20/08/2007/7:06 am, Mahone Bay, NS
What a glorious coastline this is. There was not a speck of grey in the sky as we motorsailed down to this lovely bay from Rogues Roost. We would love to have sailed it but with our course set for Chester, it was just too close into the wind, and we were caught in that old "making progress" thing again.
We cruised by Peggy's Cove, which looked benign and beautiful in the summer sun, hardly a spot where rogue waves wash unwary visitors off the rocks every year, and where the Swiss Air disaster took place a few years ago.
We passed East Ironbound Island - famous for being the island renamed "Rockbound" in Frank Parker Day's novel of the same name. I'd like to have had a closer look, and even a visit, since I thoroughly enjoyed that book. Pearl Island was renamed Barren Island in the book - and it surely did look that way from where we were. I always love to visit places that inspired favourite books, even when the books are fictional and not intended to be accurate reflections of the place or its people. Apparently Parker Day got into a fair bit of trouble when the book was published back in 1928 because the good folks of Big Tancook and Ironbound islands took his characterization as a personal affront. I'm not sure what the reaction was when it was named winner of the Canada Reads Contest and reissued in 2005. It's a great read, and while the story is fiction, elements in it are drawn from actual events, and it gives a flavour of what life may well have been like here in the early 20th century.
Chester Race Week had ended the night before we arrived, and it seemed, on Sunday, as if the village was catching its breath again. As we got ourselves settled into our mooring, the stirring sounds of a brass band blew over the water from the bandstand on the waterfront. We motored ashore and stood among the crowd of young folks, old folks, dogs on leashes, to listen to a few numbers. Many audience members sat in their cars, parked along the street with windows down. Others lounged against telephone poles while the front row crowd sat comfortably in lawn chairs.
The Chester Yacht Club has no showers or wifi or laundry facilities, but it also didn't charge us anything for our mooring since we are members of another yacht club. It's a curious sort of town - home, in the summers, to many wealthy visitors from the United States and other parts of Canada, and also home, year round, to others. I don't know how that really affects the cohesiveness of the place, but I do know it has a different feel from that of Mahone Bay, just along the road a little further.
We had one of our best sailing days on Monday. There was a light wind and we used our main and yankee (the larger of our two foresails) to sail lazily along among the myriad of islands toward the town of Mahone Bay. We followed the route suggested by Captain Cheryl Barr in "The Downeast Circle Route" and were just delighted with the passage in and out among the islands and through Indian Point to the harbour. There are some spectacular estates here, cheek by jowl with cottages and small farms.
We passed by Oak Island and spotted part of a building just visible through the trees. Whether we believe it was visited by pirates or Knights Templar, whether containing buried treasure or priceless relics, there is no question that some very interesting engineering has taken place there, and it is fascinating to muse about the possibilities. This whole area is so imbued with the presence -past and present - of fishermen and shipbuilders, of rumrunners and smugglers, of explorers and pirates, of pleasure cruisers and working boats that we feel part of a company of mariners that spans generations.
We arrived in Mahone Bay around 4pm and, once again, picked up a mooring ball near the waterfront - this one cost $15.00. Usually, Jim steers us toward the bright orange or yellow ball while I stand on the bowsprit with boat hook in hand ready to snag the trailing line, but we are trying to trade jobs every now and then so this time I guided Madcap in while he did the successful snagging. (He still does most of the docking while I handle lines and fenders; I do the steering when we plan to anchor. We will switch these roles some in the next while too - I have yet to drop and set the anchor on this boat.) We had time for a quick clean up before my sister, Linda, and her husband, Peter, arrived from Wolfville for a visit.
As we were finishing dinner in our cockpit, an osprey landed on the top of the mast on the boat next to us. We had seen him/her circling around earlier, but we were in for a real treat. After just a minute or two, he swooped straight down - feet first - to the water, rose again with a fish clutched in his talons, and soared away. This performance was repeated several more times, even when it was getting quite dark. We have been used to seeing them circling off in the distance, or perched on their high nesting platforms so to get a close up look at the bird and his hunting skill was fascinating.
The sun set behind the famous three churches of Mahone Bay, filling the sky with shades of brilliant red and pink, and washing all the boats in the harbour with soft colour. Linda and Peter climbed back into the dinghy so Jim could ferry them ashore, and we said our goodbyes. The whole evening seemed touched with colour and vitality. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.
19/08/2007/10:07 am, Rogues Roost, near Prospect, NS
We've been developing our navigational skills over the last couple of days - and having a decidedly good time at it too!
By the time we detached ourselves from Halifax, it was midafternoon on Friday. Time enough to get to a couple of possible anchorages on our way to Mahone Bay. The weather was so-so, and the forecast was the same: chance of fog, no shortage of wind. We cruised out along the coves on the outskirts of Halifax, past Chebucto Head, and the fog gradually descended. It was decision time. We had been planning to make a much celebrated little anchorage called Rogues Roost, near Prospect on the NS road map, but opted to enter the easier and closer Ketch Harbour. It was a chance to use the radar skills we had last used leaving Liscomb Mills, only this time it was to enter an unfamiliar harbour.
We made the turn at Whistle Buoy, HE19, and crept slowly toward the shoreline. The radar showed there was land on each side and nothing in front of us - a nice picture. Next came one of those moments coastal sailors talk about but heretofore unexperienced by us; there was nothing but fog - and in the next instant, we could see surf breaking on rocks a couple of boat lengths away! It was breathtaking enough with radar and chart plotter in front of me. I can't imagine what it feels like to sailors without these sophisticated instruments.
