Work like a Captain, Play like a Pirate!

Now that we’re in the Maritime provinces, everyone’s flying a flag we’ve not seen before.  More of these around than the Maple Leaf.  Seems like every boat except ours sports at least one.  It’s in the local art as well.

Essentially it’s the French flag with a yellow star symbolizing Mary, patron of Acadians.  The Acadians around here are rather proud to be French and not English.  Embarrassingly, what little we knew about Acadian history came from The Band, in the Canadian equivalent of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”  We can sing “Acadian Driftwood,” but never really considered the significance.

For example, until we stood on the Plains of Abraham and learned about the English routing the French so that Canadians could put Queen Elizabeth on their money and build her a house in La Citadelle, it was a just a meaningless reference in the song.  Now we know that the English destroyed the Acadian French colonies and a bunch of the people moved in a roundabout way down to Louisiana—among other places—because it was French and then they became Cajuns and started sounding like Ed Orgeron and developed recipes for delicious crawfish etouffee.   (On a barely related note, Cajun tow boat operators plying the lower U.S. rivers are completely unintelligible on the VHF radio.)

img_8700The flag also is on at least one local leg.

Two things:  Yes, Doug asked for permission to photograph the dude’s tattoos, and No, Dana can’t have one.  But if anyone asks, Pinokkio has great food.

Shippagan is another of these fishing villages without much tourist traffic.  So there isn’t much going on.  Because of the rain, however, we took what AT through-hikers call a “zero day.”  We did laundry and worked on productive stuff (Dana), walked  into town for back-up oil and filters and piddled around (Doug), and unapologetically long-napped (Oscar).  That was okay though, because the trip to Bouctouche promised to be grueling.

Thanks to the Atlantic time zone and the need for an early departure, we snagged our first sunrise in a while, which hardly compensated for the latter but at least it was something.

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New Brunswick is the only province with both French and English as official languages.  Couldn’t tell that from our experience so far because it seems pretty dang French, although we’ve learned to handle the language differences quite passably.  The bridge guy knew just enough to say “few minutes” when we asked for the necessary bridge opening, which was just enough for us because we needed the bridge to open.

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B4BEE392-48B5-467B-87A9-13458256B39FThen out the Shippagan Gully, with “gully” being what they call channels around here.  As anticipated, the trip to Bouctouche was long.  And by “long” we mean damn long.  Long like Atlantic City to Great Kills.  Like Little River Diversion to Paducah.  Like Demopolis to Bobby’s Fish Camp.  Stinking long.  Unlike those days, however, this was almost all on huge water with no land in sight and nobody around to help in the unlikely event one of us sank the boat.  So like half of The Crossing done alone kind of long.

Starting out we hit some pretty rough patches.  And it was cold.  Halfway to Bouctouche we started hearing the Coast Guard announce “navigational warnings” involving the Northumberland Strait.  “For details go to channel 83 Bravo.”  Crap, the U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t use the B channels so we never figured out how to find them on either of our radios.  And we don’t have internet out here to help us figure it out.  And we’re heading into the teeth of the Northumberland Strait despite the ominous notion of an unknown warning about our destination.

img_8705But then the low clouds lifted.  The sun popped out.  The water smoothed down.  We went up to the flybridge.  Cranked some Possum tunes.  Hey now, we might just make it.  We even got enough smattering of cell service to figure out the radio and tune in to the Coast Guard warnings.  Turns out it wasn’t an early hurricane or 10-meter boat-sinking waves.  A red channel marker at Cape Breton was out of place, which didn’t affect us because we weren’t going to Cape Breton today and they got it back in place anyway.  The damn long day turned out to be about as easy as we could’ve hoped.

Actually the only harrowing stretch was about a thousand yards from the Sawmill Point Marina, mostly because we hit it at low tide.  We had about five inches under the keel in a gully barely wider than Misty Pearl and certain grounding on either side.  But we made it.

Because we got here late and plan to hit Prince Edward Island tomorrow, Bouctouche basically is just a rest stop for the night.  Which really sucks, because it turns out there’s a lot to see and do here.  In fact, we might drive back over in a day or two.  We did get to admire the awesome marina lounge, however.  And on our walk into town for dinner we happened upon what basically was a French bluegrass band playing Acadian music, which was extra cool.

Tomorrow morning we’re out of here shortly after high tide, so no worries there.  We’re bummed to be leaving right away but we literally found the last rental car on PEI and can’t afford to give it up.

