What is the Ultimate Sailboat for Canada’s Sailing Mecca?

What is the Ultimate Sailboat for Canada’s Sailing Mecca?

Among factors that make Nova Scotia “Canada’s Ocean Playground” is the Village of Chester, which effectively serves as eastern Canada’s Mecca of sailing. Not only is Chester perfectly positioned at the head of Mahone Bay with sweeping views and access to its beautiful waters and 365 islands, but is host of Chester Race Week, the largest keelboat regatta in Canada, and second-largest in all of North America. Recreational sailing has been a primary component of Chester’s heritage for well over 100 years, and many full-time and seasonal residents call Chester home distinctly because of the sailing.    

Given this focus on sailing, a fair question to ask is what is the ultimate Chester sailboat? A question that could serve as an apt topic for debate among Chester sailors during the long sailing-free months ahead. Little doubt that every sailor has an opinion, so I’ll get the debate rolling by rendering my own experiences with various contenders for the title of “ultimate Chester sailboat.”

I am fairly certain that I took my first sail ever on my parent’s Bluenose, hull number 46 and then named Kaila. I was five or six years old at the time and can report that I did not enjoy the experience at all. She leaked heartily, had to be bailed constantly, and totally freaked me out despite forewarning from my parents when she went atilt to heel—I just knew that we were gonna flip over and sink! I did eventually get over my fear of flipping, but can’t say that I took to sailing during those early years. The water was cold, the directions regarding what to do next confusing, and the heat and passion of the few races I went on a bit too much for my sensitive nature at that young age.

Which is too bad, as the Bluenose is definitely in the running as the “ultimate Chester sailboat.” Designed in 1946 by William J. Roué, the same guy who designed and built the iconic Bluenose schooner as featured on Canada’s dime, the first dozen or so 23-foot one-design class sloops were built at the Barkhouse Boatyard in East Chester. Other local builders, including the Stevens Boatyard in Chester, also began producing Bluenoses, with a total of 77 wooden versions of the boat produced in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1968, Roué granted rights to produce a fibreglass version of the boat to McVay Yachts out of Mahone Bay, and since then another 100 or so fibreglass versions have been produced, first by McVay, and then by other builders such as Herring Cove Marine, and two other boat builders in Ontario.

The Bluenose is a great daysailer, but it’s primarily known for its racing pedigree, which has been a staple in both Chester and Halifax since 1949. In fact, the Chester Bluenose fleet is the largest one-design keelboat fleet in Atlantic Canada, and the Chester Yacht Club hosts an active racing schedule from June to September, and alternates with Halifax the hosting of the annual Maritime Bluenose Championship. With such a large fleet, and an exceptionally robust Chester community of Bluenose sailors, the Bluenose would undoubtedly be named the “ultimate Chester sailboat” if the designation was based strictly on local sailor polling.

Many Chester old-timers might argue that the Chester C-Class sloops represent the “ultimate Chester sailboat.” Built starting in the mid-1930s in Heisler’s Boat Yard in Chester’s Back Harbour, these sleek, beautiful racer-cruisers—Eclipse, Ripple, Ohop, Mistral, Restless and Whim—quickly joined Chester’s other Universal Class wooden sailboats such as Hayseed and High Tide in winning numerous races for their owners. Even with the rise of faster plastic boats in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, the Chester C Class boats were considered the grande dames of Chester’s sailing season, and would continue to bring home the glory well into the first years of this century.

While Ben Heisler famously said that “if God had wanted fibreglass boats, he would have made fibreglass trees,” none of Chester’s iconic C Class boats were on the water this year. Fibreglass boats have definitely been dominating the waters of Chester of late, though there is a small fleet of “Classics,” along with the wooden Bluenoses, and a half dozen IODs (International One Design class), all of which continue to stir the souls of the old timers and anyone else who appreciates the beautiful lines and craftsmanship of these old wooden boats.

