Titanic, Bluenose, and Completing the Down East Loop!
We kicked off our sail from Cape Breton to Halifax with an early morning departure. The weather played along, gifting us with serene sunshine and crystal-clear skies, but, alas, the wind decided to take a vacation of its own! The following morning, as the sunlight spilled over Halifax, we pulled into the harbor, finally timing it right!
Halifax is a very busy port and we needed to check in with the harbor master before entering the channel. There was a lot of inbound traffic including a US Coast Guard ship, a Canadian submarine, and a massive cruise ship.
We dropped anchor in the super-slim Fergusen Bay, where we were practically rubbing elbows with Halifax's fancy people. We were anchored in the backyard of both historic and contemporary mansions, surrounded by Yacht Club Central! We were snug as a bug in a rug shielded from any weather mischief.
It was also a short dinghy ride to a public dock and a quick walk to Wal-Mart and The Binnacle. The Binnacle is our favorite marine store. It took a good chunk of our money 4 years ago when we came to Halifax to buy our boat and sail it home!
We hiked 3-miles to Fairview Lawn Cemetery. Fairview is the final resting place for 121 victims of the White Star's RMS Titanic tragedy, making it the largest Titanic burial site in the world.
In the aftermath of the sinking, White Star chartered 3 ships from Halifax and 1 from St. John's to search and recover bodies. Of the 328 recovered, many were buried at sea. The remaining bodies were returned to Halifax. Some were claimed by their families and most were interred at Fairview Lawn. Nineteen are buried in the Roman Catholic- Mount Olivet Cemetery and ten in the Jewish-Baron de Hirsch Cemetery.
Where are the Women?
There were 3x as many men on board than women. However, the percentage of women who survived is much greater since they used a "Women and Children First" policy for loading the life rafts (which we all know from watching the movie). Only 19 women's bodies were recovered and 4 are buried at Fairview.
At Fairview, the layout of the graves, commissioned by the White Star Line, features four curved rows of graves. Interestingly, this arrangement resembles the bow of a ship, adding a poignant layer of symbolism to this somber resting place.
Annual upkeep was paid for by the White Star Line until 1930, whereupon a trust fund was established for the perpetual care of the graves. The Halifax Titanic Graves Trust Fund accepts donations.
The headstones were also paid for by the White Star Line. The majority of these souls are commemorated with modest gray granite markers bearing their names and dates of death. Families, friends, and various groups paid for more elaborate inscriptions on some of the graves.
Careful notes were made regarding clothing, jewelry, papers and other personal effects found on the bodies. Thanks to these meticulous records, dedicated researchers have been able to identify more victims. J.H. sewn on an undergarment on a woman's body was the tiny clue that helped researches name her. Only one woman lost had the initials J.H. Jenny Henriksson. She was from Stocklhom, Sweden immigrating to Michigan with relatives.
Sadly, one-third of the graves remain unidentified, their occupants forever anonymous with only the date of death and a marker number to remember them by.
The Titanic victims buried at Fairview Lawn represent a cross-section of those aboard the Titanic from first-class passenger William Henry Harrison (secretary to Joseph Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line), to third-class Swedish emigrant Alma Pålsson, traveling with her four children.
One gravestone that gets particular scrutiny is the one marked J. Dawson. This was Leonardo DiCaprio's character in the movie Titanic. However, Jack, the free wheeling artist who gambled his way onto the boat isn't buried there (because he's fiction). The real J. Dawson was Joseph, an engine worker, who most assuredly had little time for romancing a first-class passenger.
Poor Lost Baby
Among the graves at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, one that carries the deepest emotional resonance is that of the 'Unknown Child.' This young soul, who remained unidentified for decades, was eventually confirmed through DNA testing in 2007 as 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin. Sidney tragically perished alongside parents and his five older siblings.
After our somber visit to the cemetery, we walked 4 miles to the waterfront. Along the way, we visited The Halifax Citadel National Historic Site.
The Citadel played a pivotal role in the birth of Halifax. The strategic advantage of the spot, compelled the British military to establish the town here in 1749. It's perched high on a hill, keeping a watchful eye over the city and the sparkling waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It has some serious eye candy in the form of stunning views.
Once you step through the massive gates, you are transported back to the days when Nova Scotia was a hotbed of military action. You don't have to imagine cannons booming, soldiers marching, and bagpipers playing tunes because the Citadel is a living history book with reenactments and costumed characters showing it all to you.
The Halifax Waterfront is a bustling hotspot in the city. It has a 2.5 mile boardwalk spanning the length of the waterfront from Pier 21 to Casino Nova Scotia - it was easy to get our steps in here. As we strolled along this picturesque promenade, we found ourselves surrounded by a treasure trove of delights.
We spotted ships of all shapes and sizes, from sleek modern super yachts to historic schooners that look like they've sailed straight out of a swashbuckling adventure. And yes, you can even climb aboard some of these beauties to feel like a captain of the high seas for a day!
Now, what's a waterfront without some mouthwatering treats, you ask? Fear not, for this place has that covered! The freshest seafood – think lobster rolls, fish and chips, and succulent scallops. If you aren't into fish, that's ok. The waterfront has every other kind of food available too including a huge assortment of Canada's favorite, Poutine!
There are stores for every souvenir you could want (or not want) and plenty of boujee boutiques selling everything including this one that sells....can you guess? Perfume? Jewelry? iphones?
The waterfront hosts a lively cast of street performers who'll have you laughing, clapping, and maybe even dancing. It's like a spontaneous carnival by the sea!
And for the history buffs among us, there's the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic that transports you through time, sharing tales of legendary shipwrecks, daring explorers, and even a ghost story or two.
