I lost a day. It vanished from my life. I remember (now) that it was Tuesday September 26th that I misplaced. From that day until Saturday I was off. So, in the last blog post when I said the repairman came to our boat and fixed the autopilot on Wednesday, that was actually a Thursday. And then, when I said that we left Halifax on Friday, yep, that was actually a Saturday. Once I figured it out, I realigned reality and blog and let Tuesday go.
Sunday 01 OCT
This is our first full day in Lunenburg. We wake up leisurely and eat breakfast in no hurry. We roll into our jeans and eventually get out the door. We start our trek by walking east on Montague Street, then up Kempt Street, then left on Cumberland Street. Slowly, with each passing building, then block, then vista to the sea, we come to realize the wonder of this small town. Somehow we knew nothing about it beforehand. Our research had neglected it. And so, what we come to understand by just diving in is, Lunenburg is magic. This historic village started out as an agricultural and fishing town, then became a center for building and manning fishing schooners, and is now, because of the exquisite building stock, centered on historic tourism. Many of the town’s buildings are wood, even the very large ones, owing to the boat building trades. They are built in varying north European styles as it was British protestants, with the assistance of French, and Swiss, who conquered the previous (catholic) holdings. The town form is original to this period and very well preserved. Because of this, Lunenburg is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site – the only one in Canada that is a whole town. To us, it’s a delightful surprise.
Monday 02 OCT
Our (very early) morning starts in Lunenburg’s harbor. Before we leave, we finally calibrate the new autopilot. This is when we get her to understand where on planet earth she is so that we can then direct her to other places on planet earth. To do this, I turn circles with the boat while Glenn presses buttons on the control panel, and we get synched up. We had left Halifax using the old autopilot still unable to get the new one calibrated. We figured we’d figure it out. And then we did. On Saturday night Glenn sheepishly confessed that he had mounted the new AP antenna backwards. He was oddly embarrassed about it, forgetting that I wouldn’t know how to mount the thing in any direction. Not that I didn’t tease him about it. I don’t pass up low hanging fruit.
With the new AP driving, we are off to Port Joli. This anchorage is partway to Shelburne, from where we will launch across the Bay of Maine to get back to the U.S. We are not in a hurry, but are now pushing southward and will take every good weather window to get us further south. Today is a so-so sail. We have fair winds for a bit and then we motorsail the last half. Port Joli is a deep and well protected anchorage with good holding. It is also a disappearing town with just a few houses which appear to only be used in the summer.
Tuesday 03 OCT
We sail to Shelburne. The trip is uneventful with some sailing and some motorsailing.
At the yacht club there is already one boat tied up, a boat from “Boat Town,” Michigan (does this town even exist?). It has an older (white) man aboard who is quite jovial, even when he’s being, uhm, racist.
In the evening, a second boat comes in. Moonbeam, a 47’ schooner, parks behind us.
Wednesday 04 OCT
Today is devoted to indoor activities: laundry for me and school for Ava. In Halifax we downloaded some Khan Academy courses for Ava to do. Today she is studying Physics and World History this way, and so far, it seems much better than merely reading from text books – the way she had originally planned to learn. Khan Academy has full courses of study with articles to read, video lessons, assignments and quizzes/exams. So far, though it is early, Ava loves it… or so I think. Why? Because I am gauging on facial expressions and body languages. Because I am not allowed to ask. Because “it is not my business.” Because I am the mother of a teenager. Instead, Ava and I have arranged a once-a-week meet up to discuss her progress. And because I have set up the courses with answer keys, I am only needed when there are problems or to guide/evaluate essays.
To its credit Khan Academy’s whole program is devoted to the most noble cause: educating the world. Through the internet anyone can access their courses. They have many topics at many levels in many languages. And there is an easy to use interface. The only drawback – and it is a huge one – is that one has to have continuous access to the internet to use it. Of course this makes sense if students want to receive credit for the work, because their presence (especially in the assignments and quizzes) should be acknowledged. However, for us, this poses a problem as we are on the water and away from internet for big periods of time. To further complicate matters there is no easy way to get download a course for offline use. While there is a company that attempts to do this for you, in their effort to keep the interface identical to the online version, they have rendered the courses almost completely inaccessible. So, Ava and I individually copied all of the lessons and accompanying components piecemeal and then reassembled everything on our computers. In fact, does anyone want high school Biology, World History, or Physics? We have them as pdfs & mp4s!