My own personal experience with Chester C Class racing was short lived. I was probably eight or nine years old when my parents decided to expose me to the joys of big boat racing and offered my services to Danny Blain, skipper of the Eclipse. Danny, who wrongly assumed that I must know something about sailing, put me on foredeck duty where not only was I scared to death that I’d be swept overboard—Eclipse had no lifelines—but I promptly screwed up every command given. I did not last long on foredeck, and wasn’t much better at following commands anywhere else he put me, either. While I didn’t gain any new appreciation for sailing during my short-lived apprenticeship, I pretty much learned every curse word in the book that I hadn’t already known, being the recipient or cause of the many he expressed that day. I did sail on Eclipse on rare occasions in subsequent seasons, though only as a last resort when Danny couldn’t find anyone else.

Despite the early setbacks in my sailing career, I did eventually garner a love and passion for sailing. I also found what for me is the “ultimate Chester sailboat.” That is an Ontario 32. Built starting in 1977 as a collaboration between Ontario Yachts and C&C Yachts, the Ontario 32 was designed as a rugged yet comfortable performance cruiser, and adopted many design elements considered novel for that time. With 11 feet of beam, she was one of the beamiest production cruising sailboats being built in her size. Combined with six feet and four inches of headroom, this gave her an expansive amount of below-deck space, and allowed for exceptional comfort down below that is enhanced by an inordinate amount of teak in the joinery work, as well as a cozy miniature wood stove.

The boat yard built 158 Ontario 32s between 1977 and 1986, and, up until a couple of years ago, there were four of them in the Chester area. Not sure where the others went, but I still love mine. With four and a half feet of shoal draft I can enjoy up-close and personal exploration of the coastline. And all that space and comfort means I can share the beauty of Nova Scotia’s coastline for extended periods with my family and friends, something I do on a regular basis. Perhaps the most notable expedition was marked by a week in the Bras d’Or Lakes with another couple and three kids in total, during which the kids managed to play hide-and-seek on board for hours one rainy day. 

My boat is no slouch on the race course, either, with a half dozen third place finishes in various races, and a third overall in the Cruising Class for one Race Week. And, in what I consider an important bonus feature not available with many larger sailboats, she is easy to handle, which allows me to take her out solo without the need for crew.

All in all, she is my ultimate Chester sailboat. And sure, the Bluenose class truly deserves the designation, and the Chester C Class honorary mention, but I wouldn’t trade my Ontario 32 for either of them.       

—Originally Published in the MacDonald Notebook   

Looking to Break That Circumnavigation by Sail Record

Looking to Break That Circumnavigation by Sail Record

—April 17, 2018

Late last year, French sailor François Gabart set a new world record for sailing solo around the world. Gabart completed his 27,859.7-nautical mile journey in 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35 seconds, beating by six days a previous record that had only been set one year before and thought unbeatable.

Little doubt that some intrepid sailors are already starting to strategize the means for breaking the latest “unbreakable record;” however, any sailor trying break such is going to need some serious coin given that Gabart’s boat, a 98-foot maxi-trimaran named “MACIF,” is considered one of the most technically advanced sailing yachts plying the oceans. While the MACIF sailing program has not disclosed the cost of the boat itself, the programs’s annual budget for Gabart’s sailing campaigns is $5 million.

Such known and unknown spending is likely petty change for Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, who backed the building of a 100 foot maxi-trimaran that was launched just a few months prior to Gabart’s departure record-setting voyage departure. Still undergoing sea trials, “Gitana 17” was designed to foil at over 50 knots and cover 900 miles per day. As MACIF averaged 27 knots and had a top one-day distance run of 851 miles, Gitana 17 appears to be a likely challenger to the Gabart/MACIF record. The question remains as to which sailor Rothschild will tap to sail his toy into the record books (Current skipper Sebastian Josse is a likely choice), and whether Rothschild will wait until the next solo around the world race (2019), or seek the record alone.

