An impressionist’s view of winter in Martins Point

Late February: the best part of winter. The sun is shining straight through my office window in the semi-basement. How pleasant. Meanwhile, outside, all is white, hard and frozen. Last weekend, a couple of anglers walked about three hundred meters over the frozen sea in front of our house, carrying two chairs, a pack of beer and their fishing rods. They sat there motionless for hours, looking at the hole in the ice they had made for fishing, while drinking beer and having a good chat, I bet. Way to go!

Winter ice at Martins Point

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

Backcountry Camping in Kejimkujik National Park

Site 15, Kejimkujik National Park
Site 15, Kejimkujik National Park, after the rain

It was raining as we set up our tents on Big Muise Island in Kejimkujik Lake.  Three days later, I had to bail rainwater out of the canoe as we paddled back to Jake’s Landing from Site 13 on Ritchie Island.  In between, however, we had a couple of very pleasant days enjoying the warm water of the lake, the quiet forested islands, the wildlife – even the loud, musical bullfrogs that kept us awake at night – and, of course, our own good company and food.

Backcountry campsites can be booked 60 days in advance.  For peak summer season, you really have to book that far ahead.  So when the day comes, you go, rain or shine!

Site 13, Kejimkujik National Park
Site 13, Kejimkujik National Park.

If you go:

Here is the Keji Park official site. It does not give a lot of detailed information.  The next link is better.
Friends of Keji have a more informative and useful website.
A very loud bullfrog. Heike Ortscheid photo.

Finally, here you can download a Google Earth kmz file that will show the backcountry campsites on Google Earth.  Very cool.

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.

Concordia Crew’s Rescue a Tribute to Emergency Equipment and Procedures

SV Concordia at her berth in Lunenburg in 2008.

We are all delighted to hear that the entire crew of 64 aboard the tall ship Concordia, part of Lunenburg-based Class Afloat program, have been rescued off the coast of Brazil.

The high school and university age have certainly had an education in marine safety. The lesson should not be lost on other boaters, whether we take to the sea for pleasure or for work.

While we still don’t know exactly why the Concordia ran into trouble, the 100% survival rate was made possible by the use of proper safety equipment and procedures. An emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) sounded the alarm, adequate liferafts and zodiac boats were ready to go, and everyone aboard knew what to do. The liferafts kept everyone safe in high seas through the night until rescue could come.

Major Silvio Monteiro Junior, the head of the air command for the Brazil’s Search and Rescue System, speaking with CBC Radio’s As It Happens last night, spoke of the “beautiful” sight that met the rescuers eyes in the morning when the 3 merchant vessels and the liferafts used flares to communicate their positions to each other, and then the “incredible moment” when they knew that all 64 people were safely on board one or another vessel. He pointed out that Brazil and Canada have often worked together in search and rescue operations, and they were pleased to help us out. Thank you, Brazil.

Lennie Gallant plays to the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival crowd in August, 2009, with SV Concordia as a backdrop.