a day in the life / marina

(Also known as, “me turning my boring day-to-day routine into a post!”)


A lot of the time, the guys at work will hand me a label off a product that they are using on a boat. They take off back to the shop and I go into the Work Order module and find the boat owner’s name and then add the product to it.

(So these pictures aren’t actually in chronological order, but the writing will be. They’re just shots I’ve been taking over the last couple of weeks, thinking to myself that I’d like to write a “Day in the life” sort of post. Someday I’ll get it together enough to actually take pictures and notes of one day as it happens, as Elise does here, but for now, this is what I got.)


This is the Mercury Electronic Parts Catalog, which is almost every Mercury engine and stern drive catalogued so we can look up parts. If I learned anything at the marina, it is the importance of the serial number! Without it, most of the time, we’re just guessing.

So first things first. The alarm goes off and I roll out of bed anywhere between 6 am and 7:30. (Depending on how sleepy I am and if I messed up and hit “Off” instead of “Snooze”.) I eat breakfast, usually yogurt and Special K Oats N Honey and some fruit, and get dressed. Sometimes I’ll do email and stuff like that before I leave for work. Sometimes not. Sometimes I find random animals or puke that the cats have ‘left’ me, on the floor. Nice.


I took this picture when there was no-one around. This is what I look like when I’m talking on the VHF. “Baddeck Marine, standing by, 68.”

I drive in to work along the Baddeck Bay Road. No matter what the weather is, it’s always a beautiful drive. It’s 10 minutes or so. Sometimes I stop and get a coffee at Bean There, but more often than not I just go to work.

I sign in to MMS, the computer program we use to make sales, keep track of inventory, and billing. I check the dock and mooring book/clipboard to refresh my memory and see if there is anything to attend to right away. I check the work email. I take yesterday’s weather off the door and print off today’s weather, and tape it up. I cut yesterday’s weather into pieces and put it in the scrap tupperware on the counter.


The second floor, aka the Parts Department.

Usually quite soon after I start, the phone rings. “Baddeck Marine, good morning, this is Leah,” I say. I’ve said it so many times, and I think I sound quite polished. It’s my “professional” voice. Most of the time the calls are for Stuart, my boss. Often I’ll say, “He’s here on the property, but he’s not available right now. May I take a message?” We have a message book by the phone, one of those ones with carbon paper and four message slots per page. We go through three a year, roughly, I’d say.

If the customer needs to talk to him, I put them on hold and go for a walk – in to the big room attached to the store where we can have up to three boats on jackstands, and if he’s not there, I go through the back door to the parking lot and then out onto the docks. I get a lot of exercise in the run of a day!


View from the second floor offices. The Baddeck Government Wharf is on the left. Everything to the right is Baddeck Marine.

Between 8 am when I start and 10 am coffee break, depending on the day, it’s usually busy. Sometimes it’s not and I read blogs. (Shh, don’t tell!) I always look forward to 10 am though, because my co-worker Flossie brings her coffee downstairs and we hang out and chat. The other workers usually sit on the bench outside or hang around the front desk inside, unless it’s super busy and then they take their break upstairs.


It is impossible to keep dirt and dust out of the marina store, I’ve learned. Especially on rainy days.


This is a very busy phone!


View from my side of the front desk! It is usually cluttered with stuff.


After coffee break time usually goes pretty fast. The phone rings a lot, people come in, and I’m kept busy behind the desk ringing in sales, answering questions, looking up parts. Usually Flossie goes to lunch at noon, as do most of the other workers, and it’s a little quieter. From noon to 1 I place the orders I have to place with my main suppliers. (The cutoff time for most of them is 2 pm, to get the goods by the next day.)

At 1 it’s time for lunch. Flossie covers the store for me while I either go upstairs to the staff room or go uptown for errands.

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I return at 2 or a little after depending on what time Flossie got back and I got to leave.

Often there are orders that came in that I have to receive. This means going into MMS, our system, and telling the computer that the product is here, matching it to the invoice. I print off labels and affix them to the products. I check the Excel spreadsheet that has all our orders on it, to see what customer the parts are for. If the parts are for a job the boys are doing, I punch the numbers into the Work Order module and then write a checkmark on the barcode.