For those of us of more modest means, there remain at least one solo around-the-world sailing record that can be broken without having to spend millions. That is, the record for sailing the smallest boat around the world without docking on land.

That record is currently held by Alessandro Di Benedetto, an Italian, who successfully completed his voyage on a 21.3-foot boat in 2010. A 78-year-old Swedish sailor, Sven Yrvind, had planned to challenge the record in a boat half that size, but apparently

recently had second thoughts and is now only planning to take his homemade boat from Ireland to New Zealand. A life-long boat builder with ocean crossing experience on exceptionally small boats, Sven certainly had the chops, but perhaps age and health were a growing concern.

But really, in the realm of sailing around the world is the quest for breaking a record really worth it? How much of the world did Gabart or Di Benedetto have the pleasure of enjoying during their respective record breaking, and how comfortable do you suppose they were while doing it? I would surmise “hardly any” for the first, and “not one bit” for the latter.

Bottom line is that achieving a circumnavigation by sailboat—no matter how long it takes or how many stops in port along the way, is the sailor’s equivalent of Mount Everest. In fact, only about 300 people complete a circumnavigation in a given year. Less than 300 people have completed the voyage solo, starting with Nova Scotia native Joshua Slocum, who sailed around the world alone on a 36.9-foot gaff rigged sloop from April 1895-June 1898. Far fewer have done it non-stop.

Given that my wife doesn’t enjoy overnight passage making, it appears that my bucket-list circumnavigation is going to have to be solo. But I could care less about any records, and would thus make it a voyage to see the world and enjoy the sailing—“non-stop” be damned. And I doubt that I’d be solo all the time, as the wife and others have expressed the desire to fly into exotic ports of call to join me on occasion. The biggest challenge might be navigating a course that captures all the natural wonders of the world that I would love to see….

So perhaps there is a record I might be able to break after all. How about, slowest circumnavigation by sail?

Originally Published by Slidemoor

May This Couple Achieve Their Dream of Sailing the High Seas

May This Couple Achieve Their Dream of Sailing the High Seas

No doubt you heard about the ill-fated young Colorado couple who sold all of their worldly possessions in order to buy a boat in which to sail about the world, only to watch it capsize and sink two days into their voyage. Capsize and sink in a well-marked navigable channel within sight of the bars and restaurants of Madeira Beach, Florida.

If you’re like me, you read the sad story about Tanner Broadwell and Nikki Walsh, and said something to yourself along the lines of “those morons never should have left the dock.” That was pretty much my initial thought process when I first read about the incident earlier this month. All I had to see were descriptions about their limited sailing experience and purported methodology for attempting to navigate the channel to determine that they were complete idiots perhaps even deserving a Darwin Award. Absent this recognition, I felt that the couple should return to Colorado from whence they had reportedly come, and perhaps take up snowshoeing or some other mountainous activity to keep them away from the water.   

My judgmental side is often a bit too harsh when first invoked in situations involving apparent human folly, especially when the folly concerns activity on the water. Thus, I am glad that I did not immediately put my keyboard into action upon hearing this tale of woe. With further reflection, and by learning more details about the couple’s doomed voyage, I have a touch of newfound respect for them, and am now of the opinion that they should follow their original dream of sailing, whether “the Caribbean,” “around the world,” or wherever the fair winds take them. Not that I don’t believe that they may have been a bit boneheaded in their initial pursuit, but they deserve a touch of leeway due to their youth, and, at the same time, some kind of accolade for the bravery shown in actually setting off on their voyage.

Plenty of people make plans to sail around the world or otherwise embark on a grand sailing voyage, but few actually ever leave the dock. The previous owner of my sailboat, an Ontario 32, bought her with the intention of sailing around the world, according to local rumor. She certainly came equipped to tackle such a voyage, but I’ve been told that she spent the two seasons during his ownership moored in the harbor, and that witnessing wind in her sails was an exceptionally rare sight. Perhaps the previous owner determined that he didn’t really like sailing after all, or maybe he figured out that he’d be missing out on too much golf during his retirement. Whatever the case, it appears that his sailing dreams hit reality. 

