Rough seas, Halifax in the rain and mist, Nor’easter clears, spectacular Bar Harbor

After leaving Sydney, Nova Scotia, Thursday afternoon we headed into some rough seas for several hours. Even many of the veteran cruisers disappeared and we decided to not eat dinner, as we had a late lunch when we got back from our tour. We both felt fine, but sleeping was not easy with all of the rocking and rolling. The 20-foot seas delayed the pilot vessel from Halifax Friday morning and we weren’t sure we would make it into port, but finally at 10:30 am, a brave soul from the pilot station leaped between the heaving small pilot vessel and Regatta.

We had a private tour in Halifax arranged by Halifax Tour Guys scheduled for 8:30 am, but obviously it would have to be shortened. I was in touch with the company via email during our delay and we elected to press on with a four-hour tour starting at noon. The ship’s departure was a little later, at 5:30 pm, so this would work. We met our driver Stewart after we debarked and headed off for a driving tour through Halifax first. The weather was very gloomy and foggy, with intermittent heavy rain showers, but the temperatures were moderate, in the low sixties. Stewart drove through the nice neighborhoods and the business districts and then we visited the Protestant cemetery to see gravestones for 121 of the bodies plucked from the seas after the Titanic went down. Apparently, some poor souls who were working to lay the first transatlantic phone cable (hi there, Alexander Graham Bell) were commissioned to do body recovery in April and May, 1912, as were other ships in the area. If the body was identified or there were some good guesses, the remains were assigned to various cemeteries or the families claimed them. There were 306 victims recovered in total by the CS Mackay-Bennett, half of them buried at sea.

The headstones for the bodies in this cemetery were laid out in three rows in curves resembling the forward bow structure of the ship. Some of the more famous headstones include one of the famous musicians, John Law Hume, and the unknown child (who has been identified through forensic DNA testing has been identified as Sidney Leslie Goodwin from England, who perished with his entire family). There is also a marker for an enigmatic J. Dawson, who was actually Joshua Dawson, a coal shoveler in the engine room, and not the fictional Jack Dawson from the potboiler James Cameron cinematic epic.

Stewart also talked about the disaster on December 6, 1917, when a French ship loaded with munitions and other explosive materials collided with a Norwegian ship in the Halifax harbor narrows, destroying many homes and businesses and killing 2,000 people while injuring more than 9,000. The explosion was estimated to be 2.9 kilotons, the largest man made detonation prior to the atomic era.

After visiting this area, Stewart drove us to Peggy’s Cove south of Halifax through lovely country homes by lakes. We stopped on our way at a maple products store and bought some goodies, then headed to the popular Peggy’s Cove fishing village. This cruise is at the end of the season, so this busy tourist attraction was quite empty and very dramatic, with the low clouds and grey light. We took many pictures, then headed back to the city. Our tour was very relaxing and boarded just in time for trivia!

The seas were calmer Friday night. This was the evening that we had had our dinner with Chief Engineer Dujo Mijic, from Croatia. The dinner group had four couples, including us, in addition to the Chief Engineer as well as one of the cruise entertainment staff. It was a nice evening, although I didn’t feel very hungry for some reason, but we did enjoy the conversations. We went to bed and slept well as we cruised to Bar Harbor, Maine.

Saturday in Bar Harbor we had the best weather of the trip so far. A low cloud layer was present when we cruised into Frenchman Bay, off Mt. Desert Island, where Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are located in northeast Maine. These clouds burned off quickly and we had very cool, but almost cloudless skies as we set out to explore this resort area. We had cell phone service back, too!

We boarded the tender for our tour after going through US Immigration on-board, which was quick. First, the bus took us into Acadia National Park and around the loop road, with views of the bay, interior lakes and ponds, small mountains, and beautiful fall colors. Then the bus ascended the road to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Atlantic seaboard in the US (at 1500 feet, a mere molehill in Colorado). The views were spectacular and we could see our ship at anchor in the bay. After leaving the park, the tour stopped at the Cleftstone Inn, a historical B&B near Bar Harbor. In 1947, a devastating forest fire on the island destroyed many homes and half of the forested areas, barely sparing the town itself. Bar Harbor was a popular summer playground for many wealthy industrialists and financiers, including the Fords, Rockefellers, Joseph Pulitzer and other famous names, but the fire destroyed many of the palatial mansions. The Cleftstone Inn survived. Our short tour viewed the inside of this beautiful home, built in 1889, with later additions.

After a stop at the Inn, we drove to the Lobster Oceanarium for a short visit. This quaint, but amateurish little facility resembled the backyard experiment of a high school science student. We also had a lecture on lobster trapping and lobster habits by a genuine New England curmudgeon who had a wry sense of humor and a faint resemblance to Quint from “Jaws”. The highlight was when he pulled a gorgeous blue lobster out of a tank to show us. This one-in-a-million genetic variation happens when the lobster cannot manufacture yellow and red pigments for its shell, leaving only blue. When you cook a normal lobster, the combined pigments that make the lobster look brown are affected and the yellow and blue disappear, resulting in the bright red color.

Our final stop after this was at Looking Glass, a restaurant on top of a hill overlooking Frenchman Bay. We had delicious blueberry pie, loaded back up on the buses and returned to the dock area. Since there was ample time before we sailed, Steve and I walked to a nearby restaurant to have a lobster roll. I must admit to having a growing love/hate relationship with most seafood, but particularly lobster. I thought the sandwich was merely ok, but Steve devoured his and we sat in the autumn sunlight and enjoyed cell service and a couple of beverages. We boarded the tenders again, did rather poorly at trivia (ridiculous questions yesterday), coming in third. We were supposed to eat in Toscana Saturday night but canceled and had a small plate of pasta for dinner in the Terrace.

Today, Sunday, we are docked in Boston. We have a tour that leaves shortly that visits the Adams house in Quincy (home to John and Abigail, John Quincy and other members of the Adams family) and the JFK library. Weather seems pretty nice and tonight we transit the Cape Cod Canal!

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