A Visit To The Gaspereau Vineyards

We took a tour one sun-shiny day in late last fall, through the historical Gaspereau Valley which is situated in the heart of the Annapolis Valley. It is such a pretty place to visit, with peaceful scenery, hills, vales, farms and for us, a feeling of heritage. Certain members of the Man The Capstan crew can trace family lineage to this area as far back as the time of the New England Planters who came to Nova Scotia during the 1760s.

Nestled snuggly amidst these beautiful rolling hills and farmlands is the Gaspereau Vineyards Winery.  Located just 3 km from downtown Wolfville, the home of the Acadia University, it is an easy 1 hour drive from Halifax and is located near some great restaurants, gift shops, inns and markets. These vineyards were once an apple orchard. Planted in 1996, the 35 acres of vineyards grow on the south-facing slope in the ideal soil and climatic conditions of this beautiful valley. There are ten wineries in Nova Scotia which represents an ever growing industry in the province. Nova Scotia is well able to produce the excellent grapes that are required to create some outstanding wines.

The Gaspereau Vineyards produces a number of red and white wines, available in dry, off dry, and semi dry, as well as ice and maple wine. Man the Capstan was here for a wine tasting tour and looking forward to sampling some wonderful award winning wines. The staff was expecting us upon our arrival, as Katherine had made prior arrangements for this visit, and we were greeted warmly and enthusiastically.

We admired the winery boutique with it’s shelves of shining bottles filled with wine, books, souvenirs and other such local goodies and niceties, before sideling up to the tasting counter for our samples.

We tried them all…and I have to say that we loved them all. Each wine was unique in bouquet and flavour, and as each was presented to us we were hard pressed to name a favourite among them.

I am not such a connoisseur but certainly I know a good wine when I taste it, and I personally loved the Vitis with it’s dark burgundy tones, berry in the nose, and the hint of chocolate on the tongue. The wonderful Reserve Port, which we enjoyed with dark chocolate, and the Maple dessert Wine which is such a special treat.

What really surprised me though was the Rose. I am not a fan of Rose wines generally but I loved this refreshing and fruity offering. We all agreed that the wines offered at this winery were exceptional! We filled a case with a variety of them and I came away with two of the Rose, which I saved for our Turkey dinner on Christmas Day. It complimented this meal wonderfully well and was  a great hit at the table!

Gaspereau Vineyards is well worth the visit. The winery boutique is lovely. The complimentary wine sampling and tours are offered in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and the staff are great!

The winery boutique is open 7 days a week.

April-May 10am-5pm

June-Sept 9am-6pm

Oct-Dec 10am-5pm

From downtown Wolfville (Highway #1), turn up Gaspereau Avenue (Beside the Police Station and across from Tim Horton’s). Drive 3km – Gaspereau Vineyards is located on the right.

Travelling Highway 101, take Exit 11 (Old Orchard Inn) and follow the signs. Gaspereau Vineyards is 7 km from the highway.

Wine List:

2004/06 Vitis
2007 Castel (Dry)
2007 Lucie Kuhlmann (Dry)
2008 Lucie Kuhlmann Barrel Select (Dry)
2008 Pinot Noir (Dry)
Reserve Port (Medium)
Maple Wine (Sweet)
2009 L’Acadie Blanc (Dry)
2009 Muscat (Dry)
2009 Seyval Blanc (Medium)

2009 Rose (Medium)

2009 Crescendo (Medium)
2008 Vidal Ortega Icewine (Sweet)
2008 Chardonnay (Dry)


The Bustle Dress at Sherbrooke Village

During the late 1860s, the hoop skirt  gave way to the bustle. Huge skirts advanced into a more slim line with the fabric concentrated and pulled to the back of the dress. The first of these new fashions still had some fullness at the front but the most of it was now centered and pouffed at the back. The 1870s were a transitional period for women and their fashions. Perhaps because of these changes, the era was full of creativity and intriguing ideas; the bustle came back into fashion, albeit much different than it’s predecessor. Trains reappeared and fabric was used in huge quantities, trims too were used to the extreme; a woman could never add too much trim to her gown.

