Checking in on the Chester

Recently, I was invited to an old crewmember’s wedding in Chester on the southwest coast of Nova Scotia, about 60 miles west of Halifax. I’d been to Nova Scotia a couple of times before but had not ventured west of Kentville and the small villages at the top of the Bay of Fundy, which, I have to say, are a must-see for anyone’s bucket list.
I arrived in Chester to find a vibe that I didn’t expect. There were people everywhere and hundreds of sailing boats. The Chester Yacht Club was setting up a stage in the garden, and the flags were flying for the start of the historic Chester Race Week. I’d heard about this race but had no idea it was so big.
I was staying in a very old and time-honored local landmark called the Captain’s House, which was going to be the venue for the wedding. It was perched right on the water in the same bay as the yacht club, so I had a bird’s eye view of the coming week’s events. Despite the awesome atmosphere that had me and the wedding party guests entertained every night of a week with live bands, as well a top-notch conditions for sail racing on everything from modern yachts to traditional and locally-built race boats like the Bluenose Fleet, there was much exploring to be done with my trusty camera.
So, on a spectacular Sunday morning, I hit the road to explore Chester Basin, which is open to the Atlantic Ocean and contains three beautiful, island-filled bays: Chester, Mahome and Lunenburg. The latter is home to the famous Bluenose Tall Ship, which was in refit while I was there. It wasn’t long before I wanted to stop the car and start walking, but the advice I’d received was to get to Mahome Bay because it was so picturesque.
Though I was on vacation from S/V Wonderful, I kept note of where the yachts were parking and how the extreme tides were affecting their ability to get in close to the harbors. There didn’t seem to be many limitations, as I saw several large and mid-sized sailing yachts that I’d seen down in the Caribbean during the winter, anchored in some amazing spots with no other boats around them. The further I drove, the more I understood why they were there — islands everywhere, world-class golf courses, creeks with oyster farms, lobster farms, marshlands, forests, beaches, rocky outcrops and, to top it all, the peace and quiet I strive for these days.
Mahome Bay had a quaint little town where I found some great restaurants and farmers markets with first-class fresh produce. There were also plenty of cafes and bars on the waterfront that gave the place a lovely, laid-back feel. Lunenburg was more of a traditional fishing port and home to the area’s boatbuilding industry. There was a little more focus on tourism, which had me thinking along the lines of Newport due to the abundance of seafood restaurants, fishing boats and the maritime history, but I liked it there, and the views from the harbor were stunning.
I loved the area but saved the late afternoon for getting back and exploring Chester. I’d seen a spectacular sunset the night before but didn’t have my camera with me, so was keen to catch it that evening. I arrived in Chester and strolled down to the water’s edge, where kids were jumping off an old wooden dock. I sat on the ground and waited for the sky to turn red, but it was so peaceful that I fell asleep and woke up only to have missed the sunset. I smiled and said to myself, “I haven’t done that for a long time, I must be getting old,” and wandered back to the house as the live band started their sound checks at the yacht club and the evening’s congregation appeared on the street.
Needless to say, in such a wonderful place, only wonderful things can happen. The wedding was superb, and so was the week’s sailing, in which everyone but me got involved. Well, aside from a short ride on the family’s converted cape boat, whose fishing days were over; we drove out to watch the bride’s family racing on Green Eyes, a William J. Roue design, who also designed the big Bluenose. We had a blast!
Congratulations to Katie Lee and Tommy Tanner, who were married in Chester on August 1. Kate was the first mate on Wonderful when we sailed the Red Sea, Turkey and the Med a few years ago. It was lovely to catch up with her, and I wish them both a very happy life together. Thank you for the invitation and introducing me to such a lovely part of the world! Nova Scotia is a spectacular destination for a mid- to late-summer cruise, and one which I very much hope to do myself one day.
For More Information:
Chester Race Week started before the World War I, but the regatta had its ups and downs until after World War II. As the communities recovered and the normal way of life resumed, the Chester Yacht Club and some keen members and volunteers enticed several yacht clubs throughout Nova Scotia and even the northeast coast US to come back by accommodating participants and guests in their own homes and catering to them in the yacht club. After many years of hard work, they’ve succeeded in developing a wonderfully well-organized event that now brings hundreds of sailors and yachts from far and wide to enjoy the area and be involved in some serious racing. I’d like to give the yacht club credit for that, and also the local people for the kind hospitality.
Captain Warren J. East has completed more than 300 charters around the world. He holds a MCA 3000 Ton license and stands at the helm of S/V Wonderful, which he was commissioned to design and project manage in 2001. Visit his website at www.wonderfulcharters.com
 
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