Southern Shore!

We have been moving the boat quite a bit and have gotten behind on postings.  Here is an update from last week:

Halifax to Yarmouth

Lunenburg, NS – Wednesday, 8/14
After many fun days of sightseeing and socializing with cruisers and locals alike, we said good-bye to Halifax and set a course for the town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

The town is located in an area known as the South Shore and sits right on the edge of Mahone Bay, a large bay open to the Atlantic Ocean with lots of islands and small towns scattered around its shores.  There were two other towns we wanted to explore on this bay: Mahone and Chester.  Our plan was to visit the town of Chester first, but there were no accommodations available due to the big sailing regatta that takes place this week every year.  We had been in communication with Barbara and Richard (“Porpoise”) whom we met in Baddeck, hoping they could help us secure a mooring or dock. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful and took Chester off our itinerary.

We also decided to pass on the town of Mahone, but mainly because we were looking at the future weather and what would be the best travel days to make progress along the Nova Scotia coast.  This was going to limit our time to one stop on Mahone Bay and we decided Lunenburg was going to be it.

We left Halifax with sunny skies, but hit fog almost immediately and had it most of the way.  Luckily fellow cruisers on Confetti and Still Waters II, as well as a few sailors we met at RNSYS were on the water making the same path as us and we were in communication with them throughout the morning.  It was 47 miles and took us under 3 hours to get there. However, with all the fog we felt cheated as we missed seeing much of the beautiful Nova Scotia coastline.

We arrived in Lunenburg as the fog was lifting and picked up the mooring we had been assigned, which ended up being a good location in the harbor and we were happy with it.

We ate a quick lunch on the boat before Capt. Mark launched the dinghy, and we went into town to explore. When we arrived at the public wharf, we found it under construction and only a few slips available for the cruiser, all of which were taken.  We stopped into the wharf marina office and discovered the phone number we had been using to try and call for reservations for a spot on the wharf was incorrect. Luckily we were fortunate to be able to get a mooring (run by the Boat Locker; a retail establishment in town) as the wharf was full.

Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its history, as well as its beauty; you can learn more about it here. UNESCO considers the site the best example of planned British colonial settlement in North America, having retained its original layout and appearance, including wooden architecture in the local vernacular. Because of this there are always tourists and today was “par usual”. There were many tour buses from Halifax and other Nova Scotia areas and when we arrived on the main street along the waterfront we immediately saw 5 of them.  Needless to say, many of the shops here are tourist-oriented and have similar trinkets and gadgets we had seen in Halifax.  A big attraction here is the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and we had considered going. However, it is not large, appeared crowded, and to be honest, we were saturated with museums and needed a break.  Instead we went for a walk through town, exploring other areas that peaked our interest.

First up was to locate the “piece of the Berlin Wall site” that we found in an understated memorial on the outskirts of the downtown area. Denise had read about this, and having witnessed it being torn down (and the collapse of communism) during our lifetime we felt compelled to seek it out. We had to walk through a nice park and around the LIFE Manufacturing plant (a boat-building and repair center) to get to it. Once there we were disappointed to find it on the edge of a parking lot, and sad that it did not get more attention or prominence in town, given its significance to the free world.

Afterwards we walked through several of the other streets in town that had art, nautical items and jewelry. We found a barbershop that was named after a US President, several restaurants, and ice cream shops.

Once back along the waterfront we stopped in at Adams & Knickle, a place known to have the best scallops and owner of the “Maude Adams” fishing boat, and a very prominent building along the waterfront. We purchased a package of scallops that went right into our freezer once we got back on the boat. This place is written up in the cruising guides as a great value and the guy who waited on us was formerly a fisherman for the company; today he is retired and works part-time at the retail store.  The store itself is an institution and is chock full of memorabilia and other fun stuff.

