MICA Island Champions
August 31, 2020
Our MICA Island Champion program is up and running. We thank all our MICA Champs for accepting this responsibility and are very pleased to introduce them below. They are keeping their eyes on their assigned islands, conducting inspections, reporting back and helping with the general stewardship. Let's all help them to make their job easy.
MICA Champions at Large:
- Andrews Island: Brenton Aulenback
I grew up spending my summers at our family cottage on Mush a Mush Lake. We swam canoed, rowed, explored, and water skied to our hearts content. My wife Jane and I spent most of our work years in Moncton and enjoyed sailing and racing out of Shediac. Our first boat was a Paceship20 which was wonderful for a small family of 4. With all the sand there, I soon became expert at running aground and getting off again! Good training for any boater! The highlight of my sailing was trailering our K25 and S2 7.9 to Chester for Race Week. It was lots of fun and my first opportunity to study the local islands and shoals. Getting close to my retirement, I had a burning desire to further explore the waters and islands of Mahone Bay and the Province. The lake had lost its appeal. We converted a 42' PEI lobster boat and aptly named her As Good As It Gets. She was great for introducing and toting dozens of friends and family to the ocean. We've had 35 adventurers aboard a couple of times (approved live jackets as well!). I served on the MICA board for a few years until we acquired a "land yacht" and headed south for the winters. We tried to go without a boat but that only lasted a year and we bought a Mainship 34 and cruised her home from Long Island (New York!) She's called Dances With Waves and spends lots of time at the islands, near and far. It's hard to pick a favourite MICA sland... but you will see us at Masons, Backmans, Long, and Andrews often. Our 2 grandchildren have already become island explorers! Of all the waters we have visited Mahone Bay rates right up with the best. Thanks to the MICA board, members, and donors for their long range vision and continuing stewardship.
- Backman Island: Heiner Josenhans
Bachmans island was formed about 14,000 years ago by the enormous force of 3000 meters of moving glacier which eroded and shaped a mixture of rocks, silt and clay at the glacier base. The half egg shaped hills ( called drumlins) seen in profile as you approach the island were sculpted by moving ice. After glacial retreat, sea levels were tens of metres lower and the Mahone Bay area was mostly a hilly landscape separated by small lakes and embayments. As water levels rose to the present coastline, waves eroded and reshaped the island shoreline. Storm induced waves washed the silts and clays from the island bluffs and moved boulders, gravel and sand along the shoreline to produce the beautiful beaches on Bachmans island. Large volumes of eroded sand and gravels were eroded from the northeastern end of the island and moved by the prevailing storm waves to build the biggest beach which connects the two drumlins. This bridge shaped feature is called a tombolo.
The current MICA champion for Backmans Island is Heiner Josenhans. Heiner worked as a marine geologist with the geological survey of Canada specializing in post glacial land formation. Heiner is happy to champion Backmans island because much of the beauty of the island is the result of mechanisms he spent a career studying.
- Bella Island: Dale Rafuse
I grew up in Martin's River, visited almost every island in the bay over the past 40 years. Spent many days and nights on Bella, Goat, Young and Squid. I was one of the original 6 MICA members, stepped back 10 years ago, to fundraise for several other projects. It's nice to be back.
I first visited Bella as a teen, now I'm 60. The island hasn't changed a lot over the years, except for erosion on the West end of the island. For many years there was a large tenting area with privet toilets, but those are long gone.
My wife, Cathy, and I have been there three times this year, walked the entire shoreline, picked up a small bag of overboard trash. The beach is heavily used, but very clean. Often used by the same families, and boats. The fire ban is being respected, as there is a huge pile of driftwood on the back of the beach. There are 2 moorings, which have been there for many years. I have overnighted on both, no issues. One is a drilled granite boulder and chain, the other is a standard 4x4 concrete block. It was dropped by a fellow in Martin's Point, who has a large cruiser, at least 10 years ago. I use it often, with his permission. By the way, my boat is a Four Winns 246, blue stripe, no name. I refer to it as "The Boat". If you see me, please stop and say hello.
