Tuesday, July 21, 2015

North Channel 2015 - Tobermory

Overnight sailing runs are a great way to make the miles on a long trip, but they do take a toll.  The sleep you get is shallow and usually haunted with visions of your spouse falling unnoticed off the back of the boat, and then you waking up and having to deal with all the damn paperwork that would entail.
Though Ana usually takes the first shift on the night run, tonight it is me as I was somehow wide awake so I will leave her sleeping with Stella until either I begin to hallucinate or she wakes up on her own.   I finish writing my journals and consider writing tomorrow’s journal even though it hasn’t happened yet, but decide against that and instead put on an episode of “Ray Donovan” – a television series we’ve recently discovered.  I watch five minutes worth, then pop my head outside the boat, and with the binoculars scan the horizon, though it’s so damn dark I can’t tell where the horizon actually is and there is absolutely nothing in sight.  So I watch five or ten minutes more, then repeat the lookout scan.  This routine continues for nearly a full episode until I pop my head out and discover the boat is completely enveloped in a thick blanket of fog.  I shut down the pc, gear up and get settled in the cockpit for full time lookout duty.  The winds have picked up so I shut off the engine and set the sails out fully so that it is easier to hear any boats approaching.  The protocol in fog is to sound a horn every few minutes to make other vessels aware of your position.  But since I don’t want to scare the living crap out of my sleeping beauties, and since I haven’t seen any other boats for hours, I decide to instead just keep a vigilant looking and my ears cocked for boat noise.
It is now 3am and Ana is with me in the cockpit keeping watch.  The US coast guard is reporting tha there are storm cells passing through Lake Huron with damaging winds and hail.  There is also a big massive storm system we can see to the east with frequent lightning flashes illuminating the ominous, black clouds every few minutes.  And the fog is thicker than ever.  Shit.
In the end, it all missed us and the fog cleared up near dawn.  I slept in the cockpit for a while, wrapped up in a blanket, then went down below after conditions improved and got a solid hour or two of sleep while Ana maintained watch.  We arrive in Tobermory and pull into Little Tub Bay at 7am, making it a 27 hour journey of 143 nautical miles averaging 5.23 knots.  Here’s a fun fact : the nautical mile is 1.15 times larger than a regular statute mile, and 1 knot is the speed at which you can cover 1 nautical mile in 1 hour.  So that means we traveled 164 regular miles and averaged 6 mph.
The town is still sleeping and the gas dock and office look closed so we pull Bella Blue into an empty slip, get her tied down , and then pace the dock for a while to get our legs working again.  The kids are now up so we have breakfast together in the cabin and I take them with me for a walk to the office to get a slip for two nights.  The town is now waking up and is a quaint, lovely place.  To reach the office we need to walk around the entire harbour and along the way we pass a pizza place, candy shop, coffee shop, book store, trading post, two restaurants, a bar, a dive shop, a grocery store, several clothing stores, a marine chart store, and even a touristy shop selling beaver tails, which are these wretched slabs of fried dough with a bunch of sugar and cinnamon dumped on top.  It’s the way us Canadians like to poison tourists. In addition to the beaver tails, we passed numerous glass bottom boats and dive boats, leaving no doubt that Tobermory is a bona fide tourist town.
We go for a walk to check out the town and stop at pretty much every aforementioned shop and find several more, including a groovy looking Bob Marley surfer bar playing Jimmy Buffett which I pledge to visit later.  We all agree that Tobermory is a fine place and are happy we decided to spend two nights here.  We return to the boat for lunch then Ana and I head down for a nap, as we are getting blurry eyed and dopy.  The kids are instructed to not get kidnapped or fall off the dock while we rest.  I fall asleep quickly in the v-berth but Ana fears for her spawn and relocates to the cockpit so she can keep an ear on them.  Two hours later I wake up refreshed, just in time for an afternoon lounging session in the cockpit.  The temperature is about 23 degrees and the clear sky provides for some lovely sunshine.  We are sitting in the back and Ana says, “Do you want a drink?”
“Absolutely!” I reply.
“Could you get me one too while you’re down there?”
Nice.  It’s usually me pulling those kinds of stunts on her.  I pour us some drinks and announce, “Well, from Nappy hour to Happy hour, here’s to the boat vacation!”
After a couple drinks I put the dingy in the water and we all pile in for a short ride across the channel to the one clothing shop that Ana somehow missed during our earlier walkabout.  Now most cruisers have a rigid dingy with a motor, but we’re cheap and don’t want to deal with storing an outboard motor and gasoline so we instead we have a giant 12 foot inflatable dingy called the “Hydro Force – Marine Pro 2” that is oar driven and magnificent.  So I row, row, row the boat gently down the stream, merrily, thinking life is such a dream, tie up at a dock, and disembark.  We visit the clothing shop, wander around a bit, and then we realize we are starving so I paddle us back to the boat, drop the girls off to start dinner, and I put Magnus on the oars for some dingy training as I want him to be able to ferry us around the anchorages in case I get too intoxicated to be trusted rowing.
Ana prepares a stupendous meal of schnitzel, rice and fresh salad and we eat like kings.  After dinner we take our final walk of the day and pass by the ice cream shop for a cone then walk over to see Big Tub Harbour, the ferry terminal, and take one last look at the Bob Marley bar, but there’s hardly anybody there so we continue back to the boat.  I find a great family movie for us to watch (Mad Max – Fury Road) and though the plot is inexplicable there are some awesome, ultra-violent battles and car crashes and nudity that the whole family can enjoy.

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