It seems like ages ago that I said that I would write about the Christmas ornaments we picked up on our adventures as Woods Explorers, but finally, here I go.
Installment one takes us to the first destination of our 5 month journey across Canada: Prince Edward Island.
We landed in the adorably tiny Charlottetown airport, loaded our bulging Woods Canada backpacks into our rental car, and made our way to the most beautiful inn I have ever been to. The actual camping portion of our trip wouldn’t start for a day or two – in the meantime, we would charge batteries, figure out how to use the camera, and suss out what, exactly, we would do throughout our two weeks in PEI.
The Inn at St. Peters wasn’t officially open yet – we were a few weeks ahead of tourist season, and there was in fact still snow on the ground in some places – but the innkeeper opened up a waterfront cottage just for us and gave us a few recommendations for places to grab a bite to eat.
Among those places was a breakfast spot called the Old School Diner (which sadly appears to have since closed down, but there’s a great CBC article about it here). This tiny diner was located in, as the name suggests, an old school house. It had tw0 dozen or so seats and an open kitchen manned by one cook. The menu was simple, but their two-eggs-toast-and-bacon was superior to any I’ve tasted anywhere else. My memory is a little foggy, but I swear the dish came with a scone and really, really good jam.
We ate here a few times over the half month we spent in PEI and spent a good bit of time talking with the friendly staff. One day, we got speaking to the cook, Martin. He hailed from Germany and had brought his family to PEI because he wanted to experience what it was like to live in Canada. (He also baked the bread for the inn we were staying at. I came to learn that PEI is the definition of “small world.”)
Martin learned about our story and asked us if we had any interest in lobster fishing. We did. He told us that his neighbour was a lobster fisherman and would probably be willing to take us out on his boat. He passed along his Scott the fisherman’s phone number and told us to get in touch with him.
You can imagine that it’s a bit awkward to call up someone you’ve never met and invite yourself along for a trip on their boat – that’s why I made Cedric do the phone calling. As weird as the situation felt to me, Scott didn’t seem to have any issues with it, and we made plans to meet him at the ripe hour of 4 AM the next day.
We met Scott and his father (a self-proclaimed “retired” lobster fisherman who couldn’t resist going out on the water every morning) in a parking lot in the pitch black, and they drove us over to the dock. We waited for a third younger guy to join us, and then we took off.
It quickly became clear to us that this wasn’t a touristy lobster fishing experience. To Scott and the other two fellows, this was work. For the next eight hours, we tried to stay out of the way as they navigated from spot to spot, pulling up traps, emptying them out, measuring lobsters, tossing several back in, and putting elastics on the lobsters’ claws (Cedric helped with a few of these). It was wet, grimy, and incredibly efficient.
It wasn’t a touristy experience – but it was way better. We got to see the sun come up over the horizon, a porpoise gliding alongside the boat. We got to ask a million questions. We even got to sample the lobster (well, Cedric did – I can’t eat lobster). This was an unexpected bonus: several hours into the shift, they brought the boat to a halt, filled up a huge pot with briny water straight from the sea, and boiled it on a hotplate. Cedric had FOUR lobsters for breakfast that day.
The trip was unforgettable, but the real perk was connecting with Scott, who is really an incredible person. He was the first of many people we met on our trek who went out of their way to show us what made their backyard so special. We met up with Scott again for lunch a week later, and he ended up taking our counterparts, Melba and Adam, out for a boat ride later that summer in tuna season.
Towards the end of our time in PEI, we headed up to the North Cape, which ended up being one of our favourite places on the island. The tourism information centre had a cute little gift shop with a selection of Christmas ornaments. When we saw this little lobster one made of red bells, we knew it would be the perfect memento of our time with Scott.
Incidentally, you too can meet Scott – he runs Wild Tuna Charters and can take you out on a super sweet tuna trip, if you happen to be in PEI.