Much of the overindulgence in ladies’ fashions was due to that new fangled invention and the wide spread use of the contraption known as the sewing machine. All those trims, tucks, and pleats that once had to be sewn by hand could now be done by machine. Not too many of us have a very good idea of how slow hand sewing was/is – can you imagine sewing the long and endless seams of the skirts and gowns of that time? We would also likely chuckle at the slowness of middle nineteenth century sewing machines compared with what is available to a seamstress today. I own such a peddle machine, (although I don’t sew on it) it is powered by ones feet, no motors, electricity or computers. I learned to sew on just such a one when I was in my early teens and my mother still has it at home. The early sewing machines sewed over one thousand stitches per minute, and this was at least sixty times faster than hand sewing. The result of this was that what once was very expensive to produce was now much more affordable. What previously only the wealthy could wear, now the middle class could create themselves.

In addition to the laces and trims that were made at home or in a dressmaker’s shop, many trims could be purchased and were produced en mass. Everything from pleated yardage, to flounces, to tucked materials, to bindings and elaborate cut-work could be bought at the general store. Women rushed to take advantage of these advances and even the simplest house dresses were trimmed, frilled and required large amounts of fabric. It must have been so exciting for them!

I have always loved the bustle gown. The distinguished lady with her ruffled or pleated, laced and bustled skirts, the feathered hats tilted smartly to the front or the side of the head, the beautiful laces and trims and the rows of buttons embellishing the bodices, which in contrast to the skirts were fitted snugly. They made a woman look beautiful, feminine and curvaceous. Padding was used in the bodices at the bust and under the arms area giving a woman a soft rounded look; and the seams for the sleeves were set in just slightly off the shoulder.

For the first bustle gown I decided to sew, I secured a Truly Victorian pattern for the polonaise. A piece that became very popular in about 1873 and was styled in many different ways. It was actually a combination bodice and over-skirt, saving the woman of wearing these pieces separately. The fitting process for these patterns is done a little differently then the usual way; (Victorian tailoring methods are used), but once you get the hang of it, it’s not really that hard and it does give one a very good fit. The skirt I designed and drafted myself using fashion plates of the period for my inspiration. I left it untrained as I wanted a walking skirt.

The entire ensemble was sewn using a beautiful green shot taffeta. I trimmed the polonaise with various venise laces – a beautiful four inch floral for around the sleeves and the bottom front, and I edged the entire front with a lovely one inch swagged lace which I also added to the basque back. I found the prettiest gold and black store bought daisy buttons for closures and also pleated black satin ribbon which I added to the bustle at the bottom edge at the back of the polonaise. The skirt was over-layered with a black floral lace to just below where the polonaise ended in the front, and I pleated and added about a 12 inch length of taffeta around the bottom of the skirt; which I trimmed with thick black braided trim. I always add my trims by hand as I find that a sewing machine is just to rough on these beautiful additions, plus I find it a pleasant task to sit in the evening and sew. It also gives my hands something to do as I find it difficult to sit and do nothing.

For matching accessories I bought a smart, green, plain wool hat and trimmed it with gathered and somewhat pleated taffeta to the brim, black embroidered lace over the crown, and satin ribbon left both plain and ruched around the crown. The outside of the brim was also decorated with black braid. I finished by making a matching reticule with a bit of the left over taffeta, braid and beaded trim. Such things as matching hats and reticules are a great way of using up leftover trims and fabrics.

When we went to Sherbrooke Village I also carried a black parasol, wore black elbow length non-shiny gloves and black shoes. Underneath the dress I wore a small bustle, bloomers and cabled stockings. Because it was a 3.5 hour drive to Sherbrooke and I did not have help to lace it up, I did not wear a corset, although I do own one and the dress does have an even better shape when it is worn with it.

I am very happy with this gown! I feel good in it and it’s really pretty comfortable to wear.

Ambrotype Adventure in Sherbrooke!

Earlier this year, four members of Man the Capstan ventured across the province to Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia, where tucked beside the St. Mary’s river sits a picturesque village subsisting still within the late 19th century. Interested in all things historical, especially with respect to Nova Scotian history, the Capstan Crew thoroughly enjoyed themselves and resolved to return, particularly in costume!

We prepared to depart early in the morning on October 10th, this time skipping the Guysborough detour and heading straight down to Sherbrooke from New Glasgow. It was a far quicker drive than last time, and we pulled into the parking lot at a timely 1400 hrs (or thereabouts).

Of particular interest at Sherbrooke was their reputed ambrotype studio, one of the few working studios that still use the original method employed in the 1860s. For an incredible $40.00 tourists can get dressed up in a variety of costumes and outfits and have their picture taken! Having an ambrotype picture taken is a rewarding experience; the very act itself is a historical exercise. Let me tell you, it’s not like heading to Sears and getting your family portrait taken.

