On July 10th, we left Southwest Harbor, Maine around 9am for an overnight cruise to Shelburne, Nova Scotia. On the very smooth, easy cruise, Neil saw Minke whales (so far, Kathleen had only seen the spouts from some whales in the distance, and she was getting envious of her husband’s views on various early watches…). We pulled into Shelburne just after 10:00 am on the 11th, getting secured to the dock and checking in with the harbormaster. We had the easiest customs check-in EVER – we had previously entered our information on ArriveCan, and after a friendly phone call to Customs and Immigration, we were given the all clear to lower the yellow quarantine flag and fly the maple leaf!
We walked around the town, discovering (unfortunately) that Mondays are the day when everything is closed. So we headed back to our boat for a quiet evening, meeting a couple from Australia who had sailed in and docked behind us. It is wonderful to meet people from everywhere, sharing laughter and stories as well as perspectives.
The next day we explored the “Museums by the Sea” – a Dory Shop museum, a Colonial-era house (Ross-Thompson House) and the Shelburne County Museum. It was so much fun and very interesting to learn about the history of this area, and to be able to do so in a very hands-on way. We enjoyed beverages at the Yacht Club’s gathering space, meeting very friendly locals and enjoying spectacular views of the harbor. After a dinner out at a surprisingly “modern-style” (aka has gluten free and dairy free food that Kathleen can eat!) at the Emerald Light restaurant, we walked back to our boat for a good night’s sleep.
Wednesday we got the bikes out and rode to a nearby town to visit the Black Loyalist Heritage Center. The ride there was a rambling 5-6 mile excursion off road through gorgeous forests over bumpy trails that allowed us to see the beautiful flora while getting a good work out. The Center is a great place to visit to learn about Black slaves who escaped the naissant United States at the end of the Revolutionary War. They had been promised freedom by the British if they fought for the monarchy. Many jumped at the opportunity. Many never realized this promise. After the war, General Washington worked to keep Africans who had been previously enslaved in the US. Cornwallis took as many as he could to what would later become Canada. This is a part of the US history that Kathleen had never learned about. The Blacks who made it to Canada had many of the same difficulties as they had encountered in the US, with racism and discrimination dominating the social make up. There is an excellent movie, “The Book of Negros” that documents all of this. It is fantastic to be able to learn varying historical perspectives and to be able to have a more holistic education about our past.
The history of Nova Scotia is rich and varied, with settlers from France, Great Britain, Scotland etc establishing this area. The removal of French residents who refused to pledge allegiance to the British king after the British vanquished the French in the 18th century lead to a great diaspora from this area known as Acadia. In the US, many settled in the Maine area and of course in Louisiana – they were the ancestors to the current Cajun culture in that area. Many were also taken to Haiti, Europe and other points. Some, eventually, even made their way back to Canada. We both love history, and have been very enthusiastic students to have the opportunity to learn about all the areas we visit.
We departed Shelburne at 6:00 am on the 14th Kathleen rueing the choice of a 10 mile bike ride the day before a long cruise. We had a wonderful cruise, with Kathleen having a Minke whale come up RIGHT in front of the bow. She slowed immediately, in wonder at the sight – and also figuring that no one had told this particular whale that humans and whales are supposed to stay at least 500 feet apart. She definitely did not mind. More sunfish appeared, lazily floating on the surface – apparently welcoming birds to land on them to pick off annoying parasites on their skin. Symbiotic relationships at its best!.
We got to Lunenburg and anchored across the harbor from the town at a beautiful site, just off the shore. As we were setting the anchor, we watched a bald eagle on the shore enjoying a fish snack. It was spectacular. We were not going to have time to visit Lunenburg on this visit as we had weather moving in and needed to continue north the next day, but we enjoyed rather spectacular scenery of the town as the sun set – Kathleen is convinced that all of her Christmas Village pieces that Neil had given her over the years were modeled after the buildings in Lunenberg. We were very much looking forward to visitng on our way back down in a month or so.
Getting up the next morning, we were greeted with very dense fog. We waited about an hour, as we were sure it would burn off. We were wrong. We had about 1/4 mile visibilty at most, and fantastic electronics, so we headed out just after 8:00 for a seven hour cruise to Halifax, certain that the fog would lift with the rising sun, as it ALWAYS had for us in the past.
Again, we were wrong. We were socked in the whole way up, grateful for our new and powerful radar and charts, getting a little nervous as we approached Halifax as it is a major shipping and naval area. Just as we rounded the point to begin our entry, the fog lifted, displaying the beautiful coastline that is Halifax. Cruising into the harbor, we were on high alert as this can be a busy place with freighters, sailboats, power boats, and naval vessels. Neil scoped out a storm cell that was planning to be right above us as we approached the marina, so we turned around and hung out doing circles while the storm moved through, only having a bit of rain to wash off some of the salt. This turned out to be an excellent idea, as there was sunshine and light winds behind the storm.
