Bras d’ Or Lakes

Halifax to Bras d’ Or Lakes

We departed Halifax on a beautiful sunny and cool Wednesday. Tivoli and Roam both took on fuel at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron, paid for our two-week stay, and motored out of Northwest Arm at lunchtime. We had anticipated leaving on Thursday as I had a mail delivery scheduled but the mail arrived early so we took advantage of the nice weather to leave early and join the rest of the Nordhavns headed for the village of St. Peters on Bras d ’Or Lakes. We met up with N47 Bluewater, and N55 Salty Dawg right at the entrance to Northwest Arm. N47 Happy and N55 Cathexis had departed a few hours earlier. N76 Seafox and N57 Worknot were already waiting in St. Peters.

As we headed east we enjoyed a smooth ride; long short swells on our starboard bow and no wind. The Lugger hummed along and the miles slowly passed. By nightfall around 8:30 PM we had reached the halfway point. The little traffic we had seen during the day gave us the impression we would have an easy and calm evening. It didn’t turn out that way.

I’m on the 9PM to midnight watch when we encounter several vessels headed straight toward us. It turned out all were tall ships headed for a rendezvous in Halifax including the famous Bluenose II from Lunenburg. It was fun to “see” these magnificent ships at night sailing by within a half mile. We had seen several of them at the America’s Cup in Bermuda so the names were familiar.

Among the traffic is an unknown vessel, no AIS, no response to radio, and no visible lights. Happy had alerted us to a sailboat running without lights an hour or two earlier so it wasn’t a surprise. Thankfully, its radar return was good; in many cases sailboats are nearly invisible on radar. This vessel became the source of a bit of anxiety on Tivoli. I tracked her progress for an hour or more; she was headed in the same direction as our fleet but on a converging course. As the time ticked by and she got closer and closer I was getting nervous. I step outside on the Portuguese bridge and scanned the horizon with my stabilized binoculars and cannot see her, then run back into the pilothouse to view the radar. After several of these excursions the boat was now within a quarter mile. I was about to take evasive action when the boat turned 180 degrees and stopped. Tivoli zoomed by and I managed to get a look at her with our FLIR camera. Definitely a sailboat, still no observable lights. Fortunately, she stayed put while Roam, Bluewater and Salty Dawg safely passed. Clark on Roam said he could see a very dim light on bow and stern, both white and possibly flashlights. We followed her on radar as she receded in the distance and she remained drifting. Very odd, not to mention dangerous, behavior.

By dawn we had reached the Canso Straights and by lunch were we approaching the St. Peters Canal. A single lock must be traversed to lower us 2 feet into Bras d’ Or Lakes. Unfortunately, some repairs were underway so we were obliged to tie up to the seawall and wait 4 hours. Good time for lunch and an opportunity to stretch our legs. Finally, repairs were completed and we all transited the lock and made our way to Lion’s Marina in St. Peters. If the scenery here is any indication the rest of Bras d’ Or Lakes will be stunning. (The term Lake is inappropriate as the Bras d’ Or Lakes are inland seas; all saltwater). All the Nordhavn crews spent a quiet night at the marina catching up on sleep after the crossing. All-in-all a very pleasant run.

St. Peter’s To Little Harbor

We enjoyed a delightful Friday evening gathering on N76 Sea Fox. The crews aboard the entire 8-member fleet showed up and marveled at the spacious 76-footer, shared introductions, and told sea stories. A remarkable collection of cruisers with a vast range of experiences and a willingness to share all. This cruising life continues to amaze us.

Most of the fleet departed the lovely St. Peters Lions Marina on a Saturday morning. Bluewater, Happy and Cathexis headed to Manskell Cove, not far from Baddeck. Roam and Tivoli were off to Little Harbor. Worknot, Sea Fox, and Salty Dawg remained at St. Peters. After winding our way through narrow channels and around islands we emerged onto Bras d’ Or Lake proper. Long and wide and flat calm. We had a delightful 17 nautical mile run to Little Harbor, passing several coves with sailboats at anchor but meeting no other boats. This is a beautiful cruising ground. It is forested and hilly with countless islands, coves, and bays in which to anchor. There are a number of summer homes here and there, but the lake is very sparsely populated. Baddeck is the largest town with all of 1000 inhabitants. The entrance to Little Harbor is interesting. You run directly to the shore and not 50 feet from hitting the beach you make a hard right and squeeze through a narrow channel. The harbor opens up into a half-mile wide circular bay. We expected to find the typical weekend crowd. Nobody there. Before dark, 3 sailboats arrive and anchor in the large harbor. How lovely. We are surrounded by forest, green meadows, streams running into the harbor, marsh, small beaches, and two isolated summer cottages. Temperatures are in the mid-70’s during the day and mid-50’s at night. Cool. This is why we came north; beautiful uncrowded cruising grounds and cool temperatures!

Little Harbor to Maskell Harbor

We left Little harbor and made our way to Maskell Harbor to join the Nordhavns Bluewater, Cathexis and Happy. Maskell is a delightful harbor marked by a non-functioning lighthouse at the entrance. This protected bay is surrounded by wooded hills and a verdant valley sloping upwards at its head. We tendered to shore and hiked the rocky beach. Happy hour aboard Cathexis was enjoyed by all.

Maskell Harbor to Baddeck

Next day its on to Baddeck. We had spent a night here on our Cabot Trail road trip but it is always a different experience arriving by boat. The lovely harbor is filled with sailboats on moorings and now 5 Nordhavns. We enjoy pizza at Tom’s and stroll main street stopping at various places to do errands; post office, hardware store, marine supply shop, grocery, etc. Bluewater and Happy will spend a few more days in Baddeck then head to Prince Edward Island for a week or so. Tivoli and Roam are heading north to Newfoundland.

Baddeck to Kelly’s Cove

It is a scant 19 miles from Baddeck to the inlet where Bras d’ Or Lakes drain into the St. Lawrence Seaway. A small cove lies just inside the narrow inlet and that is where we decided to hole up for the crossing to Newfoundland. The run up Great Bras d’ Or to Kelly’s Cove is uneventful. Weather is sunny and warm, evenings are cool. Just the reason we came so far north. I’m a bit nervous about transiting the inlet in the morning. Currents here can exceed 5 knots. The whole of Bras d’ Or drains into the sea so an incoming tide against an outgoing current can create rough conditions. Strong whirlpools have been known to toss small vessels around. We shall soon see what awaits us as we intend to depart at first light direct to Port aux Basque, Newfoundland.

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