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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
We continued on the road that follows the bay, stopping at an overlook the enabled us to capture the beauty of this area:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After fueling up we headed across the St. Georges Bay to the Canso Canal.
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.
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.
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.
Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office