For years now, I’ve had it in my mind that I wanted to explore Bras d’Or Lake, Canada’s inland sea, located at the heart of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. I always thought that would mean hitching a ride with someone headed east from Maine, or sailing my own boat across the Bay of Fundy. But then, Paul Jamieson, owner of Sailing Cape Breton, called the office and suggested a charter instead. How fast could I say, “yes?” Thisfast.
The plan was for my wife, Sue, and me to drive to Portland, Maine, the last week of July, and from there, take the overnight ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. That all went swimmingly. We boarded our ship on Saturday evening, had a sound night’s sleep and awoke to pea soup fog on Sunday. Perfect, eh?
Eight hours and 300 miles later, we pulled into the parking lot of the Lynnwood Inn in Baddeck, a lovely little town at the heart of Bras d’Or Lake. The first order of business: We met our hosts, Paul and his wife, Donna, and rendezvoused with marine photographer Bob Grieser.
The second order of business was to have dinner. Over a feast (best fish cakes and homemade beans I can recall, in case you were asking), we quickly realized that Plan A — to set sail across the lake the next morning, cove hop for the week and then return to tour the famed Cabot Trail the following Saturday — would need to be revised. Our boat, it seems, a new Alpha 42 catamaran, had been walloped by headwinds on its delivery north from New York and was still at sea.
So on to Plan B. The next morning we hopped into Paul’s truck and struck off for the Glenora distillery for breakfast at the only single malt maker outside of Scotland. After a tour, we headed for the Cabot Trail and Cape Breton’s highlands. As we climbed the twisting roadway, cliffs plunged to the ocean below and cloud-covered mountains hovered overhead. Spectacular and breathtaking are two words that come quickly to mind. Monday night, we stayed at the Keltic Lodge, a 1940s gem of a hotel, perched overlooking the ocean at Middle Head in Ingonish Center. Just offshore, Ingonish Island lay shrouded in mist. This expansive bay is one to visit again, I noted.
Our travels Tuesday took us on a tour of Highland Links, one of several golf courses that make Cape Breton a destination of choice for discerning ball whackers. From there, we drove to the ferry that runs across the 100-yard wide entrance to St. Ann’s Bay and then back to Baddeck, where the boat, Cape Bretoner 1, sat waiting at the dock.
An hour later, we were sailing. In a fresh breeze we reached off across St. Andrew’s Channel, tacked, and then sailed closed hauled to the Washabuck River and a tight little anchorage in Deep Cove. With the hook down and not a ripple on the water, we spent the evening munching on mussels and Donna’s fish chowder and strawberry shortcake. What a way to end our first day on the water.
Overnight rain gave way to gray, but warm skies this morning. A swim got Paul and I moving early, and eventually we made enough noise to wake our mates. Breakfast was Donna’s bacon and Swiss cheese quiche, and then we were off, bound across St. Patrick’s Channel to pick up more crew for a daysail through the narrows to the south. And then we weren’t. Trying to maneuver to pick up our guests, Cape Bretoner was suddenly quite awkward to steer, which happens when two engines and two saildrives have only one prop between them.
So now we’re moored. The sun’s shining, the lake’s lovely and we’re cooking up Plan C. Stay tuned.
Stay tuned for more updates from Nova Scotia as Mark explores the inland sea.