Nova Scotia et. al. – Beautiful Atlantic Canada!

The ‘Ocean Pearl’ is on the move –

Some highlights since we departed from Annapolis, Maryland, June 1st, 2013:


– A straight overnight passage from Atlantic City, NJ. Approach from the iffy south through the shoals. An evening on board Nordhavn 46 ‘Egret’. Delighted that we were able to catch up with our fellow Nordhavn Atlantic Rally and world cruiser pals Scott and Mary Flanders. We swapped stories and discussed passages over a wonderful mahi-mahi dinner Scott prepared. Our wakes crossed as they are bound for Nova Scotia, Greenland and ultimately Iceland where they will “winter over”, no s_ _ _!

Scott and Mary Flanders of N46 ‘Egret’

After a brief respite on the Grey Lady (Nantucket)we boarded our friends, David & Debbie Sidbury and Nordhavn owners – N68, ‘Grace of Tides’. We left in a hurry to avoid hurricane ‘Andrea’ as she made her way north. Fortunately we had decent seas and scooted just ahead of Andrea. The storm raged through a few hours after we put in to our first landfall in Nova Scotia (New Scotland) – the quaint and historic Shelburne Harbor.

Tied up in Shelburne, NS…where we got a special tour of the Canadian vessel CG Sir William Alexander

Andrea brought cold and nasty weather but we were warmly welcomed at the Shelburne Yacht Club where we met fun locals at their Friday night happy hour. We listened to a retired Grand Banks fisherman (known here as fish harvesters). He told wild stories about his fishing days. Including being rescued from a life raft after his boat went out from him. We learned a “retired” GB fisherman is a rarity… many don’t make it that long. He then told us about a boat driving maneuver that fish harvesters use called “dodging the spot”. This is a storm survival tactic that can be effectively used when things really get iffy, eh? Iffy – his definition – big winds driving huge waves, with destabilizing ice forming on the rigging, a sure recipe for disaster. He said he was successful in using this survival technique on several dicey occasions. He then bent over and in a hushed tone suggested we visit the Seaman’s memorial and reflect on those that were not successful at it.


– As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the town of Lunenburg is a bustling working water front with red wooden warehouses, brightly hued (yellow, green, pink, etc, ) homes that feature architectural details like a widows walk and the Lunenburg bump, which are unique to this area. Why the brilliant colors? So the fish harvesters could see them in the fog.

We arrived on one of the few days the sun elected to appear so we thoroughly enjoyed the colorful waterfront. Time to eat and it’s no surprise there is a plentiful array of seafood available in this region; lobsters, bay scallops, mussels, oysters, haddock on and on…all fresh and delicious!

 Entering Lunenburg harbor

More of Lunenburg waterfront

The Jones’ and the Sidbury’s

Sadly, our time was too brief in Lunenburg. We bid farewell to the Sidburys and the two of us made our way to Halifax. Upon departure the fog immediately set in – another characteristic of the area. Nasty sea conditions and high winds (gusts up to 35 knots on the nose – bow) accompanied the dense fog. After a couple of hours of getting really pounded we abandoned Halifax and diverted to St. Margarets Bay to find a protected anchorage.

Nova Scotia is known for its many islands and rocky shoreline. Very soon we confirmed the rock part. We made for a small fog shrouded cove that was recommended in one of our pilot books. There were a few mooring balls in the small bay and marks on the chart indicating rocks. We debated over where to drop anchor, how much to drop, are the charts accurate, are ALL the rocks shown, etc. By 1 pm with trepidation the anchor was set and the snubber was on. We sat for awhile in the pilothouse watching the wind climb and our uncomfortable swinging toward some visible rocks. At about 3 pm as the tide was flowing out much to our horror we saw a huge rock slowly begin to emerge. It appeared as a result of the lowering tide and was only 30 feet off our starboard bow. The winds were expected to clock around and move the boat to of course that direction! Knowing that rocks and fiberglass boats don’t mix we fired up the engines, put our foul weather gear back on, hauled the anchor and took a quick glance at the charts. Moving through the fog six miles later we lucked on to a well protected anchorage, mud bottom for good holding and all to ourselves. Ahhh… a good night’s sleep, but what might have been!


– Permanently settled in 1749 by the British as a key Royal Navy port, Halifax is the largest city in the Atlantic Provinces and one of the key ports in eastern North America. A bustling center of commerce this historic waterfront was enhanced by urban renewal in the mid 60’s. Today it’s a vibrant sea front filled with museums, shops and restaurants. We were tied up right in the middle of this waterfront hustle and bustle (think Newfoundland, not NYC).

