July 5, 2007
St Johns, Newfoundland

I can’t believe it’s been again nearly a month since I last updated this page! Not that it’s ever too far off my mind, just that we always seem to have something else on the go. OK, maybe I’m a bit slack as well…
I finished my previous report by telling you we were leaving Lunenburg for Halifax, Capital of Nova Scotia, a day-sail away. Well guess, what? We are now a month-sail away in St John’s, Newfoundland!

Halifax: a lesson in hospitality
We did reach Halifax, though, and although the city itself doesn’t have the charm of Shelburne or Lunenburg, it certainly treated us with the best in Canadian hospitality.
Back home in New Caledonia, I have often helped confused tourists find their way around town. Sometimes I even stopped and had a real chat pointing to the best spots to visit. Once, I took the time to tell a family not to listen to the Tourist Office staff and to go to Ile aux Canards rather than Phare Amedee, because with 2 young children and a tight budget, it was a much better proposition. I guess I thought that’s what it was about. But what we have experienced in Halifax is nothing less than a humbling lesson in hospitality.
First, Remy Richard offered us the use of his private mooring at the end of the Northwest Arm, a short stroll from a well appointed shopping center and a 15-minute walk from downtown Halifax. Being at a mooring is a much easier and comfortable proposition as you don’t have to worry about anchor dragging… or lifting foul-smelling bottom mud with your anchor when you leave (it took us a long time to clean the smelly mess we took on board in Stuart, after only 3 days anchored!). Remy also gave us two additional gas tanks that will come very handy in the Arctic and took the time to introduce us to Wayne Blundell and his team at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron, who made a special effort to assist us. Thank you all, you made our preparations for our Arctic trip much easier.
Then, Judy Robertson, her husband Steve and their daughters Stephanie and Marine, opened their home to us. One afternoon shortly after we had arrived, Judy and Marine simply motored across the Northwest Arm in their little Zodiac to offer us the use of a shower and washing machine. Later Judy pointed to the best yachting tradesmen in town to help us with some repairs and improvements we wanted to do and took Pete around to get some gear.
The night before we left Halifax, we went to their place to enjoy a last shower and say goodbye. The girls had just come back from school and were getting ready for sports training. Judy was cooking an early dinner before heading to the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron sailing school where she volunteers while looking after a basketfull of laundry she had offered to do for some people. Steve came back from work and got ready for some volunteer activity as well. The house was bursting with an amazing energy and until we meet again, that’s how I will remember them: a beautiful, generous, smiling family swirling through life. 
Guys, we wish you fair winds for your coming trip to the Bahamas and hope to see you again at some anchorage some day!

Preparing for the Arctic
As we had anticipated, Halifax proved to be the perfect place to provision for our arctic trip. This entailed quite a few things: getting our engine serviced and our rigging replaced and stocking up on warm clothes and food.
As live-aboards, and especially as live-aboards on their way to very remote places, we do most things on Tyhina by ourselves. It sometimes brings a lot of questions (from my very not-technical brain… Oh really, you can’t put that cube in that round spot, how come?), definitely a lot of thinking (that’s from Peter’s brain) and research (we do carry books on a lot of technical topics on board and make extensive use of the Internet as well as other liveaboards’ experience)…. But it’s called Autonomy!
So far Peter had been looking after our little Yanmar by himself and doing a very good job out of it (I’m not biased, just honest and in love!). But since the Northwest Passage will entail a lot of motoring, we thought it was time for some professional insight. So we got Jim from Liftow (local Yanmar dealers) on board, had the injectors taken away for servicing, compression checked, etc. The good news is: everything was pretty much in very good order (see… I told you Pete had done a good job!). Jim was very good in explaining what he was doing and how he was doing it, so that if we get stuck in some remote place, we will be a little more knowledgeable about fixing the engine. Jim also solved the riddle of the alternator who wouldn’t excite (yes, apparently that’s the technical term!): a genuine Yanmar part that wasn’t built quite the way it should have been… So much for genuine parts!

For the rigging, we are very glad that Angus and his team at North Sails fitted us in despite their tight schedule. The rigging was a mixed bag of different sizes and various ages and in need of a serious refit. In theory we should have done this before we even headed out at sea, but we didn’t feel comfortable about having such an essential piece of equipment replaced in Florida. Tyhina’s new rigging is slightly stronger than what you would normally find on a boat of her size, but considering where we are going, it’s probably a good thing.

