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Misty Pearl on America’s Great Loop and The Down East Circle

Here are maps of Misty Pearl’s stops along way, right down to our actual slips.  (Except for Beaufort, N.C., where D Dock is too new for Google Maps.)  Pressing one of the little red balloon-looking thingys on the first map will load up our blog posts related to that spot on The Down East Circle.   The second map will do the same for our Great Loop posts.

Misty Pearl on The Down East Circle

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Misty Pearl on America’s Great Loop

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If you want to find out what’s going on without having to remember to track us down, you can follow us to get updates by email.  Woo Hoo!

In the Mean Time . . .

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So the Halifax Waterfront told us we could tie up with no power or water, which we didn’t find very neighborly, but then the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron offered to take us in.  Which is cool, because this is the oldest yacht club in North America, dating back to 1837.  In 1860—as Americans were starting to squabble between themselves over this and that—the Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VII came over to go clubbing in Halifax and enjoyed himself so much that he agreed to serve as the club’s patron and got his mom (or mum we suppose) Queen Victoria to let the club become “Royal.”  And they’ve been sailing around in these waters ever since.  Fortunately for us most everyone was off on their boats for Chester Race Week, so we could squeeze in, and the clubhouse/restaurant was cozy.

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From our dock we watched the famous Halifax Orange Moon rise across the Northwest Arm.

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Actually it probably was orange everywhere, but Dana still got a good photo of it.

The only bad thing is that the marina is several miles (and 1.609 times as many kilometers) from downtown, and there isn’t much at all between here and there.  And literally no rentals were available.  Which sucked for the good guys.  On our first day, however, a nice dude named George offered to drive us into town from the marina.  Turns out George’s full name is The Honorable George Archibald, former Commodore of the Yacht Squadron, long-time Nova Scotia legislator, and one-time Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Transportation.  On our drive, we passed through Sir Sandford Fleming Park and past the Dingle Tower.  

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The tower is a monument to the first form of responsible government in the British Empire outside of Great Britain or some such thing, but that wasn’t the interesting stuff.  The interesting stuff relates to old Sandy Fleming, who donated the park land.  He created the first Canadian postage stamp and for a while lived in Peterborough, home of The World’s Highest Lift Lock.  But that’s not the interesting stuff about him.  He also was a railroad guy who engineered much of the Trans-Canadian Railroad, which likely doesn’t really affect us one way or the other.  But that one time he missed a train in Ireland because the town and the railroad used different clock settings got him thinking about, well, time.  So he contrived a system of standard time zones and pushed it through in the U.S. and then everybody slowly signed on and now with only a couple of exceptions we’re all in one of twenty-four zones based in hour increments off Greenwich Mean Time.   Now that’s cool stuff.

Minister Archibald also took us past his old office building.

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Province House is the oldest legislative building still in use in Canada, dating back to well before everyone started using the same clocks.

Dating back even further is the Halifax Citadel, aka Fort George, with roots stretching to 1749.  It never saw any military action and the Queen doesn’t have a house here, so we walked around but didn’t pay to go in.

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Halifax Harbor is home to a bunch of interesting maritime-related stuff.  For example, there’s Theodore Tugboat.

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Theodore is a beloved character in a Canadian TV series, with many heroic adventures set in Halifax.  They originally wanted to do a show about a locomotive named Thomas but found out that was already taken.

The most significant event in Halifax Harbor, however, was in 1917 when the SS Imo collided with the SS Mont-Blanc.  If the latter had been carrying a boat-load of fountain pens instead of a boat-load of explosives, the aftermath would’ve been much different.  As it was, the Imo caused the largest man-made explosion in the history of the world until Paul Tibbets chucked Little Boy out of Enola Gay over Hiroshima.  About 2,000 killed and 9,000 wounded and a huge part of town blown to smithereens.  The museum had a great section on it.

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The museum also had a section on Halifax’s role in saving passengers from the Titanic, which as we recently noted sank not too far from here.  Hmmm.  Turns out we’re right in the middle of the “Shipwreck Shoreline,” with the worst yet to come.

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Well that’s not very pleasant to contemplate.  But we successfully crossed one “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” and then an entirely different “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.”  So at least we’ve got a chance.

