Delivering Cape Sable Grace from Ingomar, Nova Scotia to Beaufort, North Carolina

The vast majority of new yachts are delivered to their owner by transport truck or cargo ship, it’s not often a small yacht is delivered by sea from her builder’s yard directly to the owner’s homeport, especially if that entails a maiden voyage of 900 miles non-stop on the turbulent North Atlantic.  For most boat owners coastal cruising means waiting for good weather in order to make a calm passage, but when a delivery is what’s required, you need a boat that can stay at sea and take whatever comes along.  This was the case for the 45′ Trawler Yacht Cape Sable Grace in the fall of 2005.  The destination was the owner’s homeport of Oriental, located on the Neuse River in North Carolina.

Cape Sable Grace was the first trawler yacht built by Wade Goulden at his boat shop in Ingomar, Nova Scotia.  From his early days working with his father on the fishing boat “Mystic Wave” Wade Goulden knew he wanted to become a boat builder.  In 1999 he started his company, Apple Island Marine, named after a small island nearby.  Based on his experience with commercial boats, Wade knew the type of fishing boat he was building would make an excellent platorm for a rugged offshore trawler yacht.  At the same time as Wade was developing his yacht design, Skip Roofer was looking for a seaworthy offshore yacht.  A friend suggested Skip check out the Maritime Provinces of Canada because of the region’s reputation for building solid seagoing vessels.  Skip visited several yards in Nova Scotia and after seeing a commercial hull at Wade’s shop that he thought looked promising, he bagan to explore the possibility of having a custom yacht designed and built.  Wade suggested a test drive in a Cape Island 45 fishing boat, which had been built by Apple Island the year before.  During this trip the wind was blowing at a brisk 25 knots and the seas were choppy, yet a full cup of coffee sitting on the wheelhouse table wasn’t spilled.  Skip looked at his wife Jill and said, “That would never happen in our old trawler”.  The hull had demonstrated it had the stability, comfort and safety they were looking for.

Wade points out that due to the evolution in their design, the fishing boats used now are much more capable than those of just a few years ago.  In his opinion, widening the stern has given the boats much more stability, while the slightly cutaway forefoot common on Cape Islanders, discourages bow steering in following seas.  These developments in hull shape allow fishermen to venture out in conditions that would have kept their boats firmly tied to the dock just a few years ago.  These heavily built boats can take a lot of punishment and for recreational use they can definitely take more than their owners, as Skip was to find out.

With the boat launched and sea trials completed, Skip was keen to get his new boat home to her berth in North Carolina.  Wade agreed to come along on the delivery, no doubt a reassuring sign of confidence for the new owner.  They departed on a cool windy day and it didn’t take long for conditions to deteriorate, with the wind building to 25 – 30 knots out of the southwest.  It began to look like they would have a long night ahead, so Wade asked if Skip wanted to seek shelter at West Head on Cape Sable Island, but Skip said no, they should keep going in order to stay on schedule.  Once clear of Seal Island, the southernmost point of Nova Scotia, they plotted a direct course for Beaufort, NC.  This meant staying at least 150 miles offshore for most of the trip and rounding the Diamond Shoals off notorious Cape Hatteras, rather than entering Chesapeake Bay at Norfolk and taking the sheltered, but slower Intra Coastal Waterway route.  In Nova Scotia we talk of Sable Island as being the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”, well if shear number of vessels lost is the determining factor, the Cape Hatteras wins hands down, with some 2000 vessels lost since records began in the 16th century*.  Once they were fully committed to the offshore run, the weather continuted to deteriorate.  Visibility was limited as the stout vessel plowed into oncoming waves.  More than once, as the boat would drop off the crest of a wave and plunge into the trough, Skip would say “Oh my boat, my boat!”  Wade was not concerned, he the Grace could take all she was getting and a lot more.  Some 25 years at sea meant he knew what to expect and had complete confidence in the boats he built.  What they were encountering was nothing unusual for a commercial fishing boat built to work the Southwest Nova Scotia lobster season, which doesn’t beging until November!  At their worst the winds reached 50 knots with some heavy seas up to 25 feet.  Although Skip succumbed to seasickness, he stood his watch nevertheless.  At one point the tender began to show signs of breaking loose.  In spite of the rough conditions, the boat’s inherent stability allowed Wade and Skip to lash the tender down without undo risk or stress.  In due course winds began to die down, seas diminished and things began to settle down allowing the crew to cook breakfast and get some needed rest.

Once they entered the Gulf Stream the water temperature reached 85 degrees F.  Cape Hatteras was in a kind mood as the Grace rounded Diamond Shoals and they made the entrance to Beaufort harbour with no further drama.  From there it was a short run north on the Intra Coastal waterway to the owner’s homeport of Oriental.  When Wade asked Skip if he was sorry they hadn’t spent the night at West Head, Skip’s reply was emphatic, “No.  I’m glad we kept going, because now I know what she can take.”  Whatever Skip’s future plans for the Cape Sable Grace, he now has the confidence that his yacht, with her Nova Scotia workboat heritage, can take whatever comes along.

* Although the number of vessels lost on Sable Island is less than on Cape Hatteras, the loss of life may be greater due to the Island’s remote location, over 100 miles offshore.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Hatteras: “Graveyard of the Atlantic“.