Going through some pictures this week, I discovered this photo of a tall ship in Summerside, Prince Edward Island in 2014 to commemorate the Charlottetown Convention.
The convention marked the beginning of the process which formed Canada as a nation in 1867.
This ship has two staysails, triangular sails set forward of the foremast. The foremost sail is the jib which acts as an airfoil, reducing turbulence on the leeward or downwind side of the mainsail. It increases performance and stability of the vessel.
Newfoundland, a British colony until 1949 when it joined Canada, is steeped in British culture and traditions, though often with a local twist. One example is from the British Navy, where the wish, "Long may your big jib draw," is a holdover from the era of the tall ships and a hope that one experiences clear sailing. It is a common saying in Newfoundland as well, especially during Screech-In ceremonies when people become honorary Newfoundlanders and are wished lives of clear sailing.
The vessel also brings to mind the replica of the tall ship, Hector,
which we saw in Pictou, Nova Scotia.
The original Hector brought early Scottish immigrants to the Pictou area in 1773, almost a century before Canada was founded.
One branch of my family is from the Scots in Nova Scotia. There was a connection to the Hector in that branch of the family and in the 1880s, one ancestor, Thomas Stewart, moved to Newfoundland.
He fathered my paternal grandmother, Ida.
One can only imagine what conditions were like on that vessel in the North Atlantic in the 1770s, with cramped conditions, above and below deck.
The vessel arrived in September at the height of hurricane season. How many ships were lost due to the storm-tossed Atlantic, sailing without the benefit of engine, weather forecasts or modern navigational aids? These were brave people, looking to better their lives, sailing into the unknown.
In a small way, they parallel the journeys of people making the dangerous ocean crossings today, in lesser vessels, looking for better lives for themselves and their children. The immigrants who formed Canada and other nations were hardy, brave people, taking risks to improve their lives.
We are seeing a reflection of our own heritage laid out before us today in the travails of the millions of refugees searching for safe homelands.
In keeping with my own immigrant heritage and my Newfoundland culture, I say to each newcomer to Canada, "Long may your big jib draw."
Screech is a rum associated with Newfoundland. It is a strong rum of forty percent alcohol by volume,
Kissing the codfish
which makes people "screech" when consumed. At a Screech-In, people say a verse, kiss a codfish, then drink a shot of Screech.
Some Prince Edward Islanders trying Screech
The ceremony is popular among tourists and is performed at bars or privately with local families.
Honourary Newfoundlander wearing his sou'wester and holding Newfoundland flag.