Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things


The Donkin Mine saga took an unexpected turn last week with the sudden death of coal baron (and Kameron Collieries owner) Chris Cline in a helicopter crash.

Weirdly, this was followed almost immediately by (yet another) rock fall in the mine itself. Fortunately — yet again — nobody was injured.

This time, a big chunk of the roof — Scott Nauss, the senior director of inspections and compliance with the labor department, told the CBC it was “10 metres in length, six metres wide, and a metre-and-a-half deep” — fell in the main entrance to the mine and operations at Donkin have been stopped “indefinitely” while the company figures out what happened and how to prevent it happening again.

Or here’s an idea: why don’t we take the demise of the “King of Coal” as a sign that the coal era is well and truly over and stop trying to prolong it.


Bursting airport bubbles

Airport sign, free stock photo.

Airport sign, free stock photo.

The agenda for Tuesday’s regional council meeting includes letters the Mayor of Port Hawkesbury, Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, has written to the prime minister and the premier regarding the proposed airport in Inverness and they are worth a read.

But the best evaluation I’ve read of the proposal to date was in the Chronicle Herald (thanks to the spectator who drew it to my attention.)

It’s an opinion piece by Phillip Jennex, “the first-ever manager at the Port Hawkesbury airport,” who, after acknowledging a bias in favor of Port Hawkesbury, vows to set it aside and consider the Inverness proposal objectively.

I advise you to read the whole thing, but I’d like to quote one passage, in which he demolishes the notion that an Inverness airport would handle commercial flights:

To have a scheduled air service, unlike a charter service, where the pilots and aircrew are responsible, there would need to be a certified security service to screen passengers and baggage.

There would need to be building infrastructure in place to handle this. There would need to be an airport/aircraft marshaller for every commercial landing, baggage handlers who are certified to touch/load an aircraft, etc.

The airport itself would need to be fenced to ensure that no uncleared person could easily access the airside operation. Then there is the issue of fuel services. Charter passengers never load or unload in the scheduled commercial services areas of any airport, so they do not need any of these services to be in place. It is the charter flights that will bring almost all of the golfers in.

That sound you just heard? I believe it’s called “the voice of reason.”


Faint Praise

Another spectator directed me to the Golf Advisor website so I could read some of the Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links reviews and get a sense of what these golfers — who are doing so much for Cape Breton tourism — have to say about the island beyond the golf courses.

Let me begin by thanking the gods my life does not require me to spend time with golfers, because I can tell you right now, it would not end well — it would be nothing but tears and flying golf clubs.  (“You say 17 is a blind tee shot that toys with the cliffs and then, with enough carry, tumbles down a steep hill to the green?  Really? Have you ever tumbled down a steep hill yourself? Why am I asking? No reason.”)

This a completely unscientific, random, sampling of comments from Golf Advisor website and as such is every bit as valid as the “evidence” I’ve seen marshaled in favor of spending public money on an airport to bring more of these specimins to Cape Breton.

But enough of me, let’s hear what the boys on the links have to say:

If you go, I’d suggest staying at the resort to get the full experience, as it made everything very convenient, plus I do not think there are many other options close by the golf courses.

Actually, I hear that 10 minutes out from either course it’s nothing but spruce trees and broken bagpipes.  Amazing they even bothered to build a road.

Most people at Cabot stay for a couple days because it’s not easy to get there and often end up playing 36 holes a day, so it’s nice to have your room right there were you can go rest and maybe change/shower between rounds. Also, right off of the resort lobby are locker rooms with showers, so even if you had to check out of your room prior to your last round, you can still take a shower and clean up after golf (before leaving to go home).

Yes, really, I don’t know why more people don’t just curl up in a ball on the first hole and sleep there.

There are a couple of great breakfast places downtown, but for dinners your best bets are the Cabot restaurants or bars. For a good meal off campus you will need to head about 15 mins South to Mabou which has the Glenora Distillery where they have a nice restaurant or the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou, just 5 mins further South from the distillery.

Lucky, lucky Glenora Distillery to be situated within that magic, 15-minute-by-car radius that’s been medically recognized as the precise distance a true golf enthusiast can travel from a course without getting the bends.

The only drawback I can come up with is it is a bit of a challenge getting there (more than 3 hrs from Halifax airport) but I clearly felt it was worth the trip. I’ve played Pebble and may have enjoyed this more.

And a three-hour drive was a challenge because they sent a golf cart to collect you? Did no one tell you about the airport in Sydney?

I first played here in 2012 and went around it seven times in 3 days and wanted more.

