From Nova Scotia to the Caribbean?

As the Zartman family makes their way up the coast of Nova Scotia, everything seems tropical—except for the temperature.

June 10, 2013

Zartman- Ben

Ben sporting a “Nova Scotia sunhat”—a sou’wester hat is appropriate in this climate, rain or shine. Danielle Zartman

Shelburne, Nova Scotia, is a good harbor, in spite of a local katabatic-sort of wind effect, where every afternoon we were there, the wind came on to blow with scandalous force, till the surface seethed with whitecaps and blowing streaks of foam, especially in the lower harbor where the fetch is longer. Still, the holding was good in very sticky mud, and Ganymede was in a narrower place, and as long as the tide and wind were not in opposition, we could row back and forth, even if it involved pulling to the windward shore first and then getting along upwind.

There is a very good grocery store in town, though we didn’t need much yet in the way of supplies, and the gas station had ethanol-free gasoline! The gas station was a long-ish walk when my two 5-gallon jugs were empty. When they were full, it was impossible. I hadn’t gone halfway back though, setting the jugs down every hundred feet or so to rest, when a police car pulled over and offered me a ride. Hooray for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police! So my jugs and I got a free ride in a cop car, and I wasn’t in handcuffs!

We had meant to leave early on Tuesday, but were delayed by a frontal passage that dumped rain torrents worthy of a tropical squall. Instead, we gave things time to clear up and in the afternoon rode the daily katabatic, under stay’sl alone, to a mostly quiet lee nearer the harbor entrance. The next day was perfectly clear, and we enjoyed that greatest of luxuries: a gentle offshore breeze, strong enough to make five knots by, but gentle enough not to make Ganymede heel in any uncivilized fashion. It was strange, though, to be out in such brilliant sunshine, with the water sparkling and mirages turning distant islands upside-down and still be icy cold. A sweater, jacket, and Nova Scotia sunhat were still not enough to keep me warm, and I mostly steered with my knees so my hands could stay hidden in pockets.


If it hadn’t been for the cold, I might have thought we were in tropical waters as Ganymede wound her way up a poorly-marked channel between submerged rocks. The water was perfectly see-through; the beaches were blinding white sand. We would probably have turned back and gone the long way ‘round into Mouton Bay if the water had been murky. Instead, though I’m really too old to do it any more, I shinnied up the mast to pilot through from the spreaders.

The water in the anchorage was not only too cold for a longed-for swim, it was awfully dark due to a stream that tumbled in across the beach. Unlike Shelburne, which was warmed up by the Roseway River that also turned the water a deep, clear yellow-black (as though Ganymede were floating in Pepsi), Mouton Bay enjoyed no heat from it’s stream, though this stream was a rich transparent vermilion, and looked like a flood of Cabernet flowing across the beige sand. I’d like to know what vegetable matter tints it so: it’s the most unique streamlet I’ve ever seen.

It was flat calm the next day. We motored out expecting the predicted west wind to fill in, and it never did, so we arrived at Lunenburg early in the afternoon after hours of motoring over an uncannily calm sea. Still, nothing like burning off that nasty ethanol-laced American gasoline so I can replace it with clean stuff. We only had time for a quick run ashore, but it looks a lovely place.


Boats everywhere, whether huge government buoy tenders, ancient steel fishing trawlers, wooden schooners, and even several tramp steamers being dismantled for scrap. We’ll stay here for a couple of days to top up on water, fuel, and propane, get some laundry done and work on some boat projects before heading further east across Mahone Bay.

We are the Zartman family: Ben & Danielle, and our three girls, Antigone, Emily and Damaris. We created this blog to chronicle our sailing adventures on Ganymede, a home-finished 31-foot gaff-rigged cutter, which has been our home since 2009, when we sailed from San Francisco, California, to the Sea of Cortez, then down along the Central American coast. Currently in Newport, Rhode Island, we plan to sail to Canada, the U.K., and beyond this summer.


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