I remember those clear spring mornings back in the 1950s when time on Pictou Island seemed to stand still. As I recall and unlike today’s lifestyle, there didn’t appear to be any hurry to get things done. There were few if any vehicles travelling on the island’s lone dirt road. The only noise that would be heard on those calm spring mornings were the distant sounds of fishing boats checking on their lobster traps around the island. Those 30-plus foot long open lobster boats were powered by mostly six cylinder gasoline engines and water cooled exhaust were unknown. Usually a metal water spout was used for the engine exhaust and they were very loud. Unlike today’s lifestyle, there appeared to be no rush to get anything done and life appeared very quite and peaceful.
Sixty plus years ago, many island fishermen would keep their lobster boats at a place known as the island’s beach. A large bar of sand lies out from the shore at this location. The water is shallow over this bar which instigates large waves to break before hitting the shore. Just inside of that bar is deeper water where fishermen would anchor their boats. It really doesn’t seem that long ago considering that my father and brother were two of those fishermen. Other Pictou Island fishermen I remember who fished from the beach were Campbell, Gordon and Clyde MacCallum, Punch Patterson, Lauchie, Duncan and Cecil Rankin, Ford Keenen, John Angus MacMillan, and Harold Bennett. I remember Lauchie, Duncan and Cecil Rankin building shanties on the bank at the beach in the late 1950s. Those buildings provided storage areas for their boat motors, nets, traps, ropes, buoys, etc. during the winter months. There was never much of an incline to the bank at this site. Fishing boats averaged 30 feet in length, had no cabins and were much smaller then the ones of today. Because of their size, they were easily hauled or launched from the shore. Each fisherman would remove the motors from his boat during the late fall season. They would assist each other in turning their lobster boats over to prevent any snow from getting inside them during the winter.
The beach area would be full of activities early every spring. Fishermen would be scrapping the faded and peeling paint from their boats and applying a new finish. Once this was completed, they would upright their boats and install the motors which were usually overhauled during the winter. The men would haul their traps onto the shore by horse and cart or some by tractor and wagon approximately one week prior to lobster fishing. They would place their lobster traps on the sand above the high water mark and tie them together into trawls.
On that first day of lobster fishing, their boat would be positioned in the water a short distance from shore. An anchor would be dropped from the stern or back of the boat to prevent the boat from going onto the shore. The lobster traps would be hauled from the shore to the boat the same way as if they were being fished and loaded onto the boat. My dad fished in the Slo-Mo-Shun during those years. This was a 30-foot boat which Dad had built during the winter of 1951 and this boat would be fully loaded with probably about 40-50 traps.
Pictured is the island beach 1958. I explore the beach area quite regularly during my summer visits to Pictou Island. This area has severely eroded away over past years. The storage buildings which at one time stood on the bank have long fallen into the water. A boat that was once fished by Campbell MacCallum is the only reminder left of earlier days. This boat had been hauled at least 100 feet plus above the high water mark over 50 years ago. It has since lain there and decayed over the years. Three years ago, the skeleton of this boat had nearly all but fallen into the Northumberland Strait. A large portion of this shoreline has returned to the waters of the Northumberland Strait.