The MICA sign is in good shape but the tree it is on is dying. There is an active Osprey nest with 2 chicks on the West end of the beach, the adult birds don't seem to mind people enjoying the beach and water. I carved out a tenting area to the left of the MICA sign 20 years ago, back under the spruce trees. It is still being used, and is fairly clean. The privet toilet I built up on the hill is still in place, but showing its age!
- Covey Island: Andrew James
Life on the Mahone Bay waters started for me in the late 50's when my parents bought an old log cabin on Second Peninsula. Although it was only 5 miles from our house on Tower Hill to the cottage, we moved there lock, stock and barrel for July and August every year. Over the years I have hiked and camped on the islands, sailed out of the Lunenburg yacht club, paddled my canoe and hand lined all over the bay. In those days the mackerel, cod, haddock and sea catfish were plentiful with a few halibut thrown in for good measure. At that time, you didn't have to go past Tancook to get a good catch although we use to go off Pearl and Cross Island as the fishing was good there as well.
I now own the property where the cottage was located and have replaced it with a year-round house. We were fortunate to have the property when our children were growing up so they also got to spend a great deal of time on the waters of Mahone Bay. Our property is directly across from Covey (known to some people as Meisner's) island so I get up everyday and look at the island I am representing.
Over the years there have been many changes to the island and at this point it has mostly gone back to nature with the fields now overgrown. The bark beetle has killed many of the softwood trees and the winds have knocked them down so walking through much of the woods is a difficult task. However, the main concern with the island is the erosion that is taking place on many locations.
- Ernst Island lots and Zwicker Island Lots: Bryan Palfreyman
Anne and I moved to Nova Scotia about 16 years ago following stays in Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal and Oakville/Toronto.
I grew up on the East coast of England and was always attracted to the sea and boats, hence why we chose Nova Scotia as a place to retire.
Thanks to its many islands Mahone Bay offers one of the most attractive sailing and boating areas in the world. It followed that I became a willing volunteer to help MICA preserve this beautiful area for all to enjoy. Over the past several years I have been the Stewardship Chair and presently the Association Vice Chair. This has involved numerous interactions with municipal and provincial governments.
The journey continues with the support of many.
- Goat Island: Gary and Krista Longard
As a couple and then a family, we have been exploring the islands and waters of Mahone Bay since 1984 in sea kayaks, small sailboats, and motorboats.
We now enjoy daysailing in our trimaran “AquaKnot” which we launched in 2015 after Gary completed its construction. If there is no wind, we take our small motorboat out for an island picnic and swim.
Goat Island is one of our favourite places to visit. We enjoy it's quiet sandy beach and snorkelling around the island. It is a more suitable place for small boats and kayaks. We are proud to be the MICA stewardship champions for Goat Island.
We have been members and supporters of MICA since its inception and we are very grateful for MICA's success of conserving many of the beautiful Mahone Bay Islands for people to enjoy recreationally in their natural state.
Gary has carved many folk art fish to raise funds at the MiCA auctions while Krista is now a MICA director and co-chairs the Gala Dinner and Auction Committee.
- Long, Dry, Centre, Snipe Islands: Duncan Crowdis
The water and ocean have always been a large part of my life. While I was brought up in Halifax, I worked out of Chester Basin through my university years for what was then Dragon Port Marine Ltd. (now Gold River Marina). I was the sole employee at the time working for the owner and became the IOR measurer (International Offshore Racing Rule for handicapping purposes) for the Maritime Provinces. In these roles, I was privileged to spend a great deal of time on the water throughout Mahone Bay over those years.
While my career in the aluminum industry took my wife, Pam, and I away from Nova Scotia and all around North America over the next 40 years, our intention was always to retire somewhere on Mahone Bay. In 1999, we were fortunate to acquire a property on the Second Peninsula where we built a permanent home and have resided since retiring in 2013.
