.  We continued up the harbour to give us some room to manoeuvre, dropped the mainsail, reduced the jib then sailed downwind to the berth, furling the jib several boat lengths before the dock.  Paul positioned himself at the shrouds ready to jump ashore with a dock line as we touched.  I am pleased to say that all went without a hitch despite the gusty conditions.  In fact one gust had the gunwale well under and water streaming over the cockpit coaming and into the cockpit – quite exciting!  I was very gratified to be given a gruff “good job” from the harbour master when we called in on VHF radio to say we were alongside, apparently he was in a position to view all of our antics.

Now our visit here is focused on obtaining engine parts, repairing the engine and getting underway as soon as possible; at this stage Tuesday is looking good.


* Board is one leg of a tack, and to luff is to bring the bows of a sailboat into the wind, allowing the sails to flap a little, lose some of their wind and thus slow the boat down.