The Sands of St Peter’s

St. Peter’s Harbour Nature Reserve – about a 35 minute drive from our house in Charlottetown.

Looking at the weather the past few days – windy, rainy, temperatures in the minuses – it’s hard to believe that last Sunday was a bright if brisk day with a promise of spring in the air. Just to remind ourselves I thought I’d post a video and a few pictures of the stroll we took along the beach just beyond the Protected sand dunes at St. Peter’s Harbour Nature reserve.

The beach front, wetlands and dunes along a stretch of St. Peter’s Harbour on the North Shore was in the MacEwan family for over 200 years. In 2012 it was donated to the National Conservancy of Canada in 2012 in memory of Errol MacEwan, Clarence McEwan and wife Alice. It added 11 hectares to the 138 hectares that had previously been given protective status in the immediate area.

Marram grass – nature’s solution to erosion of the fragile dunes.

The Dunes are a natural barrier against the tides, storms and winds of the Gulf of St Laurent, protecting the wetlands, and settlements along the North Shore. But because the dunes are made up of eroding sandstone moulded by those very winds and tides they are extremely fragile. But nature has created a stabilizer for the shifting sands – Marram grass. Rather than downward marram grass spreads its roots out and they bind with the soil. In 18th century Scotland the grass was pulled up and used as thatch which led to entire coastal villages being washed away. A law was introduced in 1759 criminalizing the pulling up of marram grass. Since then it has been introduced in many coastal areas in the world that are under threat of erosion including here on the Island where a programme of planting by volunteers has been introduced at the dunes along the North Shore.

A piping plover protecting its young on the beach – the chicks are flightless for the first month.

The area is also home to the osprey, bald eagles, black-bellied plovers and sanderlings. Other bird species found here include semi-palmated plovers, greater yellowlegs, ruddy turnstone and semi-palmated sandpiper. But more particularly to the piping plover, a tiny beach bird that nests on the beach in the summer and, like many Islanders, winters in the Southern US and the Bahamas. It is estimated that there are only 6,000 of the little dune coloured birds left in the world so great care is taken when they are nesting. The chicks are flightless for a month after they are hatched. This means that they are at high risk of being trampled on by beach goers or motorized vehicles such as sand buggies. Off-leash dogs, foxes, wolves, crows and eagles are also major predators. A programme is in place to educate beach visitors on protecting this little endangered species.

This was our first visit to the beach at St. Peter’s Harbour and as the video and photos indicate that there were very few people strolling or playing on the beach. That was to be expected given the time and the current situation but I’ve been told by friends that even in peak season, like many of our beaches, it is never crowded. This year we’re planning on explore more of this broad expanses of sand and tide.

My blog buddy Mitchel, he who is constantly on the move, corrected me. The creature we found on the sand is indeed a unicorn not a dog. How could I be so foolish.

The word for May 9th is:
Beach /bēCH/ /bitʃ/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1. A pebbly or sandy shore, especially by the ocean between high- and low-water marks.
2.1 To run or haul up (a boat or ship) on to a beach
2.2 To land (a fish) on a beach
2.3 To become stranded out of the water (a sea creature e.g. whale)
2.4 To cause (someone) to suffer a loss.
Mid 16th century (denoting shingle on the seashore): perhaps related to Old English bæce, bece ‘brook’ (an element that survives in place names such as Wisbech and Sandbach), assuming an intermediate sense ‘pebbly river valley’.

This Old House

As many of you already know we live in one of the older buildings along what was the waterfront of early Charlottetown. We knew that it had originally been the home of a Mr Duncan and then went through many changes of hands and purpose until today. In his most recent posting on his blog Sailstrait Harry Holman, Island archivist, historian, and sailor extraordinaire filled us in on the early history of the property, the people and our neighbourhood.

Our home for the past four years and, god willing and the Hillsborough don’t rise, for more years to come.