On the warm clothes front, we stocked up on thermals and woolen socks at the Mountain Equipment Co-op, a Canadian institution in outdoor clothing (check out www.mec.ca). It’s really an interesting concept as it is more a community than a shop. It works as a co-operative and so for $5 you become a life member and have access to great gear and great prices. On top of that, because they don’t have to please shareholders (you become a member to buy not to get a dividend), they can afford to do some good, like giving 1% of their gross sales (not profit) to environmental causes. Not only that but their staff are all passionate about the outdoors and they know what they’re talking about. Anyway, those who know my aversion for shopping will understand that I was very impressed (and for those who don’t know, read below under ‘Home Improvement’).

Yet, my best piece of equipment I think, is a Helly Hansen thermal one-piece suit. It looks like baby pyjamas (you know those where you can unbutton the bottom to check on the nappies) and is just as sexy! But boy, is it warm! I wore it for 3 days straight while we crossed from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. It’s great, you jump right from bed into your wet weather gear and vice versa! I don’t know whether they sell those little marvels outside of Canada because I’ve only seen them on the Canadian HH website. I first saw them in a shop for fishermen but strangely enough they didn’t have my size, so we had to go to HH direct.
As for food, well that’s really where my shopping skills came in full play. I spent a whole day touring the Canadian Wholesale Club (a local ‘cash and carry’ shop with bulk buying discounts), the Bulk Barn (the name says it all), Walmart (well, you know who they are…) and Sobeys (local supermarket) with a pencil and a little notebook to write down prices. Of course as packaging is never quite the same from one to the other I then had to work out a price per kilo for each item (wasn’t I glad I’ve got an MBA?!) to decide which shop was the cheapest. So for example I worked out that toilet paper is cheaper at Sobeys when bought in 32-roll packs, beans are cheaper at Walmart, the Canadian Wholesale Club is the way to go for flour and the Bulk Barn for couscous!
Armed with that knowledge, I then enrolled my dear husband, put a backpack on his back and of we went! It took us a few trips to ship 50kg of flour, 34kg of rolled oats, 25kg of milk powder, 20kg of beans, 20kg of sugar, 30kg of dried fruit, 18kg of rice, etc. etc. from the shops to the dinghy dock, but I must say that Peter performed brilliantly. For a day, we used a little trolley that we found abandoned on the roadside (Oh! how quickly one goes from being a respected bank manager to looking like a real scum-bag!) and for another day I volunteered to go on my own, giving Peter’s back a little rest. Funny enough he didn’t argue… On my first round, I had already bought half the shop when I remembered that… I was the little carrying donkey! I reckon I was at least 3 cm shorter when I got to the dinghy dock… Needless to say I was much more careful with my choice of produce on the second trip!
The next challenge was to dinghy all that to Tyhina and then to find somewhere to store everything…

Life on board… but what do you do all day?!
People often ask what we do all day… To tell you the truth, sometimes I wonder myself because we get to the end of the day and we haven’t done a third of what we had planned…
It all depends on whether we’re at sea or in port. Since right now I’m writing from port that’s what I’ll cover here today. It also depends on who you’re talking to…
Apart from endlessly marveling at our Yanmar, battery bank, electrical system, etc. Peter loves to plan our navigation. Right now for example he’s gone to have a chat with the crew at the local Canadian Coast Guards station. He also very much enjoys listening to the weather forecast, which is something I admit I also have a very vested interest in. But while Peter analyses weather patterns in depth, trying to pass some of his knowledge onto me along the way in lay terms (an Anti-Cyclone turns Anti-Clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere, hence it turns Clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, where it’s called a High), I am mostly interested in wind force (‘gale warning’ grabs all my attention) and wave size. But what I like best is when they close the weather bulletin with the typical “Visibility fair in showers, poor in fog”… Now, I’d love to see fog with good visibility!!!!
As newlyweds in our first home we have also been hard on the home improvement front lately. While my dear husband actually renovated the galley, the engine, the insulation, the electrical system and a few bits and pieces here and there over the past 5 months or so, I thought really hard about the soft side of things, ie. cushions for the main cabin.
Yes, I know, lucky there’s one of us who doesn’t need to think about things for 3 months before starting, otherwise we would still be in Florida! But then I’m sure you’ll agree that choosing the colour scheme for your main room (I’m talking main cabin here) isn’t a small decision!
As it turned out, while in Halifax, I stumbled across some cheap Royal Blue polar fleece blankets that could do the job. After a few more sleepless nights to decide whether a grand $35 (Canadian!) to re-do the main cabin wasn’t too much of an extravagance, I took the plunge! Don’t get it wrong, I’m not a tight-ass, I’m a smart buyer! My favourite retail therapy is to browse shops looking at all the things I’d like to buy and then marvel for days at how much I have saved by not buying them! Try it, it’s absolutely exhilarating.
In this instance, since I had committed the terrible sin of browsing AND buying, I sought forgiveness by designing the most eco-friendly cushion covers possible. And so, although Tyhina came with an old Singer sewing machine, I sewed the whole thing with my little fat fingers (of course, the fact that I’ve got no idea how to operate the bloody machine has nothing to do with this). Hence I can proudly report that our new covers have a zero ecological footprint… and that what should really have taken about 4 hours took 3 week-ends! But then, all good home improvement projects take longer than anticipated!

