Halifax, Nova Scotia—Life In The Big City

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Well, all good things must come to an end, including our stay at Liscombe Lodge Marina and the unseasonably, at least for late September, settled weather that we had been enjoying during our fall mini-cruise of the Nova Scotia Eastern Shore.

However, as a consolation prize, the weather gods gave us favourable northeast winds for our return trip from the Liscomb River to Halifax—a 180 degree shift from the favourable southwest winds we had for our outbound trip.

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On the way we made two quick overnight stops at Hawbolt Cove—who knew that swell could get through all those islands and around all those corners?—and Jeddore, the most amazing tree-surrounded lake anchorage, accessed through a long narrow twisting channel, only 35 nm from Halifax and a great place to know about as it provides shelter from any wind direction.

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And now, for a very different experience, we are in our favourite berth on the extensive Halifax waterfront, tucked in between two historical ships: HMCS Sackvillea corvette from WWII—to the south and CSS AcadiaCanada’s longest serving hydrographic vessel—to the north. Halifax Harbour is subject to swell, so getting a berth with a built-in breakwater (i.e. HMCS Sackville) is worth it.

map NSWhen we first docked here in the early ‘90s, there weren’t any floating docks, no shore power or water, and, subsequently, no dockage fees. Since then Halifax has done an amazing job of developing their waterfront: a boardwalk runs along the waterfront from the Farmer’s Market to the casino (about an hour’s walk to and from) with kiosks, restaurants and bars on the shore side, lined along a good part of its length with floating docks for visiting boats.

Power, water and garbage/recycling facilities are available on the docks. And this is all right downtown, with shopping, museums, art galleries, restaurants and bars at our fingertips. We don’t begrudge them the dockage fee of $1.75/foot*!

JHHOMD1-021138Berthing in the heart of a dynamic downtown scene is energizing: watching people of all shapes and sizes strolling the boardwalks, checking out the t-shirt shops, eating street food; hearing the squeals and laughter of kids of all ages as they attempt to climb The Wave (an art installation close to the boat); listening to buskers playing all genres of music, which was wonderful when it was an incredibly talented young bagpipe player who had me tapping my toes while taking dorade vents off the boat due to the chilly northeast wind and painful when it was a guy who only knew the one riff from “Stairway to Heaven” that he played over and over and over on his tinny guitar. John and I were ready to give him a hundred bucks just to stop!

But there is also a downside to being in a dynamic downtown scene: at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning a huge crash on the deck woke me with a start. I looked out to see three young guys on the boardwalk who slunk off as I watched. In the morning we found a beer bottle smashed to smithereens on the deck, with a chip out of the paint where it hit the boat.

We contacted the Waterfront Corporation to inform them about the incident, to be told that this is a sporadic but ongoing problem that they don’t really have any plans to address. We understand that this kind of vandalism is hard to manage but a bit of proactiveness would not go amiss if they want to attract visiting boats to the harbour.

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JHHOMD1-031148However, one bad experience shouldn’t ruin an otherwise great visit that included a tour of HMCS Sackville (unfortunately, CSS Acadia was closed to visitors while we were there), a visit to the Maritime Museum, a walk to the Hydrostone neighbourhood, numerous walks along the boardwalk, shopping (we recommend the Farmer’s Market, especially on Saturdays, and Pete’s Fine Foods), restaurants (we highly recommend The Wooden Monkey), and several dinner parties on the boat with Halifax-based friends.

So, despite the four days of near gale easterlies, we have enjoyed our stay in Halifax, a place we often visit by road—only 1.5 hours by car each way from Base Camp—but which feels totally different when visited by boat.

*Disclosure: We received a discount on our dockage fee as it was late in the season and due to our writing this voyage account.

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Meet the Author

Phyllis

Phyllis has sailed over 40,000 offshore miles with John on their McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, most of it in the high latitudes, and has crossed the Atlantic three times. As a woman who came to sailing as an adult, she brings a fresh perspective to cruising, which has helped her communicate what they do in an approachable way, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

22 comments… add one
  • Marc Dacey Nov 23, 2014, 5:07 pm

    Is that fee for LOA or LOD? It’s pretty good for a few days in town. Thanks for the dockside view.

    • John Nov 24, 2014, 9:33 am

      Hi Marc,

      Not sure anyone has ever asked me that, but I guess its LOA.

      • Marc Dacey Nov 25, 2014, 1:39 pm

        Let’s just say I plan to do a circ on a budget! Thanks for the info, and I support the separate and discrete instrumentation tendency.