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I write a lot of notes in the run of a day – part numbers, serial numbers, phone numbers, credit card numbers, information about what a person is looking for. Et cetera.


Standing at the computer. One hand on the keyboard and the other on the trackpad.


I love when I get a chance to get outside and out from behind the desk, and go to the docks.

Other things that tend to happen (at no set time or place): getting calls on the VHF radio, reminding the dock attendants to check the bathrooms for cleaning (they get really dirty really fast!), making reservations for the docks and moorings, checking people in who have come in on a boat. I’ve also been working on getting the marina’s website re-designed – I wasn’t doing the design, but I was the person making the phone calls and emails with the design firm and making sure it happened. That was fun! And I tend to be the person who puts things on the marina’s Facebook page.

It can get pretty chaotic, especially during Regatta Week, which is the first full week of August. We’re booked months in advance for that. Between the VHF radio, the phone, and customers coming in, it can be busy! But that’s balanced by the quiet of evening.

There is another coffee break at 3. The next significant time of day is 5 pm when some of the other workers clock out. Some days I do too but not often. Most of the time I work til 8 pm. The evening gets quiet. I wrap up loose ends that I didn’t get to during the day, like entering the day’s orders in the computer so that tomorrow when they arrive I can receive them, or calling people back with answers to their questions.

Then once I’m done all that, I take out my computer and do a bit of personal stuff. Sometimes that’s design work – I’ll be sharing some of my client jobs in future posts. Sometimes that’s blogging – I write posts and deal with photos. Sometimes that’s answering emails. Customers come in, usually at this time of night tourists who are walking around the village. They come in and say, “I’m just looking.” I say, “Be my guest!”

Then I’ll sweep the floor, count the till, and call it a night at 8 pm!

I go home. I’ll talk to my Mom for a bit about her day. I make my lunch for the next day. I FaceTime with Adam for a bit. I might read or watch a bit of a movie on my computer. Then I turn the light out usually by 11 or so. And do it all again the next day!


The mooring/wharfage binder (left) and clipboard (right): best friends!


A screenshot of MMS.


The front desk.


In the back shop: a wall of keys to boats, the cabinet with tools, and a poem about the sea.

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Posted in Day to Day Life, Work | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

collage / marina

marinacollage I used to LOVE to make collages when I was a kid. I remember getting a bunch of Vogue magazines from Susanna Fuller (a neighbour’s daughter who was in her late teens or early twenties – I don’t remember exactly, I just remember that she was older and cooler) when I was probably around ten. This was when Cindy Crawford was in the pages all the time. I remember carting those Vogues in a wheelbarrow through the woods to my house (this was when my parents were still together and still lived in the cabin they had built, which was accessible only by footpath), and then spending hours in my room sitting on the floor, cutting pieces out and gluing them to paper. It was bliss! (My parents, god bless them, really left me and my brother to our own devices most of the time, which resulted in us doing stuff we really loved. Often when I want to remember who I truly am, I think about the stuff I loved to do as a kid. It’s still my favourite stuff.)

Then in my teens, with my goofy best friends, we’d make collages, too. Some silly, some artsy.

I used to collage stuff in my journals, too, and I love to look back at them and remember where the bits of paper and pattern came from.

And then it sort of slipped by the wayside. Funny how that works. Life gets busy doing other “important” stuff and we forget to make time for creative stuff.

On the weekend I was working. It was a quiet, stormy morning. I was reading Elise Blaha’s blog, as I’ve been doing for the past month or so (as I seem to mention pretty much every time I blog now, haha), and getting all fired up and inspired to do something like her Project Life. Except, it would be days before I’d be back in my home office, able to print off photos, or work with stamps, or anything. I was getting kind of frustrated by this!!

Then I thought, “Derp!” (That’s Adam’s nickname for me.) “Work with what you’ve got!”

Because, of course! Limiting what you have to work with is a good way to get creative, as Elise herself says.

So, I looked around me. I gathered some of the brochures we have lots of (and can stand to have me cut up), got scissors and pen and tape and got to work.






The end result isn’t amazing. I mean, I made it in half an hour, I didn’t consider any of the choices, just stuck stuff wherever I felt like it, and half the time there were other people around. But, it was fun to make, and reminded me that I don’t need to have the ‘perfect’ set-up in order to make stuff. And it will always remind me of my summer job at the marina.