We pulled into the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron (which is REALLY fun to say clearly when hailing the marina looking for our slip assignment…) just after 3:00 and got secured to our dock with minimal difficulty. It had been a while since we had docked with no extra hands, so we were really glad there was not much wind and no current to fight with!
After checking in, we caught an Uber downtown, had dinner at a nice restaurant, and walked the harbor. It was Pride Weekend, as well as Jazzfest, so there was a lot of fun going on. The boardwalk has lots of historical references along the walk, along with interesting sculptures and murals. There is so much history in Halifax – from the expulsion of the French to Titanic memorials to information on the original indigenous people. We quickly surmized we could spend weeks here, but we only had a couple of days, as once again, bad weather was in the forecast and we wanted to get to Bras d’Or lake in Cape Breton before it arrived.
On the 16th, we had a wonderful treat – Mark Dull, a friend of Neil’s from kindergarten that we had not seen for more than 15 years, lives in Halifax with his wife Jennifer and their family. Mark came to the boat to be our tour guide for the day. We had so much fun, touring around, including stopping at Peggy’s Cove (a “must see” light house and town where we got lunch), Mahone Bay (another cozy, beautiful coastal town with beaches, shops, and picturesque sights), the town of Chester, and finally Lunenburg. We walked around a bit, visiting the Bluenose II, a famous Grand Banks fishing schooner in the harbor. The original was built in 1921, and was an undefeated racing champion. It was amazing to be able to walk the wooden deck, see and touch massive masts and spars, block and tackle and other gear and visit with the crew, who worked on the ship for the summer, captaining her out daily on sailing cruises and other trips. We walked the old, steep streets, visiting one of the old cemeteries (a must for Kathleen), then drove up to the Lunenberg Academy, a historic school building from 1895, that in its day was very cutting edge and ahead of its time in both construction and philosophy. It was used as a school until 2012, and today is still used for music instruction, gatherings, and events. It is actually the third iteration of the academy, the previous ones built down closer to the docks, where it was determined that maybe that wasn’t the best place for children to go to school. The previous buildings succumbed to fire, with the current structure proudly sitting on “Gallows Hill” (Kathleen wondered about the wisdom of building a school on a hill so named, especially with the grounds surrounded on two sides by a cemetery – but whatever…). It is a gorgeous building and again has immense history surrounding it, so very much a necessary stop.
On the way back to Halifax, Mark very generously stopped at a grocery store for us, and we were able to stock up for the next few weeks. Once back at the boat, we had to say goodbye, hoping to be able to visit with him and Jenn when we came back through Halifax in mid-August.
We had a later start the next morning, so we had a more leisurely pace to get the boat ready (including finishing up laundry, and Kathleen getting a work out in – bonus!). We had an overnight run to Cape Breton, with soft swells and following winds. The cruise was uneventful until around 3:00 am. Kathleen was on watch and the “High Temp” light went on for the stabilizer hydraulic oil. Wondering why this always seemed to happen in the middle of the night while she was on watch, she had to wake up Neil. After we shut off the stabilizers (which showed us that the ocean wasn’t QUITE as smooth as we had been thinking), Neil was able to switch out the raw water cooling pump (we had a new spare on board – thank you Meghan! – she brought it with her from Denver when she came out in April to the Bahamas!). Unfortunately, this didn’t totally fix the problem. We cruised the rest of the way to St. Peter’s Bay, at the entrance to Bras d’Or Lake. Lucky for us, the ocean was REALLY smooth, and we were once again very glad that we had erred on the side of caution and traveled in good weather – it would have been very nasty to ply the waters in the much bigger seas forecasted for even one day later.
We had fun experiencing the lock and canal to get into the lake, and had an easy cruise to our anchorage (except for the super yacht that was cruising out of the area as we were coming in – not a big problem, and the captain was very nice – just another narrow passage area). Dropping anchor in Corbett’s Cove, we were the only boat there, and were greeted by a bald eagle coasting over our boat. This area is quiet, peaceful, reminding us of lakes we camped on in Colorado. Once we secured the anchorage, we decided we needed well-deserved slow day – that is after Neil diagnosed and fixed the stabilizer cooling problem, purging the lines of air and being very happy that the system seems in working order. An early night was in order, and we slept very well.
We plan to cruise Bras d’Or Lake for the next 4 weeks.