Another lovely town that we explored was Lunenberg. The town was established in 1753 as the first British Colonial settlement in Nova Scotia outside of Halifax, with settlers from parts of Germany, Switzerland and France; “foreign protestants” were encouraged to settle by the British. This is yet another community with a strong history of fishing, ship-building and other marine related industries.
It’s a pretty big town, with a population of over 2,000. One of the things that caught my attention was the architecture and the colorful buildings. There are many restored buildings from the 1700s and early 1800s, a number of them painted in authentic colors.
Lunenburg is the home of the Bluenose II, a replica of the famous Grand Banks fishing and racing schooner Bluenose built and launched in Lunenburg in 1921. She won the International Fishermen’s Trophy for 17 years straight and became known as the “Queen of the North Atlantic”. When fishing schooners became obsolete during the 1930s, she worked as a freighter in the West Indies. There she struck a coral reef off Haiti, was wrecked beyond repair and abandoned.
The replica Bluenose II was built in 1963 and became Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador in 1971. Her image is everywhere. She is on the Nova Scotia auto license plate (“Canada’s Ocean Playground”) and is prominently featured on all manner of schlock in the tourist shops all over the province. We were really looking forward to seeing her in person.
Unfortunately a current restoration of the vessel has been plagued by technical problems and controversy and she is still out of the water long after the planned relaunch. Several locals we chatted with got all worked up when discussing it. Touchy subject.
This put a damper on the 50th anniversary celebration which was reduced to some of the crew rowing around the harbor in two dories waving some flags and firing off a little cannon and a honking a horn.
Funny in sort of a sad way.
Lunenberg also is home to Ironworks Distillery, Nova Scotia’s micro-distillery. It’s an artisanal distillery that uses only natural ingredients. We went in to sample some of their liquors. They were excellent. After several tastings, we purchased vodka (made from local apples), rum and some liqueurs.
On the way to Lunenberg, we stopped at the memorial for Swissair flight 111. The flight, on its way from New York to Geneva, crashed into St. Margaret’s Bay between the communities of Bayswater and Peggy’s Cove in 1998. A fire onboard spread rapidly throughout the cabin and the plane diverted to Halifax for an emergency landing but didn’t make it. All 229 passengers were killed. Both communities erected simple memorials.
We visited the Bayswater Memorial. There’s a simple marker, a beautiful manicured lawn overlooking the sea, including a cordoned off gravesite and an area memorializing all of the victims on plaques and allowing space for special offerings.
The marker includes these words “The remains of the passenger and crew are buried at this site. At the request of family and community members, quiet modest memorials are consistent with the coastal environment.” It was really very beautiful, touching and somehow serene.
Next we are headed north yet again to Cape Breton Island.