A few years ago, my dad decided for his 60th year, he wanted to skipper our family boat, a Catalina 36 named Pau Hana, in the Newport-Bermuda Race. Setting out to prepare the boat was a painstaking process of upgrades and unforeseen expenses, but last summer when my dad pulled into the Great Sound, I was one proud daughter especially given the number of naysayers who didn’t believe a Catalina was fit for the race. I didn’t sail with him, Brandon was racing on Verissimo, a 62 ft custom Alden, and I was delivering the boat back to Newport but I was there when he pulled in.
He didn’t have the fastest (but also not the slowest!) boat and he knows that. Despite comments from many who didn’t know the story behind the boat and the fact he navigator is a Navy Meteorologist, my dad persisted and even finished 7th overall in the cruising class of 50+ boats. Now he had been bitten by the offshore-bug and started planning immediately for another bucket list race: the Marblehead to Halifax and this time I said I would join him.
Brandon sailed on Verrisimo again among a crew of 13 and I recruited my good friend, Morgan to join us on the mighty Pau Hana.
Pau Hana, in Hawaiian means “finished working.” It’s a phrase used to mean something like “okay now that works over, let’s get a beer and have some fun.” The phrase couldn’t have been more fitting for our crew as well all put in a 40 hour work week ahead of the race. My dad sailed the boat up with my mom over the 4th weekend and left the boat on a mooring in Salem then returned to work. We headed back up there the day before the race.
Morgan and I were in charge of provisioning (see the previous post: How to Provision 6 meals in 1 hour) and stashing 3 cars at her parents house in Gloucester about 30 minutes away. This was like solving one of those riddles where the sheep and the wolf need to cross the river but the two can’t be in the same boat with you. How many times does it take the farmer to cross the river?
Side note: Thanks Baird family for letting us use Ramparts Farm for our parking. Hopefully, helping feed and pet Iggy the Piggy, Hamlet the-pig-who-doesn’t-like-to-get-muddy, and Beau the Goat helped pay down our fee.
The night before the race, We helped Morgan with her BYC minimums by all enjoying some wine and lobster rolls. Brandon was on the program of making sure he ate delicious crew dinners and showing up on time. I stayed with him at his hotel the night before the race before heading out to sea. We have a tradition where before I leave on any offshore sailing without him, he tells me to “stay in the boat.”
At our Nav briefing from Mike, our Navigator, we learned it should be a great trip with great weather. Downwind the whole way and not too cold and foggy! And boy was he right!
We started at 1:20 pm on July 13th under sunny skies and a filling Southwest breeze. We had to sail upwind to mark and then a reaching mark first to wave to the Marblehead crowds before popping the chute and heading for Nova Scotia. We were the 3rd start of 8 or 9 so we quickly got to watch many boats sail past us but we were undeterred. We know this boat will be going great if we can go 7 knots ever but we aim for over 5.
Our watch schedule was 6-hour rotations with someone new coming up every 3 hours for four of us and Mike jumping in to help if needed but mostly focusing on navigating. Besides my dad, Morgan, Mike, and myself, we also have Jeff, a retired Air Force officer from Newport. My shift was the 1200-0600 and 1200-1800 as I was in charge of dinner during the races. Morgan was the opposite of me so we shared a bunk which we called the nest as it was really cozy.
Brandon’s mom, Margaret, made awesome lee clothes last year for my dad. They help keep you in if the boat heels but they have great pockets for stashing things like headlamps, sunscreen, earplugs, and iPhone/headphones for music and audiobooks. This trip Morgan has been listening to The Girl On the Train, and I have been listening to Elon Musk’s biography and reading The Handmaids Tale. Things to do on your off watch are important to keep a routine and the mind sharp.
The race was more like a really nice cruise, we were on Starboard going down the wind with the kite up for over 48 hours under sunny skies and a clear and bright full moon. About 8 hours from finishing, we couldn’t sail any lower so we took a hitch towards the shore to get right on the Rhumb line. Those last 6 hours were the conditions everyone talks about when it comes to the race: foggy and cold.
It was also dark. We sailed into a traffic separation scheme with all these rules to keep mariners safe in shipping lanes then had to use radar and AIS to find the final channel markers and finally the finish. However, after sailing over 5 knots for 55 hours and 360 miles, 0.5 miles from the finish, the wind died. We were adrift moving less than a knot fighting an outgoing current. It was so painful, 3 of us moved our weight forward and leeward to try and keep the boat moving forward.
