Dinghy Cruising Along Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore
Rob Dunbar sails Celtic Kiss (CL2120) from Dartmouth past Canso
to Pirate Harbour on the Canso Strait in September 2006
Days 7 and 8
Day Seven: Friday, September 8, 2006
At daybreak I awoke to abated wind and sea, and once again prepared Celtic Kiss for a day sail to Canso.  It was too early in the morning to awaken Trenton and Charlene so out of courtesy, I opted not to ring their doorbell.  As I couldn’t get reception on the VHF, not even the weather station, I slipped my lines and headed out to the green buoy marking the entrance to New Harbour and altered course for Canso. Up went the spinnaker again as I began my slow run to Canso. The sky looked to be clearing to seaward, so I gathered that I was in for a much wanted fair weather day for sailing to this historic fishing port famed for high wind and/or fog. The slow run on an almost flat sea gave me time to reflect on my joyous trip thus far, and I was a bit saddened that it was coming to an end.  This day was a bit nerve-wracking though, as I had received word that a welcoming party would be forming on Saturday in Pirate Harbour. Hence I didn’t want to be overdue for Saturday’s arrival.  On occasions, the wind could barely fill the chute and thus allowed it to drag in the water. 

It’s at times like these that it’s best not to look at the ETA option on the GPS as the readout was predicting an arrival time in Canso Harbour at 2000…twelve hours from now. Yikes! Odd how I had hoped for the wind to abate, but this was a bit too much. Hopefully, when the sun rose higher, the wind would come with it.  To me it felt like I was rounding
Cape Horn on a calm day, for how often does it happen that this particular approach could be so tame? 
Down comes the chute as it’s dragging in the water, causing the boat to round up to seaward. Ironically, now that I was farther out to sea, I could get a weather check on the VHF.  Light winds and overcast with clearing in the afternoon. As the day wears on, the teasing zephyrs of light air entice me to raise and lower the chute repeatedly throughout the day. What a workout I’m giving myself.

While I was passing Dover, a curious fisherman came out in his newly painted boat to see if I was all right, and offered to tow me to Canso. I quickly declined his kind offer, but I did ask to him to relay my float plan to the Coast Guard.  He obliged by skillfully coming alongside Celtic Kiss, allowing me to jump into his boat Skipper Joe to use his much more powerful radio.  The view of a fully rigged and skipperless Celtic Kiss, drifting free six miles off the coast was an eerie sight. “That’s something you never want to see,” remarked Joe.  I couldn’t agree more, especially considering that it was my boat we were looking at.  After re-opening the float plan, I thanked Joe for his kindness and got back aboard Celtic Kiss to continue my journey. This whole episode gave me great comfort. It is nice to know that someone’s eyes are always set on me though I may not be aware of it at the time.  Given the light airs, I opted to save some time by sailing closer to the shoreline rather than sailing far out to the pre-set waypoints programmed into the GPS.  I was a bit concerned about entering Andrew Passage from this altered course, but a simple rule of thumb is to steer for the deep water and stay away from the breakers. Considering the modest ten-inch draft of my laden hull, I was still confident of an uneventful passage through the channel. I used the experience and knowledge gained during the run from Baltee Island to West Quoddy to keep my nerves at bay.  As the sun finally broke free of the cloud, I was entering Andrew Passage and bid farewell to the North Atlantic, "It's been a great time and thank you for being so kind to me."
Just then a whisper of a south-west wind arose, and I could see the porpoise frolicking in the mouth of the Passage. Was it just a coincidence or was the North Atlantic saying to me, “Glad you enjoyed your stay and come back soon.”  A southwest wind was perfect, enabling me to make a quick run down this passage and to take running fixes in a stable boat.  As I made my way down to the opposite mouth of the channel, Canso Harbour opened up to welcome me. Again I heard the whistling sound I had encountered twice before.  For once I wished I had someone with me so I could say to my crew, “Do you hear that?"  The whistling sound then turned into something that sounded like the squawking of either a flock of birds or a herd of seals.  As I left the Passage, the sound was almost deafening and I thought to myself, "I couldn’t anchor here overnight even if I wanted to." Soon after, Celtic Kiss nosed her bow past Glasgow Harbour, and Canso came into view. What a wonderful sight after such a long day. The steady wind I was now experiencing brought me quickly and smartly into the Canso Marina under full sail. Now I finally felt that I was back in my home waters as the hills of Cape Breton were certainly a wonderful sight in the late afternoon.

Cape Canso Marina: the last overnight stop of the trip

While I was securing my lines at the Canso Marina and Campground (Al's note: for marina pics and info, click here), the Park Warden drove up to the dock. Anticipating the conversation, I asked what the berthing fees would be. I was informed that anything under 25 feet was $20/night. As this was my last night of a great adventure, I was perfectly willing to hand him a damp $20 bill, but before I could flash my cash, he said, “But I just don’t feel right about charging you that much for such a little boat.”  So after some haggling at the dock, we agreed on a mere $5 for the night's stay, use of a picnic site for a barbecue and a spot to pitch the tent. It also included use of washroom facilities and a hot shower. Pretty good deal, I thought.  Upon completing the haggling process, I dug out my cell phone to call the coast guard and close my float plan for the night. Again I had been warned of spotty reception, but I got through on the first try.  Feeling lucky, I called my parents as well. Both of my parents had by now arrived in Pirate Harbour for tomorrow's triumphant arrival. I was able to leave a message on their answering machine just before the signal faded again. At least they would know I was now in the vicinity.  Soon after that call was made, I received a call from my good friend, Rob, in Calgary. I was in the midst of telling Rob about my trip, but as I was walking around with cell phone in hand, I lost reception.
As I was unpacking the boat and transporting my gear up to the “picnic site”, I was quizzed by many locals who were quite interested in the voyage.  One gentleman even made the effort to go to his house, got his teenaged son who is also a dinghy sailor, and brought him down to meet me. It’s not often that people meet someone in such a “cute little boat” who has sailed here all the way from Halifax.  

