Hanging around Halifax!

Halifax, NS – Tuesday, 8/6 – Tuesday, 8/13
After leaving the wharf in Carter’s Cove we cruised south (well really west) to Halifax and took as slip at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron (RNSYS).  We then spent the last week enjoying all the sites, people and food this city of 600,000 had to offer. Below are some of the highlights of our activities.

Carters Cove to Halifax

Carters Cove to Halifax

Halifax Harbor

Halifax Harbor

We started out the first few days with adventures that included walking along the wharf area downtown. There is lots to see here, including the use of old containers as “storefronts”, street musicians, and art sculptures throughout.  Here are some pictures from this area:

Our outings throughout the week included visiting the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the Citadel, the Farmer’s Market and Seaport Village, and the Public Gardens.

At the maritime museum we saw the Titanic Exhibit, the history of the great Explosion, an exhibit called “A Sea in Her Blood” – about women on the water in Nova Scotia, different boat hull designs and an entire room full of different sailboats. This is a great museum and well worth a visit if you find yourself in Halifax.  You can learn more about it here.

The visit to The Citadel required a hike up the large hill since we walked there from the bus stop. However, it offered the best views of the city and the Halifax Harbor, and we were there during the changing of the guard. Unlike the Citadel in Quebec City, this one is not still a military institution so the changing of the guard was less impressive. Nonetheless, it had a pretty good museum which included an exhibit of Canada’s role in all the wars and as a UN peacekeeping force. There was also an exhibit showing the 4 different builds of this fort-now turned event venue.  The green hillside provides perfect viewing for concerts, city celebrations, picnics or just hanging out.  You can see more about it here.

We also took a hop-on-hop off bus where we got to see all the historical sites as well as a few of the neighborhoods in Halifax. This ended up being a great thing to do because it was a great way to get to know the layout of the city and identify where things are.  Most everything is within walking distances, but almost all involve going up or around a hill.

The first visit to the Farmer’s Market was unimpressive as it was a weekday and no cruise ship was in town.  There were few vendors and most of them were places to eat. However, we did grab some lunch at one that was quite good.  The second visit was on Saturday and there were many more vendors where you could buy everything from homemade soaps, honey, maple syrup, produce (lots), and even wine.  Yes, Nova Scotia has wine and some are pretty good, and yes, we sampled and bought a bottle.  The place was packed with lots of locals as well as tourists and we enjoyed eating lunch here again.

Farmers Market

We spent some time during the week doing the usual boat chores (cleaning, checking out systems, etc.), working, and planning our future stops; all dependent on weather forecasts which seem to change every 15 minutes here. And even then they are not to be completely believed.   We were able to do laundry, which always takes forever when there is only 1 washer and 1 driver and you have to get in a queue as there are others wanting to do the same.

We got really good with getting to know the streets of Halifax thanks to the bus transit system.  Since the RNSYS was located on the Northwestern Arm of the Halifax Harbor, we were not within walking distance to the downtown. Therefore we would take the #15 bus to the Mumford terminal and then took the #1, or #2 bus to downtown Halifax. The entire trip took about 30 minutes and we were dropped right in the heart of the activity center. Along the way we got to see some “real” neighborhoods and interact with the local people, all of whom were very nice.  Even the bus drivers were helpful and only one came with an attitude.

At the Mumford bus terminal there is a large shopping center with a Wal-Mart, Sobeys (large grocery store), State-run liquor store, and various other retail outlets. It is also directly across the street from a large shopping mall which we never went to the entire time. Mark was able to get his hair cut here, but unfortunately there were no nail salons. However, Denise was able to find one in downtown Halifax and got a much needed pedicure.

During our afternoon and evenings, we were able to spend time with some new and now-familiar cruising friends Jeff & Ellen (“Sea Dweller”), Lila & Allen (“Blue Haven”), Claudia & Dave (“Still Waters II”), and Vicki & Mac (“Confetti”).  We enjoyed a few nights out with these great people; one as a whole group at an Irish pub (“Durty Nelly’s), one at a fine dining establishment (“Lot Six”), and one night at RNSYS.

We had several more serendipitous encounters with people whom we have a shared common bond. When we took the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, we met a couple who happened to also be here from Clearwater, Florida, but vacationing via car.  Come to find out Arlene & Ray (“Darrf V”) were Gold Loopers, having completed the Great Loop in 2014.  They have since sold their boat and now travel by car.

Arlene & Ray (“Darrf V”)

Our second “coincidence” was when we were in the Farmer’s Market and saw a guy wearing a Pensacola, FL t-shirt.  We started talking to him (“Robert”) when his wife (“Cecelia”) walked up wearing a FL Gators sweatshirt. Being Seminole fans we had to joke about our school rivalry, but our conversation migrated to where we lived.  Once we told them Winter Park, Cecelia mentioned she was originally from Maitland and we soon learned that she went to Bishop Moore High School and graduated in the same class as Denise’s older brother. Her maiden name was “Wicklin” and she too had siblings scattered throughout years interspersed with Denise’s siblings.  But the story does not end there. Come to find out they are very good friends with a young guy we met in Marathon, FL during our Great Loop adventure. They know “Forrest” on “Pura Vida”, who was from Pensacola and doing the Loop in a 40’ Hatteras all by himself (unless he picked up crew to help him along the way). Robert and Cecelia are not boaters and were here camping in Halifax, which makes such chance meetings even more amazing.

Cecelia (Wicklin) & Robert

On Saturday afternoon we attended the 4 pm mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica. We had walked past the church earlier in the week while they were working on the restoration of the murals behind the altar (thus the scaffolding) and the stained glass on the east side.  Had we arrived earlier in the day we could have taken a free tour, but alas we were 30 minutes too late.  It is a beautiful place that was built in 1899 and visited in 1950 by Pope Pius XII (thus making it a Basilica).  You can learn more about it here.

On Sunday we hung around the marina as we had chores to do and were tired of traveling on the bus into town.  We took the dinghy up the Northwestern Arm (waterway where the RNSYS is located) to Dingle Park where we had seen a dinghy dock. We wanted to explore the park and potentially go up the Fleming Memorial Tower we could see from our dock.  As we approached, the dock was full of local kids trying to fish from it and we had to negotiate around them to tie up.  But we did not feel comfortable leaving the dinghy there as the chop was banging it too close to the rocks and the dock. The kids also told us the tower is not open to go to the top, so we got back into the dinghy and headed in a different direction. We worked our way out towards Halifax Harbor, but the chop was a bit too much for the little dinghy. Also, we could not find a comfortable spot to land near Pleasant Park where we wanted to check out the Naval Memorial at the point.  Lastly, we motored over to Purcell’s Cove to check out the houses on the water and the boats that called this cove home.

Dingle Park and Fleming Memorial Tower

Dingle Park and Fleming Memorial Tower

The weekend also brought an air show to Halifax with aircraft from both the (British) Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force.  The special act was the Red Arrows, whose flying prowess was impressive and we got to see them from our boat, even though they were performing over Halifax Harbor.  We enjoyed the show, but it was short and our hearts still are (and always will be) with the US Navy Blue Angels.

On one of our last days in town when the weather was nice, we walked through the Public Gardens.  Built in the tradition of an old English garden, we were enchanted with the flowers, trees, sculptures, ponds and gazebo in this small but beautiful place. They even have a tropical plant area; we are sure they must take them out to a greenhouse during winter.  The one thing this park does not have is homeless people taking up benches, etc.  In fact there are very few anywhere in this town.  We saw some panhandling near the waterfront, but very little. We guess it must be due to the social services provided by the Canadian Government.

We have really enjoyed our time at the RNSYS. The people who work here and the members are very friendly and welcoming. They go out of their way to help you out and provide you with information.  We have also enjoyed meeting many other cruisers and sailors who are just passing through, Canadians and Americans alike.  The facilities are very nice and have allowed us to stay in Halifax in comfort. We were thankful we were not downtown on the public wharf.

About RNSYS:  It is one of the oldest yacht clubs in North America and the second oldest “Yacht Squadron” in the world (the first being the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, England). It is also only one of 7 that are designated as “Royal Squadrons”. The other six include:
     Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, England
     Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron
     Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron
     Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
     Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron
     Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron
You can learn more about the history of this place here.

We really enjoyed the time in Halifax, and glad that our planned 5 days turned into 8 days; no thanks to the windy weather. Here are a few other pictures of our stay here:

Little Free Library

Little Free Library – several all around town

Mansion under construction - across from RNSYS

Guest house and mansion across water from RNSYS

Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office

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Lakes, Loopers, Lodges & Locals!

St. Peters, Cape Breton – Nova Scotia – Canada (Saturday, 7/27):
We know our Florida friends and family are envious when we tell them it was 54 degrees this morning, and there was a bit of fog in the cove at St. Peter’s Marina.  It was wonderful and spectacular beautiful with nothing but bird chirps for noise.

IO at St. Peter's in morning

IO at St. Peter’s in morning

Denise was up early to take a few pictures and to talk to her sister Claire, and then to catalog the numerous pictures taken yesterday.  Once Mark got up we went on an adventure for breakfast.  Locals had told us of a great place called “Diddles”; known for its banana nut-bread French toast. Mark wanted to try it out, so we headed for the walk into town. It really was not far from the marina and we were the only ones in the place, throughout our entire meal. The food was really good, but we wondered why on a Saturday morning more people were not dining here.

After breakfast we walked to the St. Peter’s Catholic Church to confirm the mass time for tomorrow (10:30 am).  Along the way we had a spectacular view of the St. Peter’s Bay and all the cute homes along the shoreline. Here are some sights we saw along the way:

We headed back towards the downtown and along the way met “Colin” and his cute dog “Gilda” (named after the now deceased comedian Gilda Radner).

Colin & Gilda

Colin & Gilda

He was a 3rd generation “Cape Bretoner” and his Italian Grandfather (aka “Joe Pop”) left his mark on this community. He first delivered pop around Cape Breton (thus his nickname), then owned the Louie’s Cozy Corner, as well as several other businesses in the area. Colin was most informative about the area, its people and the lifestyle here.  We enjoyed talking to him and like so many people in the area, he was open, friendly, and genuine.

Louie's Cozy Corner

Louie’s Cozy Corner

Once back on the boat we got to our chores. Mark washed the boat when not interrupted by locals who wanted to talk to us (“you came all the way from Florida”).  Denise was busy cataloging pictures, writing blog, and communicating with other DE Loopers via the FB Group.

In the afternoon Claudia and Dave (“Still Waters II”) came into the marina and were put several docks away from us. Once we saw they were settled, we went over to see if they wanted to get together for dinner.  As we were approaching their boat we noticed an American Tug on the end-tie of their dock. We had seen the boat from our dock and knew it was a tug, but it wasn’t until we got up close that we saw it was “Blue Haven”.  We first met Alan and Leila in Peoria, IL in 2015 on our Great Loop, and then saw them again in Fort Myers in February 2018. Claudia invited them to join us on their boat, but they were headed out to a concert and were in a rush to leave.

After some conversation with Claudia and Dave, we agreed to go to dinner and headed back to the boat.  We spent some time talking with family, communicating with our other DE Looper friends and relaxing before heading out to dinner.  As this is a very small town (approximately 800 people live here) they have a limited choice in restaurants. We opted for the family-friendly “Louie’s Cozy Corner” that offered a variety of menu options, including Chinese food and some terrific fish. We had a very affordable and delicious dinner, but more importantly we got to know Dave and Claudia a little better.  Once done with dinner we walked around the downtown area before returning to the marina for the evening.

