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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Here are the places we travelled during this blog

Monday August 8, 2016
After five days at the St Peters Marina, we were all more than ready to go anchoring and exploring the Bras d’Or Lakes. As you’ll see from the photo below, the Bras d’Or Lakes have a southwest to northeast orientation in valleys carved by the glaciers. While the surrounding oceans of the Atlantic Maritimes have big seas, fog, tides, currents and other navigational challenges, the Bras d’Or Lakes have barely 6” of tide, next to no fog, moderate seas and easy navigation. We’d all been gathering local knowledge from other boaters we’d met at the marina and gradually sifted through the many recommendations to come up with a manageable list of anchorages to choose from. 

Our first anchorage was at Cape George Harbour in St. Peters Inlet, an anchorage favoured by local boaters. It was not particularly attractive and it had a steady stream of boats passing through, so we here happy enough to move on the next day to Little Harbour along the north shore of West Bay. It is a larger anchorage with a narrow entrance providing good protection from all directions. On our first night we were the only four boats in the anchorage. The second night we shared it with a ~55’ Selene trawler and a 90’ Burger yacht, among others. We’ve been surprised by the number of very, very large yachts that come to cruise Cape Breton’s Bras D’Or Lakes. It was delightful to be anchoring again and we kept ourselves busy with a few boat chores/projects and doing some exploring by dinghy as well as happy hours for board games with our gang.

On Thursday August 10th we moved a short distance to explore Malagawatch Harbour, eventually anchoring in River Cove. While it was pretty enough, we woke up the next morning to a deck covered with microscopic bugs the size of finely ground black pepper that were tough to wash away. Also, when raising the anchor we hauled up some sort of large, abandoned aquaculture container for muscles or oysters, which thankfully proved simple to remove. Our next stop for Friday and Saturday was through the Barra Strait into Great Bras d’Or Lake and into  Maskells Harbour. It is a snug, well-sheltered harbour surrounded by high rolling hills with a long, low-lying sand and rock spit almost closing off the entrance. So far, this is about the prettiest anchorage we’ve seen. The water was clear and about 20 degrees C, the sun was bright and warm and the wind was light, making it irresistible, so I gave in an enjoyed my first salt water swim of the summer. Various boats came and when during our two day stay. We were intrigued by a local practice of both sail and power boats to run them up on shore (power boats) or run the keel into the sandy bottom (sail) for a few hours, then back off and head home. An added bonus at Maskells Harbour were the two resident bald eagles who spent hours watching for fish and swooping low over the water to attempt making a catch. They failed to complete a catch while we watched, but based on their healthy glow, we assumed they'd enjoyed reasonable success. 

Tug'n at anchor in Maskells Harbour

Beach combing in Maskells Harbour

Lovely rolling hills in Maskells Harbour. Tug'n,
Encore & Wings in background

On Sunday we made our way to Baddeck for a few days to enjoy this most charming waterfront village and boating centre. Approaching Baddeck one can’t help by notice the lovely large estate on the hill above a point of land called Red Head. It is Beinn Bhreag, the old home of Alexander and Mabel Bell. Baddeck residents are justifiably proud of their former resident whom most know is responsible for inventing the telephone. 

Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Due to health issues experienced by Alex and his brother, the family moved to Brantford, Ontario in 1870 and shortly afterwards Alex moved to Boston to teach. Five years later, he had his telephone invention patented and then spend the next 18 years successfully fighting about 600 lawsuits over his patent. While on holidays in 1885, the Bell family visited Baddeck to see if it was as idyllic as advertised. Falling in love with it, they bought property and built their home and this became Alex’s base for a vast array of inventions over the remaining 37 years of his life. In 1952, some thirty years after his death, his family decided there was so much more to Bell’s life that the public should know, so they donated the bulk of his photos, mementos, gadgets and gizmos to the Canadian Federal Government, who agreed to set up a museum in his honour. 

Parks Canada established the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in 1952. The museum is wonderfully done and contains exhibits and explanations of Bell’s many inventions and experiments, including:
  • Silver Dart - the first controlled powered flight in Canada
  • HD-4 - the hydrofoil that broke a marine speed record
  • experiments in sheep breeding
  • experiments with kite flying 
  • world recognized work in the field of deaf education, Both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing his life’s work. 
  • Bell’s most famous patient was Helen Keller, who came to him as a young child unable to see, hear or speak. She credits Bell with turning her darkness into light
  • Bell strongly believed that with resources and effort, they could teach the deaf to speak and avoid the use of sign language, thus enabling their integration within the wider society from which many were excluded
  • Alex and Mabel Bell’s own grandchildren did not know their grandmother was deaf until after she had died. They all assumed a family practice of taping the table when one was to speak was normal. That tapping action allowed Mabel Bell to know who to watch so she could lip read what they were saying.
  • National Geographic Society - while Bell was not one of the 33 founders, he had a strong influence on the magazine while serving as its second president from January 7, 1898 to 1903
The Museum reveals the extraordinary heart and mind of a world-famous inventor whose genius helped shape the modern world. You can feel his legacy as you explore the remarkable artifacts, photos and full-scale replicas that mark his masterful career as an engineer, inventor, scientist and humanitarian. The Bell’s employed many Baddeck residents and stories still abound in the community from their descendants. Our tour guide’s great uncle worked with Bell in his laboratory at Beinn Bhreag. 

