9. The Party
Our day begins with a wake-up call at 7:00 AM. Breakfast is at 7:30, and there is an “All hands muster,” a meeting of the entire crew, at 8:00. There we get announcements and job assignments. The morning is then spent working. We start with either washing and scubbing down the deck, or cleaning the living areas, before we get down to the tasks of the day. Lately I have done painting, stowing food in the hold, stowing sails under the cabin floor, helped turn over a boat, sentry duty at the gate (a new activity, required by the Canadian government in emulation of Mr. Bush’s Homeland Insecurity policies) and galley duty setting up for meals and washing dishes afterwards. Lunch is from 12:00 noon to 12:45, and then we work or do drills to learn how to handle the ship until 6:30, when we have dinner. After that, if we are not on watch, we are free to do things like shower, do email, go out to the local bars—which I rarely do—or maybe even sleep a little.
Since this routine goes on six days per week, often with heavy physical work, by the end of the week we are tired and ready for some recreation. We are ready for a party, and Capt. Daniel Moreland knows how to put on a party. The first weekend it was a party on the wharf for the crews of the Picton Castle and the Bluenose II, complete with barbeque and plenty of beer iced down in a Polynesian dugout canoe. I had a nice time, talking to some of my shipmates and some of the crew of the Bluenose II, a few of whom I knew from sailing with them or meeting them before, and some whom I didn’t know.
The second weekend was cold and rainy and miserable. That weekend the party was in the dory shop. This old building, surely more than 100 years old, was once a fish house where fish were stored while they were being preserved by being salted and dried in the sun whenever it wasn’t sunny. Later it became a dory shop, where dories were built, the small rowing boats carried on the decks of schooners out to the offshore banks, then launched so the fishermen could use them to set and haul their trawls. The still builds dories, though on a more limited basis, as one of the last production wooden boat building shops left in eastern North America. It is a quintessential woodworking shop, with the tools, the wood, the smell of wood shavings, and a half-finished dory in the center of its one room. Warmed by a woodstove, it was a perfect venue for a party on a rainy night. It was overseen by the boat builder, a tall man with shoulder length hair, full beard, and the look of a Viking.
Once again, there were copious amounts of food and beer. But at this party there was something in addition: entertainment. This was provided by a young woman who was an excellent Celtic fiddler. Nova Scotia isn’t called “New Scotland” for nothing. Particularly in Cape Breton, the island that makes up the eastern third of the province, Scottish culture is very much alive in the music, dance and traditions. The lilting, haunting tunes this woman played reminded me very much of the music I heard years ago sailing down the west coast of Scotland through the Inner Hebrides. Several couples danced, most notably one shipmate from Isle Madame, an island near Cape Breton, and his visiting wife. They danced with the perfect synchrony that some couples achieve after decades together. The mate of the Picton Castle sat in for a while on his guitar.
During breaks from the live music the music and dancing were more contemporary, as if jumping back and forth between centuries. As the evening wore on, more and more local people drifted in, following an affair at the Fishermen’s Museum honoring the crew of the schooner who just returned from sailing around the world. One was my old shipmate and friend Don Wilson who has a shop in town where he does beautiful woodcarving and sells nautical antiques.
I am told that the party went on until 2:00 AM. I don’t know; I left at 10:00 to go to bed. I was tired.