In the late afternoon Glenn and I take a long walk on Shelburne’s Rails to Trails trail. This trail hooks into the Trans Canada Trail which is currently 17,000 km and is planned to be 22,500 km from the Atlantic to the Pacific when complete. This trail is comprised of former train tracks, removed and converted to walking/biking trails. It is well maintained and quite beautiful. An incredible amenity to walk (Glenn) and yammer endlessly on (me).
In the evening we are invited – due to Glenn’s friendliness (what the hell happens when I’m not around??) – on board Moonbeam for a cocktail. We pick up some cheese and crackers and head over. Michael (the owner, captain, and raconteur extraordinaire) and Sophie (the crew and total badass airplane-building magical beauty) are our welcoming hosts. Moonbeam is really stately, especially on the interior. There’s a lot of beautiful dark reddish (cherry?) woodwork and dark green upholstery. She was built in 1995 in South Africa and clearly had an auspicious life. Michael tells us the story of how he came to own her and how he spent his life. He is 70 years old and was a commercial diver for most of his career. He describes his time as a surface supply diver (I believe this is what it was called) when he used to spend extended periods of time underwater in very deep water. At times he would go down as far as 500 feet. Just to get there it would take a steady twelve-hour descent for the divers’ bodies to acclimate to the conditions. Once there, he and a team of five other men would live in a space that was 10’ x 10’ for thirty or forty days, or once, ninety-two (!!!) days. This is the point in the story when my head explodes. 6 men x 100 square foot space x 92 days. I have so many questions! Like, how did you not kill each other? (Michael says it was money that kept them all sane. We were being paid far too much to ruin it with our moods, he says. Wow. I have really underestimated money’s powers) Anyway, it’s hard not to draw some parallels with our current way of life, which I used to think was cramped. I wonder how much bigger I would find Netzah if I were being paid to be here?
Friday 06 OCT
We leave late because, well, we can. It’s only about 3-4 hours to Cape Negro. We motor the whole way due to lack of wind. Sunny and calm.
Saturday 07 OCT
We wake at midnight to leave for Yarmouth. Yarmouth is on the western side of Nova Scotia, putting it in the Bay of Fundy, the body of water with largest tidal fluctuations… in the world. There are places on Fundy where the tide has been measured to move 50’ vertically! We will be in the southwestern corner where the difference will only be about 14’. This massive filling and spilling of waters is due to the shape of the bay itself (including the bottom topography) and, more importantly, to a resonance between the bay’s wave period and that of the ocean. The forces of the tides in this area are so strong as to reverse the direction of several rivers twice daily. Amazing. But, I digress. We have to leave at midnight because we need to arrive at Yarmouth’s harbor mouth at time when the currents are flowing in (with the rising tide) toward the city. We will not be able to overcome the extreme push of the currents if they are against us. Already in the morning just after sunrise and before we even get to the bay itself we start to see strange waters. I don’t know if it’s related, but the waters around Big Tusket Island are full of swirly eddies and patches of eerie stillness. We navigate these easily, but they are weird and I can’t help but wonder what new world we are entering. We arrive at Yarmouth’s mouth at 10:30am, perfectly in time with favorable currents that allow us to freely enter.
After some award winning pizza (World’s Largest Slice AND Most Horrible Tasting Slice) the Wilcox Two go back to the boat and now I am free to roam. I go out in the town, walking wherever I am pulled. I shoot some pictures of houses and quirky things that catch my eye. I go to the art museum. And eventually, I find myself at the café that I know will be our Yarmouth outpost – every stop has one – Sip, this one is called. It’s a hip little spot with all of the required amenities: wifi, tattooed servers, good music, glassy garage doors open to the street, and BEER! What’s not to love? Soon Ava texts and joins me and we spend the hours working and writing and playing. In these places I like to people-watch and sometimes I grab a couple of pictures if I can. Ava absolutely hates when I take pictures of people secretly, so I don’t do it too much when she’s around or I lie to her and tell her that I’m just cleaning the camera or something. But she’s no fool. Unfortunately, today, though I try, I am unsuccessful in getting any good portraits.