As always it is great reading and leads us to a better appreciation of our good fortune in living here. A left click below will reveal the story of what is now the Lennox Building at the corner of Water and Prince, and our home.

Another word for April 6th:
Archivist /ˈärkəvəst,ˈärˌkīvəst/: [noun]
An information professional who assesses, collects, organizes, preserves, maintains control over, and provides access to records and archives determined to have long-term value.
Archive c.1600 from French archif, from Late Latin archivum “written records,” also the place where they are kept, from Greek ta arkheia “public records,” plural of arkheion “town hall, public building”. The sense of “place where public records and historical documents are kept” in English is from 1640s + ist “one who does”. That would certainly be Mr Holman.


The Duncan shipyard property in 1878 at the time of Duncan’s bankruptcy. Duncan’s house was on the corner of Prince Street with its conservatory. The property also included a residence to the west which dated to the 1820s. Image from the Panoramic View of Charlottetown 1878.

Between the Steam Navigation Wharf (which had carried the names of Reddin’s Wharf and Pope’s Wharf) and the Ferry Wharf at the end of Prince Street  lies a property of some significance to the history of Prince Edward Island. Here the foreshore stood at the foot of a high embankment and the waters were relatively shallow so that any wharf would have to be quite long to reach the channel.  Instead of a wharf the property became the site of one of the few shipyards on the waterfront.

The Duncan shipyard saw the building of a number of ships but most of the vessels…

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One Lady’s View

Well yesterday saw the last cruise ship of the season arrive and depart. The Oceania Riviera closed off what has been a record cruise ship season. A total of 87 ships disgorged 128,000 passengers and 55,000 crew members onto our ruddy shores. Our location and daily walks with Nicky and Nora meant that I met many of those visitors, often for long chats. The three top questions have been: Are you from here? What brought you here? What are winters like here? And the general opinions of their visit has been very positive. People seem to greatly enjoy their time spent on the Island.

But according to archivist and historian Harry Holman that wasn’t the case with at least one 19th century traveller. On his always informative blog Sailstrait Mr Holman reveals the Honourable Lady Brassey’s rather candid views on the Island and its denizens on her visit in October of 1872.

A left click on this illustration from Anna Brassey’s 1878 best-seller A Voyage in the Sunbeam, our Home on the Ocean for Eleven Months will take you to her entry from that earlier voyage and entry on her visit to Charlottetown.

An illustration from A Voyage in the Sunbeam, our Home on the Ocean for Eleven Months, Anna Brassey’s best selling travel journal of her trip around the world. A left click will take you to her private account of an earlier voyage.

Mr Holman tells me he has over 50 accounts of visits to Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island before 1900. He hopes to gather them together and publish them as a book. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

November 5th is Love Your Red Hair Day – so gingers of the world get loving!

Tourism and Tourists

A mini-rant on a major Island industry.

Yesterday our dear friend Moe carolled the news that there are only 75 more cruise ships docking at the foot of our street before the season ends on October 31. Now what she didn’t mention was that often there will be three (and one day four) ships in at once. And on those days, along with the tourists who arrive by other means, our town of 45,000 will see upwards of 10,000 visitors. And most of them will pass by our front door.

Now understand that these are not unwelcome visitors – potatoes, fisheries and tourism are the foundation of our economy. Though lest you think that lobster chowder chocked full of potatoes eaten by visitors is our only industry we do have thriving aerospace, bio-science, IT, and renewable energy sectors. But tourism is up there as a principal source of revenue and seasonal employment for the good folk who live here.

The original 2015 travel guide was removed from circulation several days after it was released. It did not help that the tag line that year was “Are You Coming?”

Most tourists Nora, Nicky and I meet on our walks (and believe me those two are real conversation magnets) are wonderful people – witness that lovely lady from Saskatchewan who gave us the jar of Saskatoon Berry jam. And the number of dachshund owners/lovers/admirers we encounter can lead to conversations that extend our walks by twenty-thirty minutes. And the people I take through the exhibits at the Art Gallery are interesting and charming to chat with. And most appreciate the explanations and the chance to express their own impressions and opinions. Interactions with our visitors are often the high point of a day.

