August 27: We’re in Halifax and loving every minute of our bouncy, sloshy stay here. The pier we’re tied to floats to accommodate for the tide going up and down several feet and we rock constantly from the swells and the unabating vessel traffic in the harbor. There are many, many tour boats and pleasure traffic along with container ships, freighters and pilot boats causing us to sway quite dramatically from their wakes. But, Baccalieu is tied up on the same pier with us and Te Mana is in the next quay over in this downtown area of Halifax. We’re having a blast.
We had to scope out the pub “Split Crow”, the namesake of our friends Jane and Dennis’ boat on our first night here. After dinner with the crew of Te Mana, we headed over there and then of course enjoyed beverages. The Split Crow is named after the first pub that was created in Halifax in 1749. If you’re looking for a pint, live music, and casual nightlife, Halifax is the place. We wandered into another pub by just randomly choosing one that looked interesting. They all look interesting and it would take a liver with a higher level of tolerance than mine to take in every interesting spot in the downtown area. But we were in for a real treat when the band The Stanfields started their set in the rathskeller we chose. We ended up dancing and meeting the band members and having the most excellent time before we headed back to the boat to get some rest.
Jim and I had gotten up around 4 am to make our passage from Liscomb. Even though it was an easy passage and we sailed most of the way without having to change the sails or trim, we were exhausted by the time our heads hit the pillow at 1:30 am after a night on the town. We were awoken by a text message around 5 am from LeeAnn onboard Baccalieu and we jumped out of bed to flash our spreader lights to help lead them to dock behind us. Halifax harbor is a bit confusing in the daylight. Entering in the dark is a feat.
The younger crew members of Te Mana and Baccilieu spent time doing what 8 year olds do and visiting the Discovery Museum, the adults have provisioned our respective vessels, and all the guys took a shopping expedition to The Binnacle (a boating supply store-of course). LeeAnn and I had a lovely afternoon just chatting and relaxing. Jim and I are going to visit the Maritime Museum today and wander the amazing city and take in the northeastern architecture and maritime culture.
We’re looking ahead at weather patterns and plotting our passage across the Bay of Fundy for Maine. All three boats are headed in the same direction and none of us want to poke our noses into anything ugly. We all realize it’s getting late in the season. None of us want to use the “H” word (for the sake of my superstitious nature, I won’t even type it. Figure it out) and we all knock on wood whenever it is brought up. Wind and waves, tides and currents are our concerns now as we plot our course south and back into the States.
August 24 We’re on anchor after an amazing sailing day on the open waters of the North Atlantic. We had 20 knots of wind from the north which made our trip from Canso to Liscomb fast and exciting. We finally met up with the crew of Baccalieu yesterday in Canso. I’ve been talking to LeeAnn online and through text messages since the beginning of our trip. We’ve been following each other’s blogs and since they were always a few days ahead of us they were giving us great advice on marinas and anchorages along the way. We had dinner on board Somewhere. Abbey, the 8 year old shorty crew member, entertained our cat crew and LeeAnn provided the potatoes for the beef stew I whipped up. Brad, Jim, LeeAnn and I had a lot to talk about. It was as if we were meeting old friends even though we had never met face to face prior to last night. We are breaking up for a couple of days as we head to Halifax and they are staying in Liscomb to enjoy the spa and pool that is located further up the river at the lodge. We are heading for Halifax early tomorrow morning, but I will certainly put this spot on our list for our return trip. It’s absolutely beautiful.
We had entered Canso in dense fog after a grueling trip from St. Peter’s, so our sail to Liscomb from Canso was a well needed fantastic day on the water. The wind had been our nose and the waves seemed huge the day before. What a difference a day makes. The sun was shinning and 20 knots of wind coming from the right direction made for an excellent day on the water and made us forget the ugliness of the St. Peter’s to Canso passage.
