Friday, August 26, 2016


Map of our route for this blog post

During our hour and a half in St. Peters, we got a holding tank pump out, topped our fuel tanks, bought groceries and filled one of our galley propane tanks. Then Tug’n, Wings and Sir Tugley Blue were off, through the St Peters Canal and lock, out across Chedabucto Bay and out into the Atlantic Ocean to head west southwest down the coast of Nova Scotia. 

Technically, this is our first outing in the Atlantic Ocean and she was kind to us for our introduction. If you let your mind wander, you realize, far off to our port side (left), the ocean stretches all the way to Europe. That is a lot of open water! For sea conditions, we had 1 to 2 meter ocean swells from two directions - from the east and from the south. The good news was those ocean swells were well spread out. Also, there was a 10 to 15 knot wind from the northwest providing “wind waves” of 1/2 meter from that direction. Our course was west south west and while those swells and wind waves sound like a confused sea, it was really quite comfortable. Occasionally the swells combined to give the boat a big lift and it felt like our bow was briefly pointing up to the sky to climb on top of the water. 

Along our 36 nautical mile trip to our anchorage at Yankee Cove I spotted a thin black and rather straight fin at the surface of the water (for about 4 seconds), about 30 feet off the side of our boat and I immediately thought shark. But looking at pictures in our cruising guide later, it was the wrong colour for a shark, it was too small a fin for a killer whale and it was straighter than the fin of a porpoise so I have absolutely no idea what it was, other than exciting.

Our anchorage at Yankee Cove was interesting. We entered a low tide so the shoreline was strewn with rocks covered in seaweed, reminding us that we were back in tides of about 5 1/2 feet as compared to about 6” in the Bras D’Or Lakes. The ever present evergreen forest covered the surrounding land. The spruce beetle attacked and killed many of the spruce trees some time ago and about 30% of the forest is dead, providing a rather unique look. There was an oyster aquaculture farm in the cove and we shared the anchorage with one other sailboat. It was a lovely and quiet evening, perfect for cooking our maple glaze salmon dinner on the BBQ. 

Sunset in Yankee Cove - oyster aquaculture in

Saturday August 20: Today’s destination was Shelter Cove in Popes Harbour, about 71 nautical miles further along the Nova Scotia coast. Locally, the anchorage is known as Sally’s Cove. Once again, it was a lovely cruising day with somewhat smaller ocean swells and light wind waves. Watching the shoreline pass by, one couldn’t help but think of the immense challenge for early explorers from France, England and elsewhere attempting to navigate this rock strewn shoreline with its seemingly infinite number of islands, inlets, rocks and shoals, some just above the waters surface and some much scarier ones just below the surface. Tides, currents, plus fog, rain and mist would be serious obstacles to a safe passage along the shore. We learned at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic that there are well over 10,000 wrecks along the shores of Nova Scotia and its possibly as many as 25,000. Those navigators and captains of centuries passed would surely marvel at today’s electronic navigation tools with chart plotters, radar, depth sounders and auto pilots allowing us straightforward navigation to each days destination. 

Shelter Cove was recommended by our sailing friend Denis as a favourite. Indeed, it is a well named anchorage providing tremendous protection from the wind and seas and surrounding us with lovely scenery. It was a rather late arrival, but we fit in a short happy hour aboard Wings. We stayed put in Shelter Cove on Sunday and after completing some boat chores unique to salt water cruising (clean and wax stainless steel railings and fittings), we toured around the area by dinghy including a nearby beach that locals picnic at. We had a Happy Hour and game of Sequence aboard Tug’n. 

