A Day by the Sea Tours Ltd.
Calvin d’Entremont’s ship is coming in. But it’s not carrying the lobsterman’s usual catch. This boat is full of tourists.
The Cat, the high-speed ferry connecting Yarmouth to Bar Harbor and Portland, Maine for four-and-a-half months of the year, has just pulled into its Nova Scotia port.
And D’Entremont, who like his Acadian forebearers practices economic diversity, is waiting with a list of names - behind the wheel of his other “vessel,” a 24-passenger tour bus.
From early June through mid-October, the young Lower West Pubnico native trades lobster traps for educational chat aboard his popular two-and-a-half and five-hour Coastal Excursions bus tours.
The guided tours introduce his guests to all aspects of Yarmouth and the Acadian Shore, from Acadian history and Maritime culture to breathtaking coastal scenery – and, of course, lobsters. He also offers a specialty tour of Annapolis Valley wineries.
D’Entremont is now into his third season at the helm of A Day by the Sea Tour, Ltd., a business he’s worked with for seven years altogether. He says he chose this second career so that he’d be able to spend more time with family.
As a tour business owner, d’Entremont is an ardent supporter of the Cat.
“Economic activity and transportation are closely tied,” d’Entremont says. “The main game is to get people here.”
Nova Scotia’s western tip may be the province’s closet point to the United States, but the distance is measured in nautical miles, across the Gulf of Maine. So direct transportation links, such as the seasonal ferry and year-round airline, are vital to keeping the local economy going.
Also a councillor for the Municipality of Argyle, d’Entremont realizes the value of good business relations to long-term success.
He maintains a partnership with Bay Ferries, owner of the Cat, which markets his tours as a part of its Cat Nova Scotia holiday packages. Every morning, d’Entremont gets a faxed list of passengers who have signed aboard his tour.
Most tour clients are American. Many are from New England, particularly Maine, and more recently the Southern states. “It gets hot there in the summer,” he explains. “People come up here to escape the heat.”
They also come for the history. That’s especially true for the Cajuns – descendants of Acadians who, after the Deportation in the 18th century, settled in Louisiana 250 years ago. They like to return to experience their ancestral home.
Coincidentally, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a native of Portland, Maine - one of the Cat’s destinations - penned the epic poem “Evangeline.” It was about the Acadian Great Expulsion of 1755-1763 during the European Seven Year’s War, in which England and France took opposing sides.
Many Acadians who found their way back after the Deportation resettled along the southwestern coastline from Pubnico to Digby, now called the Acadian Shore.
For many, the rocky, seabound coast was vastly different from the rich agricultural lands of their original Nova Scotia farms, so they had to be creative to make a living, going into fishing, shipbuilding and carpentry, among other trades.
D’Entremont would like to add “tourism” to that list.
His own family goes back to 1653 in the Pubnico-Yarmouth area, minus a gap of a few years when they were relocated to Massachusetts. “The unique thing about the d’Entremonts is that they actually came back to where they started,” he says.
The lobsterman, who says he loves traveling and researching Nova Scotia’s heritage, calls himself “just an average Acadian who happens to know a lot of his history.”
He adds, “You’re going to laugh again when I tell you how I got started.” He learned his Acadian history from a local Scot descendant, Murdoch Forsythe.
Forsythe – whose family came to Pictou during the Hector era, is a former geography and social studies teacher. He’s also the founder of A Day by the Sea Tours, and he himself learned Acadian history from renowned sources such as Acadian expert Dr. Neil Boucher, PhD. Boucher, a former Sainte-Anne University professor and now vice-rector at the University of Moncton, is also a Yarmouth-area native.
But history is only part of the tour. D’Entremont also talks lobster – the job, difficulties and rewards of fishing for the tasty crustaceans. And he’s got a few well-fed, hard-shelled interns who help him tell the story.
D’Entremont was granted special permission from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to keep a non-fishing trap – a closed trap where he keeps his own lobsters – to pull up and show eager listeners.
The tour business is as important and rewarding as fishing for d’Entremont. He enjoys meeting people. Some are “celebrities,” like the designer behind the original pink flamingo, “a guy from Massachusetts,” he explains, and a US senator from Wyoming.
D’Entremont and his family did once leave Nova Scotia – but just for a year. They lived in Sioux Lookout in Northwestern, Ontario, where d’Entremont, also a licensed commercial pilot, flew floatplanes (seaplanes with pontoons).
“The beauty about that was I realized when I was out there that I wanted to be here – and I knew this is where I belonged.”
Speaking of ships coming in – just how is d’Entremont fairing in these tough economic times? He’s holding his own, he says. “I’ve got long-term plans and things are starting to fall into place.”
His summer support staff doesn’t fair so well. Remember the lobsters? At the end of the season, well, they become the d’Entremont’s dinner.