Prince Edward Island - Atlantic Adventures Day #3
Souris, Prince Edward Island
Today we woke up to the sound of wind and rain hitting the camper and unfortunately the day stayed cloudy and fairly miserable. It rained on and off and was not the warmest. We didn't let the rain stop us though, and we toured around the eastern section of P.E.I.
After a breakfast of pancakes, we headed east on highway 2 past Charlottetown and toward the north-eastern coast. Our first stop was just at an information centre in St. Peters, where we asked some of the ladies working there about the fishing industry. When you drive past many of the bays, you see rows and rows of buoys in the water, and we weren't sure if they were oyster farms or what exactly they were for. The ladies told us that these rows of buoys were markers used for mussel fishing. The mussel industry on the island has skyrocketed in the last 25 years. In 1980, the island produced 88,000 pounds of mussels. Recently, that has grown to 37.6 million pounds! That's a whole lotta mussels! P.E.I. alone accounts for 80% of Canadian mussel production and and 71% of North American.
Shortly after leaving St. Peters we happened to pass a distillery named Prince Edward Island Distillery near Hermanville and figured this would probably make a pretty good stop for the day. Tours were offered with a tasting at the end, and although it was a pretty small distillery we still figured it would be worth hearing what they had to say. The distillery's main product was potato vodka, for which they have won a Gold Medal at an international level. They also make blueberry vodka, gin, rye (made from a more traditional recipe of mainly rye as opposed to corn like many are these days), rum and a bourbon style whiskey. It was pretty small-scale production and they only sell their products in P.E.I., Nova Scotia and in 4 European countries currently. It was neat to hear about the process that goes into making the products and to learn a few new things about it. Some fun facts I learned include:
- When dark spirits are distilled that they are actually clear, and that the colour they receive comes from the barrels they are kept in. The inside of the barrels are charred, and the amount of charring will affect the colour.
- If the liquor is kept in a smaller barrel while it ages, the process will be sped up compared to being kept in larger barrels.
- Whiskey must be aged for at least 3 years, or it legally cannot be called whiskey.
- The process to make gin is the same as making vodka until the point at which spices and herbs are added to give the gin its flavour.
- 18 lbs of potatoes are required to make one bottle of potato vodka.
We were able to taste every one of the products made here, and the blueberry vodka was definitely my favourite! If you ever happen to be passing through Hermanville, P.E.I., I recommend a stop.
East Point was next on the itinerary, where we stopped and took in the view of another one of the many lighthouses on the island. The lighthouse here was built in one spot, moved a number of years later due to complaints that it wasn't in the same spot it was presented on maps, and then eventually moved back to where it was originally built. While staring out at the waters around the lighthouse point, we also happened to catch a glance of a whale fin that emerged from the water! We stared and stared for a few minutes, keeping our eyes peeled with the hope that the whale would make a greater appearance, but we weren't so lucky. The whale sightings will have to wait I guess.
Last stop for the day was at Basin Head, where we visited a Fisheries Museum. The museum was largely focused on the lobster industry on the island, which I found pretty interesting since I know absolutely nothing about the lobster industry or lobster fishing. One of the facts that I found really interesting was that the lobster industry was over almost before it even began in P.E.I. in the late 1800's. Back then, there weren't many Islanders who saw much value in fishing - rather, they put their efforts into fishing and developing the land. Americans, however, did see the value and would come up with 100's of schooners to fish the waters around the island for cod and salmon. Eventually, Islanders realized that lobsters could be caught with little investment; they didn't need large boats to go far out into the waters and traps were easy and affordable to make. Also, with the arrival of tin cans, it was now possible to preserve lobsters to sell to other markets whereas in the past there had been no way of preserving lobster meat. This caused the lobster market to boom in P.E.I., but also nearly ruined the industry as they fished too much too in a short period of time; as a result, this led to the regulation of the industry.
After our journey to the museum, we decided to call it a day and head back "home" to Linkletter. We are on our way to Nova Scotia tomorrow, so we had some planning to do to figure out where we want to be and to find a campground to stay in for the next few days. As beautiful as P.E.I. is, it's time to move on!