20 August 2007 | 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.