Posted in Art, Day to Day Life, Design, For Fun | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Chimney Corner


I was that desperate to get over to Chimney Corner yesterday evening. I made sure the till was counted and everything was ready so that right at 6 pm, the time we close on Sundays, I locked up, got in the car and drove as fast as sense would allow. (And as fast as the tourists would allow, a few of which I got stuck behind going sixty kilometers an hour, a few times. Well, to be fair, they may not have been tourists, they could have been locals too, just slow drivers.)


After four straight days of nothing but work from 8 in the morning til 8 at night, seeing the dusty parking lot, the dusty store, and being cheery even when I didn’t feel like it, I was craving the beach. And not just any beach. Chimney Corner. I don’t know exactly why but there is nowhere exactly like it, for me. Whale Cove is too exposed. Little River isn’t on the West side (and the West side feels like a real “getaway” for me).




And it did not disappoint.

All my senses were satisfied. Sound: waves crashing endlessly. Touch: sand on my feet. Taste: sandwich and granola bar. Smell: bonfire of a nearby family, fresh air, the sea. Sight: well, duh.



I drove home after dark. After days of serving other people, for those two hours at the beach I served no-one but myself. And it was so good.

Now, back at work for three more days and then a couple off. I can do this!

Here is the post where I went to Chimney Corner last year.


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20130809-090142.jpg These days I’m …

… a little under the weather with a head cold, but working anyway.

…feeling like hibernating (possibly as a result of the head cold).

…working a lot of long hours now that I am back from my trip to New Jersey. Starting at 8 am and going through to 8 pm sounds great on paper (think of the money!) but gets old, for sure.

…trying not to wish August away. (The intellectual part of me knows it’s not good to wish time away, and it’s better to try and live in the moment, yadda yadda. But, I do miss my home and my honey, and I can’t wait for school to start.)

…walking every day, even just a little bit. (I’m posting pictures on my Instagram under the hashtag #walkaday). As of four days, anyway. I definitely want to get more exercise in the mix, as it feels so good when I do it. Plus, I find that making time for a walk that is just a walk (not a walk somewhere specific to do a specific thing) is such great “me time”. So good for breaking up a busy day.

… looking into registering a business name and/or a business bank account, and feeling just a teensy bit overwhelmed!

…remembering, though, that its good to take risks and step out of my comfort zone. This is how life is.

…standing on the sidelines of the Baddeck Regatta, selling ice and fuel and wharfage spots, and observing the sailors as they come in and out of the store. In some ways I wish sailing were ‘my thing’, but I have to admit, it’s not. It seems like it’s been a good week for those who are into it, though!

Posted in Day to Day Life, Leah's thoughts, Work | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

still dreaming





Lately I’m reconsidering.

Re-evaluating, re-viewing, re-thinking. All those “re-” words.

This blog, mainly. (Everything else in my life right now is actually just fine as it is.)

Thinking, “What am I doing? Why am I doing it?”

At the start, last year, the goal was amorphous and lofty.

Then I felt proud (around mid last year after doing some talks). Then I felt silent (in the winter when I was busy and didn’t have the time to keep up the momentum).

Now I feel like reviewing and going back to what makes me happy.

This reviewing arose out of re-reading my archives and skipping all the posts that were guest blogs and Q+As. Honestly! They didn’t interest me. They felt over-edited and not in line with my voice.

And maybe this is narcissistic but the ones that interested me were my own thoughts and my own experiences, raw and in the moment.

Less edited, more real. More of a document of a day-to-day life in a place.

I mean, I’m glad I’ve done the Q+As and I think I will still do them in future. I think it’s important to show other people’s views, other than my own.

But I’ve come to realize that this blog is in no way completely representative of this whole place, of everyone here. It’s representative of my friends, really, and people who were easy to get ahold of!

So as a result, I don’t have any Mi’kmaq people, or people from communities I have no contact in. I don’t have anyone from Down North, or from anyone who is on welfare. Unlike if it was government-issued by some department to “raise people’s spirits” or some such thing, this blog isn’t following any pattern or any set plan. And I feel like it shows. In a good way, sometimes, and in a way that makes me uncomfortable, other times.

