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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office