27-28 October 2013: Shipping Out of Boston to Martha’s Vineyard

A Magical Night and a Fairytale Morning

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

The sailaway from Boston last night began with an appropriately splendorific sunset.


Sailaway at Sunset from Boston. Photos by Corey Sandler

A few hours later we made a careful passage through the Cape Cod Canal, a lesser-known but very important waterway south of Boston.[whohit]-CCC and MV28Oct-[/whohit]

The canal provides a shortcut—and a safe passage—between Cape Cod Bay on the East and Buzzards Bay toward Providence and New York on the West.

Using the canal saves ten to twelve hours of sailing; without it vessels would have to go way out east to avoid the hook of Cape Cod and then usually way down south below Nantucket to avoid shoals, obstructions, and other hazards.

The canal has been in existence since 1914, and is quite heavily used. However, not every cruise ship can pass through; it is deep enough and wide enough for most vessels, but the limitation is the three bridges that pass overhead.

The Sagamore and Bourne highway bridges and the Cape Cod Railroad Bridge provide the only surface link to the mainland.

And each of the bridges stands 135 feet above mean high water in the canal.

Our ship, Silver Whisper, had an air clearance of 129 feet. That means the highest point on the vessel is just six feet or two meters below the bridges.

Larger (and less stylish) vessels cannot use the canal.

I have gone through dozens of times. So, too, has our captain. And the local pilot makes back-and-forth transits like a bus route.

But that does not mean that we don’t all take a deep breath before crossing below.

And our passengers—many of whom I had prepared with my lecture about the canal—were even more doubtful.

The view from the pool deck of Silver Whisper as our ship’s funnel goes below the bridges is astounding. Our mind tells us there is six feet of clearance; our eyes tell us, “No way.”


Silver Whisper ducks below the Sagamore Bridge on the Cape Cod Canal. Photos by Corey Sandler

Off to the Campgrounds of Oak Bluffs

We made it through, and this morning arrived offshore of Oak Bluffs on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, the final port of call on this cruise.

Martha’s Vineyard is one of those places that is famous for being famous.

It’s a beautiful island in the North Atlantic, large enough to have hills and valleys and harbors and lakes.

Because of some peculiarities of location, economy, and religion Martha’s Vineyard has a somewhat unusual history.

It does not have the same back-story as Cape Cod, mainland ports of New England, or of the farther-away neighboring island of Nantucket, 30 miles out to sea.


Autumn colors, Campground gingerbread at Oak Bluffs. Photo by Corey Sandler

The Vineyard came to a bit of prominence as the global whaling industry began to grow.

Much of the financing and operations of the whaleships took place on Nantucket but some of the whaling captains and crew came from the Vineyard and the mainland.

Nantucket reached its peak about 1840, but then crashed: the economics of operating a whaling industry from an island so far out to sea without roads or railroads to bring the product to market was one problem.

And then the discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania and its use as a cheaper source of oil for lamps that ended whaling in this part of the world.

Nantucket went into a prolonged slump, something from which it did not begin to fully recover until the 1950s and 1960s.

But on the Vineyard, a new economy was developed earlier: tourism.

Oak Bluffs, population about 4,000…plus however many tens of thousands of summer people are hanging around—was the only one of the six towns on the island to be consciously planned, and the only one developed specifically with tourism in mind.

Some of the earliest visitors to the area that became Cottage City and later Oak Bluffs were Methodists, who gathered in the oak grove each summer for multi-day religious “camp meetings” held under large tents or in the open air.

The Campgrounds, and the association of cottages that surrounds the open-air Tabernacle, are time-travel back to the 1870s.


The Campgrounds. Photos by Corey Sandler

And today the early morning light illuminated the cottages and the trees and the water and shone a bright light at the end of a fine cruise.


Stained glass reflections on the autumn leaves within the Tabernacle, and Silver Whisper at anchor as we returned on the ship’s tender. Photos by Corey Sandler

Tomorrow: we sail into New York Harbor at dawn.

All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of any photo, please contact me.


27 October 2013: Boston, Massachusetts

Looking Up at Boston

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

I am in danger of running out of superlatives in this autumn of mostly spectacular, astounding, eye-popping, breathtaking…very pretty…weather and light.[whohit]-BOSTON27Oct-[/whohit]

When Fall Comes to New England, in the right temperament and temperature, it cannot be beat.


Silver Whisper at the dock in Boston. Nearby, an exhibit at the Children’s Museum and a portion of the modern skyline of Beantown. Photos by Corey Sandler

We spent the day prowling Boston, a place very familiar to us but always a treat. In the morning–in photographer’s light–I concentrated on looking up at the architecture and the history all around.

We are nearing the end of this cruise, which began in similar weather in Montreal and QuebecCity and Saguenay and continued through most of our ports of call.


Along the waterfront in Boston. Photos by Corey Sandler

Ahead of us is a passage through the Cape Cod Canal tonight, always a great thrill for me and most guests. We need to pass below three bridges, each of which stands 135 feet above the water; the highest point of our beautiful vessel is 129 feet above the water. We always make it…and it always appears as if we will not.


Saluting the colors at Quincy Market. Photos by Corey Sandler

Tomorrow we are due to call at Oak Bluffs on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, and on Tuesday make a triumphant passage up the Hudson River to our dock on Manhattan’s West Side.

Final photos and thoughts will arrive here soon thereafter.

All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.


26 October 2013, Bar Harbor, Maine

Seasons Come and Seasons Go

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Winter is coming to the Maritimes and the New England coast. Yes, it’s just October 26, but the winds have become a bit stiffer and their direction has changed to come from the north.

In Bar Harbor today, some of the shops were preparing to close for the year after our ship departs tonight. It’s a great time to buy a lumberjack’s coat, although they do seem to grow them rather larger around here: I tried on a Triple-X jacket which fit me like a bearskin.


Silver Whisper’s tenders compete for space with lobster traps in Bar Harbor. Photo by Corey Sandler

The talk around town was of the first seasonal accident: a rural Mainer was rushed to the hospital after getting his fingers between the piston and the mechanism of a log splitter. He seemed to be all right, although quite concerned about how he would continue his stockpiling of wood for the winter.

