Lobster Rolls and Sailing School Welcome Us To Charlottetown

Day 68, 2023 North Atlantic Adventure

Tuesday, July 18, 2023; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

My love for sailing dates back to my junior high days, when I learned to sail at a camp in Arkansas. I loved the little Sunfish sailboats, with their single sail, and wooden centerboard, tiller and rudder.

Camp Storey, Lake Ouachita, Arkansas, 1969.

Later, as an adult, I graduated to larger boats, especially after I moved to New Jersey and started chartering on my own.

Today brought back those memories of learning to sail on Lake Ouachita near Hot Springs, as I watched kids taking sailing lessons at the Three Tides. It’s a spot apparently not marked on any chart but well known to locals for the confusing seas of the three rivers that form Charlotteville Harbour in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Warm weather and stiff breezes brought out the daysailors and the walkers along the waterfront path. Someone was kind enough to provide benches, and I sat for perhaps an hour to sketch, listen to the excited shrieks of the sailors tacking and chat with walkers who stopped for a moment.

In addition to the 1,800 passengers from the Zuiderdam, there are another 1,200 from our smaller sister ship, the Zaandam. She is spending the summer cruising between Montreal and Boston, occasionally venturing out to Greenland and Iceland. I will board her in late September, when she leaves Montreal for Florida, then going on to South America and Antarctica.

Charlottetown scored big in the unofficial “cruise ship hosting” competition when, as we were coming ashore, city volunteers served bites of lobster roll to all passing by on the pier. They were not stingy with the lobster, either. It was a great welcome to a friendly town.

I enjoyed walking about four miles along the harbor and through the city. I found only one small bag of Maltesers in the convenience store – and that was a good thing. They are too tempting, and I knew the treat from the U.K. would be available in Canada. (Actually, the chocolate covered malted milk balls are available at World Market in Dallas and other cities, but that is cheating.)

St. Dunstan’s Basilica rises tall above the city’s center. After all the old churches of Europe, it is surprising to find this one was built between 1897 and 1907. Of course – it’s the “new” world, where we think things more than a hundred or so years old are ancient. You know it can’t be that old by the stained glass windows – obviously of men of recent generations.

Meetings took place in what is now the Province House in 1864 that led to Canadian Confederation. The building is under reconstruction now, but signage comments about whether the site is a national treasure or an icon of colonialism – or both. Before traveling around the world, I doubt that issue would have occurred to me. New exhibits are promised that will “explore the complexities of history from a variety of perspectives, looking at who – and who has not – been invited to share in shaping and governing Canada.” I’m in favor of seeing the world through different eyes.

If I had to choose one word to describe today in Charlottetown, it would be “lively.” A children’s theater group entertained in a public plaza. Buskers ranging from accordion players to a brass quintet were performing on the city streets. A bagpipe player in full Scottish highland dress reminded me of the Scottish influences in this part of Canada.

Back near the pier, I had a lunch of steamed PEI blue mussels – considered the best-selling in North America. The outdoor porch was shaded and a pair of guitar-playing brothers entertained us from the quay. (“We are Richard and David – we credit our mother for naming the band.”)

Initially I had booked a ship’s walking culinary tour over lunch, but at the last minute they bumped me to a later group. I canceled, as I wouldn’t even be back by my dinner scheduled with friends. I don’t regret that decision.

I have worried for weeks about whether I would be able to get everything home in the two checked bags and one carryon I have. I sent one large bag ahead at the end of the world cruise, which I shared with my sister. But I’ve bought a number of dresses and never checked to see whether what I kept would fit. My friends who are driving back to Texas over a few weeks said perhaps they could get something in their rental car trunk. But I know they have several bags already.

Today I checked the American Airlines website to see how much I would have to pay for a third bag. And to my surprise and delight, I discovered I can check the third bag for free, as they recently updated the baggage policy and, due to all the cruises I’ve been putting on my American Air credit card, I now qualify. Now I just need to get another bag.