A bit about this area known as Bras D’Or Lakes.   The name of which means “arm of gold” and is a saltwater lake on Cape Breton Island.  Because it is a large estuary that is part salt and part fresh water, it is also known as the “inland sea”. While there is a large body of water known as THE “Bras D’Or Lake”, and there is one known as “Great Bras D’Or”, all the surrounding bodies of water are collectively known as the “Bras D’Or Lakes” as there are so many coves and islands (each with their own names).  The area is rich with culture from the original (called “First Nation”) settlers known as the Mi’kmaq, as well as immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, and France. In 2011 it was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, recognizing that the locals live in harmony with nature and work to promote a healthy environment, economy and culture.  Throughout the area there are festivals celebrating the life of all these cultures including Celtic music, bagpipes, and first nation traditions. Music is huge and almost every night in the summer there is a concert or ceilidhs (pronounced kay lee) and involves Scottish highland dancing.

Little Harbor Anchorage, Cape Breton – Nova Scotia – Canada (Sunday, 7/28):
The morning was lovely and cool, but not cold. We got a little laundry done before heading out to mass at St. Peter’s. This was our first English speaking mass in 4 weeks and how nice it was.  The Philippine priest spoke with an accent, but he was clearly understandable and was very welcoming when we spoke with him after mass.

We returned to the marina and stopped by the office to pay our bill. We also communicated that we would most likely be stopping back by on our way south, and we were assured there would be a spot for us. This is becoming a popular marina because of the wonderful service by dockmaster Gerry and his staff and we too are now big fans.

St Peter's Marina

St Peter’s Marina

As we were walking back to the boat we noticed a familiar boat at the fuel dock. Amazingly, we noticed it was Gold Loopers Carolyn and George (“Lydia E”) whom we first met in Oriental, NC in April 2017, and saw again in Maine in July of that year.  We stopped and chatted for a little while, learning they were headed to do the DE Loop backwards and would be heading back to FL for the winter. What a small world it really is, but more so in this cruising community.

Carolyn & David ("Lydia E")

Carolyn & David (“Lydia E”)

Finally back on our boat, we untied the dock lines and left St. Peters Marina.

St. Peters to Little Harbor

St. Peters to Little Harbor

We cruised through St. Peter’s Inlet and onto the Bras D’Or Lake. It was spectacularly beautiful. It helped that it was a beautiful day and perfect conditions, but even if it wasn’t we were thrilled.  Our anchorage at Little Harbor was not far away and while in route we passed our Looper friends Alan and Lila (Blue Haven).

Hoping to enjoy a Sunday dinner of smoked salmon at a restaurant that was on western shore of this cove, we were disappointed to find it had closed and that there was a “For Sale” sign on property. We probably should have asked about it from the locals in St. Peters, but we were not thinking. We had a freezer full of food and would not starve.

We drove around this large cove to determine where best to anchor, and settled in near a sailboat that came in just before us, and directly behind “Blue Haven” who had managed to beat us to the spot while we were checking out the closed restaurant.  Later they came by in their dinghy to ask if we knew anything about the restaurant and we shared what we knew.

Later in the evening several more sailboats came into the anchorage but because it was so large, it was not crowded at all.  The sun set, the sky went dark, and we saw so many stars in the clear sky as there was no light pollution. It was spectacular and really was so peaceful and relaxing – until the wind picked up and slapped the boat hull all night long.

Baddeck, Cape Breton – Nova Scotia – Canada (Monday, 7/29):
Denise woke up and wanted to go outside, but during the night the bugs had attacked our cockpit. Although most were dead, they were everywhere. So sitting inside with a great view of the shoreline, she spotted an osprey grab a fish and take it to the top of a tree to chow down for a sushi breakfast.

Eventually Mark woke up and the generator went on to brew a pot of coffee and charge all the devices (phone, hotspot, iPads, etc.).  It was a bit foggy so we waited a while to leave, but finally left around 8:00 am when it had mostly lifted.  The anchor came up full of mud, but Captain Mark was able to wash it all off and we were on our way.

Little Harbor to Baddeck

Little Harbor to Baddeck

Once outside the protection of the anchorage, we realized we were glad we left when we did. The wind on the lake was more intense than expected and we were in 2 foot seas almost immediately. Fortunately it was from behind so the ride was tolerable, but if heading south it would have been a miserable ride.

It was quite choppy by the time we approached the Iona Bridge and passed by the Barra Strait Marina to our right, and the town of Iona to the left.

Once through the bridge, the water calmed immediately and it turned into a pleasant cruise. However, it had us rechecking the weather and making a change in our plans. Originally we going to go to another anchorage on the lake, but after seeing the latest forecast for higher winds tomorrow, we decided to continue on to Baddeck and take our chances at the public wharf (first come first serve) or anchor out in the harbor.

As we approached the town we noticed there was a spot on the wharf on the south side. We decided to tie up here and Captain Mark parallel parked the boat between a Nordhavn 40’ boat and a charter catamaran.  He made it look easy.

IO at the Baddeck Wharf

IO at the Baddeck Wharf

Unlike many of the other wharfs in Canada, this one was not free but it is still open to the public. There are a few tour/charter boats that operate off the wharf including a big “pirate” cruise.  So there is always someone looking at your boat.  It is also a fixed dock and with a 6’ tide it makes getting on and off the boat a real challenge, especially at low tide. However, it was still better than being blown away by the wind and we had easy access to the downtown.

Just north of the wharf is the Baddeck Yacht Club, with a nice facility but no dockage for boats like ours. It is mostly a sailing center, and like all yacht clubs in the summer, they have the young kids out in the “Optimist Prams” to learn about sail trim and turning (e.g. tacking).  It is always a hoot to watch.

After settling the boat we went to register and pay our overnight dockage. Here you do so at The Freight Shed Waterside Bistro & Market; the only eating establishment on the wharf. Along with the usual information about a marina (Wifi– open and weak signal; restrooms – only when the bistro is open; we got all the information about the downtown area.

We then walked over to the Baddeck Marina, located next door. We have reservations for tomorrow night, but couldn’t get in a day early.  They also have a marine store and Mark wanted to see if they had the diesel fuel treatment he had purchased in Gaspe. He wanted more in case our “fuel in water” issue came back (which fortunately, it has not).  We were able to get some and then confirm the slip location for tomorrow night, as well as the amenities we were lacking on the city wharf (private bathrooms and protected Wi-Fi).

We then walked to the main street that runs through town and went to see “Rose” at The Outfitter Store. She was our contact for trying to secure a rental car.  We got her name from a local in St. Peters. Unfortunately, Rose was not the primary rental-car person, but she shared “Phillips” phone number and Mark made contact with him. Without going through all the details, we were unable to secure a rental car from him or any agency out of Sydney (Avis, etc.) before 8/15.  We finally gave up on this plan and decided the Cabot Trail would have to wait for another trip to Nova Scotia.

The Outdoor Store

The Outdoor Store

After the Outfitters Store we went to the Tourist Information Office and got answers to several questions we had.  After that we stopped at The Frozen Spoon for an ice cream to cool off from the heat; it was 85° and all the locals were complaining about how hot it was. Of course with no air conditioning in most buildings it was truly uncomfortable.

We headed back to the boat to do some itinerary planning and watch the people come and go. We saw our friends on “Blue Haven” come into the harbor and anchor.  We also were approached by a woman (“Barbara”) who wanted to talk with us about our boat. Come to find out she and husband just purchased a new-to-them Back Cove 37, but it is an older model.  Their boat “Porpoise” was at the dock for the Inverary Resort, located south of town, where they were spending a few days. They are from Chester (near Halifax) and are in town with their two adult children. We spoke for a while and she told us to look her up when we get to the Halifax/Chester area.

"Porpoise" at Inverary Resort

“Porpoise” at Inverary Resort

Mark decided to rinse off the boat as it was covered with salt from the morning run up from Little Harbor. When he was done and putting things away he realized he could not find the fuel treatment we purchased earlier in the day.  We attempted to contact the ice cream shop, thinking we may have left it there, but were unable to find a telephone number for them. They have no website and their Facebook page had no phone listed. Wanting some more exercise, Denise agreed to walk back there and hunt it down. Unfortunately, it was not there but she walked back down to the Outfitters store hoping it was there. Sure enough, Rose had it.  And when she walked into the store to ask, she was talking to none other than Barbara (“Porpoise”) who was with her husband Richard.  They talked briefly and then Denise headed back to the boat.

Later in the afternoon we were hit with a major thunderstorm, not unlike the ones we get at home. We had watched the clouds build all day, and heard the rumble of the thunder for about an hour before it finally hit. Fortunately, we were on the edge of the storm and it passed us by quickly. Within 1 hour the sky was cleared up and we didn’t have any more rain the rest of the night.

Stormy skies brewing

Stormy skies brewing

On recommendations from locals in St. Peters and from the Active Captain reviews, we chose to dine at the “Baddeck Lobster Suppers” restaurant.  They are known for their seafood, specifically the lobster.  They have a fixed price dinner for $50 that includes all the steamed mussels and seafood chowder you can eat, plus a 1.25 lb lobster, dessert and soda.  The restaurant is on the south end of town and to get there we first walked the boardwalk that runs along the harbor, then up a hill, then down another hill.  It was worth the walk and Denise loved the fixed price meal. Mark opted for a smoked salmon dish that was good, but unimpressive.

After dinner we walked back to the boat via the boardwalk again. This time we were able to take in the sights, including the sculpture of Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell sitting on the park bench. Mr. Bell had a home in Baddeck and there is a museum here that is a National Historic Site. It is the only museum in the world containing the actual artifacts and documents from Bell’s years of experimental work here, and we are planning to go there tomorrow.

Baddeck, Cape Breton – Nova Scotia – Canada (Tuesday, 7/30):
We started the day by moving our boat less than 800 yards to the Baddeck Marina.  Here we had a reservation for one night, and wished it was for two nights. It was more comfortable with much better Wi-Fi, and they had nice low docks. Unfortunately, they did not have water on their docks so we would have to use the water in our tanks (no big deal).

IO at Baddeck Marina

IO at Baddeck Marina

Next we walked to the north end of town and up the hill to the Alexander Graham Bell museum. It was very informative and we learned how many other numerous inventions he had, and the work he did to help those who were deaf (including his wife, Mabel). The museum is very well done and we were very glad we spent the morning here.  As we walked down the hill to head back to the marina, we saw “Still Waters II” had pulled into the anchorage near “Blue Haven”.

After lunch Denise walked to the grocery store (“CO-OP”) to get some milk and a few other things. While she was gone, Leila and Alan (“Blue Haven”) came over to the marina and talked with Mark.  They are coming into the marina tomorrow and they are the reason for us not being able to extend an extra day.  Later we saw “Porpoise” come into the marina fuel dock for a fill-up and we had a chance to talk with them about their hometown Chester and the Mahone Bay.  We are headed there after Halifax and wanted as much information as possible. They have suggested we look them up when we are there, which we will most likely do.

That evening we caught up with Dave & Claudia (“Still Waters II”) for a pizza dinner at “Tom’s”.  It was pretty good pizza and we even have some leftovers for another meal.

While sitting there, a local artist started playing his guitar and singing literally 5’ from where we were sitting.  It had been really hot outside all day and the loud music combined with the hot (non-air conditioned room) meant it was time to go.  On the walk down the street back to the marina (us) and the dinghy dock (“SWII”), we encountered an entertainer playing bagpipes as he walked down the street.  Most likely he was heading for the public wharf as we had been entertained there last night before it started to rain.

Bag piper walking through town

Bagpiper walking through town

Here are a few other pictures from the lovely town of Baddeck:

Baddeck, Cape Breton – Nova Scotia – Canada (Wednesday, 7/31):
As soon as the fog lifted we left Baddeck to head back to St. Peters and start our journey south. From today onward, we will be heading towards home.

