Sailing Around Cape Sable

After a blustery stay in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the Zartman family has an uneventful crossing to Nova Scotia—and experiences some Canadian hospitality on the way.

Zartman- Provincetown library

Provincetown children’s library has a half size schooner model.Danielle Zartman

The wind finally laid down in Provincetown, though not until it had gotten really ugly, with Ganymede bucketing in three-foot breaking seas and the anchor chain pulled bar-tight. Two of the 5/8" thick nylon lines we use for anchor snubbers snapped during the blow, until finally I rigged a snubber with a triple line.

Getting ashore at last, we found our two most basic needs: grocery store and library. The library, once a Methodist church, has a half-scale model of a fishing schooner built on the second story. The girls were disappointed that climbing the rigging was not allowed; what is rigging for, after all?

Since it was Memorial Day weekend, everything barbecue-able was on sale, and we couldn’t resist some sirloin tips, even if I had to grill them in blowing fog. It cleared up on Monday, and we gave the girls a much-longed-for run on the beach while topping up on groceries and fuel, then were off on Tuesday to cross the Gulf of Maine to Nova Scotia.

In the quiet sea with an 8-knot SE breeze, Ganymede would steer herself close-hauled with the tiller lashed, thanks to the new jib we had had made by Jasper and Bailey last summer. Though occasionally I had to reach out and alter course a little, I could leave the helm long enough to boil coffee, find a snack or navigate. It was the most pleasant of sails, and for 30 hours we didn't need to touch a sheet or change a sail.

We were more than halfway across when the wind began to whip up, and sail had to be reduced. I had expected to have to pay the piper for our glorious day and a half of easy sailing, but the Piper's bill was inordinate. Ganymede, by degrees, went down to stay'sl and storm try'sl, and a broad reach was all we could manage in the washboard seas. We were still making six knots, but were now headed toward the whole mess of ledges and shoals between Cape Sable and Yarmouth. It was near midnight when, about twelve miles off the nearest ledge, we hove-to, put a bright light in the cockpit, and went to bed.

Day dawned foggy and calm, but with a big swell still running. Motoring past a deep-sea lobster buoy sufficed to show where the tidal current was going, and we shaped a course for Cape Sable, hoping to get there before the flood should make. Out of the shapeless, shifting fog a Nova Scotian lobster boat would loom now and then, and one of them suddenly made a beeline for us. Keep Guessing, I read her name as she ranged alongside. Her skipper stuck his head out the window.

"Ahoy! Where you headed?"
"The Cape."
"You like lobstah?"
"Sure!"

His mates on the working deck had been stuffing lobsters into grocery bags as they approached, and now they ranged closer. "Lobsters on deck!" they yelled as two bulging bags of varmints flew across to land on the cabin. My thanks were drowned in the roar of the engines as Keep Guessing pulled away with a cheery wave. When we opened the bags later we found nearly eighteen of them, which gave the girls endless entertainment. Welcome to Canada!

It soon became evident that we wouldn’t make it to Cape Sable, so we groped our way, by dint of GPS and the Nova Scotia guidebook that our neighbor Mike Grimes had photocopied for us, into the quiet and lonely Stoddard Cove. It was heavenly, after the roughness of the last 24 hours, to be on an even keel. Spreading everything wet in the cockpit to dry, we set to boiling lobster and tidying up. That night we cleared the wood stove, shipped the stack, and had a fire to dry out the cabin, which was positively clammy after all the rain and fog of our crossing.

There was no fog the next day, and we took advantage of the visibility to get around Cape Sable. There was still a big swell running, and it made for some truly horrible tide rips and overfalls which bounced Ganymede around in their grip like a pea in a rattle and delayed the children's breakfast. Once around the dreaded Cape things improved and we shaped a course for Cape Roseway, at the entrance to Shelburne harbour. Though it had started out calm, by the time we got there, there was more than a thimblefull of West wind, and fetching the lee of McNutts island we put in two reefs for the long beat up to town.

It was more wind than I care to sail upwind in, but Danielle had a wonderful time putting the rail under, tack after tack, and we managed to sail into the anchorage without breaking anything. It was too late to do anything in Shelburne other than call customs from a payphone to check in (easiest check-in to any country, ever!), and reconnoiter the town a little. It looks a splendid place, with showers at the yacht club and laundry up a block. We’ll spend the weekend here, as it’s a perfect quiet harbor with no traffic, and be able to finish tidying up the boat before heading east to Lunenburg.

We are the Zartman family: Ben & Danielle, and our three girls, Antigone, Emily and Damaris. We created this blog to chronicle our sailing adventures on Ganymede, a home-finished 31-foot gaff-rigged cutter, which has been our home since 2009, when we sailed from San Francisco, California, to the Sea of Cortez, then down along the Central American coast. Currently in Newport, Rhode Island, we plan to sail to Canada, the U.K., and beyond this summer.