I am writing this in the obscure, once prosperous fishing port of Lockeport, not too many miles north of Cape Sable on Nova Scotia’s so-called Southwest Coast, which actually faces east. It is not foggy now, though it was when we came in here just before sunset yesterday. So thick we couldn’t see more than 30 yards and had to do a might bit of groping with chartplotter and iPad before we found the docks of the White Gull Marina (see photo up top), where we settled in for the night alongside a big turquoise Novi-style lobster boat named Newfie Kids.
We’ve been out eight days now and barring some unforeseen disaster while recrossing the Gulf of Maine, I can say this little voyage has been an unmitigated success. Even with the fog. And in part because of it.
It took us two and a half days to sail from Portland across the Gulf and up the coast to Lunenburg and of those for one and a half at least we were buried in the thick stuff. We were off Cape Sable, an uncomfortable place to be in the best of circumstances (due to fast current, shoal water, and vast fleets of fishing boats), when at last it dissipated. I was on watch alone, at night–a moment I’ll remember until the end of my life.
Night sky revealed, studded with brilliant stars; lights on shore visible in the distance, evidence of our arrival somewhere; lights in the water, electric, everywhere, bioluminescence so vivid that the boat carved out a brilliant deep valley of light behind it and every wavelet for as as far as the eye could see was capped with a bright brilliant light of its own. So many twinkling lights, above and below, it was impossible to say where the sea stopped and the sky began.
Clear at the outset. Crew member Charles “May I Cast Off Now” Lassen lounges sur la cockpit as we set out from Portland in light wind
Ferry sighting. The new Nova Star, now running twixt Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is fully equipped with guest cabins, shops, restaurants, and (of course) a casino
Whale sighting! In the fog, mais oui. They have dolphin-sized dorsal fins, but the rest is much bigger. During our transit I saw three whales up close and in person, one of which went flukes up, and spotted two spouts at a distance
The day after the Revelation of the Night Lights we screamed up the coast at speeds of up to 9 knots (that’s me doing the screaming there), running down the Nova Scotia trades (20-knots-plus SW’ly) wing-and-wing under a double-reefed main and headsail
My ultimate goal during this cruise was to visit Lunenburg and Mahone Bay. Lunenburg, of course, has a vast reputation among the Nautical Illuminati, and Mahone Bay, just to the north, has the highest concentration of islands and islets per square mile of anywhere in Nova Scotia and so seems attractive by default.
Lunenburg was much what I expected, a fabulous destination to arrive at by boat. Young ladies sailing bright classic daysailers waved and bid us welcome as we entered the harbor. Inside we found all manner of traditional craft, perfectly primped, with a high preponderance of schooners.
Fortuitously, we happened to arrive just in time to witness the annual Wooden Boat Reunion, during which all types of perfectly maintained old wooden boats (many of them schooners) carom around the harbor under sail like pinballs
Now that’s what I call a bowman
The Bluenose II, a fine replica of the famous fishing schooner, was undergoing maintenance up at the far end of the harbor. Her boom is incredibly long! Nearly as long as her foremast (sans topmast) is high
Her worm-gear steering revealed
Her immaculate foredeck, with a modern hydraulic windlass. On the old boats you had to crank those puppies by hand
Lunenburg has many churches. This Anglican church is the fanciest one. It was badly damaged by fire in 2001, but has since been restored
A special surprise. I knew, but had forgotten, that my old Pearson Alberg 35 Crazy Horse currently resides in Lunenburg! She is now called Eventide and is exceedingly well cared for
Mahone Bay was something else entirely. Studying charts at home, I had marveled at its vast archipelago of islands and imagined they were all uninhabited. I pictured myself gunkholing among them, stopping often to go ashore and explore their virgin interiors.
Our first day in the bay, thanks to the fog, which rolled up and down like a tease, I was able to maintain this fantasy, as I couldn’t really see the islands. On the second day, bright and clear, with a light northwesterly that allowed us to sail in and amongst the islands with ease, we found in fact they are all covered with summer homes. Some of them quite fancy! On a par with anything you’ll see on the Gold Coasts of New England.
Charles steers with his butt as we wend our way through Mahone Bay wing-and-wing under full-blown screecher and mainsail
Some swank summer homes in Chester, toward the north end of the bay
Even the trailer parks are swank! This deluxe mini-park in Mahone Harbor features an over-the-top custom rip-rap shoreline (a very common feature on Mahone Bay) plus a brightly colored wooden lawn chair (also quite de rigeur in these parts)
The Chester Yacht Club looks like many nice clubs I’ve seen on Long Island Sound, except Mahone Bay (I have to say) is much nicer than the Sound
And yes, you can find secluded spots to call your own. Here we are anchored off Heckman Island the night before we returned to Lunenburg
The Big Experiment during this cruise was the Importation of the Ferry People. My wife Clare, daughter Lucy, and Charles’s bride Susan (the Sooks), all came via Nova Star with a car and joined us for the weekend in Lunenburg.
I had many anxieties about this–the ferry ride would be uncomfortable, the drive from Yarmouth to Lunenburg would too long, etc., etc.–but in fact it all went perfectly. The Ferry People had a fabulous time, both on the ferry and with us, and the Experiment, in the end, was popular with all concerned.
The Ferry People hang tough: Clare, Lucy, and the Sooks
Lucy climbs the mast to check out our flag display
Charles wins the Toenail Painting Contest
Alas, the Ferry People had to head out at O-Dark-Hundred yesterday morning to catch their ride home, and Charles and I sailed out of Lunenburg not long afterwards to take advantage of a southerly breeze. We didn’t know where exactly we were going, except that we wanted to get as far down the coast as possible.
It was a fantastic piece of luck–we covered 60 miles or more, closehauled the whole way on one starboard tack, in the fog, and made it in here just before dark.
Slashing through the fog
Lockeport is nothing like Lunenburg or Mahone Bay. They’ve lost their fishing industry, but haven’t managed to remake themselves as a successful touristy summer-people destination, though they are trying their best. What they do have in common with everyone else here is that they are extremely friendly, polite, and considerate. Canadians truly are NPOE (Nicest People On Earth), which is reason enough, I reckon, to sail over for a visit.
What You Need to Know: Bring an extra jerry jug or two. For some reason they don’t have fuel docks over here.
The only waterfront fuel pump we’ve found, here at the White Gull Marina (just $37.50 a night for a 39-foot boat!), has long since given up the ghost. Even in Lunenburg, where they have many yachts, you have to schlep fuel in jugs if you’re buying less than 100 gallons, which is how much it takes to lure a truck to a wharf.