Baddeck to St. Peters

Baddeck to St. Peters

Winds on the Bras D’Or Lake were forecasted to build and they would be on our nose from the Iona Bridge southward so we wanted to get across before it got too bad.  We left Baddeck when it was foggy but with still good visibility. By the time we got to the Iona Bridge we didn’t need our radar any longer, even though it was still foggy.  After the bridge it was a bit choppy but not nearly as bad as forecasted.  It took us less than an hour to make it across the lake, and as we entered the channel to take us to St. Peter’s Inlet, the fog lifted and it was spectacularly beautiful.

We arrived at the St. Peter’s marina and pulled into the fuel dock to fill up our tank for the long journey down the Nova Scotia coastline where fuel stops are limited and the price is higher.  We then moved into our side-tie slip at the t-dock, right next to where we were last weekend.  It’s a great location and an easy out.

Over the last few days, the cyst on Mark’s neck was getting worse and today it started oozing and not looking great. Fearing an infection, Mark identified a clinic in St. Peter’s we could go to, but closed at noon. We were trying to make it there in time but we were not able to do so. When he went to the marina office to register us for this visit, he asked Dockmaster Gerry for suggestions.  Within 30 minutes he had the keys to his car and had an appointment to see the only doctor-on-call at the clinic in Arichat, on the Isle De Madame. This meant a 45 minute car ride there, so we promptly locked up the boat and headed there.

The route by car took us over the Lennox Bridge; the one under construction that we had cruised through over a week ago. Here there road was one-way only so there was a wait for our side to go across, but it was not long; not a lot of people live in this part of Nova Scotia and a “traffic jam” is a relative term.

Finally we arrived at the clinic in Arichat, signed in and then had to wait 40 minutes to be seen by the doctor.  He looked at Mark’s cyst and determined that it had to be lanced and packed. No big deal, right? Except the clinic is not prepared for such procedures and we would have to drive one mile up the road to the “hospital”.  There, the doctor would meet us as soon as they got us registered. Yes, this doctor must travel frequently between these two facilities; one a clinic and the other the community hospital. Both are managed to the highest level of inefficiency. To make a long story short, we finally got out of there at 5 pm and still had to drive back to the marina.  On the way back we stopped at the grocery store in St. Peters and picked up a rotisserie chicken for dinner, which we had on board.

When we returned to the marina, there were chairs set up on the lawn for an evening of live entertainment which we were able to hear from the boat.  The first musician (guitarist) was good, the second one (rap) was awful, and the last one (female) played too short of time. By 8:30 it was all over and they were breaking down the stage.  That worked for us as it had been a very long day and we were beat, so we went to bed early.

St Peter’s, Cape Breton – Nova Scotia – Canada (Thursday, 8/1):
Still feeling a bit run down from yesterday, we stayed close to the boat all day and had no real adventure. We did laundry, a few boat chores, cataloged pictures, and wrote and published the last blog update.

In the afternoon two of the locals whom we had become friends with over the last week came by the boat. “Brent” and “Glenn” had been wanting a tour of the inside of our boat and since they had been most helpful to us during our stay we wanted to oblige. Brent and his wife Shauna gave us lots of good information about the Bras D’Or Lakes, about the Dr. Mark saw yesterday, and about their life here in St. Peters. It is such a warm and gracious community we would have sworn we were back in the south. We will miss this place.

Brent & Shauna

Brent & Shauna

The St. Peters Lions club is the owner of the land and the marina and they frequently have events at their club up the hill from the marina. Gerry is an unpaid volunteer who pours his heart and soul into making sure the customers are happy and have everything they need.  However, all the young kids working here during the summer are paid.  They are friendly but not too knowledgeable about boating, so many of the locals who keep their boats here seasonally pitch in and help.

Lions Club hall

Lions Club hall

Tonight the Lions Club was having a fund-raising dinner at their club and all were invited. Originally we considered it, but nixed the idea because basically it was chowder, rolls and coffee.  Instead we walked to town and ate dinner again at Louie’s Cozy Corner one last time.

Here are some other pictures from St. Peters:


Liscomb Mills, Nova Scotia – Canada (Friday, 8/2):

St Peters to Liscomb MillsWe left St. Peter’s Marina a few minutes after 8:00 a.m. and after calling the lock to let them know we were on our way.   We entered the St. Peters Canal, passed through the lock without issue, and headed out of St. Peter’s Bay.

We entered Lennox Passage briefly, then turned to a new course that would take us offshore and for our run down the east coast of Nova Scotia.  In the distance we could see the fog as we made our way around Isle de Madame.  We entered the Chedabucto Bay and although present initially, the fog lifted and we were able to turn off the radar.  And now we were in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time since entering NY harbor in June.

We crossed the Canso Strait and passed the town of Canso off our right side.

Town of Canso

Town of Canso

The seas were very calm and the fog continued to dissipate.  We came up on several sailboats and easily cruised past them; all of us grateful for the light wind on our nose.  We passed several lighthouses along the way, all of them a little different in shape and all there to protect the boater from the numerous rocks, ledges and shoals that line the Nova Scotia Coast.

Soon we came to the Liscomb River and made a right turn to make the 10 mile cruise up the river to the “Liscombe Lodge Resort and Conference Centre” – yes, Liscombe with an “e” – even though the town name is “Liscomb”.  This is a big resort in the middle of nowhere that offers a small floating dock that can house 2 boats (more if you are willing to raft up). When we arrived there was already a sailboat at the dock (“Phoenix”) and it didn’t look like there was room for us. But there was and since we had reservations, dockmaster Chester was there to meet us and assist with tying the boat up.

Once the boat was tied up and connected to shore power, Chester gave us a walking tour of the place, pointing out that in addition to the hotel rooms, there are cottages and chalets on the property along the river. He took us to the main desk/gift shop where we registered and learned what the dining options were for the restaurant or the bar.  He then took us across the parking lot to the indoor pool and fitness center, then walked us back to the marina.  Here they have bikes and catamarans for their guests to use at no charge.

Also on the property there are games (shuffleboard, life-size chess), a pool and fitness center, a recreation center with pool and ping pong), and an ice cream stand.  But that is all that is here in this location. There is no town or anything else to attract one to come to this spot. For us, it was a place to pull into that was safe from weather (mostly winds) and offered us a chance to get to church on Sunday (more of that later).  There was also no cell phone service, but they did have Wi-Fi. Once we enabled our phones for Wi-Fi calling, it was fine and we were able to use our hotspot to get emails and do some work before the week came to a close.

We had a few leftovers in the galley, so we opted for dinner on board and a quiet evening.

Liscomb Mills, Nova Scotia – Canada (Saturday, 8/3):
Today was a very relaxing day. We spent the whole day hanging around the marina and resort. We talked with family, worked on cataloging pictures, and watched Chester take resort guests a river tour in the pontoon boat docked next to us.

During the day a sailboat came in and raft to “Phoenix”, the sailboat behind us.  Almost immediately Jaime & Lori (“Sea Quester”) were eager to meet us. Their sailboat was one of the last made by Sabre before they converted to building only power boats. Sabre is the parent company of our boat: Back Cove. We chatted for a while, shared boat cards, and learned they are headed to Newfoundland and Labrador before heading back to the Boston area where they are from.  As experienced offshore sailors they had lots of information to share about the Nova Scotia and Downeast Maine coasts, and agreed to share “must see” places with us later.

Lori & Jamie "Sea Quester"

Lori & Jamie “Sea Quester”

During the day the WIFI went out and Mark notified Chester, who notified the Lodge management. It took several hours before it came back on. Most people would be relieved to have no phone or internet access for a day, but for us it is our lifeline to our business and the only thing that allows us to stay connected when we are cruising. But, it was a Saturday and not an urgent business need, but did limit our communications with family.

For dinner we went to the lodge restaurant and found the food to be very good, but the service was really slow.  It took forever to get our meal and the place was not crowded at all.

View from dinner table

View from dinner table

Afterwards we went back to the boat and settled in for the evening. The music from the wedding reception held at the Lodge had kicked in high gear and there were some rowdy attendees, but not to the point of being offensive.  However, after we had gone to bed one of those attendees decided to come on our boat. Mark woke up and found him on the bow, but told him to get off and he did.  So much for their so-called security guard looking out for us.

Liscomb Mills, Nova Scotia – Canada (Sunday, 8/4):
One of the reasons we came here was to be able to go to one of the few catholic churches in this very remote part of Nova Scotia.  Chester loaned us his car to drive to the nearest town of Sherbrooke Village where the church was located, about 20 minutes away. We left in time to get breakfast at the Sherbrooke Village Inn, but it took less time than expected and we had some time before the 11:30 mass.  So we went to do a reconnaissance on the historic “Sherbrooke Village”; a recreated village that depicts the history of the area – mostly British loyalists who left the USA after the American Revolution.  We had considered going here after church, but once we saw what it really was, we changed our minds. It looked a bit cheesy and very touristy and we later learned none of the buildings were original, but rather reconstructed.  We are not up for inauthentic touristy stuff, and instead we drove around to see some of the town and then went to the church early, sitting in the parking lot until it was time for mass.

The church at St. Paul’s is really small, and is one of several churches that make up the parish; all served by the same priest as is typical in these parts.  There were no more than 50 people in mass, and with the exception of one family the average age was probably 150, but they were all warm and welcoming.

After mass we drove back to the Liscombe Resort and just in the nick of time. When we got down to the docks the high winds had put a strain on the floating dock where the two sailboats were rafted together, and the floating dock broke from the main dock.  The two boats were coming perilously close to the rocks on the other side of the fixed structure.  Several of the maintenance workers and Chester were just arriving and we hurried to offer assistance. Eventually “Sea Quester” untied from “Phoenix” and we moved “Phoenix” to raft up with us until the maintenance team was able to repair the dock. With new reinforcing hardware the dock was reassembled and put back into place. “Phoenix” was moved back into her slip and “Sea Quester” (who had been motoring up and down the river waiting to see how this would play out) came up and rafted to our boat.  They were going to leave in the evening for an all-night passage up the Nova Scotia coast anyway, so it made no difference to us.

Later in the afternoon Lori & Jaime (“Sea Quester”) came over to share some information about places to anchor or to see along the Nova Scotia coast, as well as in Maine. About this time another sailboat came up the river, but we all agreed it would not be great for them to raft to “Phoenix”.  Without advanced reservations, there was no place for them so they anchored in the middle of the river.  It was still better protection than being near the ocean. However, the winds eventually died down and it became quite calm. We did get a few sprinkles of rain, but not the all-day rain expected.

Soon it was time to leave as we had dinner reservations at Liscombe Resort for their all-you-can eat salmon and prime rib buffet. We asked Lori & Jaime (“Sea Quester”) to join us and we had a delicious meal and got to know them a little bit better.  Once again the service was sub-par, but we didn’t care as we were enjoying each other’s company. We walked back to our boat and said good-bye to them. As soon as they had readied their boat, they unhitched from us and headed out to sail for parts further north.

"Sea Quester" leaves - Sailboat at anchor

“Sea Quester” leaves – Sailboat at anchor

Carters Cove, Nova Scotia – Canada (Monday, 8/5):

Liscomb Mills to Carters Cove
We were up early and left Liscomb Resort by 8:00 am with a cool morning temperature of 53° – back to long sleeve shirts and jackets.  We had a small weather window in the forecast before the offshore seas would kick up and we wanted to get as close to Halifax as possible. We had 4 “bailout” positions identified in case we decided to cut the 80 mile voyage short.  Going out the Liscomb River was peaceful, but once we turned our boat in the direction of Halifax, we felt the swells of the ocean.  It was a little bumpy but the sun was out and there was no fog so it was tolerable.

