For those who are not aware, Milt and Judy were the original owners of Solution. They stopped cruising and sold their boat in order to focus on Bluwater Books. They have sold that business and taken up cruising in a trawler. This article was taken from the Bluewater Books site. The books which are mentioned are available from Bluewater Books. Please take a look at their site and order from them so they don't get angry about passing on their stuff via our website. Thanks. Howard
Editor's note: Bluewater's founders, Milt and Judy Baker, return to cruising the Northeast coast following their first trip to Maine last summer. This year's cruise takes them north to Halifax, Nova Scotia before they head back Down East for more exploration of Maine's shoreline.
In this article they share their passage to Nova Scotia aboard their Grand Banks 42 trawler, Bluewater and provide helpful hints on clearing into a Maritime Province.
Visit Nova Scotia for a Cool Change
If you're tired of the crowd and are looking for cool cruising off the beaten path, consider heading to Nova Scotia. The cruising is wonderful, the people are among the world's friendliest, and your dollar will buy one-third more in Canada than in the U.S.
Our Grand Banks 42 trawler Bluewater left Fort Lauderdale on May 10, and cleared into Nova Scotia six weeks later. We had a nice leisurely trip north --about half offshore-- stopping along the way to smell the roses in North Carolina, the Chesapeake, Newport, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.
Bluewater was a little ahead of the season in southern New England. The moorings and marinas at Block Island were mostly deserted when we arrived in early June. The person on the phone at Old Port Cove almost laughed at us when Judy called to ask whether we'd be able to find a mooring at Newport; when we arrived hundreds were available.
Same story at Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. We had shared dinner with friends at the very classy Edgartown Yacht Club and learned that it had opened for the season only the week before. But the water in Edgartown was warm enough for swimming. At nearby Nantucket, the marina was nearly empty and moorings were on sale for $35 a night, half the in-season rate, though the ferries disgorging day-tripping tourists seemed to arrive every 20 minutes.
At that point we were very pleased with our plan to head north ahead of the crowd. Then came our passage from Nantucket across the mouth of the Gulf of Maine to southern Nova Scotia.
We'd had plenty of opportunities to become reacquainted with fog during our couple of weeks in southern New England, so we were not concerned when we motored out into the patchy fog off Nantucket to begin the 275-mile run to Nova Scotia. Air and water temperatures were in the high sixties, and it was June 21, the longest day of the year.
Once we crossed the Boston shipping lanes early in the passage, we didn't see another vessel except the Grand Banks 42 Felicity, our cruising partner, for more than 12 hours. Early the next morning we were approaching the 200-mile mark in the Labrador Current; water temperature had dropped to the low 40s, air temperature the low 50s, winds were 20 knots, and the chill factor 37 degrees. A thick blanket of fog had reduced visibility, which varied between 1/8 of a mile and two miles. It was a grim and gray day and it was the coldest we'd seen since last summer in Canada.
We turned on the heat to warm up our cabin, and I was having second thoughts about reaching Nova Scotia so early in the season. But once we reached Shelburne, away from the chilly Labrador Current off the coast, both water and air temperature warmed up, though the fog remained.
The passage from Nantucket to Nova Scotia was one when we really appreciated our radar and our electronic charting. With Bluewater tracking on the autopilot which was being fed by data Visual Navigation Suite, our track was straight and true to our waypoint off Cape Sable. We kept the radar set at two miles, periodically moving it out to 4, 8 and even 16 miles to avoid surprises. But rarely did we see another vessel; those we did see were invariably longline fishing boats.
Harry O'Connor, who calls himself the ambassador of the Shelburne Yacht Club, was on the dock to greet us when we arrived in Shelburne, and he told us that last year 275 non-Canadian yachts stopped at Shelburne. Shelburne is perhaps the most popular port of entry to yachts entering Nova Scotia from the U.S. If you're worried about crowds, keep in mind that Nova Scotia's vast harbors and bays can swallow up 275 yachts handily. You'll go days in Nova Scotia without seeing another American yacht.
Harry's friendly greeting notwithstanding, it was at Shelburne that we had an unpleasant welcome to Canada. Canada Customs apparently has evidence that drugs are coming into the country aboard yachts, and a Customs contingent has been moved to Shelburne with explicit instructions to search of every vessel clearing in.