We are sailors and have a Beneteau 34 on which we spend 30-40 days a year touring Mahone Bay. Through my history and experiences working on Mahone Bay, and reinforced once we moved here permanently, we recognize the huge privilege and benefit the accessibility to the beautiful and preserved islands around our Bay is for the public. This recognition was well aligned with MICA's mandate and prompted us to become Life Members when we moved here permanently 7 years ago.
One of our favourite hangouts and anchorages is the protected area between Long Island and Dry, Center and Snipe Islands. It therefore feels very natural for us to pay special attention to the LIPS Islands as part of MICA's Island Champion program.
- Masons Island lots, Northern Point: John Meisner
I have been around the Mahone Bay islands as far back as I remember starting in the mid 1950s. My family had a summer cottage on Second Peninsula opposite Covey Island that we enjoyed in the summers starting in 1957.
Things have changed. Loye Island was locally known as Varlands and Covey Island as Meisners back then and a sighting of a seal was a rare occurrence.
The islands and shorelines have changed as well since then with erosion, sea water rise, development on some islands and on the shoreline and increased activity on the water. Hobsons Nose was a substantial island back then but now is nothing but a rockpile.
The usage of the islands has escalated in recent years with many more pleasure boats around the bay. In addition, life on the bottom has changed with once abundant species like sea urchins, flatfish, sculpins, rockfish, skates, sand dollars, red and white jellyfish, and mussels essentially disappearing. Once scarce, seals and green crab are now abundant. The bay has certainly changed over the years.
The Mahone Conservation Area is very important to protect this wonderful resource for current and future generations and my wife Janet and I are both pleased to have been involved with the organization since its beginnings with John as a founding MICA Director.
Janet has enjoyed the islands with me since the late 1960s and our family including my two daughters has enjoyed many of the Mahone Bay islands and especially Masons Island (both big cove and northern point) since the mid 1980s as a favourite for a picnic and a swim even though the voyage out and back from Mahone Bay was an event in the small, slow, open boats we used to have. We are now proud to share this wonderful legacy with our grandson.
Recent inspections show the island is being very well respected by users and is being left in its natural state with the exception of mooring balls in the big cove and off the northern point.
- Quaker, Snake and Lynch Islands (NCC): Syd Dumaresq
A kind and understanding father gave me a 14' sailboat in about grade 5 followed by a Bluenose (B-9) in grade 7. My friends and I would explore the bay and islands all day long on every day that was remotely fit to sail.
Sandy and I returned from McGill in 1969 and bought several used boats starting with a Paceship Eastwind and ending with our beloved Whitby 42. Once the children started appearing they just kept coming, hence the need for bigger boats. For most of the childrens' formative years we had a major sailing cruise every summer, ranging from the St John River to Iles de la Madeleine to part way up the Labrador and several trips to the south coast of Newfoundland. Between trips we explored more local territory, especially Mahone Bay.
I was promoted from a local group saving Chester Islands to the MICA Board in about 2012 and am now secretary to the Board.
My islands of Quaker, Lynch and Snake are special to me as they form part of a beautiful necklace around my home town of Chester. How different Chester would be without that necklace! These three islands were purchased in a block by the Nature Conservancy of Canada from Sir Christopher Ondaatje with significant help from John Risley and MICA.
Quaker was named after Quaker whalers who had to leave Nantucket after the War of Independence when Britain drastically increased the tariff on whale oil imported from the USA. It is not known if they settled Quaker for a short time or looked at it and immediately moved on to Dartmouth where they set up an outrageously successful whale processing industry. If you ever have time in Dartmouth a visit to the Quaker House Museum on Octerloney Street is highly recommended. It's an original home of one of the Quaker whalers! My childhood memories of Quaker include Chester farmers barging their cattle to and from Quaker each summer. Quaker had a manned lighthouse for years and there are many stories of hair raising trips back and forth by the keepers and their families, some tragic.
Lynch had no trees when I was a child, sort of a mini Quaker. One previous owner also owned the Haddon Hill Hotel and built a small wharf and tea house so her guests could picnic on the island. Sir Christopher Ondaatje had these removed.