And by “more” I assume you don’t mean, “more Celtic music, more opportunities to buy local crafts, more time hiking the Skyline trail,” do you?

 Plenty to do when not golfing; at least, that is what I hear-played 36 each day.

Of course you did.

And an aside from golf, I really love the lodge at Cabot, which blends traditional and modern design influences very well. Be sure to get at least one cup of lobster chowder while you’re here, and the fish & chips are also awesome. Finer dining can be had upstairs, and make a reservation, it’s a popular spot.

Oh, see, some of them can see beyond the golf course — all the way to the lodge.

Restaurant was not fancy, but the food was excellent. If driving to Nova Scotia, I would also recommend Fox Harbour for another nights stay. Also near Inverness, a wonderful alternate restaurant is at the Glenora Inn and Distillery.

That would be another golf course he’s recommending (they’re all he’s, I’m not being sexist). And a distillery. Fifteen minutes from the golf club.

Let’s end with my favorite hot take:

Although the golf course alone would merit a journey, a visit to Cabot Links and Cape Breton Island (located in the Atlantic time zone) is nothing if not an adventure. The closest commercial airport is Halifax on the Nova Scotia mainland, 3.5 hours away. (Private fliers can use Port Hawkesbury Airport, 50 miles from Cabot Links.) From the moment you start driving, you know you’re in a different country and in for a unique experience. While Cape Breton’s natural scenery is ruggedly beautiful, it’s population is sparse. Commercial establishments tend to be unprepossessing mom-and-pop stores and eateries, not chains. In many ways, you think you’re in a time warp. The town of Inverness has Scottish roots and parades Gaelic culture. Gaelic music is everywhere. Elsewhere on the island, Arcadian influences are evident.

The closest commercial airport EXCEPT FOR SYDNEY, which is actually mentioned in the “getting here” section of the Cabot Links website.

Is this really the type of visitor we need to encourage? The type that finds every other tourist operation on the island “unprepossessing?”

The type that longs for “chains?” (“My game was off — you know how I like to hit that final putt with an Olive Garden breadstick.”)

Honestly, I heard they expelled the Arkadians for less.


Honorable mention

Monday was a quietly momentous day for the Cape Breton Spectator — or at least, for the Spectator‘s editor/publisher. For the first time since the Spectator’s launch (almost three years ago), the Cape Breton Post acknowledged my existence.

To be exact: Cape Breton Post columnist David Delaney, to whom I have been somewhat less than kind, noted in an article on equalization that I was one of a handful of “local journalists” reporting on the issue.

I am pleased to be recognized in the Post as something other than a “blogger” (a term used pejoratively to dismiss us reporters outside the mainstream media), particularly since I launched my career as a “local journalist” there in 2016, with a “Guest Shot” about the Port of Sydney.

I am also pleased because I can now retire my other scheme for getting mentioned in the Post — stealing hub caps.

And while we’re on the subjects of golf (see last item) and reading things, may I recommend this terrific  New Yorker article about Augusta National, the “world’s most exclusive golf club,” by Nick Paumgarten.

Paumgarten attends the Masters golf tournament at the club and paints the scene in detail — including this description of Berckman’s Place (named for the Belgian family that once owned the property on which the golf course was built):

Berckmans is the Oz within Oz, a lavish dining-shopping-and-drinking complex accessible only to those who have been approved by the club to buy passes, at a cost of ten thousand dollars for the tournament…

Berckmans operates for just one week of the year. This is astonishing to contemplate: it’s a small indoor village, reportedly ninety thousand square feet. There are shrines to various touchstones of Augusta National lore and a vast, immaculate store that sells Masters merchandise, one of several on the grounds. Sweaters, hats, shirts, jewelry, club covers, platters, pens. You can buy official merch only on site; Augusta National sells nothing online or outside the gates. You might guess that this restriction would cut into sales, but scarcity fuels desire, or so it appears, judging by the queues at the shops and by the patrons lugging around clear-plastic shopping bags stuffed with purchases for the people back home. The club doesn’t share sales figures—it doesn’t even reveal how many tickets are sold—but a popular estimate is that it moves fifty million dollars of merchandise in that one week.

The piece is packed with interesting information — like, the birdsong is canned, the peach-ice-cream sandwiches are in high demand and Augusta National members “insist on secrecy” (there’s no public members list) but “parade about” in green jackets and tan slacks wearing name tags during the tournament.

And yes, I do see how odd it is that someone who was just bellyaching about how boring golfers are should find a 22-page article about a golf club utterly engrossing, but what can I say? I’m a woman of fascinating contradictions.