Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tugboats Restaurant – Another Look

Some time ago, we’d given up on Tugboats.  Food quality had deteriorated and service was a bit rough.  However, the other day we were in the area, the restaurant was convenient and we decided to check it out to see if it had improved.

Tugboats is located at the end of a small strip center at the south side of Tellico Village in Loudon County Tennessee.  The strip center contains a builder’s offices and a beauty salon/spa…and the center itself is tucked in behind and to the side of Village Hardware.

Inside, the look is a bit industrial.  It lacks much physical charm…but after saying that, it’s a little like a local diner so it really doesn’t need to be a dazzler…

Tugboats seems to have a fair amount of local business…much of it from nearby TN Rte. 72 and County Road 444.  The menu includes Soup, Philly Cheese Steak Subs, a Patty Melt, a Grouper sandwich, a Rueben, Burgers, Chicken and Catfish Strips, additional 1/2 and full size Subs, a BBQ sandwich, Quesadillas, and a decent grouping of  Pasta Dishes, plus Stromboli, Calzones, Salads and a large variety of Pizzas.  They also have 7 appetizers and a small bar where they serve beer.  Whenever we've driven by in the evening, we've noted that Tugboats does  seem to attract a significant bar crowd.  

(Special Note: The desserts in the display case looked great but we haven’t sampled them yet)

The last time we visited Tugboats several months ago, we ordered a pizza…and it was, to put it bluntly, just awful!  Other folks from the area confirmed our negative experience.  However, when Tugboats first opened, the pizza had been very good…as good as we’d found in the greater Knoxville area.

(Note to East Tennessee pizza aficionados: We have yet to try the fabled Big Ed’s in Oak Ridge!)

On this occasion, Laurie decided to see if any progress had been made re: the quality of the pizza, so she ordered the small 12” pizza with pepperoni and Italian sausage. ($9.99) Guess what!?  It was pretty good…nice crust with decent sausage and pepperoni!  Yes, we would order it again… ‘Tugboats’ is apparently back on course as regards pizza!

I ordered the Italian Sub. ($7.75) It included pepperoni, cappicola, ham, lettuce, tomato.  It was topped with shredded Parmesan cheese and it was served in a loaf of their fresh baked Italian bread. (FYI…I had them leave the onions off) As you can see, this is a Big sandwich…lots of meat too.  It was pretty tasty as well! 

OK…From the view of the customer, Tugboats did seem a bit disorganized.  There was one waitress working at the mid-lunch period…and she was running in circles trying to handle the tables, take-out and the phone.  It took 22 minutes for our order to be taken.  Relief did show up and that helped.  Then we overheard a conversation about running out of sub rolls…not a good thing with lunch still ongoing.  As for the food, our only negative comment is that both the pizza and the Italian sub seemed to have been hit with an extra dose of salt.  For many retirees living in Tellico Village, that would be a turn-off. 

All in all, Tugboats has made a big improvement as compared to our negative experiences from the past.  When we’re in the neighborhood again, we will consider another visit to this restaurant.  Tugboats is located at 266 Mialaquo Road in Loudon Tennessee.  Phone: 865-458-0007 (No website is available)     

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dining Out in Etowah Tennessee

A couple of weeks ago, we drove over to Etowah Tennessee for an auction.  Since the auction started at 6 PM and the viewing time for the items being auctioned off was in early afternoon, Laurie and I decided to view the sale items first, and then go out for dinner before the auction. 

We’d driven by Michael's restaurant many times in the past couple of years… It sits on the west side of the highway at the end of a small strip center.  We’d heard that it was upscale as compared with the other offerings in Etowah and that it was well regarded.  So, we gave Michael’s a try…

Laurie went with pasta for dinner and she ordered this side Caesar Salad to accompany her dinner.  The ingredients were fresh, the Caesar dressing was good and she gave the salad a ‘thumbs-up’ rating. ($3.10)

My entrée came with a side salad and I ordered a House Salad with creamy mustard dressing.  One thing was for sure, I didn’t need to order any extra salad dressing!  The ingredients were fresh and the salad was just fine…about what you would expect. 

