Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cape North: Whale Watch and "Strings and Things"

Our hosts at that Maven Gypsy Inn turned out to be a (presumably) gay couple, Cody and Shane. They served us a breakfast sandwiches with sides of bacon, the first of a series of bacon-inclusive meals. We then drove 2k south to the nearest gas station at a general store. The attendant suggested we visit "Sew Inclined", a hat shop where the proprietor had made hats for Elton John and his son. Since John's wife Kathy collects hats, we stopped by, and had a riotous time with Barbara. the owner and a real character.

On our drive up the coast to Cape North, we stopped in at the Inn at Celtic, one of Cape Breton's finer establishments, in Ingonish. Farther North, we still had some time before the scheduled whale watch, so we took a little side trip to Dingwall and had lunch at a little place called the Celtic Touch. John had the homemade carrot soup, while I continued the bacon theme with a blt on their homemade bread. Our server, Ruby, seemed dour and moody when we arrived, but by the time we left she was laughing, smiling, and even dancing a little jig.

Oshan's Whale Watch--Leaving North Bay

We headed to North Bay and boarded Oshan's whalewatch boat, a 35 foot trawler with benches for about 20 people. The Captain headed northeast along the cliffs, following a winding course among rock formations. He soon reached a spot along the cliffs where waterfall cascades down the iron-stained walls.

The boat then headed out to deeper water, and soon we were among a pod of pilot whales, probably averaging about 20 feet in length. They were soon joined by numerous dolphins. We had started back when suddenly the tail of a large humpback slapped the surface about 30 feet off the starboard side. We saw the whale breech twice more before he disappeared and we returned to port.

A large pilot whale swims beside the boat

For dinner we stopped at the Chowder House next to the lighthouse in Neil's Harbor. We both had fried seafood, haddock for me, seafood platter for John. He also sampled a local dish, poutine, which consists of French fries smothered in cheese and brown gravy--not for the faint of heart.

Lighthouse, Neil's Harbor

Our first concert was at the North Highlands Elementary School in Aspy Bay. The Fionia String Band from Denmark started the show. I thought they were pretty good until the second act, two local fiddlers, blew them out of the water. After an intermission, the featured performers were The Outside Track, with members from Scotland (on accordian), Ireland (on guitar), British Columbia (on lead vocals), no fixed address (on harp), and Rankin cousin Mairi on fiddle, harmonies and step-dancing. They were terrific, although Mairi Rankin may have to take out a restraining order--my brother was that enthralled. He's sending her some photographs he took of her band at Lunenburg.
Joke told by local fiddler Brenda Stubbert:
Old Mrs. MacIsaac loved to speed around her nursing home as fast as she could in her wheelchair. To humor her, the staff would periodically pull her over and pretend to write a speeding ticket, handing her a piece of tissue or other paper. One day, after such a "traffic stop", she sped off again, only to encounter old Mr. MacKenzie, holding his robe open with all his equipment hanging out. "Oh, no! Mrs. MacIsaac cries. "It's the breathalizer!"