Log #52c Exploring the Bras d’Or Lakes – Part 2

June 30, 2011 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 52, The Logs

Halifax, NS

June 30, 2011

Hi Folks,

We are here at the Canadian Forces Sailing Association Shearwater Yacht Club in our second day of fog. It is a friendly club and we will be going out with Veleda for its Sailpast on Dominion Day (Canada Day it is unfortunately called now) and a round McNab’s Island Race on July 2.

I have attached a few pictures with this log, and am working on a Picasa album of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia to which I will invite you to see once it is finished. I am also working on a blog so you can see both current and former logs, with more pictures, as on the blogs, I can merge the pictures with the text. I can’t do so with E-mailed pictures as they do not come out the same way after transmission. I have given a few web sites and a blog site of friends we have met in St. Peters that you might like to look at for the experiences of other cruisers.

I have also given the web site for a free navigation program that cruisers can download, and I have current electronic charts of the whole world that work with it. Thanks to Bob Groves who put us on to this system.

All the best,



Log #52c Exploring the Bras d’Or Lakes – Part 2

Marie Joseph Harbour,

Ecum Secum, NS

Don’t you just love the name of the nearby town of Ecum Secum where I started this log? There are several weird but interesting names along this coast. Some are tongue twisters such as Tatamagouche or Schubenacadie. One of my favourites is Musquadobit. However I think Newfoundland has the most interesting names with places like Isle Aux Morts (Isle of the Dead), Come by Chance, Mickles Tickle, Puddingbag Cove, Dick Head, Pigasses Point, Hug-my-Dug Islet, Pushthrough, Toad Asses, and Dildo.

By 1700 June 18, we were anchored in a southwest cove of mile wide, circular Little Harbour (45 50.844N, 060 58.581W), well sheltered from the anticipated storm forecast overnight. An hour later the British boat, Sulana, whom we met earlier in the day, anchored outside us. The only habitation visible in the harbour was the attractive log chalet called The Cape Breton Smoke House, which was recommended to us especially for the smoked salmon. We met the two young people who were hired crew for Sulana at the dock, and we all walked up to the building, not sure if it was open. Fortunately it was and we enjoyed a satisfactory meal prepared by the German couple who operate the resort. Before leaving we bought a half kilo of smoked salmon to take back to Veleda. The young couple were from Australia and had left their boat in St. Lucia in the Caribbean to earn some money crewing so they could later continue their own sailing adventures. Good for them!

They left earlier than we did as they had to report back to the owners and their guests, who then came over for a meal. We enjoyed chatting with them as well. The captain asked us questions about weather, as the VHF radio he had was from the US and did not have the Canadian weather channels on it. We told him we would call him in the morning with the weather forecast we could pick up on our radio. It was another grey cold night, and the weather report we gave Sulana in the morning was for strong southwest winds, good for Sulana as they were going in a northerly direction and their boat was a 52 foot Oyster that would have no problem with such conditions. We decided to stay put for the day as we would be heading directly into the storm conditions.

It was a miserable day weather wise. Everyone we have talked to about the weather has agreed that this has been the worst spring they have ever experienced. When we looked at the weather information in the local papers, the precipitation to date in June was over 600 mm of precipitation, whereas last year’s statistics indicated less than 300 mm for the same period. I emptied our jerrycan of fresh water into our tank, and hooked up the hose from the bimini drain to the empty 5 gallon can. The thunder and rain storm that followed that night filled the jerry can up twice, collecting 10 gallons of water in less than two hours. For heat we kept the wood stove going with cut up fireplace logs until we went to bed, then lit our propane camp heater for the night. By having it up near the vee berth where we sleep the temperature was quite acceptable. The main cabin was a cool 14 C (less than 50F), so my first task in the morning after putting the kettle on for tea and coffee was the light the wood stove, which gives off plenty of heat.

During the night, there was a great display of rolling thunder and diffused lightning in the upper clouds, sheets of torrential rain pelting the undulating water with a coverlet of diamond explosions, but not much wind. I love watching a storm when we are well anchored and able to enjoy the power and magnificence of such conditions without having to worry about the safety of the boat. There were no lightning strikes on the water, as most of the lightning was sheet lightning in the clouds. When sailing through lightning storms with flashes and lightning strikes on the water, Judy tends to whimper at our vulnerability. I get fatalistic, knowing that we have done everything possible to protect the boat under such conditions, and that Veleda is a good sea boat; but if we get struck by lightning – we get hit. We are in the hands of Nature, and what will be, will be. However I was able to just enjoy watching this storm, this time.


  We saw this storm pattern for the eastern seaboard for days on end.