Leaving shore and heading off into the vast expanse of the wide open ocean can be daunting, to say the least. Not only is the voyaging sailor leaving behind many of the comforts and conveniences of modern living, but is embarking on a changed mind set in which hourly and daily focus is primarily attuned to the reduced environs of the boat and surrounding seas. For some people, this latter zen-like notion might sound like heaven; but for others, it would be more akin to hell.

Consider that in the first round-the-world, nonstop solo sailboat race—1968-69 Sunday Times Golden Globe—competitor Bernard Moitessier became so attuned to his life on board that he failed to turn left towards the finish line, and instead tried to sail around the world again. On the other hand, another competitor, Donald Crowhurst, never left the Atlantic, and apparently drifted the ocean aimlessly while descending into madness that culminated in his suicide.

No telling how the ill-fated Tanner and Nikki would have fared had they pulled far enough away from shore, but the fact that they tried shows gumption. And yes, their experience may have been a bit limited, but you don’t learn to sail from books, and you’re not going to learn a whole lot about the art while tied up at the dock. So, given this initial gumption, I now fully wish this couple the best in their efforts to come up with the money to buy another boat and try again. From what I understand, they’re making out pretty well in their crowdfunding efforts. I would advise, though, that they spend a bit more time sailing with experienced sailors, and/or serving as crew on other people’s boats, prior to departing on their next voyage.    

—Originally published by Slidemoor, Feb. 22, 2018.

A Day on the Water, Alone, Just Me and My Mistress

A Day on the Water, Alone, Just Me and My Mistress

While many people love the autumn season with its colorful fall foliage and cooler temperatures, it is my least favorite season and one that provokes increasing melancholy with each day of its passing and inevitable approach of the first days of November. And that first week in November is generally the worst week of the season—nay, of the year—as that is when I normally have to take leave of my mistress so that she can go into hibernation for the five long months of our winter. Five long months without my beloved Ontario 32 sloop, a 1979 vintage sailboat who has given me far more joy in life than has any other inanimate object.

But really, to speak of her, my mistress, as “inanimate” is nonsense, on par with calling her a blow-up doll. She lives, she breathes, she whispers sweet nothings to me on beautiful moonlit night watches, and her absence doth make my heart ache.

Named after the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius, “Antares” has taken me, my family and friends on numerous adventures along the Nova Scotia coastline from the Bras d’Or Lakes to Ingomar. Along with these

Tanner’s Pass

longer expeditions, she serves as the perfect summer cottage on the water, with weekend jaunts to beautiful hideaways such as Rogue’s Roost, Tanner’s Pass, Cross Island, East Point Gut, and pretty much anywhere you can drop an anchor between Halifax’s Northwest Arm to the LaHave Islands. Day sails, island picnics, sunset dinner cruises, midnight full-moon cruises, and any other excuse to sail are legion. While she’s ostensibly a “cruising” sailboat, she has also served me well on the race course, with five or so third-place finishes over the years. And while all of these ventures on her, big and small, represent boundless moments of fun, merriment, beauty, and among the best times of my life, I also experience great joy just being with her when she’s at our dock or on her mooring in Chester’s Back Harbour.

My mistress has also played a role in many of life’s most meaningful moments. She hosted our wedding and reception, complete with lobster thermidor; and served as a limo to deliver another bride to her wedding, after which she served as the honeymoon suite for the happy couple’s first night of wedded bliss. My newborn son was at her helm three days after his birth, and while he didn’t quite know what he was doing, his grip was strong and true—naturally, she rocked him to sleep soon after. And yes, my girl has helped us during times of mourning, and aided us in saying goodbye to the dearly departed.

