My goodness gracious this month went fast! Time for a little update from the crew because aside from some fun things that have happened this month, we have some very good news to share with you (inserting my happy dance here)
First off, we had family from Quebec visit for a few days and are very proud to say we managed well hosting five extra people without any fatalities. Not to say this will be a common occurance. It was tight but cozy. We gave up our rather large bedroom (sleeping bags and blow up mattresses installed) to take over our guest room (tiny tiny). The biggest revelation was that when we expanded the single day bed to make room for the two of us we realized it actually converts to a kingly sized bed. Yay! for any extra-tall guests.
Day trips were a fun way to play tourist. Walks to Gramma Beach, Peggy’s Cove for a romp on the rocks and a ferry ride from Dartmouth across Halifax Harbour for some touring of our big home village.
This month has been wicked for storms. Three nor’easters blew through within a five day period. Predictable power outage for sure but just once for a few hours for us and it was back on in time for our morning coffee.
We’re thinking that if this wind direction keeps up much longer we may loose our big (about 40 feet we figure) evergreen. With every storm she leans more and more to the south-west. Luckily when she goes there is no danger of harming anything and with the loss, our view of the sea will improve.
The last nor’easter brought snow and a decent pile of it too. First real dump of the white stuff since December. Beware the Ides of March indeed! It slightly eroded our faith in Shubenacadie Sam and Lucy the Lobster who predicted an early spring but this couldn’t last long. Could it?
It’s what we lovingly called our nor’Easter. Our planned Easter egg hunt may be a bit tricky but you know what they say? If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.
Halifax Burger Week
We’ve been taking in some of the local activites too. The Saltbox Brewery’s Irish St. Patrick’s Day brunch was delicious and it gave us a chance to try out a couple of pints of their Jeezus Murphy Irish Red. The second gathering of South Shore Naturalists hosted the program coordinator from Canada Bird Studies who spoke about the endangered Piping Plover. And of course why wouldn’t we support Feed Nova Scotia with a meal from one of the 125 participating restaurants for Halifax Burger Week….especially after filing our first Nova Scotia tax returns, we felt like a little celebrating was in order.
Every week or so there are small improvements here and there. Francois continues his outdoor garden purge of unwanted plants. We’ve started to see new growth pushing through the sun-warmed earth….that was until the latest storm which brought a healthy snow covering. Poor things. I’m playing permaculturalist to draft a rough plan for this year’s vegetable garden. Three more birdfeeders have been hung. Our favourite duck couple, Harold and Maude have started to come back to Duck Pond more consistently to dine and hopefully nest.
Inside, undercounter lights make cooking up deliciousness in my galley much more enjoyable. Sunshades for all of our main floor windows have been ordered. Privacy is not an issue but when the sun shines…especially through our south-facing windows…it can be quite blinding. We also took advantage of the provincial government’s power-saving initiative and ordered installation of a heat pump.
So here’s the big news that has put a little extra ‘spring’ in our step these days. No, not because of the general fine weather. No, not because of a very generous tax return from jumping provinces. And not because we are still very much in love with our life by the sea….although all of the above is true.
Remember the last time you checked in with us and we told you we had decided not to splash R.E.D. this year? When you have an extra minute you can read about it here.
Well!!!! Let me tell you about our latest brush with Eastern hospitality, generosity and all ‘round niceness. We saw a sign down the road advertising landscaping and earth moving services.
Our New Best Friend
We called the guy, Johnny was his name, to ask for a quote on making a few changes so we could reposition the boat, fill in a few low spots and add some gravel to the driveway. He promised to drop by after work, around supper time he said to see what we needed. And he did. And it happened to be my birthday. Super nice guy. Told us what was needed. Gave us a responable price for the work. And then he casually asked…wait for it… if we needed a place for the boat this summer. Let me repeat that..do we need a place for the boat this summer? It seems he owns a dock finger at the village marina just down the road (six kilometres to be precise). We had checked out that place last summer but were told all spaces were privately owned and the only way we could use the place was if someone wanted to either sell or rent to us and that was unlikely. Well it so happens that Johnny sold his boat. He told us it could be ours for the summer if we wanted. Happy happy HAPPY birthday to me!
