Saturday, October 1, 2022

Truth and Reconciliation

We are under way across the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, headed back to the United States after a little more than two months in Canada. It's an overnight passage, arriving tomorrow morning in Rockland, Maine, and as I begin typing I am alone on watch, with six hours until I am relieved.

The view from the pilothouse. Sunset over calm seas.

Sunday after I posted here the seas picked up and the ride got a bit bumpier, at least until we started to get into the lee of Cape Forchu. Turning into the harbor things settled considerably, and by the time we got to the head of the harbor, more than three miles inland and protected by a small spit, it was nearly flat calm. We squeezed in to the tight anchorage and had the hook down by a quarter till three.

After being trapped on the boat for several days by Fiona, we were very happy to drop the tender and head ashore for dinner at Rudders restaurant and brewery, right on the waterfront adjacent to the dock. It was really all we had the energy for, but we would learn later it was the best place in town. We enjoyed dinner over a couple of fresh house drafts.

Cape Forchu Lighthouse. We saw tourists in the lantern.

We had consumed the very last of our beer (the wine ran out long ago) at West Head, and I was facing the prospect of dragging the e-bike out and riding a couple of miles to the liquor store  to replenish the supply, with Monday looking like a rainy, eat-aboard day. So when we learned that we could buy a growler of draft beer right there at the bar, I jumped at the chance, choosing the very nice brown ale. Even having to pay for the growler itself, four pints was very reasonable (for Canada), and it saved me a rainy trip.

After returning from dinner we watched the enormous CAT ferry arrive from Bar Harbor and discharge it's phalanx of cars. While we were sitting there in the pilothouse in front of the plotter, it suddenly occurred to us that the other two anchored boats had probably been here since before the storm and might be on very long scope. That could be a problem when the tide reversed later in the evening, and so we got back in the tender and went over to talk to them, Sure enough they each had over 200' of chain out. We weighed anchor and moved to the very south end of the anchorage (map), splitting the difference between the marina, a shoal, the moorings, and the lobster wharf.

The US Navy's HST-2, chartered to CAT and operating as the Yarmouth-Bar Harbor ferry.

We had a very comfortable night there, but even that spot proved to be short-lived. I was experiencing some pain in my chest on Sunday that escalated through the day and became excruciating overnight. We were both pretty sure it was just a pulled muscle from the shenanigans involved in getting off the boat in West Head, but after my little surprise a year ago, we did not want to take the chance that I'd again have to go to the hospital with the boat at anchor. That was very hard on Louise last time.

Making matters worse, we awoke Monday morning to no Internet; our Starlink terminal had apparently given up the ghost overnight. I spent the first couple of hours of the day trying to resuscitate the terminal, coffee in hand, to no avail. We knew where the hospital was, but learning anything else about health care or looking up symptoms really meant we'd need access. All of this coupled with the possibility we'd need to land a scooter ashore had me calling the marina mid-morning to see if they had room for us.

I have a soft spot for these old signs. This is an operating motel.

The full-service docks at the Killam's Wharf had no room, but they were able to put us on the dock at the Parker-Eakins wharf, where power and water were unavailable due to recent damage. The mostly unused dock had been taken over by seagulls, with the results you might imagine, but the price was right, just $20 per day, plus tax, the same as a mooring, until they get the amenities working again. We were tied up by 10:30 (map) and on the marina WiFi just minutes later.

Thus secure in the knowledge that, if anything went sideways, we could just call a cab, we settled in for a rainy day. I loaded up on NSAIDs and put a heating pad on my chest. But by mid-afternoon, the rain had cleared up, and I was feeling better, and so I strolled the town a bit, with an eye open for another dinner venue.

Sunset over Vector and Doctors Island.

I discovered in short order that it is a very small town, with few restaurants and even fewer open on a Monday. We ended up walking to the Grand Hotel, which might have been more grand at some point but was clearly frozen in the 60s, when the current brutalist structure replaced something more worthy of the Grand moniker. We ate in the sad little restaurant, which at least had one beer on draft and where the food was decent. Louise had a very local specialty called Rappie Pie, which I am not even going to try to explain.

Tuesday was a lovely day, sunny but brisk, and I was feeling even better, so after lunch I set up the e-bike, gingerly walked it down the guano-covered dock, and rode into town, On the muscle-pain theory I had called around in the morning and scored a massage appointment at a spa that had a cancellation, but I first rode up to the big-box end of town to do some final provisioning at the Walmart Super-Centre and pick up some beer at the liquor store that was more to Louise's liking than the brown we had in the growler.

The Milton Clock Tower and a replica of the old train station, now a Tim Horton's.

