All is well

Other than the muddy water in the harbour and leaves scattered on the ground, there is little evidence of anything having happened. It is a cool, breezy, sunny morning. Harmonie is right where we left her. All is good!

Goodbye to Dorian, and good riddance!

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Just waiting…

Harmonie secured in Cape George Habour

We were talking earlier today about the “good old days” of sailing. Back when we mgiht have heard that there was a hurricane that had hit the Bahamas last week, and this morning it was a bit cloudy and breezy, then… SURPRISE! Maybe they weren’t so “good” after all! A week of preperation was a good thing.

Right now here in the early afternoon we are watching the winds build and the first spits of rain fall. Its very hard to figure out exactly what we should expect, since the terrain here has such a big impact on the wind strength and direction, but so far it looks like the storm will pass to the west of us. That means stronger winds, but from the south which is what we most prepared for, and a bit less rain than the other side of the storm.

Hopefully by this time tomorrow we’ll be setting Harmonie up to be sailing again.

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We are almost as ready as we will ever be. We are about 36 hours from the first touches of Dorian. Right now it is dead calm, quiet, and clear. Harmonie is settled in to a narrow shallow cut off the main lake. She has our 110lb main anchor off the bow, our 88lb spare anchor set off the stern, both set hard and deep into muddy clay. She is tied to each shore by a multiple of lines. As much of her gear as possible has been stripped off to reduce windage. She is as safe as we know how to make her. For the duration of the storm we will be staying at a friend’s house high on the hill overlooking the anchorage so we can keep track of our girl. We will be safe, and we expect Harmonie to be as well.

Located here far in from the ocean we have few hazards to deal with. The will be no large waves, no significant storm surge. The steady winds will be below hurricane strength, although we might see significantly stronger gusts. The expected heavy rains really aren’t a concern for us. This far north, the storm will be moving very fast, so will be rather short in duration.

Wireless internet connectivity here is very marginal, and the chances of the local neighborhood keeping power are probably slim. We’ll do our best to post our status right after the weather passes, but it might not be possible.

Now, a word about the people here in Atlantic Canada. Nowhere we have ever been–anywhere–has friendlier people. It is literally true if you ask them directions to the store they will hand you the keys to their car. Ask to borrow a shovel, they’ll dig you a hole. If you ever doubt the basic goodness of human nature, spend some time here.

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Stay and hide!

Just a quick update to our storm plans.

One of the nice thing about having a network of people is you get help from unexpected places. After our post about our hurricane plans we got an email from one of our Amel correspondents who has a house here on Bras d’Or lake with a perfect “Hurricane Hole” in the tiny harbor behind his property. Although he is on his boat in the Med, he made the effort to offer his advice and suggestions.

So, instead of running off toward Quebec, we’re going to tie down here. Thanks James, there’s a bottle of rum in it for you when our boat’s paths cross! It’s less than 25 miles from our current location, so we should be there and starting the process of securing Harmonie tomorrow afternoon.

Right now, we are directly under the forecast track of the storm for late Saturday. It will certainly be significantly smaller, weaker system than it has been, but still potentially dangerous. Since it is travelling so close to the coastline, very small changes in its track in the next day or so will make a huge difference in its strength and exact location this far out. Here, quite far from the open ocean we have no real storm surge to worry about, and no serious waves. We’ll take all due precautions, but are comfortable with our plan.

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Run Away!! Run Away!!

The official NOAA Hurricane Center Forecast for Dorian out five days has the storm still at hurricane strength AND located right on top of where we are now. There is only one thing to do:

Run Away!

In this case running away means heading as far to the west as we can go on the strength of several bits of logic. Hurricanes almost never turn west this far north. Even if it did, to get to us it would have to travel a significant distance over land before reaching us, and drop a lot of its punch.

So today is prep, and tomorrow we head out of Bras d’Or lakes, around the northern end of Nova Scotia, and into the Gulf of St Lawrence where we will run as far up the St Lawrence River as seems prudent based on the weather forecast.

The good news is that there are many places to duck into to hide, and if the storm track changes we have a reasonable amount of flexibility. If the strom arrives sooner than forecast, the initial winds will help drive us away, so over all, we’re going to be taking this bet as the best option.

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Night Skies

Some of you might have heard that a moderate solar storm was forecast for this past weekend, which brings the Northern Lights further south than they are normally seen. Being in a place pretty far north, and quite dark, we figured this was a great opportunity for us warm weather creatures to observe this phenomenon.