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The dock, above and below. Photos by Corey Sandler

The day dawned clear and cool, about 42 degrees. By afternoon, it was gray and windy.

By tomorrow, Bar harbor will be mostly empty of those of us who are not from around hey-ah.

All photos and text copyright by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.


25 October, 2013: Halifax, Nova Scotia

High Skies in Halifax

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

An incomparable autumn sky greeted us in Halifax.

The great port here—by some measures the second largest in the world, after Sydney (the one in Australia)—is lined with handsome architecture. Some of the buildings are great Victorian and Edwardian stone structures; more modern buildings are almost all lined with mirror glass to reflect the sky, the water, and the old buildings around them.

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Sky, clouds, and water in Halifax. Photos by Corey Sandler

A bit further into the city, at The Narrows, the architecture is a bit more uniform and relatively grim. This was the area that was leveled by the Halifax Explosion of 1917: considered to be the largest manmade explosion from the dawn of time to the atomic bomb. It was the result of a collision between two ships that were part of the gathering convoys bound to and from World War I Europe. One ship, the Mont Blanc, was packed with a witch’s brew of TNT, benzol, and picric acid.

In the explosion, about 1,951 people were killed—most of them spectators gathered along the waterfront. More than a thousand were blinded by flying glass.

It is, for me, impossible to look at today’s Halifax without hearing an echo of one of the worst moments of that war, nearly three thousand miles away from the front lines.

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All photos and text copyright by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.

24 October 2013: Sydney, Nova Scotia

Old Times Not Forgotten

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

To me, one of the appeals of Sydney, Nova Scotia is that it is mostly frozen in the 1950s, a simpler and more innocent time—at least in my memory.

It is one of the only places in North America where I could direct you to a cobbler to have your shoes resoled.

Or a seamstress or tailor..[whohit]-SYDNEY24Oct-[/whohit]

Or old Doc Archibald with his office in an old Victorian behind a white picket fence.


The fiddle at the Sydney Cruise Terminal. Photos by Corey Sandler

From 1784 to 1820, Sydney was the capital of the British colony of Cape Breton Island. The colony was merged with neighboring Nova Scotia when the British decided to develop the abundant coal fields surrounding Sydney Harbor.

By the early twentieth century Sydney was home to one of the world’s largest steel plants, fed by the coal mines of the Dominion Coal Company.

By the late 1960s both coal and steel industries were failing, and were taken over by federal and provincial governments. That lasted until late in 2001 when they could not be sustained any further.

Today the economy is not exactly booming, although the region benefits greatly from the lure of the Louisbourg Fortress nearby, a faithful reconstruction of the great French citadel erected to fend off the British. That didn’t quite work, and the Brits eventually captured and then knocked down the thick stone walls. But in the 1960s, federal and provincial governments, along with private money paid for the reconstruction of the fortress.

It is an astounding site; I wrote about it in an earlier blog posting.

In another direction is Baddeck on the Bras d’Or (the Golden Arm), which most of the Anglophone locals insist on pronouncing something like “brass door.” This lovely Lakeland was the summer home of Alexander Graham Bell, and the museum erected there is an amazing peek into the mind of a true genius. Bell worked on the phone, of course; we’ll forgive him for that but consider also his accomplishments in aeronautics, metal detectors, sound recording, photoelectric cells, solar heating, and even air conditioning produced by directing fans across ice harvested from Lake Bras d’Or and stored in the basement of his estate.

On this visit, we stayed in town. I was conducting a digital photography workshop and I set myself the assignment of finding as many possible ways to capture images of the oversized fiddle that stands outside the cruise terminal. The fiddle is the symbol of the Nova Scotia ceilidh, a foot-tapping barn dance.


All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact me.

22 October 2013: Saguenay, Quebec

22 October 2013: Saguenay River and La Baie, Quebec

Ha! Ha! Indeed

The Rivière Saguenay – the Saguenay River – is one of the major waterways of Quebec, and the largest fjord in the province.

A fjord is a long, narrow inlet of the sea between steep cliffs.

The Saguenay drains Lac Saint-Jean in the Laurentian Highlands; that lake is filled by thousands of streams and rivers in the watery north of Quebec.

Quebec extends nearly 1,200 miles north from the Saint Lawrence to the top of the Ungava Peninsula at Ivujuvik.

The Saguenay flows just slightly south of east meeting the Saint Lawrence River at Tadoussac. As a fjord, its waters are tidal as far upriver as Chicoutimi, about 100 kilometers or 62 miles.

The fjord cuts through the Canadian Shield, the huge rocky plateau that makes up nearly half of all of the Canada, extending from the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Valley northward to the Arctic Ocean.

The metamorphic base rocks are mostly from the Precambrian Era (between 4.5 billion and 540 million years ago), and have been repeatedly uplifted and eroded.

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Saguenay National Park, south of La Baie. Photos by Corey Sandler

The Canadian Shield was the first part of North America to be permanently elevated above sea level and has remained almost wholly untouched by successive encroachments of the sea upon the continent.

The walls of the fjord reach to as much as 500 meters or 1,600 feet in many places; in many places the cliffs descend at least that much below the waterline.

La Baie, Quebec

La Baie is part of the city of Saguenay, Quebec, located where the Rivière à Mars flows into the Baie des Ha! Ha!

It is a beautiful place and the locals are trying very hard to develop the port as a cruise destination; I wish them well–but hope it is never spoiled by too much success.



Performers on the pier at La Baie, welcoming to town. Photos by Corey Sandler

Ha! Ha! does not refer to a place of great merriment; it is a native word that means dead end or cul-de-sac.

No roads go north from the area into the wilderness; the last roads north end just a short distance from the city—still within the Lac St-Jean area. There are no human settlements due north of Saguenay all the way to the Canadian Arctic islands, except for a few isolated Cree and Inuit villages.

Our Lady of the Saguenay

Charles Napoleon Robitaille was one of the first salesmen to travel the roads of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.

He worked for a Garneau Brothers, a shop in Quebec, and traveled between the small villages of the Saint Lawrence and the Saguenay selling household goods.

One of his winter routes required him to cross the frozen Saguenay between Chicoutimi and the parish of Sainte-Anne at Lac-Saint-Jean.

