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The Top Three Sailing Destinations in the World

Adventurer, sailor, and travel writer Ella Jameson writes:

Most of us dream of hitting the open water for a sailing trip, whether it’s an indefinite voyage around the world or a brief boating trip. Sightseeing by boat allows you to discover a secret side to your location as opposed to flying directly to your destination and missing everything in between. So whether you’ve been sailing all your life and are serious about undertaking a nautical adventure or are just daydreaming for the time being, what are the very best sailing destinations in the world?

The Greek Islands

The siren-like call of the Greek islands is unparalleled. Combining enthralling history with magnificent scenery, the variety on offer here is truly remarkable. With approximately 6,000 islands in Greece to explore you could spend a lifetime cruising these legendary waters and not get bored. With more coastline than any other European country, each inhabited island has its own unique character and every harbour you dock at offers sailors a whole new adventure.

Sailing along the legendary Ionian Sea.Sailing along the legendary Ionian Sea. Image by OliverC999

From the green fertility of the Ionian Isles to the hot black sand of the Cyclades, exploring the islands from the water allows you to see more of Greece than you ever could from land. Cruise at your own leisure, stopping off for meze and ouzo in the traditional waterfront villages and swimming in secluded coves… the Greek Isles really were made to sail.

 

The Cyclades may be the most popular group of islands and for good reason. With some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world, whitewashed villages teetering on the edge of sheer cliffs, and colourful fishing boats bobbing on the sparkling blue Aegean Sea, this is archetypal Greece at its best. With wonderful Santorini, Mykonos and Naxos all within easy sailing distance, the only thing difficult about creating an island-hopping itinerary here is deciding which islands not to visit.

Sailing info to know: The best time to sail is June to September, although be aware that many of the Greek islands lie in the path of the Meltemi wind, which can reach Force 7 and above. The Meltemi usually starts in late June and will come and go until September.

Sample Cyclades Itinerary:
Piraeus marina – Kea (Tzia) Island: 42 miles
Kea Island – Mykonos Island: 57 miles
Mykonos Island – Naoussa (Paros Island): 30 miles
Paros Island — Los: 27 miles
Los – Santorini Island — Los: 22 miles
Los – Sifnos Island: 40 miles
Sifnos Island – Serifos Island: 20 miles

Greek Waters Pilot

 

Greek Waters Pilot

The French Riviera

What could be more romantic than sailing along the French Riviera and discovering the hidden gems of this beautiful and glamorous destination? Sailing along the French Riviera gives you easy access to France, Italy and Monaco, and so the location is also a foodie’s dream.

Boat lovers will be in their element in Monte Carlo. Boat lovers will be in their element in Monte Carlo. Image by trishhartmann

Whether you’re interested in art treasures, ancient ruins or modern, luxurious casinos, the French Riviera has something for every preference. Unspoilt beaches and traditional fishing villages are just as prevalent as the vibrant cosmopolitan resorts of Cannes, Nice, St. Tropez and Monte Carlo.

A visit to Monaco is a must for any yacht enthusiast; the Monaco Yacht Show is held every September and is an exceptional chance to admire some of the most luxurious and expensive boats in the world. Monte Carlo’s Port Hercules is known for its impressive avenues of superyachts, so docking here is a nautical experience in itself.

Sailing info to know: The best time to sail is April to November, when the wind seldom is too strong. The French Riviera is sheltered from inland winds so the sea is usually quiet and the tides and currents generally minor.

Sample Riviera Itinerary:
Antibes – St Tropez: 30 miles
St-Tropez – Porquerolles: 45 miles
Porquerolles – Cannes: 50 miles
Cannes – Cap d’Antibes: 8 miles
Cap d’Antibes – Villefranche: 12 miles
Villefranche – St-Jean Cap Ferrat: 5 miles
St-Jean Cap Ferrat – Monte-Carlo: 5 miles

France Pilot

 

 

 

Mediterranean France & Corsica Pilot

The Windward Islands

Exploring the Caribbean from the Grenadines.Exploring the Caribbean from the Grenadines. Image by Jason Pratt

You can’t consider the best sailing destinations in the world without looking at the Caribbean, and the Windward Islands compromise of some of the region’s most beautiful counties, including Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent, The Grenadines and Grenada.

