30 July 2010

Louisbourg V: Fri 30 Jul – "La(z)y Days" or "Lay Daze"?

The next leg on this cruise is a 2 day offshore jaunt to Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, small French islands off the Newfoundland coast, and we leave this afternoon to arrive Sunday morning. The weather these last few days has offered up winds of 25 to 30 knots, rain squalls, and big seas, so we’ve been sitting and waiting. The “we” includes Jean and Josiane on Kurika and even a few RVers in the motor home park. Kurika is an Amel 46 ketch, massive compared to Kerry Deare, and even experienced sailor Jean who’s crossed many oceans was sitting this one out.

So what does one do to fill the time? The short answer is quite a bit. For starters there’s always an opportunity to waste hours at the computer (photo upper left). What did we do prior to becoming online slaves? And then there’s a sailor’s favorite: shopping.

Wednesday morning looked like just another maintenance day when Josiane announced that Sid and wife Dorene in a motor home would be driving to Sydney, the largest city on Cape Breton, for shopping and had offered the three of us a ride. Naturally we jumped at the opportunity (photo middle left). Jean and Josiane hadn’t done major provisioning since leaving the Caribbean over 2 months ago, and I was eager to avoid boat chores. The 5 of us fit comfortably in Sid’s large pickup and were shortly standing before the Wal-Mart in Sydney River (photo right). It was “just like home,” including the distasteful feeling some get from the Wal-Mart “experience.” Yet there’s no question we shopped and enjoyed doing so (photo left).

Thursday evening Kerry Deare hosted Jean and Josiane for wine and cheese (photo right), a dangerous undertaking considering that I had on board only the basics for entertaining, and my guests would be Parisian world travelers. We conducted a tasting of 2 California chardonnays and the verdict was: “Acceptable or Better.” The visit seemed to work to the satisfaction of all including my crew teddy bear Polo, who finally got the attention he deserves (photo left).

29 July 2010

Louisbourg IV: Thur 29 Jul – Staying Put

On Tuesday afternoon I stuck my nose out into the ocean hoping I'd find conditions I could live with en route to Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, a 175 NM trek requiring 2 nights at sea for Kerry Deare. After 2 hours of 26 to 28 knot winds with gusts into the thirties, it was clear this wasn't our day so we returned to harbor. Thus the entire process of securing gear, preparing for sea, heading out, bouncing a bit, returning to the wharf, resetting lines and fenders, and getting exhausted resulted only in turning the boat around 180 degrees at the wharf (photo left). Still life on board is one long learning process, so lets' talk about wharfing.

Cruising in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland means visiting harbors where fishing is the primary activity. Facilities for fishing vessels are designed for rough usage and extreme conditions so yachts must use care to avoid damage. The most important gear needed is fendering that can do the job. At the very least one needs the largest fenders that can be carried and stowed, and preferably more than two. In the photo at right we've set two 10x30 fenders behind an 8 foot fender board to lay alongside the rough wharf. Note that the wharf here in Lousibourg is not "rough" as these things go. We carry another 2 large fenders and often another board to meet worse conditions. The the photo also shows rubber protectors on the ends of the board to further protect the topsides.

In Louisbourg the tidal range is about 6 feet so some compensation is necessary. This means keeping an eye on things through at least one tidal cycle, and adjusting lines and fenders to meet the extremes of the tidal rise and fall. The two primary rules we like to employ in a case like this are (1) use lines as long as practical to minimize tidal effects (photo above left), and (2) make all lines adjustable from the boat (top and bottom photos at right).

Finally never assume that your gear will be "just fine for now" when it comes to chafe. The insidious effects of chafe can be disastrous, and the forces against you are at work every minute of every day. There is no substitute for taking measures ahead of time (photo at left).