One of the guidebooks instructed us thus: “Take in a Cape Breton ceilidh and an appreciative ear will detect the Irish influence on that island’s rich musical heritage.” So we jumped at the chance to sample some local culture and talent. Both Jim and I noted that we are impressed with the ability of people in the area to hold on to their European cultures and express pride in their heritage as immigrants. Being of both Scottish and Irish heritage I have to admit that I had never heard of a ceildh. From Wikipedia:
In modern usage, a céilidh or ceilidh /ˈkeɪlɪ/ is a traditional Gaelic social gathering, which usually involves playing Gaelic folk music and dancing. It originated in Ireland and Scotland, but is now common throughout the Irish and Scottish diasporas. In Irish it is spelt céilí (Irish pronunciation: [ˈceːlʲiː]) and in Scottish Gaelic it is spelt cèilidh
We attended this social gathering advertised with the Scottish spelling at the local Inn very near to the marina, but the music was very much Irish. We had a great time listening to the fiddles and guitarists and even spoon players and watching the dancers, but the history detective in me had to know more. Apparently, there was Irish immigration to Nova Scotia even before the Great Potato Famine and the waves of Scottish immigrants to the area. When the Brits were emptying out their prisons with forced emigration to their colonies, this is one of the places they dumped their felons. But many Irish immigrants voluntarily came and stayed along the coastlines here due to the abundant fishing. The ceildh featured traditional instruments of fiddle, guitar and Irish pipe and even hauntingly beautiful songs performed on a harp. We felt as if we had been transported to the lowlands of Ireland for the evening.
We plan on moving on toward Canso this morning. Canso should have a museum that outlines all the battles and characters that have fought for control of this area and all of Canada. Acadians lost their foothold when the British were outright slaughtering them here. Their alliance with the Native Americans didn’t fare to well for them. We’ll go check out the geography of the area once the fog lifts and the winds are favorable.
We’ve had a great time in St. Peters. It was a nice surprise to see our friend Tim (Sailor Tim to us) who was in the area on business. We caught up on his experiences in the Chicago to Mac race and our escapades through the St. Lawrence. Lots of boat and sailor talk over hamburgers that I made onboard for us. Time now to get the boat ready for another adventure!
August 21 Our time with Jane and Dennis was limited by the constraints of weather, the school calendar, and cruising schedules of both Split Crow and Somewhere, but we made the best of our short visit in Pictou, Nova Scotia and picked up where we had left off last time our boats were moored in the same marina. We’ll miss, them, for sure, but there are plans for future tom foolery. So, it’s not “Goodbye”, but “When we see you again.”
Jim and I left Pictou and headed toward Ballentyne’s Cove which is a sleepy little fishing port. This area is known for the giant bluefin tuna that call these waters their home. The season had just begun when we had arrived. We didn’t see any fishermen coming back with tuna, thank goodness. I’m not sure I could have dealt with the sight of such a beautiful creature being slaughtered. They’re so large that the fish is dragged beside the boat to bring it to shore. We saw a very large whale on our way to Ballentyne’s though and a couple of porpoises being acrobatic in the water. We went for a walk to the rocky beach and took some snapshots of the gorgeous, craggy coastline. It was a nice stopover and we talked to many locals that were in line at the fish and chips stand. The dialect of the area is really hard to describe, but apparently it varies from town to town in this region. I can’t help but detect a strong Scottish influence on the accents of the people who live here. I’m no expert in linguistics, but it is interesting to hear the different speech patterns.
We left Ballentyne’s cove around 7 am and sailed for the lock and bridge at Cape Breton Island and navigated the Canso Canal, through another bridge that we had to request opening., and to the lock that would bring us into Bras D’or Lakes. Navigation can be a little tricky and it reminded us both of The North Channel’s ticklish narrows and shallow areas. We made it into The Lions Club Marina at St. Peter’s with no issues, though, other than some foolhardy kids jumping into the water and swimming between the lock and the bridge at St. Peter’s. There isn’t much room to maneuver in this narrow channel and I let the kids know that we didn’t want to kill anybody today so it would behoove them to get their hides out of the water. They complied and we didn’t hurt anybody.
We’re now anchored in a pretty little spot on Bras D’or called Clarke Cove off of Marble Mountain. It’s secluded, but we’re able to sneak a little internet from the shoreline and occasionally capture a weak cell phone signal. It rained quite heavily this morning which checks one job off the list: Washing the salt off the boat has been a daily job since we entered salt water. Salt gets everywhere and that’s not something these Great Lakes sailors are used to dealing with. A good downpour will get the sticky stuff off the hull and the decks and we appreciate that. Salt can be corrosive and dirty and a pain in the butt. The water temperatures in Bras D’or is nice enough to swim in, but when we decided to go for a dip the jelly fish in the area decided that is was time to hang off of our stern. We didn’t swim.