Laurie’s pasta entrée was the Carbonara...Fettuccini noodles layered with flavors of pancetta bacon, sweet onions and a Parmesan cream sauce. ($8.99) It was a rich meal and there was a lot of food…she did take a good portion home with us. 

Dare I say it?!  Laurie said that her Fettuccini Carbonara from Michael’s was more flavorful than the one she’s had at Willie’s, which is our favorite Italian restaurant! 

I can’t say the same for my entrée… I ordered the Dinner Special, Chicken Parmesan. ($10.95 with my side salad) Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with this entree…I didn’t leave any behind…and certainly there was plenty to eat!  My only issue was that, at least in my opinion, the sauce was too thin and it lacked any ‘pow’ factor…just a bit too bland for my taste. 

This is an interior photo that Laurie took from the front door… Michael’s is a large and roomy restaurant.  Business was good during our visit.  The open kitchen is nice to see as we’ve always thought that it encourages cleanliness.  Service was solid…no issues.

When we are in the Etowah area, we will return for dinner.  Michael’s touts its BBQ Specials…from sandwiches to platters.  We’ll have to give it a try. Ribs are smoked for 18 hours or more.  In the BBQ arena they also offer pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, a New York strip and prime rib. (You don’t see smoked ribeye loin on menus very often!)     

Michael’s of Etowah is located at 862 Highway 411 North in Etowah Tennessee.  There is no website.  For more information, call 423-263-2603

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thai Cuisine (Lemon Grass – Knoxville TN)

The other day, we were feeling like something different for dinner.  Working from our Greater Knoxville Lifestyle book…which provides discounts at a variety of area restaurants…we discovered a decent coupon for Lemon Grass in Knoxville.  We haven’t had Thai food since we moved to East Tennessee from Chicago, so we figured that this was our opportunity!

The signing and the Christmas lights leave a little bit to be desired…and the strip mall was moderately decrepit…with a few empty storefronts.

Looks can be deceiving… The good news is that the inside of the restaurant was warm and inviting with dark woods and relatively soft lighting… There weren't very many customers when we arrived.  It was an early dinner for us and it was Sunday.  Business picked up later and a number of patrons came by to pick up their take out orders as well.

(Missing Photo)
We eagerly started out with a 3-item appetizer that was off the menu… Sorry for the missing photo!  For folks who like to blog about food, you’d think that we’d learn to take our photos before demolishing a combination platter full of tasty goodies.  The platter included Lettuce Wraps with Shrimp, really nice Spring Rolls and 2 other lightly fried rolls that I didn’t catch the name of.  This appetizer was served with both a tamarind and a peanut sauce for dipping.  When we finally remembered to take the photo, the remnants were too far gone to publish!  This was a great appetizer platter…really tasty…apparently too tasty for amateur food bloggers!

This may be a Thai restaurant…but when we saw the Sushi chef and his set-up, just waiting for a customer, we decided to throw some of our business his way. 

First we ordered California Rolls, (left), with crab meat, cucumber and avocado.  Then we added an order of Tuna Rolls with Cream Cheese. (right) The results were nice, although I thought that the Wasabi was either too diluted or mild.  Still, with the ginger, it all worked well together. 

Laurie ordered the Crispy Duck Breast in a spicy yellow curry with Jasmine Rice.  Her dinner came with pieces of pineapple and bell peppers…and it was spicy as described.  The slices of duck breast were delicious! (I can attest to that fact) Laurie enjoyed this entrée, but after all of the other food we’d had and we wanted to share a dessert, she couldn’t come close to finishing all of this food. (Note to the file…leftover Crispy Duck Breast in curry sauce doesn’t work out too well)

When it was my turn, I chose the Pad-Prik-King…stir fried white meat chicken and fresh string beans with red curry paste and flavored with kafir lime leaves.  Of course, I ordered it “Hot” or, as shown on the menu, 3 hot peppers.  I also had the Jasmine Rice (Note: Brown Rice is $1.00 extra) The spice level was right the entrée was very nice indeed.  However, I also utilized a take home box… (My entrée made for a nice lunch the next day)

Well, as long as we were here and Laurie had saved a bit of room thanks to her take home box, we ordered a dessert to share.  This was the Fried Banana & Ice Cream… drizzled with honey.  Yummy!

