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Old 07-10-2011, 17:42   #1
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Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

Is it possible to pass from the Atlantic to the Northumberland Straight through the channel at Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia? What's the bridge clearance under the Trans Canada Highway? We're looking at taking a Westsail 32 (50 ft mast) from Galveston TX to Charlottetown, PEI in 2012 or 2013. Leave Galveston late April to arrive in Charlottetown early June using an out-to-sea route, not the Intercoastal Waterway. Advice on timing and route?
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Old 08-10-2011, 08:43   #2
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

Answered my own question about the Straight of Canso --- takes St. Laurence seaway vessels via a swing bridge through a short canal to get through the causeway carrying the Trans Canada Highway and a rail line. Can take "pleasure" vessels as well, and cuts off the near-circumnavigation of Cape Breton Island. So far so good.

Now for the best time to depart Galveston to minimize bad weather. Suggestions?
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Old 08-10-2011, 17:43   #3
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

I don't know about the timeing but you may want to rethink your route and go up through the Bras D'or Lakes. Supposed to be one of the highlights of cruising in that area. You go in through St. Peter's canal. Or you could come back down that way.
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Old 08-10-2011, 19:44   #4
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

Try this as a good source of advice.

Pilot Press - Cruising Guides to Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Quote:

Cruising Guide to the Nova Scotia Coast

This guide was first published in 1952 and has continuously been updated and improved. The current edition was published in March 2008, check the copyright date on page two for this date. Each February look at this site for updates to the various harbors visited by contributors during the prior summer(s).
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Old 08-10-2011, 21:07   #5
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

I have a little sailing experiance in the area but not enough to help you ..I can say it is really nice and the tide change in the Bay of Fundy is unbelivable if you go that way you wont be disapointed!..DVC
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Old 09-10-2011, 04:51   #6
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

Congrats! You're planning on going to a beautiful-beautiful area!! Regarding Bras D'Or Lakes: gorgeous sailing! But you can always duck in there after you rest a bit in Charlottetown. We did a part of the route you're planning (from Great Lakes via St Lawrence to Florida and back up to Bay of Fundy and back down and etc...). Usually we did it in offshore hops (3-7 days).A few thoughts based on our experiences:

Unless you're prepared to go in any weather, you will end up sitting in some ports waiting for better conditions. So make necessary stops, but don't spend too much time in one place if you really want to end up in Charlottetown by June.

We would watch the weather especially closely on the following points: Gulf Stream, Cape Fear, Cape Hatteras, entrance to Chesapeake, entrance to Delaware, end of Long Island Sound, Cape Cod, and then the tidal swings that start about 60 miles out of Gulf of Maine.

Gulf Stream: remember, Northern component in the wind = get out of Gulf Stream. Watch out for frequent squalls with lightning.

Cape Hatteras: if the weather is too nasty to go offshore for 3+ days, it's worth taking the inside route. We don't like it because you constantly have to be on watch for other boats, staying in the channel, shoals, bridges, and it's not nice to travel at night (we did it on a cloudy night, but with a night-vision camera and some stress involved). Plus, you will need to get back out of Chesapeake after.

Chesapeake to Delaware: if you stay outside of these bays, remember that the weather is influenced by Chesapeake about 20 miles out. We went the inside route once escaping a storm. There are local storm cells inside Chesapeake, lots of boats, tight shipping channel in places. Though the ride out of Delaware on outgoing tide was just nice.

South of Long Island: several shipping channels converge with LOTS of ships, barges, tugs around. AIS is a MUST. There is a tidal current, so winds against current produces short waves. Beating into them with a few ships converging on your location can get stressful.

Cape Cod: if you decide to stop on Martha's Vineyard, etc and the weather is not that nice offshore, you can take Cape Cod canal. There is a strong tidal current, so must time the pass correctly. Note, that one of the US East Coast cruising guides used to state the timing incorrectly. Eldridge states it correctly for sure.

