Category Archives: Adventures

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Autumn in Cape Breton Island.  Arguably the best time of year here.  Tourists come by the thousands to see the leaves change on the world famous Cabot Trail.

Cabot Trail



sure is

My friend Jill took this one.  We rely so heavily on tourism in Cape Breton, bloggers are obligated to toot our island horn at any and every opportunity

My friend Jill took this one. We rely so heavily on tourism in Cape Breton, bloggers are obligated to toot our island horn at any and every opportunity

This autumn will also present a good time to get some blogging in.  As the kiddos get older, the house gets busier and the summer was pretty hectic.  Because of an engine issue that I gleaned over in  previous post, our sailing adventures were very limited in the Summer of 2015.  We raced in Ben Eion, had a few trips out in the harbour with my cousin who bought our old boat, but the biggest adventure by far was our 5 days living aboard Michaela during the RYA Dayskipper Practical.

In Canada, the RYA Dayskipper Practical course is only offered by two instructors in the whole country, and they live in the same area!  I suppose we were pretty lucky in how that was only a 6 hour car ride away from where we live.  (In this country it could have just as easily been 6 days!)

We went with Discovery Sailing,  whose owner/instructor Dave DeWolfe was an incredibly experienced and patient sort who let us learn from our mistakes.  I am quite convinced there is nothing about sailing that he does not know.  Although his jokes and puns could use a bit of work, he was a delightful person.

On a 35ft sailboat for five days with three other people, it is easy to see how personalities can clash and one can get a bit bristly over the course of the week.  We were very lucky that Dave, and the other student, Laura, (who was from that area), every got along quite well and were always there with some encouragement or a helping hand!

The week was spent in the Chester Basin, with stops in Mahone Bay and Lunenburg.  The area was beautiful, and challenging, with hundreds of named islands and reefs.  Some shots from the week.

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Little sailing selfie

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Some of the hundreds of named islands on the south shore

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Trying to figure out the best way back to Oak Island

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Passage planning

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Erika’s day as the skip saw a little break for some man overboard drills

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Sharing the V-Berth was surprisingly roomy

RYA Dayskipper Practical

A beautiful and challenging setting for a course such as this

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Lunenburg, quite possibly Nova Scotia’s most beautiful town, is full of places like this

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Lunenburg – I’m sure there is a good reason for this. Just not sure what it is


These guys are building a schooner to travel the world warning of the increasing problem of plastic in the oceans.!home/mainPage

Mahone Bay – Another beautiful sunset

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Mahone Bay

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Laura was the other student on board

RYA Dayskipper Practical

Lighthouse on the way into Lunenburg Harbour

RYA Dayskipper Practical

You will eat well after long days on the water




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We Were Racers

When we first bought Indefatigable, she was quite bare.   She didn’t look very welcoming inside, in fact, the cabin  looked like one of those house you go in where nothing ad been updated in some time.  The outside had a few modifications however.  Some quick-release clam-cleats on the rear winches, and two new-ish 130 and 150 genoa sails.   This, we soon discovered, was because the gentle man in his mid twenties from who we bought her,  sailed for racing almost exclusively.   Seeing as how we are in the winter of our ownership of S/V Indefatigable, we ought to see what she could do before we parted ways.  We entered the Northern Yacht Club’s Fall Racing Series in North Sydney.

As detailed in earlier posts, Erika and I had raced, as crew, on other boats (Erika mostly on the bow, myself all grinding), but were never at the helm in a full blast race.

There are two Yacht Clubs on Sydney Harbour, the Northern Yacht Club,  and The Dobson Yacht Club.  The Northern is about a half hour drive from where we live, but host a number racing series and cup races over the run of the season.  When you look out over their piers, there is a mast on almost every vessel.  As the commodore would later tell us, it’s a club for sailors.

This was going to be a test for the little 1972 Evinrude 6hp outboard.  So far, we would leave the pier, putt about 100 feet from the marina and put the sails up.  Now we were looking at a 5 Nm motor from Sydney to the Northside before every race, but proudly it always fired up first pull, and got us there no sweat.

Our crew was a ragtag bunch with varying levels of experience, but all enthusiastically volunteered.  My cousin Glen started out on the bow, moving the sail and watching for traffic.  Erika and my other cousin, Gavin, held things down grinding and tailing in the cockpit.  Erika’s co-worker AJ was an all-rounder, and proved himself to be a valuable bowman in the later races.

