Nova Scotia Off-Season Fishing Port

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This was a quiet day, a rest day when we didn’t want to do much driving and wanted to avoid crowded areas. Kind of a holiday from our holiday. We drove down the west side of the LaHave River on the southern shore of Nova Scotia to get to the ocean and possibly Liverpool although that would be a long drive. We came to the small village of LaHave and saw a bakery with the porch lined with people eating what I knew were really good baked goods and a lineup at the counter inside. It was about noon and there were cars on both sides of the narrow road for a very long ways so there was nowhere to park. JB later saw a sign advertising a chowder dinner on this day in LaHave – we didn’t stop for either.

We drove through the village of Dublin Shore and saw a sign for Crescent Beach with an arrow pointing left. I pulled in and to the right was a road descending to a boat launch and small harbor. Lobster trapping goes from November to April so not a lot was going on. Just a grandpa preparing fishing poles, supervised by great-grandpa with an umbrella used as a cane until it rained. And there was also a man polishing his Caterpillar backhoe, an unusual sight.

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A dump truck drove in and backed up beside me – waiting for the small car to move, driven by the grandma dropping off the two kids who were going fishing with grandpa. They had just tore down a fish processing building and the dump truck was bringing in fill, that the backhoe was spreading to fill the resulting hole.

Although the skies were grey it felt like a perfect morning as I strolled down the dock and JB talked to the Cat man. There was a cool freshness coming from the water and I had on jeans and a sweatshirt. I felt the gentleness of Fall in the air. And I had my camera. Ahhhh.

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I noticed someone has been harvesting seaweed. I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t watched them harvesting on the south shore of Prince Edward Island.

We weren’t in a hurry so we lingered. I don’t like the idea of lobsters being caught and boiled alive, maybe that’s one of the reasons I don’t eat lobster. I don’t like the idea of people making money from growing tobacco so I don’t smoke. It seems like most everything we consume is produced by business people who are making money through some sort of exploitation of the environment or people. It has become an existential problem for me that I delve into when I have the energy to ponder such deep subjects. In the mean time I take pleasure in photographing lobster boats and pots in Nova Scotia, and tobacco barns in Kentucky.

On the Maritime Provinces of Canada a primary industry is fishing and this is how people sustain themselves. They have always lived off the sea and they continue to do so; a hard life that I respect and am intrigued by. But time to move on to see what surprises Crescent Beach holds.

Personality of PEI from Stories

 

We were exploring the western side of Prince Edward Island and pulled off the main road into an area around a small fishing port. We have seen a lot of these on PEI and in Nova Scotia and they seem to be the backbone of the fishing industry that includes a fleet of independent fishermen who own their boats.

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I was taking photos of the boats and noticed this man going into the cabin of his boat so I thought I could sneak a photo, being obscurely hidden behind my camera. “Should I smile?” I laughed in acknowledgement and snapped a couple of photos. Then we started talking. I’ve read that portrait photographers should get to know their subjects first then ask, but that feels like I’m manipulating them. If people notice me I’ll ask if it is okay – but sometimes taking their photo seems to open the door for conversations for this introverted photographer.

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It was Sunday and I asked if he was going out today; he replied, “No, not today, but I’m getting ready for tomorrow morning.” I asked questions and he freely answered. He offered that he is third generation of fishermen, his father and grandfather fished. He added that he is doubly so, on both his father’s and mother’s sides. ┬áThe past couple of years have been good but he wasn’t happy with increasing regulations, the increased size requirements, and the lower price per pound.

He looked away as he said he wasn’t educated, and I responded that he seemed educated about the facts of fishing and the ways of the tides (this is Bay of Fundy area with very high tides). Deep in his soul I don’t think this knowledge counts because it is so common among his community. Everyone on PEI knows about fishing and lives by the tides.

He ended the conversation saying he had to get his work done because he has a family reunion to attend.

I walked on to other explorations and photographs but his story remained with me. How important personal stories are for understanding culture and locations, and of course the people who live there.