Bras D’or Lake is actually an inland sea that is partly fresh water and also fed by Atlantic salt water. There are so many coves and harbors that boaters could spend an entire summer exploring and anchoring in all the inlets and islands. We don’t have that kind of time before the weather becomes decidedly fall-like, but we really enjoyed out short stay in this peaceful, beautiful lake/sea.
Tomorrow we are headed back to St Peter’s Marina to meet up with a friend from Michigan who is in the area on business. It’ll be good to see a friend from home and then start making our way eastward.
August 17: Jim and I have found ourselves experiencing a bit of gloominess after we left the St. Lawrence River and Quebec. We seemed to miss the landscape, the people, and the vast array of experiences that the St. Lawrence offered. From night life in Montreal to whale spotting in Tadoussac, we had experiences that were amazing. We found ourselves voluntarily watching French television on Prince Edward Island and recounting all the great escapades we had the past month. We both were a little sad that this part of the journey was over, but we’re on to new adventures.
Prince Edward Island was lovely and the scallops and mussels we purchased and cooked up were beyond compare. The people we met were very kind. We had an extremely stressful situation when we thought we had lost Mia. The entire marina was searching and keeping an eye out for our little wanderer. I finally went back to the boat to sob in desperation when I heard a scratch and meow from beneath the settee. Little Princess Mia had snuck into an open cabinet and found her way through all the connected compartments within the boat to an area beneath the main salon. We opened the cabinet and coaxed her back out. I gave her a talk about hide and go seek and how it’s not funny. Even Annabelle had given up on looking for her on the boat and was staring out a port hole which told me that even she thought Mia had gone for a walkabout. All’s well that ends well, but we will certainly be more careful about open compartments.
We sailed across the Northumberland Strait and arrived in Pictou, Nova Scotia yesterday. It was a great day for a sail and we were actually able to wear bathing suits and sunscreen instead of foul weather gear and hats. Now that we’ve turned south we are experiencing warmer temperatures, much to our liking. I’m wearing shorts today as we wander around the pretty town of Pictou.
Pictou was inhabited by Mikmaqs that had been living in the area for hundreds and possibly thousands of years. The name Pictou is Mikmaq in origin. Scottish settlers began to settle the area in in the 1770s through the mid 1800s and the town is very proud of their Scottish heritage. We visited a local Saturday craft and produce market. Jim bought me coasters with the Walker crest and we got a very detailed education on how the surname Walker is part of the Clan Gregor of the Scottish Highlands.
We are here now with our friends Jane and Dennis onboard Split Crow. It’s unfortunate that we won’t have more time to spend with them as we have in summers past in the North Channel and Georgian Bay, but we’re making good use of the time we have together before we head in different directions. There will be pictures to follow.
There’s a story that the Cajuns of Louisiana tell about the origins of crawfish. The legend says that when the Acadians were forced to leave their homes after the English took control of the Maritimes in Canada, that the lobsters missed them. The lobsters set out to find their Acadians and located where they settled in Louisiana and were now called Cajuns. But, by the time the lobster reached Louisiana, he didn’t look the same because he got so much smaller on the voyage. Such a sweet story about a sad time for the original settlers of French Canada who found a home in Spanish controlled Louisiana. The significance of an Acadian singer from New Brunswick sharing the stage at the music festival we attended in Gaspé with a Cajun musician from Louisiana was note worthy, to me anyway. The history and link between Acadians and Cajuns is most likely something taken as common knowledge in this part of the world. At any rate, we might not have understood all the words at the concert, but we had a great time and enjoyed Lisa Lablanc and Zachary Richard (Big Easy Soundtrack fame).
We enjoyed our stay in Gaspé as we waited out strong winds and for our boat ocean insurance to go into effect. When we weren’t enjoying the local seafood and entertainment and scenery, we were working on neglected boat jobs. We got a lot of chores done and gave Somewhere a good cleaning from her canvas to her bilge. It was a nice layover despite the high winds that had us moving slips. The Harbormaster and the people of the town were so very nice and helpful.
