Exploring Lunenburg

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Thu 16 Sep 2010 02:05
We had a day in port today and enjoyed exploring this lovely old town.

I woke up at 0700 as usual and finished reading the book about Basking Shark fishing in Scotland. I was laughing so loudly at it that I woke Andrea up but she was very forgiving. She, Kali and I then had a planning session about how we are going to get down to Annapolis and what dates we think we'll be at various places on the way. It's a tight schedule but should be OK so long as we don't get too many hurricanes coming ashore in the next couple of weeks. Andrea and I then set off with a shopping list.

We met the yachting couple from Quebec that we'd first seen in D'Escousse a few days ago and had a chat with them before Andrea invited them over for a drink this evening. With that, we set off to the other end of town where the supermarket is. We carried on past that as I wanted to look at the Bluenose II which is up on the ways getting a major refit. She's a recent replica of the original Bluenose which was made in Lunenburg before the Second World War as a Grand Banks schooner. She was so well designed and built that she won all the races held then for fishing boats and became an unofficial symbol of Nova Scotia. She's even pictured on stamps and coins. The original boat was sold and then wrecked during the war but the replica is very authentic and now acts as a cultural ambassador. She's also part of the reason that Lunenburg has retained its place as a working harbour for such traditional craft which is why Europa is here.

Bluenose II looked wonderful out of the water. We could see her massive keel and the dramatic way that her bow line continues under the water. She looks so much like a yacht that it's hard to think of her earning a living by taking dories out to the Grand Banks to long-line for cod. We then popped down to the Government dock to have a look at the Farley Mowat. As we approached, she was crawling with Police so I acted a bit innocent and asked one of them "have I seen this boat on the Discovery Channel?". He confirmed that I had and that she had been impounded here 2 years ago and had now been sold. She looked in a very sorry state, half-deflated inflatables on deck and rubbish everywhere. The Police were an underwater recovery team doing a diving exercise underneath the boat. I wonder where she's going next. I think Paul Watson must be pleased that, in confiscating her, the Canadian government have cost themselves a lot of time and trouble and I'm sure they recouped only a tiny part of that by selling her on.

We then went to the supermarket, got our shopping and had to borrow a trolley to get it all back to Saxon Blue. We got it stowed and then headed back to the shop with the trolley to return it. A local guy offered to take it back there for me as he was heading that way which I thought was a lovely gesture as wheeling a shopping trolley down the road isn't cool. Andrea and I then went for dinner with Kali and Sam. We found a highly recommended place that serves local seafood and it was great. We had to wait a while for a table but the food was worth it.

It was now getting on and I still wanted to visit the Maritime Museum where Saxon Blue is berthed. Again, the museum has better buildings than exhibits but they also have some real old ships parked up on the dock in front - along with Saxon Blue which will be making an appearance in many people's photographs of the waterfront from today. Before we looked at the boats, though, we went to a kind of marine petting zoo in a little shed. In their tank, they had dozens of star fish identical to the ones on the dock and it was only a few seconds before Andrea had one in her hand and was playing with it's hydraulically operated tube feet. They were amazing. The top skin is hard but flexible and the feet are so fine that you can't really feel them. She then had a Hermit Crab nibbling her thumb. In another tank, they had Scallops. I asked if they would swim and the woman told me to pick one up and hold it sideways with part of the shell above the water. I did and it lazily opened its shell wider before snapping it shut again and firing itself sideways back into the water. I was so surprised that I jumped back and yelped, much to the delight of Andrea and the attendant. It was like picking up a stone that then jumps of its own accord.

We then looked around a wooden sailing schooner from the 1930s. Although she was built late, she was a traditional pattern with two masts and an auxillary engine. Although the sail plan is different, she reminded me very much of the ketch-rigged fishing boats built in Emsworth in the early part of the twentieth century. I was surprised how well made she was and how well finished. Her crew quarters were panelled and comfortable, the skipper even having a room of his own. The engine was massive - like a submarine and all for only 300 horsepower. The fish hold didn't look that big for such a large vessel but I suppose she required a large crew to fish in the old way with dories. She was obsolete before she was even launched and I think that Lunenburg is very lucky to have her preserved - if only Emsworth had been so fortunate.

We also got to look around a steel-built side trawler from 1962, built in Holland for Lunenburg. She was impressive in her massive construction and I loved the way that all the crew quarters had Formica panelled walls and Lino floors. By now, it was time to head back to Saxon Blue to entertain our guests, Jean-Denis and Louise who are French-speaking Canadians from Quebec. They're also on a one-year sailing trip and are heading down to the Caribbean. They're both really interesting and sparky so we had a great couple of hours discussing the laws in Quebec that keep it Francophone and how it feels to be American but not English-speaking. They like having such a distinct identity - it makes them clearly Canadian - and their stories of how the Quebecois are managing to keep their culture were astonishing and inspiring. I hope we meet them again on our trip and I suspect that we will.

We had booked into the local posh restaurant (recommended by Kali) for dinner but it turned out to be "all fur coat and no knickers". The waiter was hilarious with his obsequious manner - it was like being in an episode of Blackadder. The food was trying to be fancy without really knowing why and was either bland or downright odd. It gave us a laugh, anyway. When we got back onboard Saxon Blue, Kali met us and asked whether it was OK for Sam (who we had planned to meet in New York) to join us tomorrow morning instead. That's great for us as we don't have to worry about meeting up with him later and it gives us another person to help us do the longish passage to Plymouth in the USA. They're over on Europa now packing up his stuff so we're excited about another new episode starting. All in all, another eventful day.


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