8 July, 2015
Got our Canada Day” shirts. Twofer $20C (that’s $16 US). Hard to beat that. The Navy guys came by and asked when we planned to leave, as they were bringing a frigate in for the celebrations, and she would be parked perpendicular to the docks, precluding any ins or outs. We weren’t planning on going anywhere, but were amazed that we were even allowed to stay (the U.S.N. has a 500 yard “security zone” around its vessels). The sailors were pretty chill compared to ours, and as the tugs brought the “HMS Charlottetown” into her berth at the city pier, she blocked out the sun, her bulwarks towering over the Girl. After grocery shopping, I got my “Bearly’s” fix. The volume and quality of the hand-cut fries was over the top, but the burger didn’t reach the stature that I had built up in my mind over the previous year. Just shows, “You can’t go home”. No more “pouty face”. After some more walking and exploring, it was time for Bill’s niece, Chelsea’s birthday party at the “Ale House” pub. We were still pretty full from lunch, but managed to choke down a salad, fantastic fish chowder, and a few beers before the cake. Time to get over to the Arena for The International Tattoo (Let’s hurry up and have fun). It was quite a spectacle. If you like rousing marches and bagpipes, you were in the right place. I thought of my good friend, Gary, back at home. (He and I are always raggin’ at football games when the marching bands play unrecognizable modern music instead of J.P.S.’s stuff). He would have been in his element. The show was a tribute to the fallen in WWI, and many countries were represented by their performers, including Canada, the U.S.A., Norway, France, Germany, Oman(?), Estonia, and Sweden. In between the marches, we were entertained by gymnasts from Germany and France, a precision motorcycle team from Paris, acrobats on bicycles from Germany, and various troupes of Irish dancers. The 2 ½ hours went by much too quickly. We returned back to the boats just in time to see a bunch of 15(?) year old boys toss a fiberglass whale from the kiddie’s playground (you know-the animals on the coil springs anchored into the ground) into the harbor-presumably to impress the girls that they were with. They scattered after Lauren shouted that “That was a shitty thing to do”. We ran to the boats and got our boat hooks as the whale slowly began to take on water and sink. We hooked the handle, but by now, he was getting pretty heavy, water, coil spring and all. Some much hammered young men came by and gave us a hand. Mission accomplished-saved the whale. The next morning, it was Tattoo redux in the form of the C.D. parade. After the parade, we hiked up to the Citadel, where a 21 gun salute was fired by a bank of howitzers. Inside the fort, “Oh Canada” was sung, and a huge birthday cake was cut and doled out to the masses. Next, it was a walk to the Halifax Public Gardens, where an R&B combo was giving a free concert under the Victorian gazebo, as we strolled around the immaculate plantings. Back down at the waterfront, we listened to some more free music, this time Cape Breton stuff with fiddle and squeezebox. After a quick bite from a few of the stalls at the indoor Seaport farmers market, we headed over to Garrison’s microbrewery for a sip (or Two) on the outdoor patio. Within the course of a few minutes, the sunny, warm day turned cloudy, breezy, and cool. The Admiral and ace weather person suggested that we hot foot it back to the boats, and the skies opened up when we were about 50’ from the Girl. A slow drizzle followed, along with a super-sized helping of fog. Fireworks? Cancelled. It was a good night to just “hunker down”, so Bill, Lauren, and Bill’s nephew, Joe, and his Grandaughter, Paityn joined us for sips and conversation. On the morning, the skies had cleared, and the “HMCS Charlottetown” slipped her lines at 0930, allowing us to get on our way.
A five hour run took us into Shelter Cove, near Tangiers Bay. This was a really gorgeous anchorage, complete with a fine beach in a wilderness setting. Had we not been pushing to get to Canso for the Stan Rogers FolkFfestival, “Stanfest”, we would have stayed a few days-and probably will in the future. The local lore has it that during Prohibition, rum runners would anchor here to hide out from the authorities, tying Fir trees to their masts in an attempt to camouflage them.
Our next stop was Fisherman’s Harbor. Not exactly scenic, but good protection from all winds. Along the way we spied a pair of Mola Mola (I guess that’d be Mola Mola Mola Mola) lolling on the surface. These Giant Sunfish are usually found far offshore, and prefer tropical waters, but are found as far north as Newfoundland. We were able to get within 10’-12’ of them, and could clearly see them below the surface, but the sun was such that we didn’t get any good snaps. They weren’t real big guys-looked to be between 100-200 pounds. (They can be as large as half a ton).
