Sunday, August 5, 2012

Living on the edge - more about Cape Breton

The centre spine of Cape Breton Island at the northern tip of Nova Scotia, stretches the length of the island. Its inhabitants are mostly four legged as far as I can tell. It is mostly bush. What used to be huge mountains have been worn down through eons of glaciers and the elements to hills. They are still high enough to cut ski trails as you can see in this photograph. This is another nod to tourism and diversifying the island's traditional economy based on fishing. Another is the art and artisan culture that attracts many visitors and adds to the variety of life.

The amazing, resilient and friendly year-round residents of this island (which is separated from the mainland by very short distances in some places), live around the edge of this spine - in the coastal inlets that have become small harbours.

Many of them are still fishermen and women - using boats, nets and traps to catch fish including crab and lobster. That is a tough way to make a living - again, on the edge.
 In this small village, we drove down to the main wharf. We asked what was in this collection of cages whose tops were all we could see, strung along multi-coloured ropes.

"There's 800 traps there each with 100 pounds of lobster waiting to be picked up," replied a fellow who was setting out with his wife in his boat to check on other traps they'd set. "That's 80,000 pounds of lobster, bought and paid for, just waiting pick up," he explained as he prepared his boat to leave the wharf.

The government in Nova Scotia along with the federal government has regulated times and places when and where lobster can be caught to ensure the sustainability of this fishery... it had been under great stress when their was unlimited fishing.

 The harbour that afternoon was quiet. It was Sunday after all. The lighthouse in the background is a tourist attraction in this small village - as well as a beacon indicating the edge of the inner harbour.

Most of the fishing boats were docked.

The sky promised wind and rain, sure to dash any unsuspecting boater onto rocks at the mouth of the harbour.
Nonetheless, one or two are going to work, Sunday or no, the family aboard, to help haul in the traps.

We discover another harbour further around the "scenic route" of the Cabot Trail - named for Jean Cabot, a European explorer of the 16th and 17th century - enamoured of the New World and paid handsomely for his adventures in discovery.

Two others - likely summer residents - also seem to be in love with this wee village if one considers the location of these modern new homes overlooking another protected harbour.

You can easily see in this photograph where the pounding sea has been able to dig away at the cliff creating a small rubble beach where bushes and shrubs manage to maintain a toehold despite the battering they must take in winter storms.
Looking back along the wharf - the more traditional homes and fishing sheds are easily visible - this is a small fishing village that must be cut off from the world in winter. But neighbours and colleagues, family and good friends will make a tough season bearable. Still, it's living on the edge of North America in my mind.

And at the end of the dock, we find a young family fishing for supper - which they've placed carefully in a child's sand bucket.

A young dad, his middle son who was about three maybe four I would guess and his daughter about eight, were travelling around the island and had decided to stop at this wharf and catch their dinner. I thought the young fellow would fall in he was so exuberant and excited over the catch. But then I watched Dad hold him carefully between his knees as they sat in a chair together with the fishing rod extended over the end of the pier.

Oh the excitement! The rod bent and another mackerel was added to the catch. Mum carrying the youngest of the three children had followed us along the dock to the end where her family were fishing. My cousin, her husband and I were deeply touched by the joy they shared in catching dinner. It was a special moment.

We soon left them as they began packing up, getting ready to move on to where they would prepare the feast later...

We headed back to the Lodge, each caught up in our own thoughts and images of the afternoon adventure. We would leave the next morning, but have often chatted since about that young family. The closeness they shared, and their experience on the edge.
I do hope that you aren't offended by the photograph of the fish. To me it is a symbol of sharing skills, of family learning - teaching children what it means to catch your own food, to have respect for the fish, and be grateful there are fish that people can eat still. It speaks of togetherness. Of the bounty of Mother Earth. Of the joy of being a family.

That those who live in these remote villages also have ways of surviving in this beautiful and rugged land, made me feel humble. My life is so easy compared to theirs.
One of the images that also floats through my mind from time to time - is this church - one of many that we passed. Another symbol of how these strong, independent folk who live on the edge, manage to do so with such grace. Each in his/her own way.


  1. Good reading, love the pictures ! Lobsters ummmm !

    1. Thank you Linda - kind of you to stop by and yes the lobsters were delicious.

  2. I just enjoyed your pictures and the story you wrote up about your trip to Cape Breton. A wonderful write-up and your pictures are very nice. I am not the best about keeping up with all the blogs I'm following but I do intend to keep a closer eye on yours. Before you wrote about Cape Breton I was fascinated with the place and had it on my list of spots to see ... now it's moved up closer to the top. Thank you very much for your kind comment on my blog this morning. My wife and I have been told to get more exercise, so we've decided to walk the almost 3 miles around Green Lake every morning. I made it a goal to try and find some little something every day to photograph and share on my blog. I am not the most consistent person in the world, so I don't know how long it will last, but while it does I hope you will stop by to see what I'm finding. Thanks again and best regards from Seattle. John

    1. Thank you for stopping by John - and for your comments - I LOVE LOVE LOVE Seattle, but your photo of Green Lake yesterday was so beautiful makes me want to head west again. Your three mile hike will give you lots to photograph - that's how I started - I take my camera in my car with me now, and try to catch something that interests me. And I've been neglecting my blog this summer, but the Cape Breton photos brought back such fabulous memories. I can only give you every encouragement to visit. If you can, stay at Keltic Lodge in Ingonish - it is truly spectacular and one of the most welcoming place I've ever stayed. Cape Breton is definitely worth a visit - and a return for me if I can - along with Newfoundland.
      So pleased you stopped by John - good luck to you and your wife on your daily walks!

  3. Great post, I love the coastal towns. I would like to add the lighthouse to the list I have already seen. Great series of photos, thanks for sharing.

    1. Hello Eileen - thank you for stopping by and for your kind comments. I too am enjoying your photos very much. As for the lighthouse - it was so neat - not huge and forbidding looking but more like a welcoming beacon - glad you liked it. And again - always great to hear from you. Did you know that when I see your photo I think "Oh great it's Eileen in mind - that's how I read MD - I know it's Maryland - but to me you're in my mind too... so neat. Licks and tail wags to Goldie from Bliss and Spirit!

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