September 10, 2008
Our trip to New Brunswick was brief, such that leaving New Mills on Tuesday afternoon we returned to Nova Scotia to spend the night in Truro at the head of the Bay of Fundy. I was a bit curious about this town having spent 11 years attending Truro High School (for girls) in Cornwall, England. We spent the night at the Palliser Motel which boasts the best view of the tidal bore in Truro. Our timing was good in that the bore was due to run up the river at 8:53 pm and again at 9:35 am so we would have two opportunities to marvel over it. On the other hand, our timing was abysmal in that both days had what were euphemistically called "regular" tides otherwise known as neap tides, rather than the much more dramatic "extreme" or spring tides. If planning a trip to see the tidal bore, select the most extreme spring tide possible (greatest range between high and low tides) because with the conditions that we had…it is just not worth it.
But like the crowd around us, we stood under the floodlights by the river on Tuesday evening, excitedly anticipating a conspicuous wave to flood upstream. We admitted to ourselves that it might only be 10 – 20 cm high but that would still be worthwhile. Well, there is a surge in the rising of the water level that over a 10 – 20 minute period is quite visible, if one pays attention to sand/mud flats that are exposed near the water’s edge to begin with. But being a regular tide and having a strong cross-wind we can categorically say that there was no distinct wave, not even a ripple that could have been identified as the leading edge of the incoming tide. The next morning, even when we knew what subtle signs to look for we were again deprived of anything that remotely constituted a bore (other than the obvious tendency of condition to encourage attentional deficit) but at least this time we studied the relatively rapid water level rise more effectively. And unlike most of the 40 or so other expectant viewers, we didn’t linger very long still hoping that the much-anticipated, dramatic wave was just late.
We should have been a bit suspicious because with all the publicity about the tidal bore in Truro and a few other select river sites at the head of the Bay of Fundy, one sees very few photos of it…probably because even at its most dramatic, it may not photograph well. So we satisfied ourselves with knowing that we had watched the tide start to come in… and we saw a more dramatic version (maybe 1 m high) on the video tape at the information booth. Still, our visit to Truro was not in vain. Not only did we enjoy looking at the various impressive, red-brick buildings downtown, but we converted our two large bags of dirty laundry into piles of neatly folded clothes at the friendliest, neatest laundromat we had ever encountered!
It was with somewhat reduced expectations that we left Truro and followed the Fundy Shore Trail heading west along the south coast of the Bay. Our first surprises, were the dramatic cliffs of the valley in which the Shubenacadie River runs into the Bay of Fundy just west of Truro and the dramatic red coloration of the water and surrounding mud/sands. It seems odd that this impressive color is never mentioned with all the other publicity about the river having the only tidal bore in North America on which one can raft (with claims of a wave up to 3 – 4 m). But maybe red is not the normal river color but the result of the heavy rains that Tropical Storm Hanna had dumped on the area.
After lunch, when we arrived at Burncoat Head, the site of the highest tide ever recorded in the world (55 ft in 1869), we were disappointed to find that the interpretive center in the lighthouse was closed and started to think that we were just not destined to enjoy the drama of the Bay. But being just a couple of hours before low tide, we decided to wander down to the beach for a bit of a walk anyway…and that is where we were rewarded. Burncoat Head has several tree-topped, small islands that have been eroded away from the sandstone cliffs and which at low tide illustrate the extent of the changes in water level quite dramatically. After a few days of grey skies, the clouds had finally cleared and we enjoyed a wonderful stroll along the exposed shore ("walking on the ocean floor" as the guidebooks rather breathlessly describe it), knowing that at high tide the water there would be 8 -10 m deep. The patterned sands, slightly sucking mud, and carved sandstones exposed at low tide were fascinating and inspired me with fond memories of the ever-changing appearance of the vast mud flats of Morecambe Bay over which my parent’s (and now my brother’s) house looked in Britain. And as with Morecambe Bay, one has to keep a wary eye on the turn of the tide to avoid getting caught by the speedy inrush of water.
Although we didn’t have time to wait the six hours at Burncoat Head until the tide had come in to see the full cycle, we really enjoyed the scenery both at the shore and on our drive along it. There are many provincial and national parks around the Bay of Fundy, boasting impressive views and dramatic islands so it is not easy to make a decision about where to go, but we were not disappointed by our selection…and we had the place to ourselves. The general landscape that we passed through was attractive, rolling farmlands and then when we turned south near Falmouth (also the name of the town in Cornwall near where we lived for seven years) the road across the interior of Nova Scotia passed by many pretty lakes and through large tracts of coniferous forests.
When we arrived at the southern coast of Nova Scotia, we drove around part of Mahone Bay and ended up back in Lunenburg, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that we had visited by boat (without going ashore) on our way to Halifax, more than a month previously. We randomly checked into one of the many, well appointed hotels downtown (Smugglers Cove Inn) and ate a fabulous meal at the Rumrunner Restaurant while enjoying the evening view over the harbor. After a brief walk through the picturesque streets before bed, we were all set to wake up the next morning for the final part of our road-trip. (P.S. I didn’t show our destinations on the Tripsailor map because we didn’t sail there.)
September 09, 2008
As we anticipated, we left Liscomb (strictly, we had been in Spanish Ship Bay) on Thursday Sept, 4th. A couple of the other boats anchored in the Bay had tried leaving on Wednesday but we saw them return fairly promptly, so we suspected that the seas were still pretty rough. Indicating what a limited community of cruisers are moving around in this sort of area at any time, when we went to get diesel at Liscomb Lodge before heading out, we temporarily had to tie-up to another boat and the owner turned out to be someone we had met briefly in Louisbourg (on a different wharf than ours). He asked if we were going to take the "inside passage" on our way to Halifax and this proved to be a good suggestion because it was relatively protected from the swell that was still rolling in.
Thus, we picked our way peacefully through the Bay of Islands before we had to slog the rest of the way (again motoring against the wind and waves) back to Halifax. By the time we got there the wind had finally dropped and it was fairly calm with good visibility and plenty of spots of bioluminescence. We arrived in Purcells Cove at 3:30 am and managed to tie up to Vince’s mooring without too much difficulty (other than losing the useful end of the spare boat-hook which did not feel obliged to remain attached to the handle when any pulling force was applied…we looked for it during the day to no avail so apologize for this unintended littering of the cove). After sleeping late, we got the boat sorted out and checked-in with Ellen who invited us to join them for fishcakes (made with real salt cod) and a splendid evening of hospitality with Ellen, Eric, Vince, Diane, and friends visiting from Jacksonville, FL, Barb and Barry.