So many ideas for the summer now spinning around in our heads. Thinking…cycling to the Hubbard’s Farmers’ Market next to the marina (when it opens for the season of course). Picking up a few weekend supplies, then continuing on down the road to spend some quality time on our little water chalet. And since it’s that much closer to the mouth of St. Margaret’s Bay we will be that much closer to new sailing grounds yet to be discovered.
See what I mean?
Time for an update from the crew? OK then…
We’re on the down slide of winter here in our little home in the country. There hasn’t been much winter to speak of really. A few dustings of snow. Barely reason to shovel the white stuff but it gave us a chance to use our two new shovels. One of our neighbours is a snowmobile enthusiast and has been bemoaning the fact that her husband hasn’t had the chance to use his new $20K acquisition. Even the Cape Breton Highlands is denude of snow. Very sad for businesses that depend on snow people and wintery activities for their livelyhood but we are thrilled that Shubinacadie Sam (our resident Nova Scotia groundhog) and Lucie the Lobster (a south shore crustacean) have predicted an early spring.
This is the best time of year to tend to fixing stuff. You know…all those chores that come with home ownership. We’re really lucky having moved into a place that needed almost nothing to be done to make it nestable. Even the walls throughout were white so painting can be done in stages. But there have been little things to tend to. My leaky bathtub for example is no longer leaky thanks to a visit from our now fave plummer. Yay! Spa time for the Kat… bath salts, a good book and a glass of wine.
Then there was a bare spot on the roof where snow should have been…a place where a chimney from the original house existed. A small patch that was never insulated. Strange but true. All the rest of the roof had code insulation but that one spot. All fixed now.
Francois bought himself a fancy new ladder. Check out that flashy colour! One of the gutters was clogged, plus with all the rain we’ve been having he wanted to make sure any run off was diverted away from the house. Smart man he is, taking such great care of his kingdom!
Our feathered friends have given us endless hours of entertainment and we’ve expanded feeding stations from one to six at last count, blossoming into faithful providers. Francois now creates his special recipe of peanut butter, suet and seeds for the critters, stuffing the mixture into recesses in tree branches and holes drilled in logs that now hang outside our kitchen window perfect for morning viewing.
Speaking of taking care of things, most days Francois is like a puppy going from window to window wanting to get out in the yard. But before he takes his vegetation pruning too far we needed to find our property markers. Pissing off even one neighbour can never be undone no matter how nice we are. This meant a call to a local engineering firm for an estimate on having a survey report done. Yikes! That’s how much it cost? I called another for a second opinion so to speak and within five minutes had a return call letting us know there was already a survey done in 1992…saving us several thousand dollars. All that was necessary was a drive to our county Registry of Deeds and a print out costing $10. We still had to find the markers but to date we’ve located 6 of the 11 and our fave neighbour from across the way dropped by with flourescent paint so we could mark them more clearly….and to enjoy a glass of wine with us while she caught us up on local lore. I cannot wait to learn more about ‘Crazy Maggie’ the original owner of RED by the Sea.
We also recently had an energy audit done to find out just how effective our little home by the sea is retaining her heat. The government is offering incentives and if we make certain improvements can qualify for subsidies. A thermo pump has been added to our list of upgrades for this year.
And speaking of upgrades, Francois is still in need of a proper work room and when spring finally does arrive we’ll need space to store garden stuff. When we were searching for RED by the Sea one of the criteria was a garage/workroom/garden shed or at the very least a space to build all of the above structures. Enter, architect. We’ve enlisted the help of someone locally who will help us put it all together to be created in stages. We’ve started with a basic wish list. I’m not a big fan of out buildings so am hoping she can help us find a way to expand the existing space to accommodate current and future needs.