Late in the afternoon we saw that Dave & Claudia (“SW II”) had anchored just outside the mooring field and communicated with them about their intentions for dinner. They opted for staying onboard, which led us to do the same and take in the surrounding beauty of the area.  This included watching golfers attempt to keep the ball from running down the hill at the Blue Nose Golf Course across the harbor.

Lunenburg golf course

In the evening we enjoyed watching the sailboat races in the harbor, and then having them cruise right through the mooring field.  We met “Doug” from the Boat Locker (with whom we made reservations), who passed by our boat and then retrieved some beer from friends on the boat next to us.  It was a hoot to watch.

After the races, the harbor quieted down and we had a beautiful sunset and huge moonrise over the fish processing facility near the harbor entrance.  We were glad we stopped here, and we would be glad to move on tomorrow to another part of Nova Scotia.

Here are some other pictures of Lunenburg, including a few interesting street signs:

Shelburne, NS – Thursday, 8/15
It had been a very peaceful and quiet night in the harbor, but we woke up to fog so thick we could not see the boat on the mooring next to us.  We had intended to leave early as we had a 70 mile day planned and wanted to make sure we could arrive in time to see some of the sights in Shelburne. When Capt. Mark woke up Denise told him to go back to bed for at least 30 minutes because we were not going anywhere.  Finally, we left when the fog had lifted sufficient that we could see our way out of the harbor and into the ocean, still hugging the shoreline where possible.

IO in fog - taken by SWII

IO in fog – taken by SWII

We had received a text message from “SWII” who had left in the thick of fog to let us know that visibility had improved for them and that since the seas were so calm they were pressing past their intended anchorage and would be going to Cape Negro, not far from Shelburne (where we were heading).

We plowed through about 2 hours of solid fog before it lifted and we were able to finally see the beautiful coastline. We felt cheated that we missed so much, but the wind and seas always rule our decisions about where to go and when to stop.  Flat seas and calm winds mean go, even if it is in fog (thanks to radar). We passed by Gull Rock Lighthouse, and soon thereafter Cape Roseway Lighthouse, both in spectacularly beautiful settings.

We arrived at the Shelburne Yacht Club and were assigned a side-tie on the outside dock. Since no one else was there we were able to pull forward and tuck in behind the breakwater, allowing for just a little more protection should the wind pick up and bounce us during the night. Once we settled the boat, we ate lunch before checking in with the yacht club office.

Marina at SHYC

Marina at SHYC

In May, the Yacht Club had a fire and so their clubhouse was totally inaccessible as it was being rebuilt. However, the club really put forth an effort to mitigate the inconvenience. They had rented a trailer to house the office and club operations, as well as a mini snack area with chips, sodas, etc. for sale.  Outside they set up tables and chairs under a covered tent next to the trailer, and on the back side facing the water a bunch of tables with umbrellas to watch the passing boats.  They had a set of portlets available near the trailer, and made the “washrooms” (Nova Scotian lingo for public bathrooms) in the Sailing School next door available during business hours.

Temporary Yacht Club facilities

Temporary Yacht Club

Temporary Yacht Club

Temporary Yacht Club facilities

After we checked in, we went for a walk around the town to see the sights and shake out our legs. This town was used in the filming of the 1995 movie “The Scarlet Letter” with Demi Moore.  Some of the buildings were built new for the movie, but many more are original and scattered across the waterfront.  We walked along the waterfront to the tourist information building and then to the main street downtown, and then back to the yacht club. It was a good opportunity to see the town and stretch our legs. Here are some pictures from our walk.

One of the places we stopped in to see was a cooperage that makes barrels used by the local fisherman and many of the Nova Scotia wineries. It is a small shop, and is run by a couple who purchased it from the family of the original founders a few years ago. It was interesting to hear their story and see their beautiful products. Although they sell small buckets and items to the consumer, we purchased nothing as we have no room on the boat for their products.