Now, with the end of the season, it feels like she is the dearly departed. But really, as my wife says, “this happens every year—you’ll get over it.” And I try to. In fact, I try to get over it by taking certain steps in the fall to prepare for her annual departure from my life. While these steps have become almost ritualistic, like the weather they change, and every year seems to present variations to the usual procedures. The culmination of these rites includes a solo trip when I take her over to South Shore Marine to get hauled, but there’s no joy in that short voyage. In fact, more often than not, I just motor her over. Like my mood, the skies on this day always seem to be dark, the temperatures cold; and there’s so much final detail work needed that there’s no real time for “pleasure” sailing.

That said, I had to end the season with a sail-over to the marina a few years back, as her engine had pretty much sputtered its last diesel-fueled cough and wheeze. On the appointed day, though, there wasn’t even a whisper of a breeze in the Back Harbour. I would’ve waited for a more favorable day, but a major cold front approached; and, I could have called a friend for a tow, but that would have gone against the just-me-and-my-love grain of the ritual. So I took a chance. When the tide turned, I released the mooring line with the belief that the outgoing tide would take us to the harbour’s mouth, where I discerned a wisp of wind. Lo and behold the tide worked for us, and we caught a wind that sailed us to the marina. However, shortly before arrival, got knocked down by a sudden squall that came out of nowhere and then left just as quickly, taking the wind with it. Made it to a marina mooring ball with what felt like the last eighth-of-a-knot puff.         

While that proved to be among the most memorable end-of-season sails to the marina, the much more important part of my end-of-season ritual is my annual solo goodbye sail. Starting the first week of October I monitor the weather to determine a perfect day to spend the day sailing. My goal is to sail what I call the Mahone Bay loop, which basically takes you around a large part of the bay’s perimeter. This reversible loop entails a course southeast from Chester Harbour to around the ocean side of the Tancook Islands, west to the Town of Mahone Bay, north through the Islands around Indian Point, a short dogleg northeast past Round Island, then back north to cut between Oak and Frog Islands, and then east for home.

Naturally, the course is determined in large part by the wind, which dictates whether we attempt the loop in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. The wind also plays a role in the success of the voyage, as too little leads to a shortening of the loop. In fact, more often than not the loop is not transited in its entirety, and we’ve ended up motoring for home with a setting sun. That was the case this year, as a dying wind prevented us from completing the Tancook portion of the counterclockwise loop. However, last year we completed the entire loop in record time, and with plenty of daylight left, dallied around the islands abutting Chester before heading into the harbour.

This solo day trip always proves quite cathartic in preparing for the annual impending goodbye, and provides me intimate memories that help ease the slow passing of each dark and dreary winter day. A day on the water, alone, just me and my beloved boat….

—Originally Published in The MacDonald Notebook November 11.

The Necromancy, Artistry and Beauty of Traditional Paper Charts

The Necromancy, Artistry and Beauty of Traditional Paper Charts

—October 14, 2016

I have long been enamoured of nautical charts, by far my favorite navigational tool. And sure, I enjoy the convenience of navigating by GPS chart plotter, but there is no art or romance in it. A chart plotter is all push button and cursor with any resultant specific details available in whatever scale or format you desire. In this age of computerized instant gratification, the paper chart takes a bit of work, but you get to look and touch an artistic canvas, discern subtle details by your own eyes, and use the chart as a backdrop to mentally visualize the transit from point A to B.    

Give me a paper chart, compass, parallel rules, close approximation of the starting point and average speed, and I canChester Harbour guide a boat via dead reckoning (DR) to just about any point on a chart’s navigable waters, even in the face of a thick blanket of fog or shroud of night. To those unfamiliar with the art of traditional navigation methods it can seem like necromancy, and perhaps to some extent it is.