With a visual image to confirm the instrument information, we moved further into this long harbour, ringed by pretty houses. Jim dropped the anchor in 15 feet of water; we put up our cockpit enclosure and spent a pleasant night gently rocking on the long, slow swells.
We thought we might be kept here for another day, but the morning forecast offered a chance to try to make it further along the coast so we waved good bye to fog-free but still grey Ketch Harbour and headed out.
Once again, our goal was Rogues Roost. All the Nova Scotia sailors with whom we have ever talked, and all the books and guides mention this as a must see spot, so even though we've been anxious to catch up with Strathspey, we kept this on our A-list.
Oh what a spectacular place it is!
Here is the picture. It's drizzling and cold. We are both dressed head to toe in our foul weather gear. There is a canvas roof over my head, but the sides and the windscreen are open so I can see. There is no dry spot anywhere. Jim is moving back and forth between the bow and the side decks, binoculars slung around his neck; I'm at the wheel with the compass and chart plotter in front of me and a guidebook, to confirm Jim's waypoints, clutched in one hand. My eyes move from chartplotter to depth sounder, to the shoals and islands around me, to book, to compass and back around again. My ears hear Jim call out the buoys (and occasionally say with concern "Do you see those rocks in front of us?"). My hands turn the wheel to adjust our course, and we keep moving forward.
(Just an aside here about the chartplotter - it's a little screen with a detailed map, including water depths, and a boat-shaped icon. We can enter a route with waypoints for each day's journey. The icon moves across the map, so as long as the system is working, we always know exactly where we are. It is one tool, however, and not infallible, so we always use paper charts and our eyes to double-check the information.)
Now - back to my story: There are waves breaking on rocks EVERYWHERE! It looks like a solid wall ahead of us - but the book already told me it would look this way so I'm OK with that. There is not much more than a boatlength between Madcap (not only our means of transportation but our home!) and the rocks, and yet there is never less than 10 feet of water under our keel. We twist and turn around shoals that are visible, and those underwater, and come at last into a remarkable little cove with just one boat anchored there. There is nothing around us but rock, scrubby trees and bushes, and pure wilderness. Single rocks seem dropped on other rocks just where they were left by the last glacier that went through.
Oh what a grand hideout this must have been for many rogues in many eras. What a grand stop it is for sailing ships and kayakers and anyone who appreciates such powerful scenery. We feel incredibly blessed to be here, and share this space for a brief time with the birds and seals, and the memories, stored among these rocks, of other boats and other sailors.
16/08/2007/12:40 pm, Halifax, NS
Oh it's good to be back in Halifax! We left here in 1991 to move to Vancouver, and although we have returned for brief visits since then, this one is different. We came by water on our own boat using our own skills, and we have stayed for a whole, wonderful week - a few days in Purcell's Cove, and now on the waterfront at Bishop's Landing.
It is so much fun to chat with the people who walk by. We've met Les - a local man who is restoring a sailboat and has been south to the Bahamas twice, David and his son Adam - visiting here from New York on a cruise boat, Matthew - the attentive and helpful marina man, Jac and friends from Ottawa - who wouldn't mind a ride back home with us!
We remember all the times we have strolled waterfronts, admiring sailboats and talking with their owners, and we thoroughly enjoy these interactions with passersby. They tell us stories, and recommend anchorages and share our dreams with us. It is quality time.
The first few days were filled with boat jobs and the generous hospitality of Pam and Gary (Atlantic Star). With their help we reprovisioned, repaired the teak rail on our stern, and located a competent diesel man to check out our engine and install a new solenoid on the starter. We traded in our 9.9hp 2-stroke outboard motor for a 5hp 4-stroke one, and can recommend Steve Dawson at White Water Marine in Lower Sackville for his helpfulness. The new motor is lighter, more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. It won't take us along as fast, but it is a better weight for our dinghy davits, will still take us ashore for explorations, and assists us in our attempt to be more earth-friendly.
The band, Signal Hill, was performing at the Lower Deck, and we spent a very fine evening enjoying their music with Blair and Mary. The Buskerfest is also on, but we liked it a lot better back in the days when it was more informal with fewer carnival-type booths and in-your-face commercialism. The oohs and aahs came easier then, and we were more enthusiastic about tossing coins and bills in the hat.
We rented a car and drove to Amherst for another visit with my Mum and Dad. The timing was just perfect, as Sunday was their 59th wedding anniversary. We picked up my Aunt Ursula in Truro, Mary Beth came down from Moncton, and we all met up at the Bell Inn in Dorchester for a superb lunch - another day of quality time.
Pam and Gary invited their friends Vince and Diane Purcell over for an evening and my pen flew across the page as they shared so much information on their travels down the US east coast, the ICW and through the Bahamas. We look forward to meeting up with them again.
We had lunch with our old friend and former neighbour, Glenn - a prelude to another visit when Peggy can come too! Among the laughs and reminiscences, were some valuable contemplations about work and identity and belonging, good fodder for another posting.
Susan and David and Jason came by for drinks, which turned into dinner and a whole delightful evening of conversation. We haven't seen Jason for 18 years so it was a real treat to meet the grown man whom we can remember discovering perched with Mary Beth on the roof of our house on Wedgewood Ave - quite oblivious to any danger as they (aged 6 or 7 at the time) dangled their legs off the edge! I think they have both retained their desire for adventure.
We just couldn't tear ourselves away today (Thursday the 16th) so we'll visit this evening with Gilles and Marielle (Lady M) and depart in the morning to journey on toward Chester and the Mahone Bay. That is where we'll reconnect with Strathspey and enjoy a few days in some of the prime sailing area of Canada's Ocean Playground.