27 July 2010

Louisbourg III: Tues 27 Jul – Still Here, But …

We intended to depart yesterday afternoon for Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, the small French islands off Newfoundland’s South Coast, a distance of some 172 NM. Although “GRIB” weather maps promised favorable conditions and fair winds, those winds could have gone to 30 knots according to Newfoundland fisherman Hank, so we decided to wait. We are comfortable and there are purchases and repairs we can do in Louisbourg so the delay is no hardship. The delay also offered up new cruising friends.

Monday afternoon the French ketch “Kurika” (at left in the left photo) entered Louisbourg harbor with Jean and Josiane on board (photo below at right). Hank and I helped them secure alongside a fishing boat and Jean immediately broke out the wine glasses. He and Josiane had just sailed coastwise from Shelburne NS en route to Saint-Pierre. Since we are also headed there, perhaps having French speaking friends nearby could keep us out of trouble. In addition Jean and Josiane are delights in their own right. They have sailed “Kurika” over from Brittany and completed passages along the US East Coast via Bermuda, so we traded tales on places along the way, especially Bermuda. As we spoke I remembered spying “Kurika” in Shelburne at the yacht club floats but we didn’t meet there, so a warm welcome to Jean and Josiane.

While walking up to the “Command Center” this morning I met a lovely 80 year old Dutch woman exercising her German shepherd on the boardwalk She has been living in Louisbourg almost 60 years and could not praise it enough. She was so enjoying the morning that some of her energy must have transferred to me. It will come in handy when we depart this afternoon.

25 July 2010

Louisbourg II: Sun 25 Jul - Fortress of Louisbourg and J.P.


The quintessential Louisbourg tourist experience is a visit to Fortress of Louisbourg, a national historic site of Canada. The purpose of the fortress and its surrounding grounds is to provide the visitor the experience of living for a single day in the year 1744.

The fortress was originally a fortified French town that was twice captured by the British, the French having first arrived in 1713. Various French kings including Louis XV built the fortress to protect France's commercial interests against the British. The current replica fortress represents a massive investment by the government of Canada over decades. It is one of the premier tourist destinations in the country.

Each summer costumed interpreters paint a picture of life as lived in 1744. The sights and sounds of the 18th century come alive in period homes, busy street scenes, and theme centers.


A short walk from the wharf leads to the Louisbourg Playhouse, a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theater (, where on Sunday evening I treated myself to a performance by one of Cape Breton's premier musicians and entertainers, J. P. Cormier (

To say he knocked me over is to understate his impact, his instrumental technique, and his stage presence. A great performance in a stellar location.

24 July 2010

Louisbourg I: Sat 24 Jul - Louisbourg Town

We departed Canso at 2030 Friday 23 July and had an uneventful overnight sail in light and fair winds to Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, some 60 NM to the NE. Upon arrival at Louisbourg I was treated to views of Louisbourg Light (left), the oldest lighthouse in Nova Scotia and second oldest in North America after Boston Light.

On the way over I had a gear failure when the mainsheet block parted from the traveler slide. At first I though this repair would be difficult but that was not the case thanks to Hank (below center), a Newfoundland fisherman who greeted me on the wharf.
Hank works on the Amanda J, a Cape Island crab boat (right) based in Louisbourg during crabbing season. In short order we fashioned a few of Kerry Deare's spares into a serviceable fitting that is stronger than the original. Yet the real story here is Hank himself, whose generosity came across immediately. If this is Newfoundland (and I believe it is), then what are we waiting for? It wasn't long before Kerry Deare was "iced down" with 150 pounds of "chip ice" from the fish plant. This is a good thing.

Speaking of boats and wharves, I noticed a slight disconnect between the rules as written, and the rules as practiced. At left is the wharf where I found a place to tie in. You can see Kerry Deare's mast on the left side of the wharf. It is otherwise filled with commercial fishing vessels and there does not appear to be space for another boat. If you look closely at the left photo you can just make out a small sign at left. In the right photo this sign is enlarged and specifies that the wharf is for recreational boats only. Hmmmm.