  • Ed finn Nov 23, 2014, 11:53 pm

    Halifax is a great harbourbut,
    Bag pipe music….
    – anyone who can tap their toes to “bagpipe music”
    Well,
    they deserve a special place in heaven.
    R.
    Ed

  • Mark Nov 24, 2014, 4:12 am

    There is something really special about being berthed in any major city or town. We spent time in two capitals, London and Lisbon where you are right at the heart of everything.
    Not sure about the bagpipe music though.
    I have to say that you seem to have more instruments in your cockpit than the QE II.
    Loved the blog.. more please.

    • John Nov 24, 2014, 9:57 am

      Hi Mark,

      I agree, we too have spent time in our boat in the same two cities, London and Lisbon, a winter in the former and a few days in the latter and enjoyed both.

      The number of instruments is because we stick with dedicated machines for each function and all of our electronics are in the cockpit. In fact the system itself is quite simple and much of it is over 10 years old. More on why we went this way in this Online Book.

  • Dick Tatlock Nov 24, 2014, 9:15 am

    John:
    Having been docked in Ottawa twice on a Rideau Waterway cruise, here is how they deal with the potential vandalism problem. Apparently a few years ago it had got out of hand but now virtually non-existent. Along the new docks on the Rideau are signs stating 24 Hr video surveillance. I asked a police guy if this was true. He replied “most of the time” and that they take security of boaters very seriously. In addition there are noticeable night patrols.
    Nothing better than docked downtown in a major city, especially blocks from the headquarters of Beaver Tails.
    Dick
    M/V RT Fisher

  • Dick Stevenson Feb 8, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Hi John and all,
    I was unsure where to position this request so it got the most views, but Halifax seems like the best bet for the area where I might address these questions. Please move if there is a better spot.
    Our questions are many, but hopefully able to be answered from local knowledge off the top of your head without (much) research.
    We plan to spend the whole of the next season in the Canadian Maritimes and I am hoping that you can suggest some contacts to get work done next season. Lewisporte, where we over-wintered, is lovely, but quite limited in this regard. We plan to contact people ahead of time and, to whatever extent possible, plan some land travel around getting the work done. We expect to (probably) return to Lewisporte for the coming winter.
    We need a good person who works on cushions, perhaps redo all our cushions, and we need a good canvas person for a new dodger (could be the same person/vender) We are also looking for a good mechanic/engineer, preferably someone experienced with Yanmar diesel engines. If these were in the Halifax area, we might incorporate the work with travel plans, but our interests are for quality work rather than location convenience.
    We also would like to leave the boat (a Valiant 42: 12m hull, 2m draft and 3.9m beam) somewhere safe while we fly to Sault St. Marie, CA, to visit family for a week or two in early August. It seems likely that we will fly out of Halifax, NS. We do not need to plug in so a mooring is acceptable. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thank you for your help,
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John Feb 9, 2018, 12:01 pm

      Hi Dick,

      We are at East River Shipyard in Chester and are very happy. They have two mechanics and Cheryl (the manager) can probably find others to cover services they don’t have in house. I have also heard good things about Shining Waters, particularly under their new management, but I have no first hand experience.

      For canvas work Craig Noakes is The Man—world class. Although he is incredibly busy, so check in early with him. (He built our new dodger and cockpit enclosure.)

      You can use the search box (top right) to see what we have written about East River and Noakes.

    • John Feb 9, 2018, 12:15 pm

      Hi Again, Dick,

      Not sure where to advise you leave the boat for your trip. The issue is that there are plenty of places that are safe in normal summer weather, but the wild card is an early season hurricane which changes everything. After investigating options, Colin and Lou opted to haul at East River while they went home to the UK two summers ago.

      If you risk a hurricane—and the chances of one making it to NS that early, and being strong if it does, are low—then the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron in Halifax might be a good option. Talk to Wayne Blundell.

      The other option, and very snug—might even be proof from most hurricanes—would be The Lions Marina in The Lakes. Drawback here is that getting to and from your flight may be a challenge. Give them a call and ask for Jerry, he may be able to solve the transport problem too.

      • Dick Stevenson Feb 9, 2018, 12:45 pm

        Hi John, Good thoughts all and appreciated, especially the recommendations. Thanks, Dick

    • John Feb 9, 2018, 12:16 pm

      Hi All,

      Does anyone else have first hand information that could help Dick out?