We’re keepin’ on the Summerside of life

Today we had a cloudless and nearly waveless hop across the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island, the smallest of the Canadian provinces.  In the U.S., PEI mostly is famous as the home of Green Gables, the farm where spunky Anne Shirley spent her youth and enjoyed many adventures, although not really because she’s a fictional character.  We luckily landed a rental car so we’ll drive over to see the house, which apparently isn’t completely fictional and served as some sort of inspiration.

58321E02-8672-4FF1-97D8-1CE27DC0BAFFThe island also is famous for its red sandstone cliffs and causally-related red sand beaches.  We had to settle for some puny cliffs on the way in to Summerside but we’ll try to stop by a beach or two during our stay.

PEI is the first English-as-the-only-official-language province we’ve visited since Ontario last year.  So we’re back where a boat is a boat and seafood is seafood, although frankly we find “bateau” and “fruits de mer” much more aurally pleasing.  Oscar’s back to being just a plain old little dog rather than the more lyrical “petit chien” as multiple francophones have called him.  When we reached the Summerside Yacht Club—also known as the Silver Fox Curling & Yacht Club—Megan directed us down the fairway to the face dock at the end and we understood every word.

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img_8728We’d hoped to get around the north third of PEI this afternoon, but barely made it to the Bottle Houses, which aren’t so famous in the U.S. but are a big attraction here.  Some retired dude started collecting old glass bottles and using them in concrete walls, and the next thing anyone knew he’d build a chapel and two houses in a garden.  None of the buildings actually are useable for much more than a tourist attraction, but they’re still pretty cool.

img_8731Oh yeah.  We also stopped for another one of those Acadian bands, this one with a piper sitting in.

Dana found a Celtic show she wants to see on Monday, so we’re here until at least Tuesday.

One last thing.  After we reserved the last available car the young lady at the rental place found the blog and read about us before we arrived.  She figured that since we’ve traveled a long way we’d like a nicer car.  So she gave our original car to someone with an insurance claim and gave us the new one.  The someone with the insurance claim might disagree, but we think Britney is awesome.

All things PEI

Tomorrow we’ll leave Prince Edward Island with one stop before Cape Breton, but we gave this place a pretty good once over.  Although it’s not a big island we put some 800 kilometers on the rental car.  (In theory we could figure what that is in miles but it’s just easier to use the odometer.)

By our estimation, 80% of PEI’s economy likely is driven by agriculture.  Maybe that’s why its nickname is the Emerald Isle, or at least its nickname could be the Emerald Isle if Ireland hadn’t already claimed it.  We saw wheat and corn and potatoes, some of it under the drone.

0F876B59-212D-469B-8487-17B9F9A75D0DEspecially potatoes.  Lots of potato fields.  We can attest to the deliciousness of PEI potatoes, at least when cubed for breakfast or sliced for chips.  We picked some up at the Farmer’s Market.

Later on Dana even bought some potato-oil hand lotion.  Who knew such a thing even existed?  They’re so into potatoes that the radio station is SPUD 102.1 FM.  No joke.

The other 20% of the PEI economy is Anne of Green Gables.  The folks here aren’t quite as overwhelming as the “Southernmost” everything under the sun people in Key West, but close.  There’re Green Gables Bungalows, the Green Gables deli, and the Green Gables Golf Club, among other Green Gable places.  We saw the Anne of Green Gables Boutique, and Anne of Green Gables chocolate shop.  There’s an Anne Shirley Motel, and an Avonlea Village that mostly is a huge parking lot with some restaurants.

But hey, we’re tourists and we’ve read the books, so gotta do the touristy stuff.  The actual house is small and hidden.

img_8752The ticket office/gift shop guarding the house, not surprisingly, is neither small nor hidden.  Like most such places they funnel you in and out through the gift shop.  Anybody need Anne of Green Gables boxer shorts or colored pencils?

Okay we’re glad we stopped by, but no reason to dawdle.  Particularly since it was too windy to drone illegally overhead.

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PEI apparently is home to virtually all of Canada’s popular beaches, mostly because the Northumberland Strait has the warmest water north of North Carolina.  True fact.  In addition to being ground zero for Anne hoopla, Cavendish also has one of those beaches.  Not too shabby.  A nice crowd was enjoying a day at the beach.

71B1F087-A17E-4B64-BD28-8A67D19D9564The red sand beaches, though, were not so much to our liking.  The sand actually isn’t gross, but it looks way too much like that red Georgia clay that gums up everything and is impossible to wash off.  Plus when the wicked Egyptians refused to let the Israelites leave, the first thing God did was turn the Nile into blood.  This water kind of looks like that.  We stayed out just in case.