 

With crystal clear waters, pristine white sand beaches, remote anchorages and hidden coves, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more idyllic setting for a sailing trip. The Grenadines by themselves boast 30 stunning islands and uncountable sandbars and cays, so you could spend weeks just exploring this island range without wanting to move on. But from this tropical destination the Caribbean really is your oyster, and with plentiful opportunities for diving and snorkelling in the warm, turquoise ocean, a boat is undoubtedly the best method of exploring this paradise.

 

Sailing info to know: The trade winds that blow all year round give this region a warm, pleasant climate which barely varies. May and June have the most rain, but storms and showers pass through quickly. The coolest time to sail is between September and May when temperatures hover around 21-24°C (70-75°F) as opposed to 27–29°C (80-85°F) in the summer months.

 

Sample Windward Islands Itinerary:

Martinique – Marigot Bay (St Lucia): 40 miles
Marigot Bay – Soufriere: 10 miles
Soufriere – St Vincent: 25 miles
St Vincent – Bequia: 9 miles
Bequia – Mustique: 14 miles
Mustique – Canouan: 15 miles
Canouan – Mayreau: 5 miles
Mayreau – Tobago Cays and Horseshoe Reef: 3 miles
Tobago Cays – Petit St Vincent: 8 miles
Petit St Vincent – Carriacou: 9 miles
Carriacou – Grenada: 40 miles

Windward Island Guide

 

Sailor’s Guide to the Windward Islands

 

 

 

The Franklin Expedition

The Nautical Mind Bookstore is happy to welcome Sam McLean and his extensive knowledge of nautical history aboard. In his first blog post, he discusses the exciting recent Franklin discovery.

NW-Passage2014 is an extremely important year for history, especially the history of exploration. This year, a joint expedition that included the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Coast Guard, Parks Canada, and other organizations have found one of Captain Sir John Franklin’s ships, which were lost in September 1846. After Franklin’s expedition went missing, numerous other expeditions were launched to try to find and or rescue them, sent by the Admiralty and Lady Franklin. The location of Franklin’s ships, and their fate, and the specific fate of the expedition members has been an incredible mystery that only this summer we have come closer to solving. The location of the Terror or the Erebus in the Queen Maud Gulf presents archaeologists with an incredibly important trove of physical artifacts that can be used to explore questions not only about the Franklin expedition, but about exploration and other important related questions as well. If the wreck can be retrieved, it would be at least as significant as the raising of the Mary Rose from the Solent. The amazingly clear images from the sea floor mean that there can be detailed investigations even if the wreck cannot be salvaged. There is just so much that can be learned that from a archaeological and historical point of view, the location of the wreck is worth far more than the mere financial cost of the exploration.

There are a number of excellent books that provide different perspectives on Franklin’s Expedition.

For our youngest readers, consider Northwest Passage. Beautifully illustrated by Matt James, it provides a stunning and child-friendly introduction to the Arctic, using the lyrics of Stan Rogers’ iconic song. For more adventurous readers, check out Francis Hern’s Arctic Explorers: In Search of the Northwest Passage and Martin W Sandler’s Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin, and the Discovery of the Queen’s Ghost Ship.A more modern tale of Arctic Exploration is James Delgado’s Arctic Workhorse: The RCMP Schooner St Roch.

Tall Ship to Charlottetown: Pictou, Knives, & Ink (& Books)

Panorama Gaspe Peninsula

Panorama Gaspe Peninsula

lifering 

We have arrived in Pictou, home of East Coast hospitality, endless pier side mackerel fishing and Grohmann rigging knives. Our straight shot didn’t quite end up that way. After two days on the water and nearing the mouth of the Saint Lawrence we watched the wind and waves pick up as we received a negative forecast for the conditions around Gaspe.