Gulf of Maine: if you do decide to go into Bay of Fundy, ride the current! We did 17 knots once [scary!]. Otherwise, if you're further offshore, but still crossing MA/ME to NS, set the direction to where you'll want to end up and ignore the tidal changes to yoru course. Your course will end up looking like letter S, but you'll end up pretty much where you wanted in the beginning. Just don't adjust for tides.

For Gulf of Maine and Canada: watch the tides!!! The harbour may look completely different on low vs. high tide. Because of tidal swings, fishermen use double or triple float lobster trap bouys. Trap -> 1st buoy -> 2nd buoy -> 3rd buoy. Sometimes you can pass between the buoys, sometimes you catch the line. Diving in 12-15 degree water to free your prop is not recommended. Traps are placed anywhere up to depths of 500 feet. Navigating between them is sometimes a challenge, so strongly recommend having a lobster trap buoy lookout communicating with a person at the helm station.

Canadian coast: between Halifax and Canso Strait charts, both Navionics and C-Map, maybe [severely] out of date. It's important to listen to Warnings to Mariners on ch 16. Well, it's always important, but there it's crucial. Watch for provisioning stops: fuel, water, sometimes even food may be a drive away.

Canso and north: AIS is a must for crossing Canso as there's quite a lot of shipping. People are very-very nice and helpful - the nicest in our experience. Sometimes best ports are fisherman harbours. You can usually tie to the wall for free there [don't forget fender boards!!], but be sure to be out of the way of fishing boats coming in and out.

Northumberland strait: watch, watch, watch for the weather! There is a tidal current + St. Lawrence current. Our experience [and experience from a gentleman on this forum] is that Canadian forecasts are wrong about 40% of the time in that area. If the wind starts picking up against the current, don't think that you'll toughen it out on the water. Duck into a windward port. Watch for triple-buoyed lobster traps!!! Because of strong currents, fishermen use steel cables. It won't be good on your prop or your keel.

Don't forget warm clothes and blankets and a fog horn. Watch out for whales, especially sleeping ones.

Canadian coast cruising guides: some of them are quite out of date. As maps may be out of date too, we found the following useful: we bought 4 different guides, we had both Navionics and C-Map, so we would compare the guides to maps to depth sounder to see which guides and maps were more accurate. For us Navionics was more accurate together with the following two guides: CRUISING THE EASTERN SHORE OF NOVA SCOTIA Binnacle.com and Down East Circle Route - 2nd Ed.. Also check websites for the guide you'll use as it will have some corrections and updates.

The above notes are just a small summary of a long route. Please ask more, if interested in details. For example, list of interesting places, list of places with good provisions, with easy entrances, list of hurricane holes (especially up north), list of places to outfit/fix the boat, etc.

Note, that these are just our experiences. I'm sure others can suggest more.
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Old 09-10-2011, 04:56   #7
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

Oh, regarding food: in Maine you can stop a lobster boat and get some lobsters from them at $3.5-$5/lb. In Canada, fishing boats, especially if you stop for a night in their harbour, are usually more than happy to give you some of the fish they caught. Yumm!!!
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Old 09-10-2011, 08:02   #8
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

Thanks to all for great replies and advice. This will be our first off-shore experience but we won't be going it alone. But for now at least, it will be a one-way trip as we're relocating to PEI about 50 km east of Charlottetown. Arrival in June is not mandatory --- any month will do --- just want to avoid hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico and northerlies in the Gulf Stream (and fog ). ...Ralph
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Old 09-10-2011, 09:56   #9
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

Some of our most favorite cruising grounds are around PEI. And some of the worst weather experiences...

