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Oh Canada and the East Coast

July 11, 2019

Painting by Nadine Belliveau

What an amazing coastline here in Nova Scotia. The entire east coast is lined with inlets and small rivers running anywhere from a few 100 metres to kilometres long fingers. Many of them provide safe anchorages especially those that reach far inland. The coast offers a myriad number of choices to explore but we have little time to dawdle.

The late start to summer with cold and damp weather combined with the non appearance of the much loved summer southwesters made us dawdle all along the eastern seabord.

Port Mouton Bay

Like the picture above we woke to damp cool mornings with limited visibility but we have kept plugging along making short hops then hunkering down, turning the heat on, making a hearty soup and hiding under blankets.

Liverpool – off in the distance another abandoned fish factory turned into a highly successful marijuana plantation.

There’s a mixture of names along the coast derived from both French and English. Whenever I go to pronounce the name of a town whch appears to have a french derivative I am corrected. So Port Mouton is not pronounced as the french spelling would infer but rather pronouced as Port Matoon. I can’t remember this most of the time when I’m telling someone the story of where we’ve been or where we have come from so have given up and call it Port Mutton!

Then there is the town of La Have and I always add an ‘r’ before the ‘e’! Um, somehow I have got to learn. Anyway it’s all very historical and lots of influences from the English and French settlers and then the Loyalists from south of the border and interestingly enough now the Syrians and other middle eastern nationalities that we hadn’t seen in Canada when we left 10 years ago.

For more information on the growth of the east coast read Annie Proulx’s novel Barkskins – a story spanning 300 years from the period of New France to our current period.

There are few cruising boats along this coastline. The exodus from the hurricane ravaged islands in the Caribbean usually comes to a stop around the Chesapeake. Those worried about insurance coverage, not us as we have none, are told they have to be north of 40 degrees during the hurricane season. That is also the belt at which temperatures start to drop below acceptable levels for those who have spent a long time in the tropics. The thought of coming further north horrifies them. So, the boats seen along this coast are mostly Norwegian (on their way home via Greenland and Iceland), the Brits who are used to damp cold temperatures, the odd American usually from the snowdrifts of Maine and New Hampshire and of course Canadians who live north of the Ice Wall. All hearty and prepared with heaters on board, heavy wool blankets, stout foul weather gear and lots of rum.

Moving North of the Ice Wall

July 4, 2019

9 years since Sage left Canada and here we are back north of the Ice Wall!

We made the jump across the Gulf of Maine deciding no longer was it in the books that we hold back waiting for warmer weather – it was now or never.

The crossing was one of the slowest in Sage’s history. Dogged by cells bringing rain and lightening and, taking away the little wind we had, left us bouncing around with slatting sails. Making the best of it and avoiding the closer-than-comfort lightening strikes we eventually sighted Cape Sable. Wow, we are gobsmacked – Sage is back in Canada.

And this is summer sailing on the east coast of Canada!

Our first Port of call was Shelburne, a clearance port for Canadian Border Services Agency(CBSA). Located approx 7 miles up an inlet it proves to be a great refuge for a tiny but extremely friendly Shelburne Yacht Club. With an approximately 50 metre dock there’s lots of space for visiting boats. Instead of anchoring we chose to tie up to the dock and take the power option so we could plug in the heater! Although the trip from Provincetown was only 2 overnights we’re tired, cold, wet and anxious for a little comfort – Florida is even sounding great at this point!

But Shelburne is very quaint. Low on services but high on friendliness it only takes a couple of hours wandering around to get our bearings. Of course, true to the east coast of Canada much of the 2 hours is taken up chatting with pedestrians, shopkeepers and any poor soul we ask directions to. We quickly get the lay of the land, are shocked by the prices of properties advertised in the real estate windows and enamoured by the architecture.