We were particularly thankful to have made it to Purcells Cove when we did and to be able to quiz our hosts about boat security because the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna were bearing down on us. She had come ashore in the Carolinas and was skirting all the way up the east coast. Luckily for us, Hanna came up the Bay of Fundy rather than directly over the eastern shore and the projected wind speeds (up to 40 knot gusts) and direction (SW) were such that Purcells Cove was well protected and the mooring suitable. But to be sure, we spent most of Saturday afternoon (having taken the bus into Halifax to pick up our greatly anticipated rental car, get some groceries, and a new boat hook) preparing the boat by taking below, or fastening tight anything that might be damaged by high winds (including the whole Bimini top). We stayed aboard and "battened down the hatches" on Sunday when the storm bands passed over but other than a fair amount of rain, the windy period was actually fairly brief, causing Randall to bemoan the fact that it did not generate enough power for us to watch a DVD that evening! Still, we will never complain when a storm is less than expected and all the preparations made us more comfortable about leaving Tregoning for a few days while we took a road-trip inland.
Having not left Tregoning overnight since she had returned to the water in May, we were thankful to know that our friends in the cove would keep an eye on her and would be the most competent rescuers should anything go awry. As it turned out, all was fine in our absence (even the inevitable mildew didn’t seem to take advantage of the limited ventilation) and we adjusted to stationary beds and normal bathroom facilities with remarkable ease!
On Monday morning we loaded up the car (it seemed mostly with dirty laundry) and headed north, stopping briefly at the Visitors Center on the New Brunswick border and then driving the length of the province (south to north) to end up for the night in Bathurst. The trip was very pleasant and easy but despite all the signs warning of moose crossings, we never even glimpsed one in clearings away from the road. Of course, it was a very good thing not to see any on the roads as collisions with these huge creatures never work out well.
Bathurst was a nice enough stop but our real objective as met on Tuesday when we drove almost to the Quebec border to visit the New Brunswick villages of New Mills and Blackland. Like many villages that we passed through, these are small communities strung along a road and now pretty much just defined by a church. There may be a Bed and Breakfast establishment or something similar but no pub (as most British villages would still have) or local store. Thus, our pilgrimage to New Mills could be kept relatively simple, with the mission to absorb the ambiance of the locality and to visit the cemetery. Thanks to a well-timed email from one of Randall’s cousins, Marjo, we had some information about the arrival of his mother’s ancestors to the area from the Scottish Isle of Arran in the early 1800s. Randall also remembered his mother’s descriptions of visiting the area during her retirement so he very much enjoyed reconciling how he had imagined the place with the current reality of it. We didn’t stray far from the main road, just over the railway track and down to the shore of Chaleur Bay at a couple of places. Some sizable hills were visible across the Bay in Quebec but the New Mills topography was gentle and rolling with secondary forests and land that did not look as though it would have been very difficult to farm. By the small river between New Mills and Blackland, it was not hard to imagine this as a place where new immigrants had got themselves established.
We spent a while wandering through the Protestant Cemetery at the Zion United Church looking at the McMillan gravestones. We will have to check our photos with Marjo to make sure which ones belong to the family’s ancestors who first came from Scotland (we think that’s Donald and Barbara McMillan – may be spelled M’Millan on photo) because there were so many memorials for McMillans. It was members of only the next generation after arrival who headed west in covered wagons to British Columbia and then shipped south to northern California that would have included (something like) Randall’s great-great-grandparents. So while many of the McMillans represented in the New Mills cemetery or their descendants may have been distant relatives, there is no known connection with any of the current residents of New Brunswick. Although we may not have managed to sail to New Mills as originally hoped, we were very pleased to get there in the end, and as with meeting my nephews in Halifax on time, this was another goal of our shake-down cruise that was particularly satisfying to have accomplished.
September 02, 2008
After a reasonable night’s sleep we released ourselves from our multiple lines and motored out of Louisbourg on Sunday (August 31st) morning heading (into the wind) towards Halifax. Our plan was to sail all night and arrive at Purcells Cove on Monday evening, by which time winds of 30 knots were forecast. We made fairly good time on Sunday despite the choppy, bumpy conditions but were progressively slowed overnight by the increasing size and frequency of the waves. The radio was also starting to broadcast gale warnings so just after dawn on Monday we decided that we were no longer likely to make Halifax before dark, and certainly not before 30-35 knot winds were predicted. So we turned towards shore to seek shelter in one of the many coves between us and Halifax. Just as we turned almost broadside to the waves, for some as yet unexplained reason, the engine stopped and would not immediately restart. Suddenly the gale warning become all the more alarming and the rocky, island-studded shoreline less attractive. But it is a sailboat, so we pulled out a small amount of jib and in the strengthening winds were soon flying out to sea. Without the engine our choices were to stay away from shore (not appealing as the seas would get rougher) or to head for a wide-mouthed cove that we could sail into downwind (i.e., heading away from Halifax). Luckily, after a few minutes the motor did restart, although the risk of another stoppage was ever present. This allowed us to aim for Liscomb Cove, a bit of back-tracking, but not too bad. Randall gallantly motor-sailed us down the well-marked, but rocky approaches and finally we were relived of the waves and found a good anchorage in a well protected cove. And here we sit, protected from waves but swinging in the strong winds around the anchor awaiting calmer conditions. We hoped to leave for Halifax on Wednesday, but it may be Thursday before the sea conditions are calm enough for us to make sufficient headway to reach Halifax in a long day.
We may feel a bit trapped by the gale in this sparsely inhabited cove (not quite recognized by Googlemaps), frustrated that we will be further delayed in reaching Halifax and then getting to Maine. But Tregoning is much happier on the anchor than being pounded on a wharf and with Wendy whizzing away generating power and the solar panels making the most of the sunny intervals we are doing just fine. Catching up on the blog, fixing some things, and watching movies we are lucky to have enough food and water to be able to stay here for a while if we have to!
August 30, 2008
Louisbourg (pronounced locally Lewis-burg but named after King Louis XIV of France) is now a small town on the east coast of Cape Breton but in the 1700s was third (or fourth depending whose account you read) busiest seaport on the continent of North America (New York, Boston, and Philadelphia being the competitors). With interest in this nautical history in mind, we set off for Louisbourg from Sydney, intending to spend two nights there and then make an overnight passage to arrive in Halifax on the evening of Saturday August 30th. And, yes, we were making the turn southward having concluded that Newfoundland and points north will still be here the next time we make it to this part of the world. But as I will explain, the weather chose not to cooperate and this log is being written on Tuesday Sept 2nd with arrival in Halifax unlikely until Thursday.
