Monday, January 5, 2009

Annapolis Scallops

Home again, home again jiggity jig.

Well, after a two week trip to Ontario followed by a week long sabbatical at my home on the North Mountain, I am back to my desk relatively refreshed and ready to go. Now, all I need to do is wade through a pile of about 250 emails waiting for me! Oh the joys of modern technology.

As I mentioned in my last post, Annapolis Royal is the proud host to a number of the vessels which fish scallops (pronounced skal-ups to the locals) in the Bay of Fundy. These boats usually tie up at the moorings by the Annapolis River causeway. In addition to their photographic qualities, the scallop fleet are an important part of the local economy. The scallops they catch are shipped from our community to stores and restaurants across Canada and the United States. Without any feeling of exaggeration, I will proudly state that our Bay of Fundy scallops are the finest in the world.

The boats in our scallop fleet are on average about 25 years old and generally made from wood. Some of the vessels are actually nearer to 50 years old. As you can imagine, there is a great deal of maintenance needed to keep wooden vessels of this age afloat. In Annapolis Royal, the boats are cared for at the the Annapolis Royal Boat Haul-up. This is a very interesting facility and an excellent example of how heritage skills and trades have moved forward into our modern world. While some of the equipment and tools have evolved technologically, the process of keeping wooden boats floating is the same now as it was 300 years ago. After the boats are hauled up using a large metal crib and a huge winch, they are cleaned or defouled. At this point, any rotten timbers are removed and replaced and leaks are fixed. All of the boat's seams are still filled using oakum and cotton as shipbuilders have done for hundreds of years. The oakum is now made from a Danish tree bark rather than recycled hemp rope. It is very nice to walk down St George Street and hear the ring of a caulking mallet. When all of the repairs are done, the boats are painted and sent back to work. In discussing heritage in this area, There are so many times when I need to speak in the past tense. It is nice that the scallop fleet allow me to show how heritage and heritage skills are being carried forward.

One of the things I always find amusing is discussing where to eat scallop with visitors to the area. For years Digby, our neighbouring community, has promoted itself as the scallop capital of Canada and has boasted of the world's largest scallop fleet. I should hasten to add that Digby deserves both of these titles. The promotion must be working for the Digby area because without fail I hear the following statement a number of times every summer. "We really can't stay in Annapolis for dinner. We want to have Digby scallops." I am always left in a quandry as to whether I should burst their bubble and tell them that they are the same scallops in Annapolis Royal as in Digby. They are fished in the same areas by the same fishermen using the same equipment. The only difference is a geographic boundary on a map.

All for now,
RGS

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