27 June, 2015
Well, it looked like the weather was going to cooperate for the crossing to Nova Scotia on Thursday, the 25th. We had always done our own weather forecasting, but since this trip would take us 100 miles offshore, in cold and infrequently travelled waters we wanted some backup. Jim and Colleen, aboard “Mosey On”, had told us about a weather service, “Commanders Weather”, which they had used from time to time with good results. The Admiral pulled up their website and was impressed with their credentials. The group of meteorologists, many with over 20 years’ experience, made their living predicting weather, doing forecasts for boats around the globe. After calling them, we decided to have them do a custom forecast for us. Long story short, their forecast confirmed our choice of departure time, and predicted good weather and seas for our trip in a concise email, breaking down our travel days into 3 hour segments.
We spent the morning of the 25th getting our stuff together for a 1200 departure. We cooked up a pot of chili, as it’s our custom to have a microwaveable dinner (just in case the seas turn to dogmeat) for overnight passages. The bridge was kinda grubby, as we hadn’t driven from uptop for a month or so, so I took off the canvas and gave her a good cleaning. “White Star” also got a good washup, and her engine flushed with fresh water before having her canvas put on. Suzanne called Verizon, and had our data reduced, and a Canadian plan instituted for the phones. Before we knew it, it was time to pull off the mooring and go for a boat ride. Sooo……, under sunny skies and 73 degrees with the wind out of the North at 10 knots, we were off. Two hours into the trip, we were treated with whale sightings. Over three miles of our course, we saw no less than 10 or 12 Humpbacks, either lolling on the surface, or blowing and sounding. At one time, Suzanne spotted a commotion about ½ mile off our port bow. Seabirds were wheeling and diving, and the sea appeared to be boiling in an area about the size of a football field. As we approached, it became apparent as to why the water was “boiling”. It was absolute mayhem. A school of tuna was engaged in a feeding frenzy, many of them breeching, completely leaving the water as they decimated a school of baitfish-there must have been a hundred tuna. When she spotted all the birds, Suz had me haul in the lines as she didn’t want to snag a bird. We would have SURELY caught a tuna had the lines been wet, but I couldn’t help but wonder what we would’ve done with a 4’ tuna had we hooked one. Wow! What a way to start a trip. Over the next miles, as the sunny day morphed into night, we passed by a half dozen more whales. I passed my watch viewing a couple of movies based on Tom Clancy novels. Over my five hours, I only spotted 3 other boats, all of them fishing a bank around 0100 hrs. When I got up at 0700, we were in Canada, and Suz was watching the Today Show. We were amazed that we had a TV signal 80 miles offshore. Throughout her watch, she had only seen three other vessels, one freighter and a couple fishermen on the international boundary. I whipped up some scrambled eggs and took up my watch while the Admiral headed down for her morning nap. The seas were benign all night, and continued to be so. At around 0800, a Giant Sunfish appeared around 20 feet off the starboard beam. I snapped a few, but all I could get was a pic of the dorsal fin. The rest of the day was unremarkable, air temp dropping into the 40’s with overcast skies. The lines were wet all day, and all we had to show for our efforts was a Tern, which got tangled in a line and drowned before I could get it in. As night approached, the lights of Nova Scotia began to appear in the distance. The seas and wind were so calm that we decided to push on to Lunenburg, 8 hours closer to Halifax where we planned to meet our friends, Bill and Lauren, to spend Canada Day (their 4th of July). Soon, we encountered a fleet of fishing boats working the banks south of Yarmouth. As I ended my watch at 0200, I went to bed and slept peacefully, feeling like I was coming home. When I awakened at 0700, Suzanne had piloted us to within 3 hours of Lunenburg, and went off watch, whipping up a batch of her now-famous “Egg Suzmuffins w/ sausage”. Two days in Lunenburg will give us a nice rest before the 7 hour jaunt to Halifax.
Our old spot at the town dock in Lunenburg was empty, so we pulled in and got tied up and off the boat. After being aboard for a few days, it always feels good to get off and stretch your legs. On our way up the road to the dockmaster’s office which is housed in a marine supply store, we passed the grocery store. They had a nice display of potted herbs for sale on the sidewalk. Our Basil plants were at the end of their lifecycle-getting woody stems and tasteless leaves, so the Admiral was happy. When we dropped the new plants at the Girl, I’m pretty sure that “Old Baze” had a sense of foreboding regarding his impending burial at sea. Continuing our stroll, we found the schooner “Bluenose II” open for tours. She’s a replica of the famous fishing schooner Bluenose, who was undefeated in 17 annual races against the New England fishermen’s fastest challengers. After being defeated by the Americans in 1920, the first year of The Fisherman’s Cup races, the Nova Scotians built Bluenose, and didn’t lose again-a huge source of Canadian pride. An image of “Bluenose” resides on the Canadian dime. Two legends regarding the naming of “Bluenose” are worth noting. The first regards the fact that the Nova Scotian fisherman often carried the blue-skinned potatoes grown in NS, and got the nickname Bluenosers from the Americans in the New England ports that they visited. The second alludes to the fishermen rubbing their drippy noses with blue-mittened hands, causing the dye to leave them with blue noses. (Doubtful, as highly superstitious fishermen regard the wearing of colored gloves to be unlucky). You be the judge. Anyway, we were able to board the “Bluenose II”, which was closed for refitting during our last visit here. She’s truly a magnificent ship, built here in Lunenburg by the same yard that built the original. Our stroll took us on past the berth for the vessel that does the whale-watching tours, and their chalkboard also mentioned Puffins. PUFFINS? All I’ve been hearing about since missing the Puffins that had already migrated North last Fall was that “We’re never gonna see a Puffin”-Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture. Pete, our stuffed toy Puffin, has been dutifully riding on the shelf of our pilothouse, helping us navigate tropical waters, patiently awaiting his chance to link up with his cousins. Sooo…..After a LOT of sleuthing, I discovered that the Puffins were nesting on Pearl Island. Okay, where’s Pearl Island. I looked up my buddy, Harold, a retired commercial fisherman for the answer. “Well, I never paid much ‘tention to deese islands, I was always headed to the Banks”. Not to be deterred, he called his buddy, Rex, who said “I been livin’ here all my life, (he was probably 70 or so) and I ain’t never seen me a Puffin”. (Just an aside, the Nova Scotians’ accent is very similar to the Caucasian Native Bahamians-probably due to similar ancestry). Bummer, Dude. We finished our walk at the “Knot Bar”, where 2 pounds of mussels were washed down with a couple Alexander Keith’s.
As is our custom, Suz checked the weather for our travel day after tomorrow. What? 8’ seas and 30 knots out of the South? #!%$^!! So much for a couple days rest. We phoned up Bill & Lauren, who were docked in Mahone Bay, (a few miles East) planning on a night of Lobster dinner and dancing. After about 30 seconds of discussion, we all decided to push on to Halifax the following day. I admonished the kids “not to stay out too late” HAHA, Lauren LOVES to dance. That said, it was time for us “short ball hitters” to get some sleep after our 2 day passage and loss of an hour due to crossing into the Atlantic Time zone, and looking at a 0600 departure.