A Taste of Heritage

It was ‘the fish of the sea’…and the promise of freedom…which led the first Europeans to dare the furies of the North Atlantic…and face the mysteries of Nova Scotia’s rugged coastline.

Seeking refuge in sheltered harbours and coves, they started a new life, in a new world. And with calloused hands, and cheerful songs which belied the hardships, these ‘sailormen’ coaxed a living from the sea.

In fleets of schooners, wind-burnt fish-ermen braved the stormy Grand Banks…to hand-trawl from small, open dories. Then, holds filled with salted fish, and sails filled with wind, they headed their schooners back to port…the decks washed by the splash of mighty waves.

The ocean was sometimes cruel, and often unforgiving. Many were the able crews that never made it back to port…victims of the ice, the storms, and countless reefs. Sable Island, one of the 3,800 islands off Nova Scotia’s coast, quickly earned its grim reputation as the ‘graveyard of the Atlantic’,

But the master boat-builders of Nova Scotia rose to the challenge by fashioning rough logs and crooked timbers into legends…boats and schooners built for speed and holding capacity, that could ride out the ‘windy weather, boys, stormy weather, boys’.

Today, the skill and courage of these ‘sailormen’ lives on…as real as the sting of salt spray in the air.

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The History of the “Cape Islander” Fishing Boat


The Cape Island style fishing boat is a familiar sight along the South Shore of Nova Scotia. This particular type of vessel has its origins dating back to around 1905 when Clark’s Harbour boatbuilder, Ephriam Atkinson experimented in the development of a more efficient fishing boat to better serve the demands of the fishermen. The culmination of Atkinson’s design features became popular, so much so that his contemporaries took up the challenge as well. By 1911, several other shops on and off the Island had taken on producing the model which became known as the “Cape Island style”. After the introduction of the gasoline engine, the early hull designs were modified to accommodate this new marvel of progress. These early open fishing boats have experienced many changes over the years, one of the first being the addition of a “spray hood”. This was a canvas affair which fastened to the foredock of the vessel in a manner to shed the water which broke over the deck in rough weather. A later development in favour of the spray hood was the construction of a forecastle or “cuddy house” as it is known by the local fishermen (this is the era that the model boat depicts, circa 1930). However, this cuddy house still provided very little protection from the elements in the event of severe weather.

Clayton Shand’s Boat (c. 1920’s)

A “wheel house” was the next refinement. This not only gave the captain a place to get in out of the weather but also allowed for the safe and dry storage of navigational equipment which was becoming more available to fisherman at that time. Although the Cape Islander has undergone many changes throughout the years, the basic hull has remained unchanged. Many alterations in design have been made on the request of the fishermen themselves based on their knowledge of the fishing industry. These adaptations have proven beneficial to the boatbuilders as well by being able to provide the most efficient and seaworthy craft possible. The reputations of the North Atlantic and the Cape Islander have many examples which can be recited to demonstrate the seaworthiness and durability of these vessels. They are renowned for their sturdiness and longevity. It was not uncommon for one of these wooden crafts to fish for more than twenty years. Over the years, this vessel’s design has gained in notoriety and acclaim. Several maritime shops have produced vessels which have traveled to markets all over North America and beyond.

Larkin & Shand 1970

Although there are still some shops that build wooden hulls, the art is a dying one. Today, nearly all of the boats of this style are being contrasted of fibre glass. This type pf “Cape Islander” construction also begun on Cape Sable Island. The Island’s first prototype was launched on November 15, 1971 from the shop of R.D. Ross Enterprises of Clark’s Harbour. This boat, the “M.V. Enterprises” is still active today in the industry, yet another testimony to their durability.

The commercial boatbuilding industry has been a steady decline in the last twenty years and with this has come the closure of many once prosperous shops. However, those few that have survived have done so by diversifying and catering to a broader market by adapting to the needs in the pleasure craft industry.

A Taste of Heritage


For centuries, Nova Scotians have set sail from their ‘sea-bound coast’…in search of fish, and on the winds of trade…answering the silent but persuasive call of the ocean.

Few are the families that have not seen fathers, sons, brothers or uncles go to sea. .. ‘far away on the briny ocean tossed’. And it was this same restless, adventuresome spirit which led the earliest fishermen and settlers to the shores of Nova Scotia.

As early as the fifteenth century, Basque fishermen knew of Cape Breton…a rugged and irregularly-shaped island named for Basque Cap Breton in France.