In the winter of 1878, the ice broke and Robitaille fell into the water with his sleigh and his horse.

Fearing he was about to die, he implored the help of the Virgin Mary. He got to shore, and he decided to commemorate his survival with a statue.

In 1880, Robitaille managed to engage the great Canadian sculptor and wood carver Louis Jobin to make a statue to be installed on one of the headlands overlooking the fjord at the mouth of the River Eternity.


Notre Dame du Saguenay. Photo by Corey Sandler

For more than a century, visitors have made pilgrimages to see Our Lady of the Saguenay. At some point, it became traditional to sing or play Ave Maria.

Regardless of religious faith, most of us found our thoughts directed at friends and family and former shipmates as we made a graceful 360-degree circle in front of the cliff before proceeding further up the river to La Baie.

Personally, my thoughts turned to the first time I made this voyage up the Saguenay, accompanied by the gracious cruise director Judie Abbott.

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Judie Abbott on the bridge this past July. Photo by Corey Sandler

All photos and text copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.


20 October 2013: Quebec City, Canada

Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Beautiful

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We’ve been to Quebec City dozens upon dozens of times in winter, spring, summer, and fall. This season on Silver Whisper four times. The girl can’t help it; she’s prettier and more fashionable than Paris or Montreal or just about any other city I can think of.





Quebec City as winter takes a peek at Autumn. Photos by Corey Sandler

We were here two days ago, and autumn was in full color. We returned today, and there was a hint of the coming winter in the air: a cold wind and a continually changing sky. Gray in the morning, drizzly at noon, a touch of sun in early afternoon punctuated by a perfect rainbow from a passing sky, and wintry clouds at sunset.

In the morning I traveled with guests to the Old Town, aiming my camera at pumpkins and goblins.




Colors of Quebec City. Photos by Corey Sandler

Then we went to Montmorency Falls and I leaned out over the rail to photograph the torrent of water tumbling over the edge of the Canadian Shield into the Saint Lawrence.



Montmorency Falls, Quebec. Photos by Corey Sandler

And then as sun set and the temperature dropped toward freezing, I set up my tripod on the upper deck and recorded the night lights as Silver Whisper set sail east toward the Atlantic Ocean.




After sunset, the Chateau Frontenac. Photos by Corey Sandler

Tomorrow we sail up the Saguenay River through one of the most spectacular fjords in the world, paying a port call at La Baie.

We’re preparing to head south down the coast of New England and eventually south to the warmth of the Caribbean…but my thoughts will often return to the chilly beauty of Quebec City. The girl can’t help it.

All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.


19 October 2013: Montreal, Quebec

Bon Journée, et Bon Voyage

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Silver Whisper sailed into silver-gray Quebec City on Friday.

Quebec is one of the most glorious cities in the world, a mix of the heritage of New France of the 18th century with modern French arts, couture, and cuisine…put through the blender of the Quebecois culture.[whohit]-MONTEAL2 TURNAROUND-[/whohit]


Silver pumpkins in Quebec City. Photo by Corey Sandler

It rained a bit in the morning, then turned clear and cool in the afternoon. No one seemed to mind getting a bit wet or a bit cold: Quebec City fills us all with warmth.


Between (Canadian) Thanksgiving and Halloween in Quebec City. Photo by Corey Sandler

Today, we say goodbye to many new and old friends who are disembarking in Montreal. And we say welcome aboard to a new group as we prepare to head back out of the Saint Lawrence.

With this call in Montreal, Silver Whisper begins the final leg of 2013 fall colors tours in New England and the Canadian Maritimes. We are headed back to Quebec City, then up the Saguenay River to La Baie, and on to Charlottetown, Sydney, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston, and Martha’s Vineyard. We’ll finish up with a grand procession on the Hudson River to the New York Cruise Terminal.

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Our voyage begins again from Montreal, headed to New York. Photo by Corey Sandler


Food in Montreal is always a treat, although not all cuisine is haute. At left, the line forms in front of Chez Schwartz for smoked brisket on rye. At right, the peculiar Quebec favorite of poutine: french fries, cheese curds, and unidentified brown sauce. I’ll take Schwartz’s anytime. Photos by Corey Sandler

I hope you’ll join me here in the pages of my blog.

Bon Journée , et Bon Voyage: Good Day and Safe Travels.

All text and photos copyright 2013, Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.

17 October 2013: the Saguenay River and La Baie, Quebec

The Fabulous Story of the Kingdom of the Saguenay

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

The Rivière Saguenay – the Saguenay River – is one of the major rivers of Quebec, the largest fjord in the province.

Quebec extends nearly 1,200 miles north from the Saint Lawrence to the top of the Ungava Peninsula. I’ve been there: it looks nothing at all like Quebec City or Montreal.[whohit]-FABULEUSE SAGUENAY-[/whohit]



Silver Whisper at the dock in La Baie, and as seen through a window of the cruise terminal. Photos by Corey Sandler.

The Saguenay drains Lac Saint-Jean in the Laurentian Highlands; that lake is filled by thousands of streams and rivers in the watery north of Quebec. The nation of Canada possesses about 8 percent of the world’s fresh water. Quebec alone has 3 percent of the water reserves.

One of the world’s longest, the Fjord du Saguenay cuts through the Canadian Shield. The huge rocky plateau occupies nearly half of all of the Canada, extending from the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Valley northward to the Arctic Ocean.

The river was an important trade route into the interior for the First Nations people of the area. During the French colonization of the Americas, the Saguenay was a major route for the fur trade.

Few roads connect with the area from the south and east, and only one road connects from the northwest. No roads go north from the area into the wilderness; the last roads north end just a short distance from the city—still within the Lac St-Jean area.





Cartier arrives in New France. From La Fabuleuse. Photos by Corey Sandler

There are no human settlements due north of Saguenay all the way to the Canadian Arctic islands, except for a few isolated Cree and Inuit villages.

The Kingdom of the Saguenay

Another name for the region, one which was latched upon by the early French explorers . . . looking for riches . . . is the Royaume du Saguenay or the “Kingdom of the Saguenay.”

The grandiose name is either the result of a misunderstanding . . . or a bit of a jest or even a calculated trick put upon the French by the locals.