A famous Canadian Navy corvette is docked along the waterfront as a floater night museum.  We didn’t have time to go through it, but we did like the beachy color scheme.

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No Drama caught up to us with their newest guest crew member Fred.  We always have a good time with Jeff and Ann.  Then best of all, Shannon arrived, looking as pretty as two pictures.

Hopefully we’ll get her around to Maine so she can fly back to Florida before her first class.

Anyway, Halifax is pretty cool, except for the abysmal lack of rental cars.  Doug took Oscar to the vet by taxi, but another nice dude—this one named Michael—volunteered to drive them back.  As a child, Michael’s grandma was rescued off a “dead cart” after the explosion.  He said she spent the rest of her life picking bits of glass out of her skin.*

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The plan was to leave this morning for Lunenburg, six hours away.  Yesterday, however, we discovered that the shaft seal may be reaching the end of its anticipated  lifespan.  Long story short, the Dockmaster told us to call Peter.  Peter said he’d come by this morning.  Then Peter came by this morning and said it was too big a job and we should have it done in Lunenburg.  So we left this morning after all.  Bye Halifax.

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On the way out, a slightly newer Canadian naval vessel—the HMCS Shawinigan—zipped past us.

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Maybe not quite as awe-inspiring as Warship 61, but still not something to crowd.  We also were lucky enough to see an American-flagged relic from back in the days when things like oceans and pollution and climate change were important issues.

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Mostly the trip across to Lunenburg was uneventful.  Which is good, because it had the theoretical potential to go catastrophically bad.

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But we made it in.  Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, because it basically was a British master-planned community.  Of course, the whole master plan was to run off the Acadians, but it’s still a darn cute village.

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Because the wind doesn’t look cooperative until the weekend, we’ll have plenty of time to explore while Misty Pearl awaits her new shaft seal.

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* If the Halifax Explosion wasn’t such a tragic and solemn topic, this would be a most excellent place for a bit from the classic Holy Grail “Bring out your dead” scene:

“Bring out your dead.”

“Here’s one.”

“I’m not dead!”

“He says he’s not dead.”

“Well he will be soon, he’s very ill.”

“I’m getting better!”

“No you’re not.  You’ll be stone dead in a moment.”

“Oh I can’t take him like that.  It’s against regulations.”

Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh*

After two brutally long days, we docked last night with the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron in Halifax.  But at times our arrival seemed in doubt.

Despite somewhat sketchy forecasts on Wednesday, we shoved off from Port Hawkesbury.  A week there was long enough, plus the mean lady at the FedEx place, who wouldn’t print a mailing label and then couldn’t seem to get the package—containing the passport Shannon needs in order to come visit us before returning to school—onto a truck, purged our last ounce of patience.  It looked like it’d be nice enough for our hour in the Strait of Canso, so how bad could it really be the other ten hours to the Liscombe Lodge Resort and Conference Center?  Surely the clowns who predicted six-foot waves were mistaken.

Plus, the cute town of Canso was three hours away—just across Chedabucto Bay—with a small marina in protected waters.  And we had a reservation there as an easy bailout plan.

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Just as we thought, the bay was pretty tame.  We saw whales breaching, although not close enough for awesome photos.

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The sun was brilliant.  The wind was light.  Seals came up close to check us out.

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Damn, we picked a great day to travel after all.

When we reached Canso, there wasn’t much reason to stop, although the town did look cheerfully inviting.

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Then we turned the corner.  We’re officially done with the Gulf of St. Lawrence—which is almost as big as an ocean—and into the Atlantic—which by definition is exactly as big as an ocean.  We last saw her at Sandy Hook.  But up here, this is the real deal.

Scarcely 500 nautical miles to the southeast of where we re-entered the Atlantic, the RMS Titanic sank.  And she was much bigger than Misty Pearl.  We’re probably too early to encounter icebergs, but you never know.

About 150 nautical miles from where we re-entered the Atlantic, the Andrea Gail went down.  The closest weather buoy to her last reported location registered one-hundred foot waves.  One-hundred foot waves.  ONE-HUNDRED FOOT WAVES.  That’s as tall as a ten-story building.  To put that into Misty Pearl perspective, at five feet we get really uncomfortable.  At eight feet we’d be clutching the ditch bag nervously.  At ten feet we’d be scouring Misty Pearl for a goat or a virgin to sacrifice, because again, you never know.  One-hundred feet?  No way we’d find enough virgins.  Terrifying even to contemplate one hundred-foot waves.