Snake is a little known island on the Aspotogan side of Saddle Island. It has a cobble beach with some finer pebbles on the northwest corner. Snake is a good spot to get away from the madding crowd.
- Sacrifice and Little Duck Island: David Hansen and Chip Veinotte
I grew up in Lunenburg and my parents had a cottage on the end of first peninsula; the road was so bad that Dad bought a boat to get back and forth; we often kept it moored off Frankie Vienotte's farm and travelled across the bay to camp.
We were always going in the boat and one of my first recollections of Sacrifice was going a shore and visiting Mr. and Mrs. Owen Smeltzer, who had a camp on the island; Owen ran a small store on Pelham Street but they never missed a week end on the island.
My parents built a cottage on Heckman's island in 1966; and we had boats and travelled most of Mahone Bay and beyond. Many Saturday nights were spent leaving the Sawpit at midnight and steaming to camp after the local dance.
In 1988 Selina and I purchased a piece of land on Heckman's; built a cottage and transformed it into our permanent home in 1998.
The waters around Sacrifice and Little Duck are very special to me as both were part of my youth. I have fished around Little Duck and continue to do so; it is a rough spot and has to be treated with caution.
Sacrifice is becoming a victim of erosion and persistent South Westerly winds as the SW sandbar has lost most of its vegetation. There is only one mooring of the western beach; and there were two campsites there today.
Very few people camp on Little Duck as it is tough spot to get on and off; I have been on a few times duck hunting but it is not recommended.
Snipe Island still has the camp and it is tough to see from the water; we attempted to have Lands and Forestry remove same when we had our joint Stewardship Committee.
This has been a very good experience and re-kindled my interest in the bay.
Keep up the good work.
My personal interest in the area is that I grew up here and used the islands a lot as a young fellow for recreational purposes. Later on I was employed by DFO to do patrols by boat in the area and later on became a fish habitat biologist doing habitat assessments. My wife and I live in the area and have a waterfront property which we enjoy to the utmost. The Mahone Bay Islands are special places and it is so great that many have been returned to public use through the efforts of this group. Great work MICA.
- Sheep Island (NCC): Rod Tremblay
I ought to start out that I enjoyed reading about the background of the membership involved in this project as many of you I have yet to meet, and look forward to doing so as we return to "normal" life. I grew up in Dartmouth, and now live in Maders Cove with my wife Grace Mitchell and our nearly two year old daughter, Pearl.
After several years working in Western Canada, we relocated to the South Shore full time. We spend as much time on the water as possible in the summer months throughout the Bay, although our favorite spots include Long Island and the Andrews Island / Whynachts Cove area. We recently sold our Bayfield 29 and are actively on the hunt for another sailboat with a bit more room for Pearl.
I have been following MICA for a number of years and I think that the work that MICA has done, and continues to do to preserve the islands, is important to both conservation and recreation in Mahone Bay. I am excited for the opportunity to be involved and help out any way I can.
In a previous life I was general manager / lead guide for a whitewater rafting company in Canmore, AB and worked in ski area operations for a number of years, often operating within or near Provincial or National Parks in Alberta and BC. I hope my personal and professional experience in how these areas are managed in Canada, the US, and internationally, can be of some assistance to MICA in future.
- Shag Island: David Silver
My family come from Lunenburg arriving in 1753 from Halifax on the Pearl out of Germany. My father fished lobster and his father captained fishing schooners.
My first visit to the islands in Mahone Bay was in 1958 with my uncle William. He had a boat and boat house in Lunenburg back harbour. He and his friends built two cabins on islands in Mahone Bay. As I grew older my job was to run the boat from Back Harbour to take my uncle to the islands with his friends to the cabins to play cards, fish and other social activities. At this time camping in a tent was not common. I met and worked with the LIPS group once they purchased the group of islands of Snipe, Long, Dry and Chain. Currently I visit these islands often to clean up and explore with my family. We have a huge beach glass, rock and shell collection.
