I stood in line with my parcels and luggage awaiting my turn to be welcomed to Nova Scotia, through the on-board customs security. “Open your suitcase please,” the customs officer said. I unzipped my bag and he rifled through my clothing, feeling around the sides and into the lid pocket. Finding nothing more than a few pair of jeans, sweatshirts and undergarments, he flipped the lid closed and he moved on to my parcels. “Where are you coming from?” I told him my story, my planned Kelly’s Big Road Trip. from Toronto down through the U.S. mid-west, to the eastern United states and onward to Cape Breton. It had all been going great until I had a car accident outside Washington D.C., which led to a cascade of connections: a train ride to Baltimore, a bus that got caught in a blizzard in Portland Maine. I shared a cab with some friendly folks to Bar Harbour, Maine, to catch the last ferry. “I am just trying to get home to Cape Breton for the holidays.” As he listened to my story, he reached into one of the bags I was toting and pulled out a partially empty bottle of Jack Daniels and held it up, I grimaced, shrugging my shoulders and said “It was supposed to be a Christmas gift for my brother-in-law, but it was a long cold ferry ride officer, I shared it with a couple from Ireland.” He couldn’t help but snort in laughter, then stuffed it back in the bag and waved me through, leaving undiscovered the other bottles of Christmas presents I had stashed.
As I drive up Water Street past the ferry terminal. I smile at that memory from 1991. I slept off the Jack D hang-over on a bench in the terminal for many hours, waiting for the then Acadian Lines bus, to pick me up and take me on the ten-hour road trip to Cape Breton. I never got to see any of Yarmouth but I was going to make up for it today.
2020 the year of the Pandemic.
Other than the ferry that in normal years shunts tourists between Maine and Nova Scotia, I don’t know much about Yarmouth, and when I pull on the door of the tourist bureau I find it locked. It and the ferry are casualties of the pandemic. I will have to wing it and see what I find on foot. I figure the best place to start is at the waterfront and here I pass a few people out walking on the Hartland Trail, a path named in honour of a man called Robert E Hartland. The sign I passed says he was a visionary and helped rejuvenate the waterfront of Yarmouth.
On the other side of the road is a cenotaph and I take some photos of It to use in my yearly Remembrance Day post Lest We Forget-2020, Then up a path into a place called Frost Park. A brick pathway through big mature trees, a bench and water feature. Suddenly I realize it is a cleverly disguised graveyard. Well done Yarmouth, I think to myself. I walk around the stones reading the names and dates, some from the 1800’s. this is a pioneer cemetery and I am glad they have so artfully honoured their deceased.
Popping up a side street the historic Killam Brothers Shipping Company building has a sign out front and appears open, with COVID restrictions, and I walk in the door. A young man is working at a desk, and I ask him what this building is for. He says he is just a computer guy working for the summer. He will see if someone is around and walks in the back. I see on wall a UNESCO world heritage sign and this intrigues me. I learn that in 2001 the Yarmouth area was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, for it natural and cultural distinction. One of only 18 of its kind in Canada. The young lad comes back and says there isn’t anyone to give me a tour but I can go upstairs and look around the Harbour Museum displays. “OK,” and up I go to look at the objects and articles of seafaring memorabilia but no one comes out to speak with me so I leave and head down the road.
On the end of building is a bell, lobster trap, a bollard and a huge anchor that catch my eye. I read what the sign says:
These items form part of the collection of “The Harbourfront Museum” located and operated by the Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society. The anchor and bell came from the “M.V. Bluenose” Which sailed between Bar Harbour and Maine, from 1956 to 1998. The fluke was broken of when the ship got caught in the rocks while at anchor just off Cape Forchu. The anchor weights 55 tons, these artifacts were donated by Bay Ferries. The Bollard donated by Darryl MacIsaac, was used to tie the ships to Yarmouth wharf It weights 450 pounds.
Hmm …I touch the bell and Anchor of the M.V. Bluenose, it was the ferry I took in my 1991 crossing from Bar Harbour. Not far down the path to the wharf I find a sign about Rum Runners. and it reads:
The Passage of the National Prohibition Act January 1920, signalled the prohibiting of alcohol for general consumption with in the United States and provided an opportunity for enterprising Yarmouth businessmen and sailors. Yarmouth vessels were perfectly positioned to pick up supplies of alcohol in St Pierre et Miquelon, Cuba or the West Indies and transport them just outside the international 12-mile limit on the east coast of the Unites States. From there the liquor was usually unloaded onto smaller faster contact boats, that brought it to shore for distribution by organized crime syndicates.
Somehow I feel like I have come full circle; part of my own personal history crocheted perfectly to match up with of this town’s history, or maybe just a bunch of coincidences; I just happened to visit on 100th anniversary of the start of Prohibition, that on the one and only other time I was here, I did a bit of alcohol smuggling in reverse, taking it from the Jack Daniels distillery in the U.S/, into Nova Scotia. How about that the ferry I took all those years ago was disabled off Cape Forchu from where I’d just returned, and that I would stumble upon its signature parts on the side of the road. It all makes for great stories and I will have to tell you what happened to the remainder of that bottle of Jack another time. The temperature is going to be sweltering 30 Celsius today and I am headed to Port Maitland Beach.
Happy travels from Maritimemac.
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