Another of my favourite activities on board is cooking and more particularly baking…. Remember my first bread? That little artisan-looking pressure-cooker damper I made before we were forced to head to Beaufort? Well, after many dampers I am now venturing into the world of yeast bread making… Yeast, as they say, is a living thing. As such, it requires love (otherwise called sugar) and warmth to develop. Sugar’s easy. Warmth on a metal boat cruising in the North Atlantic waters on the other hand requires a bit of creative thinking… But of course nothing Tyhina’s crew can’t handle as you can see below!

We are also often asked whether we have a TV on board. Having never been very much of a TV person (I had one in Vanuatu for 2 years that wasn’t even plugged in!), I can never quite relate to the puzzled look we get when we answer no. So what do you do when you don’t have a TV?
Well, of course we can’t tell you everything, somehow you’ll have to find out by yourself. Give it a go, unplug the TV for a month and you’ll be amazed at what you come up with, in particular, the philosophical discussions you find yourself engaged in with your spouse!
Book reviews for example seem to be a favourite on board Tyhina. Since Pete has been full on into the Arctic literature, marveling about one of its classics (Artic Dreams by Barry Lopez) and even reading to me some paragraphs he found particularly striking, I felt compelled to drop my trash novels and get into some more serious stuff Although I must admit I’m struggling (One month to read one chapter… Dude, where’s my John Grisham?!), we have been able to elevate our discussions slightly over the Oprah Bookclub level… Here’s an extract…

Peter: So how are you finding The Weather Makers?
Maeva: Hmmm… Not sure. So far I’ve had to read each sentence 5 times before I get the point, so there’s some connection my brain’s not making I think.
Peter: Obviously…
Maeva: But then I think I’m also a little bit over the ‘switch your lights off to save the planet’ thing. We all have to do our bit for global warming, like switching lights off and stuff, but that’s not going to take us very far. Whatever we do, it’s like peeing in a violin when you look at what the Chinese do to the environment.
Peter: Well then maybe the fight should be fought on a different front. Like don’t buy Chinese-made stuff.
Maeva: Yeah that’s an idea. But then how do you do that? Remember when we bought the trekking shoes. There was an entire wall of shoes and I reckon they were all Made In China stuff. So what do you do? Go barefoot?
Peter: Buy Italian shoes?

More seriously, we do carry an extensive library on board full of books about places where we plan to go. At the moment, since we’re off to Greenland and the Arctic, we are particularly enjoying A Naturalist’s Guide to the Arctic by E. C. Pielou (that’s my favourite because of it’s clear explanations and fantastic drawings) and Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (an absolutely amazing book that hopefully I’ll be able to borrow from Pete one day… although he’s already decided that he will re-read it as soon as he’s finished with it…). And yes we do talk about what we read and read aloud paragraphs that we find especially interesting. But to tell you the truth we were already doing this while still living on land. Nothing beats being in bed at 8 pm on a Saturday night with a good book and my husband.