Beautifully maintained buildings dating back to the late 1700s

Like many small towns in North America the biggest impact to downtown is the tiny plaza and Sobey’s grocery store that was allowed to be built 1.5km from the main street. I bemoan the loss of foot traffic that would have helped downtown Shelburne to thrive. Out at the plaza cars come and go in a constant stream but the downtown has closed up shops, quiet sidewalks and a dirth of shoppers.

Art shops/galleries abound

One advantage of an abandoned downtown are the spaces left free allowing artists and craftspeople to rent spaces as workshops or display areas. The downtown is far more interesting than the local plaza with Sobey’s and the Dollar Store.

The inlet, anchorage and yacht club

The yacht club is quite the hive of activity. Unfortunately the yacht club suffered a fire which meant the club is now a trailer in the parking lot until the damage is repaired and they get to move back to their original building.

Shelburne Yacht Club

Most of the damage was a result of smoke so the club should be back into their building soon. In the meantime people gather outside for afternoon drinks when the sun shines, have regular sailing races on Thursday and manage to get the launch out for training runs.

Obviously the bowman is not impressed by his fellow crew members!

It’s a great place to connect with the history. The town dates back to the late 1700s when there were 17,000 people living here after the American war off independence.

Further North

June 30, 2019

We’ve made our way further north step by step. The limiting factor in moving north has been the weather. Cold, wet and grey spring weather has kept us down below and reticent to move north as fast as we would like. Nevertheless we have taken advantage of poor weather to see more of the north east American coastline.

We have found it to be a potentially beautiful cruising ground despite the array of mooring buoys that pepper every wonderful looking anchorage. Of course, we are moving through the area at a time when there are very few boats out here and the moorings remain unused but still blocking anchoring possibilities. So, what do we do? We just grab a mooring with the assumption no-one is coming; so let’s make use of it. This works in most harbours with the downside meaning we are never sure how secure the mooring would be in a blow.

Martha’s Vineyard

All the iconic names of the NE boating and glitterati set are in abundance in this area and all of them preparing for the summer onslaught – Cuttyhunk, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket etc. But a real treat for us was Wood’s Hole – a US oceanographic/climate change centre.

One of our sunnier days so no need to wipe our feet!

Woods Hole is a “scientific research organization that studies climate change impacts and solutions. WHRC was named the world’s top climate change think tank for 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 by the International Center for Climate Governance”

Woods Hole offered a glimpse into the scientific world of oceanographic and climactic studies. There were numerous buildings open to the public complete with interesting displays of some of the work completed or underway. We spent a couple of windy days tied to an unused mooring and walking around fascinated by the ships in dock and the public displays and aquariums.

Love the gate

Standing on the lifting bridge and looking to the totally protected inner harbour of Woods Hole

Cape Cod Canal

Time to move north – in a mixture of weather we decided we had best take the plunge and transit the Cape Cod Canal. Here the current can run at upwards of 7 knots and it’s the widest sea-level (127metres) canal in the world. No doubt we are going to meet sea-going ships on this canal!

In preparation we beat our way up Buzzards Bay to anchor at the southern end of the canal in order to be ready to transit the canal at 0400hrs. We spend the night on another mooring buoy and awaken at 0330hrs. The canal is lighted so it’s an easy start. Thinking the current wasn’t too strong we entered the canal and in an instant we are doing 9 knots.- wow. No ships, all lighted, constant current and before we know it we are in Cape Cod Bay.

There are no anchorages on the north side of the canal. The wind was light and Provincetown is only 20 miles across Cape Cod Bay. By 1200hrs we were tied to another mooring buoy that was marked Raider 3. We picked the largest mooring buoy in behind the breakwater thinking that it must belong to a huge boat and more than likely is quite secure (we later learnt it belonged to a 34ft local fish boat).

Provincetown’s bay is lttered with mooring buoys and the only place to anchor is well out in the bay. It’s a safe anchorage but the bay is like a wind tunnel that magnifies local winds. The anchorage is choppy and combined with rain and cool weather we didn’t like the thought of putting on oilskins just to dinghy into the docks hence we stayed oon the mooring ball until 2 days before departure when the harbourmaster asked us to move. There were at least thirty mooring balls behind the breakwater and only 5 were being used!

