22 August, 2014
Thursday the 14th, and we’re anchor up at Little Basin. Out of the anchorage it’s blowing 20 knots with gusts to 27, and the sky’s pretty gray and threatening rain. We’ve been hearing nothing but good things about the dock at St Peter’s, so the plan is to hole up there and wait for this Low to blow itself out. On the way up, we have white water coming over the bow, and the wind is right on the nose-pretty cool. When we reach the point below the lock at St. Peter’s, it is sailboat mayhem. Boats coming out, boats going in, and boats doing circles. One-and-a-half mile slalom through the melee, and we’re in calm water at the lock wall. We tie up at the lock wall behind the sailboats that we’ve let motor in before us, and wait our turn to lock through. Sea Star and another boat pass us and tie up at the front of the line. In reality, they went directly into the lock. Didn’t realize that the sailors were spending the night here, not locking through. Oh well, the 40 minutes that we had to wait for the next opening allowed us to chat with the sailors, who informed us that there were “8 footers out there” and that they were taking green water over the bow, so turned around and would try it again tomorrow. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the weather would be like this for a couple of days. By the way, this lock was built to mitigate the current formed by the difference in tidal levels between Bras D’or Lakes and the Lennox Passage, not because of a difference of altitude of these two bodies. There are only 2 tidal locks in the world, the other being in Scotland (how fitting). At the marina, the Girl was too big for the docks, so they put us on the fuel wharf. As promised, the wind continued to blow, so the layover gave us a chance to provision. Next day, and the sailors from the wall started to trickle in. The guys at the marina wedged them all in, and the atmosphere was kinda like a “snow day” when we were in elementary school, all of us waiting on the weather. Suzanne, Lauren, Bill and I availed ourselves of all the village had to offer. We had some health food at the local watering hole, and then hit the provisioning shops (grocery, hardware, pop store, ATM, auto parts store for propane, and hardware). Next was a hike along the windy, rainy, wavy bay on the abandoned rail right-of-way. William McCaskill, a famous marine photographer from the early 1900’s made his home here, so we toured it and viewed the collection of incredible black and white photos there. By Saturday, the wind was blowing itself out, so our little flotilla headed out into Bras D’or Lakes, headed for an anchorage called Little Basin. It’s a great, all weather harbor with a very narrow inlet. On our way in, with the sun directly overhead, the Admiral (who was posted on the bow), got a real treat. There were hundreds of free swimming jellyfish in every color of the rainbow just below the surface. Perfect timing, as the sun popped out for about 2 hours that day. After we anchored and went back in White Star there were only a few blood red jellies to be seen with clouds back overhead and drizzle threatening. There’s supposed to be a good restaurant in this largely uninhabited bay, so we motor over to the only candidate (and only house on the bay) to check it out. On the way in, Bill gets tangled up with the rocky shore, and Lauren has to get out of their tender and pull it across the flats to a sandy landing spot. Fortunately, our camera has a fast shutter speed, so we were able to get a shot off between howls of laughter. Sure enough, there is a restaurant, run by an old German couple in this huge, full scribed log home. Only one couple from an anchored sailboat here, with the other 12 tables looking mighty lonely. Nope, she can’t serve us a beer without a food order, so we’ll be back at dinner time. The trip back that evening was uneventful (was Lauren driving?-not sure). 1900 hrs. and we’re the ONLY people in the joint. The fare was unremarkable (I’m being kind), but the atmosphere was not. We got to weaving tales about what might be in the basement-before long, we were kinda creeped out. I fully expected Rod Serling to walk out of the back room and inform us that we were embarking on an adventure in “The Twilight Zone”. We paid the rent, and as darkness fell, scrambled down through the woods back to the little boats, giggling like a bunch of kids ringing doorbells on the night before Halloween. Made it back to the Girl, locked the hatches, and received no night time visitors. Pretty happy when the sun came up (haha). Maskells Harbor today, the birthplace of the Cruising Club of America. Another all-weather anchorage. Just putzed around all day, dinghy’n, and walkin’ around and chattin’ with some sailboaters (who anchored at the far end of the bay). It’s really funny how sailboats always hang together, staying away from the “stinkboats”. Even so, most want to know about our trawlers, ‘cause we are just sailboats without sails (we know this is where they’re going someday). Nice oyster beds here, but nobody knows if they’re safe to eat this year (microbes), so we pass. Monday, and off to Baddeck, home of Alexander Graham Bell, on Cape Breton Island. The plan is to stay for a few days, take in the Alec museum and rent a car to cruise the Cabot Trail, a world famous (well maybe country famous) 300 km. scenic drive around the northern