 

 

Setting the Main

Setting the Main

Putting a reef in the main

Putting a reef in the main

It was decided, since we were close to one of the last ports large enough to enter, that we should pull in and wait for conditions to clear. Mist of Avalon, I am sure, has seen her fair share of weather but we decided to pay heed to the classic adage about “discretion being the better part of valour” and made a well executed, nighttime docking (including a spreader lighted launch of our zodiac out in the river for an initial scouting mission) at the hereto unknown port of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. Sainte-Anne’s is a small Quebecois town on the south side of the river’s mouth. Previous to our arrival none of us had ever been to Sainte-Anne but as morning dawned a quaint hamlet emerged from the darkness. Sitting at the end of the government pier we watched as people flocked to the dock in order to socialize and fish. Never ones to waste time, we spent the day on repairs and maintenance not possible at sea. We are really starting to get to know Mist, who has thrown us a few challenges along the way as we’ve become accustomed to her, every boat has their particularities, you must learn to speak their individual language. Loki for his part was happy for the unexpected landing, since his puppy energy is only amplified after days without a proper walk.

Sainte-Anne-des-Monts

Sainte-Anne-des-Monts 

Working while underway

Working while underway

 

 

By the next evening skies had cleared and with a fair forecast 04:00am was set as our departure time to make way for Pictou once again. After standing deck watch from 12:00am till 04:00am and helping castoff I trundled to bed only to wake to the news that I had missed one of our closest animal encounters yet, giant tuna racing off our bow. Whales were spotted on our port quarter later that day but they were much too far away for photos. Mostly we saw birds and as we left the mouth of the St. Lawrence we began seeing Northern Gannets with their long white wingspans and sleek yellow capped heads.

 

Sunset near Gaspe

Sunset near Gaspe

 

Sunset on the sails

Sunset on the sails

 

Our timing could not have been more perfect as we rounded Gaspe. We reached the rugged the peninsula just as the sun began sinking low in the west and sailed between Bonaventure Island (which hosts a large Northern Gannet colony) and Perce Rock under the rich red glow of the day’s last rays. The whole crew spent the evening seated on the aft deck taking pictures and enjoying a spectacular display of nature’s beauty.

 

 

 

 

Perce Rock

Perce Rock

A lobster boat in the Northumberland Strait

A lobster boat in the Northumberland Strait

We spent that night in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence bound for the Northumberland Strait. The next morning Prince Edward Island appeared off our port bow, low and green, barely more than a strip against the sky and the sea. We spent the day teasing Sam, our P.E.I local, about the possibility that P.E.I could ever have their own ski hill which she states even hosts a lift! Most of that afternoon was spent dodging the thousands of lobster pots that litter the strait, making it impossible for us to maintain a proper course line. At one point we were even forced to stop, hove to and turn our engine off while Nick made the great sacrifice of jumping in the cold Atlantic waters to make sure our prop and shaft were not tangled in an errant line, below the water line until just before passing over it. Thankfully we were all clear. By that evening we made another well-timed sunset pass under the Confederation Bridge.

 

Fishing off Pictou Pier

Fishing off Pictou Pier

The next morning we made our way into the little harbor of Pictou for a few days of maintenance and repairs before appearing at the tall ship festival in Charlottetown. Pictou is a cute village, full of classic east coast clapboard houses and steepled churches. The government wharf, our home for the week, was again a hub of activity. People were hauling in mackerel by the hundreds and we were kindly offered a dinners worth by a local fisherman that Tim gutted with his new folding Grohmann knife and Jason cooked up on the BBQ. It was also in Pictou that we sadly lost our cook to the ending of the summer, Louisa had to head back home to start the school year and to help her son off for his first year of university.

Max and his best bud

Max and his best bud

Nick working in Mist’s rig

Nick working in Mist’s rig

 

During our time in Pictou we were able to accomplish a lot of general maintenance around Mist, from giving her bulwarks and masts a good coat of paint to rigging up new lazy jacks for the fore sail and rerunning some of her plumbing.