Hank stopped by later Saturday evening and I was able to offer a cold drink and learn more about him and Newfoundland. His father and grandfather were fishermen and Hank himself has been fishing over 40 years. In preparing for this cruise I'd acquired a Newfoundland "Native" flag (left) mentioned in a cruising guide, and I asked Hank about it. He had no idea what I was talking about but was interested to read about it in the guide. Warning: Don't believe everything you read in the cruising guides.

Louisbourg Town epitomizes the Cape Breton experience. About 1000 Nova Scotians live here in down-to-earth fashion, and after only 2 days I'd met half of them personally, and been greeted heartily by the other half. The main street features small businesses aimed at the tourist trade generated by Fortress Louisbourg (a separate blog entry), and is lined with quaint and interesting homes and buildings. In contrast the waterfront is all business, with fishing boats coming and going at all hours (left above) and the local avian population standing by to help when necessary (below).
The remainder of Saturday was spent at the "Command Center" (photo at left) overlooking the wharves and the Louisbourg Motorhome RV Park located right on the waterfront. I was preparing for an Olympic Class Tourist Day on Sunday, and in Louisbourg this can mean only 2 things: Fortress Louisbourg, and the amazing J.P.

23 July 2010

Canso Town: Tues 23 Jul - History Comes Alive

Canso (left) is a town of superlatives but despite this it is not well known to people "from away." It is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Nova Scotia, dating officially from 1604 and there was probably some sort of European fishery here 200 years earlier. Canso's history predates not only Halifax, but also the famous settlements of Port Royal NS and Jamestown VA USA. Much of Canso's local history is on view at the Grassy Island Interpretive Center (right photo). Canso is also the closest unfrozen corner of the North American mainland to Europe. Historical Note/Tounge-In-Cheek Department: There appears to be no connection between Canso's unfrozen character, and the fact that during the American Revolution Captain John Paul Jones burned the town to the ground.

Grassy Island (left photo) is the site of the original settlement at Canso. The island itself can be visited with the local Parks Canada boat. My tour presented by Tom and Clarice of Parks Canada was both historically and visually interesting, and the weather cooperated in fine fashion. The displays on the island are the result of archaeological "digs" that have uncovered much historical detail (right photo).

When I arrived at Canso friends Philip and Sharon introduced me to Sheila and Chris and their extended family. Sheila was born in Canso and kindly provided us with the "deluxe" tour one afternoon (photo right). We visited the Interpretive Center, the Whitman Museum, the house where Sheila was born (Sheila and her birthplace in the background at left), and managed a quick and delicious ice cream treat.

Later everyone gathered at Sheila's brother Berkeley's "shed" for food, drink and festivities (photo at right). Not a bad day at all.

22 July 2010

Canso NS: Thur 22 Jul - Cruisin' vs. Schmoozin'

Earlier I provided an overview of two prominent and respected organizations within the sailing community whose influence exceeds what one would expect based on membership numbers alone (see These are the CCA or Cruising Club of America, and the SCA or Schmoozing Club of America. I am founder and the sole member of the SCA. Unfortunately I haven't yet encountered other humans worthy of membership. The CCA has less stringent standards and the story I now relate may hold clues about why this seems the case.

Friends Philip and Sharon on CD 36 Evergreen departed Canso NS Tuesday 21 July for Cape Breton while I remained behind another day to resolve maintenance issues. On Wednesday afternoon single-hander Jim arrived on his 28 foot sailboat sporting a CCA burgee at the masthead. As he entered the slip next to Kerry Deare he remarked: "Another CCA member!" Evidently he failed to distinguish the distinctly different color schemes of his CCA burgee and our SCA burgee (photo at left). I was forced to point out the error of his ways: we are definitely not a CCA boat.