And I’ve narrowed what bothers me down to: I don’t feel comfortable saying that I’m representing “Cape Breton” when I am just one lady in just one town. I work a lot just as much as anyone else, and when I am done working for the day I am tired. Things that don’t sustain themselves, passion-wise, are going to fall off the plate. That’s life. And having a lot of other people’s voices doesn’t inspire me enough to keep me editing and posting night after night when I could be drinking wine or watching TV or walking alone outside.

But what does inspire me, for whatever narcissistic and/or artistic reason that it does, is to take pictures, to write, to share bits of my life and what I see and what I think. It inspires me to share my creative process and bits of my design work, which is evolving and growing into a small business. (Exciting!)

So here’s what I’ve got so far: I’m going to keep writing. And sharing photos. Every day. It’s going to be random. It’s going to be mainly about me. I am putting down the (mostly imaginary) weight I was carrying around with me of “trying to raise the spirits and change the economic tide of an entire island”. I am going to continue on this ‘journey’* of being me, living here, and keep sharing it here.

(Why do we do this to ourselves? I’m sure that most of you reading this are thinking, “Leah, dude, nobody asked you to ‘raise the spirits and change the economic tide of an entire island’, and besides that, I didn’t think that’s what you were doing anyway!”)

So anyway. I hope that’s OK with you. (I say because I feel remarkably beholden to my readers.)

And if it’s not? Well. I dunno what to tell ya! Frig off, I guess! 🙂

*I know, “journey” is hackneyed and cliched. I still don’t care.

K. We cool? Good. See you here tomorrow. For more randomness.

Posted in Leah's thoughts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

swing of things










Mmmm local raspberries and cherry tomatoes!

The day after I got home from New Jersey, which was yesterday, I had the day off. I had originally thought I would go straight back to work after the trip, but I’m so glad I didn’t. I’m so glad I left a day where I had the house to myself, and I got to spend some time alone.

While I love my family, after a trip away with them I need some time to myself. To just get back in the swing of things.

I went out to Hank’s Family Farm for some produce and then drove to Point Aconi beach. I walked along it. I sat. I wrote. I walked some more. Took some photos. Stared up at the sky. It was so nice to be somewhere wide open and with hardly any people around. To be back home. Away from the hustle and bustle of the U.S.

Now we’re in the last half of summer and it’s going by fast. Not that I want to wish the time away but I’m so looking forward to the fall! To being back in North Sydney, to being back in school, back doing design stuff full time.

Anyway. That’s all for now. Elise’s archives have got me dreaming of printing more photos, making more scrapbooks (and by more I mean some), and just generally doing more creative stuff and then sharing it here. So keep an eye out for that.

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travelling to NJ

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The weekend was good.

I mean, it was sad too. Yesterday I shed some tears for sure when we were sprinkling Grandpa’s ashes at the base of a tree.

But it’s been overall really good. We stood in a circle and remembered him in stories, and a couple of songs, and then we scattered his ashes under the same tree where five years ago they scattered Granny’s.

Then we all got back in our cars and drove to a Hibachi/sushi restaurant, and had a lively meal, laughing and telling more stories, joking and catching up with each other. I’ve got a cousin who lives in LA, and a cousin in Washington, DC, and others in New Jersey, and other than Facebook posts, I don’t see them often.

I miss home for sure (even though it’s only been three days, I know, I’m a homebody!), but I’m so glad I was able to come down to New Jersey for this trip. There is nothing like being there, physically being in the same room and being able to talk to and hug family.

It’s so strange how the phases of our lives switch, and go from one to another. This new phase has begun, the one without Granny and Grandpa. We can no longer ask them questions about “what happened back then?” We are lucky that these two were so diligent about documenting things, for sure, so that we have annotated family video from the 1950’s, and memoirs, and photos, and genealogy work. But, they are now gone. They have become ash, and our memories.

Now my father, and his sister and brother, will take on the role of Elders of the family. They will be the grandparents. Myself, my brother and our cousins move up too and become parents, the middle generation. And the next one will come along. As it always has.


Anyway. Today we’re on our way home, back to Canada, back to Nova Scotia, and then back to Cape Breton. Sweet! Can’t wait!

Posted in Day to Day Life, Leah's thoughts | Tagged , , | 3 Comments