Beating East around Cape Breton

We bid farewell to Newfoundland in the early morning twilight on August 22nd, a day shy of a month since we’d arrived. We took off unsure exactly what our destination would be but we did well and with lovely weather decided to continue 75 Nmi south to Ingonish, having previously visited the protected harbour on our way north.

After a few days of relaxing we took off for Sydney, NS. This proved to be much more difficult than originally predicted as we headed directly into the wind, or at least we tried to. Heart’s Desire does not point very well, and so we end up zigzagging back and forth at about 140 degree angles, making forward progress pretty slow. Luckily the day was once again beautiful and warm. Instead of heading to Sydney, we cracked off and headed east to Glace Bay. This harbour is not recommended in the pilot guides, supposedly due to the “rough” nature of the area and the intense fisheries out of the narrow channel, but we received a warm welcome and fresh fish when we arrived. By then it was late August, and lobster season was long over. Snow crab season was also on its very last leg and so there was plenty of space for us at docks.

Hidden among the lobster traps in Glace Bay, NS.

Hidden among the lobster traps in Glace Bay, NS.

The town itself is pretty with a great wholesale fish market right on the waterfront, and a grocery store just a little ways up the river. Many people were also jogging and walking the river trail that continues up from the harbour. While we didn’t stay long, we had a really nice visit as the channel is deep and we were able to provision. I would not visit Glace Bay during prime lobster season (June-July), but the protected basin was perfect for us and let us off the hook from beating our way further into the bay to get to Sydney.

From Glace Bay we set off to get to Louisbourg, with the intention of going to the famous Fortress, a national historic site and park run by Parks Canada. Unfortunately Notus, greek god of the south wind, was at it again, slowing our forward progress to barely 2 knots (3.7 km/hr). Getting hammered by the wind, even when it is nice and sunny, is taxing and by 4 pm we had had enough. Also there was no way we were making it to Louisbourg that day. Instead we ducked into Main-a-Dieu, via the Main-a-dieu passage meaning we were in the “hand-of-god.” This proved to be a really nice little protected harbour. While the docks were very busy with fishing boats, there was plenty of space for us to anchor inside the breakwater. We again met nice locals and took a beautiful sunset walk along the lovely beach and boardwalk in the town. No fuel, stores or amenities here, but a small café had wifi if you were there during the day.

We decided the next day to try to hitchhike to the Fortress of Louisbourg, a site that was our prime reason for deciding to go around the Eastern side of Cape Breton rather than the easy (flat) way through the Bras D’or Lakes. After 30 minutes of walking only one car had passed us. Then, out of the blue pulls up Peter, a local we’d met the day before, to offer us a ride. “You can’t walk there” he says, thinking we’d mistaken his comment that the fort was 18 km for it taking 18 minutes to walk there. He was so incredibly friendly and drove us the whole way there, even giving us his number to get picked up if we couldn’t find a ride home. We cannot get over the number of friendly and random acts of kindness that we have received over the course of the last three months. While it is not really possible to adequately thank people we can pay it forward and will do so when possible.

Dreary day at the Fortress of Louisbourg

Dreary day at the Fortress of Louisbourg

At the Fortress the rain began, and didn’t stop for most of the day. The foggy wet nature gave the place a neat spooky feel but made walking the grounds limited to running from building to building. While definitely worth the visit the fort was a bit of a disappointment for me. When I was last there in 2007 there were many animators dressed in period 1758 garb and playing their roles in society at the time. While interpreters still walk the grounds, I believe government cuts have reduced the overall upkeep and staff at this amazing historic site.

Leaving the fort we stuck out our thumbs and were quickly picked up by a nice couple. Pretty soon we’re chatting and find out that they too live on a boat (in Sydney) and have just sailed around the world, from Victoria, BC to Sydney, NS. They loved Newfoundland so much they delayed crossing to Europe to spend another season going to Labrador. Quite the small world! They drove us out of the way to Main-a-dieu and again we were feeling watched over by the good luck we’d had.


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