We decided to move on once we got our weather window and sailed past Percé Rock (French rocher Percé, "pierced rock"). It is a huge sheer rock formation in on the tip of the Gaspe' Peninsula. Percé Rock appears from a distance like a ship under sail. It is one of the world's largest natural arches and a sight seeing attraction. There were several passenger boats full of tourists getting a closer look at it when we sailed past. The wind picked up quickly when we made our turn toward Prince Edward Island. We were prepared to sail through the night and arrive at Summerside, PEI by morning. I had made pasta salads and sandwiches for the long voyage incase conditions got rough and we couldn’t use the galley.
Conditions did get rough and we had a long trek across the Northumberland Strait where we also encountered a mine field of lobster pots. Apparently, lobster season started on Thursday and the fishermen didn’t leave much room for a boat to navigate through. It was like playing whack a mole getting through the miles long stretch of lobster pots. It was by the grace of a higher force that we didn’t snag one or two along the way. Our eyes were fatigued and our bodies worn out from a 29 hour voyage, but we worked as a team to play this new game of “Scan, scream, and avoid lobsterpot “.
We’re now sitting in Silverfox Marina in Summerside, PEI. The people here are so very nice. A man that owns a bakery brought us cinnamon rolls and a pie from his store. Everyone is giving us great advice on what to eat and what to see. The blue point mussels from the waters here are highly acclaimed and as much as we cursed the lobsterpots, I’m sure there was a lobster in one of those pots that we dodged just waiting for us and our dining pleasure.
We had our “What’s on the Agenda” meeting with Heather, Kirk and Russell onboard Te Mana when we were anchored in Matane. The special thing about cruising is the wonderful friendships that are made along the way. We have had a lot of fun since Kingston when we met the crew of Te Mana. We’ve compared notes, had great meals on each other’s boats and out where only Kirk’s French could get us through ordering our meals without confusion. We’ve shared stories and laughter and a couple pitchers of Sangria. Russell entertained our cat crew and we introduced them to “Captain Ron”-one of our all time favorite movies. But it was decided that night that they need to be at certain place at a certain time and we need to start dragging our heels due to the date that our ocean insurance coverage picks up. They would be charging forth ahead of us while we slowed down and explored a bit more of the area. We knew that we would meet up again since we’re both headed in the same direction, but that we would miss our new buddies until then. Who else would blast “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” over the VHF radio (Channel 71, folks-it was legal. Don’t call the Coast Guard on my pal Heather)? We did meet up again and sooner than we thought. Te Mana was docked in Gaspe hours before us. They have left again, though, for a long trek to Prince Edward Island when conditions were fantastic for sailing. We have stayed in Gaspe to scrub all of our canvas, change the oil, clean a winch, do some shopping, and explore the area. We had lunch at a café that served fantastic fajitas made with locally caught seafood and we watched the town set up for the music festival that begins today. We’re watching the weather closely as we decide what our next port of call will be. With 30 knot southerly winds predicted and the fog blanket that is covering us today, we will most likely be enjoying that music festival and exploring the hiking trails through the national park.
So Far the ports in August:
Ile Aux Cordres: Anchored in a beautiful location
Tadoussac: Whales-lot’s of whales. Anchored in deep water, but did not cruise the Saguenay Fjord (saving that for on the return trip
Rimouski: Docked 2 nights, re-provisioned and explored
Matane: Anchored in a commercial basin. Not much to see, but watched a railway freighter unload
Grande Valle’e : Very rolly anchorage. Mia scared a little seal that had popped up to say hello. Locals clam digging at low tide. Very pretty
August 6: We are out of communication with the outside world. I was texting in route to family and friends wihen suddenly I lost service on my cell phone. Once we were anchored in Grande Vallee we attempted to use our Wi-Fi extender to grab some internet, but that was useless. The tiny fishing village has a hotel with internet, but not a strong enough signal for us to use. We did a scan for television stations and came up with zilch. We couldn’t even reach the two other boats we know are in the area by VHF radio. And to guarantee that we are in a black hole of communication, out sat phone flashed that we had No Service.
There’s a guilty part of me that must admit that being disconnected is fantastically freeing. We are surrounded by mountains and watching locals in the village dig for clams at low tide. We can’t communicate with them either since we speak a different language. It’s pleasant not to be distracted by the outside world…ringing phones and emails to answer. But there is a feeling of unease when we consider the “What ifs”. We aren’t totally off the grid. Our Spot Tracker sends out emails and text messages to family and friends that “Somewhere is Okay” and gives our exact location. We can be found and sent a message through the Coast Guard if an emergency arises. We really do have out bases covered, so instead of worrying we enjoy the scenery and the quiet of being undistracted.