We spend time on many of the islands in Mahone Bay with friends and family. When my children were born my wife and I started to tent on the islands around Mahone Bay. This past week the family completed our week on Shag Island camping making it 33 years in a row we have done this.
My family continue to travel to these islands and spend many happy times exploring and talking to people about MICA and the good work being done by this organization. I am a life member of MICA. I currently have seven grandchildren who love camping on the MICA islands.
I used my uncle's boat for many years until it died of dry rot. I now have a wooden cape island boat built in 1974 in Oakland by Ernest Langille. My family use this boat for our camping trips. If you see a large tarp set up on Shag stop for a visit.
- Squid Island: Scott and Patti Robertson
When Patti I moved here back in '91, the first thing we did was buy a 16ft wooden punt which we kept in Lunenburg Back Harbour.
We travelled everywhere but loved the runs up through Tanners Pass and the beaches on the back side of Heckman's Island before the development came. Both our children grew up around the punt till we got a little faster speed boat in 2001 which now takes us as far as Deep Cove and Tancook for lunch.
Our favorite island by far is the pure tranquility of Long Island, we take all new visitors to show them a little piece of heaven. Next on our list is Squid, just based on the fact it is off the beaten path for most people. But we have spent time on pretty much every MICA island.
My children as well now enjoy the islands, kayaking and camping when they come home for the weekends.
As far as MICA goes I was involved from the early days with cleanups (including my whole family), stewardship committee and since 2010 a Director of Membership and now Stewardship.
Also as a result of the GDA we are now a proud owner of a Herreshoff Golden Eye sailboat.14.
- Martin Balcome
A Lifetime MICA member and active board member since 2010, Martin started his MICA career in November 2004 as a member of the stewardship committee. Following the first year on the board, he became the Stewardships Committee chair for 7 years supporting islands cleanups, signage, promotions and education of the MICA Conservation area. In 2018 he moved to Chair of the Public Relations Committee where he continues to focus on communications, surveys and IT for the group.
- Georg Ernst
Georg is a founding director and currently serves as Treasurer. He has been sailing and boating in the waters of Mahone Bay for most of his life. He has sailed in other areas but appreciates the beauty of Mahone Bay every time he's on the water.
- Nicole Ernst
I had been regaled with stories of the Mahone Bay Islands long before seeing them at Christmas 1973. That year was a hard winter, deep snow and the bay iced over to Strum Island. It was in the summer of 1975 that Michael and I, newly wed, borrowed a local skiff from Dr. Dowse and sailed out to Bachman's Island to camp for three days. It was all breathtakingly beautiful. One evening we walked the length of the beach and back with crabs taking up ownership of every footprint we had made. I felt I'd been transported to the South Seas. Everything was so uninhabited and untouched with osprey and heron nesting on several islands. The most captivating area I'd ever sailed. So many islands with appealing little coves for anchoring and sand beaches to go ashore for a picnic.
So when our family emigrated here in 1994 with our own boat I was eagerly anticipating many island explorations. Over the years we visited pretty Bella Island where we spotted an orange and black Blackburn warbler and the Rafuse Islands magnificent cove and sand bar where we anchored overnight and awoke to porpoise swimming round the boat. We rowed ashore and picked wild strawberries as the cormorants watched us warily from the bar.
Sailing to Long Island was a long haul from Mahone Bay harbour, but this wildly beautiful island with its craggy rock formation sheltering flora in every crack and cranny like some exotic oriental garden was a very special place. Alongside it, stands fortress Chockle Cap where cormorants reign without human interference.
So for me becoming a MICA director at the formation of the group just consolidated how I already felt about this stunningly beautiful island formation and the need to conserve its integrity.
- Michael Ernst
The first trip that I can remember to the Mahone Bay islands was in the early 1950s.
