Halifax was our first “big city” (pop. over 400,000) stop in Canada. And it turned out to be the place where we had the most consistent rain, fog and otherwise not sunny weather, which is saying a lot since we’ve had some rain all along the way. So, in order to make the best of it, we mixed our touring with some chores while we were there.
One big overdue chore was that Island Girl needed a wax job. We’ve been on the road a while now and her gelcoat fiberglass sides were looking a bit chalky. So Hector tackled the big job over several days. A thorough wash, some polishing compound, and an entire tub of paste wax later Island Girl is gleaming once again.
On the first sunny day, we explored the Halifax waterfront. It’s a pretty waterfront with some very impressive boats. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the Farmers’ Market are also located here.
During our exploration, we were fortunate to find a couple of especially interesting boats docked at the waterfront. One was the first solar powered boat to circumnavigate the earth, the Turanor Planet Solar. A VERY weird looking boat.
Another was the U.S. Coast Guard’s training vessel, the U.S.C.G. Barque Eagle. It’s the only active sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. The 295 foot vessel was open for tours and there were several young Coast Guardsmen on board providing information and answering questions. She was built in Germany in 1936, and taken as a war prize by the U.S. during World War II.
The Eagle serves as a classroom for approximately 175 cadets with a permanent crew of another 50 or so. These cadets must handle more than 20,000 square feet of sail and 5 miles of rigging. They must learn the name and function of each line since over 200 lines must be coordinated during a major ship maneuver. No hydraulics on this ship. Sheer manpower.
This sailing experience emphasizes teamwork and leadership and tests the cadets endurance. A fascinating look at this important branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and a little taste of the USA.
We spent one afternoon at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The museum is extensive, it has a small craft collection and two boat sheds, incredible ships models and artifacts, and the largest collection of ship portraits in Canada.
The museum also houses an extensive and fascinating Titanic collection. There is a strong connection between the Titanic and Halifax – cable ship crews braved awful conditions to recover the bodies from the disaster.
To help solve the mystery of the many unidentified victims, sailors hand stitched canvas bags that were used to keep personal effects together for each body, something that proved to be crucial in identifying those who perished. Many victims are buried in Halifax.
Some fragments of the ship were kept by those involved in the rescue operation, not sold commercially, but kept as reminders, this is called “wreckwood”. And finally, there are other pieces from the Titanic that were later found by families here as flotsam and preserved for generations.
The museum also houses an extensive collection about another sad, but significant part of Halifax history, the Halifax explosion. The city’s port served as an assembly and departure point for transatlantic convoys carrying supplies and soldiers during World War I and was evolving into a major base of naval operations. The war created a significant industrial and residential boom in support of all of these efforts and the city was thriving.
Then, in 1917, a miscommunication between two ships resulted in a collision and an explosion that left 2,000 dead, 9,000 injured and the city in ruins. It was the worst man-made explosion before the atomic bomb of Hiroshima. The museum collection shows life before and after the explosion and the devastating impact it made on Halifax and Nova Scotia. But Halifax came back and is alive and well.
Another exhibit I must mention is one on the Canadian Arctic Expedition which took place between 1913 and 1918. It was a temporary exhibit, but fascinating. I cannot do it justice in this blog, but it’s a fascinating story. Please click here for more information about this expedition. Bottom line is that the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was extremely educational, it’s a must see.
We also discovered one more farmers’ market. The Halifax Farmers’ Market is a permanent market, open seven days a week. Not as large as the Moncton Farmers’ Market, but very nice. We got some fresh produce, fresh juice, eggs, German sausage and some great Indian food for lunch. The Market has rooftop seating overlooking the water, which is lovely. And while we were there, there was someone giving salsa dancing lessons!
We attended the Halifax Pride Parade and it was really quite impressive. Apparently Halifax has a thriving LGBT scene and the parade was a wholesome and happy affair. It was great to be there and show our support.
We concluded our Halifax visit by going to the Seahorse Tavern to see the Mellotones. This is a nine piece ensemble with a four piece horn section and lots of energy and talent. The music scene in Halifax is also alive and well.
And, In keeping with the general weather picture during our stay, our evening ended with an absolutely epic downpour 🙂