how I came to work at a marina

I came to work at Baddeck Marine by chance.

You see, I’m not a boater. Even though I grew up in Baddeck, sailing capital of the island, I never took sailing lessons, and never really spent much time out on boats. I liked them well enough, and knew the difference between a sailboat and a powerboat, but they weren’t really a part of my life.

So how did I come to be the store manager at Baddeck Marine, a private marina and boat repair shop? Well, three years ago, I was working at the Baddeck Library, part time, and loving it.

However, the position I held was only 10 hours a week. Even though I lived at home with my mother, I still had bills to pay, and so 10 hours a week just wasn’t going to cut it. But I really loved working at the library – you might have guessed I’m a bookworm – and so I started looking around for another part-time job to help me make my car payments. I figured I’d do anything, clean toilets or work at Tim Hortons or whatever was available, so that I could keep the library job that I liked so much.

Just down the street was a marina. I was friends with one of their employees (hi Flossie!!), so one day I asked her if they needed someone part-time behind the desk.

“It’s funny you should ask,” she said, “Because we’re looking for a Store Manager. Full time.”

I applied. I remember in the interview, when Stuart asked me if I had any marine industry experience, I said, “Absolutely none!” and we both laughed. But, I said, I was a quick learner and passionate about communications and customer service.

Long story short, they hired me. At first I tried to work both the 10 hours at the library, and the 40 hours at the marina, but it soon got to be too much, so I quit being a Library Clerk, and continued being a Store Manager.

I never thought I’d enjoy it as much as I do. I’m still not a boater, but I have a much deeper understanding of the boating industry, of the trials and tribulations, and joys, of owning a boat.

I get to spend my workdays by the Bras d’Or Lakes, although it’s mostly behind a counter with a view of the street, so it’s not as glamourous as it sounds. I meet all kinds of interesting folks from all over Cape Breton and all around the world. And I’ve learned a lot about running a business.

Mind you, at first it was quite the learning curve, as I had to learn about parts like impellers and lightbulbs, belts and filters, but I got the hang of it and now I can order parts like a whiz.

You just never know what will come from trying something new, and from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone! I do think that in order to make a life in Cape Breton – or any economically-depressed area, really – you’ve got to be resourceful and you’ve got to be able to do lots of different things, work-wise. The good news is, we’re all capable of learning.

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CBC Radio interview online

And here is that radio interview, on the Information Morning Cape Breton website. Click here to listen!

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Q+A with Steve Sutherland

If you’re reading this post fresh out of the oven, on Monday morning of June 11th, then why dontcha tune in to the Information Morning radio show to hear an interview with little ol’ me, at 8 am?

The host, Steve Sutherland, and I are going to have a chat about this blog, my own travels, and what I’ve learned about being young, and living in Cape Breton these days.

(Information Morning is on CBC Radio 1. You can get it on a regular, old-fashioned radio, or on the Internet, so there really is no excuse for not listening. Unless, it’s not your thing, then, that’s cool too.)

I’ll be posting a link to the interview once they put it up on their website, too, so don’t worry, you’ll get to hear it one way or another.

Anyway, since I’ll be interviewed on their show, we thought it would be fun to do a little interview exchange, so here is my Q+A with Information Morning host Steve Sutherland!

1. How old are you?


Steve’s wife Holly and their two children on the Jack Pine Trail. Unidentified snow person looks on.

2. CB born and raised? Or recent transplant? (Plus whatever biographical details you feel like giving – age, education background, employment background, hobbies, family, etc).

Cape Breton-born, grew up on the shores of Sydney Harbour in Westmount. I studied journalism at King’s, which is where I met my wife Holly, who’s from Thornhill, Ontario. We have two children, a boy (7) and a girl (5). We live in Northside East Bay.

I read a lot and I like to ramble – I see exploring Cape Breton as a lifetime’s vocation! In the winter I ski (downhill & cross-country) and in the summer I mountain-bike & hike. I’m also the part-owner of two boats – a small powerboat with my father and a 16’ Wayfarer-type sailboat with my father-in-law. Between them you could say I own one whole boat & the usual boat-related headaches (& joys).

We also like to travel, and in recent years have travelled with the kids to Portugal, Italy, France & Greece. We usually pick a region, rent a house, and spend a couple of weeks there.

3. “What are you up to these days?” I.e. what do you do for a living, what are you working on, are you a student, in the workforce, etc?