The morning of our departure from Sydney (Wednesday August 27th) arrived with winds of 20 – 25 mph and 6 ft seas but we decided to slog our way around the northeastern tip of Cape Breton under power. Randall stayed in the cockpit and despite some significant bumps and rolls through the sloppy waves felt all right. Based on all previous experience that indicated that I would be fine making breakfast, doing the washing-up, and securing (mostly by putting on the floor) everything mobile in the boat, I did so without much thought until it occurred to me that I might be starting to feel a bit sea-sick. Oh, to be proven to be human after all! I wasn’t sick but decided to take a tablet of meclizine to be on the safe side and within half an hour was feeling better enough to be doing Su Doku puzzles…in the cockpit. It was a rough passage into the waves until we turned southwest around the headland of Cape Breton.
Once in Louisbourg, we were welcomed by Peter from Halifax, single-handing the boat "The Wanderer" that was tied-up ahead of us on the public wharf. In turn we welcomed, and because the wharf was full had tie up along-side us, David and Scott in "The Puffin" who we’d met briefly in Baddeck and, like us, were headed to Halifax. We went out to dinner with David and Scott and had similar plans to visit Fortress Louisbourg the next day then move on to Halifax.
Well, as pleasing as it was that the public wharf is free in Louisbourg (including a power cable hook-up and use of the nearby washrooms) the place we had on it turned out not to be ideal for the conditions that were to follow. There is a 4 – 5 ft tidal range in the harbor so lines have to be left slack enough for low tide, or must be adjusted during the day…and night. We were on the leeward (downwind) side of the wharf (which is good – pushing us off it) but were closest to the shore, which sloped like a beach and was exposed at low tide. During our first night, low tide occurred about 2 am and we were kept awake by various unfamiliar noises. Mostly they could be identified as the crunching of the fenders and fender board on the wharf as the slightly rolling harbor water bumped us against the wall, but we suspected that one particularly unpleasant grinding noise was something on the bottom rubbing against the keel. So after a poor night’s sleep we talked our neighbors in to all moving forward a bit so that we could be in slightly deeper water. Everyone was very cooperative but this now meant that all three boats tied to the wharf on our side (us, Peter, and a fishing boat) were quite close together and had to be managed carefully so as not to swing back and forth into each other at high tide.
More worryingly, the forecast included a "gale warning" with gusts up to 40 mph and up to15 ft seas. Although we were in the safety of a harbor, our cruising guide had warned that a residue of large swells could work its way into the wharves. So while David and Scott went off to enjoy the Fortress, Randall and I stayed on the boat adding and adjusting lines as the winds and water movement increased. As darkness fell, the wind only got stronger and it became obvious that sleep was not going to be much of an option with all the sounds and jerky movements. By low tide at 3 am, there were actual waves breaking on the shore behind our boat, our cleats (where the ropes were attached to the boat) were groaning menacingly, and finally one of the lines (luckily a thin one) keeping us from rolling forward with the backwash of the waves into Peter’s boat, snapped. Breaking lines is never a good thing and this galvanized us into realizing that the extra weight of "The Puffin" tied alongside was certainly not helping us to keep control of our boat in the wave action at low tide. So having roused David and Scott, we helped them move up to tie alongside the fishing boat, which was probably a more stable and comfortable position for them anyway, and we added yet more lines to our boat (10 in total). As if this were not enough adventure, we then noticed a large log floating behind our boat. Like us, it was being rolled back and forth by the wave action so it was not going to be swept hard against Tregoning, but we didn’t want it bumping her gleaming hull even gently. Without a lot of optimism, Randall started flinging a lasso in its direction but with no branches to snag it was more a way to pass the time than anything else. But his summer working at a "dude-ranch" paid off and by about the eighth attempt he had the log roped. With great satisfaction, he hauled it to shore and secured the line. For the rest of the morning, we kept two-hour watches to make sure that nothing else went awry in the wind and rain. We think that Peter (probably the most experienced sailor among us) slept through the whole thing!
Needless to say, there was not much activity on Friday from any of us who had spent the night on the wharf but a steady stream of locals came down to check on their fishing boats. These boats, lacking a keel and not tied-up by the surf-zone, appeared to have hardly moved all night long. The winds and swell calmed down a bit by evening and Randall, David, Scott and I were able to drag ourselves away from the boats long enough to attend the evening performance at the neighboring Louisbourg Playhouse. A musical entertainment called "Spirit of the Island", it was performed by five excellent, local musicians and refilled us with enthusiasm for Cape Breton. A rousing mixture of comedy, sing-along, fiddle-music, local sea-shanties, and soulful ballads, it was exactly the pick-me-up that we all needed. That, along with, a more peaceful night’s sleep.
Saturday dawned bright and breezy so with Randall on a bike and me jogging, we made the 5 mile round trip to visit the lighthouse guarding the entrance to the harbor. The views were magnificent and the waves crashing against the rocks reminded us that although the wind was diminished the sea would take a little longer to calm down. Still, we returned to the boat to see The Puffin venturing out. Since we were going to spend the day at the Fortress we were destined to spend one more night at the wharf as was Peter, who was waiting for a friend. On our return from the lighthouse, the purchase of a Cape Breton newspaper confirmed our suspicions about the August conditions. With a headline of "It’s the wettest August on record" the article added that with three days still to go it was likely to be (and we are sure became) the wettest summer month ever recorded in Cape Breton with rain on 22 out of 28 days. And we were there!
