Out in the Fog
15 August 2008 | Cape Negro Island (near Shelburne, NS)
After a fine road trip Jim and I returned to fog in Yarmouth. We debated leaving on Thursday, but since the forecast looked better for Friday, we waited one more day.
As days do, that one went by in an assortment of activities. Jim returned the rental car and purchased a can of gas for the generator. I did some cleaning up and sorting of "stuff' in the cabin, including digging out our down comforter that had been stowed away in a vacuum bag since sometime last fall.
While Jim planned routes, I visited the W.Laurence Sweeney Museum where I spent an enjoyable hour browsing through the simulation of ships stores, waterfront buildings and 1/3 scale fishing boat that would have been a common sight on the Yarmouth waterfront 75 years ago. The Sweeney boats travelled from Hudson Bay as far south as Venezuela, loading and unloading cargo at ports all along the way.
When we asked Paul, the ever-helpful wharfinger at the town-operated Killam Wharf, about buying lobster, he kindly found a source, a good price and even went to pick them up for us. We steamed a few for immediate pleasure, and enjoyed the last two in a curry dish later on.
In the evening, we walked the streets, gazing at the lovely old houses with gingerbread trim and porches and with widows' walks at the top. Those small railed or fully enclosed rectangles at the very tops of the houses are so named for the women who looked out across the water for their menfolk who earned their living on the sea. Their sad name is a reminder that it was a perilous living and many a man sailed off never to return. Christine told us that the beautifully restored house pictured here was built with brick brought back as ballast in one of the sailing ships that traveled up and down the eastern seaboard.
Yarmouth seemed to us to be a contradictory town. In its heyday, the families here had either traveled the world themselves or knew folks who had. Their horizon was much farther away than it appears to be now. Much attention has been given to the waterfront. It is attractive and pleasure boat friendly as well as remaining a working waterfront for the many fishing boats that call this their homeport. There are several fine museums, a branch of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, a couple of pretty and well cared for parks and the area of lovely historic houses. Killam Wharf has laundry and showers. Rudder's, next door serves delicious food and has live music 3 nights a week. Several galleries and quality gift shops are nearby. A block up from the waterfront however is a main street that has seen better days and Paul talked about the need to keep the washrooms locked in order to keep them clean and in good repair. The airport is closed to commercial traffic, the trains don't run anymore and even the regular bus service has been discontinued. And then there is the fog. There is a good chance that one will have to travel in or out of there (or both) in the fog.
And so it was that we fired up the radar and departed on Friday morning in pea soup fog. Were we glad we stopped in Yarmouth? You bet! Was it time to move on again? You bet!
We motored in fog so thick that our visibility was about 0.080 nautical miles all day and depended on the radar to let us know what was "out there". This was the first time our timing with regard to tides and current went seriously wrong, so we motored for a very long day.
We made the mistake of planning to leave Yarmouth on an ebb tide. It sounded sensible, but it put us at Cape Sable Island while the current was flowing strongly against us. With 20-20 hindsight, we would have been much wiser if we had planned to be at Cape Sable at slack tide or on a favourable current and then backtracked to see what time we needed to leave Yarmouth, whatever the tide condition in that harbour.
The Atlas of Currents and Tides for the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine has excellent graphics, and sure enough, as our speed dropped and dropped to less than 2 knots, we looked up the graph and there it was. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. At least there was nothing dangerous about it - although those eddies and rip tides were amazing to travel through. The wind was less than 10 knots and on the nose until we were finally able to turn far enough around the corner of the province to put out our yankee. That, along with the engine, picked us up to all of 4 knots and so we slogged along until eventually the current slacked and then turned, finally giving us a boost.
We abandoned out plan to go up the long harbour to Shelburne Yacht Club where we had such a pleasant stay last summer, and opted for an anchorage closer to the coastline.
It was 10 o'clock before we saw the buoy off Cape Negro Island, and we crept in between the flashing green and red lights to drop our anchor in the lee of the island. In a way it was fitting. This was the departure point for our trip across the Gulf of Maine on August 26, 2007. We had spent the evening in Shelburne, leaving in the wee small hours of the morning to rendezvous with Strathspey at this point. We hovered off shore while we watched their navigation lights move out from behind the island to join us as we headed off to the USA and points south. Almost a year later, we were back - and in the dark again!