I’m the host of Information Morning, the daily current affairs show on CBC Radio. We hit the ground running every morning at 5:55 a.m. sharp, with a collection of interviews, documentaries, and commentaries. Our show is the place to be (aside from Dream Big Cape Breton!) if you want to know what’s going on in Cape Breton, and what’s important to the people who live here. In recent years we’ve developed a long-term interest in examining the nature (and the future) of leadership in Cape Breton.

4. Yes! In fact, you wrote a great book called “Getting It Done: Conversations with Cape Breton Leaders.” So what inspired you to do these in-depth interviews with Cape Breton leaders?

We had just been through three elections in eight months (municipal, federal, provincial), where we the voting public endured a lot of talk about leadership. But I wasn’t entirely sure anyone had defined what leadership is, or what it is we look for in a leader.

Also, Cape Breton is still in a stage of evolution. We’ve left coal & steel behind, and the future is still unclear. One thing we can be sure of, though, is that it’s our people who are going to get us there.

So we thought it would be a useful exercise to identify some of the most prominent & influential leaders to ever come out of Cape Breton, from premiers & CEOs to cabinet ministers, Juno winners, labour leaders, & Olympic medalists, and carry out in-depth interviews with each of them. The idea was to build a composite portrait of the kind of person who knows how to get things done.

Was the process different than you had imagined? Why or why not?

It played out as I hoped it would. Each interview was entertaining & enlightening in its own right. But in addition to that, over the course of the series, there were themes that arose over & over again; characteristics and habits that many of these leaders have in common – the habits of highly effective Cape Bretoners!

What did you personally learn from this project? Do you think that young Cape Bretoners should read it, and why?

There are a few things I learned that have stuck with me, long since the tape has cooled:

  • People resist change.
  • If you want to make change, you have to engage people in that change.
  • You have to trust the people you work with.
  • You have to push the envelope and challenge yourself.
  • If something needs to be addressed, big or small, address it. Don’t wimp out and leave it for another time. Bite the bullet.

As far as whether young Cape Bretoners should read it: these interviews constitute hard-earned wisdom from people who’ve been through the storm. There are moments of clarity that will benefit anyone who aspires to “get things done.” There’s also a sense of history here – from one of the key Ottawa power brokers of an era (MacEachen) to one of our most accomplished athletes (Joseph) to one of the most prominent labour leaders of recent years (Drake) – and knowing where you’ve come from always helps you to better able to contemplate where it is you’re headed.

5. What are the things you love about your job, that make you think “Damn, I’m lucky!”?

The constant stimulation and variety. The thrill of performing on live radio. The privilege of starting the day by hitting the ground running and having a sense of what’s going on around the whole island. And the fun of doing interviews!

(The early wake-up call can get trying at times, but then there are those moments that shine like pearls – like standing in the darkness on the East Bay sandbar at 4:30 on a February morning and seeing the stars snapping like sapphires overhead, or driving east towards the first rays of a burgundy sunrise in the early days of May.)

Steve asked his personal archivist (aka his Mom) for this shot of him at three years old.

6. Do you think the negative narrative about Cape Breton is true (i.e. young people can’t get jobs here, etc)? Why or why not?

I think the narrative is partly true. It’s true that Cape Breton limits your ambitions in certain fields. We’re an area with limited population in one of the smallest provinces in Canada. The economy is limited in its diversity, and the scope of jobs is limited.

On the other hand, these things are true of many places. But Cape Breton has many attributes that these other places don’t have. We live in an exclusive place; a place that people the world over read books about, a place that inspires poetry and song; a place whose graces reveal themselves over a lifetime. Cape Breton breeds tough, interesting people who are quick to laugh and quick to share of themselves. You & I, Leah, have also talked about the burgeoning community of smart, engaged people in their 20s and 30s who are in Cape Breton not out of inertia, but out of choice, and who are committed to building a vibrant future (some of whom you’ve featured on your blog).

If you’re someone who can marry your career expectations with the opportunities available here (or, as many intrepid souls do, if you’re someone who can create your own opportunities), keeping in mind the concomitant rewards in quality of life – well then, you’re someone who has a higher-than-average shot at achieving happiness.

Steve at Pollett’s Cove for Canada Day of 2011.