Louisbourg was founded by the French in 1713 to protect the lucrative cod-fishery on the Grand Banks, and to realize the location’s strategic nautical and military potential, a well-fortified, walled city was constructed on the opposite side of the harbor mouth from the lighthouse. By 1713 the French had been forced to cede most of their land possessions in North America to the British, retaining only the islands (that became) Cape Breton and Price Edward Island. The fortress was besieged in 1745 by the New England army and again in 1758 by the British (having been returned to France by treaty in between). Both times the attackers finally succeeded by landing further south and approaching overland the fortress’s poorly defended rear. After a few years of inhabiting what remained after the second siege, the British destroyed the fortress to discourage its reestablishment and nothing else much occurred on the site until the 1960s. In an effort to give work to local unemployed miners (there had been large coal reserves under this part of Cape Breton) and to develop a tourist attraction, it was decided to reconstruct parts of the fortress as of 1744 using historical records. It was the largest reconstruction project in North America covering more than 16,000 acres and is now run as a National Historic Site with 100 costumed men, women, and children faithfully reenacting the full range of society. As a concession to the visitors, they are allowed to speak in English not just French, but otherwise they appear very authentic and are impressively knowledgeable about their time and place. One wanders around the streets of the town and in and out of the buildings that are open (some are built to complete streets but have not been filled) chatting to the staff and seeing demonstrations of the bakery (we bought a very heavy loaf), blacksmith, lace-making, musket use, etc. There are periodic events such as firing of muskets and a canon, and tours. Despite being driven home by torrential rain when we were participating in an afternoon guided street-tour, we really enjoyed it and would thoroughly recommend a visit.
August 26, 2008
To the continued and (in our opinions) charming surprise of our Nova Scotian friends, the variable weather has lasted through August. Our departure from Iona was delayed for a night due to a good breeze (with rain) blowing us directly onto the public wharf. With our assorted collection of fenders this was not a problem when we were securely tied but would have made pulling away rather more exciting than needed. Since tying-up at that wharf was free and Wendy (our wind generator) was generating away happily this was not a difficult decision.
Early on Thursday morning (August 19th) we slipped away easily and sailed comfortably northeast with a beautiful breeze on the beam (perpendicular to the direction of the boat) most of the length of the St. Andrews Channel of the northern Bras d’Or lake. This included tucking into the narrow channel between Long Island and the eastern shore of the lake. Although with suitably deep water, this channel is about 2 miles long but only 300 yds wide and Long Island is steep with forests towering above us and, predictably, playing havoc with the wind. Our goal was to avoid using the engine despite the much reduced wind which gusted from changeable directions. This was accomplished by making many short tacks into the wind which certainly kept us well exercised hauling in the jib-sheets (lines) every few minutes. Our slow, zig-zag progress was observed by at least two bald eagles and a few bemused people on the shore. Feeling pretty pleased with ourselves as we approached the narrow end of the sheltered channel, we were unaware that the strength of the wind on the main lake had increased during our light-wind, tacking-fest. Thus, as we left the shelter of Long Island, we were blown with alarming rapidity towards the steep, but rocky shores of the much smaller Mouse Island. Now, I have to take a bit of responsibility having let the mainsail out a bit more than Randall realized as the strong wind hit us, which reduced his ability to steer away from the shore. On the other hand, I was the one to get the engine started which gave us sufficient power to turn directly into the wind and away from the disconcertingly visible rocks just under the side of the boat. Somehow, considering all the rugged shorelines and treacherous headlands that we have passed on our travels, it would have been particularly galling to have smashed the boat on Mouse Island!
As we whizzed back down the lake in the freshening breeze we discussed the lessons learned during this sudden and sobering episode and reminded ourselves that this is why the stronger the wind the further from shore one needs to stay to have time to recover when things are not going as expected. To relax after this unexpected excitement we returned to Maskells Harbour ( just southwest of Baddeck) and spent a calm evening in the well protected bay. The next morning, after exploring the whole cove in the dinghy (again under the watchful gaze of two more bald eagles) we returned to the site of our previous berry finds and, this time armed with more suitable containers, proceeded to pick a large collection of wild raspberries. During this process a charming young man and dog walked by, and he transpired to be the guest of the owner of the house at the end of the road. Being somewhat uncertain about how favorably our activities would be regarded, we offered our harvest to him (specifically for the property owner) but were relieved to learn that they had just feasted on a large bucket-load and we were welcome to all that we could collect. For several days we indulged ourselves with delicious raspberry scones and fruit salad.
This excellent day, indeed, perfect day was concluded by sailing back to Baddeck and finding not only that our replacement part had arrived, but that the marina could accommodate us for a few nights as we fixed the windlass, reprovisioned, etc. And, during that sail in a modest breeze, we finally tested reefing the mainsail (tying part of it down to make the sail area smaller, as might be needed in strong winds) and sailing directly downwind "wing-and-wing". The latter is when the two sails are held out on opposite sides so that both are fully catching the following wind. One really needs a strong pole (a "whisker pole") that is fastened to the mast to hold the jib out (the mainsail is, of course, held out on its boom) but we had to make-do with an extended boat-hook pole taped in place. The conditions were perfect for both of these successful tests and this gave us added confidence about what we could do with Tregoning under sail. (Sadly, a repetition of the wind-and-wing tactic a few days later started well but disappointingly and mistakenly ended with the boat-hook being bent beyond any further usefulness…luckily, we had a second one…but hence the need for a purpose-made, strong, whisker pole.)
Baddeck treated us well again, especially as we ended up staying for four nights, longer than originally intended. By hoisting our cheap, "bunny-ear" TV antenna part-way up the mast, Randall even managed to catch the last days and closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. He is usually addicted to the whole two weeks of this sporting extravaganza so it was quite a sacrifice to have missed most of it. After spending the gloriously sunny weekend working on the boat in the marina it poured with rain on Monday so we delayed departure until Tuesday when it finally cleared up a bit in the afternoon.
We sailed north, downwind (hence the unfortunate boat-hook incident) to leave via the Great Bras d’Or Channel and more by luck that good planning, we were aided in our departure by the strong current that added 3 or 4 knots to our speed. On exiting the channel we motored over to the Bird Islands, a couple of steep-sided sets of grass-topped rocky ledges that are a protected bird sanctuary and nesting site for many marine birds. Because of the steep shorelines, one can pass by quite closely on either side and the birds seem quite used to, and unfazed by, the proximity of tour-boats and cruisers. We were lucky to arrive with clear, calm conditions, but were a few weeks too late for the most impressive sights. You could see old nests and areas of white, guano splatters on the cliffs but many of the species for which the islands are famous, had already finished nesting. So we didn’t (knowingly) see razor-billed auks, kittiwakes, murres, and black gillemots but we did see lots of cormorants…I mean lots! And at least 10 bald eagles in various stages of maturity which was very exciting. There were also many seals on and around the rocks. Most, I think, were grey seals but a few may have been hooded or harbour seals. We saw plenty of northern gannets over the following couple of days with many of the large and distinctive adults flying around the eastern coast of Cape Breton. We were about to leave the Bird Islands, rather sad that we had missed the nesting puffins when I spotted a solitary one bobbing on the other side of the boat away from our island-bound, binocular-enhanced gazing. It was very clearly a mature puffin still in full breeding colors and we are grateful to it for hanging around long enough for us to see it (I would have posted our photo but it is a bit blurry at the necessary magnification!)