There were about 8 other boats in the 8 races, give or take a few here and there.  Our class, the non-spinnaker class, had 4 boats for most of the series, and one race swelled to 6 boats.

Hot pursuit

Hot pursuit

To say race #1 didn’t go well would be a bit of an understatement, and if I can offer any bit of advice to new racers, it’s exactly this:

When you think it’s time to tack, it’s not.   If it looks like you can make the mark, you can’t.  If you think your boat can point high enough to squeak through, it can’t.

Up until this point we had just been sailing around the harbour with no need for any sort of accuracy.  It certainly was an eye-opener as to how difficult it is to hit a good lay line when you miss it not once but twice for the same mark.

So the first race saw us come in dead last, over 10 minutes behind the last boat, even after the handicap calculations were made.

We slowly improved over the course of the series.

Our class was two discernible groups.  Avatar, and Down North who would battle for the top spot week after week, every time alternating between first and second place.  The other group, in which we were a proud member was with Outrageous, Sea Star, and Wind Rush, which was basically a competition (albeit not a competitive competition, because the other racers were cool like that) not to come in last.   Racing against these boats was very fun.  Even though we were at the back of the pack, spending almost the entire race what seemed like spitting distance away from Sea Star was very intense!


The cover of Fall Race Series Magazine

The thrill-a-minute action of sail racing

The thrill-a-minute action of sail racing


We had some pretty light winds at times


Wind Rush making her way back


I think we’ve officially been bitten by the racing bug, and look forward to perhaps racing our new vessel again next year in North Sydney.

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Race the Cape 2014

Just wrapping up this week was the 2nd annual Race the Cape.  It’s a 4 leg sailboat race that lasts just over a week, with several in port races.  Boats and crews come from all over Eastern Canada (a few from the US as well) to take part in what proves to be some of the best sailing grounds on the continent, the Bras D’Or.

Race the Cape 2014.  Starting at the Dobson Yacht Club in Sydney, finishing up in St Peter's.

Race the Cape 2014. Starting at the Dobson Yacht Club in Sydney, finishing up in St Peter’s.

If you visit the Race the Cape website, you’ll find a handy little page called the crew bank.  On this page, people who want to climb aboard one of these racing yachts list their experience and credentials in hopes of getting a call.  Based on the area codes listed in some of the phone numbers, some potential crew are in the US, some as far away as the UK, but many from Atlantic Canada.

Two days before the opening leg, I listed Erika and I on the crew bank.  the logic being, what we lacked in experience, we made up for in proximity.  Two hours later we were part of the crew of SV Sonho, a Sabre 402 from St John, NB.
I would be aboard for the first two legs, Sydney to North Sydney on Day 1, and North Sydney to Baddeck on Day 2.  Erika would be on for the 2nd Leg.

Leg 1 – Sydney to North Sydney
Great sunbathing weather, not so great for sailing.  There was very little wind to push the field of about 40 vessels the 20 nautical miles out of the harbour, around the marker, and back to the northside.

I think the part of racing sailboats that I find the best is the quiet.  On this leg, the winds were very light.  You had enourmous vessels, ours 27 tonnes, just a few meters from one another, and there is silence.  You can hear a skipper two boats over quietly tell a crew member to pull up the traveler.  It’s similar to how I imagine the crews of submarines act in a dogfight; based on what I have seen in the movies anyhow.

As the wind petered off as the day went on, many dropped out of the race, as they weren’t able to make it back in under the 8 hour limit.  We continued, and slid past the shortened finish line in just over 7 hours.


Day 2 – North Sydney to Baddeck

This was the longest leg of the week.  40nm, including the passage through the Bras D’Or choke point.

The race was shortened to the buoy off of Cary Point which is the narrow entrance to the Bras D’Or.  Organizers felt the lack of wind would make it impossible for any vessels to make it through the channel in a decent time.  We motored about 20 nm.

Race the Cape was a great experience, and we’re already making plans to take part once our crew is old enough!

Slow start

Slow start


the field


some handsome bastard easing off the main


My favourite kind of vessel, competitive, but primarily there to have fun


spinnakers out


a leisurely race


An old WWII installment in Sydney Mines


Probably not the real Batman


Seal Island Bridge

Seal Island Bridge

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Indefatigable Log Book – July 13

Date – July 13, 2014

Conditions – Sunny, light wing increasing

On Board – Rob, Erika

Duration – 2 hours

Location – Sydney Harbour

Since buying Indy in 2011, we have only ever used two sails; the main and the working jib.   We had two larger sails in the bags that we never used, a 130 and 150 Genoa.  Today, winds were light enough, we were brave enough to try out the 130.