We set a course for Halifax that routed us through the inner passages along the rocks and shoals, but it was still better than going a few miles offshore and having to deal with the open ocean.  We continued along passing very remote areas and lots of small islands, but few structures even on the mainland.  It got a little bumpier and after a few hours Denise reminded Mark it was supposed to be fun, and it no longer was. Plus, the reservations for the marina in Halifax did not start until Tuesday when the weather is supposed to be even better and we really did want to do some other exploring.

So we took one of our bailout locations and headed up Shoal Bay, passing Borgles Point and cruising into Carter’s Cove.

Borgles Point in Shoal Bay

Borgles Point in Shoal Bay

With the intention of anchoring, we found the wharf was lined with lobster boats on hiatus since the close of the season in July.  As we approached we asked a guy on the wharf if we could raft up and he said yes (a common practice in these fishing towns all throughout Canada).  “Norman” assisted us with rafting to the lobster boat at the end of the wharf, and with making a 15 amp connection for some power. He also collected $10 for our “dock fees” for the night, and provided us with other pertinent information.  There are no services here, but as the wind had picked up we were glad we were still tied to the dock and not swinging around on an anchorage. Plus it was a really beautiful place.

One of the reasons we chose this location was that it is the home of Rosborough Boats and we were intrigued with them. We knew of their fiberglass small boats that we have seen on the water in the USA, and when we were in Shippagan, NB we learned of their RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) class that sells to law enforcement, Coast Guard and Marine Research groups.  You can learn more about them here.

As we were finishing the boat set up with Norman, Bob Rosborough (owner and son of the company’s founder) came to the wharf. After a brief introduction he praised our boat and we talked about the Rosborough boats. He invited us to go see the plant which was located in the few buildings at the very end of the wharf.

After they left, we ate our lunch and began charging all the devices we could. With only 15 amps (not 30 or 50) we had to manage our power needs carefully. We then went to the Rosborough office, met up with “Garnet” who then walked us over to the plant and gave us a tour.  They run a clean environment and are very well organized.  We saw how they lay up the fiberglass hulls, insulate, reinforce and attach decking, and use some of the best product in the industry for their boats.  We learned of the various options on their boats and for a small shop (only 9 people work here) it is really amazing. As consultants to manufacturers and with a handful of boat manufacturers in our client base, this was very cool for us.

"Garnet" at Rosborough

“Garnet” at Rosborough

IO at wharf in Carters Cove

IO at wharf in Carters Cove

In the afternoon several local people came to the wharf to fish.  They were catching mackerel on multi-hook rigs by the handful and offered us some. But Captain Mark overruled the Admiral as he didn’t want blood and guts on Island Office. That didn’t stop Denise from socializing with the locals and watching the seals and dolphins who had come into the cove with the tide and fish.

Seal in Carters Cove

Seal in Carters Cove

Speaking of tides: the further south (really west) we move, we are seeing the range of tides growing. Here is it is as much as 8’ and by the time we get to Yarmouth it will be in the 18’-20’ range.  On the Bay of Fundy it will grow even more.

Low tide at wharf - climb the ladder to get off

Low tide at wharf – climb the ladder to get off

Later in the afternoon, “Danny” the owner of the lobster boat which we were tied to came by his boat “Four My Gals”. Denise immediately struck up a conversation with him. We learned how he named the boat (his 4 daughters) and how he has been to the Orlando-area several times in the winter as his wife loves it there. We discussed lobster fishing and all that is required to become a lobsterman today versus when he first started. Let’s just say it is expensive to get in it and the season is short. We thanked him for allowing the tie to his boat and for sharing his story with us. Nova Scotia truly has the nicest people!

Lobsterman "Danny"

Lobsterman “Danny”

As there are no services, restaurant or town to go explore, we grilled a few hamburgers on the bar-b and enjoyed the peaceful waters that surrounded us.  We saw more seals, a few eagles and even a great heron on the shore. And of course the sunset and moonrise were spectacular.

Tomorrow we will head to Halifax where we will spend a few days there before moving “up west”.

Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office

From Shippagan to PEI to Cape Breton!

Shippagan, New Brunswick – Canada (Sunday, 7/21):
As expected, it was raining when we woke up and we took our time getting on with our day.  We went to mass at St. Jerome and the priest was a phenomenal speaker, but unfortunately we did not understand his homily as it was all in French. This was the third week in a row we have attended mass in a French-only speaking area and we are anxious to get to PEI and Nova Scotia where we will be able to understand homilies again!

After mass we walked to the grocery store and picked up a few things and took them back to the boat.  We at lunch and then went off on an adventure to the New Brunswick Aquarium and Marine Centre, located right next to the marina.   We were quite impressed with the amount of information on all the sea life in this area. We learned about whales, lobsters, mussels, scallops and all the types of fish found in nearby waters.  There are 31 indoor exhibit tanks, 21 some freshwater and others saltwater. They also have a touch tank and a special area for young kids to learn about the sea life in this area.

During the duration of our visit we saw two short movies: one was a 30 minute film from Discovery Channel about those who make a living on the water all around North America. The second film was a 20 minute video about the history of fishing in the area and the differences in boats and equipment from the early settlement days until today. It was all very interesting, informative and well done. We also got to watch a seal feeding exhibition which was entertaining, but not nearly as good as SeaWorld. Still we would highly recommend this place to any on a visit and you can learn more about it here.

After our Aquarium visit we walked up to “Dixie Lee” – a regional fast-food joint known for its fried chicken. They also serve fish n chips, however we were there for their specialty and it was delicious!  Our cholesterol probably went off the charts from this single visit.

We walked back to the boat and paid the marina bill for the night as we had only paid thus far for Friday and Saturday nights. We were pleased that “Rheal”, the dockmaster informed us that the 3rd night is $10 off. While we had been happy with the $45 per night flat rate (which includes electricity), we were now ecstatic for the 3rd night stay.  We know we will not see these rates when we get back to the USA, especially in Maine.

In the evening Denise made a salad for lunches this week, while Mark was trying to figure out how to upload a plotted route for tomorrow from Navionics (Garmin app on iPad) to our chart plotter (old-technology Garmin equipment). He was only partially successful and we miss the old Garmin Blue Chart app that would do this easily. Of course the foundation has now been laid by the captain for a newer chart plotter that will do this easily.  Not a cheap boat-dollar purchase.

We went to bed very late as it stays light here until 9:45 and our body clocks are still on Eastern Time.  Unfortunately, Denise could not sleep and was up until the wee hours of the morning with a bit of anxiety about the short trip tomorrow; if only the wind would die down and give us a good day.

Shippagan, New Brunswick – Canada (Monday, 7/22):
Expecting to leave the dock by 6:30, Mark was actually up before Denise and was preparing the boat to leave.  But the winds did not die down and there were already ripples in the harbor outside the marina.  It was not going to be a fun day…..so we decided NOT to go. As much as we would like to move on and not lose a day we will wish we have in Nova Scotia or Maine, we just knew it was not going to be fun out on the water.

So instead we made it a productive day to catch up on reading, emails, talking to clients and business associates, and relaxing a bit.  Mark had been in touch with our mechanic back home and came up with a game-plan for the “fuel in water” issue. What he could do now, he did but without resolution on the alarm. He has another action plan, but we have to wait for him to be in a location with a few more resources.

We walked back up to the hardware store for a different type of hose clamp suggested by the mechanic, and also to the NAPA store to see if they had a few things Mark was looking for, then walked back to the boat.  Here are some pictures from things around town that caught our eye:

Later in the afternoon, we checked the weather and laid out a plan for the next few days in PEI. We then went to pay for another night’s stay ($35/night again) and talked with the dockmaster Rheal and the assistant Sidonia.  Rheal teased Denise about her poor French not being as good as his English, but it was all in fun and we enjoyed their friendliness and hospitality. The people here are genuine and they really do love meeting visitors.

We went back to the boat and cooked hamburgers on the grill, for dinner – usually not allowed in most marinas, but here it is not an issue. We then spent the evening watching a couple of episodes of the Jerry Seinfeld show “Comedians driving in cars with coffee”. The premise of the show is that Jerry picks up another comedian in some type of unique car and then they go to coffee and he interviews them. However, every episode is a new car and the dialog between the comedians is hilarious.  It’s a quirky concept but is pure entertainment and fun to watch.

Summerside, PEI – Canada (Tuesday, 7/23):

Shippagan, NB to Summerside, PEI

Shippagan, NB to Summerside, PEI

Finally today we were able to leave Shippagan. We were happy to be on our way, but will miss this interesting town the wonderful locals we met while here.  Under overcast skies and made our way under the lift bridge and through the Shippagan Gully, which is nothing but a channel through some low-lying areas that can produce tough conditions if the wind was blowing.  We were barely out of the Gully and back on the St. Lawrence Seaway when Mark spotted a whale. Of course it was so quick and it did not resurface so we missed getting a picture of it.

For the first 45 minutes or so, there was barely any land visible. On the starboard side of our boat was the New Brunswick coast, which at this point is mostly flat with sandy beaches. If we were still in Quebec we would have spotted the mountains for miles, but even though we were only 12 miles offshore, it was not visible. Eventually we saw the coastline of Prince Edward Island off of our port side, first recognizing the windmills that dot the western end of this elliptically-shaped piece of land.

Windmills on PEI

Windmills on PEI

Periodically throughout the trip, Mark would go into the engine room and check on the “water in fuel” issue and we were pleased that there was no water in the pan. The warning alarm went away and we are hopeful that this issue is now behind us.

Engine Check by Mark

Engine Check by Mark

We cruised past the West Point and Egmont Lighthouses and eventually the town of Mount Carmel with its high church spires visible for miles; reminiscent of the Quebec coastline sans the high mountain cliffs.

Eventually we spotted the Indian Head Lighthouse, which is visible for many miles out and marks the entrance to the Summerside Harbor.

Indian Head Lighthouse

Indian Head Lighthouse

We entered the harbor and pulled into the Summerside Silver Fox Yacht and Curling Club, first for some fuel and then into our slip. “Parker” assisted us with the fuel and tie-up and then gave us information about things to see in the area. It took us 5.5 hours to go 105 miles; our best average speed so far this trip. Although it remained overcast the whole time, we did not have much wind or chop and we were now entering our 3rd Canadian province on this Down East Loop adventure.

We had lunch aboard the boat and then went to register (at the bar in the restaurant) before exploring the area. Although initially we had reserved for 2 nights, we only paid for one night now in order to keep our options open. It is easier to pay for another night later than to get a refund for a night not using.

The marina is part of an entire “entertainment” complex and is home to a restaurant, the yacht club and a curling center.  Curling is huge in Canada and the rink (usually full of ice in winter) is larger than a skating rink or bowling alley. The complex is all connected via hallways and is actually busier in the winter than in the summer.

We walked the perimeter around the marina from the restaurant, where there is the Marine Training Center with a beautiful mural on the side of the building.

Directly north and overlooking the marina is the cultural arts and Wyatt Centre, a performing arts theater.

Wyatt Center - Theater & Art Center

Wyatt Center – Theater & Art Center

And then just beyond that (on the western side) is old lighthouse and the start of Spinnaker Landing; a recreated village full of tacky tourist shops and a few restaurants and bars.

We were unimpressed and didn’t see anything more that interested us.

We walked back around the front of the Wyatt Center and to the liquor store that fronted a defunct mall, now housing Holland College (a PEI Provincial Community College).  We purchased some Nova Scotia Blue Lobster vodka; to try it out and because all other vodka was ridiculously overpriced.

 We walked back to the boat and decided we would only stay one night.  There was no real downtown to speak of and all the other places we wanted to go to (Walmart) would require a car as there is no bus service here.  We had tried to rent a car in Summerside, but were unsuccessful in doing so.  Having been in touch with DE Looper friends on Confetti we knew of a place in Charlottetown to rent a car. Even though we did not plan on going there initially, we decided that we would go there to rent a car so we could tour parts of PEI and do some provisioning.  We then made reservations at the Charlottetown Yacht Club and set out an itinerary for the next few days.