Having satisfied ourselves that we had "done" the Bird Islands, we continued east towards Sydney where, arriving slightly after dark, we found a suitable place to tie up at a free wharf right next to the cruise-ship terminal. In one sense we had the best spot in town because for several hours after our arrival, cars pulled up beside us and tourists jumped out with their cameras. On the other hand, the reason why the dock space was vacant may have been because our much photographed neighbor was a floodlit, 8-ton, 40 ft tall fiddle and bow…from which Cape Breton music was played over loudspeakers for 24 hours! Or so our cruising guide would have us believe but in fact the music stopped at a reasonable 9 pm and after a quick walk along the waterfront we were able to sleep peacefully and unaccompanied.
August 20, 2008
Sailing at sea can be very adventurous and we had certainly enjoyed viewing the marine wildlife but for the sheer pleasure of good sailing it is hard to beat a large lake, especially one with plenty of islands and coves to explore. Waves are not much of an issue and with several arms to the lakes there is always somewhere new to investigate whatever the wind direction. While we were in Baddeck, we ordered a replacement for a broken part on our windlass (it would still pull up the anchor but this was now a two-person operation) and asked for it to be shipped to Baddeck. This gave us a good excuse to spend several days exploring the huge Bras d’Or Lakes before we started to wend our way back south along the coast. On Wednesday, before setting off on this "vacation", we enjoyed an evening with "The Baddeck Gathering Ceilidhs" (pronounced kay-lees) where we listened to Cape Breton fiddle and piano music, watched some step dancing, and learned the differences between various types of Celtic tunes and "ethnic" styles, and that clapping to the music is a disapproving signal for the music to end but loud foot tapping to the rhythm is not only acceptable but expected. It was great fun and the musicians were very relaxed and willing to talk about both the Cape Breton music in general and their personal routes to playing it (classical violin training in Kansas then moving and changing to the Cape Breton style versus a long-time Cape Breton family of piano players).
After a couple of rather grey days that included one night of torrential rain, we were treated to sunny skies for much of this period with sufficient winds to make sailing worthwhile. We used this opportunity to learn more about sailing Tregoning, which until now had been more of a "making-do" type of sailing but we needed to add a bit more finesse to make it more efficient.
On August 14th, we sailed southwest from Baddeck to spend a couple of nights in Maskells Harbour. This trip is less than 10 miles under power but being almost dead into the wind became a full afternoon’s journey as we tacked back and forth across the lake learning how to coax Tregoning to sail as close to the wind as we could (angled about 45-50 degrees either side of directly upwind). On Thursday, we interrupted lazing around and reading with an exploration of part of the shore from the dinghy. This included a beautiful pebble spit that protected the natural harbour and an uphill walk to a viewpoint along which we found a glorious abundance of wild raspberries. Between eating handfuls of them fresh, we collected a mug-full (Randall had conveniently brought and drained a travel-mug of coffee) and that afternoon he made a delicious apple and raspberry cobbler!
From this wonderfully protected cove in the northern lake that was surrounded by steep, tree-clad hills with only a couple of small buildings visible, we sailed toward the southern lake. Having motored through Barra Strait (sailing is not allowed through the narrow draw-bridge) we enjoyed tacking upwind and then between islands to spend a couple of nights in another very protected anchorage, Clarke Cove at Marble Mountain. This cove was a bit more developed and being the weekend we were able to share the happy sounds of one particular household partying into the wee hours! Sunday morning was wet and ideal for further vacation-minded novel-reading, then in the afternoon we ventured ashore and hiked (somewhat steeply) up to the top of the disused Marble Mountain quarry where the ground was white with marble chips. Randall entertained us both by identifying the trees (such as white and black spruce, white and big-toothed poplars, and quaking aspen) and we were treated to spectacular, sunny views back over the lake and islands. Ravens noisily greeted our entry to the quarry and at the highest section we briefly saw a falcon in the cliffs overhead. The habitat, general appearance, and our imaginations screamed peregrine falcon but we did not know what characteristics to look for quickly to be sure and the maps in our North American field guide indicated that they do not occur in Nova Scotia. Some days later, we saw a Nova Scotia bird book that included peregrine falcons so, with an element of reservation, that will be our final answer. On the Bras d’Or Lakes, we see bald eagles most days and this morning, for example, one flew low enough over us as I was jogging that Randall called to me from his bike to "look lively" lest it decided to view me as a slow-moving snack!
With the benefit of another sunny day on Monday, we continued tacking upwind to the Crammond Islands near the head of the West Bay in the southern lake. We anchored for a swim and lunch in the calm waters of the narrow channel between the two islands. Another splendidly scenic spot, we had been directed to visit them and Marble Mountain by a Nova Scotian sailor, Christian, whom we’d met in Baddeck and we greatly appreciated these suggestions. Our navigation to the excellent anchorages in the lakes was aided by the Cruising Guide to the Canadian Maritimes (the fruit of our search in Halifax) and this useful book had also mentioned the trails ashore that we had enjoyed in Whycocomagh and Marble Mountain. Also on the recommendation of this book, we spent that night in Little Harbour (just northeast of Marble Mountain) after an excellent afternoon’s down-wind run, and ate well at the recommended Smokehouse Restaurant overlooking the almost land-locked cove.
Strong southwesterly winds the next day created noticeable waves as we headed back towards Barra Strait, making the downwind run a bit more lumpy and sea-like than might be expected on a smaller lake. So by the time we tied up at the public wharf in Iona (just north of the bascule bridge on the west side of Barra Strait) it was mid afternoon and too late to cycle up to the Highland Village Historic Site. Many locals were swimming, fishing, and enjoying the sunny afternoon, and we were later joined by another sailboat which we recognized as the single-handed sailor, Gary, with whom we had chatted prior to entering the St. Peters Canal lock.
