September 7, 2018 – Day 75.
Our last stretch along the Canso Causeway brought us out along Chedabucto Bay and gave us the option of taking a “short cut” through Andrew Passage to get to the east side of Nova Scotia… and finally, the openness of the Atlantic Ocean.
Andrew Passage is picturesque with it’s town views and rugged shorelines. It’s a fairly short, relaxing channel… something I was grateful for as I assumed that once we hit the Atlantic, our days of quiet motoring through flat waters would be over for a while. Although far away, I managed to get a few great photos of some larger groups of seals that were just chilling on the rocks and playing in the water.
We keep telling people that we’re sailing around the world but to be honest, its a misnomer. Because over 75 days and 5 provinces, we managed to fully sail, for a brief moment, without the engine assisting, exactly once. Cruising and day sailing are two very different beasts. We’ve met some hard core cruisers that never turn on their engine except to dock, but with our heavy boat, the currents, tides, channels, and time constraints of the St Lawrence River and Canso Strait, and wind almost forever being right on the nose, we have been officially motor-sailing the entire time.
I don’t mind motor-sailing. When the wind is low and the water flat, it’s an extremely comfortable, albeit slow ride. No major heeling, no bumps and bruises, and no motion sickness. John seems to be completely immune to the movement but we discovered that the swells of the Atlantic are very different from the choppier waves of the St Lawrence, or even of Lake Ontario. I never felt motion sick even once up until this leg of the trip but once we hit the swells, even the small ones, my stomach felt a bit uncomfortable. Thankfully, the candied ginger I brought along as well as the saltine crackers (with peanut butter, go figure) did wonders.
There are definitely benefits to overshadow any discomfort, though. Nature’s balance pays us back with the most incredible displays of colour and light.
The wind became a bit robust for our overnight shift to Halifax (15+ knot winds… yes, I’m still a novice) and though we were making really good time, I wasn’t used to the speed or the amount of heel with the sails up in addition to the swells. I was fairly unhappy. John on the other hand was quite pleased with our speed and reminded me to breathe (as he does often), and we kept with it. The theory being of course, that I’ll eventually get used to it…
The next morning, 34 hours after departing Port Hawkesbury, we manoeuvred up the Northwest Arm inlet (originally called Sandwich River apparently… thanks Wikipedia) into Armdale, one of Halifax’s neighbourhoods. The entire inlet seemed to be taken over with mooring balls that stretched right into the channel. Though a bit nerve-racking at first as the traffic in the inlet was fairly busy in and out, we tied up at the fuel dock of Armdale Yacht Club and checked out our new temporary home. Our intention was to stay in Halifax for a few weeks to wait out the end of Hurricane season and get some work done on the boat.
After two days at the fuel dock, we were issued our first-ever mooring ball, which we picked up on our first attempt. So glad that something felt easy… I still was having anxiety attacks practically every time we docked… so terrified that we would hit something. Mooring was a much less stressful experience. Armdale Yacht Club offered an incredibly handy tender service that would ferry us to and from our boat from the fuel dock during business hours which saved us from having to consistently dinghy over and attempt to coordinate schedules. Between the affordable mooring, the tender service, the proximity to The Binnacle (one of Canada’s largest marine stores), and the exceptionally good burgers that they served at the clubhouse, we were definitely going to be spoiled here.
Mooring, like anchoring, has you slowly spinning with every wind change. Your nose follows the direction of the wind. The wind was pretty consistent for the most part on our first few days, but sometime during the night after a rain storm, a few days into our stay, the wind changed direction and we had a new view. It was admittedly a bit startling to look out the companionway and see nothing but pine trees first thing after you wake. I was sure for a split second that we had lost our mooring and were adrift but the marina still sat firmly off our port bow and we were thankfully still firmly attached to the mooring ball.
The only complaint we had is that that the internet at AYC left a lot to be desired and we unfortunately couldn’t access it at the boat, or even from most of the seats inside of the building. So as John made trips back and forth from Binnacle to the boat getting work done, I set up in the clubhouse’s foyer in one of the three chairs that seemed to be able to access wifi to get some photo processing and writing done. It quickly became my office and I got to know the fantastic staff there fairly well. I even had a drink specially made and named after me by the lovely Amanda (part of the Clubhouse’s bar staff) – the Michelle: soda water, a splash of sprite, cranberry & peach juice. Add vodka at will.
One week in to our stay in Halifax and I hadn’t even left the marina yet… it was far too easy to settle in and just enjoy the small community of staff and members here. To be honest, it felt a bit like home.