My friends were certainly amazed the first time I navigated a complete voyage by dead reckoning, taking them almost 40 nautical miles through thick fog via an unseen narrow channel and then over open ocean to meet up with another narrow channel at voyage’s end. It was wondrous enough that I got us to our destination without ever seeing land except at departure and arrival, but I was also able to successfully gain visual sight of all five sea buoys on the route. Mind you, I must confess to being lucky, or under Poseidon’s watch, because that navigation was just too perfect, and I’ve yet to make another DR voyage that perfectly on course.

Charts are magical. GPS chart plotters are just plastic viewing screens with a bunch of interior computer chips and a need for electricity. Charts might get inconveniently wet (or worse, blown overboard should you bring one topsides), but chart plotters can just quit working. My nine-year-old Raymarine chart plotter gave up the ghost the other day. A bit annoying, but no big deal cause I’ve always got the paper charts in reserve. I’m not so sure that such an event would be “no big deal” with the rest of the world’s recreational boating public.

My grandfather and stepfather, both of whom contributed to the evolution of my nautical skills, used to joke about the pandemonium on the water that would ensue should a GPS satellite or two go on the blink. That was back during the emergence of GPS chart plotters when most mariners—professional and recreational—still learned traditional navigation. Now it seems that few up-and-coming recreational mariners even bother with the traditional methods. Woe be unto them should a satellite, or even just their individual ship-borne GPS unit, give out on a cold, dark, stormy night.   

Cape Cod to Nova Scotia ChartBut enough of any such “doom and gloom” scenarios, as I was vying to speak of the “beauty” and “artistry” of nautical paper charts. And the subject matter of “nautical paper charts” only came to me earlier this week, when I opened a box containing a treasure trove of nautical charts.

They were my above-mentioned step-father’s charts—collected, I assume, over the past 60 years or so, and representing all of his voyages, both those actually travelled and those only dreamt of.

The former, covering the seas bounding Nova Scotia, Maine, Massachusetts, Belize, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Turkey, are obvious. I long heard his sea tales, and his handwriting lightly adorns these charts, giving me visual representation of his thought process as he navigated from each Point A to Point B.

The latter—Newfoundland, West Indies, Venezuela, Brazil, and quite a few places I have yet to identify—are notable for their lack of written adornment.

I can only assume that they are places he longed to navigate and explore. I see this art and want to navigate and explore these places, too. 

—Originally published by Slidemoor.

Fathoming the Mysteries of “Ghost” Docks and Finding a Bit of Hollywood

Fathoming the Mysteries of “Ghost” Docks and Finding a Bit of Hollywood

—August 14, 2016

I discovered the strangest dock I have ever encountered several decades ago just outside of Greenville, North Carolina in a small pond deep in the woods near my step-grandmother’s farm. And when I say “small” I’m talking quarter acre at most. So small that you could traverse its length in a canoe with a couple of strokes of the paddle. So small that the dock, which only extended about seven feet over the water, seemed like it ended right in the middle of the pond. And ended to what purpose would be the question, as the pond was too small for boating and one could easily fish every part of it by casting from any one spot on the shore—that is, if that dock hadn’t been in the way.

The dock essentially proved to be a complete nuisance to fishing the pond, as its apparent age and dilapidation precluded any thought of walking out on it to drop a line. Thus, it was in the way, and its possible role as serving as cover for a lunker bass or two also proved worthless, as the only bites I got that afternoon were from the herds of deerflies that assaulted me in successive, increasing waves. Given the difficulty of reaching the pond, apparent lack of any fish, and abundance of hungry deerflies I never went back.

While I did not have a term for such structures back then, I now call docks that serve no readily apparent purpose “ghost docks.” And the only purpose I have been able to come up with for that particular dock is that perhaps it had been a good fishing hole at one time, but whoever fished it had been especially afraid of snakes. That notion only came to me in hindsight when I gained a healthy respect for snakes after coming face to face with a mating pair while fishing a different pond…but that’s another story. 

