It was springtime. All along the waterfront schooners are getting ready for sea. Riggers are rigging. Crew bending sail and reeving of halyards and sheets. Piles of trawl tubs here and there. Dories soaking up or getting patched up. Masts getting greased. Big cable-laid manila anchor hawsers stretched or in jumbled piles on the wharves to get checked out for rotten bits. Engineers are fluffing up their Fairbanks & Morris diesels for the coming passages to the banks or the islands. Kids running around and getting into things. A horn gets tested from time to time.
Some vessels are even getting painted and others are on the slipway hauled out and getting a bit of corking. Heaps of coarse salt is getting shoveled into the fish holds. The Dory Shop is sending down new dories in ox-carts to the schooners on the docks abuzz with activity. They had been building dories like fools over the last few months, knocking out four a week for some time now. The atmosphere is that of keen activity and is redolent with the ambrosia of Stockholm tar and linseed oil. The sounds of one-lung, make and break gasoline engines in harbour boats pop across the waters. It is springtime along the waterfront. The Amazing Schooner CALANOVA is at her berth next to the Knockabout NINA W. CORKUM and her crew is hard at it getting her ready for sea. Unknown to all along the waterfront, the Amazing Schooner CALANOVA may have a secret mission known but to a few.
Across the broad and cold Western Ocean, far from our seabound coast all is not well. Dark clouds are covering our friends south of Great Britain. The Nasties have marched all over. The Netherlands, Belgium and France have been taken over by the guys that had tried the same thing only 25 years ago. Looks like they were pulling it off this time. France was overrun. The Tommies and a few Kanucks who had sailed over The Channel to help out and their French comrades were in a pickle. This battle was lost. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were on a beach waiting to get stompled by the bad guys. They did not like this. The Panzer tanks that had been chasing them had stopped. No one knew why at that moment. The Brits wanted to get their lads and their buddies off that beach as bloody soon as bloody possible. The approaches to the beach were shallow. Big Royal Navy ships could not get in. The main harbour was taken over by the Nasties. What to do?
Well, Winston Spencer knew just what to do. Some years back on a visit to Bermuda he had seen in St Georges Harbour riding at anchor in Powder Hole the most amazing vessel he had ever cast his eyes upon. As a “former naval person” and of a global empire minded mind, he knew what he was looking at. His cunning naval instincts registered what he observed for later utility.
Off to the White Horse Tavern to enquire as to the origins and nature of this rare sleek vessel anchored out in these pastel blue waters. The local sailmaker and wine importer (and reserve Royal Navy SAS operative) Wahoo Hollis filled him in. He learned that this was one rare and exceptionally capable schooner. A vessel with wonderous qualities. The next morning, while his aids thought he was sleeping one off, as was his wont otherwise, Winston suited up and with a big Turkish towel and a cigar like a jibboom, he took a scooter down to the shore (that’s a sight) parked next to the dunking station, clambered down the quais’s rocks and swam out to the schooner out at anchor. The fish near the White Horse were a bit nosy. His aim was to get a closer inspection to make a proper evaluation of this impressive craft. After a close examination of the bottom of our fair craft, revealing a few secrets of amazement, his bubbles caught the attention of the captain and crew. Maybe even woke them up. Not all the wine was delivered ashore last night…
With the sun getting higher in the blue sky and harbour activity on the rise, with a boat-hook the skipper snagged the suspenders of Mr. Spencer swimming clothes and brought him up to the waterline bubbling and sputtering. The cigar was soaked. It was not in his nature to behave as if embarrassed, so he didn’t. With a little help (kind of hefty was Winston) he scrambled aboard and got settled on the afterdeck next to the helm. Captain Zwicker heard the accent, pondered a moment and then decided that a big old English fry-up breakfast was just the thing. The skipper had the cook get the wood stove chuckling with a little clanging and galley banging, and soon it was all on the go. Fried eggs fresh from Wadson’s farm, grilled tomatoes, onions too (of course) thick slabs of bacon, serious chucks of greasy sausage, german black bread toast fried in bacon fat too. Everything was fried. Good stuff. Not so good for the arteries we learn later, but a proper spread. Coffee as black as sin and strong as love. An edacious feed. If you have nowhere to go for a few hours afterwards. Knock you out an English fry-up will. Anyway, Winston asked for brandy. No brandy, but under an old sail a small oaken cask of rum was hauled out and tapped, and all was well for the swimmer. After much quite discussion an exchange of addresses took place. All hush-hush. Need to know. Mum’s the word. Loose lips sink ships. They rowed the visitor ashore in the morning sun in NO MONKEY, their Bequia two-bow boat, to Ordinance Island right to the Customs dock where oddly enough a big old shiny polished up Rolls Royce with Union Jacks fluttering from the fenders was standing by. A few smart looking fellows in snappy shorts and knee socks standing at attention looking dubiously cool. Trying anyway. They packed him in the back seat, threw some more towels over HIM and took their swimmer away. The skipper hoped that he was not in too much trouble. Years were to go by…
There we were. Things are looking tough for boys of the empire with sandy feet at the Channels edge on the late spring. Nasty tanks itching to jump them as soon as they get the word from the Bohemian Corporal who seemed to be in charge, however unlikely. Fighter planes with crooked crosses slashing past overhead shooting them up. Strafing it’s called. Not nice. The horizon empty of rescuers. Seas calm and tense. Shallow water keeping destroyers far away. Back in London bunkers underground where smart looking ladies in military outfits pushed toy airplanes and tiny toy ships on a big old flat map table with thick strings stretching here and there. They had groupier sticks to push these all around. No one talked much. Guys with funny mustaches and also in military garb and digestive problems wandered around briskly, looking serious, trying anyway. But Winston knew what to do.
