Monday, June 4, 2012

The twenty-second luminous thing...

Western Light on Brier Island, from Brier Island Nature Preserve. 
...lighthouses, which gave us our brightest light on this stormy, gray, sodden day.

We woke to dark skies and wind and the hard rain that began in the night was still slashing at the windows. Fred the B&B cat pressed his face to the porch window and was brought inside, and we set off for Brier Island, the westernmost inhabited piece of Nova Scotia.

We drove 45 minutes out Digby Neck to the first ferry in the town of East Ferry. That ferry runs every hour, a five minute ride to Long Island. From there, it's a 20 minute drive to the town of Freeport, where we caught another ferry for another five minute ride over to Westport, on Brier Island. Digby Neck is the southern end of the Northern Mountain ridge and includes Long Island and Brier Island. The islands are mostly basalt, and very hilly and forested. Brier Island is about one and a half miles across by five miles long. The total population of Brier Island, as of 2009, was 210.

All photos by me unless otherwise noted. Here's a map to get your oriented. The top map is Nova Scotia and the bottom the area around Digby.

Map courtesy of Brier Island Lodge website,

First in line for the very in East Ferry. Driving rain and high wind and waves. 

Fishing boats in Petit Passage, the deep tidal channel between Digby Neck and Long Island. 

Ferry arriving in East Ferry

Ramp closing, view from on board the ferry

Our next ferry stop in Freeport. This ferry crosses the Grand Passage, the strait between Long Island and Brier Island.

View from the ferry--raining harder!

From the car window--Peters Island light and fishing boats in rough water and rain

Arriving in Westport on Brier Island

Once on Brier Island we drove out to its southwestern-most point where The Nature Conservancy maintains a preserve and some trails. We stopped and hiked through diverse vegetation, varied grasslands and shrubby trees and spruce, to Pond Cove, which has a rocky beach. It was probably in the low 40s, wind and rain, and the only animals we saw were herring gulls and black-backed gulls far down the beach. The rain had left the trail boggy and waterlogged. It was a beautiful landscape, but isolated and hostile.

If you look closely, you can see endangered wild roses, spots of magenta in the green. It's said the wild rose brier inspired the island's name.

After leaving Pond Cove, we decided to drive out to the Western Light, which meant driving back into Westport (Westport is a tiny town of about four stores, a cafe, a gas station, and a huddle of houses), then out Wellington Street and onto Western Light Road. Very few roads on Brier Island are paved, most look like the one in the photo below.

To reach the Western Light, one of three lighthouses on Brier Island, we drove through the Brier Island Nature Preserve. There were some nice looking trails but the ferocious wind and rain kept us close to the car. They say there is "one lighthouse per mile" on Brier Island (it's not a big place). Brier Island has seen 57 recorded shipwrecks, and the Westport Community Hall was built out of wood salvaged from the wreck of the Aurora in 1908. The lighthouses are automated and run by the Canadian Coastguard.

Road back to Freeport, with Long Island visible in the distance across Grand Passage

View from near the Western Light, looking north into the Bay of Fundy

The Western Light, a working lighthouse. Many ships have been wrecked off the west coast of Brier Island before the lights were built.

Gulls nesting in the nature preserve

After seeing the Western Light we set off for the Northern Point to see the Grand Passage light, the other accessible lighthouse on Brier Island (the third is on Peters Island). We drove back into Westport and up the Northern Point Road, past the Brier Island Lodge (if you ever really want to get away from it all, this would be the place). We drove along the coast where rough water crashed into stone walls and climbed up to Northern Point, which houses not only the light but a Canadian Coast Guard Station.

Black-backed gulls, the largest gull, near the Grand Passage Light

On the road back to the Westport Ferry, looking at rough water in Grand Passage.

The ferry, docked at Freeport across the Grand Passage.

Lobster buoys and traps in a front yard in Westport.

Rough water in Grand Passage.

Back in Freeport, the road east and home! after a wet and cold visit to a hostile island.

We'd heard about a good restaurant in Freeport but it was closed (who could blame them on a day like this?) so we decided to go back into Digby and have a late lunch at the Mariner, where the food is fresh and the desserts home made. It seemed a long way back with our cold and soaking wet feet! The rain finally stopped when we got back to Digby Neck but the wind was blowing harder than before, note the flags below! We had pan-seared scallops and chips, seafood chowder, and coconut cream pie.

View from our table--Digby's working harbor, flags of Canada, Nova Scotia, the Commonwealth in a hard wind.

Lobster boats in Digby harbor. Each fisherman has his own uniquely colored buoys to mark his lobster traps.

Seafood chowder and Garrison Irish Red Ale! The chowder was so good it was almost gone before I remembered to take a photo!

We got back to our B&B by 4pm and talked to Darren awhile, then put on comfy clothes and relaxed. At 8:30pm it's raining again, the wind still blowing strong. Below is the view from my window, the Bay an ugly muddy green and whitecaps blowing across the sand bar to Deer Island, and trees thrashed by the wind. But inside it's warm and the Diamond Jubilee fireworks are on!

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