4 August, 2015
Well, arrival day in Ramea was the last we saw of the sun until the day before we left. We had lots of rain and wind, as well as high seas, which precluded a timely departure. All the while, the broken transmission threw a pall over the crew of Seastar’s mood. Our spot on the newly rebuilt town dock seemed to be the focal point for the social life of the males on the island. We were entertained by a constant stream of onlookers during our stay. The main topic of conversation, of course, was the “broke boat”. Across the small harbor, the ferry boat running to Grey River and Burgeo came and went 2-3 times/day (depending on which day it was). Eastern Outdoors, a small hostel at the end of our dock, became our favorite hangout. Besides providing internet (marginal) for us, cold Black Horse (a St. Johns, NL brew) was readily available. Darlene, the proprietress, also cooked us up some fish ‘n chips with Cod that one of the local guys brought in for her. We took some rainy walks on the 2 mile long boardwalk around the south end of the island, and visited the Senior Puffin Museum (run by the high school seniors (of which there are 4 this year)), and learned about the islands’ past and present. We discovered that the island is energy self-sufficient, generating its’ power with wind and hydrogen powered turbines. On July 30th, the day before the seas were to lay down, the morning dawned sunny and bright. Suz and I were getting a bit of a case of “cabin fever”, so we dropped “White Star”, loaded in the fishing tackle, and embarked on a two-pronged mission. Our goal was to find Puffins and kill Cod. We had a beautiful, wavy ride along the rocks on the south coast, but alas, no Puffins. We did better in the Cod department, and I use the term “we” loosely. I caught 1, the Admiral 3. After our boat ride, we grabbed B & L, and the 4 of us hiked out to the lighthouse on the boardwalk again, this time in the sun with clear visibility. Bruce, the lightkeeper of 28 years, graciously unlocked the iron tower which was built in the late 1800’s, and allowed us to climb up. No snaps, as the plexiglass windows were pretty fogged from U.V. damage. We had a farewell brew on Eastern Outdoors back porch, and bade adieu to Darlene. We all agreed that 5 nights in Ramea were more than enough, and planned an early departure for the following morning.
On the 31rst, 05h30 came pretty early with the sun still below the horizon, and the Blue Moon just getting ready to set in the West. We got B & L off the dock, and were underway within minutes for Harbour Breton, and hopefully, a transmission fix. I say hopefully, because the cast of characters has kept changing. As of our departure, several guys were available then became unavailable. There’s no marine service, per se, on this coast, so we’ve been looking for anybody that has the expertise to do the job. We’ve heard from the town dock that the parts are there, so worst case, I guess I could pull the trannie and have Scottie and Shay walk me through the process over the phone. Not the best option as I would have to figure out a way to hold the engine up while dropping the 150# trannie. We made the 66 nautical mile trip in 11 hours without event. It was sunny, calm, and 61 degrees. Along the way, we spotted Atlantic Dolphins, and a couple of seals (which have been noticeably absent compared to last year), while Bill and Lauren reported seeing a Mola Mola and some pilot whales. The shoreline was spectacular, with several openings to fjords visible, as well as multiple waterfalls cascading hundreds of feet into the sea. We’re looking forward to exploring these spots on our way back west after Seastar is repaired. By the time that we pulled into the town dock at Harbour Breton, the temp was up to 64, and the sun was out in all its’ glory (I’ll never take the sun for granted again). A guy brought the parts down, and reported that he was still working on getting someone who could do the job. We enjoyed basking in the sun while we watched a line of stratus clouds representing the next Low advancing from the West. Just after dinner, we got the news that there was a guy over at the fish plant that serviced their boats and was willing to help with the fix. Our old friend, the rain moved in and the night was as black as the inside of a pocket.
If you want to pass on reading about the transmission debacle, skip this paragraph. Saturday morning was filled with optimism. Big Michael (and I mean BIG) was at Seastar by 08h00. He measured up the distances between the engine and the stringers so that he could weld up some supports to hold the engine when we removed the rear motor mounts which were attached to the transmission. Before he arrived, he had called a diver to check the prop for line that might have been picked up while underway. By 10h00, the diver had hacked about 10’ of ½’ polypropylene line that had wound tightly around the shaft. We now had a reason for the blown seal. Michael returned around 13h30. It took him awhile ‘cause he had to locate some steel, then fire up his recalcitrant welder that had lain dormant since before winter. We got the trannie out, but not without a bit of effort, as there was no way to hook up block and tackle due to the cramped engine room. Sure enough, the front seal was blown. New seal in, trans replaced, shaft aligned, new fluid in, startherup, and BAM! The engine looks like the bull after the fight-red fluid leaking out all over #@!$%!!. So its 18h00 on Saturday night, Michael’s already missed his Uncles’ surprise party, and our moods are matching the foggy, rainy night. Now we’re guessin’ it’s the pressure valve-easy to replace, but the new seal’s everted, and the bell housing’s filled with trans. fluid again-trannie has to come out. Ain’tnobodyhappy. Mike says he’ll come back tomorrow at 08h00, so I tell him that I’ll have everything set for him when he arrives. I’m on Seastar in the early A.M. When Mike arrives, I’ve got the exhaust hoses off, disconnected the oil cooler, have the engine mounts off, the engine up on the temporary mounts, and the shaft disconnected. Pull the trannie, reset the seal, and suck out the fluid. The new pressure valve that Bill had airlifted in last week looks different than the one we took out, so we were a little hesitant to use it, but after a night on the internet, and multiple phone calls to any expert who would pick up the phone, we were kinda confident that we could use it. All back together, start the engine, lookin’ good, and then every orifice is bleeding fluid again. We weren’t as bummed this time, as our optimism had been damped by the previous days’ experience. Okay, another call to Sylvester (local VelvetDrive expert who couldn’t work on the boat ‘cause he had just had a heart attack). Only other possibility was the pump (inside the trannie.) (This is getting long, but not as long as actually living the drama) Miraculously, the local “marine center” had a pump that would fit-seems that a lot of the little fishing boats around here use this transmission. While Mike and Bill took off to get it, Yours Truly broke everything down again-practice makes perfect-I was done by the time they got back. Off with the trannie, in with the pump. We cranked ‘er up at 15h30, and guess what Ma?-No leaks! Whodathunkit?
