St Peters and the Bras dOr Lakes

The next morning we readied lines and fenders for 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 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, and then walked up to the restaurant for a lively dinner.

The next morning, Gordon suggested breakfast in the village and we did a walk around the village, hoping to see the Canal museum. Unfortunately this was closed, but we did find a fascinating museum about Wallace MacAskill who was a well known photographer from the area.
Dee and Jerry had very generously invited the three of us to join them on Grace of Tides that evening, and Gordon offered to buy pizza for us. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain, and Jerry and Gordon had to make two trips up to the village to organize the pizza. It was a lovely evening despite the weather. Jerry gave the boys the full boat tour while I watched Dee perform magic in the wonderful galley on the N68. There was a lot of good NZ Pinot Noir consumed, and as always we thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with Dee and Jerry. They have a gorgeous boat which Dee has beautifully upgraded – the only downside was the constant comparison by Gordon on returning to our humble N47, regarding the vastly superior guest accommodations on Grace of Tides!

The weather was not great so we postponed our departure another day, arranging to meet up with Roam at Baddeck, about 30 miles north of St Peters. We washed down the boat and left the following day meandering up the lake which is very beautiful, with a mixture of sandy and stony beaches, rock faces, forest and the occasional waterfront home.
We arrived at the village of Baddeck where there is a small marina and many moorings. Despite Clark on Roam suggesting we could anchor in the harbor, it didn’t look like it had enough room for three Nordhavns to anchor there, and we decided to move to the other side of the bay with more room to anchor. The weather was reasonably settled and we found a lovely spot off a beach in very deep water close in, where we stopped. Roam and Aqua Dolce appeared an hour or so later and anchored off the village. We took our tender over there for a wonderful meal including lobster courtesy of a local fisherman, oysters procured by Clark and Keith earlier in the day, and pizza arranged by Michelle.

Baddeck is best known as the long time home and retreat of Alexander Graham Bell so the next morning we dinghied into the village, topped up the gasoline in the dinghy and walked up to the Museum which was very well done. We found a food truck called “Stuff your face” where we ordered sandwiches and drinks and were able to take these up to the Baddeck Yacht Club to sit on their deck and have lunch.

We decided with time running out that we wanted to explore more of the lake, so we set off after lunch to travel around to Island Point Harbor which was a recommended anchorage by Grace of Tides. It was a bit of a rough trip over there but we were able to move far enough up the harbor to get protection and it was well worth it as the anchorage was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been in. High white sandstone cliffs lined one side of the harbor, and thick bush and forest everywhere else. The next morning the water was like glass and we launched the kayaks for a paddle while Gordon followed us in the dinghy. It was hot, and I jumped in the water and it was surprisingly warm, so I grabbed a brush and did a quick clean of Southern Star’s waterline. I did get a jellyfish sting for my efforts, but the waterline was much improved.

We then did another afternoon trip back down the lake, through the bridge at Barra Strait, and back up East Bay to anchor amongst some islands. This trip was really choppy and the wind came up overnight, but our anchor held well, and although we swung around we had plenty of water and no other boats around us to worry about.

The next morning we did the short hop of a few miles further up the bay and into the marina at Ben Eion, again recommended by Jerry on Grace of Tides. This is a lovely marina with good facilities and very welcoming to the few transient boaters they see each season. All the marinas in Nova Scotia remove their floating docks for the winter, which must be a huge logistical exercise involving rolling up power and water cables, as well as taking the docks and all boats out of the water before it freezes over.

At Ben Eion, we met the captain of a Fleming 65 who was returning their rental car and we agreed to return the car for them, and pick ours up. It worked out well, and gave us a chance to scope out Sydney Airport where Gordon was catching a very early flight out to Toronto a few days later.

