The very first time I visited Cape D’or it was a cloudy day with periods of sun but when I walked down the steep dirt road that leads to the lighthouse, proudly overlooking the entrance to the Minas Channel the wind picked up and I got to hear the foghorn whistle blow. It reminded me of my favorite Van Morrison song “Into the Mystic” and it became one of those magical places that would capture a part of my soul and my spirit forever.
Cape D’or is a headland, located near Advocate, Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy Coast. The cape is pronounced by breathtaking 200 m (660 ft) cliffs on its western side and 30 m (98 ft) cliffs on its southern side guarding treacherous tidal currents in the Minas Channel. A basalt reef reaches from the Cape into the Bay of Fundy where it divides the savage waters of the Dory Rips, a rip tide spawned when three unpredictable tidal currents collide.
Most of the Cape is densely forested, but the areas beside and above the lighthouse are cleared and grassy affording magnificent far reaching views of the cliffs, sea stacks and tidal rips in favorable weather. The Cape’s sensational rocky panorama has attracted many photographers, tourists and dreamers over the years.
The second time I visited Cape D’or my youngest daughter Haley was about 10 days old. I was carrying her in a front carrier attached to me. It was Mother’s Day 2004 and although the spring winds were strong we were able to make our way down the arduous rock path to the lighthouse. My oldest daughter was four and a half and her long dark hair billowed about in the wind and the misty ocean air caressed her face in a gentle welcome.
I remember telling my husband that this was my special place and that I would always come back here.
12 years later I returned to this enchanted spot that had captured a little piece of my soul several years before. I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by my youngest daughter so we could share some one on one Mom and daughter time in a magnetic place that she only remembered through my stories.
It was a beautiful day full of sunshine and blue skies. The drive along the coast took us through Bass River, Five Islands, Parrsboro and Port Greville before a pit stop at Spencer’s Island Beach for some sun, sand, history and ice cream. Spencer’s Island is located along the Western end of Greville Bay on the Bay of Fundy (Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.) The community is named after a small island of the same name located offshore from nearby Cape Spencer.
The community of Spencer’s Island contains a historic lighthouse dating back to 1904, a beach, campground and cafe.The Lighthouse contains historical ship building pictures and artifacts. Spencer’s Island became a notable shipbuilding community during the age of sail and one the largest and most notable vessels from its shipyards was the Amazon built in 1861 which was later to become famous as the Mary Celeste.
Mary Celeste was an American merchant brigantine. The Captain; Benjamin Briggs, his wife Sarah and their 2 year old daughter Sophia set sail out of New York harbor on a blustery November day in 1872 with 8 crew members and carrying a cargo of 1700 barrels of industrial alcohol bound for Genoa, Italy. Weeks later on December 5 of 1872 the Canadian brigantine Dei Gratia found the Mary Celeste adrift in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Azores Islands. The ship was found in disarray but was described as being in seaworthy condition, under partial sail. The lifeboat along with the family and crew were all missing but their cargo remained intact. The last logged entry was dated 10 days prior. Personal belongings remained untouched and the ship had 6 months worth of provisions on board. None of the people that set sail on that November day were ever seen or heard from again. There have been many theories and speculations over the years ranging from pirates or sea monsters to mutiny. Mary Celeste was originally christened Amazon but was bestowed with the new name after a series of illnesses and unfortunate mishaps. Despite many attempts to unravel the enigma surrounding the ship with the storied past today one of the most enduring maritime mysteries remains.
I became enamored with the ambiguous mystery of the ghost ship Mary Celeste on a visit with family to Spencer’s Island about 14 years ago and I have spent many a free moment over the years researching the tale. Though I do not have a concrete theory as to what happened to the Captain, his family and crew it is a puzzle that will always occupy some space with me.
Haley is 12 so a bit young to be intrigued by the history of the island community. She was there for the ice cream and the beach. I can recall laying on the beach with the hot ocean breeze blowing over me and thinking ‘this is what heaven feels like’ Every fiber of my being breathed it in because I didn’t know when we would make it back to the ocean again. Unfortunately heaven was eventually interrupted by annoying horse flies so we decided to pack up our beach bag and drive up to the cape where we were going to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring, have dinner at the Lightkeepers kitchen and retire for the evening in an ocean view room at the Guesthouse overlooking the ocean.
