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On the Waterfront


By elke


Today is one of my favourite days of the whole year – it’s the occasion of the Lunenburg Seafood Festival at which are held the International Dory Races between two former rival fishing capitals of the east coast of North America – Gloucester, Massachusetts and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Any excuse will get me over to Lunenburg (as you probably know by now), but today there was a reason – several, actually.

Lunenburg was once a thriving fishing and wooden shipbuilding port, where it was said one could walk from one side of the harbour to the other across the decks of the schooners and barques moored there. The shipbuilding declined once ships began to be built of metal, and the fishing industry has all but collapsed on this side of the North Atlantic. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in rebuilding a working waterfront:

We arrived early, to mackerel skies boding rain later, but the sun shone for most of the day. The large tent housed chairs and an entertainment stage, as well as picnic tables for diners at the Seafood Festival. The food was cooked and served under the striped tents. Scallops, fish cakes and beans, fish and chips, chowder …

Not many people about, it seemed, until we realized they were all on the wharf watching the end of the lobster boat races.

Lunenburg is of course the home port of the Bluenose II, a replica of the Canadian icon, the Bluenose, the fastest fishing schooner ever.

And most of the time the Picton Castle isn’t at sea, she’s here too:

There were lots of other sailing and fishing boats in the harbour too, waiting for the main event:

The dory races – here’s the starter’s boat:

A dory is a heavy, flat-bottomed rowboat that was carried by fishing schooners. Several of these rowboats would be piled one on top of the other (nested) on the deck of the schooner. The actual fishing was done from these rowboats – men lowered them into the sea, climbed in, fished with hand lines until dusk and then rowed back to the schooner to unload. If fog came down they often got lost and never found their way back to the ship…

Here’s a dory readying up to the start line:

And they’re off!

Rowing out into the bay to turn on the marker buoy:

Almost home:

And they cross the line!

The exhausted winning crew:

Next it was the turn of the women, who rowed the same course.

All was carefully watched by the Fire Department rescue boat:

Here is the ladies’ team unloading their dory:

Back along the wharf now to the next event,past some startling buildings belonging to the main deep sea scallop fishing company:

We pass many other wooden wharves with boats moored alongside:

Some typical old commercial buildings (old warehouses, shipbuilding shops, chandlers, etc.) on the waterfront road:

Now we’ve headed to the seafood festival – here’s someone threading scallops onto skewers for grilling:


Time to head to the eastern end of the harbour for the launch of the first schooner built in Lunenburg in years, albeit a small one. Can this be her?

Ah no, that’s a dory with a mast and sail….

Here she is!

Some crew still madly trying to finish roping the bow buoys in time for the launch at high tide:

Quite a narrow spot for a launch…

Another nice old boat building shed:

In between the two is a nice spot for a picnic:

They start them young in Lunenburg – this little guy could barely walk…

“I want to paddle too, Daddy…”

As we were waiting for the tide to come in far enough, a tour fishing boat arrived, surprised to be welcomed by such a huge crowd:

Once they had got over the shock of their welcome party, they unloaded their coolers filled with their catch:

Almost ready for the launch, the new schooner owners pose for photos:

Yet another dory – they’re everywhere:

Now they’re moving some smaller boats to make room for the launch:

Some of the owners’ womenfolk putting on a fashion show:

High tide at last:

Pull, men, pull!!

Ooops… listing to port

Ooops… listing to starboard!

Finally she is officially deemed launched, by the gun blast (bottom of the photo):

And she makes it to the floating dock below the main wharf:

Time to head home now, past a few more dorys:

A last look at the seniors’ dory races still taking place:

Wish I could include a sniff of the salt air, a taste of the scallops and the sound of the starting gun – which actually scared a caleche horse so badly it bolted down a steep hill to the wharf, went around the corner with the caleche on 2 wheels (with 4 passengers aboard) until the female driver was able to jump off and pull hard on the reins to bring it to a stop. The poor animal was terrified…

Could have included at least 100 more shots of the dorys, but I’ll be kind and spare you…
’Til next time,

More blog posts by elke

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Great blog..You've done a fine job of capturing the day's events.
You should have caught a pic of that scared horse. Poor thing!

14 Sep, 2009


I know - too many people in the way, and it all happened so fast. Could have been a real disaster. For some reason, this blog has posted 2x so I'm getting comments on both...

14 Sep, 2009



18 Mar, 2010


I'm now looking forward to THIS summer in Lunenburg! Glad you liked it!

18 Mar, 2010

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