Up the Clyde River on a Boat
[slideshow]There are days in which you know while they are happening they are special days, and it makes you more aware of each moment…and a good number of those days is when we are closest to nature. Last week, I spent an extraordinary afternoon boating up the Clyde River, which I am sure many of you who have grown up in the community including me have never had the chance to do. If you plan to though, make sure it is a shallow boat at high tide. Captain Vans and First Officer Emily Bryant gave me a tour in their motor boat up the river this past Wednesday, a sunny and hot day that we can only wish we had offered the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their visit to Prince Edward Island earlier in the week.
We started our tour from New Dominion and motored up the West River to the point where it meets the Clyde River. This would have been the same direction that my Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother Darrach took from Charlottetown to their new farmland on the shores of Clyde River, only instead of the pristine fields that you see in these photos, the land would have been treed and the work would just be beginning.
The Darrach and now Poritz homestead that I visited just a few days ago was the first property to appear as we approached Clyde River, and I thought what a great choice Sidney had made adding a red roof, now that I saw it within the scene of the red shores. This gable-styled home would have been built in the 1860s and is a similar design to the MacPhee’s home up the river.
On the adjacent land is J’Nan and Kirk Brown’s home that features Second Empire architecture, a name derived from the revival of France during the reign of Napoleon III. The architect that came up with the design was Francois Mansart, and the most distinctive feature includes his name, the Mansart roof. I detect a solar panel beside the house, a recent addition by Kirk and J’Nan. Kirk Brown originally came to PEI to work with a group of innovators who were ahead of their time in sustainable design strategies. Also, recently, the Brown’s have received a heritage designation for their barn.
On both sides of the river, we saw farmers working the hay. I recall that when classes were out for the summer in Clyde River, depending on the weather, a kid on a farm might have one or two weeks of fun before haying started and equal opportunity for work was already the norm in the Bannockburn.
I saw the Pioneer Cemetery for the first time, and it was a perfect and peaceful setting. It was larger than I thought it would be. I wonder if they transported the dead by boat to this resting place. This sacred ground is far removed from the Clyde River Road, but seeing it here on the shorefront told me how important the river was to their lives.
There was a beautiful view of the golf course and Sandra Cameron’s original home and her new beautiful home beside. It became a bit of a game for us to identify the homes from the river, as we are not accustomed to seeing the back of the houses. We saw the Livingstone home where their granddaughter now lives. We could see Jo-Ann MacPhail’s white house high on the hill.
When we went past Alex and Audrey MacPhee’s farm, we saw Alex and and a couple of other men exercising race horses in a pool beside the river. I can only imagine that when they looked out on the water, they must have wondered who was brave enough to come up the river this far, and maybe with a chuckle, there was mention of rescuing us poor souls at some point.
As we came to the part of the river where I could see the Murray homestead on one side and my Mother’s childhood home, the MacLean’s on the other, I remembered my Mother telling me about how they would signal each other when they had a message to tell. Sisters Hazel and Jean MacLean would go down their field on the Meadowbank side where their Murray first cousins would see them. Hilda and Everett Murray would then walk down and they would talk across the water. If Hilda and Everett has news to tell, they would open their barn door to signal across to the MacLean’s. Vans suggested it was the early beginnings of text messaging.
We could only see the black roof of the school, but we caught a glimpse of Reggie MacKinnon’s original home. We captured a photo that has likely not been caught before and that is the one with the Presbyterian manse in the foreground and the steeple of the Burnside Presbyterian Church behind.
As we moved closer to the marshes near Clyde River bridge, we happened upon a prime hunting ground with duck blinds on both sides, but luckily we weren’t anyone’s target today. The hunters that were there were osprey and blue heron and we caught a photo of each. Mike Fitzgerald who lives just up the hill from here told me that it is common to see bald eagles as well. Bird populations are thriving once again after the banning of DDT. When you drive down the highway across the bridge, one sees ragged marsh, but down here on the river, it is nature’s theatre playing out to the rhythm of the day and seasons.
As we approached the Clyde River bridge, we could easily see the bottom of the river which signaled the urgency to turn around and head back. Captain Vans used a GPS and a river map to ensure we were always in the deepest part.
The return trip was our second chance to sit back and enjoy the panoramic view that lay on either side and the distant hills of St. Catherine’s ahead. As we arrived at the intersection of the West and Clyde Rivers, we made a little detour along Dunedin Estates to the Dunedin Bridge. Young divers were enjoying the best of the day, jumping off both sides of the bridge. Returning to New Dominion, we saw more motor craft on the river on this day too glorious to be caught indoors.
I told Vans that when I published this story, boat sales in Clyde River would be on the rise. If you do buy one, remember…a shallow boat at high tide.