Has summer arrived?
When we reached Cape Breton Island we thought summer had finally arrived. However, since then the weather has been more capricious than ever. Steaming hot sunny days have been interspersed by more prolonged periods of wet and foggy weather, as a seemingly never ending series of small weather systems have tracked through.
The scenery has been equally varied. The vertical chalk cliffs and mountains of the Cape Breton Highlands have progressively given way to the flatter but possibly even more wild and remote eastern shore of Nova Scotia.
The Bras d'Or lakes, which lay between the 2, were different again. Largely immune from the effects of the Labrador current and with water temperatures significantly higher than the ocean outside, they seem to enjoy a microclimate that is quite different from surrounding areas, and in particular are far less prone to fog, a fact that makes them a very popular cruising and holiday destination.
We enjoyed 2 very peaceful and relaxing days working our way southwards through the Bras d'Or Lakes before crossing Chedabucto Bay to Nova Scotia's Eastern shore. It may have only been a short crossing, but as so often before in this trip, it marked a massive transition in economic fortunes. Gone were the opulent summer mansions lining the shores of the Bras d'Or lakes, in their place a series of once thriving harbours now struggling to eke out an existence from what is left of the fishing industry.
However, from a cruising yachtsman's perspective Nova Scotia's eastern shore is a veritable paradise, as long as your vision of paradise doesn't include having a marina berth and hot showers every night! The entire 120nm stretch of coast from Chedabucto bay to Halifax is littered with sheltered bays and inlets. Not much passage planning is required. You simply keep heading south west until you are tired of sailing for the day, then turn right and within a few miles you can find a perfectly sheltered, and in all probability completely deserted, anchorage for the night.
The one exception to this pattern was a passage up the winding Liscomb River to reach Liscomb Lodge, a wonderfully secluded spot which has a pontoon with just enough space for 2 yachts but with showers, sauna, hot tub, swimming pool and a very pleasant restaurant overlooking the river. Supper of scallop ceviche and salmon cooked on a cedar plank completed our brief lapse into luxury!
After 4 days of motoring with light fickle winds and patchy fog, the wind finally swung round to the north west, bringing with it clear skies and giving us a fine close fetch for the final 40 miles into Halifax. As we sailed into Halifax harbour, only to be confronted with more AIS targets in the space of 10 minutes than we have seen in the last 2 years, we felt that a chapter had ended.
The wide empty spaces of the north are now behind us, at least for a while, and for the rest of the summer we will be back in territory where seeing another cruising yacht is no longer a rarity. It may take a bit of getting used to but there is a purpose to our foray into more temperate waters. After 4 seasons and almost 20,000 miles of sailing without a proper refit we need to find a boatyard this winter where we can get some deep maintenance work carried out. The search has started.