Canada’s East Coast—The Best Cruising In The World?


If you are anything like John and I, you are spending a lot of time planning where you are going to cruise next summer. I mean, what better way is there to spend a winter evening?

In light of that, we have just published a new Online Book, “Cruising Notes to Canada’s East Coast“.

Canada’s East Coast offers everything you could need or want in a lifetime’s cruising (okay, maybe we don’t have palm trees, but we do have white sand beaches).


From the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy,


to snug harbours in Nova Scotia (where you may very well be the only boat),
Maskells Harbour 1

to friendly people

and great hiking in Newfoundland,

to the challenges of the high latitudes in Labrador and beyond.

Our book will whet your appetite to cruise this wonderful coast and help you decide where, of the endless options to choose from, you want to stop.

And it will only get better, since our plan is to keep adding chapters as we cruise “down north”.

To read the online book, CLICK HERE.

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Meet the Author


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.

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24 comments … add one
  • Dick Stevenson Feb 10, 2016, 7:22 pm

    Hi Phyllis,
    Most excellent! And great timing.
    We are contemplating returning to North America in 2017 via the N route: Scotland, Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and then be in maritime Canada for a bit.
    Having both enjoyed and found very useful your guide books to Norway, I expect the Canadian east coast cruising notes to be a big help.
    Thanks, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John Feb 11, 2016, 6:45 pm

      Hi Dick,

      Thanks for the kind comments on the NCG, and your contributions too.

      It will be fun to have you on this coast for a while and the northern route is great, albeit fairly challenging, but, I’m sure, well within your capabilities.

  • Stein Varjord Feb 11, 2016, 6:21 am

    Hi Phyllis,
    Since you have cruised in many beautiful areas, including the Norwegian coast, which is quite nice too, I conclude I’ll have to take a look myself. We can’t leave the worlds best of anything unchecked, can we? 🙂
    I tend to participate mostly on the tech- or sail-nerdy side of this site, but don’t see that as a judgement. I think the actual cruising part of the site is essential for keeping it all connected to the core of our interest. Sailing and experiencing the world should be the not too distant target. Not everlasting preparations, which some other sites might tempt their participants into. Thanks. I’ll read and be tempted!
    Stein, a Norwegian in Amsterdam.

    • John Feb 11, 2016, 6:48 pm

      Hi Stein,

      Yes indeed, to compare Norway west coast and Canada East coast…I think we have a tie.

      And I agree, there comes a time when one must just GET GOING.

  • Geoff Skinner Feb 12, 2016, 1:06 pm

    Hi Phillys and John,
    The Maritimes !
    We too are on our way, but unlike the Stevensons, we will be taking the southern route cause we want to get warm before-hand (heading into the Med next after following your Norway guide).
    While from Montreal, I lived in Halifax for a couple of years as a boy and my dad is from New Brunswick. One destination for me will be the St John River, which I remember as being fabulous for family cruising as kid… I wonder if it still is?
    Your Maritime book will be a great help.
    Thanks Geoff s/v Onegin

  • Colin Speedie Feb 13, 2016, 8:43 am

    Hi Phyllis

    This couldn’t come at a bether time for us. Winter here in the UK has been dismal, and we’re so much looking forward to Canada – see you up there!

    Best wishes


    • John Feb 14, 2016, 9:12 am

      Hi Colin,

      You two will love the area and it will be fun to have both boats here at AAC World Headquarters!

  • Stan Carlyle Feb 14, 2016, 8:25 pm

    When I read the title of this post “THE BEST CRUISING IN THE WORLD” I must admit that the hair on my neck rose a little bit at the gall of such a statement. I was expecting some exciting debate (not quite like an anchor thread) but something, please! In stead we get a love in on how everyone loves Canada’s east coast. No disrespect here Phyllis but I’m here to tell you that there is another coast to this wonderful country and the cruising grounds from Puget Sound to Alaska are spectacular! There are thousands of miles of protected shorelines in the inside passage where you can have an anchorage all to yourself and the finest and freshest seafood as near as your gunwale. If you prefer the offshore experience head to Haida Gwaii or explore the outside of Vancouver Island. Both unique and spectacular!
    Had you and John been blessed to be established on the West Coast rather than the East, I am sure that the heading of this posting would have been “THE PACIFIC NORTH WEST- THE BEST CRUISING IN THE WORLD!