Fitting into a new community isn’t always easy especially when you move to a province that, unless you have produced several generations, will sometimes see you as ‘from away’ or as my aunt would refer to as ‘foreigners’. She wasn’t referring to ethnicity and no malice was intended. It was just that if you weren’t born here you would always be ‘from away’. We have found our transition surprisingly easy though. Our neighbours are wonderfully friendly. I’ve been joining in with a local community group for crafting sessions. The highlight other than learning new skills has been meeting hilarious, at times deliciously irreverant, fun-loving ladies. To help be more a part of our community we have both joined a local Legion branch. They too are a lively social bunch and when we went to their monthly breakfast several days ago came away feeling like we actually could belong. “Oh, you must come to our weekly potluck suppers and you’ll just love our summer activities!” There is also an attempt at regeneration of the South Shore Field Naturists group with guest speakers, offering another way to meet those with common interests and the field trips would give us a chance to see areas we might not usually visit.
Adapting to country living has been a breeze. Being a distance from the ‘big city’ (not so very big and not so distant) isn’t a problem. We batch outings and whatever else we need can be located within an easy five kilometre run down the road where at those crossroads we have a small grocery store, hardware store and of vital importance, a liquor store. That five minute drive also brings us to our doctor’s door, our dentist and a pharmacy. A ten minute walk down our shore road we reach Chris of the Ryan J, our lobster guy. During the winter months one of our fave suppliers from the farmers’ summer market, delivers produce and meats every two weeks…another 5 minute drive down the road. I’m also trying out something new…delivered dinner ingredients. Will see how it goes but I’ve chosen three weekly plant-based meals for the two of us. This way we have fewer outings to the market, less animal protein consumed (yay for the environment and us!) and the Kat doesn’t have to plan or shop for or ask ‘what would you like for dinner?’ Win, win…I hope. Some say this is the way of the future. Whether true or not our first meal was delicious.
Now you might be thinking, but what about R.E.D.? Isn’t this a blog about sailboats and such? Adventures of our 26 footer and her crew? Quite right! Can you hear the ‘but’ coming? We always knew this recent move would create a universal change to our lives. We didn’t know just how it would play out but knew it would impact our sailing lives. First off, we are thrilled to have a space for her on our own land….right outside our kitchen window in fact.
We would like a better place for her though so come spring there will be some grading and gravel spread to make sure she has a more stable place to reside. We have at least two adventures in the planning…one to sail the Bras d’Or Lakes…another the Saint John River. And there is still so much sailing ground still to discover in our immediate area. The Chester Islands and Mahone Bay for instance just around the Apostogan Peninsula from where we live. All of that is still a part of our plans. But now that spring is just around the corner soon we’ll expect a call from our boat home of last year wanting a committment for this coming season. For the past two months at least I’ve had this on my mind. My night time musings I call them. We haven’t talked at all about what our summer will look like, only that there are things we want to accomplish…house-wise. How much time and effort…and money will it involve is still a big question. For the past five years R.E.D. has been the benefactor of that time, effort and money almost exclusively. Now it must be shared with RED by the Sea. In what form will that sharing present itself? Time to talk to Francois about the elephant in my head. So we talked…and talked…and mused…and came up with several options…several more scenarios….and a conclusion…maybe not the most appealing conclusion but one that seems right…for now.
First off is to prepare a better place to store her, as I mentioned before. We think we’ve located the best spot to the side of the driveway…easy in…easy out. But we’ll need to grade it first and lay a more stable gravel base. Next plan is a thorough spring clean-up. The end of last season we gave her what my mother used to call ‘a lick and a promise’ type of cleaning. Just enough to get her ready for the winter months. At the end of last season we noticed a strange rusted spot on the foot of the engine. Is it a galvanic leak? Not really sure but investigation is necessary and repair to do. This is the year we had planned on a complete anti-fouling paint job, so count that as chore number three.