Jim is a pleasant Brit reared just east of London who has lived for decades on nearby Prince Edward Island (PEI). He was in the process of returning home from Halifax where no doubt he'd spent time with other CCA members at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron on Halifax's Northwest Arm. We were there once briefly in Kerry Deare and found the surroundings beautiful but intolerably stuffy. We rapidly moved "Up The Arm" to the the Armdale YC. Jim and I chatted briefly but had little chance to get to know one another much beyond the standard pleasantries. Following the incident I'm about to relate, I spent more time with Jim and discovered that he is an accomplished sailor who has sailed trans-Atlantic in his earlier 24 foot vessel. He is also currently editor of the CCA publication "A Cruising Guide to the Gulf of St Lawrence." It is fair to say that Jim has extensive offshore experience and is a dedicated and capable sailor with the skills such achievement demands.

Early next morning the weather held no appeal so I decided to spend the day touring Canso's attractions. Jim for his part decided to head out for PEI and home. I helped him depart and wandered up to the marina shed to chat with Don and Mike, both connected with the marina operation. It was just then that a Mayday call came in over the VHF, and the three of us were stunned to realize it was from Jim who'd just left harbor. He had run his vessel upon a ledge known locally as Whitman Rock and he viewed his situation as sufficientgly dire to require a Mayday call. As we listened in silence we heard the local Coast Guard in conference with a nearby commercial fisherman discuss methods and procedures for Jim's rescue. Subsequently Jim was towed in to the commercial wharf in Canso.

After what seemed an appropriate interval I walked down to the commercial wharf to check on Jim and help bring the yacht back to the marina so he could decompress and rest (in the photo at right, I'm below). Although there was damage below the waterline, the yacht was still seaworthy and Jim would soon proceed on his cruise. Since his departure I often relive that morning realizing that the worst can, and probably at some time will, happen to the best of us.

20 July 2010

Shelburne to Canso NS: 18 – 20 Jul – Enough Wind, Quite Sufficient Fog

We departed Shelburne Harbor, Nova Scotia 0730 Sunday, 18 Jul 10, in calm and sunny conditions. The 12 NM motorboat ride down harbor to sea was peaceful and I was again able to admire Sandy Point Lighthouse where a day earlier I’d attended a community breakfast with friends from Shelburne (left photo). Everyone brought along all the children and the breakfast was bountiful, the children loud and merry, the view magnificent. Afterwards from the deck of the community center the adults watched the children play in the shallow water, splashing and chasing sea creatures (right photo).

Once at sea we motorsailed east in a light SW breeze. Visibility was excellent as we “enjoyed” the perpetual swells that define this coast. Even in calm conditions, the long swells of the Atlantic that roll in from thousands of miles away produce long rolling hills of water along the SW coast. There is no escape and the swells do not add to one’s comfort. By 1040 we were sailing and shortly thereafter the wind filled in so that I reefed the mainsail and didn’t bother to set a headsail. The wind was almost directly from behind and we were making over 5 knots so for comfort’s sake I chose the simplest solution and sailed “bare headed.” We had about 250 NM to Canso at the extreme eastern end of Nova Scotia, and we were making miles in the right direction.

Conditions remained the same until 1600 when the wind came up to 15 to 20 knots SW. I tucked a second reef and continued with only the main. There was little to do but rest as my system once again got accustomed to rolling seas and life offshore, this time for only a few days. By 2100 I'd made no changes in our setup and nature continued with steady conditions and a good sailing breeze. We sailed on in darkness and by 0500 the next morning, Monday, it was still dark as we began passing the “Traffic Control Lanes” that govern maritime shipping into Halifax Harbor. The Halifax TCL is an elaborate array of one-way traffic lanes into and out of this major harbor and all commercial traffic must comply. The operation is managed by “Halifax Traffic” who do a rather spectacular job. I contacted Halifax Traffic on VHF to identify myself and to check on traffic. There were only 2 commercial vessels inbound at the time and neither was close by.