 

 

Nick and Tim picking their knives

Nick and Tim picking their knives

 

 

The Grohmann Store

The Grohmann Stor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside of all of the errands and work we had time to look around Pictou, which of course included a few trips to the Grohmann factory store. Grohmann Knives is a local Pictou business that produces high quality stainless steel knives including rigging knives, a must have for any tall ship sailor. Mine was stolen years ago from the aft deck of a tall ship I worked on so I took this opportunity to purchase a new one, while almost every other member of the crew picked up something for themselves.

Nick in front of some flash

Nick in front of some flash

Sailor Jerry Swallow

Sailor Jerry Swallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jason and a few of his collection

Jason and a few of his collection

Our Skipper Jason was also happy to hear that legendary old school Nova Scotia tattoo artist Sailor Jerry Swallow was working only one town over. So one day Nick, Jason and I piled into a cab and found ourselves in New Glasgow at Vintage Tattoos where Jason was able to add to his classic collection of old school tattoos by getting a ‘Rose of No Man’s Land’ on the front of his leg.

 

All in all the crew of Mist had a great week in Pictou and a little rest up before the hectic hubbub of the Charlottetown festival. I would be remiss if not to mention the wonderful hospitality of the Pictou population, we met with nothing but help and offers of assistance. Foremost among these were Dean and his wife Colleen. Dean would arrive every morning in order to take us for a Tim Horton’s coffee run and often came back in the evening to see if we needed anything else. He also surprised us with a trunk full of firewood (which we have put to good use during a cold spell in Charlottetown) and a loaf of Colleen’s fresh bread and a jar of mustard pickles (which Max put on everything for a week!)

 

Dean getting ready to cast us off

Dean getting ready to cast us off

Finally it was time for us to depart and head to Charlottetown for their 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference celebration, so with Dean casting off our lines we head out for a quick run across the strait where our fellow tall ships awaited. And since we were headed for P.E.I, Sam’s home, I thought she would be the perfect candidate for a few questions to end this blog with.

 

 

Sunset as we neared Charlottetown

Sunset as we neared Charlottetown

 

Sam and Loki

Sam and Loki

Q: What made you fall in love with sailing once you were aboard Sorlandet (Class Afloat)?
A: It was when we were crossing the Atlantic for the first time. When you are in the open ocean there is nothing around you and coming from the country it is a little bit the same there are big open skies full of stars and you feel so small. Also the team work on board was great, you learn to count on other people, it is a very special environment.

Q: A favorite sailing moment?
A: I was always on the morning watch my second semester on Sorlandet and they would send us up at sunrise to set the royals (the highest sails on the mast) and when we were crossing the Atlantic being up there at sunrise was just an incredible feeling.

Q: What have you learned on this trip so far?
A: So much…. A lot about about different sailing vessels, Mist is a Schooner whereas Sorlandet was a fully rigged ship. Chart work, how different sails work, a bit about systems and the engine. The navigation aspect has been really interesting.

Q: Where do you hope to go with sailing in the future.
A: I would like to work for a program like Class Afloat, continue on in sort form of a sail training enviroment.

 

 Book Recommendations

  • Seamanship in the age of SailBy John Harland
    A classic book! A detailed account of ship handling of the sailing man-of-war between 1600-1860 that includes a wealth of other basic, important information about sailing history, sailing mechanics and navigation. [Criminally, this book is out of print.  — Ed.]
  • Chart No 1. – Published by the Canadian Hydrographic Service
    A necessary companion to navigation, describes all the symbols, abbreviations and terms found on nautical charts
  • Sailing Directions – Published by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    Describes areas of the coast, such as all ports of call and includes photos and descriptions of ports and their entrances (was definitely employed before our approach to Sainte-Anne-des-Monts). (Relevant Sailing Directions: ATL110)

Tall Ship to Charlottetown (w books)

Talented illustrator, skilled woodworker, and bookstore pal Erin Philp is heading from Toronto to Charlottetown on the schooner Mist of Avalon.  She sent us some great pics and stories to go with them. She’ll send more soon.