tip of Cape Breton. Lauren and Bill took this drive through the national park a couple of decades ago, and have many fond memories. The museum was well done, and took about 3 hours. I was amazed at how little that I knew about the man. In addition to his work on the telephone, he was responsible for building the first airplane to be flown in Canada. He was a pioneer in hydrofoil technology, and built a boat which held the world speed record on waterthe HD-4 . His work on open girder engineering, utilizing tetrahedrons to achieve stiffness and strength with minimal weight forms the basis for some of our space platforms. Solar cells and voice transmission using light waves and airwaves were also areas of interest for Mr. Bell. He was quite the humanitarian as well, taking a keen interest in the deaf. Bell opened and taught at a school for the deaf, and researched the anatomy and physiology of human speech, as well as inventing the audiometer (a device for measuring hearing loss). He had a close relationship with Helen Keller, who credited him for her ability to speak. Good stuff. Driving the Cabot Trail was a 12 hour experience. We took every spur, dead end track and visited every little fishing port along the way. Picked up four chilled, cooked lobsters ($10/lb.) and some white pop to eat/drink along the way (we had our lobster tools in the backpack). The dramatic cliffs along the ocean reminded me of the California coastline around Carmel. Inland, the verdant, sometimes craggy countryside brought memories of Scotland back (the rain and numerous rainbows helped, too). All in all, an awesome day. Thanks to Bills’ driving skills, I got to be a tourist without driving responsibilities. The four of us were whacked when we got home, so after I picked up White Star (oil, filter, lube-$45) from Baddeck Marine, it was movie and pizza night. Good Morning Vietnam provided the entertainment, prompted by us listening to 60’s music all day on the rental’s Sirius radio, the recent demise of Robin Williams, and the fact that neither Bill nor Lauren had seen the flick. Breakfast on Wednesday morning at the Yellow Cello Café was bittersweet. We’re parting company with our new buds today, as we have to start heading South, and they are leaving their boat up here and heading home for the winter in a few weeks. Every excuse to stay a little longer was exercised, including a trip to the gift shop, the farmer’s market, and the marine supply store. Finally faced the music and left around noon. No worries, we’ll see them again in October when they’re our guests at the Krogen Cruiser’s rendezvous, in Solomon’s, MD. As we ran down Bras D’Or Lakes, it was windy but sunny, with frequent cloudbursts visible on shore. Although it has been mostly rainy for the last 3 weeks, the Admiral and I agreed that it certainly had not affected our activities, and would not be an overriding memory. Wind and seas look favorable for our crossing to the NS mainland tomorrow, and for the trip across the south shore to Halifax in the ensuing couple days, so we decide to go through the St. Peter’s lock and spend the night on the wall. That way, we can leave before the lock opens at 0800. We make the last lock through at 0353 (the lock closes at 0400, and the lock mistress held another boat in the lock for 12 minutes to wait for us). The lock wall is well sheltered, so there is barely a waft of breeze, and the sun is out. Temperature around 21C, so it’s a great evening to just sit up top and read. Both of us are so satisfied that we opt to skip dinner and just enjoy the moment. Thursday morning, and I’m just like a kid on Christmas morning. I’m tryin’ to be real quiet, just layin’ here with my eyes closed. Guess what? The Admiral is too-“You awake? Yeah, says I. Wanna’ go? Yep”. Engine room checks, coffee, breakfast, and we’re off by 0630. Gorgeous morning. Sunny, 6 kn. Wind, 1’ seas, 18C, and the ocean to ourselves. We catch glimpses of a few seals, but no whales today-Shucks. It’s so beautiful that we pass by our planned anchorage and head 20 miles further West. Heading into Isaac’s Harbor. The Admiral’s idling down the motor, and I’ve got anchor handling duties. I’m back. Harbor is wide open and not so pretty, we head down to Webb Cove, and there’s a road right next to the anchorage-no good. There’s another anchorage at Drum Harbor, but when we get there, it just doesn’t look good in these winds (which have picked up). Decide to check out Fisherman’s Harbor which is a mile or two away. The wind’s blowing right in the mouth, but not much fetch, so no waves. We shoot down the hook, it skips twice then grabs. We’re home. Spend the rest of the afternoon reading and snoozin’, then fresh lobster salad by MDO. Showers, then bed as it’s another early day on Friday-just another day in The Life. It’s Friday, and the hook is up at 0640. Kind of an overcast morning with a dull, flat sea and very little wind-the kind of morning that makes you want to head back to the rack for another hour of Z’s. On our way out, we see 8 seals. A sailboat is crossing our port bow. Maybe he spent the night at Drum. Checking him out, I spy 3 people huddled in the cockpit in their foulies, and I’m thinkin’ that my toasty pilothouse is pretty comfy in 16C degree weather. About 20 or so seals later, we’re in Jeddore Harbor-still no more whales. Another night on the hook, then off to Halifax tomorrow.