Bras d’Or Lake, Cape Breton

Tuesday, July 19th we awoke to fog and rain at our anchorage in Corbetts Cove. Thanking our stars once again that we were safely at anchorage and not out in 6-8′ seas, we enjoyed a quiet day catching up on maintenance, trip logs, and this blog.

On the morning of the 21st, we raised anchor to seek out another place to visit. Neil had researched several possibilities, the first place we visited was too crowded with both boats and homes on the shoreline. Not to be discouraged, we cruised to another area, Crammond Islands. Our track into the beautiful, protected anchorage was a tricky “S” curve, with extremely shallow shoals on either side. We were both earnestly watching the charts to follow the track in, when we heard (and felt) the dreaded sound of our hull getting stuck in mud. Yes, we had run aground for the first time. Apparently, the charts were not completely accurate, and we realized belatedly that having one of us outside watching the water (like we do in the Bahamas…) would have been wise… Neil tried to back us out of the mud, to no avail. He dove the boat and at least could confirm that there was no damage to the hull or stabilizer fins.

As we were trying to contact marinas to get some help (the two major ones at either end of the lake were both very far away), a family pulled up in their boat, offering help. They were so kind and tried valiantly to pull us off, but our boat was just too big for their motor. A pontoon boat came up and also offered assisance, volunteering to go contact a lobsterman friend whom they knew had a boat big enough to help. While they were gone, a third boater approached and also offered help pulling us off (they had a larger motor), and between the two power boats, they got us off the shoal in no time. The pontoon boat came back, indicating that the lobsterman was available in an hour – but were happy to see us floating free and clear and gladly canceled the call for a tow.

All of these folks were amazing helpful and so very friendly. The pontoon owners (Earl and Eleanor) invited us to their home on Saturday for a pizza party that they hold every weekend for family and friends (all of the boaters knew each other and lived or summered in the area). The original “rescuers” even proceeded in front of us the rest of the way to the anchorage to ensure our safe passage. Everyone kindly said “It’s not your fault – happens all the time – there used to be channel markers here” and that locals just get to know the path through so they don’t think about it much. Needless to say, it helped us not feel like complete idiots.

Once we got anchored, we settled in to a gorgeous place. Lots of birds and gentle breezes along with tree-lined shores. During our stay here, we did swim (chillier than the Bahamas), cleaned the waterline from the dinghy, and then put on our shorties to clean barnacles from the hull. And yes, we did head to Earl and Eleanor’s on Saturday for fresh pizza (for Neil) – met their wonderful family and some more friends (and saw the couple that did eventually pull us off the mud). Earl and Eleanor have owned their place for 25 years, adding to the home as their family grew. The outdoor pizza oven and sitting area was their most recent addition, which they obviously put to good use. After thanking them, we went back to our girl and departed on the 24th for Little Harbor anchorage, about 10 miles away.

Surrounded by forest and few homes in Corbetts Cove anchorage, Bras d’Or Lake
Nestled amongst the Crammond Islands
Relaxing backyard view, Crammond Islands
A beautiful morning, neighbor’s boat mirrored in the still water. Crammond Islands

Little Harbor was a very protected anchorage, basically a circular inlet protected on all sides from wind. There were only a couple of boats with us, and one large home on the shore. We had fun using both the dinghy and the kayak here, exploring the coastline. We also did some research on the jellyfish that we had been seeing. There are two types here in Bras d’Or Lake – Moon jellies (that don’t sting unless you stick your hand into the bell) and Lion’s Mane jellies which are very large (over 1′ across bell), fiery in color (all shades of reds and purples) and have very long tentacles (like up to 9 feet) and they do sting. We luckily stayed clear of both types when we were in the water, but did see times of teeming moon jellies that were almost as thick as the jellyfish we had seen in the Chesapeake a few years ago. Neil dove the boat to clean the hull. Our friends back in Crammond had told us that the mussels, clams and oysters in Bras d’Or were safe to eat, so when we took the kayak out we brought a bucket with us and did some gathering! We collected three dozen oysters and double that in mussels. Kathleen spent the afternoon scrubbing and cleaning these mollusks, and then we both had fun shucking the oysters. That night for dinner it was oysters on the half shell and mussels in a wine – garlic – butter – clam sauce. It was amazing – and bonus points – no one got sick!