We’d heard about another lovely beach one could explore by going to the head of the cove we were anchored in and traversing a 200 meter piece of land. This was apparently best done at low tide, so when the water rose, your dingy would be floating, rather than beaching your dinghy in a falling tide and not being able to drag it back in the water when you returned. So, after dinner, we went off to see this beach. We got our dinghy within 10 feet of shore and it hit bottom. I climbed into the water with water sandals and found myself ankle deep in black muck and quickly concluded this was not a great idea. I pushed the dinghy around and back into deeper water and with some difficulty got back in with muck covering me from my toes to my knees and making a colossal mess of our dinghy. Not all adventures end well…

Shelter Cove at low tide - seaweed covered rocks

Monday August 22nd. As usual, we studied the forecast first thing and then had a three way VHF radio discussion to make a travel decision. Our next destination was Halifax and the forecast would put the ocean swells on our stern corner resulting in a significant rolling, corkscrew kind of motion of our boat while underway. While the forecast was not great, it was much better than the next three days, so, at 0900 hours, we raised anchor and were on our way with Sir Tugley Blue and Wings. After a short while, Sir Tugley decided they’d return to the Shelter Cove anchorage. For the first few hours, about every fifth swell would give us a really good roll of up to 26 degrees to one side or the other, which can be quite tiring. We experimented with different speeds and concluded about 7.2 knots was significantly more comfortable than 8 knots. The further we went along, we were on a more westerly course and the ride gradually got more comfortable. 

About an hour before the entrance to Halifax Harbour, I spotted a new target on our radar about three miles ahead of us and I started to “track” it with the radar tracking feature. Because of mist and light fog, we could not see it with our eyes. A minute later I was shocked to see the radar reported the target was moving at 81 knots and was off my screen in no time at all. The answer came shortly afterwards as the blip turned out to be a military helicopter. A little while later we came upon a smoke flare on the water that the helicopter had dropped and they were practicing approaching the flare and hovering about 50 feet above the water. There is always something interesting to observe on the water.

Entering Halifax Harbour is exciting. We saw two cruise ships tied up at the downtown Halifax piers as well as several container ships at the commercial harbour. The city of Halifax is located on a peninsula. Downtown Halifax and its commercial harbour are on one side of the peninsula and several yacht clubs, rowing clubs and fabulous residential housing/mansions are on the other side on what is called the Northwest Arm. Originally, at the suggestion of our friend Denis, we’d planned on staying at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron on a mooring. However, on entering the harbour, the south east wind was causing waves to move up the Northwest Arm and it would cause quite a bit of wave slapping on the hard chines on our hull making a lot of interior noise for sleeping. We decided to go all the way to the end of the Northwest Arm to Armdale Yacht Club and took a mooring there with a little better wave protection. The trip up the Northwest Arm was amazing as we gawked at the waterfront properties along both sides. We had no idea Halifax was so picturesque. 

Beautiful properties along Northwest Arm

Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron

Denis had offered to take us around town by car to do our chores. He picked us up at 0930 and in the space of two hours we bought groceries, filled a BBQ propane tank, got a haircut for Fran, picked up beer, got cash from the bank, visited Canadian Tire and got back to the boat. What a wonderful treat that was as normally these activities might take a whole day. That left our afternoon open for a trip into downtown where we met Bob & Jan from Wings for a lovely lunch at the Bicycle Thief restaurant on the waterfront. After that, we did a tour of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. This wonderful museum included presentations/displays on:
  • Days of Sail - stories of Nova Scotia’s magnificent sailing vessels
  • Shipwreck Treasures - Nova Scotia has well over 10,000 wrecks (possibly up to 25,000) and an immense amount of underwater archaeology as a result
  • Convoy Exhibit - tells how Nova Scotia helped in the struggle to supply Europe in the face of submarine attacks during World War II
  • Halifax Explosion - a moving exhibit on the 1917 Halifax explosion from the collision of two ships, one loaded with explosives, that levelled a large part of the city instantly killing about 2,000 and injuring more than 9,000 residents
  • Navy - an exhibit explaining the early hears of Halifax as a British naval power

and much more. One comes away from this museum with a deeper understanding of the immense seafaring history of Nova Scotia.

Lunch with Bob & Jan at the Bicycle Thief

One of many model ships at Maritime Museum

Canadian Hydrographic Society ship Acadia in service
from 1913 to 1969. Also served in Canadian Navy in
two world wars

Models of complete Canadian Navy (13 vessels) at
the start of WWII. By the end of the war the Canadian
Navy had 452 ships

On Wednesday, after a morning of washing and wiping the boat hull (removing all the salt crystals) we were picked up by Denis for a lunch with he and Denise at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. Their club is sensational, situated on the south side of the Northwest Arm. The club relocated here in the early 1960’s, converting a former lovely residence into a club house, digging out a basin, adding docks, moorings, two swimming pools, a junior sailing school and more. We had lunch out on their patio under a large awning overlooking the boats and the water and had a wonderful time catching up with Denis and Denise. The last time we’d had a get together was about 18 years ago in Oakville.

