Watch schedules

“Whatever you wear, it’s not enough!” was some of the advice we got from the more experienced sailors that had already sailed to Nova Scotia a number of times.

That was certainly good advice and we are quite proud of all our ski-underwear, large collection of hats, gloves etc.

Captain's glove collection
So far, we have been pretty lucky as the weather up here has been much milder than we expected.
However, we still have to cross the Labrador current & Northern Atlantic, so plenty of opportunity to still make good use of our equipment…

The above also had its impact on our watch schedule as it would not have been comfortable or safe for the crew on watch to be out on deck for too long, should conditions have been as cold as we worried about.
The general watch schedule approach is to have a rolling change in watches. There are normally two crew on watch (red) as we always steer manually; so one to steer and one to handle sails etc.
In general we aim for roughly 3 hours on watch (depending on crew size) and then some following time where the still awake crew will be on standby (amber) to help if needed (to prevent waking up others that are deep asleep etc). Where possible, the standby time is scheduled in way that allows the crew to get off watch get settled etc – and to have them wake up their successor. That in turn ensures timely watch changes and deeper sleep for those worried about overhearing their alarm, but also means that we only have one crew on the help for about 30 minutes. That turned out to be a good approach for now.
During the off-time (green) the crew can sleep, relax, cook, repair, clean up or simply enjoy the time on the ocean.
The order of crew members listed is sorted to balance the skillset evenly across all watches (with the captain on stand-by throughout the entire day).
In case the temperatures did drop to as low as we worried about, we would have changed the cold day schedule, where duration of the watch reduces, but the frequency increases.

As quite a few people asked about our watch schedule approach, you can have a look at them yourself below:

Nahant to Halifax:NHT 2 HFX watch schedule

Halifax to Newfoundland:
HFX 2 STJ watch schedule

Newfoundland to Ireland:
STJ 2 IRL watch schedule

The crew from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland

Here are some pictures of our crew that made it from Halifax via St Pierre to Newfoundland.

Dan MacMackin
Lisa Mogan-O’Keefe
Peter Barba
Philip Kersten
Steve Roberts

Impressions from Newfoundland


“There is a reason why most cruising guides for Newfoundland are written by Americans”, one follow boater told me here at the RNYC.
“Canadians prefer to keep this cruising ground a secret…”.

They have a good reason for that as this place is fantastic to sail and explore. With endless coves and bays, impressive mountains, sea live galore and about 10,000 miles of coastline – and extremely friendly and helpful people of top of that.


We had two very pleasant weeks. As expected mostly downwind sailing. Some fog here and there, but by far less than expected and with much milder temperatures than anticipated.
We covered about 1100nm, visited very interesting harbors with Shelburne, Lunenburg, Halifax, St Pierre and St John’s.
With Lisa and Steve, we had very eager new crew and managed to get two more people exposed to ocean sailing.

The gennaker was repaired
Peter’s underwear proudly shows when we are hoisting the gennaker sock now
The gennaker is untwisted and repacked
New holes in the partners have been drilled and tapped, the mast base block is reinstalled
The tele-lens contacts have been fixed
One of Moby’s rotors has been fixed
The safety cushions in the cockpit have been stitched
The bracket to tie the raft down has been readjusted
Diesel and water tanks have been topped off

We are good to go.
Through the week, the new crew of  five will fly in. We will purchase the remaining food items and will pre-cook and freeze a couple of meals.
While it does not look like much wind for our planned departure on Friday, we are optimistic that things will work out.

Coming to an end

We left St Johns harbor to move Tioga to the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club where she will berth until the next crew arrives to sail to Ireland.

We cleared the gut, raised the sails and the freight train left the station. We spotted a few whales and dolphins. The dolphins were playing off in the distance, but provided a great floor show for the crew.

