Epic Ride, Day 50:
…is a town deeply rooted in its seafaring past. So deeply rooted that it’s been designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. And for someone like me who has always loved the sea and the boats and ships that float on it and the men who have taken those ships out into its unforgiving waters, Lunenburg has a powerful attraction.
I’ll be here about 36 hours and I’ll have slept about 16 of those by the time I leave. If I didn’t have places to go, things to see, and a loose sort of schedule to keep, I”d probably spend another day or two here.
This morning I started with railroading, not seafaring. I went to the Lunenburg Railway Museum, which commemorates the Halifax and South West Railroad. The H&SW started in 1901 and with the hilly terrain it covered between Halifax and Yarmouth on the southwestern tip of the country, it wasn’t the fastest train on earth. Locals called it the “Hellishly Slow and Wobbly.” Still, 14 hours was faster than boat or horse.
The museum has lots of artifacts and paraphernalia from the old line but it also has the biggest model train layout in Nova Scotia. The layout is in S Gauge, just like the American Flyer train set I got when I was six. Most of the major communities along the line have been reproduced with attention to detail and to the historical period represented. There were four major viewing areas and each of those depicted a different season.
To keep young kids interested in what they were seeing, the model builders have incorporated cartoon characters into the layout:
The biggest scene depicts Bridgewater, a town about ten miles from Lunenburg, which was the center of the line. The whole area depicted on the layout and every building in it have all been replaced by the parking lot for a mall!
When I left the museum, I saw a barber shop and decided it was time to get back to shorter hair. After getting my ears lowered, I rode down to the waterfront. As I was parking, there was a sign saying: “Sail Lunenburg Harbour on the Eastern Star — nest cruise: 12:30.”
Since it was 12:05, I considered the sign a personal invitation and plunked down my $27 to go. The Eastern Star is a 48′ ketch built in Denmark in 1948. She’s got beautiful wood and was just refurbished last year.
Because of her flush decks abaft the main mast, it was easy to fit her with comfortable wooden benches which allow her to accommodate up to 30 passengers. The wind was breezy enough today that, considering the ages of some of the passengers (there was a 70-year-old man, for crying out loud! as well as some young children), the skipper elected to sail with just the mizzen and the large roller-furling jib.
After we’d sailed out to the edge of the harbor
and started beating our way back to the dock, the skipper asked if anyone wanted to take the helm. Well, you know I did!
And so did the other kids — a seven-year-old boy and his five- and four-year-old sisters. The five-year-old was a real natural, but all four of us did a great job!
As we came back toward the dock, we were able to get a glimpse of the Bluenose II, a replica of the greatest of the Grand Banks fishing schooners and a symbol of Nova Scotia. The Bluenose was in dry-dock so a glimpse was all we could get today, but she’ll be back in the water this fall.
After the sail, I walked around downtown Lunenburg for a while,
ate lunch, and then headed for the Atlantic Fisheries Museum, housed in the same building where I ate last night, an old “fish factory” and ice house.
The Museum has an aquarium and many great exhibits but the keystone exhibits are floating at the wharf:
The Sable Island, a side-trawler built in Denmark 1962 fished until 1982 when it was replaced by larger and more efficient stern trawlers (which were then replaced by freezer/trawlers, which basically fished the Grand Banks until there weren’t any fish to catch. And then they were too expensive to operate.
The other floating exhibit is the Theresa E. Cooper, the last fishing schooner to sail the Grand Banks. The side-trawler put her out of business.
Both the Sable Island and the Theresa E. Cooper had ex-fishing captains in their wheelhouses to ask questions and tell you about the boats and their lives afloat. They were fascinating to talk to.
But the museum closed and I came back to The Wheelhouse, my motel, for dinner and a bit of rest before riding again tomorrow. After a long walk last night and a day spent climbing up and down ladders, stairs, and steep hills, I was almost (but not quite) ready to dig out my cane!
Tomorrow I’ll head north towards Cape Breton Island and the Cabot Trail.
Stats: Day, 5 miles; Trip, 16,219 miles; Year, 20,220 miles; Total, 74,196 miles.