We will be coming back to Lemon Grass!  The food was good, the ambience was warm and comfortable, and the service was very efficient and pleasant.  There is no doubt that we over-ordered…but hey, it had been a long time since we’d had a taste of Thailand or Sushi for that matter!

A little chart or guide is provided on the menu that lets you pick the heat level for your food.  One Pepper is ‘Mild’, two peppers are ‘Medium’, three peppers are ‘Hot’, (i.e., glow to fire but the exotic flavors come though), and ‘Thai’, for the ‘heat addict’ and Thai Nationals.

Lunch is served Monday through Saturday from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM.  Dinner is served Monday through Thursday from 5:00 PM until 10:00 PM.  On Friday and Saturday, dinner is served until 11:oo PM.  Dinner is served on Sunday from 12:00 Noon until 10:00 PM.  Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine & Sushi Bar is at 9117 Executive Park Drive in Knoxville, Tennessee.  The phone number is 865-539-8059.  Website:   

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Exploring Loudon Tennessee

Now that Laurie and I live in East Tennessee, it’s time to start exploring and researching a few of our local communities.  There is a lot of history and longevity in this area of the country with many families having moved into the area prior to the 1800’s.

I decided to start with Loudon Tennessee, the county seat for a county with the same name... Loudon County is located on the south bank of the Tennessee River, just downstream from the Fort Loudoun Dam.  The county was formed from 3 other counties back in 1870, and for a few days, it was called Christiana County.  It was renamed Loudon County, in honor of Fort Loudoun, which is located in nearby Monroe County.  I haven’t found any information regarding the difference in spelling but, if I had to guess, to avoid confusion with the postal system, it was spelled Loudon to differentiate itself from Loudoun County Virginia.

The town of Loudon had its beginnings when James Blair started ferry service across the Tennessee River not long after the Blair family arrived in the area in the 1790’s.  The Blair family became embroiled in a 15-year battle of lawsuits with Cherokee leader ‘Pathkiller’, over the rights to the land the ferry was based on.  Eventually, the Blair’s won the suit.  By the 1940’s, there was a general store, a large storehouse, a steamboat landing, the ferry crossing and several homes.  The Blair’s controlled ferry traffic across the river for most of the 1800’s.

Note: Family predecessor Captain John Blair achieved fame during the Revolutionary War at the Battle of King’s Mountain.  For his services, he was awarded a land grant in Tennessee.  He had 6 sons and 4 daughters. 

This is Annabell’s Emporium, a large antique, consignment and gift shop right at the south end of the US Hwy. 11 bridge over the Tennessee River.  This store is on the main square in downtown Loudon.  Annabell’s also conducts estate sales from time to time.  For a map and additional information, go to

By 1851, the town was known as Blairsville.  Wiley Blair laid out lots for the town but they failed to sell.  Except for the ferry, Wiley was bought out by S. M. Johnson & Co.  The Johnson family also owned a cotton gin press, a hemp breaker, a grist mill and a general store.  They renamed the town Loudon in 1858.  The city of Loudon per se wasn’t incorporated as such until 1927. 

This is the descriptive mural that was painted on the side wall of Annabell’s… It pictures the beginnings of Loudon as a port city on the Tennessee River.  The first steamboat to arrive at Loudon was the ‘The Atlas’ ca. 1826. 

This is the 3rd iteration of the Lyric Theatre… The first one was built in 1912 and it burned down in 1934.  Its replacement burned down in 1942 and the current theatre didn’t have a roof when restoration started.  From time to time, entertainers and special events are staged in this small theatre.  For more information on the Lyric Theatre, go to

This nice looking building in downtown Loudon has condos on the second level with retail and office operations occupying the first floor.  Here we can see Audrey’s Hair Port and, one of the most important retailers in town, (at least from our point-of-view), The Grove Wine & Spirits.  For more on ‘The Grove’, check it out at  The phone number for Audrey’s Hair Port is 865-458-9090.

Greer’s Home Furnishings occupies almost an entire block right across from the county courthouse.  Greer’s has been in business in Loudon since 1890!  Check them out at

This is a photo that Laurie took of the railroad bridge over the Tennessee River at Loudon.  In 1848, Loudon was connected to Dalton GA via the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad.  For several years, Loudon was the northern terminus for the railroad and the place where the riverboats, the ferry and the railroads met…accelerating the town’s growth and prosperity.  The first railroad bridge across the Tennessee River near Loudon was completed in 1855.

