Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Cruising – Cape Breton Island


Our second Nova Scotia summer, 2010, has been considerably different from the summer of 2009. An early spring allowed us to get Easy Go back in the water in early April with a couple of coats of anti fouling. The storage at the Lunenburg Foundry worked out quite well with the constant attention to detail by Tim and Danny. Easy Go was well taken care of.

Easy Go had an uneventful passage from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia Canada to St. Peters Lock on the island of Cape Breton also in the province of Nova Scotia. Leaving on June 8, we took three and a half days to come the little more than two hundred nautical miles due to light winds and a couple of calms during the nights. What a great way to start the cruising season with no heavy weather and keeping standard watches day and night. The temperatures at sea were chilly during the nights but during the day we were often able to sit on deck in shirt sleeves.

We saw the wreck of an abandoned fishing boat floating near the approaches to Halifax Harbour that could have seriously damaged Easy Go had we not been keeping a good watch.

Visits from numerous whales and even a couple of basking sharks made the trip enjoyable. Visits became more frequent after we had passed Canso by and were headed across the Chedabucto Bay to St. Peters. Puffins, gannets numerous types of seas birds along with the seals kept us entertained.

Sailing into the wharf at St. Peters Lock was not difficult although the route through St. Peters Bay is rather convoluted to stay in the channel. The south west wind allowed us to make the necessary tacks and we doused the head sail out from the channel then dropped the main sail a bit off the wharf giving us momentum to sail up. With the wind coming off the wharf we got close then stopped moving. Putting up a couple of panels on the main gave us the needed boost to simply come up beside the wharf and step off with line in hand and secure to the bollards. We pulled Easy Go down the wharf with the assistance of one of the many friendly people found here. Tying up under a light and well up from the locks gave us a safe and free place to stay. People from around the area come to visit every day.

Shortly after arriving in St. Peter's we were visited by Al and Diane (Letitia II) for a few days. We went looking around the area with visits to Isle Madame, L'Ardoise and our new homebase of River Bourgeois. We found a nice little piece of land to build a Canadian base overlooking the very well protected harbour where Easy Go will eventually be moored. We're looking forward to visitors anchoring nearby or driving in for a visit. Be sure to call as our travelling cruising days are far from over yet and swallowing the anchor is still some time into the future! The lighthouse at the harbour entrance can be found at 45°37.6´N, 60°56.9´W. Strong tidal currents are to be found in the entrance with the strongest on the flood. Taken in the correct tide this is a very easy harbour to enter and the back bay is a great hurricane hole with a good bottom for anchoring.

While Al and Diane visited we found "Lobsters are Us" at Little Harbour, 45°35.0´N, 60°44.5´W, and returned with one of our many new found friends to get a good feed. Also at Little Harbour is a very well stocked distributor for Stright Mackay marine chandlery where I was able to get a new fender. Within the town of St. Peter's are an excellent grocery store, hardware store, Internet access (CAP site where Francine is a great help), pharmacy and just about anything else one might need. The Lion's Marina, 45°39.7´N, 60°52.5´W, on the lake side of the lock is one of the best on the lake with excellent protection. The Manager, Jerry, can access just about anything one might need for repairs and give you advice on everything Cape Breton.

We stayed in St. Peter's for four weeks closing the deal on our new property and visiting the many interesting activities, events and locations to be found here. We met the yachts NorthAbout and Dagmar, two yachts that have circumnavigated by the North West and North East passages. A very entertaining and informative time was spent with the crews of these yachts. Shortly after they departed we took Easy Go through the lock and on to the Bras d'Or Lakes. This was accomplished by lining the boat into the lock and then down the short canal to the lakes. We tied up overnight at the lower end of the canal, attended a Ceilidh at the Bras d'Or Lake Inn and headed out the next morning, July 16, after saying goodbye to Jack and Glenda who have a nice little cottage overlooking the lower end of the canal.

A short sail took us to Damiens Cove near Cape George where we spent a few delightful days enjoying the solitude while watching the deer walking the shoreline of the islands and the eagles soaring overhead. Only a few boats visited this large cove while we were there.

