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Friday, May 19, 2017

The mystery of the missing boats

There is no shortage of painting subject matter in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.

Levitating Lobster Boats of Alma, NB, by Carol L. Douglas
Where other rural places have spare cars, here in coastal Maine you’re likely to find spare boats on jackstands. Boats are so ubiquitous that they blend into the landscape. Last winter Howard Gallagher found one wrecked along the roadside. I think he bought it.

Nova Scotia has a storied boat-building history. Parrsboro was once a port and shipbuilding region; old photos show a waterfront littered with boats. The famous ghost ship Mary Celeste was built near here, at Spencer’s Island. Bluenose was built on the Atlantic side, in the boatbuilding yards at Lunenberg.

Parrsboro harbour seems to be silted in.
I’m painting at the Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival next month. It was almost on our way home from Digby, if by “almost” you mean doubling your mileage.

In any new town, I usually start reconnoitering at the harbor. Parrsboro’s is silted in, with a sinuous rose-colored channel and mud flats, but no wharves or fishing fleet. This area is famous for its beaches, and I suppose Mother Nature gets wild when it starts flinging sand.

There are also dramatic headlands, lighthouses, and blueberry barrens. You could throw paint in any direction and create a masterpiece.

There's no shortage of painting subjects.
The plein air painter’s second favorite task is searching out new places to paint. After stopping to meet Parrsboro Creative’s Executive Director, Robert More, we started the serious business of shunpiking. Maine painter Mary Sheehan Winn summers in Parrsboro. She texted us directions.

There were no boats until we reached Advocate Harbour. This tiny hamlet is so isolated that in the clear summer light it looks and feels like Newfoundland or the Scottish Hebrides. Its small fishing fleet is cross-tied to a seawall so that the boats are grounded on their keels in the mud as the water drops. They can only come or leave at the mercy of the tide. That must make for long work days.

Since Canada’s national parks are free for their national sesquicentennial, I suggested to Bobbi that we head home through Fundy National Park. She was interested in seeing Hopewell Rocks.

The last time I was here was at high tide. Mary and I had gotten lost looking for the Cape Enrage lighthouse during our Trans-Canada Painting Adventure. Here I was, once again, trying to find my way while the tide inexorably covered the things for which I was searching. Coming across a causeway, Bobbi and I both stopped short.

“Boats!” cried Bobbi.

“I’ve painted here before!” I shouted.

The beautiful fleet at Alma, NB.
We were in Alma, NB, where I painted my last painting in Canada last fall: a terrific, tired fail of levitating lobster boats. Alma is a wonderful working harbor, the home port of North America’s first female sea-captain, Molly Kool.

We even managed to make Hopewell Rocks before they were swamped.  Alas, it was evening, time to head south to the border and home. I leave again this evening, heading west to New York. It’s summer, and that’s how we roll.

Postscript: this morning we realized that Baby Wipes take dead bugs off windshields. I wish I’d realized that last night when I was rolling sightless through moose country.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi - Just a quick correction.. There is a vary large wharf in Parrsboro with a variety of vessels from barges to fishing boats. This is all at the mouth of the river. There is also a small fleet of lobster boats at small individual wharves in Port Greville.

Carol Douglas said...

Can you please give me explicit instructions to find it? I will be back for the International Plein Air Festival and live to paint boats!