Halifax is a terrific city to see on foot. Some worthwhile visits are the Citadel fortification that occupies the hill overlooking the harbor, the international farmers market and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Especially intriguing is the Nova Scotian perspective on the Titanic tragedy presented at the Maritime Museum. Halifax was the closest major port to the spot of the sinking. Shortly after the White Star liner seriously banged ice and went under in 1912, Halifax became in the words of one doctor, “a city of funerals”. Rescue (recovery) vessels brought hundreds of bodies to the city and coffins lined the docks. Some persons were claimed by relatives but most were buried in three Halifax cemeteries.

The museum exhibit debunked the old saw about women and children first. Many men that were passengers in First Class survived but nearly all of the children in Third Class perished. Third Class passengers were barred from the upper decks and even in the event of the emergency could not reach them.

Our dear friend and avid sailor, Kell Auchenbach joined us in Halifax to cruise with us further north and east. Kell has sailed these waters including Cape Breton, Newfoundland and Labrador many times. He has also cruised with us on our boat through Central America and when we crossed the Pacific in 2009 (GSSR).

Braun & Kell securing the storm plates on the windows

Something is seriously wrong here…lawn mowing in the rain…but, then again – it’s raining MOST of the time!

Braun and a few suspect(street performers) characters from ‘Star Wars’ working the Halifax waterfront

St Peter’s Canal/Bras d Or’s Lake –

We arrived ahead of schedule at St Peter’s only to find out that the locks were closed for the next two days due to budgets cuts…appears Canada has its own sequester issues! Nevertheless, we decided it would be worth the layover and visit with American friends Myron(Mike) & Kay Arms who have a beautiful home on Bras d ‘Or Lake. Mike, another avid sailor has sailed these high latitude locales (think Greenland and Iceland) as well as Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark for years. He’s written several books and articles on the subject. We were thrilled to meet with him and get firsthand information of his experiences. Check out his website:

Scenic view entering St Peters

Staging to enter the Bras d’Ors Lake at St Peter lock

Mussels and lobster meal at the Kay an Mike Arms home

View of Bras d’ Ors Lake from the Arms home

St John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador

– We had a wonderful two overnights passage to St John’s. Passage makers frequently describe distance as “overnights” – e. g. two overnights are between 48 and 60 hours of at sea transit time. The scenery was maritime dramatic as we neared the southeastern point of Newfoundland island just as the fog cleared. Kell was thoroughly surprised by the momentary lack of omnipresent fog.

St John’s is the eastern most city on the North American continent. Is sits on one of the best natural harbors and is one of the oldest surviving European settlements in the Americas. Vikings, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Irish and English fisher folk came to harvest cod off the rich Grand banks and settled in St. John’s or the isolated out ports.

Together Newfoundland and Labrador make up Canada’s youngest province both having joined Canada in 1949. Interestingly they had a choice and could have picked the USA. Before teaming up with Canada they were a semi-independent member of the British Empire. Heck…you wouldn’t know it given that there are at least three Irish Pubs on each block in St. John’s where we have been warming up for IrelandJ.

We are berthed on the commercial dock in downtown St. John’s. It is very rough here with the dock full of tugs, fishing boats, oil rig tow and supply vessels, Canadian Coast Guard ice breakers, tankers, freighters, etc. Definitely not for pleasure yachts. We are the only one. These ships bring lots of sailors to town and that means bars like on George St.

The ‘Pearl’ wedged in amonsgt the many commercial ships

We had to move to accomodate the Canandian Navy ship…no problem ~

The view of the St John’s harbor from Signa Hill…note – the arrow where the boat is berthed

George St. is two blocks long (and way too close to where we are berthed!) The street allegedly has the most bars and pubs per square foot of any street in North America. It‘s a rough and tumble sailors Disney Land. Happy Hour starts at noon…til 8pm or later! Closing time is when the last seaman stumbles out. Braun loves it. He says it compares well to some of his other favorites – Olongapo in the Philippines, Russell St. in Hong Kong, Repperbahn in Hamburg, Roppongi in Tokyo… he kept going on but I told him I had enough material and although I appeared to stay in the conversation..I drifted to my quiet place and shut down.

A couple old sailors on George St…full moon rising!

