Miles Driven: 1,500+/-
Miles Paddled/Sailed: 27.0
Beers consumed: Somewhere north of 100 . . .
T Rex Award Winner: Burchard
Euchre Champions: none – the card play was mixed and minimal
Beach Bocce Champions: McFall and Kozlowski, each with a 3-1 record (Burchard finished 3rd with a 2-2 record, Shaw was awarded "Special Participant" status with an 0-4 record (he should have worn a helmet))
Cooking Competition: McFall/Kozlowski tie.
Wildlife: lots of seals, eagles, gulls, cormorants (ugh). McFall and Shaw spotted a sharkfin.
Special Cookies Consumed: too many
Last year, the VAC sailed around the Manicougan Reservior – a 140 mile sailing trip around an annular lake created by a giant asteroid impact (and Hydro Quebec’s damming of the Manicouagan River). An amazing trip that would be tough to beat.
Given the success of a trip that wasn’t a remote whitewater river, or loop of lakes, I started looking at something new -- sea kayaking. The first choice was Newfoundland – kayaking among icebergs and whales (looked very cool). But the logistics were really tough given: (1) we would have to fly, (2) we had only had 9 days to work with, and (3) there were no kayak rentals to be had on the island. We could go if we spent $2,500 each for a guided trip. Not happening.
So, the search mover a bit closer – to Nova Scotia.
A little digging uncovered a very cool area known as the 100 Wild Islands. This area is composed of preserved (and, for the most part, deserted) islands off the eastern coast of Nova Scotia (starting about 1 hours’ drive northeast from Halifax). The logistics were pretty easy – the outfitter, who would rent us kayaks, was within a few miles of the starting point. There are no official rules or regulations that I could find. Camping was wide open, with many islands having sandy beaches. No license or permits required. The only negative was the lack of fresh water along the route which meant hauling enough water for a week’s cooking and drinking.
The original plan was for 5 guys (me, Dan Burchard, Dan McFall, Pete Brady and Graham Shaw) to rent three single kayaks and one double kayak, and make it a pure paddling trip. The problem with that plan was storage capacity – we would have to carry minimal gear and supplies in order to fit them (and fresh water) in the boats. No fresh food and NO BEER. I floated (get it?) the idea of bringing the Edwina, a 17’ O’Day daysailer that proved it’s metal on the Manicougan – lots of storage capacity (and fun to sail). That idea was originally voted down, but as I planned the trip it became clear that if we wanted some luxuries we would need the sailboat to carry them. Eventually the vote changed in favor of making it a combo kayaking/sailing trip.
The planned morphed again – three single kayaks and the Edwina would make the trip. I got the Edwina road ready (installed new jib cleats to boot), prepared maps, food shopped, made reservations, etc. The only unexpected and unfortunate change to the plan was Brady’s decision not to make the trip (due to family and work). Bummer, but understandable. Nevertheless, it was easy to adjust the gear and boats and be ready for a September 6th departure.
Friday, September 6th -- Burlington to the Shawlet
Graham and Cindy graciously offered to have us start the trip at their home in Kirby, VT (the “Shawlet”) (right on the way to Nova Scotia). We left Burlington after work (around 5:30) and headed to the Shawlet for dinner and a few cold beers. We decided to put off repacking and loading the Edwina until we arrived in Nova Scotia.
Graham and Cindy put on a great spread. I sent a positive review to Trip Advisor and AirBnB (the triangle-folded toilet paper was a very nice touch).
As we drank a few beers before bed, we anxiously watched the approach of Hurricane Dorian which was heading straight for – you guessed it – Nova Scotia. Big drive in the morning . . .
Saturday, September 7th -- Into the Storm
We left the Shawlet a little after 8:00 a.m. with our phones glued to storm updates. We had a long, 10+ hour drive, so it was tough to know exactly what to expect when we arrived. Turns out the hurricane hit the coast of Nova Scotia at the same time we entered Canada, and so the weather worsened as we got closer.
We made the right decision to abandon the plan to get to Truro and, instead, stopped short in Moncton (New Brunswick). The last two hours of driving were really rough -- in a howling wind, heavy rain and risk of hydroplaning. We ended up at a Travelodge eating Papa John’s pizza and drinking beer with the lights flickering.
Sunday, September 8th – To Murphy’s Campground
We woke up Sunday on a mission – to find a Tim Horton’s that was both open (with electricity) and not mobbed. Found one open, but ended up in a long line for breakfast. Killed close to an hour. We then proceeded to drive to Tangier, the location of the outfitter. Uneventful drive – but beautiful country. Pretty easy – the Edwina’s trailer is almost unnoticeable.