We cycled up the hill to the Highland Village this morning in bright but windy conditions and thoroughly enjoyed their recreation of the historical Gaelic colonization of this part of Nova Scotia. The walking tour is organized in chronological order, starting with a recreation of a simple, dry-stone, sod-roofed "black house" from the Western Isles of Scotland in the 1790s, and progressing through the 1800s to early 1900s with a log house, several frame houses, a church, barn, blacksmith shop, school, and general store. In most buildings we were greeted in Gaelic (and there is a modern Gaelic school nearby) by costumed guides who were extremely knowledgeable and good at talking in terms appropriate to their period. No knowing quite what to expect of "North America’s only living-history museum for Gaelic language and culture", I must confess to having been a bit ambivalent about going to visit this site, but in the end we both really enjoyed it. We found the woman in the replica of the Scottish black house, the story of moving the 1874 church by barge 15 miles across the lake in 2003, and the demonstrations of butter-making and iron-forging to be particularly interesting. There were some highland cattle, Soay sheep, a pig, chickens, and a Clydesdale horse and several guides were cooking using the products of these animals (at least the milk and eggs), or carding, spinning, and weaving wool. The progression in the houses from hand-spindles to spinning wheels over time provided me with pleasant memories of my father, a skillful knitter, who made a similar transition after my mother, as a bit of a joke, gave him a hand-spindle and some wool at the beginning of his retirement.
On his mother’s side, Randall’s McMillan family came from the Scottish Isle of Arran to North America in the mid-1800s and initially lived in New Brunswick. On our journey south we hope to be more successful in renting a car and, if so, driving to the place of their settlement in New Mills, NB. Between the Gaelic signs on the Cabot Trail, the evening at the Baddeck Ceilidh, and our recent education about Scottish settlers in Nova Scotia, we are starting to feel quite well prepared in anticipation of this over-land expedition.
August 13, 2008
August is supposed to have the best weather in Nova Scotia but as we heard wherever we went, this year was exceptional…cloudy, wet, and cool instead of sunny and warm. An unusual weather pattern of low pressure over New England was dousing us in northeasterly winds rather than the warmer southwestern breezes that would typically be associated with a high pressure over the North Atlantic. Having been delayed in our departure from Halifax, we didn’t have time to sail around the northern coast of Cape Breton and get the lads back to the airport, so we decided to visit the spectacular Cape Breton Highlands National Park by road rather than sea. We had tried unsuccessfully to rent a car when we were in Halifax and when we also tried in Baddeck, it appeared that both rental cars in the whole of Nova Scotia were booked out for the summer! Instead we signed up for a tour of the Cabot Trail with Bannockburn Discovery Tours and this turned out to be a good decision. We shared our van with just one other passenger, Eugene, a teacher of English and Drama in London, who was an entertaining and interesting companion. Having learned Gaelic in his youth in Ireland, Eugene was fascinated by the Gaelic on the sign posts in eastern Cape Breton (French on the western shore) and he pronounced and translated some of them for us.
Our driver, Walter, a native of Cape Breton provided us with many excellent stories of the area and patiently answered our endless questions. Somewhat predictably, the clouds were low over the eastern coast and we had to enjoy what views we could in gaps between the fog. But we did see the place where John Cabot supposedly made first landfall in North America in June 1497 having left Bristol, England with a crew of just 18. As we passed across the northern edge of the National Park over the highlands that are reminiscent of Scotland, it (also reminiscently) poured with rain. But on arrival at the west coast of the island we were rewarded with bright sunshine and the clearest skies we saw for many days. The impressive views of the coast overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence were just as breathtaking as promised and we were grateful for the timely break in the weather. Our return to the gloomy skies over Baddeck was punctuated by the inevitable stop at a gift store in Chéticamp (a French-speaking community where highly decorative hooked-rugs are traditional) and a bizarre "Scarecrow Village" (a large circle of dressed scarecrows with celebrity or grotesque masks) which I found positively creepy.
Sunday was another grey day but we took a guided kayak tour of Kidston Island (which is not distinguished on Google maps but shows up on the satellite image) which protects the Baddeck waterfront and got a good view of one of the bald eagle nests. Although we were all fairly experienced with kayaks, our informative guide, Paul, gave us good instruction on how to paddle with minimal effort and to use the rudders on the sea kayaks. During our circumnavigation we got good views of the huge Alexander Graham Bell summer home across the bay and the museum dedicated to him in town. We spent part of the afternoon visiting the latter and learned not only that Bell was a prodigious inventor of many things besides the telephone (responsible for the first powered, manned flight in the British Empire on the frozen Baddeck Bay and a record-breaking hydrofoil boat) but appeared to also be a very kind, loving family man, a good neighbor, and champion for the deaf. Baddeck, which is celebrating its centennial in 2008, is clearly and justifiably proud of this founding citizen.
Thomas and Roger treated us to a delicious dinner out that evening and on Monday morning we took them in the inflatable to the bus stop two miles west of town to catch their bus back to Halifax airport. They had long wait for the their flight in Halifax but were going to spend a day in Iceland on their way home. We had thoroughly enjoyed their stay and as perfect, uncomplaining but fully participatory guests, they have set a high standard for future visitors! The rest of Monday and Tuesday were drizzly and good for getting groceries, doing laundry, and generally relaxing as we plan our next move. As always, this will be weather dependent but we’ll probably spend the rest of August in Nova Scotia then head back south towards Boston through September and aim to be around Cape Cod in October…
August 08, 2008
Although we had been made to feel very at home in Purcell’s Cove, by the time the winds appeared to suitable for an eastern passage, we were keen to explore more of Nova Scotia, particularly the island of Cape Breton. We left the cove bright and early on Tuesday August 5th with the intent to sail overnight to St Peter’s in southern Cape Breton. However, after a bit of sailing away from the shore it was evident that with the off-shore winds meeting the large residual swell from the days of on-shore winds, it was going to be choppy and uncomfortable. So we motored in-shore and anchored in the sparsely populated Owl Head Harbour. The next day we enjoyed motoring in sunny weather between the many small islands close to shore in an area known as "Bay of Islands" east of Tangier, and in the afternoon sailed a bit more offshore. That night we motored in rather unpleasantly rolling seas around Cape Canso and across Chedabucto Bay to the island of Cape Breton.
Calm was restored in St. Peters Bay and we arrived at the lock on St. Peters Canal just before its first opening of the day at 8 am. Prior to the construction of this lock in 1869, small boats were pulled on skids by oxen over the narrow "Haulover Isthmus". Depending upon the state of the tide, the modest rise going into the lake varies from 2 to 5 ft. The lock is the only southern entrance to the huge system of Bras d’Or Lakes which has two navigable outlets to the ocean to the north. The lake system has relatively warm, brackish water, little tidal fluctuation, and is sheltered from the wind and waves of the open sea, so it is a popular cruising area. About twice the size of Lake Champlain in upstate New York (450 sq miles or 1100 sq km), the lake has many islands, long peninsulas, and dramatic tree-covered shorelines that drop steeply into the water.