A brass telegraph tapped out a message. It zapped through a cable laying on the floor of the sea. For thousands of miles and more miles this message jagged its way to the westward, spark by spark. First past Ireland, south of Greenland, to Newfoundland, then to Sable Island. On to Halifax. The message got typed out on a thin strip of skinny paper. The letters were sort of a fuzzy blue. The strips got glued in rows on to something the size of a post-card (remember “post cards”?) and stuck in an envelope with a little wax paper window. An RCMP squad car was called into service and two Mounties (always two) were handed the envelope by their boss and given certain instructions. Gassed up and mounted up (being Mounties) and off they peeled, tires screeching, gravel flying, bound for the South Shore in great urgent haste. No sirens though. Loose lips sink ships. So do cops cars in a big hurray with sirens blaring.
As they got close to Da Burg and were passing through Mahone Bay, they got real quiet and sneaky like. And snuck into Lunenburg. But not before making a stop and checking out a phone book at the Mug & Anchor, (Mug? The hint is in the name) they had a dog eared one from a few years before by the big brass cash til (remember “phone books”? Cash registers?) to locate those associated with the schooner in question. On to Loonyberg…past Sloenwhites boatyard in Mader’s Cove, snake down the old shore road, past the noble homes of Rum Runners (retired, of course) in a cloud of unpaved dust, over Kissing Bridge, past the cemetery and down hill and onto Water Street, also unpaved - and the search began.
From one dock to another the search was on. How do you knock on a schooners door? And, how chuffed do you suppose all these fishermen (tax-free rum entrepreneurs from time time) were to chat with the coppers? Take a stab at this. OK, times up. Not at all! So, the RCMP was not making much headway here. The chief said that their mission was urgent. Much at stake. Soooo much at stake. Western civilization was named as one of the things at stake. Eventually the engineer of one particularly large twin screw black schooner at the very last wharf headed east along the waterfront before the government railway wharf, Bobby Cook, quietly shuffled over to the two baffled Mounties, pushed his long billed hat back and said something barely audible. Now they had a lead.
Off they went into the darkening evening. Streetlights began to flicker. A couple schooners head out the channel past the small light house at the end of the breakwater, their big diesels rumbling, many of the crew quite sober. By the time they get to LaHave Bank they will be fine. Good enough anyway. Fresh painted new Dory Shop dories stacked on deck port and starboard. Back to the mission.
Taking the shore road past Bayport Quinton and Darryl (the cops) they found their way to Riverport. Riverport is perhaps one of the most successful ports for the management of international transportation of tax free spiritous liquors. Traditionally members of governmental law enforcement agencies are not overly warmly welcomed hereabouts. Our lads knew this so they parked their cruiser before the bridge behind a fish store shed, changed clothes into something a bit less cop-like (as if that EVER works) and walked into the village to get a look around. And hopefully find their ship. The boss seemed anxious about this. And threatening.
There she was, the Amazing Schooner CALANOVA in the shadows, fore boom and gaff swung over to port to clear the hatch, discharging at the wharf into a big shed covering the same wharf. They found her. Discharging at night? OK. Whatever. The Mounties looked at each other and said “this was going to be awkward”.
CALANOVA Discharging product at Ritcey’s Cove in Riverport
So, the Mounties coughed and ahemmed, walked loudly down the wharf, stepped on a cats tail, until they could see that activity had reduced. It took awhile to find a cat. At the edge of the wharf hey called for the skipper, clambered down the mossy and barnacled piles, it was low tide and went down into the cabin. One brass lantern was casting a lovely light on things. A couple or three thick mugs were standing by on the table. Late in the day for coffee. They showed the Captain Zwicker the telegraph. And after somehow suggesting the notion that they had “seen nothing”, nothing at all, they made their way ashore. No sooner than they were off the wharf and feet on solid ground, they could observe that the gang were throwing off gaskets, letting go springs, giving a shove and getting sail on CALANOVA. No one went ashore for provisions nor naught else. And off into the night past the Bush Islands this brave schooner careened, with a bone in her teeth. Bound for the east with all sail cracked on.
According to dubious but reliable sources this what happened. CALANOVA was called to duty. She raced across the ocean to this French beach covered with cold hungry soldiers, got there first before anyone else, packed all these sods, or almost all, of them onboard and sailed them over to England straight away. Then wasting no time, she then sailed back to make the starting gun at Race week at Hubbards.
CALANOVA raced across the Western Ocean bound for THE CHANNEL
English, French and Canadian soldiers onboard CALANOVA bound for ‘Old Blighty’. Whew! That was a close one.
All cleaned up and ready for the next adventure!!!