Two more comments from my other half:
- don't forget a radar and a good radar deflector for sailing in the fog.
- Canso swing bridge gives precedence to cargo ships. That said, the bridge controller may say that you go in 30 min and then 5 min later call you to ggo straight away or wait for another 1.5 hours. Be ready to go in an instant (more or less )

Some hurricanes will make it all the way to NS as cat 1 hurricane. We were hiding from one in Bras D'Or Lakes, from another one near Lunenburg, from yet another one near Mt Desert island in ME. They usually start getting there in the second half of August.
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Old 11-10-2011, 23:18   #10
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

My plan is to sail down the St Lawrence from Kingston to Quebec City, then on to the Maritimes. Then through the Canso south to Burmuda. I will be leaving Kingston in the spring and heading out to Burmuda in the fall if I can catch a decent weather window. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old 15-10-2011, 02:46   #11
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

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My plan is to sail down the St Lawrence from Kingston to Quebec City, then on to the Maritimes. Then through the Canso south to Burmuda. I will be leaving Kingston in the spring and heading out to Burmuda in the fall if I can catch a decent weather window. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
It's a great trip. You'll pass through 7 locks with overall change in water levels of 246 feet. Make sure you have fender boards. We carry two anchors, Bruce and CQR, and Bruce was the best for us until southern waters.

Watch the weather window for Bermuda carefully. Make sure you have VHF, EPIRB, and life raft on boards. When we were sailing along the coast, there were almost always CG calls for overdue boats sailing to Bermuda...

The best cruising guide for the St Lawrence river and estuary, imho, is published in French. If you like, I'll find the name and post it here a bit later (travelling at the moment).

Trois-Rivieres has a paper mill near the marina where you will most likely stop to wait for the outgoing tide. Watch where the soot from the pipes blows and choose the dock away from it. Otherwise you'll spend a lot of time washing the boat after. Their water is not that great, so would suggest, if you can, not getting it there. Quebec city marina, while expensive, was a worthwhile stop for us. They have a very good farmers market nearby. After Trois-Rivieres, always make sure you have enough diesel to stay in control during mid-tides. Saguenay fjord, river, and especially the estuary where it joins St Lawrence has a lot of different kinds of whales, dolphins, belugas. It's worth a stop.

If you decide to go into Gaspe, remember to watch out for fishing nets and buoys. There are a lot of them closer to the port. Oh, about engine service in Gaspe: there is a single Yanmar certified mechanic in Gaspe. He's TERRIBLE and needs the engine manual to find the oil filter. He was the reason we now service the engine ourselves.

We were travelling with our friends on another boat. We trusted Navionics charts and our depth soundings. They trusted directions given by marinas/harbour masters when entering ports. One marina had a new guy giving directions. After some confusion, our friends ran hard aground and were able to restart their voyage only 1 year later. Be careful: listen, check, and recheck. It's your boat and your dream.

Oh, and don't forget Bras D'Or Lakes - gorgeous and if you're early in season before the red tide sets in, you can gather mussels and oysters on the beach and cook them over beach fire. Yum!

Actually pretty much all stops are amazing on the way down! Lmk, if you need any other info.
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Old 16-10-2011, 17:20   #12
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

Thank you for your response. I think by going through the ICW I will miss some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. I am keeping my options open for either Bermuda or the Azores after the Maritimes. I will decide once I check out the wind and weather. Once I leave Nova Scotia I will be going solo. To date the longest I have soloed is a week so this will be an opportunity to really challenge myself. Imagine 21 days alone at sea. Awesome!
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Old 16-10-2011, 17:35   #13
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

I was a little late seeing this thread as many of the questions have already been answered. I will be watching this if there are any more questions I may be able to help.
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Old 16-10-2011, 17:43   #14
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

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I was a little late seeing this thread as many of the questions have already been answered. I will be watching this if there are any more questions I may be able to help.
From your profile I see you are from Halifax. Is it possible to sail directly to Bermuda from the Canso? I can seem to find anyone on the net who has done this. The wind patterns tell me it's possible. I was hoping to leave in the fall.
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Old 16-10-2011, 18:02   #15
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Re: Passage thru Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

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From your profile I see you are from Halifax. Is it possible to sail directly to Bermuda from the Canso? I can seem to find anyone on the net who has done this. The wind patterns tell me it's possible. I was hoping to leave in the fall.
Sure you could. When in the fall would you be trying to leave? There is a small window between hurricane season and winter storms.
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