Halls Harbour Webcam

This has got to be one of the coolest webcam locations in the world. It’s in Halls Harbour, where you can see the fishing boats go up and down with the world’s highest tides on the Bay of Fundy. Here’s how it looked today, Sunday March 14, at high tide. Go to www.novascotiawebcams.ca/hallsharbour/ (will open in new window or tab on your browser) and compare what you see with this.

Halls Harbour high tide
Halls Harbour this morning at high tide. Some days the tide is even higher. Click the picture to go to the webcam and see what Halls Harbour looks like right now.

Here’s a link that will give you the current tide times for Halls Harbour (actually for nearby Baxters Harbour, but close enough).

A winter drive in Lunenburg Co.

Let me take you for a drive after a snowfall.

Highway 103
Heading west, past Mahone Bay, on Highway 103
Cornwall Road
Turn north at Blockhouse onto the Cornwall Road
Mushamush River
Along the Mushamush River in Middle New Cornwall
Crossroad Farm
Turn left at Crossroad Farm in Upper New Cornwall. It's for sale, by the way.
Cross Road
West on Cross Road
House on Cross Road
Another house
Along Cross Road
Further along Cross Road, heading west
sign covered in snow.
Which way now? Can't read the sign. Keep to the left.
Farm on Cross Road
Upper Northfield churches
Ah, here we are, at Upper Northfield.

All photos taken on Thursday, January 21, on my way to Pinehurst, just west of Upper Northfield.

Lake country is cottage country

Nova Scotia has so many beautiful lakes.  Some of them are lined with cottages.  In Cape Breton family cottages are called “bungalows”.  Other lakes are in wilderness areas and may hide traditional camping spots known to a few fishermen, hunters and back-country campers.

I camped out last weekend next to the cottage of friends on Lake George, on the South Mountain near Aylesford, in the Annapolis Valley.  We swam and kayaked and wished we had a little sailboat there because it was windy.  We hung out and talked and read books and ate.  When it was cold we lit a fire.  We grabbed the last bit of summer.  That’s what cottages are about.

Lake George on a September morning
Lake George on a September morning

Last blast for Bill

Hurricane Bill ended up not touching the Nova Scotian coast at all. Here’s a map of the final track, from StormPulse.com:

 Track of Hurricane Bill along the coast of Nova Scotia, August 23, 2009. Image from StormPulse.com.
Track of Hurricane Bill along the coast of Nova Scotia, August 23, 2009. Image from StormPulse.com.

Lunenburg reported maximum winds of 56 km/hr gusting to 70, Baccaro Point further southwest: 67 gusting to 84. By the time Bill reaches Newfoundland, it should have lost power and been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Waiting for Hurricane Bill

Hurricane Bill approaching Nova Scotia as seen on StormPulse.com. Select clouds, windfields and map labels, then go fullscreen for the best picture.
Hurricane Bill approaching Nova Scotia as seen on StormPulse.com. Click image to see fullscreen current version. Select clouds, windfields and map labels, to get a picture like this.

“Batten down the hatches” – it’s an old expression from the days of “wooden boats and iron men” and describes perfectly what Nova Scotians are doing as Hurricane Bill approaches our shores. Memories of 2003’s Hurricane Juan, which hit Halifax hard, are fresh in our minds. There’s a sense of anticipation in the air, weighted down with high humidity and a fresh breeze. Boat owners are checking moorings, moving boats to safer places, removing canvas to reduce windage and damage, and literally securing the hatches. Everyone is stowing lawn furniture and garbage cans. Apple growers in the Annapolis Valley are concerned for their bumper apple crop, but there isn’t much they can do at this point except wait. And “pray to the rum god,” as a sailor told me as she watched her classic wooden daysailer being hauled out of the water.

Environment Canada's hurricane track predictions. Click image to see current version.
Environment Canada's hurricane track predictions. Click image to see current version.

Bill is currently forecast to pass south of Nova Scotia during the day tomorrow, Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane. I’m monitoring it on two websites: Environment Canada’s marine info section, and the more spectacular and information-rich StormPulse.com. We’ll see which of the two has the more accurate predictions!

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.

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.

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.

Buy Back Nova Scotia

J.D. Irving Ltd. is selling off vast holdings of land in southwestern Nova Scotia that it has been logging. “Professional forestry management” is what they’ve been doing there, and apparently it’s not worthwhile for them to continue.

170,000 acres of JD Irving lands that are up for sale
170,000 acres of JD Irving lands that are up for sale
The lands include whole lakes and lake systems, rivers, watersheds and huge tracts of forest land. It’s near Kejimkujik National Park and the Tobiatic Wilderness Area, where you can canoe and portage from lake to lake, meeting only a few fishermen along the way. It’s another world back there, and it’s all to easy to ignore what’s going on there.

Buy Back Nova Scotia” is a group that aims to save the 170,000 acres of land that’s up for sale and prevent them from falling into private hands and being hidden behind No Trespassing signs. Here’s the map (right) showing the lands concerned.

Below, there’s a Google Map of the area south of Digby and the Bear River Reserve. See the long, straight, engineered logging roads built for the sole purpose of getting the logs out, as well as the clearcuts. Use the + button to zoom in further, and you will get to more detailed aerial photos showing the effects of logging.

On the Buy Back Nova Scotia site you can get more information, sign a petition, and mroe. And here’s the link to the property listing with an American company – aimed, obviously, at foreign buyers.

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