And what special goes on in the bars? Try some local color like ”Screechin In” – a Newfoundland sailor’s ritual. Newfoundland Screech is cheap rum sold here with a high alcohol by volume content (how much? nobody knows but everyone agrees – a lot!). In Kentucky it would be moonshine. You can get this stuff in any of the liquor stores. This crude rum has been hyped up from the bathtub made variety by the bar and restaurant marketing gurus. They have promoted a bar ceremony – Screechin In, to increase the bar attendance – like it needed it! But all the marketing hype doesn’t eliminate the burn in your throat and gut from this roughly refined cane juice.

To “Screech-in”.

The ritual basically involves a shot of rum, reciting a pledge and kissing a fish. The Newfie guide book says, “Newfoundland Screech is used in a non-obligatory ceremony known as the “screech-in”. The “screech-in” is an optional ceremony performed on non-Newfoundlanders (known to Newfoundlanders as a “come from away” or “mainlander”).” What’s all this optional, non-obligatory malarkey? Get with it Newfi Tourist Bureau, everybody is screechin’ in! We have seen ‘em. It legitimizes getting smashed!

Skip this if you already have had enough of this Screechin business because it is way more than you probably care to know. The general process of a screech-in varies from pub to pub and community to community, though it often begins with the leader of the ceremony introducing themselves and asking those present if they’d like to become a Newfoundlander. The proper response, of course, would be a hearty “Yes b’y!” Each participant is asked to introduce themselves and where they come from, often interrupted by commentary by the ceremony leader, jokingly poking fun at their accent or hometown. Each holding their shot of Screech, they are then asked “Are ye a screecher?” and are taught the proper response: “‘Deed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!” (Though with a Newfie accent, it often sounds like this: “‘Deed Oi is, mee-all cahk! An’ lahng may-yer big jib-jrah.”) Translated, it means “Yes I am, my old friend, and may your sails always catch wind.” A cod fish – or any other fish ugly enough to suitably replace the cod – is then held up to lip-level of each participant who then bestows the fish with a kiss. Frozen fish are used most commonly in the screech-ins which take place on George St., though occasionally a fresher specimen, if available, will be used. Some pubs will also award certificates to those who have become an honorary Newfie once the screech-in is complete.

Typical street in St John’s

The next few days, we’ll spend making final preparations for the offshore passage to Ireland. Actually there is little left to do. We have spent much of the last year making ready. Only need to top off the fuel, water, and start monitoring the weather and iceberg reports. We also have new crew joining up. Pat & Wayne Davis who have voyaged with us many times on the old Pearl, e.g. crossed the Pacific and later caught us in SE Asia. Also our pal Doug D’Alexander from Vienna, Va., has signed on as well. So we have a perfect watch standing make up of 5 persons on board.

A good look for Doug!

The OP crew touring Cape Spear ~the MOST easterly point in North America: 47 degrees 31′ 14″ N 52 degrees 37′ 26″ N

We’ve come 1300 nautical miles since leaving Annapolis a month ago and we have 1800 left to go. May we have the luck of the Irish with us and then some! As always…we’ll be in touch from the bridge deck of the ‘Ocean Pearl’ …a very little ship in a very big ocean,

Anticpated departure – July 2nd, 2013 our hope is to arrive in Crookhaven, Ireland in about 10 days

over & out ~

Tina & Braun

p.s. By the way, our new website/blog is

p.s. p.s. The people in these Canadian Maritime rural islands have some strange ways about them. For example, do you know what a “thunder coat” is? Neither did we until we met a lady with a small dog in a country hardware store in St. Peter’s Lock, Nova Scotia. The dog had a tight fitting coat on it. The temperature was mild so we asked what the coat was for? The lady said it was going to rain – no kidding, after all we are in the Canadian Maritimes!, but the coat was because the dog feared thunder. The snug fitting wrap calmed it and he was better able to deal with his anxiety. She said it even worked with a friend’s Doberman who had even bigger anxieties and a bigger coat. We thought about our fears and how nice it would be for each of us to have our own “thunder coat”.

2 thoughts on “Nova Scotia et. al. – Beautiful Atlantic Canada!”

  1. SUBJECT: Your trip

    Tina and Braun!
    Bon Voyage!
    Safe travels through the ice.
    Hope to catch up with you soon!

  2. Safe travels to the entire crew! We’ll be keeping up with your adventure…

    Kim and Erik (friends of Doug)

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