Mist of Avalon at Anchor

Mist of Avalon sitting at anchor

As I write this I can hear the gentle lapping of water against the hull as we motor past the outskirts of Montreal. We have just left the last lock of the St. Lawrence Seaway behind us and are heading for the open ocean. My name is Erin Philp and I am currently crewing aboard the hundred-foot Schooner, named Mist of Avalon, as she makes the round trip journey from Toronto to P.E.I and back again. Mist (as I will be calling her) is honored to be a part of a tall ship festival in Charlottetown P.E.I that will run from August 28th to 31st as well as a connected festival in Quebec City from September 5th to 7th. During our voyage so far, Mist has also been the set for a television series named Helix, filmed in and around Montreal. Now we are back on the water and making way after three days spent amongst the exciting chaos of a giant film production, where Mist was overrun with extras covered in grotesque boils and pustule wounds.

 

Loki running down the side deck

Loki running down the side deck

Continue reading

Some Ontario Sailor Book Reviews

Book Reviews from the Latest Ontario Sailor Magazine:

 

A Storm Too Soon
By Michael Tougias

Three men were set to cross the Atlantic from Jacksonville to the Mediterranean in May 2007 and sailed north on the Gulf Stream until a storm turned the seas near Cap Hatteras into something resembling the inside of a washing machine. Waves reaching 75 ft. battered the 44-ft. Beneteau and the sailboat ended up sinking, with the crew, including Ottawa-area resident Rudy Snel who sailed on the Ottawa River, scrambling into a life raft. The three clung on during the raging storm until the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter responded to an emergency beacon call and attempted a rescue in the huge seas, threatening the life of the rescuers. This is the story of how these three survived the ordeal, although the storm caught three other boats near them also in a Mayday situation, with only six crew of 10 on these other boats surviving. The three men did everything right, preparing the boat and leaving before the start of hurricane season and, in the end, were lucky to be plucked from the sea. The author has written 20 books, some of other harrowing rescues at sea, and now lectures on these and other killer storms.

 

Jack Tar and the Baboon Watch
By Captain Frank Lanier

The author spent more than 20 years compiling nautical trivia in his career with the U.S. Coast Guard, which was published in bits and pieces over the years in newsletters on the various ships he sailed on. He squirreled away all of these trivia pieces and has now collected the information for this book. It’s more than a nautical dictionary, and is full of curious maritime stories, words and phrases that are now part of the English language. For example, you can read about Captain Fudge who gave us the term to “fudge” or lie about something and the phrase “square meal” for a hearty dinner that comes from the square, wooden plates once used aboard old ships. The title of the book comes from the term Jack Tar, which stands for an everyday sailor (and resulted in other words like jackhammer, jackknife, etc), and baboon watch, which is the worst watch of all for a seaman because it happens when the boat is in port, and they can’t leave. The various nautical words, terms and trivia are listed alphabetically, and there are some interesting stories behind everyday words — like pale ale, by and large, bigwigs and son of a gun.

 

Shipwrecks of Lake Erie
By David Frew

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and storms and fog can hit with very little warning, making this body of water one of the most treacherous in the world and the perfect setting for a book on shipwrecks, says author David Frew, a university professor and researcher who grew up on the lake’s shoreline in Erie, Pennsylvania. He found himself unfulfilled writing textbooks and research papers until a chance meeting with Canadian Dave Stone, who lived on the shores of Long Point and liked to research pieces of old ships that drifted to shore during storms. They wrote books on the shipwrecks that they researched and now Frew has revised and updated a book they published together in 1993 called The Lake Erie Quadrangle: Waters of Repose. This latest version includes stories on yachts, commercial fishing and excursion boats, and covers the quadrangle area of the lake that stretches for 2,500 miles either side of Long Point where 429 ships perished, says insurance firm Lloyd’s of London. There’s a story on the lake’s first shipwreck in 1813 of schooner Amelia and the “unsinkable” James B. Colgate, and others.

