Saturday, July 25th, 2009
Picton Castle sailed out of Halifax harbour with the other ships at the start of the Tall Ships Race, but bound for Port Hawkesbury instead, about 150 nautical miles away. The grand fleet of sailing ships that had been together in Boston and Halifax was breaking up at this point, with some of the ships racing across the Atlantic to Belfast, Ireland, some heading on to other Nova Scotia ports (including us) and some continuing on with their own sail training or educational agendas. But all the ships sailed along for a while in diminishing winds in the pretty, clear afternoon off Halifax and the shore of Nova Scotia – what a sight it was! And what a special occasion to be sailing with these great ships! Kruzenstern, Eagle, Sagres, Cisne Branco and all the others made for quite a fleet. We shut down the main engine right at the mouth of the harbour and sailed from Monday afternoon until Tuesday morning, then fired up the main engine and made the rest of the passage under engine power in absolutely zero wind.
Tuesday night just at dusk we anchored off Lazy Head next to Durell Island near Canso. The Pride of Baltimore II anchored with us to wait out the night and give the crew some rest. It was a sweet quiet anchorage and we could smell pine and spruce and other earthy hints blowing gently off the land. At the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning we heaved up the anchor and were ready to take on a pilot to go into the Canso Straight. Canso Straight is a long fjord-like straight between Cape Breton Island and mainland Nova Scotia. It gets some major shipping due to the oil terminal there as well as gravel and gypsum cargos. Huge super tankers tranship their cargos to smaller tankers for getting into shallower harbours all up and down the east coast of the US and Canada. Many thanks go to our pilot, Tony Pierce, who guided us in and out of Port Hawkesbury. Mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island, both part of the province of Nova Scotia, are connected by the man-made Canso Causeway. The causeway is not only a bridge and road between to these two land masses but with its shipping lock does a great deal to regulate what would otherwise be a very strong tidal current making navigation that much more tricky. The town of Port Hawkesbury is very near the causeway on the Cape Breton side. From our dock in Port Hawkesbury, we could see the causeway just ahead. Port Hawkesbury is also home to the Nautical Institute of the Nova Scotia Community College, where many of our former crew members have gone to school to earn their various formal marine certifications after their training onboard this ship.
We shared the dock at Port Hawkesbury with Topsail Schooner Pride of Baltimore II, Brigantine Fair Jeanne, Schooner Roseway and, on Wednesday, the tugboat Theodore Too. All of the ships had open decks from 1000 to 1700 on Wednesday and 1200 to 1900 on Thursday. We were welcomed warmly in Port Hawkesbury with two events for crew, including a great dinner of barbequed steak and chicken (also corn on the cob, potato salad, carrot salad, soft drinks and, yes, beer for those old enough…) on Wednesday evening and free admission to the pub night with the band Sons of Maxwell on Thursday night. Our crew were the first to be up on their feet and dancing at the pub night, the band was great! Sons of Maxwell have been made famous by a YouTube video about airline baggage handlers smashing their guitars somewhat cavalierly and all on video! They had volunteer drivers available to take crew on ships’ errands including grocery shopping and trips to the hardware store, and to the community centre to use the showers and the internet. One of our trainees, Julie, lives close to Port Hawkesbury and her mom brought us lobsters for supper on Thursday, along with lots of other baked goods and other mom type treats.
Now we’re sailing for Sydney, at the north end of Cape Breton. We sailed out of Port Hawkesbury on Friday morning with Pride of Baltimore II and have kept pace with them for the passage. The weather on this passage has been wet and the skies are overcast, but we’re glad to be at sea again, sailing along the coast of Cape Breton. The new crew who joined us in Halifax are getting accomplished at steering, lookout and the rest of the watch duties and the day’s work included a few little rigging projects.
This morning we hove-to off Sydney in pretty strong south easterly winds waiting for our pilot time. We can see the Pride closer in under land in the mouth of the fjord tacking back and forth waiting to head in too.