Now that we have her close by it would also be the best time to address one of my pet peeves….that ugly white carpet on the walls. If you remember we did a great job on the interior dagger board wall a couple of years ago by replacing it with flooring cork and sealing with several layers of varathane (the story here). It will be a huge job but will improve the interior immensely.
With all of that in mind, we have decided not to put R.E.D. in the water from April to October this year…at least not at the marina. We can still drop her in from time to time for short outings…because she’s that kind of boat and one of the many reasons why we chose her. We just couldn’t justify the costs of marina life when our interests and plans are so fragmented. Spending time on her has to be foremost a pleasure not an obligation.
There you have it, our big ‘reveal’. I’m not sure why this was so hard to admit and that I somehow had to justify. It felt as though I had to drag it from the depths of my belly. I still do feel a bit cheated not having a full season on the boat but maybe this is what was meant to be. We now have to share our time on the water with our time by the water. But when the time comes to splash our lady again won’t she be a beauty, inside and out! More on that later.
We’re always checking the weather…have been for years. I’m not sure if it was to monitor the water conditions so that we could take precausions when heading out or if it was to fuel our combined passion for stormy days. Maybe a bit of both. We do love storms! Back in Montreal we would be severely ‘bummed’ if we were not on the boat when a storm hit our little Lake of Two Mountains where we spent the summers aboard R.E.D.
But since moving to the east coast it has become a part of our daily routine to log into local weather stations to see what the environment has in store for us. We’ve also noticed that we aren’t alone here in our obsession. And it’s not just idle chit chat one would normally encounter when running into a neighbour or someone at the market. There’s still lots of that for sure because if you can’t complain about the current government or world affairs there’s always the weather to generate lively conversation. I’ve recently begun to understand that there’s a deeper reason for folks here to pay closer attention and it’s not just concern for those bold fishermen who face the elements on a daily basis. Within recent years Atlantic Canada has been hit with some severe storm systems. There was Hurricane Juan in September of 2003 and close on it’s heels White Juan in February 2004 . The history of maritime storms runs very deep here and it was no wonder that yesterday when we set out for our supplies there were rows and rows of empty shelves. Line ups for refilling propane tanks. Supplies of bottled water, gone. Dairy section, empty. Snack food aisles devoid of products…locals call them Storm Chips. People are preparing.
There is another storm coming our way…termed a ‘weather bomb’….when atmospheric pressure drops more than 24 millibars within a twenty-four hour period and reports show a drop of almost twice that. As I begin writing this we are in the full thrust of the storm. Power outage for the complete Aspotogan Peninsula…where we live….waves are pounding the shore and winds are howling.
We are fairly confident that we are prepared for whatever comes today. To begin, our little home by the sea, although in her 88th year, is solid. She trembles from time to time as the force of the winds hit her sides and as we sit securely inside it sounds like a giant train is passing outside our door…but by passing I mean the roar continues for hours.
Outside all things vulnerable are tied down and fixed. Lines on the boat tarp drawn in tighter. Our deck fire place, pitched off its perch in the last two storms has been anchored well. I refuse to remove Christmas decorations this early so door wreaths now rest inside as I had a hard time locating one of them after the Christmas Day gale.
So with the belief that our envelope is safe we focused on our immediate needs, water being the limiting factor. We depend on well water which is pumped electrically to supply our daily needs. Drinking, cooking, washing and maybe more crutial, flushing the toilets. According to the experts we should have two litres of water person per day should we lose power so our boat water jugs have been filled ready for use. I took care that all laundry was done yesterday, dishes washed etc. I refilled our lovely coffee machine then in a ‘smack-myself-in-the-head’ moment realized…no power…no coffee.
Which brings me to what we’ll need to sustain us during an outage. Warmth will be provided by our propane fire place. The pilot uses battery power to start, thankfully, so as long as we have a good supply of those double A’s we can stay warm. Lights? We have emergency flash lights on each floor now (during the first power failure in October we has no idea in which box they were packed). They plug into an outlet and illuminate when power fails to provide six hours of useage. For the rest we’ll have to depend on candle light (carefully of course), our boat solar lanterns and our supply of battery operated candles.