That night we were fixing supper and had CBC on the radio. They were talking about a PEI author who had died and about the stories he had written about growing up on the island. I was listening with interest but not working to remember who or where or when. Then they read one of his stories and I really listened. He started by saying that when he was growing up there was a norm that everyone had the right to enough food no matter what their personality or circumstances. The author remembers fishing down on the beach with his father and all the other men of the village. A young girl who they all knew would come and stand on the edge with a pan in her hand. After a while, his father would say, “Need a fish, Annie (I don’t remember name used)?” She nodded. He would pick out a good eating fish, clean it and put it in her pan. She said thank you but didn’t leave. After a while he said, “Need another fish, Annie?” He knew her family was big and one fish wouldn’t be enough. She nodded. He cleaned another and put it in her pan, she thanked him, and turned for home.

I was moved by the gentle, nonjudgmental nature of his words. This is the way his community lived, they watched out for each other. It seemed to confirm my observations of the day that I wrote about in this post, that there seems to be an equality among people on PEI, not extreme disparity of wealth that is evident in the U.S. Social values change very slowly, they are held and passed down through examples of daily living. They seem to become a part of our stable understanding of how our world works and what is good and bad. There may be people who have been treated unfairly in the past, probably their First Nation people. I know some of the religious and economic histories that make people judgmental and withholding of basic rights and needs, but I don’t understand why people choose to adopt hard-nosed thinking.

I will continue to be perplexed as I read arguments against universal health care (either single-payer or multi-) and now how disaster aid should be dispersed to Texas after the devastation of Harvey given Texan congressional leaders voted against aid for Hurricane Sandy victims on the east coast of the U.S. I just don’t understand why people aren’t willing to share for the common good.

Northumberland Straits

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Our last few nights on Prince Edward Island were spent at a provincial park on the Northumberland Straits, next to the beach, looking over the water. A very beautiful setting and we had full hook-ups. What more could we want. Here are some images that brought a smile to my face and will give you a taste of the park.

 

We visited past high season but a few swimmers were brave enough to wade into the cold waters. I think the job of life guard can get very boring because he spent some time practicing cart wheels and hand stands on the grass when there weren’t people to guard. He needs a lot of practice.

The General Store

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Sightseeing seems to be a crap shoot, at least for me. We don’t enjoy going to most tourist attractions (although we stopped at the Anne Murray Center in Springhill, Prince Edward Island – a highlight of JB’s day) because we enjoy exploring and finding the unexpected – where most people don’t go. But sometimes I know what I want to experience because of what I have read in material put out by the local tourism agency. Sometimes I’ve created a picture in my brain of what I want to see.

We set out to explore the southern side of the Minas Basin because I wanted to see where the highest recorded tide in the world occurred (Cobequid Bay at 17 meters or 55.77 feet). In places of high tides, like this Bay of Fundy area, the work of the water like fishing and shipping and hydroelectricity has to be scheduled according to the tides. We picked up a tide schedule but I guess the flow of tides isn’t a part of my psyche like it is for locals who grew up with them. It just never occurred to me that seeing a tidal basin at high tide would be like looking at a very wide body of water, like a wide river. A disappointment when we reached Cobequid Bay.

But not to worry, we had a lot of fun on the way to disappointment and back. Both JB and I are pretty good at navigating – we can read maps and signs and stuff like that. But we felt lost more than a few times on this drive down a coastal, country road without hardly any traffic. Maybe it was because the course changed numbers and directions several times; maybe because we couldn’t hold the names of towns in our heads because they weren’t familiar to us, and well, the towns seem elusive. We would see a sign indicating a town, it was even on the map, but there would be nothing – not even a crossroad or a house or two. Then we would come to a town sign and there would be a couple of businesses and a few houses but it wasn’t on the map. We saw a sign pointing right, with a picture of a light house. We drove to the end of the dirt road where a few cars were parked and some people fishing. There was a dirt drive going left up a steep hill, with a sign, “private property, dead end, no lighthouse.” All this kept us giggling.

We had three missions, to buy gas, get some groceries, see evidence of high tides. Early in the excursion we pulled off to walk out on a viewing pier when the tides were starting to come in. The current was rushing in, changing the flow of the river, and very impressive.

