Enjoying the big city

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Tue 14 Sep 2010 00:32
We've been out all day enjoying ourselves in Halifax. I'm so used to getting up early that I was in the galley making a cup of tea at 0700, just as Kali and Magnus got up as well so we're all just as bad as each other. Andrea and I went out to the Bluenose II cafe for an excellent breakfast, then up the hill to the Citadel at the top.

The Citadel is a relic of the British Empire. Halifax was founded by the Brits more or less in one go in the 1700s. They wanted a secure port to counteract the French so they sent over a fleet with warships and plans for a city along with a population for it, all at the same time. The harbour here is excellent and the city flourished from the outset. In the end, the British used it as a springboard to oust the French and capture the whole of Canada and, later, to resist the expansionist USA. It was also the base for the Atlantic convoys during the World Wars. I must admit that I didn't know any of the history so it was fascinating to find out about it all.

Anyway, the Citadel is really similar to the fortifications around Portsmouth and it was very strange to be in somewhere so familiar but so far away from home. It really brought home to us the ambition of the British Empire. Andrea said that it made her feel proud and I can only agree with that. I suppose I hadn't realised quite what was involved in having an Empire. The organisation and infrastructure required. Halifax had a Royal Naval dockyard - the only one on the American mainland - that meant the British Navy could control the North Atlantic. In the end, that helped the defeat of the Nazis so there's plenty there to be proud of. There were some nasty bits as well, of course, and I think the local indigenous inhabitants aren't so pleased with it all but....

There were a whole regiment of young Canadians in the Citadel, all dressed as 19th Century Scottish soldiers complete with kilts and very smart spats. They were keen to tell us all about life in the fort and they were very engaging. At noon, they still fire a signal cannon which was extremely loud. Some of the other visitors were complaining that they weren't given enough warning. I would have thought that the fact they were stood in front of a cannon with two guys loading gunpowder into it was a bit of a clue. The two gunners then put in ear plugs and one stood there holding a rope attached to the barrel ready to pull it. What did they think was going to happen next? Two young guys played pipes and drums and told us about how the army used the drums to signal orders along the line of battle. It all made for a great visit and we both left admitting that we'd learned loads of stuff that I'm sure we should have known anyway.

After our history lesson, we set off in search of nautical charts for our trip to the USA. We tried the map shop in town but they didn't have them. Then we tried the Tourist Information and they couldn't have been more helpful. They rang the out of town chandlery to check they had what we needed and then phoned a taxi for us. We jumped in and had a lovely trip through the suburbs to the shop. They had all the US chart folios that we needed plus the electronic version for our navigation system and the tidal times book, all in stock. Amazing. As we were paying, I asked them to call us a taxi but another customer just piped up and said "I'll drive you back to town" and so he did. Mike is a local sailor and and Policeman and we got on very well. He had no idea where we'd been when he offered us a lift so I think he was pleased to find himself on Saxon Blue having a cup of tea (we are still a little bit of England, after all) and a look around.

After that, I went for a look around the Maritime Museum which was OK but a bit long on architecture and short on exhibits - as are most big museums these days. Then off to meet Andrea in the Wooden Monkey restaurant for a meal which had great starters but only an OK main course. The food here is pretty dry. I think they should invest in some Bisto but, instead, it all comes with a small dish of tomato ketchup. Breakfast is very good but it's all a bit downhill from there on.

After dinner, we went off to an Art opening in the gallery attached to the University Art Department and then to a bar for a drink. Now then, that's got to be a late night? Hardly. We were back onboard Saxon Blue at quarter past eight to find that Kali and Magnus hadn't even left yet for their dinner. That's what I call a night out.

It's been a bit strange to be in such a proper city again. It's so like home here that it makes our experiences in the Arctic seem like a dream. I'm glad that I wrote it all down. At least I can read it again and remind myself that it really happened. Oh, we got our Forward-Looking Sonar transducers today from Kali's friend so that's a step forward in that long saga. They were clearly packed very poorly so I don't know whether they've survived their trip to the North and back but at least we've got them at last.


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