So we now have water, heat and light. Next comes dining. I could have gone all off grid and bought cans of things but instead made a large pot of turkey soup which will last for at least 3 full days. And I made a double batch of my daughter’s yummy biscuits…a recipe very share-worthy on seasaltgalleykat when back online.
Our fondu pot became the perfect heating supper mechanism and with lit candles and a glass or three of wine we made it the perfect romantic dinner for two.
Dinner á la Fondu and Candle Light
We’re heading into our first night without power and it’s no big deal. We’re warm. We’re supposedly sleeping anyway. But there are always things running around in our heads….Francois’ head in particular. Have we done enough? What’s that noise? Which brings me to an elephant in my bedroom that I need to talk about. It has a name … hyper vigilance. I’ve thought a good deal about it over the past few years and have now come to an understanding that I’m comfortable with. For someone who has spent almost 40 years training to be prepared, to plan, to be ready to deploy, to be educated for all realms of combat, to have been on seven missions (the last three possibly the most challenging), it must be impossible to flick the switch to ‘off’. The old adage ‘you can take the soldier out of the army but you can’t take the army out of the soldier’ fits this life we are living and now more than ever I’m appreciating how all that training is keeping us safe.
2:00 am Discussion with Champagne
It’s because of all the preparedness that we are comfortable and not fumbling around in the dark. OK so it’s not all him. I can take some of the OCD Galley Kat credit for making things ready…and comfortable…and pretty…and pretty delicious.
Speaking of Galley Kat reminds me of what Francois said yesterday. He thinks it was somewhat easier to be on the boat at anchor without shore power than here on land. Somewhat. And he’s right. We had light, heat and could cook meals in some pretty horrific conditions with very little effort. What I’m not missing though is the uncertainty of the anchor holding during no less than three gales two years ago while in the Gaspe region of the Saint Lawrence River and freezing our butts off in mid-July blogging in mittens and tuque. I mean, really! Here we’re a five minute drive to the village for supplies if needed and Nova Scotia Power has set up ‘comfort stations’ around the province (our nearest is in Chester) for those wanting to come in from the cold for coffee or cocoa or just to recharge devices if needed. We’re more than fine.
Francois at Gramma Beach
We took a walk this morning before breakfast and before we lost power. We hadn’t yet reached the peak of the storm but the sea still looked rough. Gramma Beach had disappeared and was awash with the pounding surf of the storm serge at high tide.
Maude and Herald
We found Maude and Herold resting at the end of our lane way. Later they and several others came to perch on the rain drenched ice covered Duck/Skating Pond because the waves had become far too fierce for their liking.
Mid-afternoon we took another walk along the shore road dressed in our foul weather gear. It was at the height of the storm and the winds were brutal. The force of the waves impressive. Holding Francois’ hand kept me from being blown over. Should have had more porridge this morning to give me additional ballast.
Found our Foulies
Now at this point in my story it’s morning. Francois hooked up the generator so we could have a fine cup of coffee and plugged in the refrigerator while we wait.
Morning Java via Gen the Generator
And then within minutes, boom! The lights came on. Just like that. Not even twenty four hours later. I’m mildly disappointed that it couldn’t have lasted a bit longer, you know, just to see how we’d manage although I wouldn’t want to wish hardship on anyone and am really thankful for all those NS Power folks who brought the Aspotogon Peninsula back to life. There are still many thousand more customers to please.
Now that I can finish uploading the pictures and sign off till the next time, I’ll close with a video that Francois took on our walk yesterday. January 2018 Weather Bomb, Mill Cove, Nova Scotia (click to view)
Many thanks to all who messaged, emailed, texted to send words of encouragement and to check up on us. As our friend Beth said, we’re a ‘hardy stock’
Sent from my iPad