In my adopted home up here in Nova Scotia I have encountered quite a few ghost docks over the years. With more than 4,600 miles of coastline and at least 3,800 coastal islands we have a lot of docks. Generally, wherever one sees a dock there is a nearby or adjacent house, cottage, boathouse, seafood processing facility, or some other variety of human construction. But sometimes there is just simply a dock.

These ghost docks are usually found on remote islands or out-of-the-way, hard-to-reach sections of the shore, and cause seafarers such as myself to wonder, what is the purpose of that dock? Why is that dock there when it seems to serve no other purpose than to provide easy access to a deserted island or barren stretch of rocky seashore?

These are rhetorical questions because I do not know the answers, but I always speculate as to the purpose. I generally assume that newer looking docks built in especially picturesque locations have been built by landowners who dream of eventually building a cottage at the site. I tend to believe that older looking ghost docks were built by coastal fishermen as perhaps a waypoint at which to take a break or clean fish between home port and the fishing grounds. And the really ancient looking structures in the remotest waters call to mind the rum-running that significantly bolstered the local fishing industry’s earnings in the 1920s and ‘30s.

A ghost dock at one of my favorite anchorages along the coast morphed over the years from “spirit” to “working.” The anchorage is located in a gut between Taylor and Moore’s Islands roughly 20 nautical miles northeast of my home waters, a perfect distance for an overnight stay when cruising for a two-day voyage, or as a first-night stop for an extended voyage up to Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. The gut provides excellent protection from wind and waves, and despite being only about four miles from the tourist-trap destination of Peggy’s Cove, feels “ends-of-the-earth” remote—the granite cliffs, boulders, spruce strands, wildflower fields and scrub brush seemingly showing little change from 2,000 years ago. We generally see few other boats when there, and have never had to share the anchorage overnight with other boats, excepting friends cruising in company on their own boat. And while Taylor Island has become quite popular with rock climbers in recent years, their occasional presence is unobtrusive and they are hardly noticed during our walks around the island. 

The ghost dock was present on my first “discovery” of the anchorage back in 2003. It was almost more platform than dock, and rather unremarkable other than the fact that it was not connected to anything else related to man. It was also located on the much smaller and much less interesting Moore’s Island. I assumed that it was just a place for local fishermen to rest or wait out a storm, though we never saw anyone tie up to it.

Nothing changed about the dock until we arrived five years ago to find that it had been rebuilt or refurbished, and seemed more like a dock than a platform on stilts in the water. But again, I did not give much thought to it.

The next year found the dock connected to a staircase ascending the granite slabs some 100 feet to the island’s primary plateau. Ah, now this was interesting, and so, for the first time ever we landed on Moore’s Island. The stairs were well built and sturdy, and someone had been willing to spend some serious coin to ease access to the plateau, which, while having nice views over Dover Harbor, had nothing over the views from the ridges and plateaus of Taylor Island. It seemed like a nice picnic spot, but other than that we hardly gave the dock and stairs another thought after returning to our boat.

Until the next year, when we saw that the stairs ascended now to a small house. While I was slightly put off by the thought of a house looming over one of our favorite anchorages, its placement and design made it seem inconspicuous. As I had an architect friend on board with me, we had to do some snooping, and he was especially impressed by the quality of the home’s design, build and materials, all of which he deemed of “European” style and exceptionally expensive.

I’ve been back five times since it was built, and the home does not mar our enjoyment of the anchorage. It’s owners are always absent and the house seems to be receding into the landscape.

There’s a last bit of information I can convey regarding the evolution of this particular ghost dock: A year ago I started doing movie reviews of films shot on location in Nova Scotia. While1920x1920 watching the movie “The Weight of Water” I was struck by one particular scene featuring Sean Penn cavorting with a bikini-clad Elizabeth Hurley on a 50-foot sailboat anchored in a gut between two ruggedly beautiful islands. While Ms. Hurley in a bikini was definitely worth the re-watch, during that second viewing I realized that the action was taking place at my Taylor Island anchorage. Sure enough, a little research proved the film crew spent quite a bit of time there, and I now believe that the original ghost dock I found when I first went there had been built by the film crew, perhaps as a camera platform and/or for use by a supply boat.