Having passed through the lock into the southern basin and on reading that there are over 20 species of marine fish including healthy populations of cod, mackerel, herring, and lobster, the lads jigged (unsuccessfully) for cod for a short while. We then headed to Barra Strait, the narrow opening to the northern lake where Roger navigated us through the bascule bridge. Although the sky was cloudy all day, there was a suitable wind for Thomas to sail us past Baddeck (where the annual Regatta was in full swing) and south to Little Narrows. On approaching Baddeck, we saw at least a dozen bald eagles of various maturities sitting on one small island and others were seen perched on trees elsewhere along our route. The Bras d’Or Lakes are home to about 200 nesting pairs of bald eagles and there are several nests around Baddeck. At Little Narrows we had to make sure that we didn’t get caught on the cable that crosses the channel for the small car ferry (it drops to 12 ft when the ferry is ashore but it is near the surface when the ferry is crossing). We spent Thursday night at anchor in Whycocomagh Bay (which Google maps doesn’t seem to know is water!) We dined at Vi’s Restaurant by the Trans Canada Highway (which runs from Sydney NS to Vancouver, BC) and got soaked in the rain walking back to the dinghy.
Friday was a bit brighter and we assaulted Salt Mountain (787 ft – 240 m) overlooking Whycocomagh. It proved to be an excellent woodland hill-climb with more trail markers (kindly provided by the Boy Scouts) than one might have thought possible. Views of Whycocomagh Bay, including the First Nations reservation across the bay from where we had anchored, and out across the Bras d’Or Lakes were absolutely spectacular and much enhanced by the sunny intervals. It was good to get some aerobic exercise and very satisfying to see the landscape from a perspective other than water level. In the afternoon we cruised back to Baddeck and tied up at the public wharf. As had been noted in our cruising guide, this is a focal point of the town and even our boat (which is little compared to some of the large motor cruisers that pass through) attracted quite a bit of attention. People are particularly interested in the solar panels and wind generator and within 20 minutes we had a couple from Saskatchewan (a non-coastal province) aboard to see how spacious it is below. That night we were treated to the sounds of the Regatta participants having a rollicking party at the neighboring Bras d’Or Yacht Club including some bands of varying talent and the splashes of several people deciding that 1 am was an ideal time to go swimming!
August 05, 2008
Tuesday July 29th was a bright sunny day and we took Tregoning from Purcell’s Cove up to the waterfront in downtown Halifax and tied up by Summit Plaza (site of the 1995 G-7 Economic Summit) and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. We met Thomas and Roger as planned at noon at the large Town Clock by the Citadel. Keeping time since 1803, the turret clock was made at the request of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent to honor his return to England in 1800. It was good to see my nephews who had enjoyed an uneventful flight the previous day from London and, after a night in an airport hotel, had caught a bus into Halifax. Thomas had just finished his first year of an engineering degree at Bath University, and Roger is just about to start his second year at sixth form college (= senior in high school). In meeting them as planned, it was very good to know that we had accomplished one of the main objectives of our trip from Florida. The motivation of this rendez vous had kept us from languishing for longer than needed in the US when things had needed fixing.
That afternoon, after walking past St. Paul’s Church, the oldest building in Halifax (1750), we toured the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada with its commanding views of the harbour (now glimpsed between high-rises) and excellent exhibits. The staff, including the kilted 78th Highlanders, are in costumes of 1869 when Halifax was a key naval station in the British Empire. That evening, Eric and Ellen joined us for drinks on the boat and we enjoyed an excellent dinner at a Thai restaurant. This was followed by a wander through the Victorian Halifax Public Gardens, which were begun in 1836 and consist of 17 acres of immaculate flowerbeds, attractive ponds, and winding paths. They appeared to be at their flora best in late July.
The next day, after a walk along the waterfront to get supplies at the supermarket, we spent the morning at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic with its excellent exhibits on the Halifaix Explosion and the Titanic. I was embarrassed not to already know about the Halifax Explosion because it was the largest man-made, non-nuclear explosion, that resulted from the collision of two wartime ships (one of which was loaded with explosives) in December 1917. The explosion and resulting fires laid waste to a huge area of north Halifax with at least 2,000 people killed, 9,000 injured, 199 blinded by glass (as people unknowingly watched the burning ships), 1,600 buildings destroyed and 12,000 damaged. The exhibit was very informative and poignant. Similarly, the exhibit about the Titanic was based on the very personal stories of survivors and casualties who were brought to shore or buried in Halifax. These stories of rescue and recovery were all the more touching to us because Eric and Ellen had told us how they had been involved in the recovery operation (no survivors) after the crash of Swiss Air flight 111 into the sea just west of Halifax in 1998.
On Wednesday afternoon, we enjoyed the Museum of Natural History and the free downtown bus service FRED (Free Rides Everywhere Downtown!). We then motored back to Purcell’s Cove, which Tom and Roger explored while getting used to handling the inflatable dinghy. We had originally intended to head east towards Cape Breton on Saturday but the weather was not in our favor with rough seas and head-on, on-shore winds so we decided to play it safe and comfortable and stayed in Purcell’s Cove until Tuesday, August 5th. While we waited Randall and I sorted out new propane tanks for the boat (because it was getting difficult to get the old, horizontal-style tanks filled), got the laptop fixed (thanks to a friend of Ellen and Eric’s), and fixed the guest head (which had apparently not benefitted from a lack of use in the last year!). On the more fun side, Thursday was still sunny and Vince showed Tom and Roger the local viewpoints and a path up to the tea-colored waters of Purcell’s Pond where we all swam across the lake later. Ellen and Eric kindly lent us their car for a couple of days so on Friday we went to the famous Peggy’s Cove on the coast west of Halifax. The site is a very popular tourist destination with an attractive lighthouse that can be visited on dramatic, pink, granite rocks. Being the only lighthouse in Canada with a post-office inside, we dutifully sent a post-card to the lads’ parents in England. The cove near the lighthouse is picturesque but tiny with just enough room for a few local fishing boats. We stopped briefly at the simple but moving Swiss Air 111 memorial on our way back to Halifax. That evening we had a fabulous lobster feast with Eric, Ellen, Vince and Dianne. Such amazing hospitality!