The outfitter had an assistant that we had to locate and then follow to where the kayaks were stored. Based on the weather report (high winds/surf leftover from the storm), time of day, etc., we decided not to try and get out on the water in the afternoon, but to camp onshore and get an early start the following day. We loaded the kayaks on the roof rack and drove a couple miles to Murphy’s campground – a well-run facility right on the ocean.
Due to the storm, Murphy’s had no power and therefore no running water. We had to buy 12 gallons of water in gallon jugs to fill the two, 6 gallon water containers.
Set up camp, drank a few beers. Cooked up a great dinner – Chili ala McFall. A couple of more beers and then out. We were ready to roll.
Almost forgot to mention Lil' Pete -- our mascot for the trip. A Mr. Potato Head (Luke Skywalker Edition) that was modified to look like Brady. He was a constant companion on the trip. https://www.vtadventure.com/lil-pete
Monday, September 9th – Murphy’s to Borgles Island
Sunday was a transition day. Packing the sailboat and kayaks, raising the Edwina’s mast, etc. We had to launch the Edwina over a very rough, storm-battered rocky ramp – took some doing. After a couple of hours we were ready to go. We had no set plan, but generally decided to head towards Wolfes Island and then over to Borgles.
Graham and Burchard were kayaking, McFall and I were in the Edwina. As we headed south towards Wolfes, the wind and seas built. Since we didn’t know the seaworthiness of the kayaks (yet), or whether the campsite on Wolfes was any good, we decided (near Wolfes Point) to head east to Borgles Island. From the guidebook and photos I knew there was a substantial beach on the south end of the island. The radios made communicating pretty easy.
Borgles was stunning. Huge crescent beach leading to a connecting spit with water on both sides. Amazing scenery and weather. We beached the boats and had a beer. And then another. And then, despite the early hour, decided it would be a good idea to stay for the night. Perfect place for a campsite and, as it turned out, at high tide, we could walk the Edwina to the eastern side of the island, thereby avoiding a sail/paddle around a windswept (open ocean) southeastern tip.
Great night. Graham was the first person to make dinner in the cooking competition – chicken shishkabobs. Very tasty. . . but not the eventual winner. A few too many beers, some beach bocce, and then bed. Great first day on the water.
[Sailing Track: 6.0 miles]
Tuesday, September 10th – Borgles Island to Stoney Island
Another beautiful day. We swapped boats -- McFall and I were in the kayaks, Burchard and Shaw sailed the Edwina.
We had a good breakfast (mushroom and cheese omelettes) and then left Borgles heading east towards Baltee Island. Baltee Island is actually two islands, with a narrow, shallow channel in between. The paddle over was a bit hairy. Some large swells were rolling in off our starboard tails. Pushy water, but manageable.
McFall and I reached the channel and scouted it for depth. We decided the Edwina could run through if the centerboard was raised. Worked fine with a tailwind – reached the eastern side of Baltee without any problems.
We paddled/sailed across Tangier Harbor, skirting Ironbound Island and landing on a large beach (Eastern Sandy Cove). Great spot for a break and some lunch. Too early to stop for the night, well short of the goal to reach Stoney Island.
After lunch, we paddled across Popes Harbor towards Phoenix Island. Windy. We pulled into a little harbor in the lee of Gerard Island to make plans for paddling and sailing through another narrow channel into a quasi-“pond” called the Bawleen (between Phoenix and Gerard Islands). Stoney Island was just off the shore of Phoenix. Not far, but the route looked tight/rocky. Saw a huge bald eagle – very cool.
Once again the kayaks scouted the route – shallow (again) but OK for the Edwina. To be sure, the Edwina sailed to the north to avoid a rocky area (inhabited by a pod of seals) and then turned south towards the island. The kayaks head up the western shore of the island and found a sandy beach – but one that was much smaller, and clearly not as nice, as Borgles. We beached the kayaks and the Edwina sailed up and into the beach.
The beach would work as a campsite, but just barely. We decided to send the kayaks around the island to see if there was another, better site. Graham and McFall volunteered to paddle, taking the radio so they could report on options. Turns out there weren’t any – this beach would be the campsite for the second night on the water.
Graham and McFall returned and we set up camp. I decided to paddle over to an area just offshore where the seals were congregating. They kept their distance, but it was fun to watch them surface and then dive as I approached. Pretty cool – all during our stay on Stoney Island they made weird sounds (a moan) that were easily heard in camp.
Broke out the beers and played some beach bocce. Then the usual cocktail hour (vodka tonics and hors d'oeuvres – awesome).
Burchard was the second chef in the cooking competition. He prepare fire-grilled steaks, green beans and risotto. A great dinner (especially the risotto). Glad we brought the Edwina (aka “The Chuckwagon”).
[Kayaking Track: 8.5 miles]
Wednesday, September 11th – Marooned on Stoney Island
We woke to a less than positive weather report. High wind warnings, rain forecasted. Not a good day to be out on the open ocean. After some pow-wowing, we decided to stay put.
