Five a.m. on the Wharf: Lobster Fishing in Cape Breton

During my recent trip to Cape Breton I had the opportunity to go out on a lobster boat several times. The lobster fishing season in this particular area of Cape Breton runs from May 1st to the end of June. Generally, the boat leaves the wharf at 5:00 a.m.!
Above:Lobster boats in Petit De Grat being prepared for the fishing season.
Below: A private wharf in Arichat loaded with lobster traps.


The first day out involves setting all the traps in place. The crew of the boat I was on set 250 traps for the season.

The traps have long ropes and buoys attached allowing the traps to go to the bottom with the buoys marking them for daily retrieval. Each fishing boat has its own unique buoy style. Below: a buoy trailing behind the boat.

This fisherman has been lobster fishing in this area for over 55 years.




The gaff is a long stick with a hook on the end and it’s used for catching the rope and buoy so the traps can be pulled up for emptying each day. The rope then goes into a hydraulic pulley system that raises the heavy trap.

Baiting and banding stations. The strong claws of the lobster are secured with rubber bands otherwise they will grab hold of anything, especially fingers!

A knife wielding lobster.

There are strict rules about the size and condition of lobsters that can be kept. Female lobsters with eggs have to be returned to the sea; as do unhappy looking codfish that accidentally get caught in the traps.



Some seagulls like to hitch a ride on the boat.


When fresh bait is put in the traps, the seagulls, very willingly, take care of the old bait as it is thrown overboard!

A big thank you to the wonderful crew of the Della & Donna!

© Karen McRae, 2012

In and Around The Cabot Trail

The Cabot Trail is a winding scenic drive along the coast and through the highlands of north-east Cape Breton. Even though it was quite early spring when we were there at the beginning of May, and the day went from sunny to grey rather quickly, the majesty of the highlands was breathtaking. One of the upsides of traveling in the off-season is getting to experience each place without the buzz of the tourist season. We practically had the road and the beaches to ourselves.

If I were to travel here in the summer it would definitely be a camping destination. Perhaps at Meat Cove, on top of a windy cliff overlooking the Bay of St. Lawrence where it meets the Atlantic Ocean.


A tufted sand dune at Inverness Beach, looking out into the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.
The Inverness Beach and the breakwater on the horizon.






One of several gorgeous cobble and sandy beaches along the coast.



A young male moose stopping to feed at a pond. Note the missing antlers which are shed each fall and regrow in the spring.
Much of the interior of the highlands look like this with miles of rolling tree covered hills and valleys.



A view from above Meat Cove and the velvety looking reddish beach below. Meat Cove is the most northern community in Cape Breton and lies at the end of a winding and sometimes steep road. You have to travel several kilometers off the Cabot Trail to get here, but it’s well worth the trek for a visit.




The boulder scattered beach at Black Brook Cove.




All images © Karen McRae

Connections, Disconnections

Cape Breton: The Island That Almost Isn’t an Island

The Strait of Canso lies between mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. In 1954 over 10 million tonnes of rock were used to build a causeway connecting the island to the mainland. This snaking rock wall is 65 metres deep in places, making it the deepest causeway in the world. There is a canal that allows ship traffic to pass through. If this remaining thread of water wasn’t here, Cape Breton would really, no longer be a true island.

I am struck by the simultaneous connection, and disconnection, of such engineering. On one hand, a community has been bridged. On the other, a community shut out. A safe harbour has been built. But also, an impasse. We are nothing, if not a contradictory species.

These images really, have little to do with what I have written about here, except that they make me think of how we impact our environment. Of how I impact our environment. They make me think of what gets left behind. What could be left behind. They make me want to tread a little lighter on this intriguing planet.






The above 3 images are of a decaying Pilot Whale, washed up onto a Cape Breton beach.


This large engine, is reportedly from an old steamship wreck, I was unable to find any other information about it.

It is doing it’s best to blend into the environment…


Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

*If you are interested in reading more about the environmental effects of blocking the Strait of Canso, there is some interesting reading here, here and here.

All images © Karen McRae

Cape Breton: Textural Diversity of the Shoreline

There are many tucked away cobble and sandy beaches between the rocky outcroppings along the shorelines of Isle Madame. A visual feast of shifting textural beauty.


Sadly, the lighthouses are being decommissioned and are slowly disappearing off the island, replaced by lit channel markers.
A beautiful vista with a coastguard boat far off in the distance.

The view at the trailhead of the Cap Auget Eco-Trail on Isle Madame.



A velvety hidden-away beach, not easily accessible.
This lobster fishing boat was accidentally run aground on a sandbar. It  returned to service at high tide the following day.

All images © Karen McRae

Cape Breton

I am recently back from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. I have a lot of careful editing to do, the ocean and surrounding landscape captured my complete attention these past two weeks.
I am just now glimpsing back at images of these recent memories. How could I ever really capture the majesty of the sea, I wonder? Without the sounds? Without the salt air? Without the dampness from the fog rolling over your body? It is humbling to stand at the shore of such vastness.







All images © Karen McRae