    • Stein Varjord Feb 15, 2016, 3:18 am

      Hi Stan,
      I see the title not as a competitive conclusion but a question showing the enthusiasm for one area. The heading does actually have a question mark, so my interpretation has some credibility.

      I think you agree that there is no such thing as “the worlds best” of almost anything, least of all cruising areas. I’m Norwegian and have cruised most of our coast some and could show areas that are hard to beat. The west with the biggest fjords and the mid north with it’s “Alps with beaches” are maybe the most famous, but I’d actually say my favourite may be the high arctic of Spitzbergen and even more, the southern archipelagic coasts.

      The coast from Gothenburg in Sweden to a bit past the southern tip of Norway is not as impressive, but it’s just incredibly idyllic. There are more than 200 000 islands and hundreds of tiny old villages. In the holiday season, it’s crowded by boats, but still nice and it’s always possible to find private spots.

      The greek (and Turkish) islands are the jewels of another very idyllic area. There must be loads of equally amazing places around the world. I think New Zealand must have some. Patagonia is on my list of must-do. The coast you mention has also been on that list a few years. Now the east coast of Canada is also on the list. As a Viking descendant, it should be I guess. 🙂

      I’ve sailed around a bit and plan to increase that, but I have no fear I’ll run out of “worlds-bests” even if I hurry, which I won’t. 🙂

    • John Feb 16, 2016, 10:02 am

      Hi Stan,

      Sorry if the title made the “hair on my neck rose a little bit at the gall of such a statement”. See Stein’s excellent explanation of what we were trying to say below. The key being, as he says, the question mark.

      • RDE Feb 27, 2016, 1:53 pm

        The best cruising ground in the world has nothing to do with location! It is where you, your boat, your mate, and perhaps a few close friends have the most fun!

        Like Stan, I prefer fresh caught salmon on the barbie, waterfalls cascading into deep fjords, and ancient cedar forests instead of fog and brutal winters. For others any place where the temperature falls below 55f automatically disqualifies it. Lack of internet access may be the absolute deal breaker, while some live only for the chance to demonstrate that their mast is taller than that of their peers.

        Different boats (and places) for different blokes!

  • Tim Feb 24, 2016, 6:19 pm

    Hi John,

    I went sailing off the coast of Vancouver island (east that is) last summer and was planning to do so again this year. There are plenty of charter companies based there and it is easy sailing. This said I would like to see the East Coast. Where would you recommend sailing that is not too challenging and has charter yachts available ?


    • John Feb 27, 2016, 9:17 am

      Hi Tim,

      First off, I have cruised all of the areas that Eric mentions below and would 100% agree with his assessment.

      Unfortunately he is also right about the lack of availability of bare boats for charter. At least as far as I know, there is nothing available on this shore at all.

  • Eric Klem Feb 26, 2016, 11:37 pm

    Hi Tim,

    Here are my thoughts on your question. There are a couple of distinct cruising grounds on the east coast worthy of thinking about. In my opinion, the landscape is not quite as stunning as the area you have been chartering in but I the sailing is often better.

    In the US, the Maine Coast is one of the great cruising destinations. I believe that you can still charter out of Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island which is well situated. Further downeast (more northeast) has strong currents, lots of fog, beautiful bold coast and fairly few other people. The midcoast area (Penobscot Bay to Frenchman’s Bay) is great island hopping with a ton of great anchorages, sailing that is protected from the swells and not too many other boats. For both of these, the best time of year is mid July to mid September in my opinion. The Taft guide is well regarded on this area and I would also recommend getting a Maine Island Trail Association membership. If you are looking for not too challenging laid back sailing, midcoast Maine is great other than the lobster pot buoys and fog which can be mostly avoided if you pick your timing.

    The next area of note is probably Buzzard’s Bay and the Islands (Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands). You can charter out of Newport, RI and it is an easy half day sail over. The water is warm enough for swimming and there is usually a great breeze every afternoon. The downside to this area is that there are a ton of boats in July and August and it can be pretty touristy. We often sail in this area in June or September. This has a very different feel to me to destinations north but I still really enjoy it out of season.

    Further south, there are always Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake. I am not up to date on the chartering opportunities there as I have typically sailed right past.