When the French arrived to colonize New France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they learned from the Algonquins of a legendary kingdom to the north.





The loggers and the famers arrive in the Kingdom of the Saguenay. From La Fabuleuse. Photos by Corey Sandler

When French explorer Jacques Cartier arrived at Stadacona in 1534, he did not come with a bouquet of flowers and a box of candy.

The key to the Kingdom may lie with Chief Donnacona, the leader of the Iroquois village of Stadacona, at the place now occupied by Quebec City.

Cartier kidnapped two of Donnaconna’s sons and brought them back with him to France. They told Cartier of a place they called Saguenay, populated with blond men who were rich with gold and furs.

We have no reason to assume that Cartier or Donnaconna and his sons believed there really was such a place. But the story served as a golden ticket: it gave Cartier something to sell to the king so that he could make another trip to the New World, and it assured Donnaconna’s sons of a trip back home.

La Fabuleuse Histoire d’un Royaume

Since 1988, a cast of more than a hundred locals presents an astonishing pageant that tells some of the story of the Saguenay region. It is presented in a massive amphitheatre constructed by the town. They’ve also built a handsome dock for cruise ships, and each season the number of ships increases.









The pageant includes some astounding special effects. Photos by Corey Sandler

On this cruise to La Baie, a rare full-day visit, we were able to attend a performance of La Fabuleuse.

There’s Jacques Cartier, Chief Donnaconna, the Generals Montcalm and Wolfe to stage the battle of the Plains of Abraham, loggers, farmers, capitalists, horses, chickens, geese, a trained pig, barn dancers, flappers, twisters, and hippies.





Modern times to a grande finale. Photos by Corey Sandler.

It’s not Shakespeare, but the Bard of Avon never put on a show that included explosions, lasers, floodwaters, and a field of grass the sprouts on stage.

It was a fabulous pageant, un grand spectacle.

All text and photos copyright Corey Sandler 2013. If you would to purchase a copy of a photograph, please contact me.


14-15 October 2013: Sydney, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, PEI

Time Travel in the Canadian Maritimes

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

To me, one of the appeals of Sydney, Nova Scotia is that it allows me to time travel back to a time I once knew: the 1950s.

It is one of the only places in North America where I could direct you to a cobbler to have your shoes resoled.Or a seamstress or tailor.[whohit]-SYDNEY-CHARLOTTE-2-[/whohit]

Or old Doc Archibald with his office in an old Victorian behind a white picket fence.


Sydney, Nova Scotia. The colors of autumn in a place frozen in time. Photo by Corey Sandler

From 1784 to 1820, Sydney was the capital of the British colony of Cape Breton Island. The colony was merged with neighboring Nova Scotia when the British decided to develop the abundant coal fields surrounding Sydney Harbor.

By the early twentieth century Sydney was home to one of the world’s largest steel plants, fed by the coal mines of the Dominion Coal Company. By the late 1960s both coal and steel industries were failing, and were taken over by federal and provincial governments. That lasted until late in 2001 when they could not be sustained any further.


The cruise terminal in Sydney with Silver Whisper at the dock and a super-sized fiddle along the water. Sydney is one of the centers of Ceilidh, the Celtic-based barn dance centered around that instrument…in a hand-sized version. Photo by Corey Sandler

With apologies to some of my Anglophone Canadian friends, when I speak of this region I use French pronunciations for places like Bras d’Or (the Golden Arm) and Louisbourg.

I do this knowing that for the locals, the same places are often called LEWIS-BURGH and something close to BRASS DOOR.

See my Blog entry of 3 October 2013 for a recent visit to Sydney and Louisbourg as well as some details about Baddeck and Alexander Graham Bell.

Queen Charlotte, the Orphan Anne, and Prince Edward Island

When you think of Stratford-upon-Avon, you think of a certain poet and playwright by the name of William Shakespeare.

We are talking apples and oranges …or jellyfish and lobsters here… but in certain circles around the world…in some of the most unlikely places…Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island is not known for Queen Charlotte, not remembered for the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 that led the way to Canadian Confederation, and not thought of at all for almost anything else…except for the work of a relatively minor author named Lucy Maud Montgomery and a series of novels that begin in 1908 with “Anne of Green Gables.”


More colors, in a house near the waterfront of Charlottetown, PEI. Photo by Corey Sandler

Anne of Green Gables began as a Canadian bestseller, became an American success, and went on to become an international phenomenon.

For reasons no one hasfully figured out, you are quite likely to find a tour group from Japan…looking for Anne. I think it has to do with the fact that Anne is a girl who is for some about as un-Japanese as possible: feisty, independent, and decked with freckles and braided red hair. They love her in Japan, and come to PEI by the planeload.

I last wrote about Charlottetown in a Blog entry on 2 October 2013.


A study in angles and colors in Charlotteown. Photo by Corey Sandler

Charlottetown is the capital of Canada’s least-populated province, Prince Edward Island. The city is the country’s smallest provincial capital, with a population of about 35,000. (Canada’s three territories: Nunavut, Yukon, and Northwest Territories have smaller populations, but they are not provinces.)

The town was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III from 1744 to 1818.

Like Sydney, it is a place where time seems frozen.

I spent the day walking Charlottetown with a group of guests as we conducted a photo safari, hunting the colors of Prince Edward Island.

All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.



13 October 2013: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax, Nova Scotia: Up from the Ashes

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Halifax has had a tumultuous history. The British built a great citadel here as part of its claim to New England, and it still stands guard over the city.

Every day at 12pm they fire the noon gun; no matter how many times we have visited, it still startles.

But there are echoes of other events: the arrival of Loyalists who fled the upstart American colonies during the revolution. The departure of raiding parties from here to burn Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. The both-sides-against-the-middle trade with the South and North during the American Civil War.


Ducks on the Pond at the Victorian Garden. Photo by Corey Sandler

Then came the Halifax Explosion near the end of World War I, a time when the harbor was filled with convoys gathering to cross over the Europe. And the convoys were back during World War II when this place was one of the most important links in the resupply chain for the United Kingdom and later Russia.

Today, the city shines with some handsome buildings–many of them with mirrored glass reflecting the harbor and the old Victorians and Georgians.