Susan, our photographer this time around (different from the lady we dealt with previously) was a true professional; she explained the process and arranged us in a timely manner; for my own picture it was decided it best to sit down, holding my chapeau in my lap and sitting in such a way so as to not cut my larger frame out of the shot—you don’t have a lot of room to work with, and we’d learn fairly quickly that it’s even harder to fit two people into a frame! Our photographer told us that there are a few “tricks” they use in order to get it just right.

In the end we had two shots taken; one with myself, and the other with Johanna and Steve. We were informed the process would take about 20-30 minutes, and that in the meantime Susan could introduce us to the costumers that were responsible for helping to make all the history “come alive” at Sherbrooke. We took a walk across the street and spoke with Meg and her assistant, Andrea. The wardrobe room was filled with dresses and men’s outfits, shoes, hats, simple gowns, fancy gowns, and a workshop that exuded a creative aura; this was indeed the place that old things rose to become something new and engaging.

Andrea and Meg

Both Meg and Andrea were clearly passionate about their work (it seems that has been a trend for us; most history enthusiasts wouldn’t do what they do unless they loved it!) and we had a wonderful conversation with them. The 20-30 minutes passed quickly, and after passing a card to them, we headed back to secure our finished ambrotypes, which were spectacular!

We took the opportunity to take a few more shots within Sherbrooke, getting some splendid ones; we’ve uploaded all of them to our Flickr Photostream; check out the set here!

I’d like to return to Sherbrooke again in uniform, perhaps in a busier part of the year so as to have a bit more fun with some fellow visitors. It’s a great place in Nova Scotia, and I hope that by writing this blog it may engender some additional interest; this sort of living history is rarely seen executed so well. You can visit Sherbrooke’s website here!

Until next time!

A Nineteenth Century Evening At The Prescott House

Prescott House (pictured above, from Dennis Jarvis’ Flickr), or “Acacia Grove” is located in the idyllic setting of Starr’s Point, near the historic village of Port Williams, Nova Scotia.  It looks out to the Cornwallis River and across to the neighbouring town of Wolfville, the home of the Acadia University. As a matter of fact, you can see the University Hall from its upper windows. Charles Ramage Prescott purchased the land  upon which it stands in 1811, and built this  beautiful example of classical Georgian architecture during the years 1812 -14 or 16.   He resided there until his death in 1859.

Charles Prescott was born January 6th, 1772 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was a wealthy merchant, privateer, politician, Justice of the Peace and horticulturist. He married first Hannah Whidden in 1796, by whom he had seven children. She died in 1813. He then second married to Mariah Hammill in 1814 and had an additional five children by her. When he was about forty and in ill health, Charles Prescott retired from his busy life in Halifax to Starr’s Point. Here he must have regained his health for he lived to the ripe old age of 88. His gravestone can be viewed at the Port Williams Baptist Church Cemetery.

He is remembered and recognized mostly for his great contribution to the apple industry in Nova Scotia. It is said that he grafted and tested more than 100 varieties of apples and nearly 50 varieties each of pears and plums and he generously shared these varieties with other cultivators. Although this long pre-dated commercial fruit-growing in the province, he is credited with having introduced six of the ten varieties of apples, including the Gravenstein, (one of the most popular of apples,) leading the market during Nova Scotia’s heyday as an apple producer and one which is also still grown today. After his death Acacia Grove was sold;  it passed through the hands of several different families, and by 1896 the beautiful house had fallen into disrepair and was abandoned. In 1930 it was rescued and restored to it previous grandeur by one of Charles Prescott’s great granddaughter’s, Mary Allison Prescott. She was even able to retrieve some of the original furnishings and family paintings.

Today the Prescott House operates from June 1st – October 15th, as a Museum and is designated as both a National Historic Site and a Provincial Historic Site. It’s a beautiful peaceful place, with picturesque landscaping and gardens outside and gracious antique furnishings, ceramics and oriental rugs to view inside. On the main level there is a lovely parlour, dining room, sun room and even a library stocked with a wonderful collection of old books. The Prescott house is well worth a visit and is open from  Monday-Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm and Sundays from 1 pm – 5 pm. The staff is very friendly and well versed  on the history of the house and the area. Admission is also extremely reasonable at $3.60 for adults, Ages 6 -17 and Seniors – $2.55, Children under 5 are free and they also offer a family rate for $7.95. Drop by sometime!