We are COLD, though. We knew that we would experience chilly weather and frigid air from the wind blowing over colder water. We prepared by investing in top of the line off shore sailing clothes, but nothing really prepares one mentally to be wearing long underwear in August. I finally broke down and broke out theheavy duty gear after stubbornly refusing to succumb to the notion that the sun wouldn’t do it’s job. I have made hot chocolate underway and made stews and soup for dinner to ward off the bone chilling cold. I wore two pairs of socks yesterday-something I haven’t done since taking my kids sledding in Wisconsin in February. But despite the cold, the overcast sky, and the fog gushing down the Chic-Choc Mountains, neither one of us has doubted taking the St. Lawrence Seaway route to the Atlantic in lieu of a faster passage.
We’re rounding the Gaspe Peninsula today and will be out of the river and into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The river has widened to 25 miles across. We haven’t seen the north side of the river since we left Tadoussac. The scenery is stunning and the whales, no matter how many we spot, are beautiful and exciting when they do their leisurely acrobatics off our bow. We’ve had seals poke their heads out of the water to check us out and huge sea birds diving dramatically all around us. We’ve been in water over 800 feet deep and experienced tides and currents that are startling. I wouldn’t have missed this for a shorter or warmer route. We’re well provisioned with comfort foods, the cats are happy and entertained by the new sights and sounds and we’re whale watching our way out to the Atlantic.
August 1: Just a bit of a re-cap of the last few days that have gone by in a whirlwind:
Montreal has two marinas-the first being the Montreal Yacht Club (which isn't really a yacht blub so a reciprocal yacht club membership isn't required to slip there) and Port d'escale. We called ahead to get reservations. It's much easier when there is a language barrier to use the phone rather than the VFH radio, plus just showing up will not guarentee a slip for the evening. We had decided to do the last four locks all in one day rather than complete two, drop anchor, and do the last two the next day. In all our previous locks, we had been the only boat going through. But this was not the case in the last four. We were rafting and juggling positions with at least eleven other vessels. The whole process went smoothly. The currents were the most notable navigational phenomenon of the day as we reached Montreal. We fought a 5 knot current that slowed us down as we came into Port d/escale. Montreal is a great city-the museums, food, entertainment. It has it all and it's beautiful.
After our stay we left for a quiet night at Trois Rivieres on anchor. Since it was the weekend, it wasn't so quiet. The original anchorage we had plotted out was too busy with small boats and jet skis, etc. that we opted for the next river inlet that was a little tricky to get into, but provided us with enough depth and protection from the wind. It wasn't much to look at, but we had a lot of small boats coming close to take a look at us and the 65 foot sailboat we are traveling with (Te Mana).
Jim figured the time we should leave Trois Rivieres to enter Quebec City based upon the tides and the currents. What we didn't figure into the equation was the 28-30 knot winds that fought the currents abd created a nasty, confused sea state. Somewhere is built to sail, not motor, through those terrible conditions. It was an uncomfortable, noisy and wet ride. We went through the lock that controls the tide and currents in Port of Quebec marina and decided toon a three night stay after one really ugly day on the water.
I fell in love with Quebec. It is beautiful, romantic, charming-we had a fantastic lay over samplig local cuisine and being tourists. We stocked up on local produce, fresh bread, artisan
cheeses and meats at Marché du Vieux Port. We also purchased extremely affordable tickets for Cirque du Soleil and was awed beyond words by the performance. The city is absolutely
gorgeous at night, but by day we wandered the streets of Vieux-Québec and stopped at outdoor cafes and pretty shops and art galeries. The language barrier was never a
Sadly, though, we had to be moving on. The weather had been gorgeous, but that won't be the case especially as we move further east toward the Bay of St lawrence. We
timed our departure so that we'd arrive at L’Isle-aux-Coudres and throw out our anchor at low tide. The wind and currents were in our favor and Somewhere picked up at least 2 knots of boat
speed through this stretch of the trip. the sights to be seen along the St. Lawrence are breathtakingly beautiful. Each small village nestled in the mountains along the way has a
large steepled church. So quaint that I wish that we could stop at every locale along the way.