Around town in Halifax on a beautiful fall day. Photos by Corey Sandler

And the superlative weather still follows us. Shh…don’t tell anyone that it’s not supposed to be like this in mid-October.

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Silver Whisper reflected in the windows of a building as we departed near sunset. Photo by Corey Sandler

All photos and text copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.


12 October 2013: St. John, New Brunswick

The Tides They Are a’Changing

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We think of New Brunswick as part of English Canada, but it actually has a significant French background.

Jacques Cartier claimed the region for France in 1534. Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian sailing for the French in 1548, though the place worthy of being named after Arcadia, the Greek name for an idyllic place. In French, that became Acadie.

Right from the start, this was the line of dispute between the French and the English.

In 1629, the English brought in boatloads of Scottish settlers and changed the settlement’s name to “Nova Scotia,” Latin for New Scotland.

The colony was returned to France in 1632, but disputes between the two powers continued until 1713 and the Treaty of Utrecht when Acadia passed a final time into British hands.

Although the question of sovereignty was settled, skirmishes continued.

That led to Le Grand Dérangement, the Great Upheaval: the displacement by the British of the French Acadians.

It is estimated that three-quarters of the Acadian population was uprooted between 1755 and 1762.

The Acadians landed in many places, but the best known colony of expatriates went to Louisiana. And there they became known as the Cajuns.


Rocks and seaweed along the beach in one of the places with the greatest tidal range in the world. Photo by Corey Sandler

Walter Pidgeon, Hawkeye Pierce, and Jack Bauer

The small city of St. John produced two celebrated actors:

Walter Pidgeon starred in many popular films including “How Green Was My Valley”, “Mrs. Miniver”, and “Advise and Consent.”

And more recently, Donald Sutherland, who came to fame as Hawkeye Pierce in the movie “MASH”, as well as “Klute”, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and “Ordinary People.”

He is also the father of Keifer Sutherland, who for eight seasons single-handedly protected the United States from nuclear, biological, and narcoterrorists as Jack Bauer in the series, “24.”

Also from Saint John: Stompin’ Tom Connors, one of the most successful country singers to come out of Canada.

Fundy and the Falls

But the thing which makes Saint John and the surrounding region most famous around the world is an unusual natural phenomenon.

The tourism board will tell you that Minas Basin in the Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world.

In truth, it depends on who is doing the measuring and when the measurements are done.

I have been to places much further north, including Leaf Basin in Canada’s Ungava Bay at the top of Quebec near Hudson Strait. Some scientists say the tidal range in Ungava is greater.

Of course, not all that many tourists—or even scientists—go to Ungava Bay.

I do know that when I went there researching my book on Henry Hudson, our icebreaker had to wait twelve hours for the highest of tides in order to get out of the bay. And we still scraped bottom.

And there are also those who say the Severn Estuary in the U.K. should be in the discussion.

So in fairness and accuracy, I think we can say that the Bay of Fundy has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world.

In classic political fashion, the Canadian Hydrographic Service has declared it a statistical tie, with measurements of a 16.8 meter (55.1 feet) tidal range in Ungava Bay and 17 meters (55.8 feet) at Burntcoat Head for the Bay of Fundy.

At Saint John itself, the St. John River flows into the Bay of Fundy through a narrow gorge several hundred feet wide at the center of the city.

The tidal difference in Saint John is about 8 meters or 28 feet.

And it is there that we have the unusual phenomenon called the Reversing Falls.

It’s not what it sounds like: it is not a waterfall that flows upstream.

What happens is that when the tide changes—as it approaches and then reaches high tide—it flows over the top of the river.

When it is coming into the Saint John River, it appears to reverse the water flow of the river for several kilometers.

The phenomenon continues for several hours.

The rapids, or “falls,” are created by a series of underwater ledges which roil the water in either direction, causing a significant navigation hazard, despite the depth of water.


Tides and falls in the Bay of Fundy. Photos by Corey Sandler

Now, the Reversing Falls is not quite Niagara or Yellowstone National Park. It’s interesting, no doubt.

But many visitors are surprised to find the encroachments of industry on this natural wonder.

The Canadian Pacific Railway built the first Reversing Falls Railway Bridge in 1885; the current one at the location took its place in 1922 and is used by the New Brunswick Southern Railway.There’s also a road bridge. Both are just downstream.

And then there is the not-very-attractive pulp mill right at the falls, directly across from Fallsview Park.The J.D. Irving mill has been in operation for many decades and continues to belch steam and raise the hackles of environmentalists.


The Reversing Falls and the paper mill. Photo by Corey Sandler

Fallsview Park offers a good vantage point of the falls.

But the real lure for many people is a jet boat ride. This is not for the timid, or for those who don’t want to get wet.

In fact the whole point seems to be to get wet.

I’ve ridden the jet, and I’ll tell you: some might find it more fun to watch than to ride.

They loaned us a rainsuit, which wasn’t a whole lot of help.

I had to take off my glasses so that they wouldn’t fly away.

And I couldn’t take any pictures, because I wasn’t about to risk my professional equipment in the boat.

This time, I photographed the jet boats from the shore.



A Jet Boat in the Reversing Falls. People pay for this. Photos by Corey Sandler

All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.


11 October 2013: Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine: Weatherbeaten but Resurgent

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Portland, Maine has been through high times and low, fire and ice.

Its city motto is Resurgam, which refers to its rise from the ashes of four major fires over the centuries. Today it is a solid, mostly working-class city set on the shores of a magnificent body of water: Casco Bay.



Along the waterfront in Portland. Photos by Corey Sandler

The water, the rugged rocks that line its shores, and the nearby mountains have drawn great artists (Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth among them) and inspired the great poet Longfellow, who was born here.



Portland Head Light, and the rocks of which it warns. Photos by Corey Sandler

Somehow, Portland also gave rise to the horrific Stephen King, who was born here.

Portland is not as often visited as Bar Harbor to the north or Kennebunkport to the south. But it is in resurgence.


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Inside the Portland Museum of Art, and Weatherbeaten by Winslow Homer. Photos by Corey Sandler

Do try the lobster rolls down by the waterfront. But don’t forget, here in Maine and nearby Massachusetts, there is no R in Lobster. Call them lobstahs.