From Spenser’s Island Beach Rd. you head west to get to Cape D’or. It is a scenic 15 minute drive. The road can be a little rough in spots if the area has gotten a lot of rain but it is worth it. There are several oohs and awwws on the way there. I told Haley that she would need to wear sneakers for the trip down to the lighthouse. The gravel road is lofty and good shoes are a must. Haley as I mentioned is 12, therefore she knows best and believed that flip flops would be perfectly suitable for the journey down with her bags. She was also hurrying because she gets a kick out racing her old Ma and proving her youthful exuberance. As you may have suspected I was right in my warnings. Haley cut her foot open on a rock and though she tried to brush it off so I wouldn’t lecture her it was clearly causing her some discomfort.
We went to the restaurant and we were warmly greeted by the owner Darcy. He is a very fun and expressive man and though he jokes about getting stuck there as a sentence for being bad in his youth he clearly loves what he does and really enjoys meeting new people. He was happy to upgrade our room for us and we got the best room in the house with a private entrance and a fantastic view. We were lucky that we picked a day that only one other couple was staying at the house and we didn’t see them till late in the evening. Darcey asked if we were coming for dinner and we had read such glowing reviews that we wouldn’t have missed it. He questioned us about our likes and dislikes guessing correctly that I would be wanting seafood. Haley gave him her long lists of dislikes and he promised that the chef would put together something satisfactory for her. We agreed on a dinner time of 6:30 and headed to our room to drop our bags. I decided that it must be 5 o’clock somewhere so I poured a glass of wine while Haley showered the beach sand off. I relaxed on a lounge chair overlooking the water and felt very grateful and happy.
Haley snuck over to the kitchen and had Darcey cook her a grilled cheese to tide her over until dinner while I explored some little paths through the thick. When her belly was full we went to the lighthouse and carefully down the rocks. We really like to play word games so we sat on the rocks and played this game Haley had found on YouTube and we had a lot of laughs. I don’t think I had laughed that hard since we were playing the alphabet game in the outdoor hot tub at Kicking Horse mountain and the category was ‘things that are bigger than Nicky Minaj’s ass’ I can say with certainty that it was one of the most beautiful spots I have ever played a word game and the water crashing on the rocks in the background was nothing to cry about.
I have traveled a lot with my oldest daughter Morgan over the years but this was the first solo trip for Haley and I. We were so excited to be home visiting with family and meeting my newest granddaughter but sneaking away for a night just the two of us was a great idea and we enjoyed our time together.
Dinner was amazing and the dining view was phenomenal. Chef Garfield (like the cat, is what he kept telling people) should have roller skates because he was trying very hard to be everywhere at once. He greeted guests, took their orders, made and brought their drinks and made all of the meals and served them with a touch of sarcasm and a side of wit. Haley’s meal was prepared exactly how she had discussed with Darcey earlier in the day right down to the raw carrots. These were not just any raw carrots, they were cut fine and fancy and young Haley was suitably impressed.
One of the greatest things about the panoramic views at Cape D’or is how the rapidly changing light dramatically alters the view. It is a photographers dream. We met a very outgoing couple from Ontario that had stayed at the Cape all week and he was up at 5 am catching the early morning light.
After dinner we caught the sunset and chased the very last bit of light. We hung out for a bit under the stars in the cool ocean air before retiring to our room to play cards and chat about our day.
We met Darcey again at breakfast and he promised to make us something special. We helped ourself to fresh coffee and juices and anxiously anticipated our first meal of the day which turned out to be french toast with fresh dairy whipped cream, nova scotia maple syrup and an assortment of fresh fruit.The couple we met from Ontario wanted some photos taken together and we obliged. They were kind enough to return the favor catching some extra special memories of Haley and I’s 2016 Nova Scotia trip.
I love Canada. It’s landscapes from coast to coast are so diverse. There are so many places I have yet to explore but there are places, like Cape D’or, that draw you back time and time again. Perhaps when Darcey’s sentence is up someone will sentence me to life at the Cape for the sins of my youth.
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic
~from Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic
Geographical information from Wikipedia.