So we pack up our dinghy with the photography gear, warm clothes, and a thermos of hot tea, and headed off to a small island so we could get a better view of the northern horizon. We arrived at twilight, with the cresent moon setting in the west.

We tried to avoid disturbing the harbor seals and cormorants surrounding the island, and set up to wait for the excitement.

Since the best viewing times for an aurora are around midnight, we had some time to kill. So I warmed up by getting some pictures of the Milky Way high and bright in the southern sky.

Nikon D500, Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8, 800ASA, f2.8, 15s

I did a fair amount of research on the technical issues with this kind of photography, but hadn’t every really done it. I was surprised how easy it was, and how beautiful the images came out. I quickly realized that these images are pretty, but they would be the same everywhere, so the key to making them more interesting is adding an interesting foreground.

That’s a little bit better. It gives you a little sense of place with the image. But I am pretty sure I can find something prettier for the foreground.

Oh, yes… back to the aurora. It did make an appearance, unfortunately it really wasn’t visible to the naked eye, but the camera did pick up the purple and green lights in the northern sky.

This first image is about what we saw with eyeballs Version 1.0

The Nikon was able to pick out the faint glowing curtains of the aurora.

The bright dotted lines you see are airplanes moving while the shutter is open for the long exposure. I suspect that without the lights of town to the north the display would have been more impressive to the unaided eye.

We are keeping an eye on the movements of Dorian. Both out of concern for people and places we know and love in its path, and to remember that after it finishes leaving a trail of tears behind it in the Bahamas and the Southeastern USA, it heads north as a significantly reduced, but still important storm. We have several options for places to hide if we need to.

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As the “Big City” (Pop. 793) on Bras d’Or Lake, Baddeck is where it all happens.  Just to put things in perspective, we are about 4 hours by car from Halifax.  Baddeck had been on our list of places to see up here because it came strongly recommended by everybody we know who has been here.  

Baddeck is a delightful little town on the “Cabot Trail” the popular driving tour of the area. Even more than the other parts of Nova Scotia (Latin for New Scotland) Cape Breton Island is connected with the “old country.”  Coming in to the harbor, you are likely to hear the sounds of a bagpipe drifting over town.  Many signs around town have Gaelic names on them. (With the possible exception of Welsh, I think Gaelic uses more letters to make fewer sounds than any other language!)

When we arrived up here we were ahead of the remnants of tropical storm Erin. The local forecast was for heavy rains and winds of 35 knots.  Nothing terribly serious but not something to be ignored either.  So we found a snug little harbor, and for the first time in a long time set a second anchor.  Not because we wanted more holding power, but because swing room was restricted.  Fortunately for us, and the locals, the forecast turned out to be a bust.  I doubt we ever saw more than 15 knots.  

The tender loaded with the spare anchor.

Recovering the second anchor, turned out to be a bit of a challenge. We ended up drifting up against the mud bank and needed the dinghy (again) to push us off. No harm, no foul! We had quite the muddy mess on deck when we finished.

Braddeck has one big claim to fame, its most famous resident was Alexander Graham Bell.  After making his fortune in the telephone business, he settled here and lived as a renaissance inventor dabbling in the new field of powered flight, and high speed boats. He even speculated on the use of hydrofoils for sailboats, a development that took 100 years to come to production.

The Bell estate at the enterence to Baddeck Bay. Still owned by the Bell Family.

Like everywhere around Bras d’Or Lakes natural beauty is everywhere.  The landscape is different than southern Nova Scotia.  Instead of exposed rock, and rugged cliffs, this is rolling hills of bright red soil.  A much wider variety of trees grow in the forest.  

A scene typical of the shoreline of the Bras d’Or Lake
How dark is it here at night? Dark enough to see about a bizzilion stars…

In addition to the beauty of nature, they also have some very pretty boats up here.

Built in 1935, and rescued after 50 years in a garage by the original owner’s grandson, Rosie is a work of love and art.
Harmonie gets photobombed by the local tourist schooer, the Amoeba

We’ll be in this area for a few more days, and then maybe move back out into the ocean and stop at Sydney.  From there if the weather allows we’ll head to Sable Island again, or if not, begin our passage south.  Right now we are watching the long range forecasts for Dorian’s track. Out seven days or so (about two forevers in weather forecasting) he is destined to be in our neighborhood.

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