7. Favorite fry truck?

I don’t visit the fry trucks very much; I can volunteer, though, that my favourite fish & chips are at the Mainstreet Café in Ingonish Beach, and the Rusty Anchor in Pleasant Bay!

8. If you had a perfect summer’s day off and could take your family anywhere in Cape Breton, where would you go?

The highlands!

9. Favorite swimming hole or beach?

Black Brook, West Mabou, and the middle of the Bras d’Or Lakes.

10. Dream big – what do you think of when you hear the word “prosperity” for Cape Breton?

I think “prosperity” comes from “security” – a diversified eclectic economy that allows every family to have a decent quality of life in the place they love.


Q+As are a regular feature here on Dream Big Cape Breton. These are interviews done over the Internet, via email or Facebook. I send someone 10 questions, then they write back their responses! It’s quicker than an in-person interview, and saves precious time and fuel. The questions vary from person to person but you’ll see a lot of similar questions being asked, especially the first three.

If you would be interested in being a Q+A participant, just contact me. I’m interested in everyone’s story! You can quickly find all the other interviews on the blog here.

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Links Loved

(By the way, the font used in the above graphic is Mexcellent. It is a free download.)

  • The Stupid Things You Do On Facebook (And How To Fix Them) is a good piece about making your experience on Facebook better. For example, auditing your apps and what they have access to, and tweaking your privacy settings. (Mind you, I read through it and went “Yup, I should do those things!” and then… didn’t.)
  • This guy popped up on my radar this week – Tyler Tervooren’s blog “Advanced Riskology.” Even though I read blogs all the time and follow certain blogs for years, it’s actually pretty rare that I click through to a blog and then want to stay and read for hours. (Mostly I take a look through the top couple of posts, learn something from the design, like whether or not I like it, and then leave. I mean, really, there are only so many ways you can blog about fashion or food and make it interesting, and that’s the main focus of most of the blogs that I see.) Anyway, this “Advanced Riskology” blog seems like one I’m going to read more of. These are the articles I’m recommending for now: 13 Rules for being alone and liking it, and Never live with your parents again: a mini-guide to self-reliance. The man gives good, solid, interesting advice.
  • On the other hand, sometimes a fashion blog just kicks butt, over and over again. Those are the ones I follow daily. Elsie and Emma’s fashion shoots make me want to quit my job, buy a really good camera, and then spend all my time either thrift shopping or doing photo shoots in front of walls and buildings in Cape Breton. This post this week had me about to give in my notice.
  • What’s it like to travel to India and get authentic mehndi? (That’s the neat tradition where they draw on your hands with henna.) Anyway, this lady knows! I like her blog about travel and saying “yes” to life – it inspires my approach here and in life in general.
  • Speaking of people who make me want to quit my paying job and take up full-time photography (and yet simultaneously makes me feel I could never have the quiet, strong talent she does), Tara Whitney is a photographer in Southern California. The way she blogs about where she lives really inspires me, in how I blog about Cape Breton. Just let the place be what it is, and capture the details you love. Anyway, this is one of her photo shoots of a family in Texas. Isn’t she incredible??! I have seriously considered going to Southern California so she could take my picture. Then I remembered, I’m broke.

Other notes:

  1. Tomorrow morning (Monday, June 11th) at 8:15 am, I’ll be interviewed on CBC Cape Breton’s show Information Morning. Tune in!!
  2. I’m now on Instagram (@leahcnoble) so if you’re an Instagram user, do follow me and I’ll follow you back! You’ll get to see some behind-the-scenes shots, and some daily photos of my Cape Breton life. Such as it is.
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Market day!

I had forgotten over the winter about the true joy that is a community farmers’ market, live and happening.

You know, in community work and in conversation about the future of Cape Breton’s food sources, people talk a lot about things like farmer’s markets. We sit around in groups and talk about how to set them up, talk about how to get the word out, and talk about how to organize yourself and other people effectively. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

And, at least for me, all this talk can get awfully boring. It’s necessary, yes! But, it’s not sexy. I end up doodling in the margins of my notebook, and watching the clock. Wondering whether or not it’s still nice outside. Imagining eating some of the food we’re talking about! Twirling my hair around my fingers.

But then market day actually comes around, and everyone’s hard work comes together under one roof. The work of the organizers, and of the farmers themselves, and in a way, that of the customers, who are bringing their hard-earned dollars to spend. It all comes together. It’s all in the same place.