Well Dang. No sense killin’ the rest of a sunny day. We cast off at 16h00, and headed up to the end of the fjord to anchor in NorthEast Arm outside of Harbour Breton. Along the way, we passed several aquaculture sites where they were raising Atlantic Salmon. Numerous waterfalls cascaded down the rocky 600’ verticals to the sea below-pretty good scenery. After passing through 2 sets of narrows at the head of the fjord, we entered the bay, where we dropped the hook in 15’ of water. We motored over to Seastar, where Lauren fed us the chili that she and the Admiral had cooked up in the afternoon, and her now-famous, self-described “communion bread”. (She’s having a bit of trouble with her oven, and it’s anybody’s guess as to how her bread will turn out-this loaf is about 1 ½” thick). This anchorage marks the farthest East that our travels will take us this year- 55degrees, 43.2 minutes west longitude. If we travelled due south, the first land we’d hit would be near Paramaribo, in Surinam, South America.
Monday, the 3rd of August. Partly sunny and high 50’s. Most importantly-no rain. Our travels were to take us to the harbor village of Grand Bank, on the Burin Peninsula. Before we can take off Bill has to tie off his port driveshaft, ‘cause he’s only running on the starboard engine for the next 10 hours or so (he wants to make sure that his engine hour meters are the same on both engines). Along the way, we’re delayed for a half hour or so, while we idle amidst a pod of Minke whales accompanied by several Atlantic Dolphins. (The Atlantics are different than their southern counterparts, the Spinners and Bottlenoses, in that they are not as likely to swim in the bow wave for as long, but they are much more energetic, often jumping completely clear of the water, spinning around and slamming back on their sides. Their coloring is also more interesting, as they are white and gray, instead of being homogeneously gray in color.) The whales are milling around, surfacing within 80’ of the boat at times. After they sound, the dolphins often indicate where the whales will surface next, and we slowly idle over to that spot. Arriving in Grand Bank, we find that the man-made harbor’s walls are filled with commercial fishing boats. The floating pleasure boat docks are pretty full, and our cruising guide tells us that the max size boat that they can accommodate is 35’. The Admiral brings us in and we tie up at the only wall we can find. It’s draped with spider-infested tires and bleeding creosote. Bruce, the Harbormaster that didn’t answer his VHF, meets us, and says that the floaters are deep enough to take us. Meanwhile, Suz gets creosote all over the sleeve of her favorite white fleecie while handling Seastar’s lines. Soooo…… we get off the wall and bring the Girl deeper into the harbor. It sure doesn’t look like there would be enough depth for us as we thread between 2 lines of boats with 3’ to spare on either side, but as we parallel park in the open space, there’s 15’ of water. Local knowledge is good. There’s no potable water on the dock, and we have to run 150’ of extension cord to shore to get 15A power (enough to run 1 of our battery chargers), but for $.42/ft., life is good. The sun’s still out, so we take a 2 mile walk to and through town to get a taste of Grand Bank, NL. Stops at the hardware and grocery stores get us a little conversation and local color. On the way home, we toured the fully-restored Harris House, a Queen Anne style home, built for a sea Captain in 1908. Back at the boats, we haul out the “soccer Mom” chairs for “Docktails”. We strike up a conversation with a guy who works on one of the shrimp draggers here, and end up with a pile o’ shrimp for the freezer-you’re beginning to get to know these East Coasters. Bill says that he feels like eating pizza, so we head over to the Mom ‘n Pop joint on Church St. where the kids are working the counter.
This morning was calm and sunny, and we were off the dock at 07h30, headed for St. Pierre (which is actually part of France). We plan to stay there for a few days eating French cuisine, while the next round of bad weather moves through. At around 09h30, Suz spotted 2 spouts, so we headed over to watch as 3 pilot whales and their Atlantic Dolphin pals put on a show for us. Throughout the morning, we have seen patches of frothy water here and there around us. Moving closer to investigate, we found that the churned up water was caused by Atlantic Dolphins breaching, spinning, and diving-apparently feeding-cool. About a half an hour ago, the fog banks that we had been watching close in on us finally did. There’s less than ¼ mile visibility, but we’re only an hour and a half from St. Pierre. I’m hoping that we’ll have dock space when we arrive-Suz has sent emails in both Anglais and Francais to the Harbor Authority-but no response. We know that there was a sailboat race from the Madelaine’s to here this week, so hopefully, the harbor won’t be full-we’ll see.