On August 21st, 2010, the Prescott House Museum hosted a nineteenth century evening. Four (including our newest member, Katherine), of the Man The Capstan crew attended in full period dress. We were completely delighted with the warm welcome we received from the staff and can’t wait to go back for another visit.  There were upstairs readings from Prescott family letters, a charming  re-enactment in the dining room, tea and refreshments on the lawn, a tour of the garden, and country dancing in the parlour by The Playford Dancers of Dartmouth.  It was a grand time and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

Now… I really want to take some country dance lessons…

Weighing Anchor for Sherbrooke, N.S.!

Not all Man the Capstan endeavours have been about getting dressed up in our respective uniforms and gowns. We also enjoy simply getting together and checking out a local historic site, or doing some research and posting our findings. The wonderfully evocative Sherbrooke Village in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, has always been a place we’ve been meaning to visit. As we’re located in the heart of the Annapolis Valley, however, the distance has been the chief obstacle in the past. It’s a long haul out to Guysborough. It’s certainly possible to do in a day, but it would mean a lot of driving!

Struck by a recent itch to hit the road, the crew here at Man the Capstan decided that last weekend was a great opportunity to head east and check out Sherbrooke. We also resolved to make a slight detour to check out the Prince Henry Sinclair Monument, located along Route 16 at Halfway Cove.

We were fortunate enough to bring along a new passenger for this venture! A close friend and colleague of mine, Katherine D. has been a great fan of Man the Capstan and has followed our efforts for over a year now. Having invited her along for the trip, she gladly accepted. Many of the photos linked within this post are hers, so just click to head on over to her Flickr Photostream!

Arrangements were made to wake at 0530 and depart for 0700. It was an early morning! Much to our delight Katherine had elected to do some late-night baking the evening before, toiling to produce a batch of cinnamon buns for the day’s driving that was ahead of us. Let me tell you, the cinnamon buns were delicious (completely made from scratch), also making it possible to keep going without too many stops (save to grab a coffee at Tim Hortons, of course—that’s non-negotiable).

Our detour to Guysborough added a good hour or so to the drive. The route was as follows:

We were on the road at just after 0700, and arrived at Sherbrooke at around 1300 or so. Stops included fuelling at Truro, a stop to check out the township of Guysborough and the excursion along route 16 to Halfway Cove.

The town of Guysborough was really quite beautiful. Tucked within Chedabucto Bay, she’s a small community but bright and cheerful. We stopped at the Days Gone By, a charming bakery, restaurant and antiques shoppe right on the main drag. Thoroughly and gratefully satiated with Katherine’s cinnamon buns, however, we didn’t really need to grab a bite to eat. We strolled down to a small marina brimming with boats, some of them yachts like the timeless MacGregor. Steve & Johanna used to own a MacGregor 26X, and whenever we spy one it conjures up lovely memories. Lots of great shots to be had there, and Katherine even snapped a rogue jellyfish just off the pier!

We quickly made our way to the Prince Henry Sinclair monument. It was a quick jaunt up route 16, tucked away at place named Halfway Cove. The monument, erected by the Prince Henry Sinclair Society of North America, commemorates the theory that Prince Henry Sinclair and a fleet of 12 Templar ships landed on the shores of the Chedabucto in 1398, predating the arrival of Columbus. The theory has been questioned by modern academics for decades, but the descendants of Henry Sinclair, and a few notable believers within the academic community have continued to argue the possibility. The discourse on this alleged arrival by medieval knights is both Romantic and evocative; it’s hard to say exactly what happened, and if perhaps there is truth to both sides. We here at Man the Capstan aren’t about to come to any conclusion, but it is worth mentioning that the early viking explorers at L’anse aux Meadows were also considered mythic, but now have become entrenched in modern, accepted history. Time will reveal all.

After the monument we piled into the car and headed west to Sherbrooke. It took us over an hour to make our way there, but an hour past lunch we rolled into the parking lot outside the site and made our preparations. We spent the next four to five hours plying the roads of the village, taking in the lovely sights and learning a great deal from the incredibly hospitable staff!