The day at Peggy’s Cove was rather overcast and Saturday and Sunday were distinctly wet and cloudy. On Sunday, we returned to downtown Halifax to do a tour of the Alexander Keith’s Brewery (strong on history of Mr. Keith but rather weak on brewing information). Sadly, the firework display planned for Halifax Harbour on Saturday (and then Sunday) had to be cancelled due to the wet weather. On Monday, while Randall was fixing the toilet, the rest of us enjoyed a day hiking to the two deserted forts on McNab’s Island. Not as dramatic-looking as the extensive damage to Point Pleasant Park on the south-side of Halifax, there were still many trees on McNab’s Island that had been uprooted by Hurricane Juan which hit Nova Scotia on September 29, 2003 as a Category 2 storm, with 100 mph winds.
July 28, 2008
So we set off again on Friday afternoon (meeting a CAT ferry as we departed) and in more fog and 15 -20 knot winds we motored that night around the southwest point of Nova Scotia, Cape Sable. It was actually not quite as rough as we had anticipated (it is a rather notorious passage) and our passive bird-watching of many sea-birds (particularly several puffins, gannets at various stages of maturity, many Wilson’s storm petrels, and some other petrels that I still need to identify) was an extra benefit. After many hours depending upon the radar in the low visibility, we left the fog bank quite suddenly around noon on Saturday and the sunny seascape had a particularly vibrant clarity.
The overnight passage had been cold and if we kept going straight for Halifax we risked arriving before dawn which would not be desirable for such a busy, fog-prone port. So we turned into Lunenburg to catch up on our sleep on a mooring ball for the night, having read that it was a must-see place but not really knowing why. How lucky we were to make that decision! In 1995 Lunenburg was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is an "outstanding example of planned European colonial settlement" settled in the mid 1700s by German immigrants. Without even going ashore (the dinghy was comfortably ensconced on the deck) the view of the town from our mooring ball was most impressive with a busy waterfront, numerous churches, and many attractive buildings in a multitude of colors. A busy fishing town and an historic center of shipbuilding, there were several large, interesting boats near the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic including Bluenose II. This is an exact replica of the famous ocean racing schooner, Bluenose, that was built in Lunenburg in 1921 and raced undefeated for 18 years, and which is the image on the Canadian ten-cent coin.
Promising ourselves to return when we had time to go ashore, we departed Lunenburg early on Sunday morning and had the most glorious, sunny, calm run to Halifax. The lack of wind necessitated further motoring but the glassy sea made for unforgettable wildlife viewing. We saw many birds, both harbor and grey seals, porpoises and Atlantic white-sided dolphins, one distant, cruising whale and four very active whales that mesmerized us for about 15 minutes before one swam right under our bow and the group moved on. Considering that we saw them blow many times, clearly saw their ridged rostrums (front part of the head) and their dorsal fins (falcate to hooked) and even saw the tail fluke of one and a pectoral fin of another, it was frustrating not to be familiar enough with whale characteristics to be able to clearly identify these beautiful giants despite our excellent guidebooks. From above they appeared to be a fairly uniform dark grey, were very smooth skinned, and were at least the size of our boat, 40 ft. Undoubtedly baleen whales in the Rorqual family, we were pretty sure that they were not the giant blue whales or the frequently seen humpbacks. Appropriate to the area, the likely candidates are: Fin, Sei, and Minke whales. Whatever they were, we felt honored to share a brief part of the morning with them with no one else around.
Our wildlife encounters and the sunshine having put us in exceptionally good moods, we motored into Halifax harbour past the numerous fortifications along the coast and on McNab’s Island. Being a Sunday afternoon, the harbour was full of pleasure boats including many sailing boats participating in club races. We refueled at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron near the mouth of the attractive and narrow but deep Northwest Arm of the harbour and then headed back out to Purcell’s Cove where we had been offered the use of a mooring by Eric and Ellen Haynes. By phone they had told us to look out for them in a dinghy near the island in the cove so we looked for them as we started to head directly in towards the island. We had just decided from the charts that it was going to be too shallow on our current course when we spotted them frantically waving to us to come around where they were in the deeper channel. We apparently did not hear our cell phone on which they were trying to call us to prevent the seemingly imminent grounding! Once in the right channel we made quite a procession as we, motoring in our large boat, followed them in their little row-boat with their black Labrador, Hooch, swimming behind them, to the mooring. What a delightful place! We were sheltered behind Spectacle Island in a beautiful cove with views to the Northwest Arm, Point Pleasant Park, and toward Halifax Harbour.
After the rather lengthy process of unloading the dinghy and outboard, we meet Eric and Ellen on shore and they generously offered use of their house while they headed off to work a night shift. We had briefly met them previously at the boatyard in Fernandina Beach when they were leaving for the Bahamas in November 2007. After discussing where they lived and our travel plans, they had unsuspectingly offered us the use of a mooring if we really did make it to Halifax. The mooring ball actually belonged to their neighbors, Vince and Diane Purcell (yes, of the cove’s name) and the hospitality of these two couples was amazing. We learned much about the cove from Vince and from a book that he kindly signed and gave us, written by his aunt. A popular fishing area, it was known as Mackerel Cove by the First Nations people until in 1752, when the cove and island was granted by Lord Cornwallis (who founded Halifax for the British in 1749) to William Russell. In 1828, Samuel Purcell purchased the grant and renamed the cove, and Vince is a sixth generation member of this family.
That evening we buzzed over to downtown Halifax in the inflatable dinghy and enjoyed looking at the excellent waterfront facilities stretching 1 km (0.6 mile) from the cruise-ship docks and Pier 21 National Historic Site (which has an immigration exhibit like Ellis Island in New York, NY) to Casino Nova Scotia. With the kind help of Eric and Ellen (particularly driving me to a supermarket) most of Monday was spent cleaning-up and getting things ready for the arrival of my nephews. That evening, we celebrated our on-time arrival in Halifax and the hospitality of our hosts by enjoying the wonderful bottle of champagne that had been presented to us the previous July by our friends in the national Aquatic Plant Management Society. Along with a fine dinner and bonfire marshmallow-roast with Vince and family, we were thoroughly welcomed to Purcell’s Cove…an event made all the more memorable by watching the space station pass overhead and seeing Hooch polish off the last of our cream-cheese appetizer that had been momentarily left unattended on a table at a convenient dog height!