To our surprise and delight, we have found a completely secluded, calm anchorage just off the Strait of Canso, the busy shipping channel between the Nova Scotia mainland and Cape Breton Island. After passing through the lock at Port Hastings we dodged big ships and tugboats pushing huge barges for a while before the waterway widened and the traffic thinned out. We put up our sails, switched off the engine, and enjoyed a lovely, lazy sail towards the Bras d’Or Lakes, where we hope to spend much of the summer.
Around five o’clock, we checked the chart for a quiet place to stop for the night and decided to try to slip into a place called The Little Basin, off MacNamara’s Island (we figured he wouldn’t mind.) The opening to the basin was quite narrow, but Chris threaded in between some rocks on one side and a spit of sand on the other and we found ourselves in a pool of deep water, surrounded by uninhabited islands on all sides.
“Let’s stay here,” I said to Chris.
“No, but for a couple days at least. It’s so beautiful.”
At that moment, a seal poked its head out of the water beside the boat, looked at us curiously with his moist black eyes. Then another beside him. Then they both slipped back into the water.
“Okay,” Chris said.
We declared the next day make and mend day on the good ship MonArk. Much like any other home, the “to do” list on the boat only gets longer, never shorter. Chris was up at the crack of dawn.
“I think I’ll go fishing,” he said.
“I’ll have the coffee ready when you get back.”
Off he went in the dinghy, while I pulled out the brass polish and some clean cloths, unhooked the oil lamp… then curled up on the settee with a cup of coffee, our hiking guide to Cape Breton, and the charts of these waters. Finding a place to hike may seem like a simple undertaking, but it’s not. First you find a trail nearby, one that comes down to the water’s edge at some point, then you check the chart and see if there’s an anchorage close by, one that’s secure enough that the boat can be left on its own for a couple of hours. Last you check the weather and see if you can sail there. If the wind’s on the nose, you’re out of luck.
“I’m on my way back.”
I jumped, didn’t realize that Chris had taken the handheld radio with him.
“Get the coffee on, woman.”
As we lingered over breakfast, we looked around at the impossibly still water. We are on the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean, and yet the basin was as still as a millpond. You could see the trees reflected in the water all around us.
“I think I’ll fly my drone,” Chris said, taking the cups below. “You don’t get days like this very often.”
While he was gone, I polished the oil lamp, did up the breakfast dishes, washed the cockpit windows, filled the stove with fuel, the drone whizzing over the boat from time to time.
“That was fantastic,” Chris said, climbing back on board. “Can’t wait for you to see this.”
So we didn’t. I made another pot of coffee and we snuggled in on the settee to review the “footage” (does that term even make sense any more?) To see Chris’s video, click here.
As I watched, I was struck by how small our boat looks from the outside, alone in the middle of the basin, in the middle of nowhere. To me, it feels so big, it’s our home, the best home I’ve ever had. We have everything we need in 43 feet of boat. A tiny perfect galley. A cosy salon to curl up in at night. A v-berth to sleep in, with a hatch over our heads so we can watch the stars. And a spacious cockpit, where we spend our days, when we’re not off exploring.
The boat feels so solid, so safe and secure. Yet when seen from afar, it looks tiny and vulnerable. You probably never have to worry about your house drifting onto the rocks while you sleep. Or water suddenly filling your basement. (Okay, maybe you do have to worry about that.) Which is why make and mend days are so important.
“Oh my god, it’s almost noon,” Chris said, snapping the computer shut.
We sprang into action, and by the end of the day, Chris had solved the problem with the toplight, pumped out the cup or so of water that had found its way into the bilge in the engine room, inspected all the hoses to make sure that this was just rainwater somehow finding its way in. Together we waterproofed the canvas on the cockpit enclosure, re-rigged the foresail (we had used the wrong halyard)… I’ll spare you the full list.
By the end of the day we collapsed, exhausted, in the cockpit. The seals popped up again. You guys quite finished?
We were. We really were.