Silver Whisper at the dock in Portland. Photo by Corey Sandler

All text and photos by Corey Sandler, copyright 2013. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.


9-10 October 2013: Cape Cod Canal and Boston

9-10 October 2013: Through the Canal to Beantown

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

I’ve always admired women (for many reasons) but high on the list is the ability to dance backwards…and in high heels.

That’s a bit of what we’re doing on Silver Whisper, making a return trip from New York to Montreal, and then back again. We don;t often do that, instead usually always on the move from one part of the world to another.


Boston in October. Photos by Corey Sandler

But I don’t mind. New England and Atlantic Canada is beautiful anytime of the year, and especially spectacular in the fall. The colors are approaching their peak right now, and the air has just enough of a crisp edge to keep us alert enough to fully appreciate all we see.


The Paramount Theater in Downtown Boston. Photo by Corey Sandler

Last night we made a stately passage through the Cape Cod Canal, heading eastbound from Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod Bay. Going through the canal saves nearly 180 miles of travel and also avoids the shoals and sometimes rough seas around Nantucket Island south of Cape Cod.

Not every ship can use the canal, though. It is wide enough and deep enough for large ships but the limitation is the three bridges (one railroad and two highway) that cross overhead.

All three bridges stand 135 feet above sea level, which is not that high. The lovely Silver Whisper has an air clearance of 129 feet, which means there is just six feet or two meters above the tallest point on the ship and the concrete and steel roadways or tracks of the bridges.

I’ve done the canal transit dozens of times, and every time it appears we’re not going to make it.

But we do. And we did.

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Squeezing Beneath a Bridge on the Cape Cod Canal. Photos by Corey Sandler

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The View from the Navigational Bridge of the Sagamore Bridge on the Cape Cod Canal. Photo by Corey Sandler

See my BLOG entry for October 6-7 for more details about the Cape Cod Canal.

Today we are in Boston. This is one of the most vibrant and interesting cities in the United States, and there’s an extra lilt in Bostonian’s steps as the Red Sox have advanced to the American League Championship, with real hopes of making it to the World Series. It’s been a tough year in Boston…we deserve some good news.[whohit]-CCC EB and BOSTON-[/whohit]


The Massachusetts Statehouse on Beacon Hill in Boston. Photos by Corey Sandler

All text and photos Copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact me.




9 October 2013: Newport, Rhode Island

9 October 2013: Newport, Rhode Island

When Fall Comes to New England

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Our sail-away from New York was, just as we hoped, spectacular. Silver Whisper backed out of Pier 88 at 5 pm, and we moved majestically down the Hudson River toward its exit to the sea.

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The gangway from Pier 88 to our ship during the quiet morning before guests came aboard. Photo by Corey Sandler

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The view from the Bridge of Silver Whisper as we backed out of the pier. Photo by Corey Sandler

On our port side was Manhattan; to starboard, the Statue of Liberty. I was up on the bridge giving commentary, but—as always—I had my camera with me.

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Scenes from our sailaway. Photos by Corey Sandler

And then we sailed into New England. One of my favorite songs is When Fall Comes to New England, by the singer-songwrite Cheryl Wheeler. She has a lovely line about autumn colors; she says that the leaves turn “Irish Setter red.”

Newport, Rhode Island is where the rich came to play.

One of their games, at the peak of the Gilded Age, was a grand form of one-upsmanship.

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The colors of New England. The Newport Museum of Art, and the gardens at the historic Touro Synagogue. Photo by Corey Sandler

It was a competition to impress, astound, and outspend each other.

They built “cottages”, a word they used with a wink and a nod.

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Downtown Newport. Photo by Corey Sandler

In some ways, Newport and the rest of Rhode Island was a model for the ideal of America, a place where freedom of conscience and religion was paramount.

They had been all but driven out of Boston by strict and punitive laws and discrimination.

A year later, the original settlement of Pocasett divided, and a group moved south to found Newport.

By this time, many had become Baptists.

Their political beliefs had been shaped by the difficulties of Boston.

At the heart of their plans was separation of church and state, codified in the Newport Town Statutes of 1641.

Newport became one of the first secular democracies in the world, certainly one of the first in the Americas.

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Newport’s Redwood Library, and an old hotel in town. Photos by Corey Sandler

The original settlers were soon joined in the 1650s by others including Jews and members of the Religious Society of Friends: the “Quakers.”

In the years leading up to the American Civil War, Newport began to attract influential artists, writers, scientists, educators, architects, theologians, architects, and landscape designers.

Summer residents included the activist and poet Julia Ward Howe, the famed Unitarian preacher William Ellery Channing, the author Henry James and his psychologist brother William James.

After the Civil War came the Gilded Age, a time of great wealth and expansion.

Bar Harbor in Maine, and the Adirondacks of upstate New York boomed: a surge of privately owned American castles, if you will.

Newport was perhaps the greatest beneficiary.

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The Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport. Photos by Corey Sandler

My wife and I live in this part of the world, on the island of Nantucket about 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. And so we know Newport and southern New England quite well.

On this visit, I chose to go on a photo safari. I concentrated on the glorious details of Fall in New England.

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Silver Whisper at anchor, offshore of Newport. Photo by Corey Sandler

All photos and text copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.

8 October 2013: New York, New York

8 October 2013: New York, New York

You Say Goodbye, We Say Hello

And so we hauled anchor at Martha’s Vineyard and proceeded west at full speed through rolling seas: 45 mile-an-hour winds and 6-to-8 foot swells.

We were sailing into the storm that was heading for Martha’s Vineyard…but by 6pm all was calm and at 8pm we sailed beneath the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge that marks the entrance to New York Harbor.

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USS Intrepid Museum, New York. Photo by Corey Sandler

Giovanni da Verrazzano arrived at the mouth of the river in 1524, but apparently did not progress much further. He believed that it was just a big lake.[whohit]-NEWYORKSAILIN1-[/whohit]

There were others who explored nearby, but it was Henry Hudson who progressed 160 miles up the river in 1609, ready to greet the emperor of China. No such luck, but the mouth of the great river is now the site of the great city of New York.

I was up on the bridge giving commentary to our guests.