Canso Harbour at sunset

Canso: Kiss’ bow is pointed toward Cape Breton.

As dusk was settling upon the marina and my final gourmet meal was cooking, I walked down to check Kiss’s lines and noticed a sailboat coming into the marina. A sleek little Mirage 29 berthed on the opposite side of the finger from Celtic Kiss and I helped a fellow solo sailor secure his lines. In a brief conversation I was informed that he was sailing from Halifax to the North Shore of New Brunswick. After a week of sailing all alone, I would finally have another boat to look at, as we would be going the same route to the Strait of Canso the following day. 
My night in Canso was especially wonderful as I had pitched my tent in a designated picnic area at the foot of a breakwall that housed a little lighthouse. How fitting it was for me to sleep beside a lighthouse on the last night of my voyage.  To top it off, the cloudless sky offered a full orange moon shining over a still Atlantic Ocean.  After enjoying yet another celebratory meal of bottled pork, baked potato and the last of my rum, I quietly sat on the picnic table and basked in the greatness of all that Mother Nature was offering me on this wonderful night.   Feeling very grateful and thankful for all that had transpired, I made one final call on my cell phone - to my girlfriend, Charlene, in Halifax. I could only leave a message on her voice mail but I thanked her for giving me so much encouragement and for forgiving my undivided attention to the boat in the weeks prior to my departure date.  Our vacation times had been set for the same two-week period and I hadn't wanted to abandon her, but am forever grateful for her insistence that I should fulfill my dream.
Day Eight: Saturday, September 9, 2006
Awakened by a foghorn, I couldn’t believe my luck. Immediately I opened the tent flap to watch a fogbank roll into the marina. Canso was living up to its reputation. But knowing the weather forecast, I guessed correctly that the sun would burn off the fog, so I closed the tent flap and went back to sleep.  A short while later, the foghorn ceased its sharp groan, which signaled all was clear.  Unlike mornings past, I took it easy this morning and enjoyed a fine breakfast of mixed fruit, left-over bottled meat and cans of Pepsi and 5-Alive. A much welcomed hot shower followed, as did a shave.  As I finished my morning pampering at 1000, I watched the Mirage 29 leave Canso Harbour en route for New Brunswick.  So much for having company, I thought, but I really didn’t care as nothing was going to spoil my last day at sea.  Savouring every moment, I leisurely packed up my impromptu campsite and prepared Celtic Kiss for the final leg of the journey.

All ready to head for Pirate Harbour

Great ocean view property

The fog has passed but it’s not too far away.

At 1220 Celtic Kiss poked her nose past the rocky entrance to Canso Harbour and I could see my buddy out on the horizon. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was getting myself into a race.  Knowing the forecast was calling for a westerly wind, I knew that this would be an unpleasant and gusty day to sail the Canso Strait. 

Leaving Canso behind

I used my local knowledge to hug the lee shore of
Nova Scotia’s mainland while my competitor was getting pounded over on the Cape Breton side.  When all was said and done, I made up great time sailing at 5.5 to 6.2 knots throughout the final leg from Canso, and soon found myself abeam of the Mirage. To my delight, I zipped past him and got a visual on my final waypoint C21.  Another two minutes and I could see the beach that my grandfather and I used to play on, which meant that I had enough room to clear Susie’s Island and altered course for a final windward leg into the Pirate Harbour wharf under full sail. (Al's note: for marina pics and info, click here.)

Safely secured at my destination in Pirate Harbour
Upon my arrival, childhood friends and neighbours who had been following my trip greeted me. The people I wanted to see the most, my parents, who had both watched me spend countless hours in front of their computer in Calgary, planning this voyage, stood on the Pirate Harbour wharf. Fittingly my father, the man who would get up early to stand in line at 5:00 a.m. to sign me up for sailing lessons when I was much younger, took my bow line and secured Celtic Kiss to her final destination. 

Champagne to celebrate

Ready to go back to Halifax

We all celebrated with champagne and beer on the wharf to mark a successful voyage.  I noted the time when dad took my line.  It was 1717 hrs and ironically enough, this meant I had arrived at the right place at the right time: a week earlier, I had announced to the coast guard in Halifax that I’d arrive in Pirate Harbour at 1700 hrs on Saturday September 9, 2006.

Robert B. Dunbar
Celtic Kiss CL2120

Prior to the trip I had been persuaded to buy an outboard motor for safety reasons. I am happy to report that during the entire trip not a drop of fuel was used, and that I can thus still keep my purist sailing status.

Robert B. Dunbar
Celtic Kiss CL2120

Final GPS readings:
Moving Average speed: 3.6 knots       Actual Sailing Time: 51 hrs. 44 min.
                                                 Overall average speed: 2.8 knots        Avg. Daily Distance sailed: 30.6 nautical miles
                                                 Maximum speed: 9.1 knots                  Total Distance Sailed: 185 nautical miles
days 1-3
days 4-6
days 7-8