And it’s alive, vibrant. You meander and wander among the tables, stopping to chat and hug people you know. “Oh hey! How are you? How have you been?” You overhear lots of other conversations like this. There are kids running around. Babies in Snugglis against their mamas’ or papas’ bellies and backs.

And the people who produce your food are right there, and you can talk to them! You can find out about where this food came from, which is the land they know intimately, and that you could visit quite easily. It’s not Chile, or China, or somewhere else a plane ride away. It’s here.

They might slice off little samples of another product for you to try. “Try this cracker, it’s fermented. It actually takes more work than the breads do! I put it in after the bread is done baking, you know, to use some of that leftover heat.” And I take a little piece of it into my mouth and chew, tasting the toasted flavors. It’s so delicious.

Like I said to Donald Hamm as I was snapping pictures, “The market is a blogger’s dream!”

The Baddeck and Area Community Market is on Wednesdays, on Chebucto Street at the Community Centre (next to the library).

I made a sub-page on here to house links and info about local eating and food production. Check it out here!

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Some “lately” photos – rain, evenings, yoga

My yoga teacher, the awesome Ms. Faye Chipchase, holds her Baddeck yoga classes in the front hall of the “new”Alderwood Guest Home. (She also teaches yoga in Tarbot, Middle River, Margaree and Cheticamp. Busy lady!)

You’d think a front hall of a big seniors’ home wouldn’t be the best spot for a relaxing yoga class, but in the evenings, there really aren’t that many people that come through. It’s a really nice, open space with windows that look out over Washabuck and the Bras d’Or Lake, a heated floor – that’s pretty sweet in the winter! – and a fish tank in the corner that provides a soft, trickling water sound.

I took a break from yoga this past winter, after attending it pretty much weekly for two years. This break was mostly due to being laid off from work and not having the money for it (it’s $120 for ten sessions). But I found that it was good, too, to have some time away from it – it was one less thing in the evenings that I “had” to do. However, going back this past week felt super good. I’ve realized that my time at yoga is a lot like going to a temple.

And not just the “my body is my temple” thing, either; it feels like a sacred space, a church.

Our mats form a circle. We go into that space to breathe deeply, go inward, practice a meditation, and train ourselves. For that hour and a half, our phones will not ring, and no-one will come through the door looking for us to help them with anything. It feels like worship.

And then there are the rainy evenings we’ve had lately. The daylight lasts until 9 pm or so, since it’s almost the longest day of the year. The trees and bushes are all leafed out, and the fruit trees are blooming. The air feels lush and rich. And then all this vegetation is soaked with fresh rain. Being out in the country at night in June is, for me, restful, still, and grounding. You hear peepers and the soft noises of the woods. You can just listen to it all. And think. And space out.

And then on the way home from a visit in Middle River, I drove by this sign (at the Red Barn) and just couldn’t help myself, I had to stop and take a picture! What a great use of the old-fashioned road sign. It’s eye-catching!

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10 Beaches/2012

Let’s face it, with all this cold and rain we’ve been having this week, it sure feels good to look at some pictures of beaches!

SO! This summer, I’m challenging myself to make it to ten separate beaches on Cape Breton Island.

Inspired by a comment on Facebook the other day from someone who had recently moved to Sydney from off-island (yup, that’s you, Nicole!), wondering where the best beaches were, I started thinking about my favorite beaches.

But then, I thought about all the other beaches I haven’t been to, and how it would be fun to challenge myself to get to them. And of course, because that is what I do, I’d blog about it. (Inspired, also, by one of my fave bloggers, Elise, and her “list” posts, like 40 Pizzas or 27 Materials.)

Feel free to play along on your own blog!

The only rules I’m setting for myself are:

  1. I have to spend at least an hour at the beach.
  2. I have to swim if I can (or if it’s too cold, at least stand in the water up to my ankles until I can’t stand it any longer).
  3. I have to eat at a hot dog stand or chip wagon or ice cream truck if there is one around.
  4. The beach has got to have sand or at least very fine rocks. River swimming holes only count for half a point.

And, bonus points if you can identify the three beaches in these pictures. (They are all on CB.)

Any recommendations to start me off? (Leave ideas and perhaps next week or the one after I’ll do a list of recommended beaches on here.)

Posted in 10 Beaches/2012, Active living | Tagged | 7 Comments