The sails were crisper, and because of the larger size, we used the aft winches instead of the ones on the cabin.  The difference in this sail was immediately detectable.  This sail also had tell-tales, which take some of the guesswork out of trimming.

We sailed out to the coal piers before turning back.  When we were tacking back we noticed that a Tanzer 26 called Down North  was coming with us.  We knew Down North from our races aboard Morgan D,  and remembered her as a worth adversary.  Down North is also docked 4 piers down from Indefatigable, but we’ve never met her owner.

As she gained on us, we decided we would try to race her, whether they knew we were racing or not!  As we tacked back and forth back to the Dobson, we noticed that Down North was taking a similar line that we were.  And seeing how they were experienced racers, we took this as a sign that were were getting the hang of this sailing thing!

We were able to stay ahead of them the whole way back which we were pretty proud of, despite the fact they didn’t know we were racing, and likely out for a leisurely cruise.  When tying up, Down North pulled into her pier.  A shout came from her cockpit, “You managed to stay ahead of me!  I was trying to get by!

We went over for a chat after everything was put away.  Her skipper and his guest were great folks, who we will likely run into again.


Very light winds

Very light winds


In the shade of the 130 Genoa


First run for the 130 Genoa

Down North in hot pursuit

Who’s that back there?


Tanzer 26 in hot pursuit

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Indefatigable Log Book – June 28

Date – June 28, 2014

Conditions – Sunny, warm, light wind

On Board – Rob, Erika

Duration – 2 hours

Erika and I got out for a few hours, on a lovely evening in Sydney Harbour.  The purpose of the voyage was mainly to relax after a long week.  It was on this day we took our first selfie!  Slackers eh?

Rob & Erika

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Indefatigable Log Book – June 25

Date – June 25, 2014

Conditions – Sunny, wind brisk

On Board – Rob, Erika, Frances, Charlie

Duration – 1 hour

I suppose this was our test voyage.  Up until now, whenever we were to sail, we would have either my, or Erika’s, parents look after Charlie (1) and Frances (4).  Here we are at the start of a new season, and who knows, perhaps we can all go out together?

We had mixed results.  Both kids packed their colourful sailing bags with the toys they thought they would play with.  (they’re great!  A coworker gave them to Erika now that her children are grown.)

Frances did great, wore her life jacket with no fuss, and spent most of the time in the cabin, occasionally sticking her head out the forward hatch to say hello to those in the cockpit.

Charlie proved to be a bit more of a challenge.  He wasn’t keen on the life jacket, or the tether, and spent most of the time bouncing around the cockpit.   He was under constant supervision, so that took away one person from sailing the boat.  At one point he climbed up and stood on the tiller (being braced by Erika) while looking over the stern.  We pretty much decided then that Charlie may need some more time before he’s ready.

In town that day was the US Coast Guard training vessel, tall ship Eagle.  We went for a tour of her the next day, and met her impressive crew.  Things were so hectic, we only managed one pic!



US Coast Guard Tall Ship Eagle

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Most of the year, Indy lies nestled snugly in our driveway, inches from our fence and inches from our house.  The first few years we owned her, we would trailer her 3 blocks down the road to the Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club, and a fine gent named Terry would plop her in right at the berth. Since it’s destruction, we keep her across the harbour at the Dobson Yacht Club.

We still, however, made it down to where the Royal used to stand.  It’s piers, still in great shape and ready for many more summers, sit idle.  Terry met us Sunday morning, June 1st, and like a surgeon with tweezers, deftly placed Indy next to the boardwalk.  All that remained was a 2 minute trip across the harbour.

I must have been too enthusiastic, because after pulling the cord on the 1972 6hp Evinrude Fisherman, the cord refused to recoil.  She started fine, but I had to lift the cowl and wind it up by hand.  Off to Mackley’s Marine.

Apparently my bulging Herculean biceps were too much for the spring and spool which are no longer made.  This is when things get spooky.  When telling my co-worker who recently bought a property on the beautiful Bras D’or of my plight, replied, “that’s funny, in the old shed on our new property was a 1972 6hp Evinrude Fisherman.

His find had a seized arm, so he generously gave me the motor.  The parts were in great shape, and work beautifully.  We may get to sail this season after all!

A few onlookers patiently wait for the 3000lb boat to pass overhead

A few onlookers patiently wait for the 3000lb boat to pass overhead

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