There is a marina in Provincetown ( Provincetown Marina)- the cost for our boat (38ft) for one night was US$240!! They also had showers (none onshore) and a laundromat both of which they said we could not use unless we were staying the night. Their cost was the most expensive of anywhere we saw in 9 years of cruising the world. For 2 nights in this marina we could stay a month in a luxurious marina in Grenada with pool, restaurants, wi-fi etc Needless to say we didn’t take them up on their offer not did anyone else other than a super yacht and three visiting powerboats from Boston.

However, we did enjoy the Provincetown Film Festival including 2 great movies. One was called Maiden and the other was Yesterday. There were others but both of these were very enjoyable.

From Provincetown streets

Provincetown also has many other things to enjoy but again weather played its part in restricting movement and then it was time to go.

Just a Few Pictures

June 15, 2019

While in Newport we visited 2 mansions – first a summer home (called The Breakers) of the Vanderbilt family and then the summer home (called Rough Point) of Doris Duke (back in Hawaii we had visited another home of Doris Duke called Shangri-la)

This is the kitchen in the home of the Vanderbilts

This is the kitchen in Doris Duke’s home

So many beautifully restored older homes in Newport. It’s great to just take a few hours and wander the back streets f Newport to enjoy the efforts gone in to maintaining the ‘old’ Newport

And for those of you with deep pockets you can always join the New York Yacht Club. This is one of their shabbier outstations

Connie mailing several of those oh so important post cards off to friends and family

X marks the spot. One had better get out of the way even if you can’t see the ship

Damn things are everywhere. There’s hardly a minute out on the water that one doesn’t see one of these floats (photo by Connie)

Can think of a number of men who would love to participate in this elder care program

Politics is never far away. Here Connie is celebrating the fact that her letters regarding a lack of hot water at the municipal mariners centre met with success. After 10 days we were finally paying our US$1.75/7 minutes and actually getting steady hot water. Thank you Newport Municipal Hall

Of course I have to end the post with a picture of boats. This was amazing as every boat in this Newport boatyard, except this yellow one, was worth at leat $5 million dollars. But this guy was almost oblivious to the contrast as he was happily sanding away on the hull.

Newport and The Sirens of Titan

June 12, 2019

You know, Kurt Vonnegut lived and wrote the Sirens of Titan here but the strongest sirens I heard and felt were those of old Nathaniel Herreshof. For non sailors this will not set off any sirens but for anyone worth their sea salt the name sends shivers down ones spine.

Nathaniel Herreshoff was of Prussian ancestry and the family gained notoriety through their innovative steam engines; but, Nathaniel was besotted by sailboat design. Through the early 1900s he designed and built a series of Americas Cup winners as well as building a line of sailboats which still grace the waters of Narrangansett Bay.

The actual Herreshoff boatyard is/was in Bristol just a few miles up the Bay. What remains today is the Herreshoff Museum which is located on the same property where the Herrshoffs built their boats..

A small sign denotes the mainn building

Inside are some of the most incredible boats built by Herreshoff but not any of the Americas Cup Winners of which Reliance – Reliance – was the largest gaff rigged vessel ever built.

Overlooking the floor where a number of original Herreshoff boats are on display

Connie’s favourite – Torch

Beautifully restored Torch

For those of you interested here is Torch’s history

And rooms full of half models

Although not a Herreshoff original this gaff rigger, Columbia, is a near replica to an Americas Cup winner at the turn of the 19th Century

Of course, Newport has money. Here are a few pics of some of the boats we saw.

Of course there are no power boats. I wonder why!

Cold Feet, Wool Sweaters and Blustery Winds

June 4, 2019

The sun is shining, the wind howls through the rigging and the locals say this is all very unusual. A sailing friend on his way north to the North West Passage is convinced to pull into Halifax due to bergy bits off south-east Newfoundland. Other friends who returned to their winter-stored boat in Lunenberg still can’t take the shrink wrap off the boat otherwise the glue used in repairs will not harden.