 Wanting to patronize the local business, we went to dinner at the Silver Fox Restaurant and lounge. Our dinner was good, but nothing special and since the restaurant was slow the waitress ended up giving us a tour of the curling center. In the off-season they use the space for banquets and other community events so it was a mess and not photography worthy. She did explain that the restaurant stays open year-round and that the winter is actually their busiest season due to the curling center.

After dinner Denise went for a walk on the boardwalk along the water and took a few pictures while Mark did some work. Here are some of the sights around Summerside:

Charlottetown, PEI – Canada (Wednesday, 7/24):

Summerside to Charlottetown

Summerside to Charlottetown

We left Summerside around 8:30 a.m. and cruised southeast down the coast of PEI to the capital city of Charlottetown. This is the “big” city and the places all the cruise ships stops.  It was an uneventful passage along the PEI shoreline where we passed a few small towns and many farms both large and small.

The PEI coastline has some cliffs that are red in color. This is a result of the high iron content in the soil which when mixed with the salt in the air it oxidizes and turns to rust (thus the red color). The contrast to the rich green farmland (in the summer) is stunning and makes for some beautiful scenery. If only it was a sunny day we would have National Geographic-quality pictures to share.

Red cliffs of PEI

Red cliffs of PEI

We passed under the Confederation Bridge, the only structure that links PEI with the Canada Mainland in New Brunswick.  It is visible for many miles and is reminiscent of a Roman Aqueduct.  Since it is 8 miles long we were able to pass under an arch that was closest to the island and not have to travel the extra distance to take the main shipping (center) channel.

Not long thereafter we turned north up the Hillsborough River passing Governors Island and several lighthouses along the way.

Ten miles later we arrived into the Charlottetown Harbor where two cruise ships were in port; one at anchor and another at the main pier. We also noticed a few tourist boats, and we had to dodge two groups of sailing classes hosted by the yacht club. It is always fun to see these young kids learning the basics of sailing, crashing their boats into each other, sometimes topping over and then righting themselves up.

We pulled into the Charlottetown Yacht Club (CYC) about an hour earlier than we had told them we would be arriving and had difficulty raising anyone on the radio or by cell phone. As we entered into the marina, we were able to get the attention of the dockmaster and get our slip assignment; a starboard side-tie on the outer dock facing the harbor with no breakwater or dock to protect us. Normally we like side ties, but this one had us rocking with all the passing traffic that does not know the meaning of the term “no wake”.  We had requested an inner slip, but none were available. If the wind had been blowing a lot, we would have left, but since it was calm it would settle down after dark and we knew we would be ok.

After settling the boat and checking into the yacht club and then went back to the boat for our showers. We were about to venture out to see the town when we saw that our Down East Looper friends who were on their way to Charlottetown from a different location were now coming into CYC.  We had been in communication with Vicki & Mack (“Confetti”) for a few weeks now, having met via the Facebook Down East Looper group.  We also knew this boat from our time in Maine in 2017, as we had followed in their wake but had never personally met.  We helped them tie up and secure their boat right behind ours.  Earlier in the day we had been in touch and made plans for drinks and dinner together with them and another DE Looper boat (David & Claudia on “Still Waters II”) who were also in town, but staying at another marina.  So we left them to settle in and took off on our adventure.

We set out on an adventure to get the lay of the land and to go do touristy things. We walked the downtown area and through some of the shops which were very crowded with the cruise ships in port.  We walked through Victoria Row – a pedestrian-only that had live musical entertainment ongoing, crowded al-fresco dining bars and restaurants, and found a souvenir shop for the requisite magnet purchase.

We then headed towards the waterfront, but first stopped at St. Dunstan’s Basilica Cathedral with its inviting presence you can see from the waterfront. It is a beautiful church and we were only sorry that we would not be here for mass on Sunday as it truly is inspiring.

After visiting the church we crossed the street to see some of the historic buildings and then walked to Peakes Quay (the really touristy area) to check out the marina there. Of the 3 available marinas on the waterfront this would have been our last choice. It is right near the touristy shops and a bar, and they had live entertainment all afternoon. It was crowded, noisy, and had no facilities for the cruiser so we were glad we did not chose this place.  We did stop long enough to grab a few t-shirts and an ice cream cone before continuing along the waterfront.

Next we walked to the 3rd marina (the Charlottetown Marina) that is right next to the cruise ship terminal building. It is a smaller marina with plastic floating docks and used by locals for seasonal boat storage. However, Still Waters II (one of the Down East Looper boats) was staying here and we were going to say hello, but they were not on their boat.  Feeling like we had seen enough, we walked back to CYC and were very happy that we had chosen the quietest of the three marinas. We then watched the Holland America ship exit the harbor, leaving only one other cruise ship in port.

In the evening we went over to “Confetti” for drinks aboard and to finally meet Dave & Claudia (“Still Waters II”) in person.  Later we walked downtown to the Brickhouse Kitchen for dinner. We laughed and talked for several hours telling stories of our cruising experiences and what a small world it really is in the cruising community. We had discovered many common friends like Julie & Tom Van Hall (“Sum Escape”) and Betsy & Dave (“Frye Daze”).  It was a very fun night, and after many miles of cruising solo, it was nice to have someone to socialize with.

Charlottetown, PEI – Canada (Thursday, 7/25):
Over the last few days Mark had developed a raised spot on his neck that looked like a bug bite. It also was sitting on top of an area that he has what appears to be a cyst (and has had for some time). But now it looked awful and needed attention for fear of infection. Having already done reconnaissance on the closest clinic, we started the day off with a mile jaunt to the east end of town to be there when they opened at 8:00 am.  He was seen in 20 minutes, confirmed it was not a serious situation and given a prescription for and antibiotic. Since the clinic is in the same building as the drug store, we were able to get it filled and head back to downtown, however that took longer than the actual time to wait and then be seen at the clinic. During the walk back and forth we realized the second cruise ship was no longer in the harbor, and must have left during the night while we were sleeping. Along our walking path we also noticed the big construction project in the harbor. It appears they are building a new pier to be able to handle multiple cruise ships at once. God help them; Charlottetown will never be the same!

Finally, we picked up a rental car at the Delta (Marriott chain) Hotel and started our adventure for the day. We wanted to explore the inland parts of PEI, but were not sure where to go exactly.  We also wanted to see what some of the north and eastern shorelines looked like.  We knew we did not want to get caught up in the touristy area of Cavendish; the setting of the classic “Anne of Green Gables” novel. Based on recommendations from some locals we headed northeast to Greenwich and the Canadian National Park.  Along the way we passed numerous farms that were big and small, and some with farm stands out front.

PEI Farmland

PEI Farmland

As we arrived close to the coast, we first stopped at St Peter’s Harbor, hoping to get to the lighthouse. But the road was not conducive to driving to the point, so we opted for an overlook near some rental cottages. This is where the bay meets the St. Lawrence Seaway on the Northshore.

St. Peters Bay PEI

St. Peters Bay PEI

We continued on the road that follows the bay, stopping at an overlook the enabled us to capture the beauty of this area:

Overlook at St. Peters Bay

Overlook at St. Peters Bay

Finally we arrived at the National Park Interpretation Center and got our passes to enter the park.  From there we did a 2 mile trail walk to the natural sand dunes on the north shore. But first you must go through a forested area, then on a floating boardwalk across a pond, and then up a steep ramp over the dunes to get to the beach on the St. Lawrence Seaway.  It was cool to see the change in geography along the way and we were amazed with the size of the dunes on this beach.  It makes Kill Devil Hills, NC look like anthills.

After the trek back to our car we went back to the town of St. Peters Bay where we went to lunch at Rick’s Fish & Chips Seafood House. This place is known for its fish and chips and has been in business since the early 90’s, it is now famous in these parts and we were not disappointed.

St. Peters Bay is known for their mussels as most all PEI mussels start here in a nursery, then are transferred to other parts of PEI where they are housed for approximately 2 years until harvested. PEI grows 80% of the mussels that are consumed in all of North America.  Besides this industry, the town caters to those who want to get away, with lots of rental cottages and few B&B’s.  You can learn more about it here.

Mussel Farm on St. Peters Bay, PEI

Mussel Farm on St. Peters Bay, PEI

After St. Peter’s Bay we drove back down the eastern coast stopping at Bay Fortune (a small fishing village) and then on to Georgetown; a much bigger fishing village before driving back to Charlottetown. But before going back to the boat we stopped at Walmart and a grocery store (Atlantic Supercenter) to provision the boat for the coming days on Cape Breton.  Mark tried to get his haircut at the Supercuts here, but it was a 3 hour wait and so we nixed the idea.  We headed back to the boat to stow our purchases.

Fortune Bay fishing fleet

Fortune Bay fishing fleet

But we had to return the rental car to the hotel and Denise wanted to mail a birthday card for a friend. This took us into downtown and up Queens St (the touristy area) once again, but the evening was nice, musicians were out playing in several spots and all the restaurants were full of al fresco diners.  We enjoyed our time just walking around the area, no longer congested with cruise ship passengers. Since we had such a big lunch we were not hungry for dinner and passed on even the ice cream stop.

Tomorrow we will leave PEI and head southeast. The month of July is coming to an end and we want to spend all of August in Nova Scotia, starting in Cape Breton and the Bras D’or Lakes.

Here are some other pictures from Charlottetown:

 

St. Peters, Cape Breton – Nova Scotia – Canada (Friday, 7/26):
It was so calm and quiet in the harbor when we Denise first woke up. She went for a walk and to take a few pictures of things without tourists in the background (see above). Once back on the boat and with breakfast dishes done, we left Charlottetown.

Charlottetown to St. Peters

Charlottetown to St. Peters

It was a beautiful day on the water and looked like it would be that way all along the PEI coastline. We continued to pass more lighthouses along the way.

Denise was concerned with forecast for the St. Georges Bay with 3 foot seas out of the north and a wind (albeit 5 mph) out of the southeast.  But for the first few hours it was beautiful and we saw whales, seals and dolphins along the way.

Flat seas on Northumberland Strait

Flat seas on Northumberland Strait

At one point we were buzzed by a military plane, almost giving Denise a heart attack as it sounded like our engine was about to explode right before we saw them right above our boat.  It was then that Mark realized the note on the chart that showed were in an area for military exercises.

Buzzed by military plane

Buzzed by military plane

The coastline of PEI was as similar on the east end as it was on the west end, with the only difference being the ferry crossing from Woods Island, PEI to Caribou, NS.  Here there is a commercial wharf for the ferry and lighthouse, but no marina for pleasure craft.  We saw the ferry from several miles out and were convinced it was a building on land as it was so large.

Ferry: Wood Island, PEI to  Caribou, NS

Ferry: Wood Island, PEI to Caribou, NS

As we moved southeast and away from the protection of PEI, the waves picked up a bit but were certainly tolerable.  By this time we were coming closer to the northern shores of Nova Scotia to our right. Here the coastline was again filled with hills and no longer the flat lands of New Brunswick.

Cape George Point Lighthouse

Cape George Point & Lighthouse

We had identified Ballantynes Cove just south of Cape George Point as a possible bailout, as well as a few other spots for possible overnight anchorage. However, the weather was so beautiful and we wanted to keep going, but first we needed to get fuel. Mark had shopped the fuel prices with Ballantynes Cove being the cheapest in the area (another reason to make this a possible stop) so we pulled into this very protected and quaint fishing harbor. And now we had entered Nova Scotia and our 4th Canadian Province since July 4th.

