We had 24 hours to prepare Southern Star for the arrival of our next guest – Gordon – who was flying into Halifax from spending time with family in Scotland, before continuing onto Toronto for more family time. Gordon lives in NZ and operates as our NZ address and contact.
We were still exhausted from our long passage, but managed to get the VIP stateroom cleaned up, the rest of the interior looking good and did a big external washdown to make her look sparkly. Gordon was picking up a rental car at Halifax airport, so we’d given him directions to get to the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron Marina. We got a text to say he was on his way, but I still couldn’t quite believe that we had actually made it to Canada ahead of him and were there to welcome him onto the dock.
Because we had transportation, we decided to stay in Halifax for a few days. We had a nice marina away from town, but close to shopping and most importantly for Gordon, Tim Hortons.
We did not know of this uniquely Canadian phenomenon, a doughnut and coffee franchise which operates throughout Canada but nowhere else. It was founded by a famous ice hockey player, who has since died, but his name lives on, in every city, town, village and often service station everywhere we went. You buy a box of 12 assorted doughnuts for C$10. And they are good, although the coffee not so much.
The first full day, Gordon and I went out to provision, as I had not had a chance to do this in the rush to leave Delaware. We visited Walmart, Sobeys supermarket and Nova Scotia Licensing Board (booze) to obtain necessary supplies for the time Gordon was with us – 18 days.
While we were shopping, Ted did some oil changes and other maintenance following the four day passage. That afternoon, we headed into Halifax to explore the town. We took a tourist trolley/train which wove around quite steep streets on the waterfront.
We explored the Maritime Museum and learned that Halifax was the centre of rescue operations for the Titanic disaster and that many of the dead are buried in Halifax cemeteries. We also learned about the Halifax Explosion, where in December 1917 two vessels colliding in the inner harbor, one of which was laden with high explosives. The ensuing blast killed 2000 people, injured another 9000 and was the biggest man made explosion before the development of nuclear weapons. It destroyed every building within half a mile of the explosion and a pressure wave and tsunami created further devastation. A further tragedy was that many of those killed had just returned home from WW1. We had no idea.
We also didn’t realise how strategic Halifax was during the war, in terms of maritime operations. It is a fascinating museum and a must see stop in Halifax.
After leaving the museum we found a bar and while sitting at a table in the shade, a couple joined us who were from Sydney, Nova Scotia. This was where we were heading at the top of the Bras d’Or lakes on Cape Breton Island. They were complaining about the heat – it was around 25 degrees C – so for us a perfect temperature. We were to hear this often from Nova Scotians – describing these temperatures as a heat wave.
Gordon offered to buy us dinner to celebrate Ted’s 60th birthday and we tried two restaurants both of which were fully booked (Saturday night) before being sent to La Frasca – a bit of a walk up one of the steep streets, but definitely worth the effort. The food was magnificent and we learned later from our good friends and native Nova Scotians on N68 Grace of Tides that this is their favourite Halifax restaurant.
The next day we took a road trip south to Lunenburg – a favourite of cruisers and had lunch overlooking the bay. Lunenburg is a World Heritage Site, and is a beautifully preserved town established by the British during their colonization of Nova Scotia. The colors of the buildings and homes are wonderful, and it was a pleasure to wander around this photogenic town.
We took the scenic route back around a varied and beautiful coastline, stopping at small fishing villages, coastal lookouts and Peggy’s Cove which has a lovely lighthouse.
The following day we drove back into Halifax as Gordon was keen to see the Maud Lewis exhibition at the Art Gallery. She was the subject of the film Maudie which chronicled her life and work. Her paintings are simple and almost child-like, but the most interesting aspect of the exhibit was her home, which had been dismantled and reconstructed inside the Museum.
Halifax has a large covered structure which operates as a Farmers Market daily. This was adjacent to where Gordon had to return the car, so we wandered through and had lunch there before walking over to the Museum. We found another bar for a beer before eventually finding the bus to take us back to the terminal where we transferred to the bus out to the Marina. Very easy, and cheap.
The next morning we moved to the fuel dock and put an additional 200 gallons of diesel into Southern Star, not really needed but we were unsure when we might get to fuel up again. We then headed out of Halifax Harbor and turned north-east along the coast. We had decided to take several days to travel up to the Bras d’Or lakes, and let Gordon experience some coastal cruising. We plotted courses of around 50nm per day, taking a wide course so the boys could put some lines out. Sadly this proved fruitless over the course of the trip, although one day while I was on watch, Gordon and I saw a big tuna jump out of the water chasing fish. Gordon ran to the back of the boat to watch his lines, but whatever we had on offer was of no interest to that tuna.
Our first night we anchored alone in Tangier Cove which was very beautiful. We awoke to heavy fog the next morning and couldn’t move until after 10am. Fortunately we only had another 50 miles to go to Liscombe Harbor, where we anchored with another sailboat in a large protected bay. We launched the tender for the first time with Gordon, and toured the outer bay before taking the river up to Liscombe Lodge, where two more sailboats were anchored. We pulled into a dinghy dock and were welcomed by the Lodge Manager who directed us to the bar. We had beers and bar snacks in the most gorgeous secluded setting above the river looking out over bush and trees. We dinghied back to Southern Star just as the sun went down.
The next day we woke again to fog and a late start. The next fifty miles took us to Tor Bay, just inside the northeastern point of the island. This was not such a pretty anchorage, and we had a slight roll overnight which while not uncomfortable, was not as peaceful as the last two nights. However, there was no fog so we were able to get an earlier start for the trip almost due north across the Lennox Passage up to Cape Breton Island.
During our three daytime passages we passed several Nordhavn’s moving south. Some we didn’t see as it was foggy, other than watching them on AIS. We saw N76 Trixie, who we last passed when crossing the Potomac in October, and we had a quick conversation via VHF again.
We had to take St Peters Canal and Lock into the lake, and this closed at 4pm. It became clear we wouldn’t make it and as we approached we saw a large Nordhavn anchored off to the left of the canal entrance. We pulled in behind them and dropped the hook. They later called us, N76 Tango, and we had a nice chat, they were moving southward following the other boats we had seen as we came north.
The next morning we readied our lines and fenders to take the Canal and Lock, which we need to do on our port side, where we don’t have easy access. It was great to have Gordon on board to manage the stern lines, while I was on the bow and Ted drove the boat. We glided into the lock and tied up while they raised the water level, only slightly. We then had to wait till they drove along to the bridge which also had to be opened to allow us through. Immediately on exiting the Canal we turned left and saw two N47s – Bluewater and Happy, tied up at St Peters Marina. Further on, on a T head, we saw N68 Grace of Tides. We were directed to a slip on their dock, and were tied up by lunchtime.
The village of St Peters is a short walk up from the marina. Gordon found a Tim Hortons, and there was also a small supermarket, liquor store, hardware store and several restaurants. We walked over to introduce ourselves to Bluewater and Happy, and they invited us all to join them for dinner that evening, as they were departing the next day. Dee and Jerry on Grace of Tides were also due to return that evening and would join us. We met early evening for drinks on board Happy, then walked up to the restaurant for a lively dinner.