All of the above have slowed our crawl north to Nova Scotia and our enthusiasm for cooler weather sailing is waning. Our eight years in the tropics is turning us into sailing sissies. Where’s our Canadian hardiness gone? I say “don’t just turn the heater on, turn it to max!”

While I paint a gloomy picture of the north east coast weather we are making the best of it. When we left Norfolk the temperature was in the mid 20s but by the time we reached Cape May the temperature had dropped to the high teens. Still bearable considering the sun shone and the water temperature was in the high teens. But still it did feel a lot cooler.

Business like Connie getting ready to depart Cape May. Note lack of short sleeves and shorts!

Cape May was a bit of a trial – three days ‘on the hook’ in winds up to 35 knots. Dragging anchor, shallow water and no showers. Well, no showers until the third day when we said enough is enough let’s go to a dock. 2 nights and US$239 later we say enough is enough and sail out. Yes, US$120/night and believe it or not that’s a common price for a 38 foot boat in a marina on the east coast. And no clean sheets are provided, no-one turns down the bed in the evening and then on top of that one also has to have the right change to pay for a shower! Should have just checked into a hotel and believe it or not it would have been cheaper!

We like Cape May. It’s an old resort town with a great history, a lovely pedestrian-only downtown and with numerous bicycle pathways to explore and no hills. On top of all this it has a very active offshore fishing fleet.

A myriad number of masts and a constant stream of fishing boats in and out of the harbour

To compliment the fishing industry are restaurants galore serving up great seafood. One of the oldest and largest restaurants is the Lobster House

Yeah, but we had crab cakes

So, on a full stomach it’s time to head north so it’s out of the harbour and under beautiful sailing conditions parallel the coast to our next stop Atlantic City. Atlantic City? Yup…

Our view of Atlantic City

This stop was not really planned but rather driven by weather conditions. What was to be an overnight stop turned into three nights trapped on the boat anchored in a river with a 3 kn current. Having spent all our gambling money in Cape May on 2 nights in a marina and no great music at the venues we stayed on board and, then, on the third morning hurtled out of the anchorage with the ebb current and out to an overnight sail to Block Island. The sailing was great despite the continual drop in temperature. There weren’t many ships in sight other than numerous cruise ships heading in and out of New York. We kept seeing helium ballons floating in the water that must have come from celebrations onboard the cruise ships – more plastic in the water!

Block Island – remote, windy, desolate but come July 4th there are apparently 2,000 boats that anchor in the bay. For us there were three boats. That was the first sign that we were early in the season. The wind howled and it was another 2 days before we got ashore. We took advantage of the opportunity, rented bikes and cycled completely around Block Island. Beautiful landscapes but sad to see there were almost no active farms left on the island. Most land has been bought by wealthy mainlanders using the properties for vacation homes. There were beautiful stone walls that encircled once productive fields but few of the old farmhouses still stood.

A sampling of one of the older properties

The landscape reminded me of Ireland. And I am sure many Irish settled here as this would have been one of the first islands the settlers saw upon arriving in the New World.

Almost every tourist town has one of these

Not my choice for chair colour but….

Sage is on the very right hand side about a mile from the closest landing spot. The bay is peppered with mooring balls

Now we are really feeling the cold. With water temperature of about 14C and 30knot winds we’re screaming ‘let’s go south’…

Hard At Work

May 14, 2019

Trying to get Sage ready for launching and the coming season of cruising up the east coast of North America – Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Newfoundland, Gaspe ….. Plenty of work to do and we were lucky enough to get a housesit across the water from the marina.

Now cleaned up Sage is almost ready to go.

And here is Connie with our newest responsibility – Nemo. Great name for a dog who can help with all the work!

Well, Nemo could at least keep the seats warm while we worked on the boat.

With work completed Sage heads for Sea