Sniffing the Coast
"Lloyd Bourinot used to talk about 'sniffing the coast,' but I had never seen it done before. Down-east skippers, groping through the fog, used every piece of evidence to confirm their position - the character of the seaweed, the directions the birds flew, the smell of fish plants and spruce woods, of smokestacks and hayfields and guano. If you smelt chocolate in Halifax Harbour, you were near the Moir's factory on Duke Street."
The summer of 1992 was foggy, cold and calm. As Silver Donald and his late wife Lulu (who died in 1996) made a 600-mile voyage in the Gulf of St. Lawrence aboard their engineless cutter Silversark, they used every trick they knew - including sniffing the coast.
They left Cape Breton in July, visiting ports in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick as well as Quebec's Magdalen Islands. They found Acadian traditions everywhere from the tintamarre in Bouctouche to a waterfront café in Havre Aubert, Quebec. They confronted the shades of Anne of Green Gables and K.C. Irving, and loaned their son Mark Patrick to the crew of a 150-mph racing hydroplane. They learned about fox farming, potato cloning, newsletter publishing, sand sculpture, ferries and the prospects of a bridge to PEI - which the skipper believed would never be built.
It was a time of wrenching change, and wherever they went, Silversark's crew found people deeply involved in The Urgent Conversation: what will the future bring, and how will the Maritimes fit into that future? What should we be doing right now, today, to secure that future? They found the rum tangy and the people surprisingly optimistic - and they ended a memorable cruise with a thrilling run homeward before a gale.