However, and you knew there had to be a however, this season a new sort of tourist has appeared more frequently on our streets – aggressive, entitled, and it would seem in grim pursuit of a vacation experience. These are the people who barge along and don’t share the sidewalk – on more than one occasion I have had to walk into the street with Nick or Nora. These are the people who when you greet them with a “good afternoon” give you a defiant glare as if you planned to rob them. These are the people like the gentleman who not only parked in our spot illegally but felt that it was okay to relieve himself in full sight at five in the afternoon in one of the building flower beds. These are people like the lady who when I suggested that her small daughter should not be running up and down our fire escape and onto our balcony told me to go do something extremely acrobatic that is only anatomically possible for well-favoured* gentlemen.

At first I thought it was just me being the old curmudgeon that I am but in speaking with others they have see the same sort of thing. They’ve noticed a sort of tension amongst many of the visitors. Perhaps it is the general mood of uncertainty that seems to permeate so much today. But often I find it is the case that people don’t respect that this is our home.

We will be leaving shortly for Europe to become tourists ourselves but I trust we have never been nor will we ever be “ugly” tourists. That we will always respect the fact that the place we are visiting is “home” to people and that we are guests in their home.

*Not that I am not well-favoured just that I’m not as supple as I use to be! Okay???

August 29th is International Day Against Nuclear Test – a worthy observation. It is also National Chop Suey Day which is what we will all become if they continue nuclear testing.

Of Flora and Floating Food Courts

I was working on getting this posted around 2200 this evening when suddenly the lights went out – all over the Island. It brought home a few unsettling truths including the fact that because the Landline is hooked up to a set of wireless phones it is basically useless. Fortunately the blackout only lasted two hours but I couldn’t sleep so finished this post.

Wherever we have lived there has always been a “garden”. Sometimes it was a large – very large – affair other times no more than a few pots on a balcony. This time around it’s no more than six pots on our small balcony/deck and with the southern exposure it’s been quite the show this year.

Our friends Don and Umi gave Laurent this little rose bush for his birthday. It had small yellow roses on it in March but has produced one large orange flower on the balcony.

I had never heard of Gazania Daisies or Treasure Daisies but when I saw them at a local nursery I was struck by their vibrant colours. I didn’t realize that they open and close depending on the sunlight. Known as nyctinasty it is considered a highly evolved way of protecting pollen from dew and damp. These are on their second growth – the first flowers were larger but these are just as brightly coloured.

I don’t think I’ve ever had begonias grow quite as lush as these two boxes. A friend got his from the same nursery and has had the same abundance in the borders around his house.

In our first house we had turned what was a small rectangle courtyard of scrub grass with a neglected Persian lilac in one corner into a very pleasant garden. When we finished with it the lilac shaded a cedar deck, a stone lantern lit a small stream and the borders were filled with roses, bee balm, fox gloves and nicotiana. The memory of the fragrance of flowering tobacco in the cool night air accounts for this small box which only recently started to thrive after weeks of less than glorious blooms. No the foil is not some gardening secret – it’s to stop Nicky from sampling the soil!

A week or so ago I mentioned Nimrod’s the pizza shack on the dock down at Peake’s Quay. It is one of three food stations on our floating food court, a busy place with good food, local craft beer and wine. Caron’s Chip Shack (soon to be featured on the Food Network) serves up the best fries in town and though I’ve yet to try Zak’s hamburgers reports are pretty good. It’s a busy place with locals and tourists. And it moves – not just side to side with the odd wave but up and down with the tides.

The first pictures was taken yesterday morning at around 0730 when the tide was high.

The second one was taken around 1530 when the tide was low – though not at it’s lowest. Notice any difference?

August 15th is Relaxation Day! Hell that’s an easy one to celebrate.