In Baddeck at Alexander Graham Bell National Historic
Site Museum. Fran & a working model of Bell's
Silver Dart aircraft

Model of Bell's HD-4 Hydrofoil

Fran meeting up with Mabel and Alec Bell

The Bell Estate on Beinn Bhreag

One of many lovely  homes in Baddeck

Ceilidh: (pronounced kay-lee) A Traditional Gaelic social gathering with usually involves playing Gaelic folk music and dancing. It originated in Scotland and Ireland

When visiting Cape Breton, its Scottish heritage the Gaelic influence is impossible to miss. The Royal Cape Breton Gaelic College was founded in 1938 and it is dedicated to perpetuation of the Highland Scottish Gaelic culture. Its curriculum includes Gaelic language, Gaelic song, Gaelic history, Gaelic storytelling, Gaelic drama, Traditional bagpiping, Cape Breton fiddling, Cape Breton step dance, Highland dance, Bodhran, Harp, Whistle and weaving. The Gaelic heritage is a source of great pride for the Cape Breton residents of Scottish heritage.  

We attended a Ceilidh in Baddeck. Nancy, a local resident has organized Ceilidh’s at the local parish hall, seven nights a week during the summer months for the past 16 years. The hall only holds 100 people and it is sold out every night. On the evening we attended, we had a fiddler and a piano player, both in their mid 30’s and they entertained us with a broad mix of Cape Breton and Scottish tunes, modern and traditional, ballads, jigs, reels and more. They are both teachers at the Gaelic College and perform regularly in Cape Breton and many other venues across the country. Both performers grew up on Cape Breton and were immersed in the Gaelic culture and Ceilidh gatherings since their youth. It was a great treat to experience this music and appreciate that this music’s roots in Cape Breton go back to the early 18th century and have changed very little since then.

The Ceilidh at Baddeck Parrish Hall

Baddeck Marine was the first time we’d ever used a mooring ball. When we first approached the “mooring field” it was alarming how close the boats are to each other. Each mooring ball is chained to a great block of concrete on the bottom and it has a large ~ 20” float on the surface of the water with two long pendants (ropes) that you pick up with a boat hook and tie to your bow cleats. In the rain we managed to tie up to the mooring ball and then we began to watch closely as the boats all swung on their mooring. We were nervous at first, watching the boats move to and fro, with different timing and you’d swear there would be collisions, but they all stayed in order and no bumps were witnessed. The closest we came to a collision was during a period with no wind and Tug’n just missed the boat in front of us, by less than 3 feet. We’ve been told there will be many more mooring fields in our future as we head further down the east coast.

Tug'n on right - in mooring field in Baddeck

While in Baddeck we had a day of heavy rain day and found a small leak in our forward hatch over our bed. Temporarily I taped the perimeter of the hatch to stop any further leaking, while I collected the materials I needed to fix it when the weather allowed. After two great days visiting Baddeck, we headed off on Monday August 15 for an anchorage on Boularderie Island called Island Point Harbour. It was a beautiful sunny day allowing us to snap a few photos of the Bell estate as we left Baddeck. Travelling up St. Andrews Channel to our anchorage we passed many outcroppings of gypsum. The soft white rock is easily carved by the wind, rain and waves into various shapes allowing one to see faces, animals, angels and more. Our anchorage was lovely and well protected, but with the good weather I was more focussed on getting the hatch repair completed than enjoying the scenery. Removal of the hatch and frame went very smoothly with the two thin paint scrapers and wooden wedges Dave (from Sir Tugley Blue) loaned me. Removing all the old caulking from the deck and frame was another matter. Four hours later the clean up was done. Dave kindly joined me and took the lead on re-bedding the hatch frame in a most expert fashion and now, thankfully, our bed is no longer vulnerable in the rain. Wednesday turned out to be another 18 hour rain day, so the re-bedded hatch got a good work out and survived the test.

Sculptured gypsum rock in Island Point Harbour
Click on this pic. What do you see?

Thursday, we headed to one of the anchorages recommended by my sailing friend and former colleague Denis, who lives and sails out of Halifax. It’s called Marble Mountain and/or Clark Cove. Marble Mountain is the name of a small village on Bras D’Or Lake. The name of the mountain that was mined for marble from 1869 to 1921 is North Mountain. The enormous scar on the side of North Mountain can be see from miles around. In the early 1900’s, the mine employed over 1,000 men and supplied marble all over North America for flooring, counter tops and high end furniture. The town even had a power plant, built to supply electricity to the mine and local homes, while the rest of Cape Breton was still using candles and lamps for lighting. The area has many spots for anchoring and no visit is complete without a hike to the top of the marble quarry to soak up spectacular views of Bras D’Or Lake.

Views from top of marble quarry on North Mountain

Click on these for a bigger picture

Friday August 19th was the end of our visit to the Bras D’Or Lakes. We were up early and off to St. Peters to do some chores and then commence our journey down the south east shore of Nova Scotia in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time on this adventure. Stay tuned!