We headed out to the area of the Barra Straits to move into the northern end of the lake. Taking a side trip towards Denys Basin we anchored in Fraser Cove, 45°55.1´N, 60°57.5´W. Exploring this area was fascinating with rowing trips into McKinnons Harbour where we met Dave and Gary at their family cottage along with another Dave at his home. Many islands to explore and lots of wildlife. Again there were numerous deer walking the shores and swimming between the islands. Eagles perched in the tall trees near us and swooped down to catch a meal of fish. Even seals and one porpoise were seen.


In Fraser Cove we spent enjoyable evening and meals with Jack and Allison and Paul and Madeleine at their homes overlooking the cove. Long walks towards Orangedale and passing through the village of Estmere, now only a few buildings, gave us good exercise while we waited for the wind and tides to align so we could sail through the bridges at the Barra Strait Causeway. Paul drove us to the Barra Straits causeway so we could see the wind and tide in action as well as a good look at the approaches.


The Barra Strait Causeway, 45°57.6´N, 60°47.8´W, funnels a great deal of water, and wind, through the narrow passage creating currents in excess of three knots at the change of the tide. Wind over tide is not a good combination to experience here. Everything aligned on August 3 and we set off early in the morning to make the passage. A light SW wind carried us to the double bridges in a couple of hours and we contacted the bridge tender for an opening while we were still about one mile south. The railway swing bridge is open except when a train is coming at which time the train has the right of way. Everything worked out well for us as a sailboat under power was approaching the bridges from the north and against the current at same time we were approaching from the south under sail. The bridge tender opened the vehicle double bascule bridge for the other boat and just kept the bridge open until we sailed through. We passed at the peak of the tide with a small rip in the entrance to the 30 meter wide canal that bounced us around a little. With the combined wind and favourable current we passed by at about six knots and quickly moved towards Baddeck. Within fifteen minutes of our passage through the canal a train travelling towards Sydney crossed over closing the bridge. Lucky us!


The protection offered by the hills and the short fetches for the wind allowed us to sail from Barra Straits to Baddeck wing on wing directly down the wind the entire way with no rolling. One of the best sails we have ever had.


We came into Baddeck during the annual Race Week sailing races and threaded our way through three races going on in the approaches and anchored in the lee of Kidson Island at 46°06.1´N, 60°44.7´W. An excellent view of the racing events and close proximity to the village of Baddeck along with great protection makes this an ideal stopover. Baddeck is the center of sailing activity on the Bras d´Or Lakes and home of the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site and Museum. The museum has excellent displays of the life works of Bell including his development of the telephone, aviation experiments that culminated in the flight of the Silver Dart, the first heavier than air flight in the British Empire and the development of the HD-4, the fastest hydrofoil boat in the world in the early 1900's. Although the village is now a mostly quiet tourist town, it was once the bustling centre of aviation and watercraft design experimentation in North America.


While visiting Baddeck we have made new friends including Art and Maria who have a wonderful home overlooking St. Annes Bay and Henry at Cape Breton Boat Yard along with local and visiting boaters. Jim MacDonald has a very cute little houseboat and a nice tugboat that he built himself moored across from the Cape Breton Boat Yard. He told us a story of his time as crew on Irving Johnson's wooden schooner Yankee, now sunk at the end of Baddeck Bay. In 1953 Jim was taking the Yankee through the Barra Straits when a train came along and the tender closed the bridge while the Yankee was in the canal and unable to stop. The Yankee ended up sideways in the canal against the bridge while the train passed by. If that was not exciting enough Jim had to go under the bridge and train crouched on the deck so that he could turn off the Yankee's engine.


Baddeck is the ideal place to provision before heading out on the passage to Newfoundland or points beyond.


It is getting time to be moving on again as we wait for the weather to allow us to move north through the narrow straits at Carey Point and into the Cabot Strait where, weather gods permitting, we will head towards Newfoundland for an abbreviated visit.




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