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We decided to count this as experiencing the power of exceptionally strong tides. I also found us a gas station – a full service and with a very clean washroom. Bingo! Almost – we still needed to find a grocery.

We were heading back, along the same route, approaching Maitland. Maitland was the biggest town we had gone through with a crossroad, two or three businesses and a few more houses. And there was a sign letting us know there was a general store. By this time we had added another goal, to find ice cream, and JB spotted the sign indicating we had found it. I pulled over.

This is Canada’s oldest General Store and it had all the groceries we needed, including a bag of grown in Maitland mixed greens that were the best I’ve ever eaten. The store wasn’t big and the selection was limited (the cereal isle had Cheerios and oatmeal) but if they didn’t have it you could probably live without it (to paraphrase Garrison Keillor). And at the connected cafe/ice cream parlor they had the best ice cream we have ever eaten.

Mission accomplished! We accomplished all goals plus the unspoken goal of joy and spontaneous laughter.

Personality of Western PEI

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We spent two nights in the northern part of the Central District of Prince Edward Island at a delightful, quiet, secluded, small campground with full amenities (electricity, water, sewage dumping at our site).

DSC_0084Our agenda was to go around the western portion of the island. Without the trailer we are able to explore interesting little back areas and even a few dirt roads. We visited PEI about 40 years ago but my memories were very dim, I guess most of my energy was focused on meeting the needs of our three young children. I am also older now and have learned how to appreciate and study local culture. Age does come with benefits in addition to discounts (we appreciated the young man smiling at us at a park in NY who smiled warmly and said that we looked old enough to get the senior special day pass – go have a fun picnic).

This is a beautiful island, but no more beautiful that the other beautiful places we have visited. So my mission, with camera, was to try to discern what is common and unique to this area – what seems to be a part of the common culture and what are the unique aspects within the common. Isn’t that what we want from others when we want them to know us – to find those characteristics that define who we are, that are stable, but to also identify how we are unique. I hope I can portray through words and images the personality of Prince Edward Island in this post and a few more to come.

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This is a province of primarily farmers and fishermen. What struck me is that there didn’t seem to be the wide disparity of wealth that is evident in the U.S. Of course there were larger farms and smaller farms, farms that were well kept and farms that weren’t but all that we saw seemed somewhere in the middle. Well maintained and productive. Potatoes are the primary crop and they were starting to harvest them, although wheat fields were also being harvested and there were dairy farms.

 

I forgot to mention the wild blueberries. How could I miss that fact after eating buttermilk whole wheat blueberry pancakes with Vermont maple syrup for breakfast. Can life get any better than that? Oh, yes, and the locally grown sweat corn that snaps when we bite it off the cob and melts in our mouth – flavored by butter and a little salt. The true taste of late summer in the northern part of the midwest and east coast.

 

The drive along the coastline went past many small harbors, with fishing boats and associated structures. There is an allure about fishing boats and the lives of people who make their living from the sea. I’m sure reality isn’t as idyllic as my fantasies.

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What struck us is how well maintained the boats are. Everything about this island seems to be neat and tidy. I want to say quaint, but without the negative undertones that I can be associate with quaintness – like old fashioned or not modern.

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Fall and winter must be coming quickly because this boat was headed for the launch ramp where a truck and trailer were waiting to haul it out of the water. Many boats were dry-docked in side yards of homes waiting for the warmer waters of spring to return, a clue that many of the nicely kept ranch-style houses along the highway were homes of fishermen.

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I think the winter winds must be harsh coming off the Northumberland Straits to the south and the vast Saint Lawrence Bay to the north. Most structures are clad in vinyl siding or steel and many have tin roofing. But many still have the cedar shakes with the north side bleached or sanded of paint. Maybe it is the PEI version of showing direction, like moss growing on the north side of trees in the woods.

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Funny how certain things stand out as different. You have been there; your eyes see a difference but your brain can’t quite figure it out. On PEI it was that many of the hedge rows consisted of evergreens instead of deciduous trees and bushes. It seems these would break the bleakness of the black and white against grey of winter when living close to large expanses of water.