We had been trying to make reservations for a restaurant (“Charlotte Lane Cafe“) we wanted to eat, but we were unsuccessful as they were totally full and confirmed all reservations for the day.  People had told us to make reservations early, they just didn’t tell us it needed to be 2 weeks ahead. That is not something we can usually do on the boat, so we will have to come back again someday to visit. There were a few other choices in town for dinner, but we opted for supporting the yacht club which had the best deal yet: A hamburger, sausage (hotdog-style), shared chips and beer was $15 (including tip) – Canadian.  We sat out on the umbrella picnic tables and socialized with some of the locals, including the club Commodore, Susan.

Cooking up our dinner

Cooking up our dinner

It was Thursday night, and in these parts that means sailboat racing (we used to call them “beer can” race).  We watched the 15 or so sailboats start the race and cruise down the harbor and back.  It was great fun and brought back many memories of our days when we too used to race our sailboat.

Club sailboat race begins

Club sailboat race begins

While we were watching the races, our friends Lila and Allen (“Blue Haven”) cruised into the SHYC.  They had left Halifax in the morning and came all the way in order to take advantage of tomorrow’s weather to cross the Gulf of Maine and go to Southwest Harbor. Here they will put their boat up for the winter, head back to Wisconsin for a few months, and then down to a condo in FL for the winter.  We hope to catch up to them again in FL.

It was a clear night and because Shelburne is not large and away from any big cities, we could see a million stars in the skies. Although 10 miles up the channel, we were glad we made the trip to this cute little town and wonderful people.

Yarmouth, NS – Friday, 8/16
We were anxious to get under way and head to Yarmouth where we had reservations for the entire weekend.  We needed to wait out high winds and then position ourselves for a good-weather day to cross the Bay of Fundy on Monday. We left at 7:00 am, but again faced fog for the first 90 minutes.  It would break for a while, then come back, then it finally lifted completely in time to spot a few whales. We took Schooner Passage through a group of islands including one named “Murder Island”, passing lighthouses, and small fishing homes and spotting seals and porpoises along the way.

Eventually, we rounded Chebogue Point and turned up past Sandy Point and headed into Yarmouth Sound.  To our left was Cape Forchu Lighthouse, and to our right was initially a big farm, and then houses sitting up on the hills.  The sound eventually narrowed around Bunker Lighthouse and we entered Yarmouth Harbor.  This is a commercial fishing town with lots of wharf areas and a ferry terminal. Here we saw a boat named “Lady Denise II”, and “The CAT” – the ferry from Bar Harbor, ME to Yarmouth (more on this later).

"The CAT" - Yarmouth-Bar Harbour Ferry

“The CAT” – Yarmouth-Bar Harbour Ferry

"Lady Denise II"

“Lady Denise II”

We had been in touch with Dave & Claudia (“Still Waters II” aka “SWII”) who were on the same track and like us, headed to Yarmouth to wait for the Bay of Fundy crossing.  We had been discussing the route to take as we both have differing landing spots on the Maine coast, but both agreed Yarmouth would be our jump-off from Nova Scotia.

We arrived at Killam Brothers Marina where we had a reservation for the weekend, but first went to the fuel dock for a bit of fuel as insurance for the crossing into the USA. Even with the exchange rate in our favor, the diesel prices in Canada are still high and we didn’t want to pay more if in 100 miles we can get it cheaper.

Once we had finished fueling we got our dock assignment: a side tie on the long dock in front of “Dash”, an Ocean Alexander yacht from St. Croix, USVI. As we were settling our boat we were told the OA would be leaving to go to the fuel dock and we wondered how they would ever move that big yacht into the small place on the fuel dock.  Well, the young (hired) captain was able to make that yacht dance around the corner and around all the other boats without hitting anything and we were impressed.  Of course they were there for a while (like 2.5 hours) to take on all the fuel they needed, and in the meantime “SWII” came into the marina and put in right behind us; the OA would return and go behind him.

After checking in with the dockmaster and eating lunch, we spent the afternoon doing work for our business; Denise has re-engaged with a client for a follow-up project, and Mark had several calls with clients, and work to complete for another client.  All of this is welcomed as we are not retired and have a fuel bill to pay for, not to mention marina fees and our usual household expenses.