These were our thoughts as we very quickly encountered five-foot swells.  Then six-foot swells, and occasionally bigger.  We could see them coming, then down into the trough nose plowing, then up to the sky, where we hoped our souls would head in the event things got even worse.  Stuff bounced around.  Oscar got sick.  We took turns with him as far aft as possible.  Why oh why didn’t we listen to those clowns?

Either through Divine intervention or the geography of Liscomb Harbor**, when we reached the Liscomb lighthouse the swells disappeared.

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Hey now, things are looking up again.

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The river into the dock was so calm that the folks at the lodge seemed to view our reports on the day a bit skeptically.

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We didn’t care, of course, because we were tied up safely at one of the more scenic and peaceful places we’ve been.

Unfortunately, the forecast for yesterday was about the same as the day before, although the morning wasn’t going to be quite as bad as the afternoon.  But we were just heading to Sheet Harbor and should arrive shortly after noon.  Plus the first hour was going back down the smooth river and then the last hour would be working up another protected harbor.  Call the marina in Halifax and tell them we’ll be a day later than planned.

We got up at a reasonable time, but still caught the end of sunrise from the stern.

Another gorgeous morning as we cruised down the Liscomb River back to the Atlantic.

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We hit the ocean expecting the worst, but hey, not so bad, at least as compared to the day from hell before.  We had to dodge islands along the way, but the skies were perfectly clear, so no big deal.

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In fact, things looked so nice when we reached the entrance to Sheet Harbor that we figured maybe we could go a little farther.  There’s a speck on the charts for Abriel Fisheries, let’s see if they have a wharf we can tie on for the night.  Yup, no power or water but they’ll fit us in somewhere.  Ok, let’s keep going.  The water is beautiful, and even though a zillion islands and shoals block our path, we can see them well in time to avoid them.

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When we reached the turn up to the fishery wharf, our unjustified confidence was back.  Screw it, let’s go another six hours to Halifax.  Call the marina guy and tell him we’ve changed our minds again.  We knew those clowns who forecasted big waves couldn’t be right twice in a row.  Three-foot swells ain’t nothing, and it’s a beautiful clear day.  Great for cruising.

Hey wait a second.  What’s that on the horizon, approaching like a Phoenix haboob?  Fog?  “IT’S @#!%ING FOG!”  And just like that, thirty-mile visibility went to twenty-yard visibility.

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Damn, we might need those virgins after all.  We can’t see diddly.

After an hour or so, things cleared up a bit, although there still was a wall ahead of us on the horizon.  Maybe we’ll be okay after all.  Halifax is just a couple of hours away.  Then bam.  Socked in again, this time even worse.  As we approached the Halifax Traffic Separation Zone, we could hear the Halifax Harbor Traffic Controller directing cruise ships and tankers and pilot ships and other commercial vessels up and down the harbor entrance.  This is one of the busiest ports in the world.  We need to cut across, but AIS and radar are poor substitutes for actually seeing the 951-foot Caribbean Princess approaching on a collision-course at sixteen knots.

Amazingly, just as we started into what felt like a blindfolded game of Frogger, the fog lifted like the Red Sea parting for the Israelites.  There comes the Nova Pilot, with plenty of time to avoid her.  Let’s just get to the marina and get settled before the fog returns.

Anyway, after 166.2 nautical miles in two consecutive white-knuckle days—by far the most we’ve travelled in 36 hours other than The Crossing—we basically collapsed and went to bed.  The fog this morning seemed a lot prettier than yesterday’s version.

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But now the sun is shining.  Kids are playing.  We’re ready to explore.

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Shannon arrives on Sunday.  Everybody’s happy to be here.

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* Here we are, in Halifax Harbuh.  Thanks and apologies to Allan Sherman.

** It’s not a typo, although Lord knows we fail to correct a bunch of those.  The Liscombe (with an e) Lodge Resort and Conference Center is in Liscomb (no e).  Go figure.

Maybe we should buy a summer cottage on Cape Breton?

