A Foggy Lesson
Halifax Harbour, July 2008
by Rob Dunbar (CL2120)
Celtic Kiss
----- Original Message -----
From: Robert Dunbar
Sent: Tuesday, October 07, 2008 9:34 PM
Subject: A foggy lesson

Hello Uncle Al !!
First off I must tell you that I'm still getting a lot of interest from people who've read the article of my trip along the Eastern Shore.   People still come up to me and say " Are you that guy?"
I did a little jaunt last summer in the approaches of Halifax Harbour.  Though I was out for a week, I really took it easy and spent more time relaxing than anything else.  However, I did manage an interesting sail from the Dartmouth Yacht Club to Inner Sambro Island in thick fog and on a tough beat.  I wrote of this section of the cruise and thought you may like to post it on the Wayfarer Site.
Long may your big jib draw!
Rob Dunbar
A Foggy Lesson

Having anxiously awaited for the 2008 sailing season to arrive in Atlantic Canada, my appetite for a short cruise in my CL 16 Celtic Kiss became insatiable.

On an early morning in July, I was anxious to try my new 2-hp outboard motor and happily cruised along Halifax's historic waterfront savouring a wonderful view in a brilliant sun. In days gone by this same body of water had been witness to many events that shaped Nova Scotia's rich history. Among them were the glory days of sail in the 1700's, the Halifax explosion in 1917, which at that time was the site of the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb, and the naval convoys of WW 2. 

click here for full-sized image

As I closed in on Pier 21, the first landfall of numerous immigrants to Canada, the majestic beauty of luxury liner Queen Mary 2 came into view.  Though many of its passengers were ashore exploring our lovely city many tourists stayed aboard and waved a friendly good-morning from numerous decks above my little luxury liner.

At approximately 1000 hrs, a gentle SW breeze made enough ripples on the water to entice me to kill the fuel line and hoist the sails. While close reaching across an awakening sea towards Chebucto Head, I had enjoyed the warmth of the mid-morning sun and slathered on the sunscreen. 

One of the many local whale watching vessels, with a full load of well paying tourists, breaks the silence with a steady rumbling in the distance and takes a close pass beside me. Suddenly many cameras from all over the world descend on my little yacht and 'click a pic' of their own personal postcard.  After a few courtesy waves, the tour boat's engines rev up and it forges ahead, leaving a trail of exhaust fumes that remind me how great it is to be a sailor. It's times such as these that remind me of what a wonderful life I have while I watch the whales myself for free.

Knowing that July on the Nova Scotia coast is locally known as "fog season", I had psyched myself to dealing with this pesky fact of life and anxiously looked forward to matching my wits with the sailor's oldest enemy.  In preparing to do this, I had heeded the words of famous dinghy cruiser, Margaret Dye, to stay close to shore when dinghy sailing in fog.

I have a theory.  Sailing is paradise, but if you are not prepared, it only takes seconds for chaos to ensue.  While I was approaching the lighthouse atop Chebucto Head, the gentle SW breeze quickly rose to a fresh breeze prompting a quick reef. Then, just as soon as the reef was taken in, the increasingly gusting "strong breeze" dictated that the jib be lowered. From experience, I know that 'Kiss behaves magnificently with a reefed main and jib in a strong breeze but a gusting wind makes life very uncomfortable.

The lack of a jib made windward progress in my heavily laden (full load of camping gear, etc) yet stable dinghy become painfully slow. But I was confident that things would change once I rounded Chebucto Head. I had reasoned that the influence of the land was creating the gusting conditions. And change they did, but not for the better! The temperature dropped dramatically and a strong wind was coming out of the huge wall of fog. Although Halifax, where it's 30° Celsiusis, was only eight miles away, I was prompted to put on my foul weather gear!

As I anxiously studied the menacing wall like a boxer getting ready for a title fight, I courageously steered Celtic Kiss into the menacing waves hidden in the cloak of cold, dark mist.  The fog-horns of cargo and naval ships entering and leaving Halifax Harbour reminded me of their presence. Knowing enough to stay away from the shipping lanes and being without radar, I had to rely solely on my VHF radio, handheld GPS, charts and compass. I had to rely on others to spot my radar reflector. The wind's velocity and thick fog made this trek both a frustrating and exhilarating experience. Frustrated by a slow beat to windward and exhilarated when I was able to locate the buoys, even though they didn't show themselves until the GPS indicated they were less than 500 feet away.

After groping through the fog for four hours while using all my senses to navigate, I found Inner Sambro Island. Though it was hidden by fog, I knew it was there because I could smell the land. The lone protected cove on the island was a welcome respite from the cold damp wind of the North Atlantic. Elated that Celtic Kiss and I had succeeded in navigating in the fog, I soon called my wife in nearby Halifax - where it was still 30°C.

Rob Dunbar  Celtic Kiss  (CL2120)

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