July 21, 2013
This blog entry is co-written by Bradley and Kathy. Bradley’s text is in RED and Kathy’s is in blue.
We are now in cruising mode. What does that mean? Well contrary to what many perceive, we do not just sit around being waited on, reading and sipping cocktails. Not that we are complaining in any way; just trying to balance the perception a little. Unlike waking up at home we have to manage our environment. Each morning, we wake, turn off the anchor light, check the house battery level, start the generator to charge the batteries, manage the load to minimize the run time and usually take on a boat project or two. Often we have to reboot something before we have internet access, carefully study the weather from multiple sites, and most importantly plan our eating for the day, as often there are not restaurants or stores close by. Food has to be defrosted or retrieved from some storage area on board.
For us, checking the weather is not just a matter of turning on the morning news for a couple reasons; our satellite TV system believes we reside in the NY area so we only get the local channels from NY. Besides, we are not that interested in temperature and precipitation – we are more concerned with wind and seas so we need specialized marine weather forecasts. If we have internet access, it’s easy, but if we are out of range, we are set up to receive forecasts via email over our satellite phone and also through a Sirius/XM satellite radio service. When we check weather, we will look at 3 to 5 sites and try to blend the information to determine the weather not only for the day but for the next several days. Is there a major storm coming, high winds, or other major weather issues? It is not unusual to have completely opposite information presented. Take 20 July in the Bras d’Or Lakes region of Nova Scotia. One site called for a perfect cruising day – winds slowing clocking around in the 10 to 15 knot range, with the likelihood of some thunderstorms late afternoon.
A different site called for winds from the East, clocking south in the 20 to 25 knot range, with gusts into the high 30’s. This is quite a large difference that would affect one’s decision to move and where to move to. We decided to place our faith in the first site, which proved to be accurate. We had a perfect day moving the boat 12 miles to an incredible little Cove – Little Harbour. So why is the weather so important, other than the obvious concern for major storms? When in cruising mode and anchoring in place of staying in a Marina, the weather and most significantly the direction and strength of the winds are critically important to where one anchors. While if the winds are below 20 knots, it is not as critical, it still can affect the comfort onboard. In a perfect anchoring world, one wants to be anchored where the winds fly over a short distance of water, before reaching the boat. This way the waves do not have a chance to build up and we sit very comfortably. This is even more important for boats that are smaller and lighter. Given we displace approximately 240,000 pounds we can be comfortable where other boats are wondering why they are cruising. I strongly encourage everyone reading this to visit google maps and pull up the Bras d’Or Lake region of Nova Scotia. It is an absolutely amazing area. As you will see, there are many places a boat can safely anchor, where depending on the direction of the wind, one has to move to be protected.
So far our experience in Nova Scotia had been wonderful. Beautiful scenery, welcoming people, interesting weather, seals playing everywhere, frequent whale sightings and wonderful friends both new and old – what more could we ask for? After clearing in through customs, we spent a couple days in the lovely town of Shelburne, founded in 1783 by British Loyalists. We were anchored out with no plans to dock at the yacht club (in other words, no plans to spend money there). We went ashore to explore and were met on the dock by the Commodore of the Yacht Club – we wondered what kind of reception we would get. Not to worry – Commodore Bruce introduced himself, welcomed us, told us where to dump trash, allowed us free use of their internet, and even offered to drive us to the grocery store if need be (though it proved to be a short walk). We had fun exploring the town, including a stop at the local cell phone store to acquire a local sim card to provide internet access. The next day Sid, Stef, and I did a scenic hike while Bradley explored by bike. Other than some pesky mosquitoes, it was a great day as we encountered the rapidly moving Roseway River and saw views of Shelburne Harbor from several angles. We had drinks at the yacht club and met several locals, including the former Commodore who remembered seeing our boat at Shelburne several years ago when she was still named The Good Life and being enjoyed by her original owners. We had a wonderful dinner at Charlotte Lane restaurant, known as one of the best in Nova Scotia. We were not disappointed!
Our next scheduled stop was to be Lunenburg, about 55 miles north. Rather than do it in one long day, we decided to head to Port Mouton, about half-way. Once again we encountered some fog but arrived safely in a lovely anchorage in calm seas by mid-afternoon. We boarded the tender to check out the “town”. Port Mouton turned out to be just some docks with commercial fishing boats. There was no real town and no shops or commercial establishments of any kind. We walked the docks, looking at all the fishing boats and talking to some of the local fishermen. They were removing their large crab pots from their boats for storage as the crab season had just ended. Heading back to the big boat was interesting, as the fog had settled in again. We did not actually see Shear Madness until we were very, very close. Fortunately we had placed a GPS mark on the chart in our tender!