Not much going on in Port Hawkesbury and it’s too windy to move the boat, so we figured we’d take a couple of days to check out Cape Breton.  Cape Breton is an island, and although it’s substantially bigger than PEI it doesn’t get its own province and instead sits atop Nova Scotia like a hat, appended by a single bridge.

The largest town is Sydney.  Don’t eat at the Mexican place in Sydney.  It’s really slow and they leave tails on the shrimp in the shrimp tacos, which caused much grumpiness.  The rest of Cape Breton, however, was fantastic (although Coke needs a bigger presence).

Starting with Bras d’Or Lake, which would be a jagged softball in the palm if one viewed Cape Breton as a giant right-handed fielder’s mitt instead of a hat.  The day we rounded the lake was cloudy but at least it wasn’t too windy to drone.

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Next stop, Baddeck.  We Americans tend vaguely to think of Alexander Graham Bell as one of our own who invented the telephone, which used to be a useful device but now has been supplanted by texting, which isn’t much different than the telegraph messages that the telephone supposedly made obsolete.  “Watson, cum here i need u lol.”  We visited the Bell museum in Baddeck, where Old Alec the Scotsman had a home named Beinn Bhreagh that his descendants still own although Dana looked it up and they’re currently mired in a big tax dispute.  Yup, there’s the actual first ever telephone, all polished up and sitting right here in a Canadian Museum.

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Unbeknownst to us until last Friday, Bell is the father of Canadian flight, as the head of a team that designed and built and flew the Silver Dart—Canada’s first airplane—in 1909.

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He co-founded The National Geographic Society, and later proved there really is life after death by vomiting in his Cape Breton grave when climate-change-denier Rupert Murdoch bought the previously-non-profit organization.  That’s kind of like Satan buying publishing rights to the Bible.  Bell also was instrumental in Helen Keller’s transformation, which is another big coincidence since we passed by her old house not too long ago.

The museum highlighted dozens more of Bell’s accomplishments, some of which may be of dubious value to anyone other than perhaps Greg Focker, but interesting still.*

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The main thing we wanted to do on Cape Breton, however, was to drive the Cabot Trail.  We’ve done the Road to Hana, the entire Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive run, and most of the PCH.  This was up near the top of our list, however, and since we were at the sign it seemed like a good time to check it off that list.

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The Cabot Trail is named for Italian explorer John Cabot, not the English dude who played lovable Mr. French and dispensed wisdom when Uncle Bill overreacted to innocent mischief by Buffy or Jody.  That was Sebastian Cabot.  Probably no relation.  John Cabot apparently didn’t actually come to Cape Breton but somehow still scored a cool 298-kilometer loop road named in his honor.

Anyway, the northern part of the Cabot Trail passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  We stopped for a hike along the way.

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Good stuff, although Oscar was napping and missed it all.  The highlight, however, was the drive.  The eastern side where we hiked was spectacular.  The highland plateau and the western coast were mind-blowing.

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For lunch today we hopped down a side road to a pizza place in Inverness, which coincidentally also is home to Cabot Cliffs.  As Al Czervik wisely observed, “I tell ya, country clubs and cemeteries are the biggest waste of prime real estate.”  Neither of us are golfers, although if pressed one of us can work a Caddyshack line into just about any situation.  According to Golf Digest, however, Cabot Cliffs is the top rated golf course in Canada and number nine in the world.  So obviously we found a hidden location and popped the drone up and over one of the cliff holes.

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We’re pretty sure we didn’t bother the guys on the green, but it was kind of hard to tell from our hidey-hole.  Either way, Doug lost a dozen balls just eying the hole remotely.  Fortunately the one time every two years or so he does golf, he uses range balls.

The plan was to leave in the morning for Canso.  The plan was thwarted when Canso said another boat pulled in today so there isn’t room for us until Tuesday.  But the weather on Tuesday sucks.  So basically we’re stuck in Port Hawkesbury having already done all the touristy stuff we wanted to do.  Oh well, there’re many worse places to do boat chores.

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* “I have nipples, Greg.  Can you milk me?”