By 0830 the wind was off and we were motorsailing with the mainsail and the Volvo diesel doing their respective jobs. A little after noon I reckoned that we had under 100 NM to Canso and a rest from the endless swells. Two hours later the wind filled in and we were sailing with a single reef and the windvane steerer. I remember thinking that the motion was a bit less and that probably this was the smoothest set of conditions I would encounter until Canso Harbor. That wasn’t quite the case as I relate below, but I was thankful for the comfort. By 2200 Monday evening the logbook shows us motorsailing again with under 55 NM to go. It was dark and on this last night at sea we'd had good luck and made progress, so I was hoping our streak would continue.

An hour and a half later I became aware of a commercial ship one and a half NM dead ahead on a direct approach to our position. I identified him by AIS (Automatic Identification System) as the Maersk Pembroke, bound for Halifax. When I hailed on VHF he came up immediately and informed me he’d already begun a slow turn to starboard (i.e., he was turning right) to avoid us. I informed him we would also go right 25 degrees to widen the passing distance and we soon passed safely, coming within 1000 yards at closest approach. That may seem like a reasonable distance, but at sea it’s closer than one might like. The whole event, played out on my computer screen, resembled a nautical ballet in slow motion. With the situation now in hand, I sat back and enjoyed the view.

On into the night and Tuesday morning, the wind never did reappear enough to go sailing, but as first light came up at 0530 something else did: dense fog. Ordinarily fog is just another aspect of sailing in this area, but this time it had more importance. To enter Canso we had to negotiate Andrew Passage, a complicated route between islands, rocks, and shoals that protect the entrance to Canso Harbor. I'd never visited Canso before and all my guide books warned that the passage was to be avoided in poor visibility. I kept studying the guides and making offerings to Neptune, but the thick fog persisted and now seemed a permanent feature. Visibility was under 50 yards so I began to make arrangements for either an alternate route into harbor, or a brief stop somewhere to wait on the weather. I prepared the anchor to let go quickly and continued on to Andrew Passage. Fortunately the wind remained light and I encountered no traffic on radar or AIS. As the buoys ghosted by in the fog, I could hear the gongs and bells but saw nothing.

At 0900 after passing the first buoy marking the entrance to Andrew Passage, I came on deck to a find that visibility had become unlimited. A light west wind had combined with the landmass of the surrounding islands to completely lift the fog. We could see, and what we saw was magnificent (photo at left). The bleak scraggy landscape looked like paradise to me. We were in the easternmost part of Nova Scotia, sailing along in a remote and peaceful setting with completely flat seas. I decided to slow things down and enjoy the scene in slow motion. The engine was shut down, the sails shortened further, and we glided through Andrew Passage between the shoals and rocks as if we’d been doing this sort of thing since birth.

By 1015 Tuesday we’d passed the Canso Harbor (right photo) breakwater and secured the ship. I was trying to determine the arrangements at the Canso Harbor Marina when the VHF came alive: “Kerry Deare, Kerry Deare, this is Evergreen. Welcome to Canso.” It was friends Philip and Sharon (left photo) whom I’d last seen a few days earlier in Shelburne. They’d left Shelburne a day before me and arrived about a half day earlier in Canso. I could not have had a warmer welcome.

18 July 2010

Shelburne NS: Founders' Days 2010 Photos

Founders' Days is an annual celebration of the rich history, heritage, culture and people who have made the Shelburne area one of the most interesting places in Canada. For several days each year the historic waterfront comes alive with fun, food, history, music, and games. You will hear music by the ton and witness many re-enactment scenes.

In 1783 more than 10,000 settlers loyal to the British crown arrived in shelburne after fleeing the consequences of the American Revolutionary War. These "Loyalists" including Black Loyalists, Black Pioneers, and some slaves helped lay out and build the town and made the settlement one of the largest communities in North America.

Music in many traditions is found and enjoyed during the festivities. Most of the performers are amateurs who just really enjoy "doing it" and have been "doing it" for decades.

My friend Charlie and his son Rory relax and enjoy the music, each in his own way.

Shelburne longboats played an important role in early local history.