Saturday afternoon brought us in to the sleepy little hamlet of Canso, guided in by the steeple of the Catholic Church high upon the hill, as mariners returning from The Banks have been for decades. There isn’t anything quaint about this little factory town that went nearly belly up after the fish plants closed down. There’s still a small fishing fleet that takes Snow Crabs, then Lobster, in their respective seasons. Other than that, there doesn’t seem to be much keeping the town alive. Seemed like there were a lot of pensioners there. Like a lot of small villages in these parts, it’s a shadow of its former self, but there is some history. The British used Canso as a staging area for their attack on Louisbourg in 1745. Later, the radio towers here received and passed on the S.O.S. from the “Titanic”. The city dock was actually a cement-capped pier, but all of the pilings were in good repair. No water, and 15 amp hydro (just enough to keep our batteries charged), but, hey, what do you expect for $30? So…we got our grocery shopping at the Co-Op (grocery, hardware and variety) store. Thirst setting in, we headed to AJ’s, the only bar in town. It was pretty much a double-wide with one small window and a display cooler that you pulled your own beer out of. We pulled a couple of chairs out onto the “patio”, a 10’x12’ wooden deck separated from the highway by a 6’ tall privacy fence enclosure. Sweet! Okay, sounds like I’m Canso-bashin’-not so. Just sayin’. That’s Canso for 362 days. For the other 3, IT’S HAPPENIN’. For the past 20 years, the band shell and adjacent athletic fields have been home to the Stan Rogers Folk Festival. During that period of time, it has become one of the top 5, if not the number one venue for folk music in North America. So big, in fact, that music venues all over North America and Europe chipped in cash to keep “Stanfest” afloat after last year’s show was deep sixed at the last minute due to the visit that Hurricane Arthur paid to the Maritimes. Some of the finest singers and songwriters in North America and Europe (Scotland) make appearances here. For 3 days, from 11:00 A.M. till well after midnight, on 6 different stages, you can take your pick of myriad acts. In addition to performing, many of the artists take part in various workshops. We made it for the last day, wish we had been there earlier. I could tell ya lots more, check the website.
Bill and Lauren had a little maintenance issue with a transmission that they needed to work through in the morning, so we took a bit of a late start. Okay with us after a 2:00 A.M. curtain call the night before. We traveled familiar waters through the Canso Causeway, having transited it in the other direction last year. We spent a quiet evening at anchor in Havre Boucher, on the North shore of Nova Scotia. Bill and Lauren came over for a reprieve of our Jigg’s dinner (Corned beef and Cabbage) from several nights previously, this time in the form of soup (Barley, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes, secret spices-you get the picture) along with just-baked homemade bread, courtesy of the Admiral. We were joined in the anchorage by a lone sailboat that appeared just before nightfall.
Tuesday, the 7th, we had a calm, 4 hour ride to the West coast of Cape Breton Island. The morning started out a bit cool, with wisps of fog, but by the time that we reached the entrance to Mabou Harbor at 1200, it was a sunny 72 degrees. Several winding miles up the harbor, which, by the way, had a very narrow, twistyturny, shallow entrance bar, and a flood tide pushing us along at 5.9 knots (puckerup, sportsfans), we shot “Queenie” (our 105# CQR anchor) down in 16’ of water. Bikes loaded on to the tenders, we puttered up the river to the Mabou Marina, a 50’ long floating dock with a decided “list”. Our objective was the Glenora Distillery (I’m pretty sure the only single malt whisky distillery in North Am.). Seven of the 10 mile trip was on an old, abandoned railway bed, along the Mabou River at first, then following its’ headwaters up into the Cape Breton Highlands. The last three miles were up, up, up. A mile on a dirt road, then 2 miles on busy, shoulderless (with long drop-offs), Highway 19. That part was truly scary, with blind corners, and crests, cars traveling at 100kmh. We slipped in under the wire for the last tour of the day, and learned a bit aboot single malt whisky (not Scotch, as that’s trademarked, or whatever by the Scots’ distilleries). The ride back to the sea was downhill mostly, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when we left the highway unscathed. When we returned to the tenders, we hadn’t had enough, so we rode our bikes up (is there a theme here?) to Mabou to have dinner at “The Red Shoe Pub”, owned by the Rankin Sisters-you know, of the famous Rankin Family Singers. There was a bit of live music going on from a local group-Pipes, Fiddle, and Guitar. I swear, I think that the Maritimer’s, and the Caper’s in particular, are born with an instrument in their hand-seems that everybody around here plays. Anyway, a good time was had by all, so after agreeing to an 1100 departure so the Girl wouldn’t have to kiss the bottom on the way out, we headed back to our trusty little ships. Tomorrow we depart the land with Scottish roots and move North toward the area settled by the Acadians(French).
This morning, we had cloudy skies, but the temperature was up to 69 degrees. As we waited for the tide to rise, the wind did too. As predicted, the South wind was up to 27 knots by the time that we pulled anchor. Seas were predicted to be 2 meters, but we figured that out of the South, with us headed North, they wouldn’t be too bad. The sun popped out as we were exiting the inlet which made reading the depths a lot easier. We cleared the mouth seeing no less than 8’ of depth on a flood tide. I felt like kind of a weenie for being worried about it. Our ride has been comfortable, with 3’-5’ (with a few 7 footers mixed in) seas on our stern. The breeze is blowing the tops off the waves, and the sun on the shore is making a beautiful backdrop. We’re thinking of our friends, Annie and Michael, and the train trip that we took through the Highlands of Scotland a few years back. Our goal today is Cheticamp Harbor, on the Northwest side of Cape Breton. We’ll stay there for 2 nights so Bill and Lauren can get some laundry done, while we wait on a weather window to open for our trip to the Magdalin Islands, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where we’ll spend a few days. After touring these French-speaking islands, we’ll head over to Newfoundland. Not sure what the Interweb situation is going to look like, so hopefully, I’ll be able to shoot this up into space tonight. After that, I’ll do the best I can.