Back into the deep freeze

This morning, as a full moon high tide flooded in, and the air temperature hovered around -15°C, steam rose from the warmer incoming water as it met the cold air.

Steam rising from the bay near Western Shore, Nova Scotia

South Shore for Haiti

Click to go to Oxfam Canada or to donate.

I was the “Dessert Queen” in Mahone Bay on Saturday night, receiving desserts people brought to the Mahone Bay Centre, sticking their names on the bottoms of the pie plates so they’d get them back later, sometimes tasting the desserts to find out what they were and if they contained nuts, slicing up cheesecake, apple strudel and blueberry pie….Nice work if you can get it?

It was a benefit for Haiti, to collect money for Oxfam’s Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund.  Oxfam has a team in Haiti permanently, so they are well positioned to get aid to people quickly.  As we have seen, speed is all important in saving lives and preventing chaos.

The little town of Mahone Bay raised $13,600 for Haiti that night.  There were soups, chili, wonderful breads, coffee, cider and desserts, all donated by individuals and businesses in the community.  There were musicians donating their talents on 2 stages, and craft tables for kids to make things to sell and to send to children in Haiti.  300 people were fed.  We wished we could have sent all that food to Haiti, but money travels lighter.

It was a terrific community building event, spearheaded and MC’d by Camelia Frieberg of Pollination Project with Valerie Hearder and Bonnie Isabelle (who did a wonderful job coordinating a busy kitchen with at least a dozen volunteers, as I can attest) the South Shore Waldorf School, Indian Point Marine Farms, Boulangerie La Vendéenne, LaHave Bakery, CafeHaus, Rumtopf Farm and many, many local folks who brought in crock pots and stock pots full of delicious chili and hearty soups and stews.

Musicians included Shalan Joudrey, Mary Knickle and HodgePodge, Paul Buchanan and Eilidh Campbell, Slow Cooking Cover, Tim Merry, Jamie Junger and friends, the Rhodenizer Family, Tom Haddal and friends, Reid Campbell, The Trips and Russ Winham and Kirk Comstock.

You can still donate to Oxfam and have it counted in the tally for the South Shore for Haiti event until Jan. 28. Here’s how: Go to www.oxfam.ca, choose “Haiti Earthquake 2010” and in the Comments section enter “Event: South Shore for Haiti”. Or phone 1-800-466-9326 and ask them to note that it is for “Event: South Shore for Haiti”.

The days are getting a little longer

… I think. At least the sun has come out as the temperatures dive well below freezing. After several days of hovering around the 0°C mark, the sun rose to -14°C. Time for a walk.

Wharf
Steam rises from the water of Mahone Bay in the early morning sun
Sunrise
The sun rises behind islands in Mahone Bay
Pine tree
The rising sun kisses the snow

Soft sea ice

Ice on rocks near Oak Island
Ice on rocks near Oak Island

I love how the soft sea ice forms, bends and cracks over rocks as the tide recedes.

It was -8° C this morning along the shore of the Bay, and the tide was falling.

Frosty mornings bring ice to sheltered waters

Ice breaks over rocks as the tide recedes
Ice breaks over rocks as the tide recedes

I’m fascinated by the formation of ice and how it interplays with the tides. And it has started again with cold morning temperatures which leave a layer of ice which plays with rocks as the tide goes down. You can hear the cracking as you walk along the shore – just little crick-clicks now, but bigger booms when the ice is thicker.

I made a video called Frosty Morning last year which you can see here.

Hurricane Bill passes Mahone Bay

High tide at Western Shore public wharf, on Mahone Bay, around noon today, as Hurricane Bill passes us about 100 miles offshore. The tide is as high as I’ve ever seen it, but I’ve seen bigger waves when the wind had been sustained and in another direction. We’re morbidly keeping a watch on high tides, knowing that if the sea rises a metre as the ice caps melt, we’re in trouble.

Beautiful schooners under sail

Is there any boat more beautiful than a schooner?  What is it about them that draws the eye?  The Schooner Association met in Chester this weekend.  We passed a few heading home on Sunday.  Some photos, taken from our boat:

Schooner in Lunenburg Bay.
Schooner in Lunenburg Bay.
Ocean Racing Class schooner, apparently from Germany, spotted in Mahone Bay on August 9, 2009.
Ocean Racing Class schooner, apparently from Germany, spotted in Mahone Bay on August 9, 2009.

Fast and Furious Sea Trials at the Classic Boat Festival

It’s our favourite event of the annual Mahone Bay Classic Boat Festival.  Teams of contestants are given 4 hours and limited materials to construct a boat of their own design.  The construction takes place in full view of festival-goers.  On the last day of the Festival, a crowd gathers for the “sea trials”, in which the contestants must row, then sail, then row and/or sail the boat around a course.  There are prizes for best costume, best boat (not necessarily the most seaworthy), and best “water event” – usually a spectacular sinking – as well as for speed.

