Bras D’Or Lake
We had completed our first night-sail and entered the Bras D’Or Lakes, settling into a quiet mooring for the night. We slept like babies.
After a quick breakfast we began our passage through the lake. It turns out that Bras D’or lake is an amazing place for boaters, of all kinds. It is the largest in-land sea in Canada, surrounded by green, lush hills with cabins and houses dotted along the shoreline. The lake offers an abundance of arms with secluded coves to anchor in, often without another boat in sight. The sailing in here is great as well, and we sailed most of the way down the Great Bras D’or channel that morning without meeting any boats.
There are a couple of bridges to pass under and a lock at the southern entrance but otherwise it is obstacle free. We came across our first bridge of the trip shortly after starting that morning. At 110’ feet this was not a problem for our 65’ mast. I always find it thrilling to go under a bridge as it offers you perspective on your boat and how high the mast really is. It also makes for some good video and/or picture opportunities. There was a second bridge, the Barra Strait bridge which is not tall enough to cross under so we called ahead to the bridge master who obligingly lifted the bridge for us.
We continued through the lake system and spent our second night on the anchor towards the southern end of the lake near St. Peters, the main town. It was much busier down here and there was an abundance of boaters out on the water enjoying the fine weather. There were power boats, sailboats, water skiers, kayakers – you name it, they were out on the water enjoying the day. There were also a lot of birds in this area – ducks, loons, egrets and gulls.
We set our anchor down behind Beaver Island, a pretty place with cabins on the shore and sailboats on the anchor. We got a shower, tidied up the boat and went into the town of St. Peters to explore.
There’s a marina in St. Peters where we pulled up to the dinghy dock and from there its a short walk to the town centre. We walked round the town, which is lovely, and has a good vibe about it. There are information signs everywhere, flowers and lampposts decorate the sidewalks and people were very friendly. There were three walking trails that started from St. Peters but you couldn’t go on them. Because of the extremely dry conditions in the area all the trails were closed to any human traffic.
It seems the Lions run everything here, you get the feeling that people like their town and are very proud of it. We bought some goodies, and then headed back to the dinghy dock to return to Ingomar and have dinner on board. It was a warm sunny day and we were looking forward to lazing around and enjoying a moonlit night.
As we were dinghying out of the marina we saw a boat with St. John’s, NL on the stern. Al, of course had to say ‘hello’ and asked if they were from St. John’s, and they, of course, invited us on board for a brew. Lynn and Dave, who owned the boat and Sue and Bill, who were on board and owned a sailboat at the same dock, were all originally from Newfoundland. As chance would have it, Lynn and Dave have been to the Caribbean several times and had some great tips and stories to tell us about their experience.
They invited us to stay for a second brew and we would have like to but we had to get back and let Filbert out of his water prison. Of course, he was fine but catitude had pervailed and he’d manage to raid the treat drawer while we were out, polishing off 2/3rds of a bag of kitty treats. (This is a regular occurrence with this cat and his treat budget is getting quite ridiculous).
It was a lovely night on the water, with sail boats on anchor and a couple of cabin parties taking place on shore. As the night darkened, the moon rose illuminating the water and the night brightened. Gradually, we could hear the chatter of people around us and fiddle music wafting across the water. It was the perfect summer evening, in every way. We had to leave the Bras d’or lake the next morning but we both decided that a longer stopover on our return would be a must.
The next morning we headed for the locks, which I have to admit was exciting for me because I have never traversed a lock system before. Al has done it many times. Essentially, a lock is a means to get your boat from one part of a waterway to another, traversing different water heights. You enter a gated portion, which is closed off and the water height is lowered or raised to match the water system you are moving into.
We came out of the Bras D’or lakes and headed towards Halifax which we were hoping would be a quick jaunt. But, nature was not having any of our plans and we ended up having a bit of a rough sail that day with a good swell and gusting winds. After 8 hours we decided to pull into a place called Tor Bay around 4 pm (not that Torbay) and put the anchor down. We were using a travel guide for the coast of Nova Scotia that had good information on anchorages, wharves, marinas etc. and this guide said that Tor Bay was a decent anchorage. Except in a northerly wind. And guess which wind was prevailing that night?
It took a good hour to get the anchor in place and secure a second one so we felt safe that night. By that time we were beat! We went below and had a scotch to get the blood flowing again because it had turned cool. Usually we are so tired after these long day sails that we turn in around 9 pm. Al however spent most of the night on anchor-watch duty which essentially means no sleep.
The next morning the winds had eased and we set off once again to see how far we could make it. We were trying to reach Halifax in order to get some work on the boat. But as you know, you cannot hurry Mother Nature or the ocean and once again we were sailing in a good sea swell with winds that were not optimal. Not a big deal as this day was much warmer and the swell was smoother. There were more boats around this leg as well as some seals and dolphins.
We anchored once again in a place called Spry Harbour, which was a much more placid place to stay the night. We set our sights on Halifax for the morning and determined to get up early enough to ensure we’d complete this leg of our trip. Sure enough the next day was gorgeous and the sunrise was golden and uplifting.
There’s nothing quite as affirming as a sunrise on the ocean; its impossible not to feel good when you witness it. Siting on deck with a coffee in hand, everything covered in dew and watching the light turn from pink to golden is a experience you never tire of watching.
We made good time under perfect conditions and sailed the whole way to Halifax Harbour, arriving around 11:30 am. It took much longer to get in through the harbour as a tug was in front of us guiding a hull of a ship. This was one of 3 hulls that the Irving company was bringing in to assemble ships for offshore contracts they had recently acquired. After a slow procession down the bay we puled into the Dartmouth Yacht club for the night, as the tide was too low to get us into Seamasters dock where we’ll be tied up for the next week, to get our work done.
We went out for a bite and a beer at a local microbrewery, and that beer tasted so good! We were both baked from being in the hot sun all day and also feeling a little unsteady on our feet, having been on the water for almost 15 days.
It seems we have finally gotten our sea legs and we’ve become more accustomed to living on board rather than on land. Still, all 3 of us were happy to arrive in Halifax, to have a few days to recoup, replenish supplies, tend to the boat and plan the next leg of our great big sail.