The new crew, Lisa and Steve, earned their stripes. Rounding the point we picked up a close hauled azimuth, heeling with a rail in the water, and screaming along the very impressive coast. Lisa handled the helm as if she was an olympic sailing champion, with the Captain easing the sheets to spill the wind though the gusts. Reaching the tip of Cape St Francis, Steve took the helm and earned his diploma with the tell tales glued to the sheet. At 80 degrees and 7 to 10 knots of wind it was a beautiful sunny day for sailing in Conception Bay and the crew basked in all its glory. All the while Peter was sewing the Gennaker sock, even sacrificing a clean pair of skivies for a makeshift patch. Dan took the helm so we could launch Moby for one last flight as we neared Kelly Island.

We entered the channel to the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club as the sun began to drop. We stopped at the fuel dock to check in and fuel up. The diesel fill-up was an honor system where you filled up and provided the waitress with your liters for payment. We were provided a tie up at the Commodores slip.

The crew dined at the club with mixed reviews on the Poutines – french fries with gravy and cheese curds. We settled in for much needed sleep.

We awoke for clean up day – where the out going crew scrubs down the boat to prepare for the incoming crew. Steve had laundry duty, Lisa detailed the galley and Dan disinfected the head. Captain Philip and Peter did small repairs. Once the boat was ship shape, we moved the boat to a another slip before heading into town.

We did some site seeing and shopping before stopping in for a cold beverage. Next stop was a local brewery and pizza. The George Street festival was in full swing and the crew stopped in to hear some Canadian Rock. We headed back to Tioga for Jiffy Pop and a final toast to a great adventure.

It was not without a fair bit of sadness that this crew was preparing to bid adieu to Tioga, Captain Philip, and each other. We had spent the past 10 days together as a team, facing fog, fog, and more fog. We were blessed with skill and leadership of Captain Philip, and a crew, some experienced and others with a willingness to learn. Bluewater sailing is one of those things, if we had to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.

Those on board sometimes hope for divine intervention, but all we have is each other. We make a silent promise that I will risk my life to save yours and vise versa. To the next crew of Tioga, we wish you fair winds, safe passage, and godspeed.
Wow thats deep!


Welcome to St John’s

After a calm night where the only sound we heard was the waterfall, we lifted anchor and motored out of Aquaforte/Cape Boyle Harbor.

We were happy to see that the fog was far out to sea and enjoyed a sunny and warm downwind sail along the impressive east coast of Newfoundland.

The crew became quite proficient in hoisting and dowsing the gennaker as we tried to sail whenever the breeze kicked in.

While we saw an occasional whale here and there, we did not even get close to the very large number the evening before.

We rounded the eastern-most point of continental North America, Cape Spear (a historic site, marked by a 19th century lighthouse), and aimed at the narrow opening between the impressive rock formations to get us into St John’s harbor.

We motored past Signal Hill with walking trails and the site of the first transatlantic wireless communication, Cabot Tower, which commemorates John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland.

For centuries, Newfoundland was the largest supplier of salt cod in the world, and St. John’s Harbour was the center of the trade. As early as 1627, the merchants of Water Street were doing a thriving business buying fish, selling goods, and supplying alcohol to soldiers and sailors.

Despite numerous attempts with the authorities to get a spot a little closer to town, we ended up at the far end of the very industrial harbor, got cleared in by Customs and soon had a French sailing vessel, Eilean from Marseille, tied up to us.

We were quite surprised about the high temperatures, rigged the fly over the cockpit for some shade and celebrated our arrival with the very nice Scotch that Dan had brought along (Shackelton – based on an antique blend of Mackinlay’s rare old highland whiskey).

A nice meal in town followed by life music in an Irish pup rounded off another perfect day.

NewFogland and whales

The Tioga sailors have often sailed by bright sparkling stars or a moon. Cassiopeia, the big W in the sky being a favorite, but that was not to be. A ceiling of zero and 20 feet visibility was what we had as a view for the evening and much of the day. Except for the occasional puffin, we were by ourselves in our own little cocoon. The winds fluctuated through out the night and through the day. The crew became quite proficient at raising and lowering the Gennaker and the iron shute did its share of the work.

We determine that Newfoundland should be renamed to NewFogland. The fog only seemed to get denser the longer we sailed through it. Thankfully we came across no floating apartment buildings or orange vans with big headlights.