When we had first anchored at Little Harbor, we heard disturbing boat sounds and clunking (this was another reason for Neil diving the boat). The cutlass bearing on the shaft of our wing engine had come loose – not good. We contacted the marina at Baddeck, the only marine servicer on the lake and not too far from where we were. They had a travel lift that could haul us out. So, on the 28th, we headed that way.

When we arrived at Baddeck harbor, we went to the marina for a pump out. It took longer than expected as their attachments did not fit our boat, so Neil and the marina crew “MacGyver’d” a fitting. From there, we anchored out in the harbor, waiting until later that week when they could haul us.

In the meantime, we explored Baddeck. A very quaint town, with awesome pizza (even gluten free!), grocery store, other restaurants and lots of nice places to take lots of long walks. It is also one of Alexander Graham Bell’s favorite places. There is a fantastic museum to him, his family and his work. We learned so much about him – he was much more than an guy who called for Watson to come quickly from another room…. The family still owns a massive estate on the coast, as we were able to catch some views of it from the water on our dinghy.

Baddeck is known for its boating, especially sailing. There were kids out every day, in groups that were overseen and taught by adults. It was amazing to see how easily and fluidly these little folks controlled their crafts and had fun splashing and playing at the same time.

We met some more cruising folks, but we noticed that overall, Bras d’Or had much less traffic than we had anticipated – which was wonderful. We finally got to our haul out day, and everything went beautifully. We were a bit nervous, as we always are getting hauled out, but we were very happy with the professionalism and kindness of the entire staff. They also got the work done in one day, with the parts on hand and workmen available, completing the job with the boat remaining in the slings of the lift. While the professionals worked on the bearing and shaft, we were able to finish our cleaning of the hull, which was really really great as we wanted all barnacles OFF before we splashed.

Kathleen out for a spin in the kayak, Little Harbour anchorage
View from Little Harbour out into Bras d’Or Lake
Our Little Harbour anchorage
Enjoying a warm sunny day out in the dinghy
Oysters on the half shell!
Heading through the Barra Strait Bridge into the north end of Bras d’Or Lake
View of Baddeck Harbour from Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site
Kidstone Lighthouse at the entrance to Baddeck Harbour
Anchored just outside Baddeck Harbour
Haulout at Baddeck Marine to replace the auxiliary engine shaft cutlass bearing

Once back in the water we headed to a secluded anchorage (not sure there is any other kind here!) called Island Point, only two hours away. We left at 5:00 pm for a beautiful, calm evening cruise, entering the inlet in deep water. We cruised to the end, and were once again in a very protected, very isolated anchorage. There was one home in the area and no other boats. The pines and deciduous trees competed for limited space along the shoreline, with white stone outcroppings appearing intermittently. There also were NO jellyfish sightings!

The next morning we lowered the dinghy and explored the area, leaving the generator running to charge batteries and get some laundry done. When we got back, all seemed well for at least 15 minutes…. they we had high voltage warning from the generator. We got everything shut down IMMEDIATELY (as we had learned from this the last time it happened before we went to the Bahamas and blew up our stove and dryer). Luckily, this time there was no damage to any appliances. Neil spent the rest of the day investigating all connections and conversing with an expert on the generator (Bob Senter, who is now on a first name basis with Neil). Neil did discover a 2 amp breaker was damaged and a wire harness appeared to need replacing. So, after all fixes and replacements that we could do were made, we fired up the generator again – and it worked. We were still really nervous about it, so unfortunately decided that it was best for us to head to St. Peter’s marina to tie up to a dock and shore power. Luckily they had space for us on the fuel dock, and we left the next morning.