At Ballentynes Cove

At Ballantynes Cove

After fueling up we headed across the St. Georges Bay to the Canso Canal.

Southern shore of St. Georges Bay

Southern shore of St. Georges Bay

This is a natural canal between Nova Scotia and Cape Breton but was developed to enable transit by car or boat. For the passenger car there is a causeway that was built out of the mined hillside of Porcupine Mountain, and a swing bridge to take you over the water.  For the boaters, there is a lock and the swing bridge with an opening that is coordinated to allow passage all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  We were concerned we would have to wait a while as commercial traffic has preference, but when we called the lockmaster she instructed us to come right into the lock.  Without any other traffic and only a small amount of drop in the elevation we didn’t even have to tie up lines; we floated in place for the duration of the lockdown and exited as the swing bridge was opened for us to pass.

Once through the lock and bridge we passed along the commercial port of Port Hawkesbury. This is a very industrial area and we passed a gypsum plant, a paper mill, a concrete plant, a power plant, and an Exxon Mobil fuel storage facility. Fortunately, we encountered no freighter or container traffic and cruised through without issue.

Before long we made a left hand turn at Bear Head, heading north and into Inhabitants Bay and the Lennox Passage.  We were immediately in awe of the beauty and pristine of the area.  The large bay was surrounded by pine tree-lined shores with rocky bases that was sporadically peppered with houses, some small and some large.  The water was a beautiful blue and just as we made the turn we got to see a glimpse of what becomes the Atlantic Ocean; something we had not seen since entering NY harbor on May 30th.

Continuing north we approached the Lennox Bridge with some reserve as we knew it was in a state of repair with limited clearance.  We were instructed to take the right-most archway and avoid the scaffolding that was hanging down on the left side.  It was a tendinous few moments but Captain Mark made it look easy.

Lennox Bridge

Lennox Bridge

We continued on leaving Isle Madame to our right and eventually entering St. Peters Bay (not to be confused with St. Peters on PEI).

Here we could see the south side of the town as we set up to go through the St. Peters Canal Lock. We were flagged to come in right away and locked down with a lobster fishing boat.

This is another Canadian Historical site (like the Chambly Canal in Quebec).   Here, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the canal lock, we were given a certificate for being the 391st boat through the lock this year.  Once again the Parks Canada people were first class in handling our lines, giving us instruction and providing a beautiful park area for the public to enjoy.

Once through the lock and subsequent bridge we turned immediately to our left and headed to St. Peter’s Marina where we had a reservation for two nights.

We were assigned our slip and met by dockmaster Gerry and others who assisted with the tie-up.  Two of those assisting were a couple from Jacksonville, FL who were here on their sailboat. Unfortunately, they did not stick around long and we were only able to talk with them briefly before they were gone to prep their boat for an early departure tomorrow.

After getting the boat situated, we went to the marina office to register and then opted for dinner on board. We ended up talking to some of the local boaters who have been overwhelmingly friendly and gracious. We have learned about some of the people of the area, and they have offered suggestions on where to go and places to stay while on Bras D’or Lakes. We want to rent a car and drive the Cabot Trail while we are on Cape Breton, and they have been incredibly gracious in assisting us. “Brent” has even offered to call a friend in Baddeck (where we will go in a few days) to see if she knows of a car rental available.

In the afternoon we learned of a horrific accident involving one of our DE Looper boats (“Laughter”) that took place yesterday.  They are about a week behind us and they got caught in a high wind situation on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River. As they were attempting to enter through the breakwater at Riviére la Madeleine they were hit with a very large wind gust that pushed their boat onto the rocks. Their boat partially sank and the pictures are gut-wrenching.  To further complicate things, this is a very small town in French-speaking Quebec and it is a long way from any type of service (rental car, airport, etc.).  Friends on another boat they were traveling with were already at the dock when this happened, and have assisted as much as possible in the last 24 hours. Now “Laughter” is having to deal with insurance and several (foreign) government agencies in the process.  We are sure this is a very difficult time for them and we know that this could happen to any one of us on any day. Please keep them in your prayers as this is a traumatic event for any boat owner.

Laughter down

We finished the evening talking to family on the phone and enjoying the absolute beauty of this place. In so many ways this place reminds us of the Georgian Bay; where we went on our Great Loop adventure in 2015-2016 and where several of our Looper friends are now. We are so glad we made the all-day journey to get here so we could enjoy more time here.

Sunset over St. Peter's Marina

Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office

Au Revoir Quebec!

Here is an update of the last two days. We will stay in Shippagan on Sunday and (weather permitting) move further down the New Brunswick coast on Monday.

Gaspe to Shippagan

Gaspe to Shippagan

Shippagan, New Brunswick – Canada (Friday, 7/19):
We had a very small window of good weather, with impending wind, rain and thunderstorms forecasted for later in the day. With this in mind we left Gaspe at 6:30 in the morning in order to cross the Bay of Chaleur with the calmest possible water.  From the start, all was quiet on the water and we had the Baie of Gaspe totally to ourselves.

We headed southeast along the coastline of what was now a changing geography.  There were still steep cliffs mixed in with rolling hills covered in green. Some of the cliffs were now a different color including a sandy-brown and Georgia clay-like red.  Once again small communities dotted the coastline until we came to Pointe St Pierre.

And then once we rounded this rocky point, with Ile Plate to our left we spotted the famous Percé Rock and Bonaventure Island.  It is so huge that you can you see it miles away.

Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock

Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock

We approached the area, spotting a few small fishing boats on Malbaie to our right.

We approached Percé Rock and hung out around it for about 15 minutes, taking pictures and observing all the different birds which call this place home.

Percé Rock and the town of Percé

Percé Rock

Percé Rock

Birds on Percé Rock

Birds on Percé Rock

We moved around the back side so we could also get a view from the other side and here we could more clearly see the town of Percé.

Hole in Percé Rock from back side

Hole in Percé Rock – back side

Unfortunately the only wharf area in town is for the commercial tour boats and not a place we could go into in our boat.  It is suggested that boaters visit one of the neighboring towns (like Gaspé) and rent a car to visit here.

Percé wharf and downtown

Percé wharf and downtown

From there we cruised over to the identified anchorage at Bonaventure Island. We were hoping to be able to anchor here, take a dinghy to shore and then go to National Park here. They have a walkway up to the other side of the island and you can go see the gannets in their rookeries up close.  But we didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boat in these conditions. Additionally, it was only 8:15 am and the park did not open until 9:00 am.  So we would have had to wait for them to open and then taken too much time away from our crossing the Bay of Chaleur; an area known for kicking up winds and seas as the day unfolds.  Instead we opted for a cruise around the island to get a “birds-eye” view from the water. There were literally millions of gannets hiding in all the crevices.

We have never seen so many birds in a single place. It really is fascinating. Gannets are some of the most amazing birds with a wingspan of over 6.5 feet.  You can learn more about Perce Rock here, Bonaventure Island here, and about the gannets here.

Once we had completed our cruise around the island, we headed directly across the Bay of Chaleur to our destination in Shippagan, New Brunswick.  All morning long we spotted seals and dolphins, which are very small here (2 -4 feet) and difficult to get close to.

Seal in water

Seal in water

The water ended up being very calm and mostly flat for a while so Mark took to checking on the engine and to see if there was any more water residue in the fuel filters; there was not. Despite this we still got the warning light on the engine monitor when we started the engine this morning. He also took to some other boat maintenance issues while Denise was on watch and the boat was driving via the autopilot.  About this time is when Denise spotted the whales, first by the spray from their blowhole.  They were a ways away and she had time to break out the camera, but it is still so difficult to photograph them.  The best part was seeing the “whale tail”; what a thrill!

Whale on Bay of Chaleur

Whale on Bay of Chaleur

Whale Tail on Bay of Chaleur

Whale Tail on Bay of Chaleur

We continued cruising along and noticed a change in the upcoming water. Sure enough it was a wind line and we were not even halfway across the bay.  Fortunately, it was still light and we were able to enjoy a smooth ride.  Eventually, we were able to spot the very low lying area of Ile Miscou and the windmills that are all over this part of the New Brunswick coast.

Windmills in NB

Windmills in NB

As we got closer the area reminded Denise of the ICW through GA and SC and stated so. We later read this description in a cruising guide and had to chuckle of the similar impression.  We also noticed a tremendous difference in water depth; we were now back in 35 feet of water.  And with the shallow water came the chop as the wind picked up a bit.  We were glad we were now in Shippagan Bay and did not have much further to go.

Bay of Chaleur bumpy

Bay of Chaleur bumpy

Chaleur Bay and Quebec Mountains in background

Chaleur Bay and Quebec Mountains in background

Houses near Shippagan

Houses near Shippagan

By 11:30 we were tied up to the dock at the Shippagan Marina; but it was now 12:30 here as we had crossed into the Atlantic Time Zone.  We settled the boat, registered for a two-night stay and went back to eat our lunch.

After lunch Denise went for a walk to confirm the 11:00 Sunday mass time at the Catholic Church. The church could not be more convenient as it is only 2 blocks away from the marina. She also walked around the adjacent cemetery and then by some of the buildings that make up the Shippagan campus for the Université de Moncton (largest town in NB). Completing the full circle she walked past the convention center which is actually part of the entire marina, restaurant and aquarium waterfront park.

Mark met up with her and they walked over to the aquarium to check out all the activity we had noticed when coming in.  We learned that this week has been the Fisheries and Aquaculture week (seafood festival) and the aquarium was a primary hosting venue. We got some information on the activities remaining for Friday and Saturday from locals, but sadly we missed the food tasting and other events that morning at this location. However, they did have several children’s activities going on and there was a country singer playing songs in the pavilion in the park. It was quite something to hear a Johnny Cash country song (“Reign of Fire”) being sung in French.

In the afternoon we did some office work and watched as the wind and clouds came in, and eventually some light rain.  We had met several local boaters, all of whom speak an Acadian-dialect French, and some speak English well enough to communicate with us. From their suggestion we went to dinner at “Pinokkio” – an Italian inspired restaurant that was about a mile away.  It had stopped raining sufficient for us to walk there, but brought the umbrella just in case.  The place was busy and loud, and had great food. But the service was horrible and it took us almost 45 minutes to get our meal, both of which was fish (not a thing that takes long to cook).

Inside Pinokkio

Inside Pinokkio

Shippagan is a fishing port and everything caters to the large fleet of those who catch lobster and snow crab, as well as those who farm mussels and oysters. Along the path to and from the restaurant we saw all the fishing boats stored on the hard at the wharf.  The season here is early April to July (lobster and snow crab), then again in August and September (herring). In the meantime the boats are hauled out of the water and maintenance is done.

On the way back to the boat we stopped into “Entreprises Shippagan” the local ACE Hardware store. This is THE PLACE for all things boating fishing and Mark was seeking a backup set of fuel filters. He had been in contact with our mechanic back home about our issue and he suggested changing out the fuel filters. While we have extras onboard, we truly need to save these for an emergency and if he could pick up extras that would be good. Unfortunately, they were out of the ones needed for our boat.

We walked back to the marina and just in time as the rain started again.  It continued to rain almost all night, but this time came lightening and strong winds. We were glad we were tucked into a safe comfortable spot.

Shippagan, New Brunswick – Canada (Saturday, 7/19):
Beautiful skies can be deceiving and today was one of those days.  Although sunny and gorgeous out, high winds means it’s a day to stay put and not try to be out on the open water of the St. Lawrence Seaway.  We had earmarked the day for one of chores and maintenance.  We took advantage of the free laundry and got a few loads done.  Mark worked on cleaning the ac/heater filters, running the generator, and other related items.  Denise worked on cataloging pictures and writing the blog.