Marooned on Stoney Island. But had some great, two-egg bacon and cheese breakfast sandwiches to start the day, so life wasn’t all bad.
We made good use of a layover. Cut a lot of firewood, set up a rain tarp to give us some shelter, drank a few beers. We built a rain-resistant fire ring with a rocky cover over ½ of the ring. Made it easy to have a fire most of the day. Played a little beach bocce.
Given we had time on our hands, I decided to cut down a fairly large, standing (dead) tree for firewood. Not my best decision. It took the better part of an hour to drop it and then cut off an 8 foot section that I could carry out of the woods. Luckily, my companions guarded the boats and gear while I was working – absolutely nothing stolen during my absence. Zero, zip, notta. Nice job guys.
I was on deck for the cook-off. My plan was chicken cordon bleu, with cucumbers and tomatoes in balsamic as a side. The prep was easy – McFall was my sous chef. Took 30-40 minutes to grill the cordon blues over the fire (in a spitting rain – McFall did most of the tending), and then finished them on the gas grill. Pretty tasty -- in the running for the competition.
Another early night – being out in the wind and rain all day is an energy suck.
[Sitting On Our Asses Track: 0.0 miles]
Thursday, September 12th – Stoney Island to Baltee Island
A better wind and weather forecast greeted us. Pancakes, bacon and maple syrup for breakfast. Broke camp and switched up paddling/sailing partners. Burch offered to stay in the Edwina and I joined him, McFall/Shaw in the kayaks.
The wind was up which made both the sailing and paddling fun/tricky through the Bawleen – we retraced our steps from 2 days prior. We crossed Popes Harbor and landed, again, on Eastern Sandy Cove. After a review of the maps, we decided to try and find the beach located on Tangier Island, just to the south of Eastern Sandy Cove.
The water was rough off the shore of Tangier Island. Burchard and I took the Edwina up to scout the northern/western shores – no sign of a beach. Given the wind and waves, we opted to retreat to Sandy Cove (a beach on the opposite side of the land mass from Eastern Sandy Cove). We beached the boats to discuss options. While we were beached, a couple arrived via canoe – landing about 50 yards from us. They didn’t looked very experienced and we wondered about their choice to paddle in these conditions in an open boat.
They approached – mainly to find out whether we were planning to stay for the night. While the couple was telling us about their paddling experience, I noticed their canoe was loose and floating away (so much for experience). When I told them their boat was loose, the older guy started running in his rubber boots down the beach. Pretty funny sight. He caught the boat, but only after submerging his boots in the surf.
We decided to move to the other side of Tangier Harbor to set up camp. There was a no-name beach on the eastern side of Baltee Island, an easy sail/paddle from Sandy Cove. Great site, perfect for the last island camp.
The beach was long and wide, with plenty of space above the high tide line for tents. Behind the beach was a cleared area that was obviously used for camping. Graham found 4 plastic chairs! A true luxury to have a chair for the night – makes dinner/etc. a lot easier. Too sweet.
While we sat drinking a beer I noticed a 6-7 foot high dead tree stump, with a couple dozen dryed out limbs, sitting near the established campsite. I dragged it out of the woods, dug a hole in the sand, and stuck the butt of the stump in the hole so it sat vertically. A perfect matrix for a bonfire. We all scoured the woods and loaded up the tree with fuel. Ready for ignition after it got dark.
McFall was the last chef – last but not least. He used sea water to cook up an amazing low country boil. Hugh shrimp, potatoes, corn, two types of sausage and a ton of Old Bay seasoning. It was really good – I was stuffed. Clearly a favorite to win the cooking competition.
After dinner we mixed up some cocktails and lit the bonfire. Slow to burn, but we eventually got one side lit and then pushed the other side on top – ignition! Great fire, burned for about an hour. I wonder what the canoeing couple thought (they couldn’t help but see it from their vantage across the harbor)?
[Sailing Track: 7.7 miles]
Friday, September 13th – Baltee Island to Murphy’s
After some deliberation, we decided that our best option was to return to Murphy’s for the last night (rather than find a beach). The only options were to return to Borgles (we weren’t keen on a repeat) or to try and find a beach on Wolfe Island. If we camped offshore, it would be a much longer day to get back to Murphy’s, haul the Edwina, pack, and then drive to St. Andrews. It made more sense to get the Edwina back on land and be ready to roll in the a.m. – and we could detour slightly and check out Halifax. Cheesy eggs with mushrooms for breakfast.
