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altYou’ll never hear the Galley Guys complain as they go about the important task of meeting interesting new people, traveling to the world’s great yachting destinations and sampling the local beverages and cuisine. Although, I want you to know that I had to go it alone recently when an invitation to visit Canada's East Coast arrived.

Founding Galley Guy Greg Nicoll was already off to New York while John Armstrong, the newest addition to the team, was somewhere in South America – whatever!

Bravely boarding an Air Canada flight to Halifax alone, with nothing more than my carry-on and a briefcase, I made my way east. Thankfully, the Executive Director of the Atlantic Marine Trades Association, Pat Nelder met me at the airport and proceeded to mount an impressive and enjoyable late fall tour through some of Canada's most historic boating areas: Halifax, Mahone Bay and Lunenburg.

The highlight of the adventure was to be a gathering of interesting friends, characters and fellow boaters at the Mug & Anchor in Old Mader’s Wharf on the waters of Mahone Bay. In spite of the dropping temperatures and a little early season swirling snow, the beauty of the area was barely diminished. Any of our readers who have traveled to Nova Scotia [or who were born there] know just how lovely it can be.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Michele Stevens Sailloft at the end of Second Peninsula Road where her century-old sailloft and family farm enjoy an incredible 320° hilltop view of the ocean and the islands.

The area is famous for fishing and seafood. The Galley Guys’ mission was clear: sample the locally grown mussels…wash them down with the local brew…have fun doing it.

Francine O’Hagan and her husband Ron Himmelman who own Old Mader's Wharf and who, for the past 22 years have operated the Mug & Anchor Pub on the second level, made arrangements with Peter Darnell who owns and operates Indian Point Marine Farms, a short distance away.

If you have any plans to cruise the East coast, keep the Mug & Anchor in mind. The deed to the property is so old that it extends 150 feet out into the water and this year the owners are adding more dock space to Old Mader's Wharf so their customers can arrive by boat, as was the tradition.

The pub has a charming atmosphere with original post and beam construction, a harbourside deck and cozy fireplace. More importantly, 16 draft taps dispense an impressive assortment of local brews as well as signature products and British ales including Guinness. The food menu is very extensive. The Mug & Anchor is a certified Angus beef specialist and also features local seafood: Lunenburg scallops, Comeaus haddock and Indian Point Mussels. It’s all reasonably priced too.

Good thing too because Mahone Bay harbour is full of boats in summer and they all need to eat!

A great Mug & Anchor tradition is called "Load of Fish" which is the name of an event held every month on the last Thursday. Local musicians come from all around the area to try out their material and entertain the crowds. A brand new plug-and-play sound system has just gone in to make the evening even more enjoyable and the proceeds benefit organizations like the Mahone Bay Center.

Old Mader’s Wharf also includes the ground floor Emporium where goods from 100 different vendors, artists, antique and vintage jewelry dealers and art attracts Halifax visitors, local people and tourists.

Once there, you have to sample Peter Darnell’s Indian Point Mussels! The best partner we found for those mussels was the Alexander Keith’s Late Harvest Ale, a dark amber draught served in pitchers that was full-bodied and sweet enough to play nicely off the salty mussels.

Indian Point Marine Farms Ltd. has been growing mussels in the waters of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia since 1982 and Peter Darnell is president. It is a small family-owned business and they take great pains to ensure the quality of the mussels, the sustainability of the business and to maintain the water quality.

My evening began by talking to Peter as we dug into the first of many platters of steamed Indian Point Mussels.

Peter said all of Atlantic Canada has great mussels and like fine wines and their “terroire” Peter talks about his “meroire” – the local waters that give the mussels their distinctive flavour. His Indian Point Mussels are very nice and salty. He is also a part of the “Slow Food” movement – check out their blog spot at www.slowfood.com.

Sitting opposite Peter was Pam Birdsall, the owner of the Pottery Shop and now the MLA for the Mahone Bay area. Harry Covert is her husband, a retired teacher. Pam witnessed me struggling with my first mussel and immediately demonstrated how the local folk use one open mussel as tongs to gracefully extract the next delicious steamed mussel, dip it into the drawn garlic butter and pop it into their mouth without dripping a drop.

Other guests included Pat Nelder, Executive Director of AMTA who organized the occasion, her husband ABYC boat builder Keith Nelder, also former program manager of the Cape Town South Africa Boat Building Academy, Joe Feeney, Mayor of Mahone Bay since 1988 and past chairman of the Wooden Boat Festival with his wife Barbara Feeney. Then we met Karl and Susan Nauss. Susan’s mahogany whale sculptures are internationally recognized.

David Devenny is deputy mayor and now chairman of the Mahone Bay Wooden Boat Festival which last year became the Mahone Bay Regatta and Pirate Festival. As he describes himself, "I'm the closest thing we have to a harbourmaster".

Bryan Palfreyman explained the Mahone Islands Conservation Association, MICA. www.mahoneislands.ns.ca. He had an important message for our readers that MICA is a conservation association dedicated to bringing a number of the Mahone Bay islands back into public ownership in order to conserve them for all to enjoy. Cruising boaters and yachtsman visiting the area can visit the MICA islands and even camp there. Check the web site for details.

Philip Watson and his wife Dr. Krista Watson attended. Philip is the captain of the Bluenose II which is now de-commissioned for a complete and extensive restoration. Philip has been Captain since 2001. Canadian Yachting readers with teens will be interested to learn that they hire a new crew to sail the Bluenose II every February. On April 1, the crew arrives for 6 to 8 weeks of refitting and training, and then they become one of the deckhands for the season as it takes visitors, tourists and dignitaries out for a sailing cruise. Anybody who's interested can apply through the Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg. The Bluenose II is expected to re-launch in 2012.

We just don’t have enough space to really recognize everyone who joined us that night but why not plan your own visit to Mahone Bay? You never know who you’ll meet there!

Handling Mussels

* Look for a pack date on the tag. Mussels are good for 5-8 days
* Keep cool by refrigerating at 1° to 4°C- but don’t freeze.
* If using ice, place on top- it keeps mussels cool and wet. Remember to keep mussels well drained.
* Mussels need to breathe, so don’t pack in airtight containers.
* Cultivated mussels may gape but should close when tapped or squeezed.
* Discard any broken shells or ‘mud’ mussels. Rinse mussels in cold water before cooking.
* Mussels should smell good, with a fresh sea aroma, if they don’t something is wrong.

For more information, check out: www.indianpointmussels.ca

Recipe
• Serving fresh mussels can be very simple:
• Rinse 4 quarts of mussels
• Pull off the tuft of fibers that attach each mussel to it's shell, cutting them at the base with a paring knife
• Discard any that do not close when you handle them or have broken shells
• In a large pot, boil 2 cups of wine with 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 onion chopped, a bay leaf, ¼ teaspoon of thyme and 1 tablespoon butter
• Add mussels and cook just until shells open; 3 to 4 minutes. Do not overcook.
• Remove mussels from sauce and return liquid to pot
• Add another 2 tablespoons of butter, heat until melted and pour over mussels to serve

By Andy Adams