Learn more about boating with CPS Boating Course in Bridgewater this winter

CPS logo.

Canadian Power & Sail Squadrons is a non-profit organization that has been connecting boaters for 70 years and continues to play a major role in Canadian boating culture.

This winter, our local Bluenose Squadron of CPS is offering the CPS Boating Course in Bridgewater. (Other squadrons across Canada will be offering this course and others. If you’re interested you can find out about them on the CPS website.)

The Boating Course goes far beyond the requirements for the Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) and is a prerequisite for more advanced courses offered by CPS.

Dinghies at dock
Dinghy dock at LaHave Yacht Club

It provides in-depth boat operation and safety training with 30+ hours of classroom instruction. As well, students will be exposed to the challenge of plotting and navigation, essential skills required for boating along our coastline.

Best of all, you interact and make new friends with fellow boaters while taking part in Canada’s premier boating course.

Testing for the Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) is included at no extra charge if you still need it.

Whether you are interested in powerboats, sailing vessels or kayaks, this introductory Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (CPS) course is for you – and for your family members and boating friends.

Location: Sobeys Bridgewater Community Room
Dates: Monday evenings, Oct 25-Dec 13, Jan 10-Feb 14
Time: 7:00 – 9:30 p.m.
Course Fee: $190.00 includes full Student Kit.  Only $85.00 for another family member who can
share some of the training materials.
Main instructor: Frank Edison.
CPS (Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons) instructors volunteer their services.

To Register,

Please call or e-mail:

Bridgewater Parks, Rec. & Culture,
Phone: (902) 543-2274, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
email hidden; JavaScript is required

Payment can be made by Visa/MC over the phone: (902) 543-2274, or by cheque mailed to:

Bridgewater Parks, Rec. & Culture,
62 Pleasant St,
Bridgewater NS B4V 1N1.

CPS National Website
Bluenose Squadron Website

Hurricane Earl approaching Mahone Bay

Hurricane Earl
Our T22 at 9 am near Oak Island causeway in Mahone Bay. Waves crash on the Marina's jetty in the distance.

We woke early to the sound of the wind, and the news that Hurricane Earl is tracking more easterly than predicted last night, and should pass us directly overhead. Right now it is just south of Yarmouth and has not made landfall yet.

Environment Canada calls it a marginal category 1 hurricane, though some other sources have downgraded it to a tropical storm.

Satellite image of Earl at 9:45 AT

The rain comes in waves.

I have fantasies of being able to photograph the eye if it passes overhead, but may not get blue sky behind.  The satellite image doesn’t show a clear hole in the middle.

Ready and waiting for Earl

Extra lines from the mooring to the mast, just in case.

It’s a bit surreal preparing for a hurricane. If it weren’t for the weather forecasters and mass media, we’d have no idea that anything was coming. We take it on faith that they’re right, and act. We aren’t going camping or sailing this holiday weekend. Instead we’ve battened down the hatches and stocked up on cheese, and we’re waiting it out.

It looks like Earl will have been downgraded to a tropical storm before it hits Nova Scotia. We’re used to that. The colder water around Nova Scotia sucks the juice out of many hurricanes. But tropical storms can still pack quite a punch and cause damage, flood roads and unmoor boats. And occasionally a big one hits, like Hurricane Juan in 2003. So it’s best to be prepared.

Watching and waiting for Hurricane Earl

It is unusually hot here in this part of Nova Scotia (near Mahone Bay), for early September.  Knowing that we’re going to be experiencing the eye of a hurricane before things cool down is not a great comfort, at least not when you own a boat.

Some people are taking their boats out of the water. Nearby, Oak Island Marina is asking boats with the greatest windage to leave the marina before the hurricane passes, whether to a “hurricane hole” such as Chester Back Harbour, or onto the land, to prevent damage to the marina and other boats.

Tanzer 22
Tanzer 22

We have a strong mooring and a small, seaworthy sailboat (a Tanzer 22), and we still plan to do lots of sailing this fall. We will remove the sails to reduce windage, remove the outboard engine, secure or remove anything that could cause damage when bouncing around inside the boat, double up the mooring lines including a line from the mooring to the mast, and hope for the best.

If it weren’t so hot, this work would be easier.

Meanwhile, at home we have to be prepared for power outages and high winds, which means taking down the screened-in mosquito shelter, putting tools and toys away, filling the bathtubs and jugs with water, backing up my hard drive, and stocking up on food, batteries and camping gas. As long as the power stays on, I’ll report here on the storm as it passes.

A picture out of time

draft horses and wooden sloop
On the beach, it could have been 100 years ago.

The wooden gaff-rigged sloop was on its way from Lunenburg to Mahone Bay.  But the cable used to raise the centerboard had broken.  So the sailor ran her up on Bachman’s Beach, on Second Peninsula, hoping to fix her at low tide.

The team of draft horses was in training, as usual, and was pulling a sledge.  Their driver brings them down to the beach to cool off.  We’d met them before, a couple of years ago, on this beach.

The hull of the sloop was built by David Westergard from a half-model he’d found.  (Westergard is currently building a couple of schooners at the Dory Shop in Lunenburg.)  Only after he’d built it did he learn that it was a particular Pubnico type of fishing vessel that was often fitted with a make-or-break engine.    The sailor (whose name escaped me; add a comment if you read this) had rigged the boat  himself and was bringing it to Mahone Bay for the schooner races.

“Are the schooner races part of Chester Race Week?” I asked, naively.

“Not at all.”

“Do the schooners eschew Chester Race Week?”

“Fiberglass Race Week!”