This is the old Loudon County Courthouse.  The land for the town square and the courthouse was donated by the Johnson family and the courthouse was completed in 1872 at a cost of $14,200.  Much of the county’s business is conducted in the new county buildings that have been built just north of this structure.

Of interest is the fact that the only public hanging in Loudon County occurred in 1883, when Andy Taylor was hung for murdering the Hamilton County Sheriff and a deputy in Philadelphia TN. (Also located in Loudon County)

The county itself was created or cobbled together from 3 other counties in 1870.  The town of Loudon was selected as the county seat due to its prosperity and growth. (Note: As of the 2009, the population of the town of Loudon was 4,970)

The Carmichael Inn is the oldest surviving structure in Loudon.  James Blair’s brother-in-law, John Hudson Carmichael built the original portion of the Inn back in 1910.  The two story log structure was the stopping place for stage coach passengers near the ferry crossing.  As of late, this historic building has cycled through a number of restaurants…with a new one starting up in the last few months.

This old building now houses ‘The General Store’.  It’s a two-story antique shop located about a block south of the Loudon town square.  It’s located on US Rte. 11…the address is 411 Mulberry Street. 

This is another of the oldest buildings in Loudon.  It’s the original Blair’s Ferry Storehouse and it was built in the 1830’s.  The building has obviously come upon hard times but it is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

No less than four original Blair family houses still survive in town.  They were built in 1838, ca. 1845, 1857 and 1864.

Now this is a truly professional photo…and a good one to end my rather long blog/story with.  I ‘borrowed’ it from the Chamber of Commerce website and it does a great job of showing the focal point of downtown Loudon.  Three more key merchants can be clearly seen in this photo.  The Tic-Toc Ice Cream Parlor, Mark’s Downtown Diner and the Loudon Mercantile store. 

For more on the top notch Tic-Toc Ice Cream Parlor, check out my blog entry at  To check out Mark’s Downtown Diner, their facebook site can be found at  Loudon Mercantile is where Laurie buys all of our hard candy for the candy jar.  Check them out at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Auction House Action…

Laurie and I have always liked to go to a good auction.  Consequently, we’ve been looking around East Tennessee in an attempt to find some decent auction action that we could work into our schedule.  Up until now, we hadn’t found an operation that flipped our ‘on’ switch.

This is the ‘Bid to Buy Auction’ operation located in Etowah Tennessee.  Like most auction houses, this is a family affair…  We spoke to Matt and Amy who filled us in on how the auction would proceed, how much the buyer's premium is, what percentage the seller pays Bid to Buy Auction, what doesn't sell in this market, and more...  We also learned that Amy is a local school teacher.  There was a large cast of players helping when the auction actually started…probably 8 or 9 other people.   They did everything from calling the auction to spotting the bids in the audience, showing off the items being sold and tracking the sales.  One important note was that the staff and especially the owner and his wife, were very personable and straight-forward people.

This was the sight inside the auction house… Hectic, fast-paced and fairly well organized.  There was a nice large crowd…with standing room only remaining.  We could see that many attendees were regulars and locals as well.  In many ways, the auction was much like a family gathering.  Prices were low to reasonable…with some quality furniture selling on the low side, at least at this auction. (If you’ve been to an auction, you know that you just never know what’s going to be hot and what’s not!)

The facility was well organized with lots of comfortable chairs, air conditioning, a good sound system, computerized bid tracking, a nice snack bar and clean restrooms.  We have never seen so many people eating while attending an auction…truly a community social gathering!  There were many, many items to be auctioned off.  We stayed for about 2 ½ hours and they were still going strong.  Most of the crowd wasn’t going anywhere!  Auctions are always fun and exciting and this was more entertaining than most…

I did make one small purchase…some ‘Southern Railroad’ tumblers that will work well with my Jack Daniels and ice.  They also nicely tie into my collection of train and old railroad depot photos. 