As part of the seafood festival week, there was a 5k and 10k race this morning. It started and ended at the Aquarium and we got to see runners and their families come out for this event. It was quite small in comparison to the ones back home, but then again so is the population of this area.  Of course this was pulling at Denise’s heartstrings to jump into the event, but with her injured leg she really needs the time off to rest.

In the afternoon we planned our next few days. We have a small weather window to move down the coast before crossing the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island (PEI).  With this in mind we made reservations for the yacht club in Summerside on PEI for next week; subject to change of course.

We ate dinner on board and then went for a walk on the boardwalk which runs for over 2 km along the Shippagan Bay.  It ended up being a pleasant and warm evening with little breeze. We continued on the boardwalk until the bugs almost ate us alive and picked up the pace to head back to the boat.

As we came up to the lighthouse and aquarium we spotted our friends Terry & Francine (“Orca”) whom we met in St. Anne des Mont.  They are docked on the northeast side of Shippagan at the commercial wharf because their sailboat could not fit under the lift bridge at the harbor entrance. This required them to sail the long way around Miscou Island and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence before taking the Shippagan Gully into the wharf. This is the path we will take to leave and head down the NB coast.  We chatted for a while and they agreed (once again) to send us their contact info so we can see them when we get to Nova Scotia.

We went back to the boat and started to watch the movie “First Man” in honor of the 50th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon.  As part of the seafood festival there was a rock concert at the wharf and we considered going. However since we could hear them warming up all afternoon, and since we don’t really know any of their music, we decided to save the money for the tickets and enjoy the music from our boat.  Even with the door closed there were times it was hard to hear our movie.

And then at about 10:40 pm we were treated to a spectacular fireworks display, right over the harbor. It was so loud and lasted for about 20 minutes.  Since we missed the Independence Day fireworks this year, this was a special treat.  We finished watching the movie and when we went to bed (well after 11:30 pm) the music was still going strong!

Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office

Whaling adventures!

Hi all, it has been a busy week and here is where we have been in the last 11 days:

QC to Gaspe with stop pointsc

Tadoussac, Quebec – Canada (Wednesday, 7/10):
Finally today we were able to leave Quebec City and head to Tadoussac; a town at the intersection of the Saguenay River and the St. Lawrence. It would be a long run and the weather in Quebec City was forecasted to be overcast with a very slight northeast wind. Denise was very nervous about making this leg of the trip as the currents can work against the wind and/or the tides to make it a bumpy ride.  Because of that we had a “bailout” location identified at Cap L’engle about 50 miles from Quebec City, and a location most trawlers stop at for the night.

We left Quebec City just after 8:00 am and along with a sailboat had to wait on the lock to open. Our new friend Anton took this picture of our boat as we left, and Sabre/Back Cove have now asked to use it in their social media platforms.

IMG_8387c.JPG

After getting through the lock we turned east and took the north channel along the coast, passing Orleans Island (Ile d’Orleans) to our right, and going under the Ile d’ Orleans Bridge.  Orleans Island is large and about 16 miles long.  There are several parks, historical sites and homes all throughout the island, and a great place to go explore if spending any amount of time in Quebec City. Just past the bridge we were treated to the magnificent Montmorency Falls.

Just as we were at the eastern-most tip of Orleans Island, we passed by the town of Saint Anne- De-Beaupre.  Here is where Denise’s two great aunts who were nuns had lived, and where she visited in 1977.  The church here is magnificent both inside and out. For this trip we would not be able to visit here, or any of the other locations where Denise’s ancestry lived as we just didn’t have enough time.  This begs for a return trip when we can do such things when we have a car.

St Anne de Beaupre from the St. Lawrence River

St Anne de Beaupre from the St. Lawrence River

We continued cruising along the north (nord) channel of the St. Lawrence River, passing a long shoaled area called Banc Du Cap Brule, with the most interesting set of channel/navigational aids we have ever seen.  On our left the Laurentian Mountains were covered with trees and rocks, and periodically we would see a small town and lighthouses along the capes (called “cap”). Eventually we came to a ski (beach in summer) resort town of Le Mastif and soon thereafter the Island “Ile aux Coudres” with its ferry service to the mainland town of St Joseph de la River.

As you can probably guess by now this area (known as the Charlevoix area of Quebec) is very Catholic and there are magnanimous churches in even the smallest of towns.  You can almost always spot the church spires before you can see anything else in the town. Additionally, all these towns are usually in some area of the coast that form a bay and here is where the currents get really squirrely. Our Looper friend Anton had warned us about this and we found it to be true.  We would be cruising along and all would be great, then we would be in 1’ – 2’ seas and choppy, and 5 minutes later it would be calm as can be. Several times we thought we would pull in at Cape L’Engle as many trawlers do, but we really did not want to if we didn’t have to as we were already a day behind where we wanted to be, and some incoming weather would make tomorrow not as comfortable a ride.

As expected we passed several container ships and freighters, but these were nothing compared to what we have faced when crossing the Savannah River (tighter quarters) or from our years boating on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, FL.  Nevertheless, it is always a time to be cautious as they all produce a terrific wake from bow and/or stern that can rock our boat.

2nd Freighter of day

2nd Freighter of day

Just after the town of Saint-Siméon we noticed a boat that we thought might be a pilot boat coming out to meet the oncoming freighter. But it ended up being a Canadian Coast Guard and there is some kind of comfort knowing they are right there should you need them.  We ended up following them the rest of the way down the St. Lawrence River to the mouth of the Saguenay River and the town of Tadoussac.

Coast Guard out of Saint-Siméon

Coast Guard out of Saint-Siméon

And just when we thought the day could not have gone any better, we saw our first pod of Beluga whales.  They are hard to spot, but even harder to photograph.  And then we spotted a few darker whales, but could not see them sufficiently enough to know if they were blue whales, minkes, or the North American Right whale.  It was thrilling and we were so excited.

Whale in water near Saguenay entrance

Whale in water near Saguenay entrance

Whale in water near Saguenay entrance

Whale in water near Saguenay entrance

Just before the Prince Shoal Lighthouse we turned north up the entrance to the Saguenay River. We had been forewarned about the cross currents, wind against currents, and currents against tides here. However, we seemed to time it all perfectly and entered without issue. Our only concern was dodging the whale watching boats that were all coming out to spot the whales riding the incoming tide.

You can line up the entrance to the harbor by looking for the Tadoussac hotel on the shoreline. It is an impressive landmark and makes navigating this area easy, as long as there is no fog.  We were directed to our slip and pulled into it without issue. It had been a great day on the water and the sights were spectacular.  But the best part was that it was only 2:00 and we still had hours to explore the area.

Once the boat was settled, we checked into the marina office and got a map of the area, along with suggestions for dining options.  We then headed out to explore the town but got distracted by the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre.  Here we learned all about the whales and their habitats, as well as all the research that has been going on, and why it is so important to protect them. We were able to climb out onto the rocks by the center and take some shots of the Saguenay River to its west.

We then proceeded along the boardwalk that follows the bay and up the hill into downtown. We passed by the Tadoussac Hotel, the oldest church in North America, and the town’s “new” church.  We were trying to decide what to do for dinner and investigated several of the dining options, but settled on the restaurant back at the marina.

Tadoussac beach and harbor

Tadoussac beach and harbor

The Saguenay River and the town of Tadoussac are part of a national park and are environmentally protected areas. Whales migrate here because of the 900 foot trench in the river, and the cold temperatures even in the summer. As a result, we were in long pants and jackets once again.

Tadoussac, Quebec – Canada (Thursday, 7/11):
Denise was up early and was able to go for a walk to the footbridge behind the Coast Guard station. The path takes you around the peninsula that has the harbor on one side and the Saguenay River on the other.  She only walked down to the rocks by the point to see what the St. Lawrence and bay looked like. Hoping to see seals or even some whales, this morning she would be disappointed, but the sight was still spectacular.

Not wanting to waste a day in our schedule, but still wanting to see the major attractions on the Saguenay River, we decided to go up and back the river in the same day.  This means we would be cruising for 4 – 5 hours, but would allow us to still see this beautiful fjord and come back to Tadoussac for the night, before the forecasted bad weather would show up.

At 8:00 we headed out of the marina and up the Saguenay, dodging the ferries as they crossed the river between Tadoussac and Baie-Sainte-Catherine.  We then were able to speed up the boat to our normal cruising speed of 20 kts. As this area is all a national park and is protected areas for whales, there are limits to our speed. However, you can go fast unless whales are spotted and then you must slow down to idle.  The exception is when you cruise past Baie Sainte-Marguerite where the belugas go to give birth to their young. Here this is a restricted zone and you must slow down as they often venture out into the river.

We cruised up the Saguenay passing some amazing cliffs and beautiful scenery.

Western cliffs on the Saguenay River

Western cliffs on the Saguenay River

We approached the Baie Sainte-Marguerite and were amazed at how many belugas were here. We saw so many and tried to photograph these very elusive small whales, especially when they are at least 400 yards away. It was thrilling to see them and we stayed for a while watching them frolic in the water.

Belugas in Baie Sainte-Marguerite

Belugas in Baie Sainte-Marguerite

We then cruised north to the Ile Saint-Louis where we saw a US-flagged sailboat at anchor.

Ile Saint-Louis

Ile Saint-Louis

We continued up the river and passed by Club De Yacht De Sacre Coeur on the eastern shore, and a little further north we noticed a handful of small buildings perched on the cliffs.  Come to find out this is a resort of sorts and these can be rented for a “Saguenay experience” like none other at Alfred le voison d’Oscar. Click here for more info.

Further up the river on the western side there is a small town and marina (L’Anse- St.-Jean) where we had considered staying. Some cruising friends stayed there and recommended it, but due to losing a day in Quebec City we pressed on with our trip.

Anse Saint-Jean

Anse Saint-Jean

Our destination was to go to Bay Eternité, the most beautiful spot in the fjord. The entrance to this bay is bookended by two capes “Cap Trinité” and “Cap Eternité”.  Cap Trinité is called this as there are three distinct ledges, and on the first step there is 9.75 meter (approx. 32’) tall statue of the Virgin Mary. It was carved from wood, then coated with lead and hoisted into its present position in 1881. On the second step there was supposed to be a large cross, but we could not see it. On the 3rd step is the overlook of the entire fjord, but requires a hike up a steep cliff (not for the faint of heart).

Cap Eternite

Cap Eternite

Cap Trinite

Cap Trinite

Statue of Mary on Cap Trinite

Statue of Mary on Cap Trinite

After taking a few pictures and cruising a bit around the bay, we headed back down the river. The wind was out of the south and had created a bit of a fetch making it bumpy by Cap Eternité. However, by the time we got back down towards the Ile Saint-Louis it was calm and we cruised by the Baie Sainte-Marguerite again to look for more belugas. We were not disappointed, nor were the people in the park observatory. Just after this point is where we realized our Island Office was in some of the deepest waters it has ever been.

We returned to the Tadoussac Marina in time for lunch as it was only 12:00.  We spent the early afternoon doing some work for clients and working on the business. We also watched the handful of different whale-watching boats go out of the marina with their customers. At one end of the spectrum was a smaller boat that was enclosed with glass all around it protecting the customers from the cold and wetness.  At the other end of the spectrum were the two larger cruise-ships that would go up the Saguenay River and out to the St. Lawrence.  But our favorites to watch were the center console rib boats that were open to the elements, and whose customers had to wear bright orange foul-weather gear. They had a whole spiel they would go through before launching and we could hear it from our boat. But the funniest part was they would start the tour at their facility up the hill, then they would all walk down the hill (in the orange gear) to the boat in the marina. All day we could see the parade of about 10 or 12 people per group, and off they would go in search of the whales.

Periodically the fog would come in and hand around the harbor, but would then dissipate.  In the meantime we watched the low tide turn to high tide and then back to low tide. Families would be on the nearby beach playing in the sand (or was it really mud).

