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Sailing the Bras d’Or

Published August 13, 2010 - 8 Comments

As much as I love the sight of water.. a lake.. a river.. the ocean.. whatever…  it’s purely from an emotional point of view.  I can’t swim a single stroke.  I sink like a stone, and I’m very much aware of that fact any time that I’m in a situation where I’m near water that is over my head.  Learning to swim is still on my Steve 2.0 list, but everything on that list seems to have taken a backseat to reality lately.  Still… it’s part of the plan… someday…

I was pretty sure that the “surprise” that we needed to head back to Baddeck for would involve water to some degree.  I wasn’t sure what, and I didn’t want to try to think about it too much.  I just wanted to let it happen, and enjoy it (or not) based on what it was… not what I thought it would be.

So I wasn’t overly surprised when we drove to the dock.  But I was surprised by where we went as soon as we got out of the car.  A sail boat!

As I stepped onto it and found a seat, I thought “This should be fun”.  You decide how much sarcasm should be included in that statement. This entire trip was meant to experience new things.  This would certainly be one of them!

The Captain of the Amoeba was a charismatic character.  He kept his 40 passengers entertained with stories of the area’s history, interspersed with plenty of humour.  I don’t know for sure how long we were out there, but it was easily an hour.  During that time we sailed down an area owned by Alexander Graham Bell’s family.  I was unaware that Bell had a vacation home in Baddeck, and his family still has a presence there today.  It was quite something to see his home away from home.  If this blogging thing works out, I’ll have a little shack like that… someday!

One of the most interesting aspects of the trip… the eagles.  When we first got on the sailboat, the Captain told us that we should see at least one, if not two, bald eagles along the way.  Apparently there are two pairs of eagles that he has been feeding during his tours, and these birds know the sailboat now.  One of each pair will stay with the nest, while the other will hunt for food.

I’m not sure that I would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.  Twice during the trip an eagle appeared soaring high overhead.  It seemed to hang there until the Captain called it, and held out a fish.  Sure enough, the bird came down to snatch the fish after the Captain threw it into the water!  This is a picture that Karen was able to snap with her camera.

You can see from this picture, and the one of Bell’s home, that the weather that day was perfect.  It was sunny and warm.  You couldn’t have asked for any better.  I was still a little uneasy at times, but for the most part, I survived.  I sat my ass down, and didn’t move until we got back.  The only time that I got a little worried was when the sailboat turned around at the midway point.  I know that’s part of their design, but I really wasn’t happy with how far the boat tilts to one side as it makes a turn.  I was extremely thankful that I was on the side that went UP rather than the one that went DOWN.  I gripped the seat tightly and tried not to panic.  I’m not sure that I would have been so calm had I been on the opposite side, and been leaning heavily toward the water.  Luck of the draw, I guess.

It was a shame that it had to end.  Other than the turn, I had a great time!

Living in the Lap of Luxury: Bras D’or Lakes Campground

Published August 2, 2010 - 4 Comments

There are certain comforts that you naturally forgo when camping.  It’s just a given.  If you’re not prepared for that, then you’re better off staying in a hotel somewhere.  I was well aware of that.  The plan was to spend the first 2 nights at the Bras D’or Lakes Campground, using it as a base camp of sorts.  We could stay there at night, then head out to discover Cape Breton during the day, and return after supper.  On the third day we would pack up and go for an extended drive, finding a campground along the way to pitch the tent.  Sounded reasonable enough to me.

Because our initial travel day was less than spectacular weather-wise, we had decided to go with one of the 3 available Basic cabins.  I had been warned that these were rather light on amenities.  That’s ok.  A cabin is a cabin.  How bad can it be?

As we registered in the office, we casually asked the question  “What comes with the basic cabin?”

The woman didn’t even hesitate…  “Nothing!”

There was no sugar-coating… no attempt to make it sound even remotely pleasant… just a very blunt “Nothing!”  She didn’t say it in a nasty way… she was just being brutally honest.  These cabins had nothing in them!  I’m sure that the look on my face betrayed what I was thinking…

“We do have 1 Luxury cabin available”, she said.