We will be back for more action!  In September, Bid to Buy Auctions will have a consignment sale…and we plan on unloading some of our extraneous decorative items and other miscellaneous ‘stuff’. (We just might buy something else too!)

Bid to Buy Auctions is located at 730 Tennessee Avenue, (US Hwy. 411), in Etowah Tennessee.  Their next auction will be a no reserve ‘absolute auction’ estate sale…everything must go…that is scheduled for Saturday, July 16th at 6 PM.  The auction house will be open for a preview of the items at 1 PM that afternoon.  Photos of many of the items to be sold will also be posted on the website for consideration in advance of the sale.  Phone: 423-506-3996.  Website: or  Email: 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dining at the Tanasi Café – Tellico Village TN

We’ve eaten at Tanasi Café many times…but for some unknown reason, I’ve never gotten around to report on our experiences.

Tanasi Café is a clubhouse restaurant that’s open to the public.  It’s located on Tellico Lake in Tellico Village in Loudon County Tennessee.  It’s the home of a marina and a nice 18-hole golf course.  For information on the golf course, go to:

The view from the Tanasi Cafe makes it a very relaxing place to eat.  Of course, the restaurant is ‘golf course casual’ and, as you can see, outdoor seating is available.

We’ve accumulated several food photos from the restaurant at various times and with various folks… This is one of Laurie’s favorites, the Patty Melt with crispy French fries.  The grilled rye bread is very nice and, in addition to the hamburger and sauteed onions, it comes with Chipotle mayonaise. ($6.95)

This is the Chicken Club Salad that a dining companion ordered.  As you can see, it’s a big dinner salad loaded with lettuce, grilled chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, almond slivers and dried cranberry’s.  Nice salad! ($7.00)

This was my lunch the last time I ate there.  It’s the breaded Flounder, fried to a golden brown accompanied with the crispy fries, cole slaw and cocktail sauce. (I’m not crazy about tartar sauce…) The fish was nice and I really like their slaw!

On one of our visits to the Tanasi Café, a fellow diner ordered the Cobb Salad.  It came with lots of diced turkey, crumbled bacon, olives, tomatoes, hardboiled egg and crumbled bleu cheese.  I’ve had this salad myself and I’ve always enjoyed it. ($7.00)

This is Chicken Bryan, a dinner entrée that I had one evening.  It’s not currently on the summer menu, but this was a very enjoyable meal!  The breasts of chicken were topped with goat cheese and a sauce made with sundried tomatoes.  The accompanying vegetables were cooked just right…not mushy…and as I previously mentioned, the cole slaw is very nice.  (I can’t recall the price, but the most expensive chicken dish on the menu now…with 2 sides…is $9.95) 

Laurie took this photo from the deck at Tanasi Café… Not a bad view while you enjoy your lunch, dinner or just a beer after a round of golf! 

Service is always effiecient and the waitstaff is very personable… For a nice meal or just a drink in pleasant, relaxing surroundings, Tanasi Café is a winner!

Tanasi Café has a full bar and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.  There are 4 appetizers on the menu, 15 different salads, (including variations of meat/seafood combinations), as well as 11 sandwiches, 18 entrees, (including 4 pasta choices) There are also nightly dinner specials and, for those with a light appetite, 11 ‘Mini Meals’ are available.

The Tanasi Clubhouse and Café is located at 450 Clubhouse Point just off of Loudon Country Road 444 between US 321 and TN Rte. 72 near Lenoir City Tennessee. (No website) Phone: 865-458-9392.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Little Italian Cuisine in Charleston SC

When we took our little trip over to Charleston back in April, we decided to try something other than low country or southern style cuisine.  After a little checking around and reviewing my trip planning notes for possibilities, we decided that we were in the mood for some Italian food.

This is Bocci’s Italian Restaurant.  It’s located in downtown Charleston on Church Street between South Market and Cumberland.  Laurie took this photo right after we finished dinner and then dashed across the street to the parking garage.  Dashing was required due to gutters filled with water, pouring rain and, as you might have noticed, a fair amount of hail!  