Leaving Halifax – Bras d’Or Lakes
We left Halifax early morning on 20th June. Instead of taking a direct bearing towards Newfoundland, we headed for St Peter Canal and the saltwater Bras d’Or Lake on Cape Breton Island. We stopped for a few hours in Baddeck, an old resort town on the North shore of the lake and visited the Alexander Graham Bell center. The inventor of the telephone is buried near his summer home, Beinn Breaghm, across the bay from Baddeck. Bell’s mind was a very prolific one. As he got interested in many areas of science, he ventured into all sorts of experiments from flying machines to hydrofoil boats to breeding sheep. So our visit provided us with a few hours of science-made-easy-for-non-scientists sort of entertainment.
We didn’t stay too long in Baddeck though as the town is one of those places where boat-park fees far exceed car-park ones. We left town to go and anchor at the Eastern end of the Lake and early the following morning Nova Scotia kissed us goodbye in the same fashion it had welcomed us: thick fog!

Newfoundland – Little St Lawrence
There’s a gap in my travel diary between the tip of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and Little St Lawrence, Newfoundland, way past the French St Pierre & Miquelon islands. These are three days I’d rather forget during which Peter had to entertain himself (taking dozens of pictures of birds and a few of himself!) while I was down below sick.
Before anyone asks, no, seas were not rough and the weather wasn’t bad. That’s just the way it is!

And so to try and get me better, Pete pulled into Lamaline Bay (of which I have absolutely no memory) for a night and then Little St Lawrence (which I do remember) for another three. Unbeknown to him at the time, these two spots apparently count among the worst places to stop according to the local sailors due to navigation hazards! Pete had a close look at the charts and yes there were a few rocks to wiggle around, but then nothing that looked so bad…
Anyway Little St Lawrence provided us with an opportunity to break our new (shame-ly Made-In-China) walking shoes, making our own track in ankle-deep mosses and thick bush.

The following day, we had our first anchor-dragging experience. We were expecting strong winds and they came in mid-afternoon while I was busy finishing my cushion covers and Peter was doing a bit of maintenance on our winches on deck. He had been up there for a while when he very slowly came down and very calmly said: “My love, we’re dragging our anchor. Would you come and help me on deck?” Asked so nicely, I could only oblige and gently moved into position… I didn’t feel the emergency until I popped my head out of the cabin and realized just how CLOSE we were to shore… But my dear husband, ever so calmly, simply took the anchor up and instructed me to motor away… After that, I spent the rest of the afternoon asking “are we OK?” every time Pete looked outside! For the record, those winds were 35 knots created by a storm system that was at the time centered over St John’s with winds of 50 knots and the very reason why we were in Little St Lawrence rather than at sea.

Finally making our way to St John’s
From Little St Lawrence, we traveled to Trepassey where we spent a night after walking through the old ‘Rooms’, now an industrial wasteland. The ‘Rooms’ is how Newfoundland and Labrador fishing communities called the shoreline buildings where catches were processed. But all that remains of them in Trepassey are shells of processing and freezing facilities the size of warehouses.
The trip around Cape Race and up the East coast of the Avalon Peninsula was quite pleasant. For a change, we were greeted with blue skies and a nice warm sun rather than fog (except around Cape Race, Pete tells me… when I was in bed, “off watch”, ie. sleeping, not sick, so I don’t remember!). We made a detour to pass through the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, one of the top seabird breeding areas in Northern America. According to the Lonely Planet, “every summer, more than a million pairs of seabirds gather to breed, including puffins, kittiwakes, storm petrels and the peguinlike murres.” Well we didn’t count them but it certainly sounded and smelled like a lot of birds!
My favourites are the puffins and the murres… A bit like the Albatros in The Rescuers (remember the cartoon?), they always look like they’re struggling to take off… Just imagine Daffy Duck running on water while his fat belly bounces on every little wave and you’ll have a pretty good picture of the little buggers. We tried to capture this on film (one needs to find a new way to talk about capturing things digitally!) but it doesn’t really give justice to their efforts I think.

Apart from our feathered friends, Whitless Bay offered us our first iceberg. A dying one that had traveled all the way from Greenland and was now grounded in the bay, transformed into an observation platform for seagulls, but still so brightly white and nevertheless very impressive. We motored around it and Pete climbed up the mast to take a few pictures (about 70!)… So there you are…

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