Right.  The folks who perpetuate the skills of wooden boat building live in a different universe from the carbon fiber and kevlar world of the most serious racers.  But they sail the same waters.

And so do we, on short overnight cruises in our 32-year-old fiberglass sailboat, not belonging to one group or the other, but glad to admire both, from a respectful distance.

Draft horses on beach
Draft horses cool down at Bachman's Beach, July 2008

Mahone Bay Regatta 2010

Mahone Bay Regatta logo
Click to go to Mahone Bay Regatta website

The Mahone Bay Classic Boat Festival, formerly known as the Mahone Bay Wooden Boat Festival, isn’t happening this year, but a new group has come together to present the Mahone Bay Regatta on the same weekend.

So if you’re used to making a trip to one of Nova Scotia’s most scenic towns at that point in the summer, for food, entertainment and a bit of “messing about with boats”, or if you have a boat and like to take part in the races, you should continue to mark that weekend on your calendar.

This year has a strong Pirate theme, so if you come on Saturday or Sunday, bring along some Pirate garb, or at least be ready to say “Arrrggghhh, me hearties!”  You can practice by changing the language on your Facebook to Pirate:  Account > Account Settings > Language and from the drop-down, choose English (Pirate).

Getting your Pleasure Craft Operator Card

Boy running outboard motor
Look who has his Pleasure Craft Operator Card!

We moved to the South Shore of Nova Scotia for the sailing, essentially. Lots of folks here have boats. There are kayaks, runabouts, sleek motor cruisers built for speed, a few “trawlers” (non-planing motor cruisers), fishing boats converted into pleasure boats, “personal watercraft” (sea-doos), small and medium-sized sailboats of all vintages, some wooden, and more (if I left your kind of boat out, no offense; just leave a comment below). No mega yachts to speak of; when you do see one of those, it’s probably “from away.”

Even if your boat is just a runabout with an outboard, and even if you’ve been running about with it since God was a boy, since September 2009, if it has a motor, you’ll need your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) to run about with it in the future – in Canada, that is.

So there’s a bit of a rush on to get the card. Courses are popping up here and there, and presumably they’re being filled by those who’ve been putting it off all these years.

Courses are offered by various groups, such as the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (CPS), where I got mine in 2003 as part of their more in-depth Boating Course. CPS now offers a standalone Boat Pro course which is geared towards the PCOC exam.

Converted fishing boat
Converted fishing boat

My husband, a lifelong sailor, and our 9½-year-old son recently took a 2-evening course with local instructor Michael Ernst. Ernst uses the curriculum developed by the Lifesaving Society.

Taking a course with a group of people and a teacher who knows what he or she is talking about is actually fun. It allows you to ask questions and learn from other people’s experiences.  There are also online courses available, or you can study the materials on your own and write the standardized exam online with a proctor. Exam challenges are also held at boat shows around the country.

Course prices vary from $30 to $85 or more, depending on venue costs and what the instructor charges. Some teachers, such as the CPS instructors, offer the course voluntarily, as part of that organization’s long-standing interest in promoting safe boating through education. For other providers, including the online courses, it’s obviously a business. Some of these providers are probably showing up in the Google ads on this page, above left.

We are proud of our new young cardholder!  The card is good for life, so he has lots of time to benefit from getting it now.  It serves as a great base for developing his boating knowledge.

Chester Race Week Video

My husband just spotted this video about Chester Race Week.  We sail but we don’t race, so this video gives me a feeling about what it’s like to be involved in this event.  It’s Canada’s largest keelboat regatta!

Lake country is cottage country

Nova Scotia has so many beautiful lakes.  Some of them are lined with cottages.  In Cape Breton family cottages are called “bungalows”.  Other lakes are in wilderness areas and may hide traditional camping spots known to a few fishermen, hunters and back-country campers.

I camped out last weekend next to the cottage of friends on Lake George, on the South Mountain near Aylesford, in the Annapolis Valley.  We swam and kayaked and wished we had a little sailboat there because it was windy.  We hung out and talked and read books and ate.  When it was cold we lit a fire.  We grabbed the last bit of summer.  That’s what cottages are about.

Lake George on a September morning
Lake George on a September morning

Waiting for Hurricane Bill

Hurricane Bill approaching Nova Scotia as seen on StormPulse.com. Select clouds, windfields and map labels, then go fullscreen for the best picture.
Hurricane Bill approaching Nova Scotia as seen on StormPulse.com. Click image to see fullscreen current version. Select clouds, windfields and map labels, to get a picture like this.

“Batten down the hatches” – it’s an old expression from the days of “wooden boats and iron men” and describes perfectly what Nova Scotians are doing as Hurricane Bill approaches our shores. Memories of 2003’s Hurricane Juan, which hit Halifax hard, are fresh in our minds. There’s a sense of anticipation in the air, weighted down with high humidity and a fresh breeze. Boat owners are checking moorings, moving boats to safer places, removing canvas to reduce windage and damage, and literally securing the hatches. Everyone is stowing lawn furniture and garbage cans. Apple growers in the Annapolis Valley are concerned for their bumper apple crop, but there isn’t much they can do at this point except wait. And “pray to the rum god,” as a sailor told me as she watched her classic wooden daysailer being hauled out of the water.

Environment Canada's hurricane track predictions. Click image to see current version.
Environment Canada's hurricane track predictions. Click image to see current version.

Bill is currently forecast to pass south of Nova Scotia during the day tomorrow, Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane. I’m monitoring it on two websites: Environment Canada’s marine info section, and the more spectacular and information-rich StormPulse.com. We’ll see which of the two has the more accurate predictions!