Here in Lunenburg, we are preparing for our upcoming voyage to the South Pacific. Quite a bit of excitement. Crew and trainees are signing up. Making lists. Working on plans. Talking to our Panama agents. Contact with Pitcairn Islanders about bringing supplies to their ever so remote and delightful outpost island. Thinking about when to re-cross the yards on the foremast. Worklist for our winter ship-keepers. Planning your standard drydocking jobs and oh-so-many tasks associated with getting a ship like the Barque Picton Castle ready to return to sea and ready for a long tropical voyage. Thoughts of tee-shirts and pareaus in soft trade winds at the big teak wheel sailing across warm blue seas in our near future…just seems so far away…
But here in Nova Scotia (halfway between the equator and the North Pole), it was January 8th in this New Year and it snowed aplenty. There would be 20 cm by noon. That’s about 8 inches. With more to fall throughout the day. We were well warned of this large snowstorm by the increasingly excellent weather forecasting – the entire town was snug and put away for the weather – so Maggie in the Picton Castle office called it a “snow day”. All hands would work from home. Schools and many businesses closed too. The roads in town were fair quiet - apart from the occasional snow-plow rattling down the muffled lanes. Soft, fluffy stuff drifted gently down from the sky before dawn. Snow just damp enough to be perfect for snowballs and making a snowman, but not so damp to get you soaked. Light winds, trees were allowed to accumulate and balance quite a bit of this delicate stuff on their branches and even skinny twigs.
Despite the declaration of a snow day, and the delightful fire chuckling away in the woodstove at our warm cozy home, it seemed necessary to head out and wander abroad to inspect closely and at first hand this first snowfall of the new year, check on the ship and the waterfront too. Enlisting my 7-year-old son, Dawson, we suited up and set out along the snow-covered streets of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. He did much not want to go out on a forced march and told me so. I pulled rank. Later, of course, he did not want to come back inside – too much fun to be had out of doors. I did not pull rank. We walked through the quiet drifting whiteness up to the grocery store in town not far away known as Foodland. Here we provision the Picton Castle as have ships sailing from Lunenburg for generations. We needed eggs and bagels.
Next, we ambled along pushing snow out of our way down towards the shore and the venerable Dory Shop perched atop pilings over the water, the boat-yard building dories and wooden workboats for the fleet since 1917. A few new dories in the yard were well covered with a blanket of cold white sparkly down, as well as a schooner, a friendship sloop, a Tahiti Ketch (as if we needed a hint) and a large stack of boat building lumber. Across the old Railway Warf with snow-covered lobster boats alongside tugging gently at their lines was our Picton Castle, well moored against winter storms with many hawsers secure to the pilings and her best 1,500-pound bower anchor firmly in the tough bottom mud with 250 feet of heavy chain well out in the harbour to hold her against South-Easterly swells of a storm. This takes a big strain off the wharf in a swell and blow and used to be standard winter practice for the laid-up schooners, bow out, anchors out, chains swollen with ice. No swells today. Slate gray was the surface of the harbour - and as smooth as a piece of slate too in the calm waters as well. Only small ripples that would not even rock a swimming gull was all there was to be seen. With our eggs and bagels in our Pitcairn Island work-basket, and coats and hats covered in snow, home we trudged, Dawson being sure to make a flying leap into each and every large soft snow-bank he saw. He saw a lot of them. The surface of our wharf, for a few fleeting ephemeral moments, was home to snow angels made by himself.