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New York from the nighttime arrival of Silver Whisper. Photo by Corey Sandler

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Pier 88 Awaits Silver Whisper. Photo by Corey Sandler

I asked the pilot whether there was anything unusual going on as we headed for the Ambrose Channel and then up the Hudson River.

“Other than the fact that there’s a cruise ship coming in at night, no,” he said.

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The Empire State Building, from the Hudson River. Photo by Corey Sandler

Actually, there was one other special event: a private party had planned a fireworks display near the USS Intrepid museum on the West Side of Manhattan. That happens to be next door to where we were to dock at Pier 88.

They held off on their celebration until we were safely docked at about 9:15pm. But it was a fitting culmination to a great cruise.

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Hooray for Us. Photo by Corey Sandler

We wish safe travels to those guests leaving us in the Big Apple.

And we declare: Welcome Aboard to new friends joining us for the trip to Montreal.

Later today, we will back out of the pier, sail down the river and salute Lady liberty before heading to Newport, Boston, Portland, and back up the coast to Canada.


All photos and text copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase copies, please contact me.


6-7 October 2013: Boston and Cape Cod, Massachusetts

6-7 October 2013: Boston and Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Shipping Out of Boston…Side-stepping a Storm

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We spent a rainy Sunday in Boston. Speaking for myself, I’ll take a gray day in Beantown over sun and blue skies almost anywhere else.

Boston is one of America’s liveliest and culturally vibrant cities. And the religious fervor is uplifting: the Red Sox are in the playoffs and all is well with the world.

In early evening, we shipped out of Boston, heading for a call at Oak Bluffs in Martha’s Vineyard.

Let’s consider a ship coming out of Boston and wanting to go here, to New York.

You could go out to sea around Cape Cod.

Another route—not ordinarily a wise decision for a large ship—is to sail between Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

There is a passage, but it is very tricky and in places very pretty shallow.

Just ask the former master of the QE2, who almost lost his ship—and did lose his command—when he tried that in 1992.

Cape Nautical Chart

Shoals, Wrecks, and Other Threats around Cape Cod and the Islands

The hook of Cape Cod is like a giant’s raised right arm. Near its fist toward the northwest, is Provincetown.

If you didn’t know Cape Cod was there, or if your ship was being blown south in a howling nor’easter you could easily end up wrecked on the inside of the arm.

Mariners have also known about the Nantucket Shoals for more than four hundred years.

East and south of Nantucket the sea is pretty treacherous.

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The Hook of Cape Cod

So for the past few centuries, large ships have dropped down below Cape Cod and sail to the south of Nantucket.

But even that has its challenges. Nantucket is nearly surrounded by shoals and other obstructions: rocks and remnants of nearly forgotten naval encounters of World War I and II.

Since 1914, if your ship is of the right side, there has been an alternative: the Cape Cod Canal.

Using the canal saves between 135 and 166 miles, eliminating about seven to ten hours of sailing through dangerous waters.

Construction of the Cape Cod Canal began June 22, 1909.

The man with the plan (and the money) was August Belmont, Jr. And the plan used by The Boston, Cape Cod and New York Canal Company was drawn by engineer William Barclay Parsons.

As a consultant to the Panama Canal Commission, Parsons had recommended a sea-level canal across Nicaragua, but Teddy Roosevelt disagreed.

As chief engineer of the New York Rapid Transit Commission, he had overseen the construction of Belmont’s I-R-T subway line.

In the borough of Queens, he is memorialized with Parsons Boulevard.

And the firm he founded, now called Parsons Brinckerhoff, is today one of the largest American civil engineering firms.

Construction of the canal turned out to be much more difficult than merely digging a channel.

In Panama, the French and then the Americans had to work in tremendous heat and torrential downpours. They dug through swamps filled with mosquitoes carrying malaria and Yellow Fever, crossed treacherous fast-flowing rivers, and blasted through the mountainous spine of Central America.

In Cape Cod, the problems included mammoth boulders left behind by Ice Age glaciers, and the cold New England climate which made it impossible to dredge or dig in winter.

Cape Cod and Nantucket are terminal moraines of the Laurentide Ice Sheet of about 20,000 years ago.

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The Laurentide Ice Sheet.

The huge rocks came down from the Canadian Shield.

Though Nantucket is mostly sand, if you look around the moors and even in town you’ll find some fairly substantial boulders.

There’s one in my neighbor’s front yard. It’s a gift from Canada.

The Cape Cod Canal debuted, as a private toll waterway, on July 29, 1914.

Belmont had managed to open seventeen days before the Panama Canal.

The canal was taken over by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Depression and widened and deepened. Three new bridges were built over the channel.

Each year, more than 35 million vehicles pass over the two highway bridges, which provide the only land link between Cape Cod and the mainland of Massachusetts.

Every time I use one of the bridges I remind myself they were built by the lowest bidder.

And I also enjoy four lanes of two-way traffic without a center barrier.

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The Bourne Bridge over the Cape Cod Canal.

Curb-to-curb the bridges are just 40 feet wide.

We’re 135 feet above the water, driving in traffic lanes less than ten feet wide; a semi-tractor trailer is eight-foot-six-inches wide.

The maximum length for vessels is 825 feet.

More importantly, ships have to be able to fit beneath the three bridges, 135-feet above mean tide.

Bottom line: An aircraft carrier or a monster megaship like the ridiculously supersized Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas that carry 6,000 passengers and 3,000 crew within their welded steel hulls are too long, draw too much water, and most importantly too tall to squeeze below the bridges.

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Silver Whisper Squeezes Below the Sagamore Bridge. Photo by Corey Sandler

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The Cape Cod Canal.

Well, we made it through the canal, and arrived offshore of Oak Bluffs early Monday morning. But our string of good luck with the weather—something that began in the Maritimes of Canada more than a week ago—came to an end.

A significant gale was on the horizon, with high winds and seas. And so, Captain Luigi Rutigliano hauled anchor and we scurried out of Massachusetts and headed for an evening arrival in New York City.

A few hours after we left, my cell phone began chiming with messages about the cancellation of ferry boats to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket where we live. So we side-stepped the storm.

All text by Corey Sandler. Copyright 2013. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.