This is why we’ll never cross oceans

As we learned yesterday much to our dismay, the Lennox Passage Bridge is broken.  We can’t get under it unless it opens, and it ain’t opening any time soon.  Which meant nine hours to St. Peter’s instead of seven, plus time for two locks.  Here’s the gist of it visually.

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We were supposed to be able to come down the Strait of Canso past Port Hawkesbury, then shoot in a straight line along the north coast of Isle Madame (which incidentally is another Acadian hot bed) to St. Peter’s.  With the bridge down we’ll have to go all the way around to the south around Cape Auguet.  Grrr.

Oh well, let’s get at ‘em early.  First up, crossing St. Georges Bay to Cape Breton and the Strait of Canso.  St. George maybe was a soldier who endured torture rather than recant his Christianity or maybe never existed at all.  The whole affair is rather murky, but either way he’s at least an Anglican Saint and maybe a Catholic one as well, plus England adopted him as its patron and uses what supposedly was his heraldic cross as one of its flags.  All we know is that his Bay wasn’t too bad so he’s a-okay in our eyes.

However, the reports for weather on the other side of that big island we unexpectedly need to circumnavigate started getting grim.  Southeast wind at 20+ knots.  Not technically infinite fetch, but the closest land upwind is Morocco.  That means big waves.  The Canadians say one- to two-meters.  Quick math puts two meters as more than six feet.  SIX FEET!  Windy confirms four-foot waves with three-foot swells ahead.  THAT’S SEVEN FEET!  Six and seven footers aren’t a problem for Misty Pearl, but they’re a huge problem for the fair-weather weenies who live aboard her.  Should we bail out at the Strait of Canso Yacht Club?  The unanimous vote was four to zero in favor.  We think Oscar snuck in a second ballot, but either way the eyes were above the nose.

Fortunately no commercial traffic was gumming up the Canso Lock so we passed right through.  It wasn’t too exciting, but since it’s the first lock—out of a couple of hundred—that we floated in without hanging on to anything, we’ll share the video anyway.

We pulled in the bailout marina just as the winds picked up, making the decision look pretty smart.  When we left for town, the gusts were approaching 30 knots.  We almost crashed the rental car patting each other on the back.

We love seeing new things, and lifeboats ready to deploy off land are pretty novel.

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Why would anyone want to ditch land?  Turns out they’re used for training purposes by the Nova Scotia Community College.  As an aside, the NSCC almost certainly has a nickname far inferior to the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes.  Most importantly, we’re tied up with extra lines and fenders.

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Tomorrow we’re off to see more of Cape Breton, which always seemed like one of those mystical faraway places we’d never visit.  To honor our arrival, here’s another Dave Carroll tune, this one referencing not only the Cabot Trail but also Arizona and Austin and Banff, where we hiked a few summers ago.   Plus we live on a boat so we’re always home.   (Dave also references Nebraska—which never has seemed mystical or far away—but we ignore that for the purposes of honoring our arrival in Cape Breton.)

A blog post for which we have no title but it’s past our bedtime

Today we spent eight hours angle-crossing to the mainland of Nova Scotia.  Plus we hiked what to the one of us who’s out of shape felt like twenty miles but really was only six kilometers—straight up both directions.  The point is that this post will be brief.

We saw cruise ships.

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Dodged a ferry.

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Passed some bluffs.

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Rounded Cape George at the lighthouse.

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Made it to Ballentynes Cove, and then hiked back up to the lighthouse.

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On the way back down, one of us needed to stop to check on the boat.  Yup, still there.

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Then a bit later we needed to check on the boat again.  Yup, still there.

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This is a working wharf.  In a few weeks tuna fisherman from all over the Maritime provinces will jam in here.  Hopefully they won’t need power, or water, or WiFi.   It’s a nice enough stop—and the dock is far superior to those in Charlottetown—but “town” is thirty kilometers away and at least two of us (counting Oscar) ain’t walking.  There’s a Bluefin Tuna Interpretive Center—which on PEI might well’ve been the “Anne of Green Gables Bluefin Tuna Interpretive Center”—but we skipped it.   We know all about tuna and pianos because Doug used to listen to REO Speedwagon in high school during the years he strayed from hardcore old-school Country.

Now we find out the Lennox Passage Bridge is broken, so we have a much longer day tomorrow than planned.  Which sucks.