In the evening we walked a few blocks to one of the restaurants that had been closed Monday, only to find it shuttered for repairs. We ended up right back at Rudders, which is so popular that we had to sit at the bar both times or else wait a long time for a table. At least they had a varied menu, and we were fond of the beer.

Over dinner we discussed the passage weather and future plans. When we first came around the cape to Yarmouth, our intent had been to continue around the peninsula and across the Bay of Fundy to St Johns, New Brunswick for our final stop in Canada. But the reality had set in that we'd be leaving Nova Scotia today at the earliest, a month after arriving in Canso, just 370 nautical miles ago. That's a full month to make ten days of progress.

5.5 ton anchor from the ferry MV Bluenose, which broke a fluke caught in rocks off Cape Forchu. An indicator of how strong the seas are here.

The detour to St Johns would similarly take another full week if not more, putting us halfway into October. And this late in the season, the weather windows get shorter and farther between. We had to concede that we needed to use the next window to go west to Maine, getting as far as the window would allow.

With a couple of days before we could leave, on Wednesday I took the little self-guided walking tour of town, using a map I got at the visitor center earlier in the week. It mostly covered various private homes that date back to the 19th century and are representative of various periods. Not usually my kind of tour, but I was struck by how well-preserved the entire town was, considering the age of the structures and the harshness of the environment here. The townfolk are very proud of their history and take good care of it.

One example of the many well-preserved houses I passed.

Mindful of our experience the previous evening, on my walk I swung by the well-rated pizza place I had picked out for dinner, which was reported closed Monday and Tuesday, only to find it, too, shuttered for good. So at dinner time we ended up walking a full mile to the other Italian place at the end of town, Marco's. I had made a reservation, which turned out to be essential.

Today is Truth and Reconciliation Day, a national holiday, and the marina office is closed. So yesterday, among the other preparations for our departure, I settled up, and returned the key to the laundry facilities. Louise used up the rest of our Canadian cash doing three loads. She prefers our own machines on board, but with no water available at the dock that was not really an option. We're leaving the country with just three loonies left.

The other half of the Bluenose exhibit.

Having exhausted all the other options in town, we went back to Rudders last night for a final dinner. I also had them refill the growler, making our final beer purchase in Canada the best deal yet. We once again ate at the bar. There are almost no tourists here -- the ferry passengers don't stop, but just keep driving after leaving Customs -- so these are locals filling the place every night.

The timing of our passage is such that we could not leave until mid-day today, so in the morning we walked over to Sips cafe for a breakfast sandwich, then moved Vector to a newly vacant spot on the main dock to take on water before leaving. I also got the last of the recycling off the boat; they accept it everywhere in Canada, and it will be much harder to recycle back in the US.

I found the tower on this 1862 home particularly interesting.

The timing meant leaving on the flood, and we putted out of the harbor against a knot of current. After rounding Cape Forchu we found ourselves in the heavy tidal currents of the Bay of Fundy, and I fiddled with heading mode on the autopilot all day to account for set and drift. Just letting the autopilot compensate is inefficient in a reversing current like this.

That meant drifting north a good bit in the heavy flood, and then I had to go even a bit further north to leave the infamous Lurcher Shoal to port. This shoal, rising to a depth of just six feet from a seafloor forty times that depth, claimed many ships before the Canadians stationed a lightship here.

Dinner under way on our weathered Weber Q electric.

We had Internet courtesy of my cell phone all the way out to 26 nautical miles from shore, which we mostly used to track the progress of Hurricane Ian right up to dinner time. It's been absolutely heartbreaking to watch the devastation in Florida, where some friends lost their boat and many more friends have a long road ahead, and we fear tomorrow morning's news will reveal yet more destruction in the Carolinas.

It was calm enough out here at dinner time that I was able to grill up some brats, which went very well with a small glass of the brown ale. We have not seen another soul on the water since leaving Yarmouth, but as we were eating dinner we passed the CAT ferry on its way back from Bar Harbor.

Sunset at sea.

As I wrap up typing we are back in US waters, having crossed the border about two hours ago. That means we're also back in the Eastern Time Zone, but for now the ship's clocks are still on Atlantic Daylight Time so as not to mess with the watch schedule. We will set the clocks back one hour when I come back on watch at 0900 ADT. I'll upload this post sometime thereafter, and my next post here will be under way southbound along the Maine coast.

Update: We have our Internet back, courtesy of our AT&T hot spot, just as I am ending my watch. I expected to have to wait till morning; I'm glad I can post it now because I'll be pretty busy when I come back on watch, navigating into port.


  1. Hi Sean. Just want to tell you how much I appreciate reading these reports. It makes me feel as if I’m right there with you. I have much admiration for the lifestyle you and Louise are living -something I’d love to do in another life. My best to you both as the adventure continues!

    1. Thanks for the words of encouragement and for following along.


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