It also explains the horrific explosion that rocked Halifax Harbor in 1917. Two steamships collided. One was laden with explosives for WW1. The blast was the largest human-made explosion at the time. It released the equivalent energy of roughly 2.9 kilotons of TNT. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to imagine the carnage because a similar explosion happened in Beirut just a few years ago.
There's also the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. The museum is located at Canada's "Ellis Island". Pier 21 is where nearly one million immigrants landed in Canada from 1928 to 1971.
As the sun set, the Halifax Waterfront transformed into a magical wonderland. The twinkling harbor lights reflected on the water and the night life kicked into gear.
After 4 days in Halifax, we set off to complete our own Down East Loop. We returned to Mahone Bay, where four years prior, Lagerhead became our boat!
Completing the Down East Loop
There are various cruiser milestones to be accomplished like Circumnavigation (the big one), Rounding the Horn, Completing the Great Loop (Down the Mississipi, through the Gulf of Mexico, Up the East Coast, and through the Great Lakes) and Completing the smaller Down East Loop.
It took us 4 years but we officially completed the Down East Loop. We bought our boat in Mahone Bay in 2019 and sailed her down the east coast to NYC, up the Hudson, the Erie Canal, out into Lake Ontario and home to Sodus Bay. When we sailed into Mahone Bay on August 4, 2023 it completed the loop!
We had a lovely sail into Mahone Bay. We dropped anchor in between the mooring field and a shoal. We would get used to being shoved to the edge of bays by mooring fields on our way down the east coast. Everyone wants to make money, why let people anchor for free when you can charge them to anchor on your ball. We, along with lots of others, still find room to anchor even though sometimes it is a tight squeeze.
Mahone Bay is a lovely little town on the northwest shore of Mahone Bay. They weren't very creative with the naming. Not too far from it is the infamous Oak Island, home to treasure hunters who have flushed their own fortune away searching for nothing.
We checked out all the stores in town and loved the music store the most. We also visited their local museum which was cute and free. We learned why farmers all named their oxen Bright and Lion. If a farmer sold or bought a new one, the oxen were interchangeable. Bright is always on the right and Lion is always on the left. Now you know too!
We also enjoyed a few beers at the Saltbox Brewery with our cruising friends, Mark and Terri.
Next door to Mahone Bay is Lunenburg. No self-respecting sailor can visit Nova Scotia without paying tribute to Lunenburg.
Lunenburg, oh, what a charming slice of maritime magic! Nestled along the picturesque coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, this town is the epitome of fishing quaint. Colorful, historic buildings line the cobblestone streets, like a box of crayons exploded into a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We sailed into town alongside Bluenose II, Lunenburg's resident superstar. This iconic schooner is basically the Canadian Beyoncé of the sea, and you can't visit without taking a selfie with it. Canada even put her on their currency, that's how much they love her. The Bluenose II isn't just a boat; it's a symbol of Lunenburg's maritime heritage and that once Canada beat the pants off America in a sailboat race (take that!).
We learned all about Bluenose (the original) at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg. The museum is worth a visit.
We really enjoyed touring the wharf-side vessels which are part of the museum.
Lunenburg's shopping scene is as bustling as the local lobster fisheries. Dave's favorite store was the Ship and Boat Chandlery. Every sailor/hoarders dream store! .
We also found time in Lunenburg for the mundane chores which included a big hike to the grocery store and laundromat.
Sailing Around Nova Scotia
Our plan was to leave Lunenburg and sail the 200 nautical miles nonstop to Bar Harbor, Maine. Unfortunately, mother nature had a different idea. A large storm, lasting hours, was approaching with torrential rain and wind gust up to 40 knots.
Dave was perfectly fine with pushing through. However, we've been out in storms like that on Lake Ontario and I remember all too well how that feels so I started looking for a port to duck into. It seemed all the ports opened to the south which wouldn’t protect us from the storm. I quickly texted Terri to see where they were going. They had found the perfect refuse, Lockeport.
It was a great hidey hole to ride the storm out. We were 15 miles away from it when I convinced Dave to turn in and get there. The bad news was we would arrive in the dark (again).
Entering the channel in the dark proved to be very sketchy indeed and even shook-up Dave who never gets rattled. The storm was just starting as we entered. The wind had the rudeness of picking up to 25 knots as we wove through shoals and islands in the pitch black sky.
The port was teeny tiny. Mark and Terri, dressed head to toe in foulies (foul weather pants, coats, and hoods), were waving us down on the fishing dock. We never would have found that spot on the dock, tucked tightly between two fishing trawlers, without their help. It was low tide and tying off on the tall dock without them would have been harrowing.
The next day we explored Lockeport. Living up to Canadian standards, the locals were extremely friendly. It turned out not many cruisers sailed into their port, opting for the bigger town of Shelburne, in the next bay over. The locals were very happy to talk to us.
We met Becky, who owns and operates a combination yarn store and hairdresser shop. She filled us in on all the town news we could possibly ever want to know. We were beginning to wonder if we would ever get to leave her shop. She was very nice but verbose is an understatement.
On our evening walk, Dave struck up a conversation with a couple, Jen and Mike, who happened to be stargazing in their driveway. They invited us onto their patio for drinks and conversation. They are fellow travelers- van lifeing it. They also spend time on a houseboat in Florida that they renovated. They gave us a tour of their beautiful home which they also remodeled themselves. We enjoyed a wonderful evening and Jen sent us back to the boat with dinner fit for a king.
We love our chance encounters with cool people. Experiencing new places is incredible but it’s the interactions with people that make it so fantastic. Canada will live in our hearts as one of the best people places in the world!
In our next blog, after three months in Canada, we sadly say goodbye and sail back to the good ole US of A.