Tuesday, May 31, 2011

HRM Bike Week 2011, Part 2: Bike & Boat

On Tuesday, one of the most anticipated events of the week (on my part, anyway) was happening, and I could barely wait.

(I'm not used to seeing a full bicycle rack.)

(Apparently neither was the boat club. Here you can see bikes locked to fences and trees, and if you look closely, you can see that the fence way back in the distance has bikes locked to it too.)

The reason there were so many bicycles parked outside of the St. Mary's Boat Club on this day, is because people who rode their bicycles were able to paddle a canoe or kayak for an entire hour, and/or join a group yoga session, for free. This was a marvelelous idea for a few reasons: A) It involves bicycles (enough said), B) look at how many people showed up - it was obviously a success, and C) Nobody in Halifax seems to even knows that this place exists. Most of the staff who work at the facility only found out about it through past HRM Bike Week Bike & Boat events.

St. Mary's Boat Club is actually a municipally subsidised facility in a prime location on the Northwest Arm. It provides an inexpensive recreation experience to the entire population of HRM for less than the cost of going to the a movie. Twice a week during the summer, the Club provides group canoe and kayaking sessions, and you can even take lessons on how to sail.

(On this day, it was going to be kayaking for me, and from the above image, you can see that most of the other visitors were interested in paddling in a kayak as well.)

Our friendly, neighbourhood instructor-man, Steve, helped us get into the kayaks safely (read: dryly). However, I decided to get a bit of practice in on the dock first.

(Hey, who's that good-lookin' guy in the blue kayak? He looks like he can really paddle.)

After an hour we finally were able to get everyone into the water and were on our way around the Arm.

The Northwest Arm is one of the most beautiful and interesting areas in Halifax, if not Nova Scotia. In and around it you can find trails, National Historic Sites, towers, parks, monuments, homes of rich people, and even dead American soldiers.

(Some of the houses, like that one behind me, cost upward of $900 000. Here I paddle past and steal some of its attention. My apologies to the owner. Special thanks to my new friend Brent who teamed up with me to perform a daring boat to boat transfer of my camera before taking these shots.)

(Lest you think St. Mary's Boat Club only offers kayaking, I provide this picture as proof that canoes can also be rented. In hindsight, canoeing is far more relaxing than kayaking - it's just far too tempting for me to try and make my kayak go fast.)

Towards the end of our session, we congregated in Melville's Cove to hear a bit of history. Long-time readers of EPTN (and those who clicked on the above links) will know that Melville's Island used to be a prison during the War of 1812. The soldiers would shoot across the cove to a small peninsula they called Target Island (the Brits at that time seemed incapable of distinguishing peninsulas from islands). Many years later it was discovered that there were dead American prisoners of war burried on the "island." But now you get to hear "the rest of the story."

Because of the American policy of "leave no man behind," The United States of America proposed that some soil be brought up across the border, spread over the ground, and Target Island be named American territory. Well, the leaders of Halifax are capable of making at least one good decision, and they figured it wasn't such a good idea to have a bit of the U.S.A right in the middle of Halifax. Instead, it was agreed upon that the area be named a park, and a monument was placed there with the names of all the soldiers. Every year on the last Monday of May (the day before this day, incidentally), a Memorial Day celebration honouring the soldiers is held on the renamed Deadman's Island.

(One of our guides exhibits proper boating safety, as he recounts the history of Deadman's Island, and tells a story about how he and some other instructors told the students at a summer camp that the area was haunted with the ghosts of the buried American. The students were told the ghosts became bald eagles, which nest around the Northwest Arm. One day the students came screaming down from a hill, and a bald eagle was chasing them. 10 of the 11 children ran and hid, but one brave little girl grabbed a mini-oar, about three feet long, and started waving it in the air to defend the canoe. It sounds like she's got what it takes to be the next EP. From here on, I will refer to her as "EP Girl.")

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