    In Canada, New Brunswick can be a lot of fun but the cruising area I like is small geographically so I don’t see it as a place for an entire cruise. I have been there numerous times but it was usually as part of a trip to downeast Maine although you can do a nice loop that includes Campobello, Passamaquoddy Bay, Grand Manaan, and Digby as a full week long trip.

    The southeast coast of Nova Scotia is a great cruising ground although there tends to be a lot of fog and unlike Maine, I don’t believe that you can avoid it simply by picking your timing right. The scenery is excellent, the harbors are good, there are few people but they are very nice. Even in season, there are relatively few cruising boats there. In some senses, I find this area to be a bigger version of downeast Maine, the Nova Scotia coastline is quite long and you can spend quite a long time cruising there. You can also continue further north and the cruising continues to be excellent. In general, the wind and waves are much bigger than a place like Maine but I really enjoy cruising there even though we don’t get to do it that often. Unfortunately I don’t know whether there are any chartering opportunities there, it strikes me as a place that is just challenging enough that it is unlikely to have many.


    • Tim Feb 28, 2016, 11:25 pm

      Hi Eric,

      That is very kind of you to provide such a detailed answer. It is much appreciated – Thank you.


  • Terry Mason Mar 19, 2016, 9:54 pm

    Hi John,

    My wife and I are planning to exit Lake Ontario via the St. Lawrence headed for Nova Scotia; I understand that a US registered boat can stay in Canada for a maximum of one year, but I read somewhere that US citizens can only stay for 6 months. However, if I read it right the boat can only be left without crew if work is being done on the boat by a recognized yard. We hoped to winter over in Shelburne but may have to advance to Maine if the authorities dictate. What is your readout on this issue considering they have been tightening the screws on US boats recently? BTW Shelburne seems more affordable than what I have seen of Maine.

    • John Mar 20, 2016, 8:43 am

      Hi Terry,

      I’m not an expert on this stuff, but I think your understanding is pretty accurate.

      You are certainly right on the recognized yard requirement. However, I understand that as long as you don’t abuse the system by trying to leave the boat in Canada without paying the tax for too many years, getting a tax-free permit for one winter is pretty straightforward.

      One thought, as far as I know the only real boat yard in Shelburne—the club hauls boats, but not sure if that would qualify—is the massive Irving commercial yard. You might be better off leaving your boat at one of the more yacht oriented yards around Mahone Bay, many of whom have experience dealing with the permit requirement.

      • Terry Mason Mar 20, 2016, 11:01 pm

        Thanks, I found three marinas in that area that look worth pursuing. Is there the option of staying in the water if we stay on or near the boat? How much ice do you get?

        • John Mar 21, 2016, 8:55 am

          Hi Terry,

          Yes, staying in the water is an option, as we have this year, but you do need to be around, or have someone you trust looking after the boat. Most years we get plenty of ice, although this year has been an exception. The clubs that have in the water storage here in Halifax (three) all have bubblers.

          • Terry Mason Mar 22, 2016, 2:54 pm

            Thanks John, sounds encouraging. Can you give me some names/web sites? I could only turn up one on a web search.

          • John Mar 22, 2016, 3:28 pm

            Hi Terry,

            Rather than that, I would recommend that you get this cruising guide, which will give you all the information you need in great detail and much more that will make your cruise of NS fun:

  • Terry Mason Mar 24, 2016, 12:28 am

    Yeh, I get those memory lapses too. I tried to contact Peter Loveridge but he hasn’t gotten back to me yet. Thanks for the tip, the one I have is rather dated.

    • John Mar 24, 2016, 7:28 am

      Hi Terry,

      Memory lapses? Also, Active Captain is a worth getting too. Lots of first hand reviews of the various boat yard options.

      • Terry Mason Mar 24, 2016, 5:23 pm

        Yes, I have Active Captain, that is really good but not all marinas are adequately reviewed yet. Some review information is minimal; I suppose it depends on the reviewer and what facilities they used whilst there, but the database is growing rapidly.

        Jeff & Karen are also good techies and have excellent articles on their site (from their email blogs) about WiFi, cell phone use worldwide etc. They put me on to, who sells sim cards for about 140 countries, can unlock your phone, sells unlocked phones and various pay as you go sims with top-ups online. Great service: I bought an unlocked iPhone 5c from them with an AT&T plan for the US to try it out as a hot spot. It works better than my wife’s Verizon MiFi. This is a bit off topic so please shuffle it over to a more appropriate thread if you want.

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