I had a busy yesterday. It started early. Shower, eat, kids fed, animals fed and watered, flooding from heavy overnight rain dealt with and I was out the door, headed for downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The forty-five minute drive gave me plenty of time to wonder about where I might park. It had been a while since I had taken the Dartmouth ferry across the harbour to Halifax, and I wasn’t sure if I could still park in its lot or if it cost anything to do so.
I was lucky on both accounts: I could park in the same lot I used to leave my old truck while I caught the ferry to hockey games and concerts many years ago, and parking was free on Sunday (yeah!).
The cost for one adult to cross on the ferry one way is $2.25.
Alderney Landing had changed a lot since my last visit. Still, it was a buzz of activity. A photo shoot for dancers took place on the boardwalk and a few fellows stood on the end of the wharf, fishing for mackerel.
How did I know it was this type of fish they cast their line to? Because it’s the season. Several members of my family told me earlier this week that the mackerel are ‘still running’. On the return ferry trip, I saw one of the men cleaning his catch. Yup. Mackerel.
This reminded me of my many wonderful fishing trips on the Liscomb Harbour, casting my line for mackerel, and the times when I couldn’t get my line in the water quick enough because we were in the middle of a school. Good times.
Mind you, I could never eat fish caught in Halifax Harbour even if Mayor Peter Kelly says the waters are safe enough to swim in. Let him eat them.
The harbour crossing was smooth with just enough swells to make my sister seasick, but not my seaworthy stomach. Although heavy rains were forecasted, the sun was breaking through, promising a fine day.
Once on solid ground, I headed left, along the waterfront. I came upon Theodore Tugboat, full of passengers, preparing to castoff. The place was busy with people, many heading towards the tents for Word on the Street to listen to an author reading, mingle with writers and snatch great bargains on books.
The first tent I came across was the Magnificent Marketplace. Local publishers, Pitch the Publisher and several individual tables were set up here. Everyone from Breakwater to Formac, Amy’s Used Books to New World Publishing.
Here is where I met Dorothyanne Brown. She was promoting Bloody Words , the Canadian Mystery Conference. The conference travels around Canada and for the first time ever, it will take place in Halifax in 2015. She’s spreading the news now, encouraging mystery readers and writers to get involved and to mark the date on their calendars. Visit the website to learn more.
I visited the many tables, looking for books, business cards, bookmarkers and such. Sometimes if I can’t buy a book immediately, I take the bookmark, so I’ll remember it later.
I stopped and listened to a hopeful writer pitch their story idea at Pitch the Publisher. It takes a lot of guts to stand up in a crowd of strangers to pitch a story idea to four professional editors from local publishing companies. Hats off to all the pitchers. Whether you get an acceptance or not, you’ve got brave.
Near one of the reading tents I looked up to see a blue and grey ship tied up at the dock. I scanned the side, looking for a name, but knowing I already knew who floated beside me: HCMS Sackville.
I walked to the gangplank and looked up the long narrow strip. Only a few steps away lay a lot of history for one member in my family.
“You’re free to go aboard,” said a young sailor beside me.
“Thanks,” I said. “My dad served on it.”
“This one. The Sackville. Not during the war. He had served overseas in the army. When he came back, he served on the Sackville and the Riverton.”
I took a break from my book day to visit a little family history. As I walked the decks, I imagined my father walking the same path on hot summer days and during icy-cold winters. He’d duck at this door; he was 6 foot 2. Here’s where they cooked his food; here’s where he ate and where he slept. If he went down to the engine room, he went through this door, and climbed down those steps. If he got sick, there was sick bay.
Hey, they had a canteen. I peered inside the window. Mmm, Malted Milk bars. My dad wasn’t one for sweets, but if he wanted a chocolate bar (a candy bar he called them), he could buy one for five cents. Cigarettes were ten cents a pack; he’d have gone through a lot of packs while out to sea for six months.
Before I left, I signed the guest book, leaving the following comment: daughter of Stephen E. Tibert. Perhaps an old shipmate would see it and remember him.
Leaving the ship, I wondered about my father’s life on board. Was there a story here that I could write?
A wonderful aroma drifted along the dock. I followed it and found delicious corn chowder and biscuits. My dessert was an apple from the “Eat Local” table.
Checking my watch, I realised it was time to go. I still had much to do before I turned in for the night. On my walk through, I met Steve Vernon, manning the table behind his most recent book, Maritime Murder.
But my mind was far from WOTS by this time. It lingered back on the Sackville, wondering what story I could write about a crewmember—possibly my father—who had served either during the war years or during peacetime. Possible plots and characters popped in and out of shadows from long ago, from stories told by my father and by my oldest brother—same name: Steve—who had served aboard Canada Coast Guard vessels. The ports, the ice-coated decks, the rum…
Was there a story I could write that would honour the ship and her men? Or at least spread the word a little further about its existence?
Learn more about HMCS Sackville on the Canada’s Naval Memorial website.
After a quick chat with Steve—Vernon that is— I was on my way to the ferry. I crossed the harbour, drove to Mom’s to load up on water, went home, watered and fed the animals, fed the kids, threw them in the shower, tucked them into bed, washed dishes and folded laundry, then sat down to write this post and wonder about that Sackville story…
For more information on Word on the Street visit their website. Besides Halifax, the event takes place in Vancouver, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener and Toronto.
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