We dined at the Sherbrooke Hotel, breaking our fast on sandwiches, soup and coffee. We took in a live demonstration at the blacksmith’s by a reenactor who wrought a steel hanger for us, explaining the process and even spending a moment to explain to Steve how older iron nails were fashioned. From there we made the circuit around the village, stopping in at the Post Office, Printing Press, and Drug Store. Each member of the Sherbrooke Staff took the time to explain their surroundings, offer tidbits and misconceptions on history, and explain (or demonstrate) the tools of the trade they represented. One special moment was at Cumminger’s store, where on the second floor there lies an ambrotype studio. The woman there was incredibly helpful and friendly! She immediately engaged us and explained the entire process, demonstrating the differences in colour and shade that would result from having an ambrotype photo taken; for example, a bright yellow lemon, taken next to a deep dark red apple, would both end up the same dark hue. This makes it difficult to determine the colours of garments or adornments from original photographs, and can make for some interesting science when trying to get just the right picture! The studio charges $40.00 for a shooting, fitting a maximum of three people. The Crew will most certainly return to Sherbrooke to get a picture, a la ambrotype!

The Courthouse was a wonderful building with fantastic acoustics. While within we belted out half a verse of Minstrel Boy, a song we’ve been working on and may, in the future, record at some point. It sounded gorgeous, and it was no surprise that the Courthouse is still used for musical “animations” by the Sherbrooke staff.

Outside we further checked out the elegant Greenwood Cottage, the Masonic Hall (No. 34 “Queen’s Lodge”), and the Doctor’s Office. The cottage was a great contrast to the rest of the town; housing the richest family during the height of the Sherbrooke gold rush, Greenwood Cottage displays the elegance found within the community. The same gentlemen who owned Cumminger’s Store also owned Greenwood Cottage (one brother stayed in Sherbrooke to handle the affairs within the village, while the other plied the seas looking for goods and trade to bring back to a booming Sherbrooke).

Our visit finally ended with the Temperance Hall, a sizeable building with a cavernous ceiling, used presently to display craftwork, predominately rug-hooking. The bottom floor of the Hall is home to a Royal Canadian Legion meeting place, perhaps one of the only dry RCL meeting places in Canada (according to our hostess).

With the tolling of the bell at 1700 we made our way to our vehicle, and began the long drive home (stopping shortly at Antigonish for a meal and a drink). Overall our trip to Sherbrooke was a huge success, and a lot of fun! Katherine added a wonderful dynamic to the Capstan Crew, constantly pointing out interesting facts and tidbits on subjects from foliage (yes, I did call that a maple) and entomology, to fantastic and old antiques and historical practices. While no surprise, Katherine also displayed an excellent taste in music; having brought her iPod along, we were exposed to some great Canadiana, from Portico to Alberta’s own Corb Lund and his “Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier”.

A great trip which made for quite the long write-up! That’s all for now, until next time.

“Ahoy there!” Tall Ships 2009, Part II

Two days ago I posted the first part of this two-part post, “Ahoy there!” Tall Ships 2009, which chronicled the first day of our Tall Ships 2009 experience. Tall Ships, a maritime festival that occurs every two years at Halifax, was the culminating event for our reproductions. It allowed us to gather in uniform and dress, and enjoy the festivities on the piers and under the sun for a weekend.

Unfortunately the first day was rain-filled and dreary (as one will learn by reading the first part), but the second day was remarkable. The amount of fun we had on Sunday more than made up for the disappointments of Saturday. Our only regret was that the ladies could not get dressed up. Unfortunately the uniforms stole the show—next time I think we won’t so carelessly tread into rainy weather, given our Tall Ships experience.

We began the day with a hearty meal at the Waverley (which consisted of pretty much any breakfast food you could dream of). It was a good idea, because we wouldn’t get another bite to eat until later on in the day. The women dressed in casual clothing and took charge of our immediate superior officer, Little William (dubbed the Admiral as our respective OIC). My father Steve donned his bright red major’s uniform, trimmed in bright silver lace, while my brother-in-law Tim and I dressed in our British Royal Navy captain’s uniforms, arming ourselves with our gold-buckled belts, swords and laced hats. Having taken a few shots on the steps of the Waverley (which so happens to be a favourite picture of ours), the three of us began our trek to the waterfront. Johanna snapped an incredible photo, pictured to the left, which hearkened to an earlier day in Halifax where the rhythmic  stomp and cry of British officers was considered normal.

It was a bit disorientating as we made our way to the waterfront. This was the first time we really got dressed up and displayed our creations in public. What were we supposed to do, exactly? Roam the piers? Stage some historical conversation? Break into a spontaneous duel that would certainly satisfy someone’s wounded pride (and undoubtedly bring down the combined-might of the HRP and the RCMP)?

