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Saturday, May 30th, 2009
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S/V Compass rose XI am in Port Carling today, having slept last night on dry land for the first time in 40 days or so.

When last I wrote here, I mentioned preparing for a trip. On the 17th of April, I flew to Toronto, then on to Sint Maarten in the Leeward Islands the next day to board a 45-foot Jeanneau sloop headed to Canada via Bermuda, New York and the new York Canals.

Once in Sint Mararten, I met up with my friend, Frank, on the boat and we sailed off to Anguilla for a few days, then returned to Sint Maarten to pick up a student (Frank is a sailing instructor).  We then readied the boat and raised anchor, headed for Bermuda, a journey of about 900 nautical miles and almost a week's duration, sailing non-stop, night and day at an average of 6 knots.

15-foot waves, rain and cold windsOur course took us about 1,000 miles offshore through the Sargasso Sea and over water 5 miles deep.  The weather was variable and we encountered high winds and rough seas along the way, but had a good trip.  The student was desperately sea sick for three days, but recovered in time to get a bit of his coursework done before our arrival in Bermuda.

We arrived early Thursday at  Saint George's, checked in with customs, and  and tied up at the Saint George's Dinghy Club to re-provision and to wait for good weather reports to cross the treacherous Gulf Stream to New York City and the Hudson River.

During our stay, we were generously treated to two separate tours -- first on the water by a local fisherman at the Club who befriended us, and a day later on land by a local beekeeper I had met at ABF meetings.

I had met Randy several times at the ABF, and after my last trip through Bermuda, I had mentioned to him that I had thought of him when passing through, but had not called.  He had admonished me for not doing so and given me his card again, so I made certain not to make the same mistake this time.  He was quite busy cutting bananas when I called, but dropped everything to pick us up, and he give Frank and me a tour of his most interesting operation which includes yards in many locations around the island(s) and treated us to lunch as well!  When we parted, he loaded us down with bananas and Bermuda onions, and several jars of his honey.  The bananas were perfect. the onions as good as any I've eaten, and the honey, spectacular.  His honey is liquid, very thick, light amber and delicately floral.  It is a good as any I have had anywhere, maybe better.

Frank's student left us in Bermuda, and by Tuesday the weather looked promising so Frank and I headed out for New York.  With only two of us to sail non-stop, day and night, the trip is a bit challenging.  Most use a crew of four for such a trip, but Frank and I have done it before and, personally, I prefer to deal with the sea and weather and a little fatigue with an known sailor than the potential idiosyncrasies of various new and unknown crew members, so off we went.

That part went well, too, although we fought a current he whole way and hit a light gale (35+ knot winds) and fog while navigating the shipping lanes entering New York and took a whole day making the last twenty or thirty miles, a segment that should have taken several hours at most, due to strong winds and a sharp chop running directly against us.

The Statue of Liberty -- a gift from FranceEventually -- many hours later than we had expected -- we pulled into Atlantic Highlands and checked into the US.  After re-provisioning and visiting friends, we headed the next day for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and New York City.  By nightfall, we were anchored well up the Hudson near Croton in Haverstraw Bay.

From there, we motored up to Castleton-on-Hudson and lowered the mast.  Ray joined us there and we continued on the the Federal Lock at Troy.  Shortly after the lock, we took a left turn and went west on the Mohawk River through the New York Canals and the Seneca, eventually ending up in North Tonawanda days later, after a most tranquil and pleasant motor through the scenic rivers and canals, and through the centre of many historic small towns and villages in upstate New York.

  The crane for removing masts

In North Tonawanda, we put the mast back up and headed up the Niagara River, then across Lake Erie to Port Colborne.  There, we cleared customs after a rather exhaustive (and somewhat amusing) search of the entire boat by two quite professional, but pleasant officers dressed in dark clothes and flak jackets.  We did not envy them in those hot uniforms, searching the bilges in the hot cabins below as we stood in shorts on the dock waiting for them to finish.

I left the boat the next morning as planned, having covered around 2,000 nautical miles at never more than seven knots, and often much less, and drove to Pine Hill.  The others are continuing to Penetanguishene -- up the Detroit River, the Saint Clair, then across Lake Huron and Georgian bay.  I will drop a car in Penetang for them tomorrow morning, and my adventure is done for now.

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