One thing we learned upon arrival is that this is shark tournament week here, and on Saturday the official weigh-in will take place right at the marina.  The tournament, called the “Shark Scramble”, is held from Wednesday to Friday evening (boats must be back in by midnight) and only lobster boats need apply.  All afternoon and evening we watched the boats come into the harbor and raft up at the wharf immediately behind the long dock we were on. Some were a little unhappy that we pesky cruising boats were taking up precious dock space, but the local boater across the dock from us on the inside was very happy we were there. They told us that it was going to be a loud weekend and to expect it to go on late on Saturday night.

In the evening we had been invited to Claudia & Dave’s (“SWII”) for drinks and appetizers, but our conversation continued on for over 2 hours and we found ourselves full from the appetizers.  We have found kindred spirits with this terrific couple from Texas, and we never seem to have sufficient time to cover all that we want to discuss. Finally, we went back to our boat for the night and looked forward to spending tomorrow in Yarmouth.

Yarmouth, NS – Saturday, 8/17
Denise got up and went for a run, only after being woken up early by the cacophony of seagulls perched on the rocks across and around the marina. Add to this the lobster boats that had come in during the night with tanks full of shark that were anxiously awaiting the weigh-in, scheduled to start at noon. Her run took her downtown, past Frost Park, around the Victorian (heritage) homes of former sea captains, two schools, by the ferry terminal and (currently closed) Visitor’s Center, and then back to the marina. Here are some pictures from this outing:

At 8:00 am “Dash” left the dock, and immediately a lobster boat took their spot. Not long thereafter two others rafted to it and before long there were two rows of boats, with up to 4 rafted together.  As these boats can be 20+ feet wide, it was an interesting sight to see and an in indication that it was going to be an eventful day around the harbor.

Lobster boats stacking up in the marina

Lobster boats stacking up in the marina

After breakfast we went to the small but good farmer’s market. We really didn’t need anything but found ourselves sharing a blueberry lemon scone and Denise got a cup of coffee. We also purchased a cucumber and saw the largest zucchini we have ever seen.  There was a small band present, as well as a group representing some of the parks in Nova Scotia and they were having a photo contest; winner gets camping gear and a free experience at one of the star-gazing parks that has an observatory.

Once back on the boat, Denise did some food prep for the next few days and Mark washed the outside of the boat; it was filthy and it had not had a good cleaning since St. Peters.  We watched the marina and all of the surrounding grounds fill up with activity and lots of people.  We ate a quick lunch and then went to check out the weigh-in which had already started. There was an entire area set up with games and activities for the kids, including a ‘touch’ tank where they could handle little lobsters, starfish and crabs.  There was face painting (shark-themed of course) and a place where you could buy shark balloons.

Denise spent all afternoon watching the weigh-in and learning all about the blue sharks. It was a real site to see, with the use of a bucket truck to raise the sharks off the boats, in part due to the tide here.  Each boat weighed in based on the order in which they returned to the dock, so there was constant jockeying of the lobster boats as they were called up.  There was a taxidermist who was overseeing the cut-up of the fish and disbursements to various tubs for processing; some to a seafood processor locally to become pet food, etc. The head of the shark was processed by the taxidermist who salvaged the jaws and scull for donation to research and teaching institutions.  And there was also a research group who would take samples from the shark’s organs and skins for their studies. They would also empty the stomachs to see what the sharks have been eating; today they found a whole monkfish, a rag, and a ball of aluminum foil. All of this was very educational and fascinating to watch, albeit a bit disgusting.