Luckily, with just one little puff, we crossed the line at 0136 Atlantic time (which is an hour ahead of EST), just shy of 60 hours which put us 7th in our class. However, finish scores were never our focus, it was the adventure and camaraderie. O and we ate very well! 🙂
With our day off, we ate breakfast at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht a club then headed to town. Breakfast was included with the race but I think we still took the club by surprise as they kept running out of food and coffee. Brandon, Morgan, and I took a cab downtown to explore.
Downtown Halifax is set up nicely for the tourists. The waterfront has plenty of restaurants, food shacks, beer gardens, the Maritime Museum and a distillery. So we hit all of them!
The Stubborn Goat beer garden had some local beers so we all got different ones and shared. The space is open to dogs so we all got our canine fix in as well as we were missing our little muppets.
The Maritime Museum was interesting and a little depressing at the same time. In 1917, two ships collided in the harbor one of which was carrying explosives. The blast destroyed much of Halifax instantly killing over 2,000 and severely injuring 9,000. Massachusetts was instrumental in the support during the aftermath and the strong bond between Boston and Halifax was one of the reasons for the founding of the Race.
There was also an exhibit about the Titanic as Nova Scotia was the closest land to the sinking in 1915. “Survivors went to New York, the dead went to Halifax.” Over 200 of the recovered perished were sent to Halifax and have been laid to rest in the cities’ graveyards.
After that uplifting experience, we got some lobster rolls on the harbor walk from Daves Lobster and then headed to the Halifax Distillery where we sampled rums, beers, and reserves. My dad, Jeff, and Mike joined us there where we enjoyed a little more. I highly recommend a stop here. Be sure to sample both the Spiced Gold Rum that they infuse with tea so it’s smooth and subtle and the Rum Cream, it’s better than Baileys.
Brandon split from our group to go to a crew dinner with Verrisimo at swanky Halifax restaurant and we headed back the Yacht Club for a pig roast for the competitors. Once again, I think the yacht club was surprised by the fact people were there to eat but it was an okay meal but too hot in the back building where they hosted us. We went back to the main club for some sunset drinks. It was then that we decided that we had done Halifax and the race festivities didn’t really excite us too much old get a head start on the delivery to Maine and skip the awards ceremony the next day.
We enjoyed a nice sleep in and breakfast before heading out around noon from Halifax. It was nice to finally get a chance to see the coast line since it was so dark and foggy for our finish. The other bonus was that the winds were now East- North East so we could fly the chute once again.
We had to gym a few times down the coast so we were already into 4x the maneuvers that we had to do on the race. We all settled back into our watch routines nicely and continued to eat and snack our way through the Gulf of Maine bound for Rockland.
Unfortunately, the wind died so we had to motor most of the trip. This made for a pretty boring sail but we did finally get to see lots of Marine Life.
- 3 Humpback whales
- Countless seals
- Dozen or so dolphins
- 2 great white sharks! One chasing a seal!
Note: it was not a sunfish, it had a Dorsel fin and a tail fin that was 8 feet behind that. It was also chasing a seal so I don’t think a basking shark does that either…
Thanks to a Gloucester friend of Morgan’s who was also in the race but left a day ahead of us, he secured a slip at Journeys End Marina for us in Rockland, Maine. After showering, we followed a recommendation from a friend back home and headed to The Pearl for a delicious seafood dinner and a few beverages.
To our pleasant surprise, Rockland was also hosting a Blues festival. There was a venue next to the restaurant that was playing music when we sailed in but after dinner, the festival moved to Main Street. They shut the street down and different blues bands played every few blocks. People were popping in and out of bars, strolling, dancing, and grooving to the half dozen music groups. It was pretty neat and a beautiful summer night for it. For us, it was a great way to cap off an amazing trip.
We all slept back on the boat, some stumbling back later than others. The next morning, we recovered our sore brains with some mouthwatering grub at a local diner. All 5 of us joined the clean plate club at the Brass Compass Cafe. I highly recommend the Penobscot Crab Benny!
By the time we walked back to the boat, my uncle Lee had arrived with Jeff’s truck. He had flown in from Washington State to Boston the night before, gotten the truck loaded with all the cruising stuff and drove up to us. He and my dad are taking a week to cruise down the coast back to Newport.
We piled in the truck and headed to Morgan’s parents back in Gloucester to retrieve our cars and undo the tangle of logistics from over a week ago. It’s hard to believe we have done a great loop of the Northeast in just a week.
At the time of this writing, it was exactly one week ago that we were popping the shoot and aiming for Brazil Rock off Nova Scotia 250 miles away. It already feels like it was all just a dream. For me, this was an amazing adventure to be able to sail with my dad and closest friend while also getting to know new guys.
Thanks to my crew, dad, and all you for reading and following along on another Persistence Adventure.