It had been awhile since we’d had any fried calamari…so that was our appetizer.  The calamari was lightly battered and crispy, relatively tender and very tasty.  The home-made marinara was nice and rich…with lots of flavor. ($8.50) Both of us also ordered a glass of wine to accompany our meal…

I jumped out there, (for me), and I ordered something I wouldn’t normally chose.  This blurry photo, (what can I say, I should have let Laurie take the photo), was my entrée.  It’s Bocci’s Seafood Alfredo. ($19.00) This dish is composed of scallops, shrimp and mussels in a rich cream reduction sauce over home-made fettuccine noodles.

It was really too rich for me… The combined flavors of the scallops and mussels along with the rich Alfredo sauce was almost too much for my taste.  While I’m sure that many diners would really appreciate this entrée, it was just OK for me…a bad choice from my viewpoint.   

Laurie was more sensible…ordering something she wouldn’t normally have, but still staying within her comfort zone.  Still, she isn’t really a big fan of red sauce, except on pizza.  This is the Ravioli Arrabiata…spinach and walnut ravioli tossed with Italian sausage, fresh spinach and Bocci’s spicy marinara sauce. ($16.00) She really enjoyed her dinner although it was so rich that she couldn't finish it. 

Bocci’s was a nice change of pace for us.  When we return, I will order differently…but hey, that’s just me!  This is a quality restaurant with warm décor, and our wait staff was pleasant and competent.  

FYI...for you ghost enthusiasts, Bocci's is reputed to be haunted by a female ghost from back in the time when the building was occupied by the area's first Irish pub.
Bocci’s Italian Restaurant is located at 158 Church Street in Charleston South Carolina.  The restaurant is open for lunch beginning at 11:00 AM and for dinner beginning at 4:30 PM.  Phone: 843-720-2121.  Check out their website at:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ships from the Past (#3)

Laurie and I wanted to retrace and expand upon one of our first vacations together from back in the 1970’s, a trip to Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island.  So, off we went, this time flying to Halifax via Boston from Chicago.  For the unfamiliar, the largest portion of Nova Scotia is almost like an island itself, long and relatively narrow between the Bay of Fundy to the Atlantic Ocean.  It's attached to New Brunswick only at its northwest corner.  Cape Breton Island is about 1/3 of the size of the mainland and it’s accessed via a bridge.  (I miss the old ferry boats!)

 So, off we went, completing a ‘figure 8’ down the east coast of the southern part of Nova Scotia, then back up the west side to Cape Breton Island…then up the east side of the island and back around the west side, across the bridge and on down to Halifax again.  It was a great trip! 

In any case, I was looking back through our vacation photos and I came across a few ship photos from our 2002 Nova Scotia odyssey, so I thought that I’d share them.

This is the CSS Acadia in Halifax harbor.  She was built in 1912-1913 by Swan Hunter in Newcastle upon Tyne.  The Acadia is ice strengthened, 181’ 9” long, with a 33’ 6” beam and she has a 19’ draught.  Cruising speed is 12.5 knots. 

The Acadia’s original mission was as a hydrographic surveying and oceanographic research ship for the Hydrographic Survey of Canada.  In that role, she helped establish the port of Churchill Manitoba on Hudson Bay and she conducted many rescue missions.  In 1962, the Acadia rescued townspeople from 2 coastal settlements in Newfoundland.  She served as a survey vessel from 1913 to 1917, between 1920 and 1939 and from 1946 until she was retired in 1969.

The HMCS Acadia was twice commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy.  In WWI, (1917 – 1919), she conducted submarine patrols along the coast of Nova Scotia, working as far south as the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  The Acadia also survived the disastrous Halifax Explosion while guarding the harbor.  In WWI she was equipped with a 4” gun, a 12 pounder/76 mm, and 8 depth charges. 

In WWII, (1939 – 1945), she served as a harbor guard ship, watching for German submarines along the east coast of Canada.  But much of the time, she was utilized for training.  In 1969, the Acadia was retired as a museum ship for the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.  For more about the museum and the CSS Acadia, go to  

Just a stone’s throw down the harbor, we came across the HMCS Sackville.  This is the last surviving Flower Class corvette from the Royal Canadian Navy.  She was built in 1940-41 by the Saint John Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company, Ltd.  Measuring 205’ long, with a beam of 35’ and a draught of 11’ 6”, she could cruise at 16 knots.  Manned with a complement of 85 sailors, the Sackville was armed with a 4” gun, a 2-pounder on an anti-aircraft mount, 2 20mm Oerlikon, 2 Lewis .303 machine guns, 40 depth charges and a Mark 3 Hedgehog.

