Friday, February 17, 2012

The Untold Stories

I have an admitted love for working boats, but I'm fascinated with boats that have been left behind; boats that have been abandoned in favor of replacements, or left on the beach because they've simply outlived their usefulness. In my eyes, they've all got a story to tell after a lifetime of hard work. It seems right to show them a bit of respect by capturing the wistfulness or melancholy of their look. From the proper angle, the old boat rotting in a field far from the water's edge still shows the elegant lines that once set it apart from others. The workmanship is still there in every
joint, accentuated by the effects of weathering. For as long as there have been boats along these shores, it's been possible to find derelicts. Since the announcement of the cod moratorium in 1992 and the subsequent restructuring of the fishery, many small inshore boats have fallen into disuse and lie where they were dragged at the end of their last season. Outmigration from Atlantic Canada to other regions of the country or to the U.S. has combined with a population shift from rural to urban centres to leave boats high and dry and houses empty; when the community is shrinking there's no one to sell a boat to, or a house for that matter.
Our schools seem to emphasize skills that are useful for getting an office job, not making a rural livelihood. Our economic focus has shifted from the fishery to mining, manufacture, large-scale commerce and tourism, yet our lives and psyches remain firmly tied to the sea and to our seafaring past. The provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are called the Maritimes, meaning situated by the sea. They've been a political and economic bloc at least since the eighteenth century. Add Newfoundland, Canada's newest province, to the mix and the region becomes Atlantic Canada, taking its very name from the ocean on our doorstep.

This is a region of incredible beauty and fascinating history; it has struggled when other areas prospered, and thrived when other parts of the country faced hard times. It dances to its own rhythm, and it will persevere. These derelict boats serve as a reminder of its close ties to the sea, and the pride those ties engendered. Pride in our heritage is part of that rhythm; the rhythm of the waves, of the tides, and of our lives.