We unanimously decided on the first option, and began roaming the piers. The three of us in uniform stayed together, while the women trailed behind with the camera. Chance would have it that the first ship we encountered was the beautiful Unicorn, a tall-ship exclusively staffed by females. The Unicorn, paired with Sisters Under Sail, offers a leadership program for teenage girls interested in the art of sailing; like most tall ships, it is staffed by the youth of our generation, offering great opportunities to learn and grow on board a sailing ship from a bygone era. Even without our Tall Ships passes (we hadn’t gotten them yet at the time!) the women of the Unicorn intercepted us at the pier, and immediately offered us a tour of the ship. Very nice crew, and a beautiful ship.

We carried on in a north-westerly direction, quickly discovering that our progress was snail-paced (to put it lightly); we were stopped, it seemed, every ten metres by visitors and tourists looking to snap a few photos of the three British officers seemingly patrolling the piers of Halifax. It was a indescribable experience, actually; we felt like celebrities. We adapted quickly, however, and began putting on the smiles that the dozens upon dozens of pictures demanded of us. Steve warmed to it very quickly, having some experience in gallivanting about in a bright uniform. Tim and I found ourselves following his example.

One charming moment was when we found ourselves heading towards a small group of Mounties in full-dress. They were marching down the pier as well, probably experiencing the same fanfare we were. We smiled and nodded as we passed, but it was not meant to be: someone from the crowd shouted “Oh! We simply must have a picture of the two of you!” We quickly formed a group and found ourselves stuck in that position for a solid five minutes or so. It was a really classic photo opportunity!

Throughout the experience we met a handful of others in costume, but nothing quite like our three uniforms. Many reenactors and costume designers create reproductions that replicated day-to-day dress; many uniforms were styled in the undress fashion, that is without the 10-15 metres of lace that adorned our own uniforms. It meant that in that bright Sunday sunshine, we were a veritable beacon so close to the water. It wasn’t difficult to see us coming. As we passed by one actor (employed by the Tall Ships event itself) in a British R.N. captain’s uniform, we received a somewhat cold reception: we had happened across his photo booth, and very quickly were attracting more cameras and interest. Feeling a tad awkward and certainly not wishing to infringe on a fellow reenactor’s turf, we made an expedient retreat.

Hours later we finally made it to the most north-westerly point of the piers you could manage on foot (that featured any festivities, anyway). We were getting hungry, and decided to grab a bite to eat somewhere. We fixed eyes on a place called Stayner’s Wharf Pub & Grill, and made the decision to get in line. Yes, there was a line (a rather long one, too). So there we were, three men in full-dress uniform ca. 1805, and two women with a young child. The sun was hot, and Little William needed to get into the shade for a rest and something to eat. It wasn’t too long before we secured a table and readied ourselves for a meal.

It was a really awesome place to eat. The food was great, the staff was very helpful and at the top of their game that day; it was their Boxing Day, I’m sure (were they a retail outlet), and they shone. We were incredibly thirsty at this point (layered wool uniforms and July weather did not mix well), and were a bit surprised that we had managed to take care of several pitchers of beer over the course of a brief meal. At the end of the meal we had a nice conversation with one of the hosts, who indicated that there was a family from Britain that were visiting Canada that had been impressed with our uniforms; the host suggested we pay them a visit. So Steve, Tim and I gathered our uniform coats, hats and swords, and headed towards the table to say hello. It was a great experience; we learned where they were visiting from, we passed them one of our business cards, and wished them well when their food arrived. Having had a great experience at Stayner’s, we paid and took our leave.

We decided to take an alternative route back to the Waverley, travelling along the adjacent Upper Water Street. It was much easier passage, with fewer stops along the way for pictures. We passed by a Canada Forces recruitment bus with some naval personnel in uniform milling about, and couldn’t help but get a few pictures. Tim had the bright idea to wander over to one of the tables staffed by CF personnel and demand two-hundred years of back-pay (they were not as impressed as we thought they’d be). One of the naval officers there stopped us before we left, however, and asked if we could stick around for a few minutes—he had sent one of his men to grab a camera, as he wanted to have a picture taken with his naval colleagues along with the Capstan Crew. We of course couldn’t decline: they happily offered us a few bottles of water from their stock and we were allowed to tour their recruitment bus. Nice lads, all of them, and the resulting picture was just fantastic.

