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Nova Scotia: Where the schooner is king

Tall ShipHere you can travel vicariously to some of the far flung corners of the globe in search of little known gems. One such cruising ground is coast of Nova Scotia, more specifically the port of Lunenburg. 

Lunenburg has a very rich seafaring lineage: Home of the legendary Bluenose schooner for many years, the town is so steeped in nautical history that you feel you can smell the flax and hemp from here. In these water, the traditional schooner remains a lordly presence.

Dorset man Duncan Veasey was seduced by the town's charms a couple of years back and moved over there permanently. He reports on the joys of a rather different cruising ground.  

Folk, flax and a fleet of schooners

The Atlantic coast of this beautiful Province of Canada has great sailing of all kinds and much to offer the UK cruising sailor. It's less expensive to sail here, facilities are good, it's much less crowded  and the people are delightfully friendly and welcoming. Well, sailors usually are.

Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a jewel. Add affordable lobster, local wines, the wonderful Folk Festival.. What are you waiting for? Schooner rig is traditional here and there is surely no more beautiful sight than the Nova Scotia Schooner Association fleet on race week or at the September Classic.

A Gallant ship and lots of rum

My own personal love affair with the schooner began two years ago when I arranged a day sail with Captain Tom Gallant in his 47 ft David Stevens wooden beauty 'Avenger'. This is quite the best kept classic boat I know, kept in a gloriously understated and practical style.

Entranced and seduced - a good deal of rum was involved - one year later I became the proud owner of 'Kitty Cochrane,' a 33 ft wooden schooner: 'An absolute sweetheart which will sail with the heart of a white witch' to paraphrase Cap'n Tom through the haze of a slight  hangover.

    Kitty Cochrane, ready to launch  

She was the first substantial boat launched at Lunenburg in almost 40 years. Reader, I painted her.

Master boatbuilders

Kitty's designer was David Westergard, a master builder of wooden boats who combines old traditions and craftsmanship with new ideas. Kitty has all the beauty of a traditional wooden boat, combined with an electric auxiliary motor and solar panels.

   A beautiful David Westergard day sailer  

His boats are known for beauty, strength  and speed and he is currently building two 50 ft schooners side by side at the Dawson Moreland Boatyard in Lunenburg. The double launch in 2011 will be unique and, knowing these folks, the party of the decade. One is already sold, so if you fancy dispensing with soulless fiberglass and signing up for romantic but practical wood, best be quick. Full info on the schooner scene can be found here.

Dark and Stormy dories

The Nova Scotian tradition of schooners stems largely from the legendary Grand Banks fishing boats, yet the sturdy little dories that were dropped from the schooners on the wild Grand Banks are also still cherished in Lunenburg.

   Glorious Novenber sunshine for Dory racing  

Much here is centered on the Dory shop where Jay still builds these lovely craft.Wednesday night Dory races are a real highlight, with visitors more than welcome to come and join in or just enjoy the scene, great company and a 'Dark and Stormy' or two. This is a cruising destination with a difference.

For more infomation about lunenburg, you can visit the town's website, while information on nearby marinas can be found on the Canadian Yachting Association's website.

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