gunboats, fog and lobster larceny
Jim Fraser and Allan Parry's June 2005 cruise
Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore from Dartmouth to Sherbrooke
in Wayfarer 8328 Naomi

Jim Fraser (left) with Allan Parry and Naomi

Jim packing at home

Packing Naomi

day 1: Dartmouth to McNabs Island
Note: to see much larger versions of the various charts involved, click on the relevant items below:
chart 1   chart 2   chart 3   chart 4   chart 5   chart 6

Halifax Harbour

Day 1: "Vessel on my port side, you are on course to enter the restricted area around the naval dockyard," said a loud metallic voice. A large RIB with flashing blue light pulled alongside.  "They have real guns," I said to Jim. We had only just set off on our two-week cruise, having launched Naomi from a slip near the Dartmouth ferry terminal. 'They're probably just practicing their shooing off technique for when it gets busy in the summer', said Jim.

The Charles de Gaulle

We ran on down Halifax harbour under full sail towards the French nuclear powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. "I bet there's a huge exclusion zone around that thing," I said. Sure enough another RIB with blue light flashing approached. The French were taking no chances with al Qa'eda manned Wayfarers. We were informed that there was a 600m exclusion zone around the carrier to our starboard and a 200m exclusion zone around the fleet tanker and nuclear submarine to port. We hoped the two zones didn't overlap!

A less sophisticated warship HMCS Sackville

"What are your intentions?" demanded the megaphone. "We're going camping on McNutts Island," I shouted. Jim cringed. "It's McNabs Island," he hissed. "They'll be suspicious." Undeterred, Jim calmly took photographs. Guns bristling, the RIB turned away.

McNabs Island

McNabs Island - 2

Day 2: The next morning we were awoken early by the snarl of huge outboards as sinister black RIBs charged into our bay. Frogmen dived overboard and swam across the bay. The RIBs raced about, creating waves to challenge the frogmen. Two landing craft approached and put landing parties ashore at both ends of our beach. Military bods in white plastic suits with large plastic bags moved towards us along the beach picking things up. Had there been a nuclear incident? Were they closing in on us? Suddenly a tracked vehicle approached through the undergrowth behind us. Trapped!

The French SBS frogmen started doing press-ups on the beach. I watched through binoculars. "Probably not a good idea that," said Jim. Finally the shore parties converged on our Wayfarer. Were we destined for the Foreign Legion?  Fortunately they were just doing a beach cleanup! Perhaps the French admiral was coming ashore for a barbie?

We left McNabs Island under sail. There was hardly any wind, but under the eyes of the French and Canadian navies, we could hardly do otherwise. When out of sight, we fired up the motor and headed out of harbour, turning left at Devils Island.

We planned to cruise the Eastern Shore from W to E to take advantage of the prevailing southwesterly winds. Of course, today the wind was easterly, so we motored against it all day, getting through a whole gallon of petrol in Jim's 2hp Honda. Finally, we arrived at Cable Island. The canoe guidebook had suggested this as a good campsite, and so it was. We anchored Naomi off the beach. There is only about a metre of tide on these shores.

Cable Island.

Cable Island: Tents in tree line


Cable Island: Centreboard cleared

After our long day of motoring we were short of fuel and water. Last year a gallon of petrol had lasted us two weeks in Newfoundland. We left camp and sailed off the beach. 'Oops, the centreboard's stuck'. I said. Back to the beach we came. I was getting used to stuck centreboards this season - mine had been filled with large amounts of the Dee estuary two weeks previously. We careened Naomi and Jim deployed his stone removing tool - cut from an aluminium meter rule - true to the Wayfarer mantra of everything having a dual use.

Carters Point wharf


Off we went again. We scanned the shore with binoculars for any sign of a gas station. Nothing. "It used to be here," said Jim. We sailed into a small fish dock. A fisherman spoke to us in broad Eastern Shoreese. I didn't understand a word. "He says we can get water from the white house but petrol is only from a fuel truck," said Jim. Up at the house we had a stroke of luck. "Aren't you Jim Fraser?" asked the lady. It turned out they used to work together at the Halifax hospital. Lorna gave us water, filled up our petrol can and wouldn't accept any payment.

We fished on the way back to Cable Island camp using high tech paravane equipment but with our usual lack of success. Tinned stew and rice for tea! And a campfire on the beach.

Bacon and Aunt Jemimas

Washing up

Day 3: Next day was glorious. A late start, several cups of tea , Aunt Jemimas pancakes and bacon for breakfast. We broke camp and sailed past Ship Rock down Tangier Harbour. After a short offshore passage we found Shelter Cove inside Ironbound Island. This was a stunning natural campsite. We had only covered 5 miles or so but thought, "What's the rush?"

Shelter Cove

There were rock pools full of fresh water so I had a wash and shave and did some necessary washing.  The site even had geological interest;  the 'Tangier Dykes' are thought to be made from the bottom part of the Earths crust and are amongst the oldest rocks on Earth.

As we ate our evening meal around the fire an osprey flew around doing its fishing. A Colin Archer ketch flying a British red ensign sailed past and anchored further up the cove.

repairing the Coleman stove

Day 4:
We needed to move on. The 2 burner Coleman petrol stove was acting up. A blocked jet was diagnosed. We tried a broken match, a fine piece of grass and then a medical syringe to try to unblock it. The syringe worked eventually when Jim remembered to remove the blanking cap!

British ketch

The British ketch motored out of the cove and then returned. The fine morning was threatened by fog which was rolling in. We called him up on Ch16 and had a chat. He had been away for 2 years and was returning to the UK via Newfoundland and Greenland. He said the fog was not too bad but he had low oil pressure.

The fog was standard stuff for this coast. Warm, moist air from the Eastern Seaboard meets the cold waters of the Labrador current leading to frequent fogs. Today it wasn't too bad - 200 to 400m visibility. We had to make progress, so set off for Taylors Head on a compass course. We didn't see the headland but buoy hopped using GPS.

The fog persisted all day, sometimes thinning to a watery sun and sometimes becoming thick. One consolation was that in these rock strewn shallow waters we were not going to encounter anything bigger than a small lobster boat.

Eventually we arrived at McDonald Island (above) and made camp on a scrap of marshy grass between sea and forest. At least firewood supplies were healthy. Coffee with rum followed by ham, onions and potatoes around the fire was good.
part 2