5 October 2013: Bar Harbor, Maine

5 October 2013: Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor Without Acadia

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

A non-partisan quip, from one of my literary heroes, Mark Twain: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

The history of Bar Harbor, Maine is bound up in the glorious greensward now known as Acadia National Park.

It’s a great place to visit, especially if you are lucky enough to be there in good weather with the fall colors in full display.

Well, we had the weather and we had the colors, but we did not have the park.

Because of the shutdown of the federal government (See Mark Twain, above), the park was closed.

There were three cruise ships in the harbor: two small vessels including Silver Whisper and one ugly megaship.

The streets were jammed. The ice cream and taffy stands busy. And the park closed.

The Park-less Town

The town of Bar Harbor is quite small, with a permanent population of about 5,000.

Of course, that population swells greatly in the summer and fall.

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Ice cream, salt water taffy, and tourists locked out of Acadia. Photo by Corey Sandler

At the back of the harbor is the bar, a stretch of sand and gravel that is covered at high tide but visible and often walkable at low tide across to Bar Island.

It can cause a bit of inconvenience if you’ve gone out on the bar and the tide comes in behind you to cover your escape route.

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Bar Harbor. Photo by Corey Sandler

Mount Desert Island is Maine’s largest island, with an area of 108 square miles (280 km²).

That makes it the sixth largest island in the continental United States, and the second largest on the east coast of the United States—behind Long Island in New York and ahead of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Even without the park, it’s a pretty place, especially if you go past the t-shirt shops and into the old town.

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Bar Harbor. In the churchyard is a memorial to the sons of Eden (the town’s original name) who died in the U.S. Civil War. Photos by Corey Sandler

We come back to Bar Harbor on Silver Whisper in about three weeks. We hope the park is open, Congress is shut, and the leaves still red and gold.

All photos and text copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.



4 October 2013: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax: Beauty and History in the Mirror

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Much of the history of the Maritimes of Canada can be summed up in one place: Halifax.

Native peoples. Early European explorers. French and English military clashes.

And in Halifax, one of the largest and best protected ports in the world: a great and terrible harbor.

Halifax is Canada’s front door, a place where more than a million immigrants landed to populate the mostly empty nation.

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Halifax: Canada’s Front Door. Photos by Corey Sandler

During peacetime it grew as a great trading port very close to the Great Circle Route—the shortest distance between Europe and North America.

And it grew—and suffered—during wartime as navies clashed for control in Colonial times, the War of 1812, and the American Civil War.

Then it became even more critical as its superb harbor was used as a place for convoys to gather before crossing the Atlantic during World War I and II.

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Halifax Old and New. Photos by Corey Sandler


The harbor runs in a northwest-southeast direction.

What is now a huge harbor is actually a drowned river valley.

It was carved by a massive glacier.

Then, after the ice age, the sea level rose to fill it in.

Closer to the open ocean is the Northwest Arm. It is not wide or deep enough for major ships, but instead is mostly used by pleasure boats.

Deep into the harbor is The Narrows, where the two sides come close together. Today a bridge passes overhead.

And then past the Narrows is the large Bedford Basin.


It was at the Narrows where the largest manmade explosion before the atomic bomb occurred:

The Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917.

During World War I, the French munitions ship Mont-Blanc, packed with a witches brew of munitions and chemicals collided with the Norwegian war relief ship Imo at the Narrows.

The explosion destroyed a major portion of waterfront Halifax as well as Dartmouth across the harbor.

It killed about two thousand people and injured nine thousand more.

Halifax was devastated, and there are still some places where you can feel the century-old echoes: the Hydrostone District above the narrows is filled with homes all built after the explosion.

Down along the waterfront, Halifax has done a marvelous job of reclaiming the harbor as a civic jewel. Tourists stroll along the boardwalk, and locals visit the museums and restaurants.

And most of the modern construction along the water uses mirrored glass. The water is reflected everywhere you turn, the mirrors seeming to double the size of the huge harbor.

All photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact me.

3 October 2013: Sydney, Nova Scotia

3 October 2013: Sydney, Nova Scotia

The Fortress of Louisbourg, Resplendent in the sun

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Sydney, Nova Scotia once had a thriving economy based around fishing, coal mining, and steel mills.[whohit]-LOUISBOURG-[/whohit]

All three industries are all but gone now.

Things got pretty grim, and I’m not just talking about the weather, which can be extremely awful: cold, windy, and snowy. And even worse in winter…

It’s not always gray and grim.

Twenty miles to the south of Sydney is Louisbourg, a massive French fortification on a particularly lonely piece of coastline.

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Louisbourg. Photos by Corey Sandler

The times we have visited—even in summer—it has often been shrouded in fog and mist, sometimes nearly wintry.

But not today: it’s a bit scary, the weather we’ve had lately. Blue skies and sun. What will winter hold in store?

The location of the fortress on the southernmost point of the Atlantic coast of Cape Breton Island was chosen because it was easy to defend against British ships attempting to attack Quebec City.

The fort was also built to protect France’s hold on one of the richest fish deposits in the world, the Grand Banks.

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A Lady of the House at work, and as reflected in a mirror at Louisbourg. Photos by Corey Sandler

The original fortress, constructed mainly between 1720 and 1740, was one of the most extensive (and expensive) European fortifications constructed in North America.

The fortifications took the original French builders twenty-five years to complete.

The fort itself cost France thirty million livres, which prompted King Louis XV to joke that he should be able to see the peaks of the buildings from his Palace in Versailles.

Two and a half miles of wall surrounded the entire fort.

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Louisbourg. Photos by Corey Sandler

On the western side of the fort, the walls were thirty feet high, and thirty-six feet across.

For the French, it was the second most important stronghold and commercial city in New France. Only Quebec was more important to France.

It was captured by British forces and colonists in 1745.

And then in 1760 British engineers systematically destroyed Louisbourg to prevent its future use by anyone.

And the fortress and the town were more or less left untouched for two centuries.

In the 1960s, the Canadian government paid hundreds of millions of dollars for the partial reconstruction of the fortress as a living history museum, in the process providing some temporary jobs for unemployed coal miners and struggling fishermen in the area.

The result is spectacular, all the more so on our out-of-season weather.

All photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact me.