After lunch, Denis dropped us off at Pier 21.

Fran & I with Denise & Denis

Pier 21 - The Building of Canada
This is another wonderful museum managed by Parks Canada. Pier 21 was the gateway for over 1 million immigrants from Europe from 1928 to 1971. They all arrived by ship and were processed (medical, immigration, customs, temporary housing and for those headed beyond Halifax they would board the train right beside the warehouse for points west). 

We were particularly impressed that the museum told the whole story, acknowledging what an enormous impact European immigration had on the First Nations population, who had inhabited what is now Canada for thousands of years before. Additional and notable components of the museum included:
  • A video made up of interviews with immigrants to Canada covering where they came from, why they came to Canada, how they got to Canada, what their first impressions were, how they landed on their feet and what they are doing today. The stories were very personal and some made you laugh out loud and some made you cry tears of joy and sorrow
  • Explanation and acknowledgement of the abuse of Chinese immigrants brought here to build the railway across Canada and once completed, charging a head tax if they wanted to stay & refusing to give them citizenship or rights
  • Explanation and acknowledgement of the internment of Japanese Canadians during the second world war, confiscating their property and assets and denying them their rights as Canadian citizens
  • Acknowledgement of a variety of exclusionary immigration policies that barred immigration from many countries 
  • Explanation and acknowledgement of racially charged events such as the Christie Pits Riots that pitted Jewish and Italian immigrants against anti immigrant white thugs
  • Detailed explanations of how Canada’s immigration policies evolved over the last 400 years to today’s far more enlightened and equitable policies. 
  • Many examples of how immigrants helped build this country - Canadian Railroads (Chinese and Irish immigrants); Canada’s first subway in Toronto and the Rideau Canal built by Irish immigrants etc
  • Tour guides walked visitors through the process an immigrant would go through and what it was like arriving at Pier 21
In the end, we felt very proud of the Canada we have today and the leadership it is showing with its immigration policies and the contribution immigrants have made to Canada’s rich culture, economy and way of life. 

The sign immigrants to Canada would see upon entry
into Pier 21. Language was a big challenge for the
staff and volunteers

An historical photo of immigrants getting an explanation
on what the process at Pier 21 would be

Thursday August 25, 2016
Today’s main event was touring the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. The site was originally founded in 1749 as a strategic base for the British Royal Navy and a strong counterbalance to the French stronghold in Louisbourg on Cape Breton. The site has been home to four citadels, all built on the same high ground above the original town plot. The first three forts were built of earth and logs and served through the Seven Years War, the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. But after 1815 the British authorities decided that the old wooden forts defending Canada’s strategic strong points should be more powerful and permanent and built of stone. The new and current Citadel was built between 1828 and 1856. The star shaped fortress is formally known as Fort George and its massive masonry construction was designed to repel a land-based attack by Unites States as well as having a clear harbour view. It was inspired by designs during Louis XIV’s time. 

In 1867 British North America became the Dominion of Canada, but the continuing importance of Halifax as a port for the Royal Navy saw British troops remain there until 1906. After that, the Citadel was occupied by the Canadian military and it remained active through two World Wars until 1951 when it was transferred to Parks Canada. Today, as a museum, it is staffed and organized as it would have been in 1869 when Queen Victoria reigned and the new Nation of Canada was just two years old. Exploring the ramparts and tunnels, talking with staff in period clothes and using the interactive tools one gains an understanding of what life was like in this bygone era. 

The combination of visits to the Citadel, the Immigration Museum and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic really gives one great insight into the extremely important role Halifax and Nova Scotia have played in Canada’s history. Each site does a wonderful job of presenting the history and we’ve had a great time enjoying the hospitality of Halifax. 

The adventure continues.

Fran and Judy at entrance to Halifax Citadel

Courtyard inside the Halifax Citadel

Display of WW1 trenches in France

Posing for photo after noon firing of the canon

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