Umm… ok.. what comes with the luxury cabin?

“You get your own bathroom and shower…”

We’ll take it!

There were a few other things on the list, but like Jerry Maguire said… “You had me at ‘own bathroom’…

So we booked the Luxury cabin for 2 nights, which.. all things considered… was incredibly lucky.  There are only 6 cabins in total (3 Basic, 3 Luxury), and the weather was not great.  To be able to drive in and be able to get the last cabin without having reserved it?  Well.. that was simply a sign from above.  Who could turn a blind eye to that?  Certainly not me!  And besides, I work hard.  I think that I deserve a little luxury in my life.  

Apparently my definition of “luxury” is a wee bit different than their definition.  There was no mint on the pillow.  Hell, there was no pillow!  There was no maid.  No room service.  No large screen TV.  No small screen TV.  No honour bar.  No ice machine.  No towels.  No little soaps or shampoos to take home.  (I did take the roll of toilet paper with me!  I was bound and determined to get something from my stay in luxury!!) If this was the Luxury cabin, then what was in the Basic one?  Oh that’s right… nothing!

In fairness, we did have our own BBQ, a screened-in porch, microwave, mini-fridge, and picnic table.  We were also closer to the water than anyone else, which unfortunately meant that we were not within coverage of the free wi-fi.  I had my iPhone, so I was ok… but that’s not the point.

So the running joke for the next few days (and really, it hasn’t quite stopped being funny… even now) was about how we had stepped into the lap of luxury, how we escaped looking like common rift raft like the poor bastards in the Basic cabins, and how the woman just blurted out “Nothing!” when asked… I applaud her honesty and wish that she worked in a marketing firm somewhere.  I’d love to see some more of her work!

As a side note, I  take a little exception to their promotional material “Baddeck’s only lakefront campground!”  While technically this is true, we took a walk down to said lakefront, and well… It’s probably 20-30 feet maximum, and rock-filled.  I honestly do not think that there’s enough bare sand there for a single person to lay out.  But the view is very nice.  I’ll give them that.  I chuckled as I watched a family of 4 walk down the path toward the water, each of them holding blankets. Sure enough, in a few minutes I watched each of them return up the path. Thankfully there’s a pool onsite.

And as much as I joke about the Luxury cabin, really… for $89/night, I can’t complain.  I just find the term “luxury” to be slightly misleading when it comes to a cabin, but hey… considering that the Basic cabin has “nothing!” in it, having my own toilet to sit on probably does qualify as luxury in my books!

I’d stay there again.

The Plan: Driving to Cape Breton

Published July 30, 2010 - 8 Comments

The trip was planned with unusual precision.  Unusual for me, that is.  I’m kinda a fly by the seat of my pants guy when it comes to these things.  Sure, I am capable of a little planning.  But this went beyond anything that I’m used to.  My role was to sit back and stay out of the way.  Awesome!

Sleeping Beauty. Pretty, isn't it?

I finished work at 7am Thursday morning, so I wasn’t going to be much good on the drive. The idea was simple enough.  I could sleep on the way, and wake at our destination completely refreshed and ready to go.  I had my Tweety pillow, a blanket, even a sleeping mask.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.  I probably would have slept the entire drive had it not been for the rain.  At one point I woke up… the car felt like it was moving sideways, rather than going forward.  It was a rather unsettling feeling.  When I opened my eyes, all I could see was a torrential downpour, and transport trucks.  We had been driving for a little over 2 hours, and were still in New Brunswick.  I was all set to stay overnight and wait for the weather to pass… but that wasn’t part of the plan.  Onward bound!

Thankfully the rain did not continue for the entire drive, but that was it… there would be no more sleep for me.  I spent my time looking for road signs and arguing playfully about which direction “north” was. 

Thankfully the GPS is better at that kinda stuff than I am.