Ellsworth, ME, USA to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

30.4 mi / 11.0 mph / 1304 ft. climbing
Home: Rodd Grand Hotel

We’re going to Canada today! This actually came as a bit of a surprise to Rett yesterday; even though it had been our goal for a long time, I do admit that it did feel a bit like we were just stumbling unprepared down the final steps across the “border”. But unlike crossing into Mexico, where we were each waiting for the other one to call off the insanity before we actually found ourselves on the other side of the wall, Canada felt simply “unexpected” rather than like a weird game of chicken.

We would be taking “The CAT“, a recently-restarted high-speed ferry service that runs from Bar Harbor, Maine (gateway to Acadia National Park) to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia (the westernmost town of the island-like peninsula). It leaves Bar Harbor at 3pm, so we intentionally left ourselves a relatively short day to ensure that we could make it aboard even if we ran into difficulty on the road.

The giantest “giant chairs” we’ve ever seen!

Backtracking out from the campground (and once Rett got her bike started after a few stressful attempts), we had a brief quiet reprieve of riding before we returned to the nonstop lines of traffic on US 1A. It was a bit hard to imagine how all the vehicles headed down this dead-end route could even fit on Mount Desert Island, but I guess it was “explained” by the even-heavier traffic (enough to cause actual backups) heading out from MDI (then, the new mystery of why there would be a big exodus from the island on a Saturday morning is what made that “explanation” less-than-explanatory).

The nice thing about all the traffic is that it was distracting enough to make all the hills go by relatively unnoticed. So we made it onto the island without incident, and saw Atlantic-connected waters for the first time of our nomadcy. It really struck me at this moment how wild it is that Rett has now been to Mount Desert Island twice, and both times her bicycle was her only mode of transportation. This time we were sad we had to ignore the turn pointing us to Acadia National Park, but there is a possibility we could visit for real on our return from Canada. Now with time to spare, we got lunch at a BBQ place, where the waitress was a huge fan of Prince Edward Island (another province we’ll be seeing in Canada) and very excited for our travels in that direction.

Our first return to the waters of the global ocean since leaving Los Cabos, Mexico.

Even though we arrived to the ferry dock well before the recommended arrival time, boarding was already happening, so we didn’t need to wait at all. Unlike most ferries we’ve been on with the bikes, we wouldn’t be able to stay with them, but an employee did at least indicate some straps we should use to lash them to some (non-bike-rack) rails/posts.

Boarding The CAT to Canada!
Bikes strapped in place on the vehicle deck of The CAT (no access to the vehicle deck is allowed during the crossing, including for drivers)

I grabbed us some nice window seats up front in an area that felt like Ten Forward on NCC-1701-D (outdoor areas were limited on this boat), we each did some bathroom-stall cleanup/changing after our bike ride, and we settled in for the 3.5 hour crossing. The best bits were at the beginning as we navigated our way past all the islands and peninsulas of the Maine coast before entering more open water.

Our boat was big, but making a near pass of this real cruise ship on our way out of Bar Harbor was a dramatic and exciting start to our journey.
See the guys standing at the waterline (or just that fairly-large lifeboat(?)) for some perspective of the scale.
A boat a bit smaller than our own.
Island lighthouse outside of Bar Harbor.
Sitting in Ten Forward aboard The CAT.

The rest of the crossing proceeded undramatically, with time for some food and even some napping. But then the entrance into Yarmouth’s long and narrow bay was equally exciting, and most of the passengers standing to watch the early-evening views as the rocky headlands and sea-greened slopes of “New Scotland” slid by our windows.

Land ho! Our first views of Nova Scotia!

On exit, we were directed to proceed with/ahead-of the cars, another employee told us to take a short-cut to the Border Services booth, and there we were, first in line to enter Canada! Any international border crossing always comes with at least a small bit of nervousness, but here all the super-friendly agent wanted to do, after barely glancing at our paperwork, was marvel with excitement about our trip, and give us recommendations of things to do and see in the Maritime Provinces. Ah, welcome to Canada, right? It’s a good thing we were first in line, because if she spent that long chatting to everyone, people would be in for a long wait!

Rett walking her bike through Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Despite its current status as an international port, and the largest population center in western Nova Scotia, it was quickly apparent that Yarmouth (pop. ~7000) is a pretty sleepy little town. We just walked our bikes for the half-mile (er, kilometer!) to our relatively-nice multi-story inside-entry hotel, where we had booked two nights to let us get our Canadian bearings. We’ve entered Canada on two previous bike tours together, but this time it felt different and more-exotic; partly because Nova Scotia is a place neither of us has even been to before, and partly because this eastern province barely-connected to the North American continent does genuinely feel like a distant land. This was aided by the unexpected change to a time zone more eastern than “Eastern”, that put us as close in time to London (four hours) as it leaves us from our departure point in Seattle!

A surprisingly-gorgeous park across from our hotel.


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