Once the cars were picked up and dropped off, we continued on to Glace Bay and visited the Cape Breton Miners Museum. Coal mining had been a huge part of Cape Breton’s history and was the subject of a beautiful song called “Working Man” by Cape Breton singer songwriter Rita MacNeil. As it turned out, this was one of the highlights of our trip. The museum itself was interesting, but Ted and I chose to take a tour of an abandoned mineshaft, guided by a retired miner. It was a revelation to learn about and experience the hardships of their working environment, the fraudulent ways in which men and families were recruited from the UK and Ireland to work the mines, and the absolute control of their financial situation by the “company store” which included the miners being required to purchase their own dynamite for use in the mines. Gordon chose not to do the tour as parts of it involved walking in a mine only 4 feet high – actually several people in the tour turned back because of this so it was a good call.

When the tour ended I thanked the guide for sharing memories of his working life with us and told him about the 29 miners lost in the Pike River Mine in NZ in 2010.

“Through the dark recess of the mines
Oh he’ll take you back in time
And he’ll tell you of the hardships that were had
It’s a working man I am
And I’ve been down underground…’

We travelled on Louisbourg, which was another extraordinary destination. Unfortunately we didn’t realise that we needed to take a shuttle bus to get to this French fortress from the 1700’s, and that it closed at 5.00pm. We took a bus at 4.00pm which they didn’t charge us for, and had only an hour to wander around this incredible village which is populated by people in traditional dress, performing various activities of the time complete with cannon firing at the close of the day. It was huge and we only saw a small portion of it, and all agreed you’d need a day to fully explore and appreciate everything there is to see. Again it was beautifully preserved, very authentic and in a magnificent location.

We returned to the marina and walked over to the Club House where there was a catered members’ event which we were invited to. The food was average but it’s always nice not to have to cook after a long day tripping around. The wine was better back on board as well – thanks again Gordon!

The next day we started early to drive the Cabot Trail which snakes around the coastline on the northwestern side of Cape Breton Island. The marina manager had stipulated we should drive clockwise for the best views although our friends on Grace of Tides later told us they disagreed with this.

Regardless, the views are spectacular. We stopped at Tim Hortons outside Baddeck for breakfast, and Ted and Gordon shared the driving over roads reminiscent of NZ. You could also spend several days doing this trip with the many walking trails running off the highway. We didn’t have the luxury of time, as unfortunately Gordon was leaving us the next morning.

I had given up any hope of visiting Rita’s Tea House, where Rita MacNeil had lived for many years, despite it being quite close to the marina. But we made good time and arrived back there at 4.30pm where I bought a coffee mug with lines from her song about Cape Breton. Gordon bought one with lines from her song about Nova Scotia.

So we went back to the boat for our last night with Gordon aboard. We stumbled out of bed at 4.30am the next morning to wave him goodbye as he drove off to catch his 6.20am flight. When we got up again for coffee later, the boat seemed very empty without him. We have had only a few guests on board since moving onto Southern Star, and we always look forward to meeting and greeting them, and sharing this wonderful life that we are leading.

But with Gordon, there was an added pleasure. Back in NZ, he had been instrumental in motivating us to actually turn our five year Nordhavn dream into a reality. He had spent time with us on Defiant, and when we had spent evenings with him in Auckland he was fully supportive and encouraging to us as we planned. So we really enjoyed welcoming him on board, and that he had allocated so much time to spend with us, so that we could take time to enjoy marina life, take comfortable daytime passages along the coastline, and then enjoy the very special peace and solitude that you only get when at anchor in a secluded bay. And also experience the wonderful camaraderie within the Nordhavn community.

We consumed far too much red wine and other various beverages, too much good food, and far too many of Tim Horton’s products. But we had the most amazing time exploring Nova Scotia together, by sea and by land.

So thank you again Gordon for your friendship and joie de vivre and for sharing Nova Scotia with us. Southern Star will welcome you back on board anytime, anywhere.

“So walk through her green fields, go down to the sea
The fortune in your eyes is more like a dream
She’s called Nova Scotia and she so makes you feel
You discovered a treasure no other has seen.”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *