Saturday, August 23, 2014

South and East Coast of Newfoundland

Gros Morne National Park

         Land Ho! And there it is......'The Rock', as it is aptly called, is rugged, often barren, and at times foggy and wet, and always breathtaking in it's unexpected beauty. The names alone are as enchanting as the fairies; 'Little Heart's Ease', 'Come-by-Chance', and 'Heart's Delight', are only a few. For years the life's blood of Newfoundland was Cod fishing, so the settlements, often inaccessible by land, grew up around the fishery. As the fishing died out the residents were offered an incentive to relocate to the urban centers.  Consequently, most of the small outposts are now virtual ghost towns.  Former residents and their families return to these abandoned outposts, to their roots, usually in summer to reminisce about the old times.
Gros Morne

Lobster Pots galore!
          Our first port of call after a lumpy overnighter, was Port aux Basque, a rough and ready industrious little seaport on the South East coast. Next morning we decided to be on our way ahead of the weather but were driven back into the harbour by 25 knot winds and bucking seas. Fortunately, our neighbouring sailors were able to grab a line and wrestle us onto the dock against blustery winds. Whew!
Port aux Basque, NFL

Gros Morne
             Safe as houses once again, we opted to take time out to visit Cornerbrook by bus and the well-extolled Gros Morne National Park. The taxi driver assured us there was ' nothing of interest along the way', but as we settled in for the ride the soaring peaks and rocky faces around every turn, told us otherwise. We soon ascended into God's Country, Gros Morne, a vast expanse of green mountain fiords and clear lakes. After a days hiking and exploring we returned to our coach bus and charming Newfie tour guide Sarah of the red hair. Our second attempt to head out of the harbour was more successful and next morning we cruised into the forgotten French colony of the St. Pierre Miquelon Islands. This tiny enclave of France clings hesitantly to the coast of Newfoundland, a relic of the old seafaring days of colonization.

                                               "There once was a puffin just the shape of a muffin
                                                And he lived on an island in the bright blue sea.
                                                 He ate little fishes that were most delicious,
                                                And he had them for dinner and he had them for tea".
  St. Pierre, Miquelon
          Zut Alors! Who would expect this miniature outpost of the French republic here of all places, off the East Coast of Newfoundland? In the 1700's and 1800's England and France fought over the islands and eventually in 1816 they came permanently under the French flag. The town of St. Pierre is nestled between verdant rocky hillsides surrounding an industrious fishing harbour. And yes, the Puffins have arrived huddled together in little flocks! Once ashore we investigated the quiet streets, stopping in for a baguette lunch and observing an amazing selection of delicacies from escargot to truffles in the shops. We dined at L'Atelier Gourmand, a little slice of Paris transported to SPM. In true French fashion it was a 'belle experience culinaire! Back out in the fog we planned our final leg of the journey north via the outposts of Burin and Merasheen, to St. John's.
St. Pierre, Miquelon
           'Oh a little piece of heaven fell from out o' the sky one day'.....and they called it Merasheen.
The waves were crashing over the decks and the winds snorting when we spotted the channel marker and made our way tentatively into the tiny harbour of Merasheen Island,(from the French Mira-Chien or Sea Dog Island ). Inside, a minute dark figure awaited us on the dock. We gratefully threw a line to Ray Hann, brother of our friend and 'boat chaplain' Father William. The usual hearty Newfoundland welcome followed with greetings from Gail, his wife and friends. The majesty and serenity of this remote outpost is startling! There are only nine actual summer residents and virtually no one in the wintertime. However, this gem of a hamlet was once the home of the Hann family and many others. The government relocation program has left most of the cabins empty but every few years they hold a reunion. With the proliferation of the generations there are now over 250 people who attend the gathering of the clans.
Ray and Gail on Merasheen

Little Merasheen Bay
         That evening we dined in style at the home of Ray and Gail. A windy grass lane led us about half a mile through pastures and hillsides spotted with many deserted cabins. At the end of the lane sat a lovely cottage with a gorgeous view of Little Merasheen Bay. Inside Ray was cooking up a batch of his specialty fish cakes and Gail amused us with the fascinating history of the island. We chatted with Father William by phone from Trinity, vowing to meet up in St. John's. Later Ray escorted us home in pitch dark via his off-road quad vehicle. But time and tide wait for no man, and the following afternoon we bade our hosts farewell at the dock to a rousing chorus of 'Farewell to Merasheen' by all the villagers. Tomorrow we will arrive at Trepassey and then across the inhospitable seas past Cape Race to our final destination of St. John's.
Merasheen village

The villagers sing Farewell to Merasheen!

