Captain Harry Harrison knows what appeals to travellers when it comes to lodging. After all, he’s likely sailed the globe 10 times over, working in and/or visiting 20-30 countries.
Last year, he and his wife Janice made a dream come true – they launched a floating b&b, the first on the East Coast, according to Tourism Nova Scotia.
The handsome 42-foot cabin cruiser has aft and forward cabins, ensuite bathrooms with a shower, a spacious salon with aft deck and a dining area. It comfortably sleeps six.
The couple stripped the vessel completely after buying it, specifically with b&b in mind. Mattresses were changed, air conditioning and wifi were added, new patio furniture was purchased and the galley was equipped with a microwave oven, convection oven, stove, two coffee makers and more, so guests could prepare their own deluxe continental breakfast from a variety of fresh breads, cold meats, cheeses and eggs.
The boat, formerly called Celtic Star but soon to be rechristened La Boatique, received its first guests the second week in July. A dozen nights were sold before the end of August.
The boat is in drydock in Wedgeport for the winter but will return for tie-up at Killams Wharf around mid-May.
The floating b&b is stationary because of the regulations and costs associated with paying guests aboard for trips.
“That’s opened the door for me with all the information centres and also brochures on The Cat (ferry),” said Harry Harrison.
Originally from England, Harrison has lived in Canada for 30 years. His first working trip to sea was when he was around 12 years old, on the coal-burning ship Loch Osciag. He and another boy had to shovel 10 tonnes of coal each day to feed the hungry engines.
“Let me tell you, I cried,” he said. He decided then and there to look for an oil-burning vessel next trip out.
He began working for J Marr Fishing Company (now Andrew Marr Int.) in 1961 as a galley boy, washing dishes and helping the cook peel potatoes aboard 150-foot fishing boats. He became deckhand and worked his way up to captain. He skippered freezer trawlers, at sea for two-to-three months at a time, fishing for cod, haddock, herring, mackerel, “any food fish,” all over the northern hemisphere and the South Pacific.
Decades ago, 300-400-foot-long Russian factory trawlers could be seen on the horizon off Yarmouth, leased by Harrison’s employer. Harrison was the land-based manager of the operation, working from Yarmouth in conjunction with herring companies – Atlantic Herring Corporation and South West Seiners. Fishermen caught the herring and it was pumped aboard the big ships to be frozen and shipped to Africa.
Harrison feels that Yarmouth is a good fit for their unique b&b and adds that the return of the ferry was definitely the deciding factor for him to pursue a dream that was eight years in the making.
“Without a shadow of a doubt,” he said.
“I think the town has done an awful lot with the downtown area and the waterfront.”
He feels that guests will enjoy the uniqueness of their “quarters” as well as the attractions that are within easy walking distance of the marina.
“I want people to enjoy it and be comfortable when they pay top dollar,” said Harrison.
The mayor thinks it a great addition to town too, he says.
“She told me to bring a fleet of them,” he smiled.