Here are some more interesting things about the “Shark Scramble”:  there were 15 boats this year, with each team member paying $125 and up to 8 people fishing per boat.  They are only allowed to catch blue sharks, and they must be at least 8 feet long. Undersized sharks are tagged, released, and tracked by a local research group that have found them in later years all around the world.  This year there were 100 that were tagged and released. Each boat can weigh-in only 3 fish, so they try for the biggest ones possible. There were various awards with the grand prize a 4-wheel ATV and first place a $10,000 cash prize.   There were other prizes as well, including one for the shark caught by the youngest person; a 13-year old girl who got $50.  The largest shark was a whopping 321 lbs.  You can learn more about this wonderful community event here.

After all the excitement of the shark scramble, we went to dinner with Dave & Claudia at the Rudders Seafood, located right near the marina. The food was really good, with reasonable prices and terrific company.

Rudders Restaurant - street view

Rudders Restaurant – street view

Also taking place this weekend in Yarmouth was a music festival. It started on Friday afternoon and went on all day Saturday, with soloists and bands alike. The tent was located right near the marina office, just up the ramp from the docks and a small park.  We could hear the music down at the boat and it didn’t bother us. But tonight on the way back from dinner we stopped by to check out the act that was playing.  We timed it perfectly because at 8:00 pm the band that came on played all music from the 80’s and Denise was loving it. Mark went back to the boat, but Denise hung out with Rachelle and Peter (“Juno V”), the couple in the boat across the dock from us.  This band ended at 9:00pm and that is when Denise came back to the boat, even though another band started to play.

In the meantime, the Shark Scramble had a tent set up on the wharf next to the marina near Rudders Seafood where they had their banquet dinner, awards presentation and a loud band as well. At one point this band was competing with the music festival band (who actually quit at 11:00). However, the band at the Shark Scramble continued well past midnight and was quite good, but very loud. During that time the lobster boats got into a horn-blasting competition, which periodically went on for most of the evening and well into the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully, we slept through most of it, and it appears it was tame this year compared to previous years.

 Yarmouth, NS – Sunday, 8/18
In the morning we went to mass at St. Ambrose the co-cathedral with St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilicas in Halifax. Denise had scoped it out on her run the previous day and had identified the fastest walking route from the marina, and it took about 15 minutes.  The mass was interesting as the choir was instrument-less, despite a beautiful pipe organ. We didn’t find out why they were not using it as we got distracted with the priest who was home visiting his family from……yup, Florida (Palm Beach to be more specific).  Nonetheless, his sermon was great and the church was beautiful.

After church we walked back to the marina and pretty much hung out at the marina all day.  We watched the lobster boats leave, one by one and eventually the marina got very quiet.  We spent some time talking with family and working on this blog, as well as downloading and cataloging pictures.

We also spent some time talking with Rachelle and Peter (“Juno V”) as they are intending to do the Great Loop in a few years. Peter will retire in January next year, and Rachelle will join him for parts of the trip during the winter months (more on this later).  However, they plan on spending this coming winter in the Bahamas as a friend has a cottage they have offered them.  Rachelle works for the company that provide ferry service to Yarmouth, and she shared with us about how they are trying to get the ferry re-established from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth.  The company has invested millions in a new ferry terminal in Bar Harbor, and is now awaiting final approval from US CPB to begin service. They were supposed to start early this summer season, but are now hoping for September. In the meantime, passengers who had already purchased tickets are being routed through the St. John to Digby ferry, nearly 1.5 hours away on both ends of the trip.

"Juno V"

“Juno V”

As a result of the delayed ferry service, businesses in the downtown Yarmouth area are really struggling and some have even gone under. This is primarily a fishing town, but the ferry would bring some much needed tourism as this is a gateway for travelers looking for a faster way to get a car to Nova Scotia.  There is evidence of investments put on hold and the town’s survival is dependent on it taking off.

In the afternoon we invited Dave and Claudia (“SWII”) aboard for a final evening to get together before we each make our ways to different ports on the western shore of the Bay of Fundy.  We had a nice time chatting and agreed to keep in touch once back on the eastern coast of the USA.

Here are some other pictures of Yarmouth:

Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office

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