My interest in photographing people is inherited from my father who inherited it from his father. My dad loves to shoot all types of people, especially on the street, especially without their knowledge, i.e., without their self-consciousness. He wants the real them, the one that made him want to shoot them in the first place. His portrait repertoire extends from the very beautiful young woman (more common in his younger years) to the old Cuban guy telling stories on a stoop to the heavily made-up flamenco dancer to the bored teenager. His eye seeks a story that can be told through a face or a figure. More than anything he is interested in the broad variety of ways to be human and he has always been charmed by extreme expressions of that humanity. I imagine that growing up in the communist dictatorship of Romania in the forties and fifties did not provide much variety of appearances in the people around him. Even if people had wanted to be conspicuous, there was not much opportunity, what with only one kind of shoe or shirt being mass produced, for the masses, at a time. I imagine that when he finally sees his first tattooed punk rocker or his first homeless wanderer, that is, when he sees his first expression of freedom in human form, he can’t take his eyes off them. His photographs preserve this thrill at the extreme (horizontal) breadth of the human state. Look what is possible to be, they say. Or maybe, Look what (I) can be.
Living with these strong waters makes me curious to understand them. I study the tide charts and try and figure out why a high tide can be higher on some days. The tides in the Bay of Fundy are higher the days of our visit because the moon is in perigee (closer to the earth) and the full moon has just passed. The overlap of these two extremes creates the higher than usual conditions. It seems obvious after I learn this, but still the patterns aren’t completely rational either. Like a gridded survey plot, I translate the numbers on the tidal chart into a mental picture to “see” the form of the tidal pattern.
Our Sip time is coming to an end. Ava is finished with her school day and I have formulated all of the day’s pictures. I start to think about making dinner when a woman approaches us quietly. I recognize her. She and a man on an electric scooter had been sitting on the sofa next to us for a few hours. Excuse me, she says, My son would like to wish you both a Happy Thanksgiving. I look up and see her face, her eyes twinkling and prideful. I had tried to sneak a photograph of her earlier, but was foiled by backlighting. I see her son outside waiting for her, too shy to even watch his mother deliver the message. Thank you, we both say coming out of our separate preoccupations. She turns and goes back out. I smile in her direction and then, I follow her out. They are standing together just outside the door. I thank the man for his kind wish. He introduces himself as Randy Ritchie and puts his hand out for a shake. Can I take your picture, Randy? I ask. Sure! he says enthusiastically. I reach for my camera. Randy and his mom pose and I snap the shot. Just then their cab pulls up and they have to go. But I can’t resist, I take one more shot of Randy, secretly.
“Mi’kmaq legend says that Fundy’s great tide was created when Glooscap decided he wanted to take a bath. Glooscap commanded Beaver to build a dam at the mouth of the Bay to trap the water for his bath. Whale was angered by this and demanded to know what had stopped the flow of the water. Glooscap then, not wanting to annoy Whale, instructed Beaver to break the dam, but Whale was too impatient. He began to break away at the dam with his tail and these great movements set Fundy’s waters in motion. To this very day the waters of the Bay continue to sway back and forth.” (source: Mi’Kmaq Heritage)
NEW! I have started two photo collections. One is all of the Bathrooms we use on our trip. Because we don’t have shower on the boat, we have to use many facilities on the road. Want to know what they look like? Check out my Bathrooms page (menu at right or link above) The other, Sea Puns (I tried to think of a good pun for the title but came up blank), is a photo collection of the many puns that boaters use to name their boats. I’ll add to these collections periodically. The photos aren’t the point, this is just for – mostly my and maybe your – amusement.