About 150 people gathered at the Fundy Geological Museum (FGM) today to celebrate the masting of the schooner Katie Belle.
“It is a joyful day for Parrsboro,” said Karen Dickinson, Chair of the FGM Board as she turned to cousins Evan and Nick Densmore who built the 24-metre schooner and sailed it in October from Stewiacke to Parrsboro Harbour where its masts were installed.
“We thank you for bringing it to the wharf and being part of the history here,” Dickinson added.
Local historian Conrad Byers said the Katie Belle brings back memories of Parrsboro’s prosperous past in the Golden Age of Sail.
“Partly why everyone is so pleased with this schooner coming to Parrsboro,” Byers added, “is that even though we didn’t experience the Age of Sail ourselves, many of our grandparents did and every household in Parrsboro and all along the shore, all these towns and villages, carry on stories from our ancestors.”
For his part, 28-year-old Evan Densmore told the crowd that he and his 26-year-old cousin Nick never imagined the effects building the schooner would have.
“When we started building this boat, five years ago now,” he said, “we didn’t think about the history or the impact it would have on other people, we just started to build.”
Densmore added that the response indicates that projects like this can be successful if they have local support.
“We’d love to continue building ships and getting local captains involved to sail them and bringing that back into the community, but the community has to support that idea or it’s just a dream,” he said.
The Densmores explained that they financed the Katie Belle with the help of family members and private investors.
They’re planning to install the schooner’s 2,400 square feet of sails before Christmas and sail it out of Parrsboro Harbour and south to the Carolinas for further work early in the New Year.
Then, if the weather co-operates, they may continue to sail further south. Evan said that in the long run, the Katie Belle may end up as a tour boat on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.
Deborah Poole, site manager of the Lawrence House Museum in Maitland, concluded today’s masting ceremony by thanking the Densmores for putting fresh wind in Nova Scotia’s heritage sails.
She closed with an old Irish blessing adapted for the occasion.
May the Cobequid Hills caress you
May her rivers bless you
May luck enfold you
May the tides uplift you
And may the fair winds of heritage sail you.