The 45th parallel of latitude runs thru Nova Scotia just north of Halifax. That fact hit us as strange. Most people, ourselves included, think of Canada as resting pretty high on the globe. A northern place, home to lots of polar things like icebergs, poutine, ice fishing, down coats, polar bears, ice hockey, snowmobiles, Northern Territories, winter, and Santa. But the truth is Nova Scotia sits on the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole and is just as close to the palm trees of the south as it is to the ice of the north.
You wouldn’t have know it this past June tho, it felt like the North Pole when we arrived, and it stayed that way for weeks. Texas was hogging all the heat in June and Nova Scotia was an icebox. A persistent SE wind blew in cold and fog off the Grand Banks and Sundance felt over-air conditioned by the effect. People warned us to wait for August, or at least July, before going to Atlantic Canada, but we didn’t listen. Our ultimate destination was Newfoundland, and we figured to get there and back without feeling rushed, and before the snow fell in autumn, it would be smart to get an early start. In the end, that may have been a good call, but we paid for the early start with an abundance of cold, damp weather at the starting gate.
After a year of full-time cruising that was close to pure bliss, Nova Scotia is where we hit our first significant bump in the road. We left Maine in the aftermath of a death in the family and with a sick dog. Then in Lunenburg we had to put our beloved four-legged crew member, Bill, to sleep. That was a hard blow and one we still haven’t fully recovered from. My eulogy for Bill was published in Points East Magazine.
Read it here: A Eulogy for Bill the Dog
Then the blows kept coming. First a young friend died, then another young family member died, then Alex got sick. The dark weather matched our mood and sadly Nova Scotia for us will forever be associated with all this loss.
We mostly kept the camera turned off during the bleak weather and don’t have much evidence that it even occurred–you’ll just need to trust us on that. But the sunny photos that we did take remind us that it wasn’t all clouds, and we did indeed have joyous moments as we worked our way east along this coast.
Lobster season in West Nova closes on May 31, and in East Nova on June 30. By the time we sailed thru, the season had more or less come to a close and the traps had all been pulled. After weaving our way around traps in Maine for years, it was refreshing to have one less thing to worry about in the fog when sailing Nova Scotia. Eventually we arrived into the Bras D’or Lakes via the lock at St. Peter’s on Cape Breton Island.
We were told the fog would go away, and the weather would turn warm as soon as we entered the warm, brackish lake waters of Bras D’or. And eventually it did. We even went for our first swim since February in Florida.
On Canada Day, July 1st, we were in the town of Baddeck where we watched the holiday parade.
Baddeck is the sailing hub of the Bras D’or Lakes. We stayed here for the better part of a week touring town, doing laundry, and getting to know a few locals, Chris invited us to play pickle-ball, Corey drove us over to tour a prominent old yacht yard where he used to work, and Wilson Wilson (not a typo) told us all about the charms of cruising north to Newfoundland.
They say Cape Breton is more Scottish than Scotland. This may not be true, but the locals are most definitely proud of their Celtic heritage. Town names have a familiar Scottish ring to them and road signs are posted in both English and Gaelic. We happened to be in Baddeck during a week long local music festival called “Kitchen Fest” and were able to take in two evenings of top-notch fiddle playing. Neither of us had any exposure to this music (aside from the below decks music scene in the movie, The Titanic.) When it’s played well, it’s raucous and captivating. We loved it.
The hills around the lake provided many walking trails and the views from up high were super.
Then a marvelous thing happened: Daughter Heidi came to visit! We parked the boat in a marina in the lakes, rented a car and drove down to the Halifax airport to pick her up. With Heidi and her bag loaded into the car, we continued on to Prince Edward Island where we marveled over the red soil resting boldly against the green fields, enjoyed the beaches, and searched for that Anne of Green Gables.
The days were long with sunset near 10 PM
After that we would search for the northern lights
Nova Scotia saved the best for last. We found the Cape Breton highlands north of the lakes to be the most spectacular part of the province, Ingonish and Dingwall in particular. The seawater is inexplicably warm here and we lucked into some great summer beach weather.
But a dark cloud hung over our final two beautiful stops, Alex wasn’t feeling well. Later in Newfoundland we would visit the hospital emergency room and discover she had pneumonia. Life on the boat isn’t all rainbows and dolphins.
Sundance continues to shepherd us from place to place without complaint. We remain thankful to have such a good boat to call home.
Nova Scotia: June 11, 2023 – July 25, 2023
See you on the return
Onwards to Newfoundland
A real-time update: Right now Alex is snoozing on the port side sette with a belly full of antibiotics and her recovery is well underway here in drop-dead gorgeous Newfoundland. People often ask us who writes these blog posts. Usually we work together to co-author, literally taking turns in front of the computer, adding, deleting and changing til we both agree it’s ready to go for all of you. This time I (Chris) get all the blame. Alex has been busy with the dreary work of recuperation and bears no responsibility. While she rests, I’m happy to have something to do other than organize my spare stainless fastener collection, and that’s how this latest post has come to be.
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