Eleven and counting. That’s where we are today. There have been eleven named storms so far this year—you’ve probably been watching the devastation caused by Irma on the news, Jose is coming across the ocean on much the same path, and Katia is rambling around in the Gulf of Mexico. And it’s early September. We don’t expect things to completely quiet down until the first of November.
Irma was a big question mark. At first it looked like Irma might make landfall halfway up the coast of the United States, too close for comfort. So Sunday we took cover five miles up a river on the eastern coast of Nova Scotia, along with several other sensible sailboats.
We learned an important lesson on the way here: a storm doesn’t have to have a name to cause trouble. We left the shelter of the Bras d’Or Lakes just after an unnamed storm which had come up the coast had moved off to sea. Fine, we thought. The winds had settled (if you call 25 knots settled) and were in our favour, so we set off. It was a lively ride across the Canso Strait, waves breaking over the bow and showering the boat with salt water, and we were making good time. Until we rounded the northwestern tip of Nova Scotia and encountered the swell left by the unnamed storm.
There’s still debate among those of us sheltered here in this hurricane hole as to how big the swell was. Some say six feet, some say more like nine. It sure looked like nine feet of water to me when it loomed in front of the boat (yes, of course we were pounding into it.) But there was a long interval between waves so for the most part, the swell just lifted us up then set us down again more or less gently, except of course when we crashed into the next wave.
We’ve decided that if an unnamed storm can wreak this kind of havoc with the seas, we’re going to wait here until Irma wears herself out before we continue our journey south.
But this is not such a bad place to be. We’re at the head of the Liscomb River, anchored off an old fishing lodge—it’s been here since the 1950’s, upgraded over the years, to include a swimming pool and hot tub which boaters are welcome to use. Very civilized. Showers. Laundry. And a restaurant specializing in cedar-planked salmon. I’m okay with being holed up here.
Yesterday we amused ourselves by going on a 10-kilometer hike to the waterfalls and fish ladder at the head of the river. It was a rugged hike—“Master’s Level,” the map cautioned—but we had all day, and anyway, how hard could it be?
Hard, is the answer. It started out okay, but as we got further up the river, the trail started to climb and we had to scramble up slippery rocks and teeter along logs laid across little streams. Two hours it took us to get to the suspension bridge over the falls, but it was worth it (I think): the view was spectacular, and the fish ladder was quite something, a major piece of infrastructure. We had expected a narrow wooden, well, ladder. This was a superhighway for spawning salmon.
Truly one of the best things about this place, though, is the other sailors. A couple of the boats holed up here are on their way back from Newfoundland. The stories they tell make our sail here seem like a Sunday outing. The people on one boat are professional documentary filmmakers, and after watching their videos and seeing what they’ve sailed through, we feel reassured about our decision to stay here for a bit. Even they aren’t willing to venture out in this.
How many more days will we be here, you might wonder?
So do we.