 

All Standing
Kathryn Miles

They were called “coffin” ships because of the one million Irish immigrants who came to North America aboard these old sailing ships during the Great Potato famine in the 1840s more than 100,000 would die on the voyage. The potato famine was thought to have been caused by a fungus-like microorganism in bat and seabird guano that was part of fertilizer that originated in South America and sent through the U.S. to Ireland. The famine killed one million Irish, who didn’t make it on one of the transport ships, some dilapidated, for the arduous journey across the Atlantic to the New World. One of these so-called famine ships, the Jeanie Johnston built in Quebec, made 11 trips and remarkably didn’t lose a soul in any of the crossings. Author Kathryn Miles, a sailor based in Maine and writing professor at Unity College, recounts what went right for the crew on this ship and how no one died during the voyage. This is an engaging and happy story in a sea of misery.

 

Life Boat
Mark Harwood

Canadian sailor Mark Harwood went to England with his British wife and two young children and after a separation found himself gravitating to a boatyard in Bristol. He spotted a 100-year old leaking lifeboat called The Arab and announced that he was going to sail the boat to the Mediterranean. He was joined by first mate, Karen, who would later join him in Canada where they settled in a cabin Mark had built before he left Canada to raise his children and some goats. The sail from England saw the couple battle late-season gales and hampered by ice in France. They made some minor mistakes that resulted in major mishaps along the way. The couple spent some time fixing up the boat and sewing their own sails before leaving Bristol in August 2003. Ten years later they had sold their boat and were based in Canada, where Mark wrote of their journey from England to the Med. The story is personal, and a tad long and could be shortened.

Transport Canada Exam & Certificate Guide Updated

We’ve just updated our popular and import Transport Canada Exam & Certificate Guide to reflect our current understanding of the requirements and of the editions currently available to help professional mariners study.  [Thanks Rhys! -Ed.]

If there’s any area you’d particularly like to see expanded, or would like to contribute, please let us know.

Rough Seas, Lee Shores, 20% Off.

Lee Shore Sale
20% Off Most Items In-Store

Visit us in person before August 1st
and get a 20% discount on just about anything in the store
(*some exceptions apply, including charts,
cruising guides, & professional texts)

Please Tell all Your Shipmates
& Yacht Club Pals!

We Hope to See You Soon

 

Sailors have been flocking to our store on the shores of Toronto Harbour for books, charts, guidance, and yarns since 1980. As one of Queen’s Quay’s longest-lived establishments, and as a “candy store”-like environment for mariners, we’ve become a natural meeting spot and destination.  For the past couple of years though, disruptive street construction has made it harder to reach us. The late, lamented storefront of our neighbour The Dock Shoppe was an early casualty of this familiar Toronto story, and the number of people coming through our own door has dropped very noticeably.  Fortunately, we’ve got a pretty good website, and people near and far are keeping us mostly afloat with mail-orders (many thanks).

Nautical disorder in front of the former Dock Shoppe.  This is now a Tim Hortons. :/Part of the whole point of a neat little local nautical bookstore, though, is having a place for people to go to get advice on trips, find the right chartbooks, and run in to other sailors.  Our website can’t quite offer that, and some days our storefront feels like a shipping warehouse. So we’d like to invite everyone down to our sale.

Press Gang: We’re Hiring. Join the Nautical Mind Crew!

The Nautical Mind Bookstore is looking for a new crew member to work a couple of days a week, starting in September extending ideally for several years, depending on circumstances.

The job involves helping customers in the store, on the phone, and online find the right books, charts, and cruising guides for their needs, and getting said items to them.  Detailed knowledge of boats, books, the implacable heart of the sea, and navigation would be a great boon, as would a facility and comfort with computers, and an ability to learn and problem solve, specifically with respect to fiendish logistical problems. An interest in writing blog posts and/or engaging in social media would be nice but isn’t mandatory, as would comfort around scrappy little sea dogs. Flexible availability, including weekends would be helpful as the scheduling gods are as fickle and capricious as a sea breeze.

The Nautical Mind is a positive and inclusive workspace where the traits, skills, and contributions of all are acknowledged and respected.  It’s a unique local niche bookstore focussed on a deeply fascinating subject matter.

If you’re interested, please send your resume and a cover letter to books@nauticalmind.com, subject: “Press Gang”.