Lockeport Strong

First things first.  We survived Erin.  The dock-master had us move to a more secure spot and tie off to the fixed wharf, but we probably were fine where we were.

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It rained, but not like it did for a week in Pensacola.  The wind blew, but not like it did for two months in Marathon.  Yesterday and today were clear and warm and glorious.  Except huge waves still were pounding out in the ocean, so we stayed put.

When we decided to stop in Lockeport, Google Maps showed three restaurants, two of which had decent reviews.  When we got to Lockeport, we discovered that both of those two are out of business.  The one by the dock is the only one left.

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In fact, all of Lockeport feels a bit like a ghost town.

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The folks we met were quite nice, of course, and Dana enjoyed the WiFi—between 2:30 and 5:00 and between 6:00 and 7:30 on Thursday—when the regional library was open.

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Lockeport at one point was quite the tourist draw, and from 600 feet or so above town we could see why.  Very cool location.

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But then, from a distance most every town looks happy.  Except maybe Gila Bend.  Now Lockeport mostly is all about lobstering and fishing, which is a very noble thing especially seeing as how we love lobster and fish.

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There just isn’t much for tourists anymore.  We did manage to find some cool stuff, however, like the path around the island.

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And Floyd’s Little Harbour.  We don’t know who Floyd is, but ironically his tiny boats just might be the biggest attraction around.

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Tomorrow we’re leaving well before dawn in order to ride the tidal current up to Yarmouth.  Hopefully No Drama will catch up, but if not we’ll see Jeff and Ann and Zak and Sheila back in Phoenix.  Fred is heading back the land of cheeseheads.

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Of all the things we’ve looked forward to, this ain’t one of them

Despite the anticipated seven hours of unpleasantness, off we went this morning towards Lockeport.  Or Davy Jones’ locker.  Whichever came first.  The first mile or two wasn’t too bad.

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It got worse, but fortunately four hours of unpleasantness is way better than what we’d anticipated.

Lockeport wasn’t actually our first choice, of course.  Our first choice was Shelburne.    Shelburne is where years ago Hester Prynne slept with that dirty preacher Dimmesdale and had a baby named after our boat and then was branded for life.  Okay actually that all happened in Massachusetts, not Nova Scotia.  Even more actually it was fiction so never happened at all.  But the movie starring Demi Moore was filmed in Shelburne so we figured it was worth a visit.  Shelburne isn’t as protected as Lockeport, however, and staying alive seemed more important than seeing an old movie set.

Since generally we cruised a few miles off the Nova Scotia coast, there wasn’t much scenery.  Just more water.  When we turned up towards Lockeport we started to see what we’d been missing.

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We followed about an hour behind No Drama, past the lighthouse.   Because every town on the water in Canada has a lighthouse.

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Anyway, the talk on the dock was all about the weather.  We’ve deployed six lines and five fenders and are as cinched in as possible.  But the dock-master is concerned about whether the dock anchors will hold in the wind, so us staying connected to the dock may prove to be somewhat irrelevant.  We’re not exactly sure how that’ll all work out, but Tropical Depression 6 indeed has become Tropical Storm Erin, is gathering intensity, and is barreling straight towards us.  Aren’t we lucky?

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Tomorrow night eight foot waves on top of eight foot swells will be pounding out where we traveled today, with winds that may reach 70 mph.  So there’s that.

The border guards checked on us again.  We passed inspection, leaving Erin as what we hope is the last hurdle to getting out of here by boat rather than body bag.

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Senior Bingo doesn’t start until next week, there’s not much else to do in Lockeport even when it’s dry and warm, and it’s going to be neither until at least Saturday.   Mostly thunder and lightening and wind and rain.   Looks like we’ll just sit on the boat for a few days, without shore power or WiFi, wishing we had rosary beads and knew how to use them.

Ludington is no Lunenburg

Last August 18, Shannon came to cruise with us for a week or so.  We traveled exactly one day, then got stuck in Ludington because of bad weather.  This August 19 Shannon came to cruise with us for a week or so.  We traveled exactly one day, then got stuck in Lunenburg because of weather conditions.  We’re pretty sure she’s unlucky rather than bringing a curse, but we delivered her back to college just in case.  It’s always sad when one of the girls leaves us although at least we now can move on.  Hopefully.

The silver lining is that if we can’t leave a town that starts with L, Lunenburg is a pretty decent spot to not leave.  Among other things, no need to dodge the Badger.  In fact, on our journey so far we’ve stopped in about two hundred places, ranging from huge cities to isolated anchorages.  Lunenburg is a consensus top-five.

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What a cool little village.  It’s like a tourist town that’s full of shipbuilders and artists and old buildings and good restaurants, but thankfully not many tourists.

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So here’s some random stuff about Lunenburg.

Dana loves bookstores.  This place has three.  Her favorite—Lunenburg Bound—arguably was one of them.

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Lunenburg Industrial Foundry and Engineering has been in business since 1891, which at least implies that they’re good at something.  And since among other things they take care of those mega-yachts like we saw in Fort Lauderdale as well as fleets of huge fishing boats and the Bluenose, we figured to be in pretty solid hands.  The new shaft seal indeed is working like a new shaft seal is supposed to work, so we should be okay on that front for another six years.

The original Bluenose—Canada’s most iconic vessel—was a schooner built by Lunenburg shipbuilders in 1920.  She not only adorns the Nova Scotia license plate,   she’s also been engraved on one side of every Canadian dime minted since 1937.  (Apparently the name pays homage to “bluenosers,” which is the nickname given to Nova Scotians because of blue potatoes or some such thing.)  Here’s a photo of a model:

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The original boat is no more, but Bluenose II is a faithful replica and supposedly sports the largest working mainsail on the planet, although we certainly can’t verify that claim.  We’d have taken a photo but she wasn’t in port.

Some of the original Bluenose parts and equipment were made in the local blacksmith shop.

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Now it’s a distillery.  Because we needed things to do and a distillery tour seemed interesting, we joined the No Drama crew.  Here’s an interior still life photo:

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Mostly everything around here is old, at least according to the signs on the buildings.

Some of them look freshly painted.  Some of them look their age.

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As Geoff Chaucer observed, “All good things must come to an end.”  And so it is with our extended stay in Lunenburg.  Actually, we’re ready to get the hell out of Lunenburg ASAP, because we’re starting to feel the pressure of approaching winter weather.  Andrea Gail sank in an October storm not far from here and it’s damn near September now.  And trouble already is looming large.  Just north of us today it looked like this.

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As Jeff Brooke observed, “Anything that looks like a swirling toilet bowl should be avoided.”  Dana’s dad is keeping us informed about Tropical Storm Dorian, which is slowly heading north.  Tropical Depression 6 already is tracking directly towards our new shaft seal.

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We’re not finding anything humorous about this situation, and mostly just want to get to Maine and hunker down there if we can’t go on.  Tomorrow we hope to move a step closer by reaching Lockeport, which has a small-but-supposedly-protected dock we can tie on.  However, if something happens and someone writes a book, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are the obvious choices to play us in the movie adaptation.  The harder part will be casting a perfect lookalike for Oscar.

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.