Tuesday, August 7:
Living in Peggy’s Cove must be a study in contrasts. How does an apparently simple little fishing village cope with theswarms of people that descend onto their narrow winding streets throughout the summer months, invading theirterritory and shattering their privacy? We were among the swarming masses this morning as we crept past the tinycolourful houses clinging to the rocks, past the harbour lined with weathered piers and sheds, climbing the smoothwater-worn granite to reach one of the most photographed lighthouses in Canada. The rocks were absolutely covered withpeople with cameras and lunches, and there were souvenir shops and even buskers (both older women, one playing anaccordian, the other bagpipes) to add to the general festival atmosphere.
Although we have been to Peggy’s Cove before, there is still something awe-inspiring about this solitary lighthouseperched on the rocks that have almost come to resemble the waves that have shaped them. And, of course, there isalways something new to learn with each visit. This time, we stopped at the William E deGarthe Gallery to see the90 foot sculpture created in granite by deGarthe as a monument to Nova Scotia fishermen. In the sculpture is theoriginal Peggy, sole survivor of a 19th century shipwreck and for whom Peggy’s Cove was named.
About 2 km south of Peggy’s Cove is the Swiss Air memorial, commemorating the terrible crash of 1998 which claimed the lives of 229 people. The monument is simple – 2 huge pieces of granite, with a few lines etched intoeach – one in memory of the lives lost, the other in recognition of those from the surrounding communities who didwhat they could to help during this time of loss and sorrow.
Following along the coastline, we passed through a number of small communities until we reached Mahone Bay, named in the tourist literature as “the prettiest town in Canada”. Certainly as you look across the bay to the waterfrontlined with historic homes and stately churches, you can appreciate how this description came to be. We could havespent the whole afternoon in the craft shops and eateries along the main street; however, we decided to continuea little further down the coast. We couldn’t resist a stop at one shop and in so doing, cleared up a mystery that wehave been wondering about for years. It had been my understanding that the late Peter Gzowski had once lived inMahone Bay, although Massey thought his home had been in Lake Simcoe. What we learned from the shop ownerwas that Peter Gzowski had never lived here, but that the late Alan Maitland (Fireside/Front Porch Al) had owned ahome in Mahone Bay. So that debate has now been put to rest.
Our next and last destination for the day was Old Town Lunenburg, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one ofthe best preserved planned settlements in the New World (the town plan was laid out in the mid-1700’s by the British,eager for another loyal settlement). Looking at the row of two and three story multi-coloured frame or cedarshingled buildings, many with turrets and curlicues, it would be easy to imagine oneself back in the 1700s, were it not for the fact that most of these structures have now been converted to souvenir shops and restaurants. Certainlyit is one of the most picturesque towns we have seen on our trip and it was absolutely buzzing with activity.
Lunenburg is also home to Bluenose II, and we were lucky enough to see it in port and to have an opportunity totour it. We also learned a little Bluenose history, namely that the original Bluenose was built in 1921 in response toa friendly rivalry that existed between the schooners of the fishing fleets of the Maritime provinces and the NewEngland states. For 17 years, the Bluenose defeated all contenders and became the pride of Nova Scotia. WWIImarked the end of the great fishing schooners, and in 1942 the Bluenose was sold to the West Indian Trading Company. In 1946, it struck a Haitian reef and sank. The Bluenose II was launched in 1963 from identical plansto the original Bluenose, built in the same shipyard by some of the same men. Today, the Bluenose II does notrace, but is used for tourism purposes, visiting festivals and special events and offering public sailings and charters.We learned that all sailings are completely booked until August 22, so it is clearly in demand – who wouldn’t wantto say that they’d sailed on the Bluenose! The ship itself is imaculate, with beautiful gleaming wood , some of itfrom British Columbia forests, throughout the interior. The exterior is black, as was the original Bluenose.Apparently the name came from the blue-skinned potatoes grown in Nova Scotia that earned the crews transportingthem to ports in the US the name Blue-nosers.
On a whim, we decided to take a 45 minute trip with Lobsterman Tours. It turned out to be one of the mostentertaining and informative tours we’ve taken. The tour guide was a marine biologist and he did a running commentary of all sorts of issues related to the East Coast fishery. In his view, if we as a society had set out todestroy the fishery, we did everything “exactly right” – in addition to overfishing of the adult populations, methodssuch as bottom trawling destroyed the eco-system of the ocean floor and food sources such as capelin becamea target for commercial fishing (we had previously heard about the drop in capelin stocks in Newfoundland too).With the old “mom and pop” type of fishing, stocks could replenish themselves, but he compared the amountsharvested indiscriminately by the huge commercial fisheries to clear-cutting in the BC forests.
As we motored through the Lunenburg harbour, the wharf receded and the buildings along the harbourfrontlooked like a model village of brightly coloured paper cut-outs. Our guide and the captain pointed out sitesof interest, including different types of fishing boats and scallop trawlers. A lovely tall ship called the “Picton Castle” was also moored at the dock, and he told us that this is the ship that will be used in the new reality TV show,”Pirate Masters”. It is also the ship that Bob Gainey’s daughter was on when she was tragically swept overboard. We also went past the Highliner Fish Plant (complete with large mural of Captain Highliner on the side of the building)which now processes only fish from outside Canada and employs far fewer workers than they once did.
Once we got to the lobster fishing grounds, things got even more interesting as they hauled up 3 traps and tookthe catch out for us to see. The lobster season in Lunenburg is over the winter, so these lobster were caught undera special scientific license and were released again into the water after we’d had a look at them. It was at this pointthat the captain joined into the commentary and it became quite comical. Two of the traps were the modern wiretype which are more durable, especially in the winter season. But they had also baited one of the old wooden trapsand the captain explained how they were made. Nowadays, he said, the wire ones are commonly used because theyare more durable, especially for winter fishing. It’s the tourists that buy these ones for $25 or more. “We call themtourist traps now”, he said.
Two of the traps had normal-sized lobster and quite a few crabs, and the marine biologist told us a bit about theirphysiology and let people hold one of them, after first having put big elastic bands around their claws. But whenthe last trap came up, we couldn’t believe the size of the lobster inside – it was monstrous! They said it would be30 years old and 12 pounds in size (the largest one ever caught was 43 pounds – I can’t imagine what that onewould have looked like). The whole ship went nuts when this guy came in! After the excitement died down, thecaptain confessed that they had actually caught this lobster earlier but had kept him in the trap as their show lobster – he called it the “Bob Hope of Lobster”!
During our time at the Shubie Campground, we’ve gotten to know another couple, Jane and Ted from Oakville,Ontario. Today, we kept running into them and finally ended up at the same gas station on our way back to ourcampsite. Jane said that we wouldn’t have seen each other this much if we’d made plans to meet up! So theyinvited us back for supper in their luxurious motorhome, and we had a most enjoyable evening. Ted made the most delicious hamburgers, which Massey dubbed “Teddy Burgers”. We’ve certainly found one of the benefitsof camping to be the great people you meet along the way and the friendships that are established.
posted Tuesday August 2007