Merasheen Harbour entrance

                                 " Ship and boat diverged; the cold, damp night breeze blew between;
                                    a screaming gull flew overhead; the two hulls wildly rolled;
                                    we gave three heavy-hearted cheers, and blindly plunged like fate
                                    into the lone Atlantic."
                                                                            Moby Dick,  Herman Melville      
Painted houses of St. John's
The crew of CBC awaits us at the dock!
Arrival at St. John's, NFL
Celebrating with Brendan
Merasheen Boy, Father William and Friends

Rob, the new First Mate arrives for the long trek home


Bermuda or Bust!

       And so ends this chapter of The Voyage of Chantey V and it's crew. After over fifteen thousand miles  and endless stories to tell of life's rich pageant on the sea, the first mate returns home to terra firma and el Capitain embarks on the long voyage homeward. First stop....Bermuda! 
       As the weather cleared Daragh and Rob drift out into the mists, four days westward to Halifax and then another seven days straight south to the island of Bermuda.....and beyond.
Stay tuned for more adventures from the captain's log of Daragh Benignus Nagle.
                                           "We shall not cease from exploration,
                                             And the end of all our exploring
                                             Will be to find ourselves at the beginning,
                                            And know that place for the first time."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bras d'Or Lakes N.S.

Baddeck Regatta Days 
Bras d'Or Lakes, N.S.
        It was time to take a break from the high seas, so we slipped inside the St. Peter's Canal Locks which opens into the scenic and very placid Bras d'Or Lakes. This inland waterway of  lakes is rimmed with rural villages and farms leading northward to Cape Breton. At St. Peter's we were met by many helpful cruisers, and participated in our first Ceilidh (Celtic music party). The local talent hosted some amazing singers, fiddle players, and even our very own Daragh Nagle on mandolin! Last stop was Baddeck at the head of the famous Cabot Trail where we passed our time visiting the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, more ceilidhs (that's pronounced kay-lee in Gaelic), and attended a dance at the Baddeck Y.C. Next day Daragh did a few more of the never ending Chantey V chore list - one which led to the top of the mast!

St Peters Lock

 Cabot Trail, Cape Breton.
        No wonder the Scots settled on Cape Breton Island which reminded them of the homeland with it's high peaks and luscious green fiords. We headed for terra firma, rented a car, and started up the valley into the Highlands. Along the rugged coastline we drove a sliver of highway through the emerald mountains, soaring capes and sheer cliff faces. We passed the petite French village of Cheticamp and then up into Highlands National Park and the Skyline Trail. Hiking several miles to the coast one emerges at a vast expanse of scenic cliffs dropping dramatically to the crashing waves below. The boardwalk steps afford a panoramic view of this breathtaking vista!
Skyline trail on Cabot Trail
        At the North tip of Cape Breton we settled in for the night at The Markland, a picturesque and windswept setting with a lodge and log cottages, where we celebrated Daragh's birthday! Carrying on through the park you travel through Ingonish, and St. Ann's Bay where we toured the Gaelic College. This college was established to encourage the Gaelic language, music and culture of the early settlers.
       Traveling across country we left the Cabot Trail and drove to Louisbourg on the North Coast. Louisbourg was the stronghold of the French navy who first established a post here in the 1600's. The English eventually took the fort, but the entire village and fort remains has been rebuilt as it existed in the day. The sturdy French stone houses, dairy, munitions, storerooms and fortress walls make an impressive sight against the skyline. After a pleasant evening at The Cranberry B and B we rose for the last leg of the journey home, through Glace Bay and Sydney, where we hopped a bus to Baddeck. Back on Chantey V we turned northward for Dingwall, the final stop before crossing over to Newfoundland.
Fort Louisbourg

The crew of Cat's Paw 1V

Dingwall NS
  Before we could reach Dingwall we tucked into a tiny cove to wait for the current to subside in the Big Bras d'Or channel. As luck would have it, there in the harbour was a sailboat out of Victoria BC! At the dock we met Ann and Barry and family aboard Cat's Paw IV. It was time for a BURP  (Bluewater Unscheduled Rendezvous Party), as we listened to their tales and challenges of world cruising. Next stop Newfoundland!