We learned a lesson the hard way: declare ALL the alcohol you have on board. We had more wine than we had declared, and once the Customs team discovered this they intensified the search of our boat--including removal of a number of panels screwed in place. In all, the search took over two hours and involved a quest for hidden compartments. Our undeclared wine was seized and we received a small fine.
Technically, the Customs agents explained, our boat was seized as well. But the seizure of the vessel lasted only minutes--until we paid our fine.
Another American vessel clearing the same day had an undeclared handgun aboard. Handguns are illegal in Canada, and the skipper had his weapon confiscated and was fined $1,000 (Canadian). The search of his vessel, about the same size as ours, lasted nearly three hours. At one point we expected to see him carried off in handcuffs, but that never happened.
I make a point of our customs experience only to underscore that this summer is not a good time to try to sneak something by Canada Customs. If you have alcohol, or tobacco aboard, declare it--all of it. Don't bring rifles, shotguns or pistols but be sure to declare them if you do.
The fog continued, and we left Shelburne for Lunenburg, one of Nova Scotia's most picturesque harbors. During the days when the cod fishery prospered Lunenburg was a huge boatbuilding center and serviced and provisioned thousands of fishing boats. Today, with the fishing industry on hard times, the town depends more on the tourist trade. But it makes a wonderful stop for cruising yachts.
Lunenburg is on the edge of what is arguably Nova Scotia's finest cruising area: Mahone Bay. It's easy to be confused by the geography, however, since Mahone Bay is both a town a few miles from Lunenburg and a large bay. Around the perimeter of the bay are hundreds of pristine anchorages and lovely small towns.
We'll be cruising Mahone Bay in the days ahead on our way to and from Halifax, which will be our easternmost stop. We debated going another 150 miles up the coast to the lovely Bras d'Or Lakes to cruise with friends there, but in the end decided that doing so would take away too much time from cruising in Maine. The summers are just too short up here!
At the moment, we're using three cruising guides to Nova Scotia plus the Canadian government's sailing directions. We're pleased to have them all.
Our favorite is Yachting Guide to the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia by Arthur M. Dechman, a well known sailor who's taken part in two Southern Racing Ocean Circuit (SORC) races, four Newport-Bermuda Races, and 14 Marblehead-Halifax Races. Besides its spiral binding, what we like about this guide is that it seems to provide the information we need about passages, anchorages and facilities quickly and readily. Also, Dechman's perspective seems much the same as ours.
Cruising Guide to Nova Scotia by Peter Loveridge is also excellent. Especially useful to us are its qualitative ratings of harbors and anchorages--each is raced for beauty and interest, protection and ease of access and the ratings are right up front and easy to see at a glance. Loveridge reports that he's visited nearly every harbor covered by the guide, but it seems clear that he did most of them without GPS or radar and that makes his perspective much different from ours. That said, his book is fun to read, especially when he pokes fun at his primitive style of cruising.
The looseleaf Cruising Guide to the Nova Scotia edited by John and Nancy McKelvy, has been in print in its various editions for nearly 50 years, and it represents the collected knowledge of hundreds of sailors who have cruised the Nova Scotia coast over the years. The book is endorsed and sponsored by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. We find it useful to compare against the other guides and that it has information not available elsewhere. However, its minimalist sketch charts, lack of the consistent viewpoint of a single author, and sometimes undated entries make it our least favorite of the three guides.
The Canadian Hydrographic Service's Sailing Directions for Nova Scotia (Atlantic Coast) and the Bay of Fundy is like most government sailing directions: long, detailed descriptions chock full of information that only a government entity could compile and collate. But we consult it only after we've checked out what the other guides have to say.
We've found the CHS charts of the Nova Scotia coast to be consistently correct and easy to use. Be mindful, however, that most CHS charts now use the NAD-83 datum, while your U.S. charts use WGS-84. Forget to change the datum on your GPS and you could be up to a couple of hundreds of yards off, especially if you're using electronic charts.
We're using the excellent NDI raster charts of Canadian waters, but I have to admit we find using raster charts tedious now that we've been using Passport's terrific vector charts all the way up from Florida. Going back to raster charts, it seems to me, is like going back to an old Volkswagen bug after driving a Rolls Royce for a few thousand miles. To be sure, they'll both get you where you're going but the experience is not the same.