After the Canadian Forces encounter we made quick progress back to the Waverley, and from there began to pack to head home. It had been a really successful day, but we were all utterly exhausted. Dinner was pizza and beer graciously offered by Shara and Tim. After a quick review of the day’s pictures we headed home to the Annapolis Valley, where I immediately began writing up the posts that would chronicle the day’s activities.

Okay, that last part was a big giant lie, but hey! I wrote it eventually, right?

Keep in mind all of these photos and more can be viewed at our Flickr photostream! We update it more frequently than the blog, sometimes.

Until next time guys!

“Ahoy there!” Tall Ships 2009

Up Aloft Among the Rigging!

Long overdue, I know!

Our blog has accrued a few regular subscribers in the past two years we’ve been operational. They keep tabs on the blog updates as they roll through, and monitor our activities and progress with our reproductions. Those of you who are regular subscribers will know that the Capstan Crew’s culminating project was the display of our creations at Halifax’s Tall Ships, in particular the 2009 festival. That occurred just over 10 months ago, and was a spectacular success.

It’s a terrible tragedy that I hadn’t written anything about it afterwards, but we updated our Flickr account pretty quickly thereafter, and each picture is titled with an accurate description. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do so here (they are organized into sets)!

Sea Chest

Tall Ships is usually spread over several days, beginning with the slow but steady arrival of wooden and steel ships of sail from all over the world. Due to work commitments, we couldn’t be there for the entire festival (and surely that would have been utterly exhausting). We made plans to arrive early Saturday morning, and depart Sunday afternoon. That would give us two full days in the sun, touring the ships and wearing-in the reproductions.

There would be six of us, all family members and founding members of Man the Capstan. My father, Steve, wore his early 19th century Marine uniform, styling himself a major. My mother, Johanna, planned to wear an ivory regency gown that would be appropriate for the era; similarly, my sister, Shara, wore a darker regency gown from the same time period. My brother-in-law, Tim, was garbed in a British Royal Navy, ca. 1805 captain’s uniform. I was dressed in the same.

The sixth was our newest member, Little William! He was dressed in an absolutely adorable sailor’s costume. The star of the show, he was!

Mom and Dad and I met at Shara and Tim’s (who lived near the city at the time) to get ready. We were in breeches and waistcoat, just needed the final touches, so we were on the road and rolling for the waterfront fairly quickly.

For the overnighter, we made reservations at the beautiful historic Waverley Inn. Folks, if you ever get an opportunity to stay at this lovely place, do so! The rooms are phenomenal, and of particular note (to me, anyway) the breakfast was stellar. The Waverley was located near the waterfront (a few blocks), so it was perfect. We had to book months in advance in order to secure lodgings. It was packed full.

The first day of our Tall Ships trip, however, was not very successful. For most of that day, July 18th, there was rainfall. Torrential rain is not a kind thing to woolen uniforms trimmed with gold, bias-and-stand lace. It is even unkinder to the regency gowns worn by our ladies. As soon as we arrived at the Waverley it was coming down hard; we stayed at the inn for a couple hours, hoping for it to let up.


It didn’t, naturally. Stubbornly, we dressed, grabbed some umbrellas, and made the best of it. We made a successful full circuit of the docks; it was raining so bad, though, that we didn’t really stop at any of the ships. We couldn’t really take pictures (and people couldn’t really enjoy our uniforms either, though a handful did take an opportunity to snap a few shots of us). Worst of all, it was terrible conditions for Little William.

We headed back to the Waverley, but not before we stopped in at Henry’s Pub. Steve and Johanna had scouted out the pub months before during an anniversary lunch, and it was a perfect place to detour for a warm meal. It is one of the oldest buildings in Halifax, and offers the rain-weary visitor a warm place to eat and refill his or her spirits; ours was in sore need of refilling, let me tell you.

Most of us had classic fish & chips; I had the cornish pastie, and let me tell you, it was delicious.

We quickly headed back to the Waverley, then, to dry our clothing, crack open the Pusser’s we had purchased, and make plans for the next day. Unfortunately, the lady’s gowns did not hold up as well as the men’s. The rain had made them unwearable, and they needed some TLC that Johanna couldn’t provide within the Waverley—for Sunday, the last day, it was decided that the men would get dressed up again (with some minor adjustments), and the women would dress incognito. The next day was bright and sunny, so there were no problems. The success of the second day more than made up for the misadventure on the 18th.

Stay tuned for a narrative on day two. July 19th!

Man the Capstan!