I made a little video of this year’s Fast and Furious Sea Trials.  It’s in two parts.

Part 1

Part 2

Of right, privilege and freedom

I woke up this morning with my family aboard a sailboat at a peaceful anchorage in Mahone Bay just a couple of hours sail from home.  And shared my thoughts:  “We are so privileged to be doing this.  Not just having the boat, but to be able to sail where we want and drop the anchor where we deem best, want without paying a toll to anyone, and to enjoy this beautiful scenery so freely.”

Sunset at Covey Island, one of the islands protected by MICA.
Sunset at Covey Island, one of the islands protected by MICA.

The first settlers of Lunenburg must have been in awe at such freedom.  What we now call Germany was at the time an assortment of many principalities of various sizes.  Going down the “highway” of the river Rhine to Rotterdam, where they boarded the ship that would take them across the Atlantic, the emigrants would have been stopped at every border crossing and paid tolls.  Many of them had even needed to secure permission from their feudal lord to leave the land they were bonded to as peasants.  Once they reached Lunenburg in 1753, they must have been very appreciative of the freedom to profit from their own labour and build their future with their own hands.

Even some of the modern-day German immigrants to Nova Scotia that I know have expressed to me their appreciation of the freedom they have here in a society that is less regulated than the one they left behind.

The entire natural coastline of this island has been destroyed and replaced with a rock wall.
The entire natural coastline of this island has been destroyed and replaced with a rock wall.

The Mahone Islands Conservation Association (MICA) works to protect public access to the islands of Mahone Bay, as well as to preserve their natural environment.  The islands are increasingly under pressure by private owners and developers.  Natural shorelines and nesting habitats are disrupted (photo right).  Owners of some islands chase visitors off beaches that have long been used by the general public. (Some have been known to brandish guns in their efforts, something  that Canadians or at least Nova Scotians just don’t do.)

From what I understand, depending on the type of deed, the intertidal zone has legally remained public except in a few cases where water rights were transferred.  In a country where travel by boat was the norm, the right to land on a shore would have been an issue of public safety.  Nowadays, it seems that there is a trend for private property rights to be extended into the intertidal zone –  whether by deed, by custom, by complicity of the authorities or by ignorance by the public, I don’t know.  Enlighten me if you know anything more about this issue, please, by commenting below.

Meanwhile, I take pleasure in seeing the decendants of the original Lunenburg settlers, with names such as Meisner and Ernst,  involved in MICA, perserving public access to the islands of Mahone Bay for future generations of humans and seabirds.

“Rockbound” musical a jaw-dropping production


Since we live and sail on Mahone Bay and have come to know most of its islands by sight, I read Frank Parker Day’s 1928 novel Rockbound with great interest.  I wasn’t the only one.  Thanks to CBC’s Canada Reads program, the previously obscure novel has been lionized by the Canadian literary establishment and the public.

One of the book’s biggest fans is my mother.  She has read it several times.  When I took her sailing around East Ironbound Island, the setting for the novel, the binoculars and cameras were in constant use.

If Day’s characters were as thinly disguised as his settings, it’s no wonder that the locals he met on Ironbound felt betrayed by his portrayal of hard-drinking, feuding fishing families eking out a hardscrabble living on a small island.  But they are long gone now, and new generations of readers marvel at the dramatic sweep of his story, his vivid characterizations and the detailed portrayal of pre-industrial fishing.  For me, Rockbound has made the outer islands of Mahone Bay come alive with the ghosts of those who have gone before.  Imagine rowing from Tancook to Ironbound, from Ironbound to Pearl (“Barren Island” in the novel) – well, I can’t, really, but characters that I have come to care for do just that in the novel, so I believe it is possible.

Rockbound
Poster for Rockbound, the musical. Click picture to visit Two Planks website.

When I heard that Two Planks and a Passion Theatre Company was developing Rockbound as a musical, I was astonished and very curious.  Written by Allen Cole and under development since 2006, it is now playing “off the grid” (outdoors) at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, half an hour north of Wolfville.  My mother and I, both very excited, went last Wednesday.

From the opening song, my questions and doubts about how a musical format would serve the story were laid to rest.  My ears were awash in delicious sound and my jaw remained in my lap for much of the performance.  Harmonically and rhythmically complex and expressive, the music transcends genres and beautifully evokes the epic story and the setting.   The acting and singing were wonderful.  How else could this play have been done?  The music elevates the story, poeticizes it, universalizes it.

I hope to see Rockbound again when it comes to Chester Playhouse August 13-16.  Meanwhile it is playing until August 9 at Ross Creek.  Not to be missed.