The HMCS Sackville served as a mid-Atlantic convoy escort for a time and was instrumental in sending at least 2 German submarines limping home.  Her final military assignment was as a ‘loop-layer’, laying anti-submarine indicator loops across harbor entrances.  Following the war, from 1952 to 1982, she served as a research vessel for the Canadian government.

The Sackville is not part of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.  She is docked in a Canadian Naval Yard in the off-season and then towed into Halifax Harbor for viewing and tours when the weather improves.  For more information, go to

As we came around the south end of the mainland portion of Nova Scotia, we drove through the city of Yarmouth.  As we drove along the waterfront, we were fortunate to see “The Cat” coming into harbor.  This high speed wave-piercing catamaran is a ferry boat that can carry 760 passengers and 200 vehicles while speeding along at 40 knots…or 46 miles per hour!

This 319’ ship was built by InCat Australia in Hobart, Tasmania in 2002.  She hadn’t been operating very long when we saw her… The ship measures 87’ 3” across the beam, she draws 14’ 9” of water and her 4 engines crank out 38,000 BHP.  She was purchased by Bay Ferries based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and she operated between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor, Maine as well as between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine. 

Unfortunately, due to budget cuts by the government of Nova Scotia, operating subsidies for this service were eliminated and “The Cat” was laid up in 2009.  She was purchased by Fujian Cross Strait Ferry in 2011 and the ship was renamed “Hai Xia Haohai Xia Hao”.  She now operates between Taipei on Taiwan and Pingtan Island, a resort destination just off the coast of mainland China.

As a side note, the US Navy has one of these high speed wave-piercing catamarans under lease from InCat and, in addition to general feasibility testing, they’ve used her on some disaster relief missions.  She is not a ship that is formally commissioned in the navy… She is identified as the “HSV-2 Swift”.

By way of contrast, here’s the ferry that we did take on this trip… This little cable ferry carried us across a body of water referred to as Country Harbour.  It runs between Issac’s Harbour and St. Mary’s Nova Scotia.  As you can see, it was a beautiful day and it was a very peaceful trip…

We were fortunate to catch this 3-masted barque in Halifax Harbor.  This is the “Picton Castle”, a tall ship that is normally based in Lunenburg Nova Scotia. (Note: Lunenburg is a World Heritage Site) This ship has a long and complex history.

She was built in 1928…as a motorized fishing trawler!  She was based out of Swansea Wales and was named after a well known Welsh castle.  The Picton Castle was requisitioned by the British Royal Navy in 1939 and she was outfitted as a minesweeper.  At one point, after sweeping mines off the coast of Norway, she was the first Allied ship to enter the harbor at Bergen, earning her the nickname “Liberator of Norway”. 

Post WWII, she was renamed the Dolmar and worked as a freighter in the North Sea and also the Baltic Sea.  In the early 90’s, she was acquired by Daniel Moreland, she was renamed the “Picton Castle”, and he converted her into a barque.  He still captains the ship…

The Picton Castle is registered to the Windward Isles Sailing Company, Ltd. in the Cook Islands.  She’s 179’ long and she has 12,500 sq. feet of sail.  This is a very active ship.  She has done 5 world circumnavigations under sail!  For those wishing to learn how to sail a tall ship, this is the ship for you!  She has 12 experienced crew members and usually sails with 40 ‘sail trainees’.

As of May 3rd of this year, the “Picton Castle was in port at St. Martin Island in the Caribbean.  For more information on the Picton Castle…or to sign up for the next voyage…go to

One final note… I had no clue what defined a sailing ship as a ‘barque’.  I couldn’t write this blog without researching the term.  As per ‘Wikipedia’, a barque is any sailing vessel with 3 or more masts, fore-and-aft sails on the aftermost mast and square sails on all other masts. (I still don’t know what a fore-and-aft sail is…) In any case, barques were the workhorses of the ‘golden age of sail’.  They could obtain passages which nearly matched ‘full-rigged’ ships…but they were more economical as they didn’t need big crews to man them…