We stayed near the boat for the rest of the day. Denise continued cataloging pictures and writing the last blog and Mark did some work for clients.  We ate dinner aboard and in the evening we checked in with our families and a few friends.

 Tadoussac, Quebec – Canada (Friday, 7/12):
As expected it was a rainy and foggy day and a great day to hunker down and get some things done. First we did a few loads of laundry before most of the marina was even awake.  Then we hunkered down into finishing the last blog, doing some work for clients, communicating with business associates and planning our next stops.

During the afternoon the rain had let up, but the fog came in. Initially, it was light, then it lifted for a while. During the break we went for a walk into town to get some Canadian cash from an ATM at the bank, and to get some milk at the market.  It was in the market that we got the idea to have a simple dinner of bread, wine, cheese and sliced meats for dinner. We picked up the few things to supplement the food we already had on board, including a freshly baked loaf of French bread.

Along the way back to the boat we stopped to see what the “Chauvin Trading Post” was all about, and here we learned a little bit of history and the importance of trade in this area in the 1700’s.  However, we did not go into the building as it was close to closing and not worth it for us to pay the museum fee for such a short amount of time.

When we got back to the marina, we ran into dockmaster Robert and chatted with him for a while. He was only here for the summer and would be going back to Montreal when the season was over. He told us that there are roughly 800 people that live in the town year-round. Unfortunately, only one of the many restaurants stays open year round and for this reason he does not live here year-round.

Robert the dockmaster

Robert the dockmaster

And as we went down the very steep (because of low tide) gangplank to the floating docks, Denise took a tumble near the bottom and skinned her knee. Fortunately her pants were not torn, but her knee was a bit bloody and required some Band-Aids once back on the boat.  It was time to call it a day and enjoy our light dinner.

By 7:30 pm the fog rolled in again, only now it was so thick we could only see just beyond our dock.  Hopefully, it would burn off in the morning so we could leave without issue.

Really foggy now - end of dock

Really foggy now – end of dock

Matane, Quebec – Canada (Saturday, 7/13):
We left Tadoussac with some fog, but we had over a mile visibility so it was not an issue.  We had a mostly diagonal course to make a crossing to the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.  The water was a bit bumpy but not intolerable.  We were less than half an hour out when we saw our first ship, and about the same time saw some seals in the water.

Ship & seal in water

Ship & seal in water

Soon thereafter it got very foggy and for the next hour it required us to blow the horn every minute, and be constantly on the lookout for other boats. Of course having radar helped and with our AIS we could identify any boats that also have AIS.  Once across the big shipping lanes, it got easier and soon we came up to and hugged the south shore of Ile du Bic; part of Canada’s National Parks. About half way past this low-lying island the fog lifted and we had a much better visibility.

Our original intention was to stop in Rimouski for the night. It is a big city and the best place to provision or shop for any needed items. Capt. Mark had also determined this would be the best place to buy fuel until Rivieré au Renard, but we couldn’t go that far without at least some fuel.  However, the seas were very comfortable and we decided that we would stop only for the fuel and continue on to Matane or possibly even St. Anne des Monts if everything stayed stable.  The weather forecast called for rain and high winds on Sunday, so wherever we would end up we knew we would sit for a day or two.

We pulled to the fuel dock at Rimouski marina and had to wait for the sailboat there to finish up before we could take on our fuel. While Mark worked with the attendant (“Charl”), Denise watched a few locals play with their remote controlled boats near the docks. It was quite a set-up with tugs, tugs pulling containers, and they even had a marina.  Everything on these tiny boats worked, including the horns; which at one point Denise thought there was an alarm going off on our boat until she realized it was the remote tug.

We left Rimouski and immediately passed by the Point au Pere Lighthouse and Maritime museum; which is dedicated to the history of the St. Lawrence River, and where they have a submarine dry-docked that you can see from the water.

Point au Pere and Maritime museum

Point au Pere and Maritime museum

The seas were mostly flat, but there was still a slight fog.  We cruised past several small towns (all with churches) and past lighthouses that are certainly contenders for postcard photography. The mountains in this area are smaller than those one north shore, but are still impressive in size. Along the way many are littered with power-generating windmills.

We continued along the shoreline until the sea swells started to build and decided to pull into Matane.  We had gone 101 miles and felt like pressing on to St. Anne des Monts (48 more miles) would be pushing our luck. While cruising along we called the marina to make sure they had space. They spoke little English, but we were able to communicate sufficiently enough to secure dockage for the evening. We entered the harbor through the rocky jetty and pulled into the slip right near the marina office. It could not have been more convenient.

IO at Matane Marina

IO at Matane Marina

Once we had the boat secure, Brian (“Lazuli”) came over to ask if we saw his boat on AIS. He was in a sailboat that we had passed just before the entering into to the harbor, and he pulled into a slip not far from us. He had recently installed the AIS system but was not sure if he was broadcasting well enough; we assured him he was.

During the afternoon we watched the clouds and wind build and knew that we had made the right decision. Additionally, we knew Matane had a Catholic church and we could attend mass on Sunday.  We were unsure about the church in St. Anne des Monts as there is little information on the diocesan-shared website and it is all in French. Many of the old churches here have closed or have only one mass and the schedule changes depending on the time of year. The church in Matane also had little information on their website and despite assistance from the dockmaster we were unable to confirm their mass times; he was pretty sure it was at 11:00.

We had a chance to briefly meet Brian’s wife Sharon and to walk around the marina grounds, which also are part of a local park that has a beach facing the St. Lawrence River.  There is a big model ship for kids to climb on, as well as picnic tables, restrooms, and a community center where they host many events.

The weather continued to deteriorate so we hunkered down and ate dinner on the boat. We were not interested in even walking the half a mile up the street to the restaurant that came highly recommended. We took to reading and planning our next stops along the southern shore of the St. Lawrence.

Matane, Quebec – Canada (Sunday, 7/14):We woke up to pouring rain and gusty winds; thankful that we were not moving the boat today. Although it was only 1+ miles to the church, we decided to take a taxi to mass because it was raining, and because we had to cross a big highway to get there.  With the assistance of the dockmaster, he called and scheduled it for us for a 10:30 am pickup. It was a good thing he was early and it only took us 5 minutes to get there, as we discovered the mass actually started at 10:30.  Saint-Rédempteur Catholic Church was the more modern smaller church in town; sadly, St. Jerome on the other side of the river was no longer open.

By the time mass was over the rain had subsided and we were able to walk to downtown. To do so we walked through a residential area, then across the bridge that goes over the Matane River and up the main street where all the restaurants are.

Finding most of them closed on Sunday (not unexpected) we ended up at “La Fabriqué”; a restaurant with an adjacent microbrewery next door.  The food was excellent and we arrived just before the big rush.  By the time we left the place was packed and we were glad we had chosen to have an early lunch.

From there we walked through town to the boulangerie for some French bread, then on to the fish market (Poissonnerie Matanaise) for some fresh mussels and salmon.

Fish market

Fish market

On the way back to the boat we passed by the Metro supermarket and the strip mall that had other local businesses and shops, but we didn’t stop. We stopped at the park on the west side of the river to take a few pictures and to see the marina from a different perspective, then walked across the highway bridge back over the Matane River and back to the boat.

Just as we were coming up the street to the marina it began to sprinkle, and by the time we got our purchases stowed away in the refrigerator it began to rain hard. We made it just in time.  Unfortunately, it was not soon enough for two Tiara powerboats (“Moving on” & “Manitou”) from the US who pulled into the marina and tried to dock in the gusting winds. The awesome dockhands worked so hard in the pouring rain to get them secured in their slips and hooked up with appropriate power adapters. We noticed one boat was from South Haven, MI and the other from Indiana; obviously they were traveling together.  Eventually, when the weather broke Mark got to talk with them and learned they were planning to leave tomorrow and head to St. Anne des Monts. They are also doing the Downeast Loop together, but only hoping to get their boats to New York for winter storage.

We spent the rest of the day reading and doing emails. It was a day to catch up on things and for some needed relaxation. In the evening we cooked up the muscles in some garlic and white wine sauce, and along with the French bread had an awesome dinner on a this cold and rainy night.  The weather for tomorrow was still changing and we were not sure if we would stay or move the boat. We agreed to look at it in the morning and decide then.

mussels & french bread for dinner

mussels & french bread for dinner

St. Anne des Monts, Quebec – Canada (Monday, 7/15):
With the improving weather situation, Brian and Sharon (“Lazuli”) left at dawn.  We also watched “Moving On” and “Manitou” pull out mid-morning. We then looked at the weather forecast and saw that we did have a window of time that we could make our way up the coast for the 50 miles, so we checked out of the marina and at 11:00 went on our way.

Denise was very nervous about the coming days as the St. Lawrence River widens and turns into the St. Lawrence Seaway at St. Anne des Monts. Here the weather can be unpredictable and can change rapidly.  We had identified several “bailout” spots should we need to pull into a safe harbor, but most are very small ports with walled wharfs that are geared for the fishing boats. In some cases you can raft to a fishing boat for the night.

About halfway into our journey an engine alarm went off signifying we had water in our fuel (not a good thing). We slowed the boat and Mark went in the engine room to investigate and found water in the engine drain pan. After some deduction and troubleshooting, he was able to pump it dry and felt secure enough to continue on our way. He also investigated and could not find anything indicating where a leak could be coming from (i.e. a hose clamp, etc.), so we continued on. As we came upon the town of Les Méchins another alarm went off and so we pulled into the harbor. It is a small fishing/commercial port with a shipyard and dry dock and there was nowhere for us to tie up. We ended up anchoring in the harbor so Mark could do some troubleshooting. After about an hour he determined what he thought was the cause and we were able to clear that warning message.  We pulled up anchor and continued along our way, with Mark periodically checking that everything was ok and that we could safely get to St. Anne des Monts.  Denise was so anxious and nervous, she forgot to take pictures at Les Méchins.

We continued heading east (and north) until just before the town of Cap-Chat (another possible bailout location). Here there is Le Nordais Windmill Park; a park that has over 130 power-generating windmills, including the world’s tallest (110m) vertical-axis windmill.  And just before the town is the Cap-Chat lighthouse – another postcard worthy scene.

Along the way we were also were graced by a seals and small porpoise (not at all like our bottlenose dolphins), but they are so difficult to photograph when there are waves so we have no pictures.

Finally, we arrived at the harbor entrance to St. Anne des Monts, with the church’s twin spires acting as a beacon for how to line up and enter the very narrow breakwater.  We had called ahead to the marina before leaving Matane and so they were expecting us, and showed us to our end-tie up.  Already tied up to their slips were fellow cruisers on “Moving On” and “Manitou”, as well as Brian & Sharon (“Lazuli”).

Approaching St. Anne Des Monts Harbor

Approaching St. Anne Des Monts Harbor

We checked into the marina with the assistance of Roland & Sylva, and had them make reservations for us for tomorrow night at Rivieré au Renard marina – some 90 miles further east.  After that, Mark went to work on further troubleshooting the source of our “water in fuel” issue, and Denise went for a walk around town. She needed some terra firma under her feet as it had been a quite stressful day.

Her first stop was the church of St. Anne des Monts to give a prayer of thanksgiving for safe passage and for continued blessings until we are home in November. Here are some pictures of this beautiful church.

She continued with her walk around town, taking pictures of all the driftwood carvings. This area became famous for all the pieces of driftwood that washes up on its shore and therefore they have plenty of large pieces to carve from. Each year this town hosts an art festival (“Feast of Driftwood”) where driftwood is carved into amazing sculptures. The winning sculpture is then placed around the town for all to see. You can learn more about this festival (which takes place in August) here.