Burchard and I were kayaking, Digger and Shaw in the Edwina. Pretty windy. McFall opted to reef the mainsail – a good choice given the conditions. After some preparation, we turned the corner from the cove into a stiff wind. We navigated the narrow channel between the two halves of Baltee Island. Burchard and I decided to turn to the northwest even though Murphy’s was more westerly – much easier paddling given the wind and waves (we avoided taking the waves completely on the beam). The Edwina followed suit. We headed toward the “town” of Murphy’s cove, a few houses/buildings on the mainland, and then arced west to Murphy’s.
As we got near, McFall and Shaw were worried about the approach and landing of the Edwina at Murphy’s. Rightly so given the dead-on tailwind and a ramp area that was really narrow and bordered by a dock and rocks.
Graham radioed that they we going to beach the Edwina on the north shore and “reassess.” I convinced them that wasn’t the best plan, so they decided to head to the ramp. Burchard and I paddled ahead, beached the kayaks on the ramp, and waded out to be ready to catch the Edwina.
McFall made the approach and tacked a few times to get in position. I couldn’t figure out his plan/tactic – it didn’t become clear until he got really close. Perfect job – brought the boat in without a scratch. A really tough spot to land – stopping the boat in a heavy tailwind with no room to tack is not easy.
We unloaded the Edwina and then hauled her out (fairly easy – the ramp had been improved after the hurricane damage). Graham had called ahead to reserve a campsite, a really nice one with great views. We pulled the boat, kayaks and gear up to the spot to set up camp.
We decided to divide and conquer. Graham and Burchard went looking for a cold beer supply; McFall and I stayed behind to set up camp. Good plan – we had the camp up and ready for cocktails/dinner by the time Graham and Dan arrived back with a cooler of ice cold beer. Edwina was pretty well packed. Ready for cocktail hour and dinner. Did I mention the cooler of ice cold beer?
Dinner was “just” spaghetti, but as usual McFall was able to knock it up a few notches. I cut up onion and garlic. McFall “fried” the Bolognese sauce on the griddle and added the vegetables. He let it cook down. Wow, pretty good for a non-competition meal.
After dinner – special cookies! McFall had a cookie loaded with special stuff, of which we all took a piece. I think I might have taken two. I was pretty well poisoned the whole night – not a good experience. The other guys had the same type of night. Nasty (never again). Took half of Saturday to detox.
[Kayaking Track: 4.8 miles]
Saturday, September 14th – Murphys to St. Andrews via Halifax
We decided to leave relatively early for Halifax – to get breakfast there. The drive to Halifax was easy – just skirting the eastern shore.
I wasn’t impressed by Halifax. Its waterfront section was ok, but from the little I saw the city is dominated by the port and shipping facilities. We wandered along the harbor until we found a restaurant (right on the water). Good place for breakfast.
We left Halifax for an uneventful drive to a little town in New Brunswick near the Maine border – St. Andrews. Nice little hotel, great rooms. We arrived near dinner time, so headed out to find some seafood.
Found a restaurant that looked okay, but had to wait for a table. Tough work given that there were 4 seats at the bar. Had a few beers and revisited the trip. Fun.
The meal wasn’t anything to write home about. This seafood restaurant didn’t have lobster left, and the fried food was average.
The voting for the cooking competition was held at dinner. McFall and I each got two votes – a tie, but I have to confess that I think his low country boil was better. A tie is a generous result for me. I’ll take it.
Checked out a replica of Columbus’ ship on the way back to the hotel. It was lit up on the pier at night. Pretty cool.
A few hands of Euchre, another beer or two, then lights out.
Sunday, September 15th – St. Andrews to Burlington
Last day of the trip – a long drive yet to go. We had an issue with the trailer (water got into the wheel hub), but we couldn’t find a place that was open to buy grease. Didn’t matter – the wheel wasn’t heating up, so it made it back to VT without the immediate need to repair.
Long but easy drive to the Shawlet. Dropped off Shaw, had a beer with him and then hit the road for Burlington.
Nice to get home – tired but happy. Allison and Jane arrived to pick up the Dans. Had a beer and said our goodbyes.
Another VAC trip in the books. Like the Manic, different than our usual trip type – which made it even better. Not the longest (total sailing/kayaking in 4 days: 27.0 miles), but some amazing scenery. Gotta get back up there (Cape Breton/Newfoundland).
Graham was a perfect, seamless addition to the group. Everyone told me that he was a blast to have on the trip (I knew he would be). Nice to have another paddler/sailor in the group. [It sucked to not have Brady along].
I’ll repeat exactly what I said after the Manic trip last year because it still applies 100%: “It is a privilege to travel in such company. Everyone in the group has skill, drive, humor, imagination, intelligence, determination and wit. We more than get along -- I think (hope) that everyone enjoys each other’s company. As a result, these trips are a blast – from the moment we leave until the moment we return.”
Can’t wait for the next one. Might need to fly (check out the map of our northeastern trips – we are running out of room: https://www.vtadventure.com/history?lightbox=dataItem-k0sdcp0p