The French came in the 1600s to build new lives on the ‘sea-bound coast’ of Acadia.

Living in harmony with the Micmacs, they fished and farmed…and introduced the fragrance and beauty of apple orchards to the Annapolis Valley,

The kingdom of Scotland granted the first charter for ‘New Scotland’ in 1621. But it was not until the 1800s that large numbers of Scottish, Welsh and Irish settlers arrived, bringing their proud traditions and values to the glens and highlands of Nova Scotia.

Starting in 1753, German-speaking settlers arrived from the Montbéliard district of France and Switzerland and from southwestern Germany. They settled in the Lunenburg area…and introduced their unique foods and culinary heritage to the new world.

From south of the border came settlers from New England…and (following the American Revolution) the Loyalists, 20,000 strong. Their stout allegiance to the Crown, proud work ethic, and customs still flavour the heritage of Nova Scotia.

Today, the traditions of Nova Scotia are a blending of many different nationalities and cultures…as evidenced by its hearty meals and tasty desserts. Many a homesick sailor, faced with his daily rations, ‘heaved a sigh and a wish’ for a home-cooked meal.

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Finnan Haddie

Finnan Haddie

2 pounds smoked haddock
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 3/4 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup breadcrumbs ( not packaged)
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

For thin white sauce, melt butter in saucepan. Add flour and stir to form paste. Remove from heat and slowly add half the milk. Return to heat and stir until thickened; beat until smooth. Gradually stir in remaining milk and heat to simmering.
Place fish in greased pan and pour white sauce over it. Cover pan and place in 400 degree oven for 10-20 minutes until fish flakes easily.
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs which have been mixed with the melted butter. Return to oven and bake 5-10 minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle with parsley.

Nova Scotia’ is Latin for ‘New Scotland’ … and this highland influence has flavoured the cuisine since the 1600’s. Finnan haddie is a Scottish dish which celebrates the ‘haddie’ , or haddock. ‘Finnan’ comes from the name of a Scottish town where haddock was very popular. Centuries ago, you probably would have eaten finnan haddie at breakfast; today, it is more likely to be enjoyed at dinner time.

Cheesy Cod or Haddock

Cheesy Cod or Haddock

1 pound cod or haddock fillets, cut into cubes
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp. salt
Bit of pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs
1/2 cup cheddar cheese

Place fish in greased baking dish.
In heavy saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour until smooth and remove from heat.
Gradually stir in half the milk; return to heat and beat until smooth. Gradually add remaining milk, salt, pepper and onion. Cook, stirring until smooth and thickened.
Pour sauce over fish and sprinkle with crumbs and cheese.
Bake in 375 degree oven for 15-30 minutes until sauce bubbles and fish is cooked.

Years ago, Cheesy Cod or Haddock was not the cheesy dish which we know today. A certain hotel originally served the dish garnished only with breadcrumbs. One fateful night, the kitchen ran out of breadcrumbs, and cheese was used as a substitute. The diners obviously enjoyed this version… for when they returned the following week and were served the original breadcrumb dish, they sent it back, requesting the cheese topping. It became an instant hit, and cod au gratin with grated cheese has since gone on to national and international fame.

Italian Baked Haddock

Italian Baked Haddock

1 1/2 pounds haddock
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Onion (sliced)
Salt, pepper
1/4 cup margarine
1 can tomatoes (540 ml.) drained and chopped
Green pepper (optional)

Melt margarine in heavy saucepan. Add onion, salt and pepper. Sauté for 10 minutes or until veggies are tender. Stir in tomatoes. Cook, stir constantly for 5 minutes. Arrange fish in greased baking dish. Pour sauce over fish. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes in 350 degree oven.

Lobster Quiche

Lobster Quiche

1 ten inch pie crust (uncooked)
2 eggs
1 cup light cream
Salt & pepper
1/8 tsp. nutmeg (optional)
1 cup grated Swiss or mozzarella cheese
Chopped fresh chives
Lobster meat
2 Tlbsp. Parmesan cheese

Whisk eggs, add cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and whisk together.
Spread cut up lobster meat over base of pie shell.
Sprinkle grated cheese and chives over top of lobster.
Pour egg and cream mixture into pie shell. Bake until filling is set.
Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top and return to oven until cheese is lightly browned.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. (approx.) bake in 350 degree oven.