Basin Head Beach, however, is the real deal.  At least one travel publication named it Canada’s Best Beach.  Basin Head is quite proud of its “singing sand.”  We didn’t find the sounds from the sand particularly musical—closer to squeaks from leaking abdominal gas than to the Tabernacle Choir—but we enjoyed walking around in it for a while anyway.

Unfortunately we left without photo-documenting one of the more bizarre things we’ve seen in our travels.  In the middle of the beach, a canal funnels the tidal current into and out of an inner basin.  Big signs warn of the life-threatening rip.  A bridge crosses the canal some twenty feet or so above the water, with big signs prohibiting jumping.  But there’s a lifeguard.  And dozens of kids jumped off the bridge right in front of her and rode the rip tide out.  Crazy stuff.  By the time Doug droned over the beach, however, most of the crowd either had gone home or were swept out to sea.

Just down the lane from our spot in Summerside is the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada.  We love a good bagpipe tune, so Dana got tickets to the “Highland Storm,” a musical produced by the joint’s faculty and students.

The show mostly was about how plucky Scottish pioneers in the 1700s traveled across mighty oceans amidst many hardships and made friends with everybody and were happy and awesome.  It’s all about perspective.  We enjoyed the production but could’ve done with maybe less singing by the writer/director’s wife.

Yesterday No Drama arrived, doubling the number of boats from The Valley of the Sun docked in Summerside, PEI.  We don’t know for sure but likely that’s a record.

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Hopefully Jeff and Ann will catch up with us again somewhere, because this morning we plowed through the matted seagrass and headed to Charlottetown, the provincial Capitol and only real “city” on the island.

PEI is connected to the mainland by Canada’s longest bridge, the 12-kilometer Confederation Bridge.  It’s called the Confederation Bridge to commemorate PEI’s role as “Birthplace of the Confederation.”  We looked it up.  Our simplistic understanding is that in 1864 several independent provinces met up and decided to join forces and become Canada.  That would seem to be more a more legit basis than Cartier’s cross, but we loved Gaspé and wouldn’t say anything bad about it.

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Here’s another interesting fact.  The Confederation Bridge crosses the Abegweit Passage.  “Abegweit” is the native name for PEI, but it’s also the name of that cool icebreaker that Paul and Suzanne invited us to tour in Chicago.  Add that to the list of bizarre coincidences that litter these posts.

Anyway, we wanted to drive across the bridge just to say we’ve done it, but the toll is $50.  No way we pay that just to cross and turn around, and we didn’t have time for more of Bouctouche.  So we settled for the artsy photo of the bridge disappearing into the horizon.  It’s all about perspective.

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We spent so much time driving around the island that we probably could’ve skipped Charlottetown entirely, but Dana also found tickets to the stage production of Anne of Green Gables, The Musical.  Of course there’s a stage production of Anne of Green Gables, The Musical, and since we’re tourists and read the books, of course we went.

But the show has been running since 1965 and the theatre filled up, because it’s a dang good show.

The marina hosed us out of the slip they originally assigned us, and instead gave us a spot alongside a dock that looked and felt like something made for toddlers by Little Tykes.  It’s literally “secured” to a piling with a single strand of 3/8 inch double-strand nylon rope.  Which is frayed.  As long as the wind doesn’t exceed about 1 knot, however, our 56,000 pound boat probably won’t drag everything across the narrow fairway into the next set of docks.  As an added insult, the Mounties stopped by to make sure we weren’t smuggling drugs.

Assuming we awake in the same spot, we’ll take off for Nova Scotia in the morning.  We’re looking forward to it, but PEI is pretty cool as well.

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A blog post for which we have no title but now 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 the cruise ship Zaandam and ferries and bluffs and the Cape George Lighthouse.

CF4C7D89-399A-46A5-95BE-B776DD55A907Anyway we made it to Ballentynes Cove and then hiked back up to the lighthouse.

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 30 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.

On the way back down the mountain from the lighthouse, one of us needed to stop a couple of times, not to rest, of course, but to check on the boat.  Yup, still there.

Upon planning out tomorrow, we just discovered that the Lennox Passage Bridge is broken.  That means a much longer trip to Cape Breton tomorrow.  Grrrrr.

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.

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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.

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 1- to 2-meters.  Quick math puts 2 meters as more than 6 feet.  6 FEET!  Windy confirms 4-foot waves with 3-foot swells ahead.  THAT’S 7 FEET!  6- and 7- 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 4 to 0 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.

38DECC48-210D-49A4-A3F7-523EC25FA5D3We love seeing new things, and lifeboats ready to deploy off land are pretty novel.  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.)