      • Dick Stevenson Feb 18, 2018, 12:40 pm

        Hi again John,
        Any thoughts/recommendations for someone to do upholstery/cushions? Dick

        • John Feb 18, 2018, 1:14 pm

          Hi Dick,

          Sorry, I don’t. The last time we had upholstery done it was in Maine. I’m guessing that Cheryle at East River could find you someone.

  • Marc Dacey Feb 9, 2018, 2:21 am

    Dick, we are considering getting some land in Cape Breton, and you may be able to find all you desire in that particularly benign and beautiful cruising ground. I found their cruising guide excellent and there are many places that do boat work there. See http://cruising-cape-breton.info/

    That said, there’s plenty of “fishing boat places” that will do work well in Dartmouth and Halifax proper. We are very likely going to have our bottom done at one of CME’s smaller yards, but there’s plenty of places with travelifts: http://cmelimited.com/marine-solutions/refit-and-repair-services/

  • Dick Stevenson Feb 9, 2018, 12:43 pm

    Hi Marc, Thanks for your thoughts. I will explore. Dick

  • Marc Dacey Mar 7, 2020, 1:57 pm

    Bumping the comments here in hopes of newer information… we are having difficulty finding a yard in the Halifax area willing to (or capable of) doing a complete bottom job (grind off to bare metal, galvanizing coat, barrier coat(s) and hard anti-foul coats) on our steel sailboat in June 2020 when we expect to be there prior to crossing the Atlantic beginning of July. Any suggestions would be appreciated and we don’t object to “commercial” places one bit. A couple of places (Iron Wind, South Shore) don’t seem to want the work or can’t accommodate our five foot 10 inch draft. East River Marine, mentioned above, has a dead URL link. The CME place I mentioned two years ago seems orientated to much larger vessels.

    We are getting new standing rigging from North Sails outlet Yachtshop.ca, and so will be unmasted, meaning we should fit in any workshed suitable for a trawler via marine railway or Travelift. A priority is a quick turnaround as we want to be crossing the Atlantic, weather depending, by circa July 1. Thanks for any input.

    • John Mar 7, 2020, 2:23 pm

      Hi Marc,

      The only place I have any first hand experience with is East River. The reason the URL is dead is that the ownership and name changed to East River Shipyard. I am in contact with the new owner and am pretty sure this change is a good thing. https://www.eastrivershipyard.ca

      I also know they have the gear (sand blasting) and a good painter—they painted my steel cradle. That said, I have no idea if they have the time and “complete bottom job” on a steel boat is not trivial. Frankly I think “quick turn around” is unrealistic. At that time yards are still launching and commissioning their long term clients, so taking on a project of that magnitude for a visitor and turning it around quickly is probably just not happening.

      Remember what they say in Maine: You got your quality, your delivery, and your price…pick any two.

      Also, in view of climate change and earlier hurricanes I advise starting a trans-Atlantic by mid June at the latest.

      Bottom line, I just don’t think your schedule is realistic. Your best bet would be to take your time, enjoy your trip from TO to NS and then look to getting the bottom done in July and August when the yards are slow. Then head south for the winter and do the crossing the next year.

    • John Mar 7, 2020, 3:56 pm

      Hin Marc,

      In thinking about it, another option might be https://www.aftheriault.com/en/

      However I have no idea if they would be interested in such a small project as they are a major commercial outfit. My only experience with them is they built me a new prop shaft and were great to deal with.

      There is also Lunenburg Foundry: https://www.aftheriault.com/en/

      • Marc Dacey Mar 7, 2020, 6:09 pm

        Thanks, John. I’ll review. A fellow last year said Canadian Maritime Engineering (https://cmelimited.com/contact/) expressed interest and even gave me a ballpark quote last year, but I haven’t been able to re-establish contact with whomever I spoke then. But I will follow up on your suggestions. Thank you. It’s not critical to paint this year, but I’ve got ablative paint on (Pettit Vivid) and it will go quickly in the ocean.

        As for the mid-June recommendation, I’ll take that under advisement. We are leaving Toronto circa April 15, so we should be out there well before the end of May.

        • Dick Stevenson Mar 7, 2020, 6:19 pm

          Hi Marc,
          I have used ablative paint (Micron CSC Extra) for decades now and on ocean crossings: not sure why you say yours will go quickly in the ocean. Perhaps the brand mentioned is a fresh water paint? Dick

          • Marc Dacey Mar 7, 2020, 6:44 pm

            No, it might indeed last, but I would prefer hard paint I can just send my son down to squeegee clean. We plan on doing a lot of NMs in the next few months. I will explore the options further on Monday…no one seems to work weekends in March there, and I’m not surprised!

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