You haven’t seen Nova Scotia until you’ve seen it from the high seas, says tall ship owner George Mainguy. Travelling this province by land only gives you part of the picture.
“Roads are almost two-dimensional. You get out on the ocean and it becomes three-dimensional,” says Mainguy, owner of the Mist of Avalon. Mainguy and his crew will sail the Mist into Halifax Harbour today. After Monday’s Parade of Sail, he’s continuing to Cape Breton and northern Nova Scotia.
“It runs the gamut between scary and exciting,” the Ontario man says of sailing a tall ship.
Mainguy found the Mist abandoned in Sambro harbour in 1992. Built in Mahone Bay in 1967, she was called Liverpool Bay and fished for cod on the banks of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland for 20 years.
“Luckily or not, we didn’t know enough to not acquire it and turn it into a schooner,” he jokes.
Since then, the reborn Mist of Avalon has explored the coasts of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, the Great Lakes and Bermuda.
“It’s always an adventure. Conditions are different from day to day, so it’s always something new to experience. It’s a constant learning curve,” he says.
On the Newfoundland trip, severe weather rattled the nerves of the crew, and they’ve sailed through “mini tornados” on the Great Lakes.
“It was exciting, to say the least. The ship handles it better than the crew,” jokes Mainguy. “It was built to work in that environment and it did that for 20-odd years and survived. Anything else that gets thrown at it is pretty easy.”
Sailing into a harbour full of cheering spectators and dozens of other ships is an amazing experience, Mainguy says. He brought the Mist to the 2000 festival in Halifax and discovered that not all tall ships are equally tall.
“It puts things in perspective, when you’re used to your boat and you get parked beside (another boat) and you’re looking way up. To be in the company of these guys who do it professionally all the time is quite a thrill,” he says.