St. Peter’s is right near the lock where we first entered Bras d’Or. The people are wonderful, and we were surprised to see a lot of arts (both visual and musical) in what appeared to be a working town. We had amazingly great food at the Bras d’Or Inn, accompanied by a fantastic musician who played guitar and sang beautifully. We were admittedly very shocked to have such high end food and entertainment, as the town itself does not present itself as a tourist location. Gotta love finding little gems like this. In addition to enjoying these treats, we got some great hiking in, learing about the canal and lock, as well as Neil satisfying his Tim Horton’s fix before we left.

Cliffs lining our anchorage in Island Point Harbour
Jerome Point Lighthouse in Battery Provincial Park near the town of St Peter’s
Docked at St Peter’s Lion’s Club Marina
St Peter’s Canal, we will head through here when we depart Bras d’Or Lake and head back to Halifax

After waiting for a good weather window, we cast off at 11:30 am on August 12th for an overnight voyage to Halifax. Cruising through the canal and lock, we said goodbye to Bras d’Or Lake, vowing that we would be back. It was one of the most beautiful, unspoiled areas we had ever seen, and we felt lucky to have spent a month there.

The trip started off rough, as the seas were confused and Kathleen did not put a patch on… luckily, that was corrected and other meds were on board, so she was better in no time. After we turned south, the seas smoothed out, and we had an easy, beautiful cruise into Halifax. Even intentionally slowing our trip, we got to the marina at 8:30 am. The spot was PERFECT, right on the waterfront, in front of the Marine Museum. After getting tied up, we rested a bit, and then went out exploring. Being on the waterfront was great – all the entertainment was right there, and the noise pretty much died out by 10:30. We did have a “Ghost tour” that came by every evening to tell tales. Halifax is a place for ghost stories – lots of history, and not all of it happy.

We did get to visit with Mark and Jennifer, walking to their home from our boat. We had a lovely lunch with them, and wished we could spend more time. On the walk back, we visited the oldest cemetary in Halifax (and one of the oldest in North America, apparently). Thousands were buried there, but there were much fewer tombstones. We did see the tombstone of the British commander responsible for burning the White House in the War of 1812. Here he is a hero – funny how history is like that.

We visited the Marine Museum, which was AMAZING. There were all types of boats on exhibit, as well as historical events highlighted. The Halifax explosion of 1917 was well documented – if you don’t know about this, you should. It is still the largest non-nuclear explosion ever (the equivalent energy of roughtly 2.9 kilotons of TNT), occuring when two ships – one a French munitions ship fully loaded, and one a Norwegian relief vessel – collided in the narrows. 1782 people were killed, entire neighborhoods flattened, and 9000 others were maimed or blinded. The horrible irony is that the munitions boat was barely moving – about 1 knot at time of collision, and the other ship was unladened. It was just a horrible, perfect storm. Help arrived from all over, including the US, especially from Massachusetts. In thanks for their rapid and large response, Halifax sends the city of Boston a spruce tree as a Christmas gift every year.

We ended up leaving Halifax a day early as a storm front was moving in. We got to the grocery store for some provisioning, and then departed on the morning of the 16th. We had an easy, gentle cruise down to Chester, a town just south of Halifax. By car, it took about 30 minutes. By our boat, it took six hours – we took “the long way”, seeing a seal and a minke whale along the way.

We anchored in the Chester Back Harbour looking for protection from a few stormy days. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset dinner in the cockpit, and settled in. The next day was stormy, with rain and winds, even in our sheltered area. We took advantage of the down time to rest up, catch up (on this blog) and enjoy drinking tea and coffee in August and not sweating.

Waiting for the St Peters Canal Lock to open up so we can head south into the Atlantic
Sunset as we head south on overnight cruise to Halifax
Moonlight and calm seas made for an easy overnight cruise
Entering Halifax Harbor, not much traffic early Saturday morning
Granuaile (red arrow) at slip on the Halifax Waterfront, in front of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Museum ships CSS Acadia on our left and HMCS Sackville on our right
We could step off our boat and access Halifax’s 4 km waterfront boardwalk to check out the many sites and restaurants
View of Halifax from Citadel Hill
Time for a cocktail at Durty Nelly’s, pub just up the hill from our boat’s slip

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