To celebrate both of us turning 80 and our 60th wedding anniversary, my husband, David, and I took a long-distance cruise on the Down East Circle Route. The journey took more than 2,000 miles from New York Harbor through the Erie Canal and the St. Lawrence River, around Nova Scotia, and down the New England coast, ending back in New York Harbor.
Ready parts one through six.
Part VII: Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Southwest Harbor, Maine
September 21-23: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Our plane from Texas landed in sunshine, but dark clouds moved in and the wind increased soon afterward. Our taxi driver told us a large storm with lots of rain was on the way.
The first raindrops fell as we unloaded our suitcases from the taxi. We hurried to the nearby dock and hoisted everything on board as quickly as possible. Just as we closed the door, the rain came in torrents.
Monday dawned sunny and beautiful. We walked seven blocks to a large grocery store adjacent to the cruise ship terminal. Although our shopping list was small, we filled our cart to overflowing. With cabinets, refrigerator and freezer filled, we were well provisioned for the rest of our journey.
Taking advantage of another sunny (but cool) day, we toured Halifax and visited Fairhaven Cemetery where many of the Titanic victims are buried. We also visited the small but impressive Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which exhibited mostly regional artists such as Maud Lewis, whose brilliant colors and exceptional talent won her national acclaim.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, located on the waterfront near our boat, featured extensive displays of Halifax history and many models of the large seagoing vessels that once cruised the area. Black and white photographs detailed the devastation caused when two ships collided in Halifax Harbour on Dec. 6, 1917. The explosion leveled everything for
miles, killing many people and injuring thousands. In response, the state of Massachusetts provided immediate medical aid, supplies and construction help to Halifax. Since 1971, Nova Scotia has sent a large evergreen Christmas tree to Boston in gratitude.
September 24-25: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Weather reports indicated favorable winds for our journey from Halifax to Lunenburg. As we cruised near the shore, we enjoyed postcard perfect views of lovely villages surrounded by towering evergreen forests on white beaches or rocky shores.
We arrived at our dock at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic minutes before the 5 p.m. closing time and were welcomed with great help securing our lines. Eager to walk about, we promptly left the boat for a quick tour of the charming town. Situated on a high hill above the sea, Lunenburg’s colorful 19th-century homes and buildings are an architectural treasure.
Settled by German, Swiss and French farmers who quickly became shipbuilders and fishermen, the town reflects the prosperity and traditions of its founders. Remarkably intact, Lunenburg was spared the fires and natural disasters that devastated many towns of this period. Many residents are descendants of the original settlers. In 1995, the city was
named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We toured the town via horse-drawn carriage, which was a great way to avoid climbing the steep hills. The imposing black and white Lunenburg Academy building sits atop a hill. Formerly a public school, the building was designated a National Historic Site in 1983 and is currently undergoing restoration.
September 26: Shelburne, Nova Scotia
Before 8 a.m., we left Lunenburg during a calm we hoped would continue once we reached the open sea. To our amazement and delight, we enjoyed glass-smooth seas all the way to Shelburne, approximately 85 nautical miles. Cruising away from shore to avoid shoals, we could still see Nova Scotia’s beautiful rocky shores, sandy beaches, and thick, tall evergreen
The approach to Shelburne proved straightforward with few hazards, all clearly marked. Settled by British Loyalists who left the future United States after the Revolutionary War, the town became a shipbuilding and fishing center. With a population of about 2,000 residents and empty storefronts during our visit, the city’s economy appeared to be struggling.
After docking at the Shelburne Yacht Club and Marina, we received a warm welcome from Mary, the assistant manager. She invited us to the club’s weekly social event that evening. After a long walk through the town to experience its history and architectural beauty, we went to the yacht club party.
From the deck off the club’s second-floor main room, we got a breathtaking view of the bay. In the main room, yacht club burgees decorated the dark wooden beams of the vaulted ceiling. Club members and guests enjoyed food and drinks. The evening’s menu was southern fried chicken with bacon cornbread, mashed potatoes and buttered carrots. Although we ordered just as they ran out of food, we nevertheless enjoyed the ambiance and the members’ warm greetings.
We ate dinner on board while David consulted the installation and operation instructions for our new macerator/waste pump. Although the pump seemed to work after being fitted with a new hose, it once again stopped pumping out waste. Many marinas in this area do not have pumpout facilities, which could create a problem for us.
September 27: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
With good weather and mild winds predicted, we forewent a day in port and continued to Yarmouth. This 75-nautical mile journey took us from the south to the west shore of Nova Scotia. We chose the outside passage to avoid encountering the many shoals, islands and shallow water on the inside route. Although longer, the outside passage held fewer hazards and no tide changes to contend with.
Yarmouth had a great marina with floating docks that easily accommodated The Bottom Line. Fellow boaters greeted us and lent aid in docking. Throughout our journey, we have enjoyed the friendliness of Canadians and their willingness to help.
As Yarmouth is near the Bay of Fundy, noted for having the world’s greatest tide differential, the bay in front of the restaurant experienced a high tide, which rapidly covered large areas of exposed muddy bottom. We returned to the boat in time to watch the Baylor-Iowa State football game on TV and prepare for our long day of cruising across the Gulf of Maine to Southwest Harbor, the final destination of our 2014 epic journey.
September 29: Southwest Harbor, Maine
Weather reports indicated that the mild early morning winds would become stronger near noon. Departing minutes after 7 a.m., we watched a beautiful sunrise as we headed into the ocean. The smooth water gave us several hours of idyllic cruising. A good current increased our speed by almost 2 knots. Although the afternoon brought stronger wind, the waves remained friendly, and we had an uneventful crossing of the Gulf of Maine. Despite keeping a sharp lookout throughout our journey, we did not see any whales, which are often sighted in this area.
Our approach to Southwest Harbor brought back great memories as we passed Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor, two of our favorite places in this area. Carefully avoiding the many rocks and shoals, David skillfully brought us into Dysart’s Great Harbor Marina. Micah, the harbormaster, and Miller, our friend and helper from previous summers, stood ready to catch our lines and give us a warm welcome. Delighted to see them, we quickly arranged for fresh lobster for dinner (pulled from the lobster pot adjacent to our dock and steamed in seawater by Miller). After warm conversations with our friends and a wonderful lobster dinner on the aft deck, we felt at home.
We enjoyed a tremendous feeling of accomplishment knowing we had completed a journey of approximately 2,000 miles from New York through Canada to Maine. We planned to leave The Bottom Line in storage at Southwest Harbor and return in May to enjoy the cool summer months and complete our Down East Circle journey back to New York Harbor.
The journey ends in Part VIII of the “Octogenarian Odyssey,” out in Spring 2024.