Next day we were off to St. Peters on a grey cool morning in a force 4 (10 to 15 knot) wind as we crossed West Bay and the main large body of water of Bras d’Or Lake, motorsailing with just the genoa up. As we entered the inlet leading to St. Peters Channel the wind picked up to a strong force 6 (20 to 25 knots) from the southeast. We furled the genoa early as we didn’t wish to cope with the strong gusts in the confined waters of the winding channel. We initially planned to tie up to the reporting wall of the St. Peters Canal to go through that day, but trying to go alongside the wall would be difficult as the wind would be blowing us off it. As we motored towards it, Judy suggested we might go to the marina a few hundred metres beyond the canal, where there would be someone to take our lines in this 25 knot gusty wind. There was no response to our VHF call either on channel 16 or 68 which most marinas use. Judy then phoned the marina on our cell phone and the marina said a man would be on the dock to take our lines. Fortunately the dock was up wind allowing a more controlled approach. As we entered the larger bay above the canal, we saw a US grey hulled aluminum sail boat at anchor just off the marina. I thought for a bit that we could have anchored as well and saved the dockage fee, but Judy wanted the security and comfort of a dock and electricity for our electric heater. Then I noticed the name of the anchored boat was Hawk, a vessel we last saw in 2000 in Strangford Loch in Ireland. Small world!

The marina at St. Peters is very good, with excellent showers and washroom facilities, water and power on the floating docks, a large social room with TV, and spacious kitchenette with a good stove, microwave and refrigerator, as well as all the utensils, dishes, kettles and coffee maker, and a desk top computer. Good WiFi on the docks was greatly appreciated. The large solid fuel dock has diesel and gasoline as well as pump out facilities. Another benefit is that it is located within a ten minute walk of the main shopping area of town with banks, a grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store and post office all available. The marina personnel were all quite sociable and helpful. The rate for transients was $1.30 a foot, a standard price on Cape Breton. St. Peters is a most pleasant town with coastal and canal pathways, local museums, fresh lobster available from the lobster boats that tie up along the canal wall (see attached photo). An interesting tree-clad coastline with enclosed bays, points, headlands, coves and spaces of open water above and below the lock, all well marked with buoys for safe navigation, provide a scenic passage through the channel, canal and outer shorelines.

We spent two days there before taking off through the canal, socializing with the sailors we met at the marina. Karen and Art Digout came down from their home just outside of town to take us into town shopping, and invited us and Bob and Kathy Groves, other liveaboards on Easy Go in the marina, over for refreshments to their lovely home overlooking Bourgeois Inlet. Karen and Art are friends of Aaron and Pat Fenton, who are friends of ours from Toronto, and who informed them of our possible arrival in St. Peters. Thanks Karen and Art for your hospitality.

We enjoyed a morning coffee on Veleda with Beth and Evans from Hawk, anchored off the marina docks as mentioned above. We first met them over in Ireland in 2000, and have encountered Beth a couple of times at Seven Seas Cruising Association meetings where she was presenting sessions on their sailing life, especially the Antarctic cruise and the circumnavigations they made a few years ago in Hawk. There were a few other foreign boats in the marina, from the US, Australia and Norway. The US boat, Simple Quest, had a young couple and a photographer documenting their passage into the Maritimes seeking whales and icebergs (check www.simplequestmovie.com if you would like to see or follow their adventure). The Australian boat, Teleport, is an interesting vessel with a junk rig. The young couple Chris and Jess are headed with it for Newfoundland and plan to do the North West Passage! (If you would like to see their progress, visit www.YachtTeleport.com.) We had a most enjoyable pot luck dinner our second night there with crews from five boats, Veleda IV, Easy Go, Hawk, Teleport, and Simple Quest (see attached photo).


I am indebted to Bob and Kathy of Easy Go for their help in starting my blog. They have a good blog site, sveasygo.blogspot.com, which documents their liveaboard lifestyle over many years. Their boat is of interest, as with all the sailing they have done, their boat does not have an engine! (See the attached photo. The long single oar on the port side is a glorified sculling oar for their propulsion. See their blog for details.)


Bob also told us of a free charting and navigation program that we have downloaded from the net, and have been using quite successfully. The program can be downloaded from the website Open CPN. It does not contain the actual charts but can interface with digital raster or vector electronic charts. Thanks Bob and Kathy for your help.

The two days we were at St. Peters Marina the weather was cold, with the winds constantly between 15 to 25 knots. We left, still in cold 15 to 20 knot winds, for St. Peters canal. As a boat was coming through when we reported in, we just idled off the canal until the power boat exited, then entered the 800 metre long channel and proceeded into the lock (91 metres long, 14 metres wide) and down a foot or two out of the Bras d’Or Lake system. There was no charge for the lock, administered by Parks Canada. It is an unusual lock as the gates have to be able to deal with higher water levels at each end due to the tides outside and within the Bras d’Or system. Rather than each gate being a V – shape pointed towards the higher end, the gates are doubled, forming a diamond shape to accommodate both higher and lower water levels at each end. At the outer end of the canal are lobster boats alongside offloading their catches once a day. We didn’t stop to buy any lobster.


The Bras d’Or Lakes are a charming cruisers paradise. The scenery is pleasant, pastoral with plenty of isolated coves and inlets to safely anchor and explore, all fringed by green clad low lying hills. It ranks up there with a few other of our favourite Canadian locations such as the North Channel of Lake Huron, the north shore of Lake Superior, and the Newfoundland fjords. Too bad the weather was so miserable (see the attached meteorological map of the Maritimes showing the storm areas attached above).