The challenge of sailing through the fog furthered our appreciation of our ancestor sailors who did not have the benefits of GPS, accurate charts, AIS, and radar – did we actually turn the radar on? The radar would have been on but Steve dropped his quarter, before putting it in the slot so we were on our own.

We rounded the corner and headed Northeast towards Auquaforte/Cape Boyle, our stop for the night. The fog began to clear and the crew got excited at the few whales we were able to see.

Then as we turned into the fjord there were dozens and dozens of whales sighthings. They were all around us. The spray from the blowholes were everywhere, whales breaking the surface near and far. One so close Steve attempted to scratch its back. The highlight of each was watching for the tails as they slowly slipped below the surface.

We anchored in a small calm cove complete with its own waterfall. We broke out the grill and dined on pork loin, potato salad and carrots. We settled in with wine glasses for a little stargazing.

Another great day aboard Tioga.

Not much to say

We cast off from St Pierre at 11:45am, with a little spring line training maneuver.
The fog started light and grew denser as we left the harbor. After an hour we were within fog horn distance of Newfoundland. We were shrouded in fog.
It is easy to see why sailors are superstitious, our ears played tricks on us. The sounds we heard were either gulls, low humming diesel engines, or cries of lost sailors.
But our captain is not superstitious, he is known to flout conventions by bringing bananas on board, and even whistling. We wished he headed the warnings or we wouldn’t be typing this from the life raft – just kidding – we were safe on board Tioga. We were assured of safe passage since at the behest of the captain, Dan and Peter placed coins under the mast during the last refit and the novenas offered by Lisa and Peter at the local church on Ile aux Sailors.
At one point, Steve smelled bleach and assumed the Clorox tanker was bearing down on us. But in fact it was Lisa bringing the boat to a higher standard of microbiological cleanliness.
We continued to sail through dense fog and enjoyed a feast of Grandma Muzziolis chicken cutlet, rice, and carrots. It will be a cold wet night but the crew of Tioga is ready.

Island of tides

We arrived in France about 9am and tied up at the Yacht Club of Saint Pierre. Yes, there are French territorial islands just off the coast of Canada.
The town was beautiful, a cross between New England and European architecture with Caribbean colors. We checked in with Immigrations, then Customs. Lisa our resident Mass State Trooper traded patches – receiving the National and Local border control patches for hers. The Customs agents were friendly and provided information on the local restaurants and markets. We headed into town for breakfast, but found many places closed and settled in at a nice cafe.
We returned to Tioga and the crew was able to shower, finally. Dan decides to do a quick load of laundry – 2 hours later, having difficulty opening the dryer door, ready to peel it open with a crowbar, the nice woman at the desk came to assist – European dryers must open differently than those in the US.

The crew headed back to town and split up – Philip and Peter went on a hike into the hills to launch Moby for some aerial recon and photos. Lisa, Dan, and Steve went to a local pub to check out the beverages. Difficulties with Moby, was the only disappointment of the hike. The top of the hillside provided spectacular views of the town, the coast, and islands.
The crew reunited at a local street party with live band and drinks. At 7:30 we headed to dinner where special guest chef Stephan Ro-Bear made an appearance. The crew dined on escargot, scallops, smoked cod, and redfish. We stopped back in the pub for a nightcap (or 2) and headed back to Tioga for a well deserved sleep sans watches.

We awoke this morning to dense fog and headed to breakfast at one of the recommended restaurants. It turned out they served toast, croissants, and baguettes – that was it.
We took a water-taxi to Ile aux Marins – Island of Tides. This small island, with 20 year round residents is like stepping back in time. The only vehicles on the island are a 4 wheeler and a few sit-n-ride lawn mowers. We visited a fort (4 cannons), a shipwreck (20 feet of the bow), a church and graveyard. Very similar to Cuttyhunk with its small houses, abundant vegetation, and ocean views. The crew agreed this island was a highlight. We enjoyed a nice lunch at the island’s restaurant and museum and boarded the ferry back to Saint Pierre and another night of fine local hospitality.