Down to the Seas Again

I grew up in Alberta: That’s my excuse.

That’s my excuse for thinking that Halifax is a long way away: It used to be. I have no excuse for continuing to think so.

Our recent visit to the Cabot Trail reinforced my West Coast learning that coastal areas are slow drives, but completely upended my idea about where Halifax is with respect to where I am: Ottawa, in the event. I moved significantly eastward in 2002, but Halifax didn’t. That puts it a mere 90-minute flight away: roughly the same air-travel time to Vancouver from Edmonton or Calgary, both cities where I’ve lived. Both cities where I felt that the coast was not such a *long* way away.

Since moving to Ottawa I’ve been mildly grieving my separation from the West Coast. Not an immature pouting, you understand; more a dignified and understated expression of loss. Yet as it turns out, the East Coast is a decent substitute for the West. It’s not a replica but there are many similarities, both physical and cultural. Herewith, a few.

Ships & Boats

2-photo collage of ships in Lunenberg

Nautical Decor. Everywhere.

Close-up of rope barrier

Oceangoing History

Dime plaque in Lunenberg, showing the Bluenose

Bluenose dime: shown not to scale (left), and to scale (right) (far right).

Distinctive Reflections

3-photo collage of reflections with trucks and houses

Local Whimsy & Imagination

2-photo collage of Lunenberg sights

Lunenberg, of course, has three bookshops.


As for the poem that gave me my title, here *it* is. I don’t know what excuse I can conjure for misquoting its first line all these years:

I must go down to the sea again

John Masefield (*not* Mansfield) (another excuse needed here) clearly uses the plural, seas. Yes, there is more than one.

When I’m not near the seas I love
I’ll love the seas I’m near.
Burton Lane, Finian’s Rainbow (as modified, no excuses)


This entry was posted in Appreciating Deeply, Laughing Frequently, Photos of Built Stuff, You are Here and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Down to the Seas Again

  1. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – as a Nova Scotian I have to ask, do you suppose having to gain altitude to get up and over the Rockies adds any time to the flight from Edmonton or Calgary to Vancouver?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – Given that the tallest mountains are about 13,000 feet, I’m going to guess, “No.” But that’s because I’m used to a cruising altitude of about 30,000 on longer flights from Alberta to Ottawa. I actually have no idea about the altitude of the Ottawa-Halifax flight.

      • John Whitman says:

        Isabel รขโ‚ฌโ€œ FYI. The straight line distance from Edmonton to Vancouver is 818 km. The straight line distance from Ottawa to Halifax is 955 km; however, you would pass over the Bay of Fundy on the way to Halifax. The straight line distance from Ottawa to St. John, NB, on the Bay of Fundy is 752 km, so you are actually closer to the ocean when you are in Ottawa than you are when you are in Edmonton.
        Good point though about mountains having little if any effect on flight times.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          John – Well, closer if you’re willing to settle for New Brunswick. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s an interesting point, though, this sense of where things are (complicated as it is by persons unnamed moving countries unnamed). My mother, whether then living in Calgary or Vancouver, always felt that I was closer in Ottawa than in Phoenix.

        • Barry says:

          if you are looking for the nearest sea – from YOW to YKQ (Fort-Rupert PQ) on James Bay is only 721 km

          • Isabel Gibson says:

            Barry – ๐Ÿ™‚ I never think of *that* sea. But I need scenic drives, photogenic beaches, and good seafood, too.

  2. Tom Watson says:

    My gosh, Isabel…thinking back to a former column…even Japan is closer than it used to be.

  3. Jim Taylor says:

    I asked a friend, who moved from the coast to the Okanagan some 60 years ago, if she ever missed the coast. Not the fogs, she replied, and not the pervading damp. She missed the tides, the sense of change sweeping back and forth every six hours or so. The clear tidal pools, with the anemones and starfish so visible. Even the seaweed, limp and stinky when the tide was out, alive and dancing when the tide was in.
    But the damn seagulls are everywhere….

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Ah, yes, nothing is all good or all bad. As we enjoyed Lunenberg and other coastal communities, I did wonder what it would be like in the rain.

  4. I cannot quote all of John Masefield’s poem as I once could, but the sense of adventure, risk, and ultimate confidence in “the star to steer her by” wove fibers into the ropes for my sails. Your first photo above, by virtue of the reflection of mast and rigging in the quaint window, is a masterpiece. So many of your photos capture those contrasts and antiphons that make them more than memorable.

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