I watch Donelda straddle the boat’s bow with a deftness that belies her years, not to mention the churning Atlantic waves. She tosses what appears to be a giant red yoga ball beside the boat, then climbs back in as easily as she’d slipped out.
“Is it often like this when you go out?” my husband asks, as I brace myself for another wave crashing full on the windowed port.
"Nope. This’s pretty rare. Got a storm on the Atlantic today. Makes it a bit choppy.”
“A bit choppy” wouldn’t have been my description for the swells currently seesawing the Highland Lass into something resembling Space Mountain.
“But you don’t get worried?”
“I trusted my life to this guy forty-four years ago.” She nods at the man casually steering our vessel. “Haven’t seen any reason to take it back yet.”
She strides the short aisle without so much as a bobble, tossing seasick bracelets while pointing out puffins and bald eagles with an eye that would notice one white feather out of place.
After 25 years of lobster fishing and running wildlife tours on Cape Breton Island, no one knows these waters like Donelda and her captain. I close my eyes and feel the breakers rock away. Let the wind blow—this cradle’s not falling anywhere.
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The Cabot Trail
I don’t remember the first time I went around the Cabot Trail but I remember the times I drove around it since that first time. I am from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia and can proudly say I have driven this desolate roadway that is said to be one of the most scenic drives in North America numerous times. My most memorable trips around the Cabot Trail were the ones that happened at a last minute when I decided to jump in my car and go for a drive. My car knows which way to go because even if I had no plans to make the turn off at Englishtown that leads to The Trail, that is where I always ended up.
The drive along the Northern shore takes me through a rolling countryside along the ocean and over Cape Smokey into the town of Ingonish where The Cape Breton Highlands National Park starts. Long sandy beaches, spectacular waterfalls, pristine lakes, ample wildlife and many hiking trails have me staying in this area the longest before I move on along the trail through a number of communities. Cape North is home to an Oyster Market and secluded beach. Pleasant Bay is home to a monastery that is open to visitors at certain times of the day. Cheticamp is home to a number of museums and a vibrant Acadian culture. The Margarees are known for beautiful beaches along the coast and deep, rolling valleys inland.
Although you may not be familiar with Cape Breton Island, that doesn’t mean it is not a sight to behold and may just be one of the world’s top hidden gems.