We have arrived in Pictou, home of East Coast hospitality, endless pier side mackerel fishing and Grohmann rigging knives. Our straight shot didn’t quite end up that way. After two days on the water and nearing the mouth of the Saint Lawrence we watched the wind and waves pick up as we received a negative forecast for the conditions around Gaspe.
It was decided, since we were close to one of the last ports large enough to enter, that we should pull in and wait for conditions to clear. Mist of Avalon, I am sure, has seen her fair share of weather but we decided to pay heed to the classic adage about “discretion being the better part of valour” and made a well executed, nighttime docking (including a spreader lighted launch of our zodiac out in the river for an initial scouting mission) at the hereto unknown port of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. Sainte-Anne’s is a small Quebecois town on the south side of the river’s mouth. Previous to our arrival none of us had ever been to Sainte-Anne but as morning dawned a quaint hamlet emerged from the darkness. Sitting at the end of the government pier we watched as people flocked to the dock in order to socialize and fish. Never ones to waste time, we spent the day on repairs and maintenance not possible at sea. We are really starting to get to know Mist, who has thrown us a few challenges along the way as we’ve become accustomed to her, every boat has their particularities, you must learn to speak their individual language. Loki for his part was happy for the unexpected landing, since his puppy energy is only amplified after days without a proper walk.
By the next evening skies had cleared and with a fair forecast 04:00am was set as our departure time to make way for Pictou once again. After standing deck watch from 12:00am till 04:00am and helping castoff I trundled to bed only to wake to the news that I had missed one of our closest animal encounters yet, giant tuna racing off our bow. Whales were spotted on our port quarter later that day but they were much too far away for photos. Mostly we saw birds and as we left the mouth of the St. Lawrence we began seeing Northern Gannets with their long white wingspans and sleek yellow capped heads.
Our timing could not have been more perfect as we rounded Gaspe. We reached the rugged the peninsula just as the sun began sinking low in the west and sailed between Bonaventure Island (which hosts a large Northern Gannet colony) and Perce Rock under the rich red glow of the day’s last rays. The whole crew spent the evening seated on the aft deck taking pictures and enjoying a spectacular display of nature’s beauty.
We spent that night in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence bound for the Northumberland Strait. The next morning Prince Edward Island appeared off our port bow, low and green, barely more than a strip against the sky and the sea. We spent the day teasing Sam, our P.E.I local, about the possibility that P.E.I could ever have their own ski hill which she states even hosts a lift! Most of that afternoon was spent dodging the thousands of lobster pots that litter the strait, making it impossible for us to maintain a proper course line. At one point we were even forced to stop, hove to and turn our engine off while Nick made the great sacrifice of jumping in the cold Atlantic waters to make sure our prop and shaft were not tangled in an errant line, below the water line until just before passing over it. Thankfully we were all clear. By that evening we made another well-timed sunset pass under the Confederation Bridge.
The next morning we made our way into the little harbor of Pictou for a few days of maintenance and repairs before appearing at the tall ship festival in Charlottetown. Pictou is a cute village, full of classic east coast clapboard houses and steepled churches. The government wharf, our home for the week, was again a hub of activity. People were hauling in mackerel by the hundreds and we were kindly offered a dinners worth by a local fisherman that Tim gutted with his new folding Grohmann knife and Jason cooked up on the BBQ. It was also in Pictou that we sadly lost our cook to the ending of the summer, Louisa had to head back home to start the school year and to help her son off for his first year of university.
During our time in Pictou we were able to accomplish a lot of general maintenance around Mist, from giving her bulwarks and masts a good coat of paint to rigging up new lazy jacks for the fore sail and rerunning some of her plumbing.
Outside of all of the errands and work we had time to look around Pictou, which of course included a few trips to the Grohmann factory store. Grohmann Knives is a local Pictou business that produces high quality stainless steel knives including rigging knives, a must have for any tall ship sailor. Mine was stolen years ago from the aft deck of a tall ship I worked on so I took this opportunity to purchase a new one, while almost every other member of the crew picked up something for themselves.
Our Skipper Jason was also happy to hear that legendary old school Nova Scotia tattoo artist Sailor Jerry Swallow was working only one town over. So one day Nick, Jason and I piled into a cab and found ourselves in New Glasgow at Vintage Tattoos where Jason was able to add to his classic collection of old school tattoos by getting a ‘Rose of No Man’s Land’ on the front of his leg.
All in all the crew of Mist had a great week in Pictou and a little rest up before the hectic hubbub of the Charlottetown festival. I would be remiss if not to mention the wonderful hospitality of the Pictou population, we met with nothing but help and offers of assistance. Foremost among these were Dean and his wife Colleen. Dean would arrive every morning in order to take us for a Tim Horton’s coffee run and often came back in the evening to see if we needed anything else. He also surprised us with a trunk full of firewood (which we have put to good use during a cold spell in Charlottetown) and a loaf of Colleen’s fresh bread and a jar of mustard pickles (which Max put on everything for a week!)
Finally it was time for us to depart and head to Charlottetown for their 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference celebration, so with Dean casting off our lines we head out for a quick run across the strait where our fellow tall ships awaited. And since we were headed for P.E.I, Sam’s home, I thought she would be the perfect candidate for a few questions to end this blog with.
Q: What made you fall in love with sailing once you were aboard Sorlandet (Class Afloat)?
A: It was when we were crossing the Atlantic for the first time. When you are in the open ocean there is nothing around you and coming from the country it is a little bit the same there are big open skies full of stars and you feel so small. Also the team work on board was great, you learn to count on other people, it is a very special environment.
Q: A favorite sailing moment?
A: I was always on the morning watch my second semester on Sorlandet and they would send us up at sunrise to set the royals (the highest sails on the mast) and when we were crossing the Atlantic being up there at sunrise was just an incredible feeling.
Q: What have you learned on this trip so far?
A: So much…. A lot about about different sailing vessels, Mist is a Schooner whereas Sorlandet was a fully rigged ship. Chart work, how different sails work, a bit about systems and the engine. The navigation aspect has been really interesting.
Q: Where do you hope to go with sailing in the future.
A: I would like to work for a program like Class Afloat, continue on in sort form of a sail training enviroment.
- Seamanship in the age of Sail – By John Harland
A classic book! A detailed account of ship handling of the sailing man-of-war between 1600-1860 that includes a wealth of other basic, important information about sailing history, sailing mechanics and navigation. [Criminally, this book is out of print. — Ed.]
- Chart No 1. – Published by the Canadian Hydrographic Service
A necessary companion to navigation, describes all the symbols, abbreviations and terms found on nautical charts