The next stop was Lunenburg where we arrived after another very pleasant day sail. Waiting for us in the harbor were three Nordhavn friends – 68 foot Argo (Randy and Rebecca), 57 foot Summer Star (Atle and Kristina), and 47 foot Bluewater (Milt and Judy). After anchoring, we set off in the tender to explore this incredible town. Lunenburg is a Unesco World Heritage Site and it is a truly beautiful village with a long history. When a geocaching adventure led us to the visitor center, we learned that the Fisheries Museum had a once-a-week live performance with skits and songs to illustrate the town’s history. Luckily for us it was that night! We greatly enjoyed the performance and learned about the settlement of Lunenburg by German, Swiss, and French Protestants in 1753, the history of the fishing industry and the most famous fishing schooner, the Bluenose, which graces the back of the Canadian Dime. It was a very fast vessel and won the International Fisherman’s Race in 1921. The Bluenose II, a replica of the original, still resides there. Rum-running was a major industry during prohibition and the famous Lunenburg sausage is a delicacy best enjoyed with sauerkraut and beer.
Sid and I were joined by Randy from Argo for a golf outing to the very scenic Bluenose golf course, a small course with 9-holes and 18 tees located right at Lunenburg Harbor. We also organized a progressive boat party with drinks and appetizers aboard first Bluewater, then Summer Star, then Argo, then dessert on board Shear Madness. It was a great time for all. But it was time to head north again, this time to Mahone Bay, about midway between Lunenburg and Halifax. After a beautiful trip we anchored and went in to explore the small town. We found some delightful shops, friendly people, and a few nice restaurants. There were also some very friendly people, including several folks who saw us anchored at Mader’s Cove, found our blog, and emailed us offering hospitality and/or assistance. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to meet any of them as it was time to move on to Halifax. Hopefully we will pass by again on our way south later in the year.
We had an uneventful trip to Halifax, a busy commercial port complete with a traffic separation scheme and traffic control. This is akin to air traffic control for planes, requiring us to contact control via VHF radio and follow their instructions. After a trip up the main channel in Halifax, we decided to head up the Northwest Arm where we found an anchorage close to the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Club. Here we had a brief reunion with our good friend George, the captain of Sweet Hope who had guided us down the ICW nearly two years ago. Unfortunately we were leaving just as George was arriving, so it was just enough time for a quick catch up. We hope to see him again soon! It was also time to say goodbye to Sid and Stef, whose time aboard had flown by and who had to reluctantly return to the real world. Next it was on to the Bras D’or Lakes, an area we have heard is stunning for cruising.
However before moving the boat there were a number of chores we had to complete. We needed to go ashore for both high speed net access (this is a relative term) to download some large files by Producer Clark for her award winning videos, walk to the local grocery store for some important staples (milk for coffee, fresh vegetables), and for me to visit the local post office to drop off some post cards for my grandson. In addition we always take advantage of every trip to civilization to dispose of any trash built up on board. Canada is one of the more friendly (and smart) countries, that make it very easy for visiting boats to properly dispose of trash. We have a whole trash management system on board, but that is for another day’s blog. Traveling to the Bras D’or Lakes was a really exciting experience as we had to pass through the St. Peter canal to get from the Atlantic Ocean into the lake. The canal is approximately 25 meters wide and 800 meters long, with a lock at one end and a swing bridge at the other end. This was only our second time traversing through a lock, but it went very smoothly. We entered the lock, tied up to the wall, waited for the doors to close behind us, then for water to be added to the lock to raise the level by 10″. This took only a few minutes. The same Canadian Parks staff work both the lock and the bridge, jumping in their car once the lock is closed and the boats are raised to get to the bridge to open it. We continued to have the wind gods Aeolus & Jupiter smile on us, as our passage from Halifax to the lake was wonderful. Winds were coming out of the NW, at around 10 to 12, which meant they were coming over the land so we had very calm seas which became flat during our overnight passages as the wind dropped into the single digits. We departed around Noon and arrived at the lock just as it opened at 8:30 Friday 19 July.
We are now once again anchored along with Bluewater and Summer Star and look forward to our adventures in the Lakes.
A 12-minute video of the passage from Cape Cod to Shelburne and Sid and Stef’s time aboard is available here. We miss our shore-based friends and family and think of you often – please reply as we love to hear from you!