As the little brother, I tagged along with my brother Tom and a friend when they visited Coveys and Backmans Islands. Our boat was a 10ft tender with an outboard that was started by wrapping a cord around the flywheel. What made the trip even more memorable was the occasional hit with the cord when the engine was started. You really had to keep your head down!
First we landed on Coveys and visited the log cabin the Chase family once had as a summer camp, and then up to the house and barns that had been built for the potato farm. The farm had been started in the 30s to grow potatoes in quarantine before shipping them to the Caribbean. There were still barrels in the two barns and the house was intact with all windows and doors. As for Backmans, all I remember is the lovely beach in the cove and some birds nesting on the sand spit.
Although my growing up years were in New Jersey where my father worked, every summer we would return to Mahone Bay to stay in an old house my parents bought in 1943. It was at 836 Main Street, on the edge of the Bay. The property provided an excellent location for summers of boating adventures that included trips to shoals, and islands, sailing when possible in races at the Lunenburg Yacht Club and finally acquiring my own boat at the age of 13.
This was a lovely sloop rigged day boat that my Father built before we moved to the States. First it was sailed by my brother Tom, and finally I was allowed to use it once I passed the test of swimming around the wharf in front of our house. I had one sailing lesson with my Father and he stressed three points, Carry a Paddle, Sail Upwind so the wind can blow you home and Don't Gybe.
I had to maintain the boat with money earned from odd jobs, put in a mooring, get it launched and hauled. The boat broadened my island venturing and much was learned along the way thanks to the two great teachers - Trial and Error.
Just after finishing university I attended an auction for the sale of 1/2 of Rafuse Island and a third of Little Refuse. I had $1,200 in savings and the plan was to buy these pieces. The bidding started at $800 and finished at $3,500. My bid was there for a full five seconds. As I left the Court House I heard people saying "$3,500 for Rafuse, that's just plain crazy".
Soon after I left Canada for Australia and then the U.K., so I missed the coastal development boom that took place in the 70s to mid 90s.
In February 1994, our young family moved back here and I set up a sailing school- Sail Mahone Bay. Many of my clients were from abroad and they were so impressed with the natural beauty of South West Mahone Bay and its many islands, much of which we took for granted.
In 2002 an Oregon couple asked, as we sailed by Strum Island, "Why are you letting this happen?" They were referring to excavation work on the seaward side of the island. I had no answer, but the question shaped a large part of my life in the coming years.
That Autumn a small group of us met and we looked at how we might provide an answer to this question. My wife Nicole and I were part of the group. After our first 'meeting', the next important question was "Are we going to meet again?" That second meeting happened and what became the Mahone Islands Conservation Association is the result. Our group knew that many others felt the same about these special islands but, even so, we were overwhelmed by the initial response and the incredible support the organization has received over the years. For a local volunteer based group, MICA's achievements have been remarkable. When I was in high school, I wanted to own Coveys Island and have a farm on it. That first visit must have had an impression. The ownership never became a reality, but through MICA's work, we can all access and enjoy the island. That really has to be a far better thing.
- Deb Hawkes
I moved to Mahone Bay in 1983 to work for a "little while", to pay off my student loan, and I have never left. My very first purchase, after a car, was a canoe to transport me to the islands. I did some island camping and exploring in Queens County as a teenager and was eager to explore the many islands so visible from Mahone Bay. After starting a family, we acquired a sailboat which we have now replaced with kayaks and we love to explore, picnic, swim, snorkel and camp on MICA islands.
I have travelled and explored many parts of the world and I find the coastline and islands of Mahone Bay to be unique and quite spectacular and I feel we need to protect and conserve this area for future generations. The unspoiled, natural beauty and slow pace provide a much needed rest from the busy, often chaotic world we have created.
It is rather miraculous that the small group that gathered in 2001 has succeeded in conserving 18 islands and parts of islands. The hard work, passion and determination of past and present MICA directors gives me hope that anything is possible and so I'm happy to have joined as a director in 2017. I would like to encourage everyone to become a MICA member.
"In wildness is the preservation of the world." Henry David Thoreau