                                                      "Farewell to Nova Scotia the sea bound coast,
                                                        Let your mountains dark and drear-y be,
                                                        For when I am far away on the briney ocean tossed,
                                                        Will you ever hear a sigh or a wish for me?"

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Portland, Maine, Bay of Fundy to Halifax

Love Locks
Portland to Boothbay, Maine
              We spent a few days at the marina in the bustling city of Portland, Maine, re-provisioning and preparing for the trip northeast back to the homeland and Nova Scotia shores. Last stop in the good ol' U.S.of A. was Boothbay, one of those enchanting New England fishing towns you only see in the movies. A minefield of lobster pots awaited us in the bay, as we picked out way stealthily along and anchored in the harbour. While not quite as 'picture-perfect' as some of the harbour towns of Maine, it quickly became our favoured spot for it's charm and quality of being a real 'working-man's' town. But time marches on and we reluctantly hauled anchor a few days later for a double-overnighter crossing the Bay of Fundy.

 The Bay of Fundy to Shelburne  Nova Scotia

              The Bay of Fundy has some of the biggest tides in the world,(over 40 ft!), and consequently, some of the strongest currents. Fortunately, the seas were calm with light winds, and we crossed uneventfully in to Canada. We tied to the dock at the historic town  of Shelburne at the  Shelburne yacht club. Suddenly you're in the Maritimes! A rugged, foggy coastline, fish docks and simple framed solid wood shake pioneer homes, and friendly folk. The cruisers have returned after their notable absence on the trip north. We will wait it our here for the weather to clear before heading to Lunenburg and Halifax for the 'craic' (fun) as Daragh would say!

Shelburne YC 

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
                  A thick fog had descended as we crept out of the harbour towards the whimsical fishing village of Lunenburg. Bright red store fronts and colourful houses peeked out of the mist as we side-tied to the pier, right next door to the famous Bluenose 2, modeled on the fastest schooner on the East Coast. Tourists gathered on the waterfront to get a closer look and hear talks of the plight of those early seafaring vessels, and the tiny wooden dories that hand line fished the ocean for Cod and Haddock. The cheery, red buildings, we were told, were not merely decorative, but designed to aid sailors in finding their way when the ubiquitous 'pea soup' of fog shrouded their passage home. The whole town is built on a steep hillside, a very pretty sight to behold, and to explore on foot.
The Bluenose 2
Lunenburg NS

            Another day socked in with the inevitable fog. The skies cleared, mercifully, as we entered Halifax harbour, the largest deep sea port on the entire coast. We docked under sunny skies at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. In the morning we taxied in to town for a brief but pleasant surprise  visit with friends from Victoria, Christine and Craig James, and daughter Taylor. After breakfast the boardwalk was already alive with entertainment and revelry of all kinds; acrobats, jugglers, carnival rides, and of course, musicians. We spent a couple of hours at Pier 21, the immense immigration depot where all new immigrants to Canada were processed up until the 1960's. The captivating stories of so many people fleeing wars and seeking a new life in Canada tugged at the heart strings. Next was the exceptional Maritime Museum with many displays including the great explosion of 1917 when a war ships loaded with explosives collided with another in the harbour and devastated the city, killing over 2000 people! Also, the rescue efforts of the people of Halifax for the disastrous sinking of the Titanic that fateful night in 1912.
Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron 

Christine and Craig James 

Brian and Daragh on board Hat Trick
Immigration Pier 21
         At the harbour dock we met our neighbour from the RNSYC, Brian,who invited us aboard his 40ft. power boat Hat Trick. Brian has the distinction of being a former NHL hockey player and member of the Pittsburg Penguins! We ended an eventful day at the Old Triangle, Irish Pub (where else?), where we were pleasantly entertained by two talented Newfoundland girls and some excellent fiddle playing to a packed house. These folks really know how to party!
Halifax Fiddlers

                                 " So here I lay in my 23rd year,
                                  How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now,
                                  It's been six years since I sailed away
                                   And I just made Halifax yesterday,
                                   God damn them all!
                                   I was told we'd cruise the seas for American gold,
                                   We'd fire no guns, shed no tears,
                                   Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier,
                                   The last of Barrett's Privateers"
                                                                                      Stan Rogers