I suppose that I will next have to figure out the mystery of the absent homeowners…but then again, I’ll be just as happy if I never meet them there.

—Published August 4th by Slidemoor.com

Hitting the Water With Old-School Virtual Reality

Hitting the Water With Old-School Virtual Reality

—April 14, 2016

It snowed over the weekend. Only about four inches, but enough to put a damper on the notion that we might have an early spring this year. The forecast for the coming week does not look promising as far as the boatyard doing much launching this week. Not that it really matters given that it’s the unholy tax filing month, and with my dual American-Canadian status I get double filing detail. Sigh….

Nevertheless, I’m itching to get on the water, anxious to feel the wind across my cheek as I hoist up the sails for the first time of the season. Alas, with no boat in the water, the inclement weather, work and taxes it looks like I will not be on the water until May. Oh well, guess I will need to scratch my sailing itch with a bit of virtual reality.

Yep, nothing like a good nautical book to tide me over while I contend with the symptoms of sailing withdrawal. I am not aware of any recent tales of nautical brilliance, but I love my selection of tried and true reads. And if you love a good nautical book as much as me, then I suggest you peruse my library and try out any one of these fantastic reads:

Godforsaken Sea: The True Story of a Race Through the World’s Most Dangerous Waters

Derek Lundy

This book tried to keep me up all night, but the sun came up before I finished it—oops, I guess it was an all-nighter! Fantastic read that details just about everything one needs to know about what it is like to participate in the Vendee Globe, the round-the-world, single-handed yacht race considered among the most gruelling competitions of all racing sports. If you want to get the sense of what it’s like to sail in the “Roaring 40s” this book is for you. And yes, it was so good that I have read it again during daylight hours.

Northern Lights

Desmond Holdridge

Good luck finding a copy of this book, as it’s been out of print for decades, though a limited edition of some hundred or so was published a few years ago on behalf of the widow of a member of the Cruising Club of America. Somehow a copy ended up in my hands, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this true story began literally across the harbour from my dock. In short, a young man looking for a last youthful adventure prior to settling down, buys a 30-foot sloop from a local Nova Scotia boat builder, and, with two other adventurers, sets sail with the intention of reaching the top of Labrador. Beautifully written, the tale details the hazards of such a journey, along with the day-to-day difficulties of undertaking such a voyage with the rudimentary gear, supplies and limited nautical knowledge of the crew. Three disparate personalities trapped on such a small space in sometimes dire circumstances plays a role in the tale, too. This book totally needs to be re-published.

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Man Against the Sea

Sebastian Junger

Yeah, yeah, you probably saw the movie starring George Clooney. The book, which provides a detailed analysis of a massive storm system and its effects on a small New England-based swordfish longliner, puts the movie to shame. It was a up-half-the-night, one-sitting read the first time I read it, and equally enjoyable the second time.

Sailing Alone Around the World

Joshua Slocum

If you love the idea of casting off from your dock to leave your life as you know it for an extended voyage of life at sea while you explore the world, then why haven’t you read this classic book about the first person to sail around the world solo?

To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World

Arthur Herman

If you love nautical history, along with history in general, this tome perfectly describes how Britain’s Royal Navy helped England become a world power and shape the world as we know it today. Another hard-to-put-down read, it pretty much consists of one-seafaring tale after another, combined with insights on how each of the localized incidents at sea reverberated across the oceans to affect the course of other interactions by man and governments.

As I’ve only read this one once, I think I just found my pick. However, my bookshelves are filled with dozens of other great seafaring reads. Guess I’m going to have to revisit this topic in a future blog. Until then, just grab any of the above books—trust me, you’ll feel like you’re on the water.

—Originally published April 13 by Slidemoor