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 10 hours to the Liscombe Lodge Resort and Conference Center? Surely the clowns who predicted 6-foot waves were mistaken.
Plus, the cute town of Canso was only 3 hours away—just across Chedabucto Bay—with a small marina in protected waters. And we had a reservation there as an easy bailout plan.
Just as we thought, the bay was pretty tame. We saw whales breaching, although not close enough for awesome photos. The sun was brilliant. The wind was light. Seals came up close to check us out.
Yessir, we picked a great day to travel after all. Screw those dudes who said the waves might be a problem. When we reached Canso, there wasn’t much reason to stop, although the town did look cheerfully inviting.
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 Royal Mail Steamer 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 fishing vessel Andrea Gail went down. The closest weather buoy to her last reported location registered 100-foot waves. 100-foot waves. 100-FOOT WAVES. That’s as tall as a 10-story building. To put that into Misty Pearl perspective, at 5 feet we get really uncomfortable. At 8 feet we’d be clutching the ditch bag nervously. At 10 feet we’d be scouring Misty Pearl for a goat or a virgin to sacrifice, because again, you never know. 100 feet? No way we’d find enough virgins. Terrifying even to contemplate 100-foot waves.
These were our thoughts as we very quickly encountered 5-foot swells. Then 6-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.
Hey now, things are looking up again. 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.
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, and another smooth morning as we cruised down the Liscomb River back to the Atlantic.
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 weave through some islands along the way, but the skies were perfectly clear so no big deal.
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.
When we reached the turn up to the fishery wharf, our unjustified confidence was back. Screw it, let’s go another 6 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. 3-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, 30-mile visibility went to 20-yard visibility.
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 instantly socked in again, this time even worse. As we approached the Halifax Traffic Separation Zone, we could hear the Halifax Harbor Traffic Controller frantically directing cruise ships and tankers and pilot ships and other commercial vessels up and down the blind harbor. 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 16 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 2 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.
But now the sun is shining. Kids are playing. We’re ready to explore.
Shannon arrives on Sunday. Everybody’s happy to be here.
* 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.