March 2020

Unless otherwise credited, all words and photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without permission.

March 26  Bored at home? When the distractions wear off, I turn to music. A friend told me that he played Beethoven’s Symphony #7 with no distractions, no other sounds, nothing but the music, sitting back and listening to it.

I’m a rock & roller at heart, but I listen to music all over the spectrum including classical. While playing some good old Ludwig van B from my antiquated iTunes library, I heard an old favourite piano sonata that might ring your bell.

A moving melody that is timeless. So timeless Labatt brewery used the theme in a TV beer commercial that I remember from my youth, “Blue smiles along with you.”

Give it a listen and don’t be surprised if you recognise it, even if you’re unfamiliar with Beethoven’s music. If it’s new it is sure to move you- if your pulse still beats. A fine interpretation by Seong-jin Cho. He was unknown to me before that performance.

Latest buzz word- you’re sure to hear and read it often-“locus.”

Sad times for the commercial fishing community of Lake Erie. Port Dover deckhand Michael Smith fell overboard from the Donna F this week and was lost. The fishing community is closely knit, the pain is felt by many. But it won’t keep the fish tugs in port. Life, and making a living, will continue. Brave souls.

Dover2 DR photo.jpgPort Dover   March 3, 2020         Photo © David Ritchie


March 22   Rube Goldberg mode. Difficult times call for unique measures.

I’m in the process of inventing a social distancing apparatus. It consists of a ring worn around the head with four two-meter foam pool noodles radiating out at 90-degree intervals. Your choice of neon colours- mix and match custom colours will be extra: it costs to be a fashion plate.
It should sell for around $19.99 but China is shut down so I’ll have to build them myself. That will put the price up to $49.99, but what would be the cost of getting sick? It would likely run into the hundreds for toilet paper alone.
Family members have their own unique solutions to maintain social distancing including a tutu plus a clown nose, garlic, bagpipes and my own temporary solution- until my invention gets into production- a daily diet of bean burritos.
Stay well and keep smiling.

March 17  I won’t miss the cancelled St Patrick’s day celebrations, as I’ve never participated. My reason being that I’ll celebrate him when St George and St Andrew are equally recognized. But no, only the patron saint of drunks- diminished to St Paddy- gets a party.

Trying times apparently require new cliches and buzz words. Let me help explain these shiny, newly-minted words and phrases.

Self-isolation: A Buddhist monk meditating in a cave to reach enlightenment.  Crossing the road to avoid a street preacher.

Social distancing: The effect of releasing a smelly fart at a party. A shy-guy teen at a dance. Excessive body odour.

Online self-assessment tool: Yet another internet instant doctor- nothing new here folks, move on.

Medical Insurance advisor statement: We’ll do everything we can to refuse payment of your claim, just as efficiently now as we always have done.

But don’t worry folks, moving forward we see a brighter picture. Aren’t cliches reassuring!


March 12  More on Port Bruce. Historical research projects have a rhythm of their own. The start may be sluggish, a bit confused in direction. I ask locals for information and, most important to me, photographs. The internet trail can be both helpful and a hindrance, not to mention the distractions and chasing of false leads.

People are the best resource: locals, sometimes elderly, with long memories and, hopefully, a trunkful of photos that they’re willing to lend me. That takes trust- we’ve all experienced the loss of loaned items.

Occasionally a good contact is made and the floodgate opens- photos and information pour in. It’s exciting but can also be overwhelming. So much to do, photos to restore and return, and what direction do I want to take with the writing?

I’m no academic historian, more a gatherer of photos and stories. Those are the two elements I look for and try to put a timeline on. Got any photos or information on the now-extinct Port Bruce commercial fishing for me?

Photos consume most of my time. Photographic prints previous to the ’60s were generally small, black and whites. The really old prints are usually quite small, scratched, badly exposed and printed, sometimes torn and lacking in detail. People used box cameras with fixed lenses in the first two decades of the 20th century. Better folding cameras were available in the ’30s, but few could afford them.

So, I take what I can get. Here are a few recent examples.

I previously posted a photo of the Young brothers fish tug Enterprise. This next print of her surfaced last week. I think the effort was worth it. Note the ladies in old photos dressed in their finest clothes and always wore hats.

Enterprise Tug start.jpg                        Enterprise ‘before” photo in Port Bruce circa 1900 courtesy of Stanley Stephens.


Enterprise Tug.jpg                       Enterprise after restoration

The next photo from 1939 shows the improvement in cameras and lenses available. The reverse side had a name and date written on it. That’s gold for researching and was quite common in the past, a trait lacking in later years. Was it the slower pace of life then? Today we rarely ever make prints, let alone record the information. What will the future be like for researchers?

Wannacott Cliff.jpgLorne Wonnacott tends to his nets, June 1939. Photo courtesy of Stanley Stephens.


March 6  Random notes. The information quest for fish tug history led us to Port Dover yesterday. We had a productive meeting at the Port Dover Harbour Museum with very helpful staff and volunteers. Volunteers are a special type of person, much needed and unsung in their dedication. Many institutions could not operate without them and certainly could not afford to pay extra employees. They have my respect.

The museum is much larger than it appears from the outside and includes the original net shanty building and an upper floor gallery that boasts a complete wheelhouse from a lake freighter, two stories high overlooking the Lynn River.

Angela Wallace of Development and Cultural Services showed us the archival storage facilities. I was surprised to learn that the museum facility meets certified standards for an archive. They are digitizing and indexing the photograph collection, a necessity in these times. That’s an example of how volunteers are much needed for the time-consuming, endless task.

Put the museum on your must-visit list, you won’t regret it.

Of course, we had to visit the harbour to view the fish tugs. Two Hurley-built tugs were in port, the Omsteader and the classic James D. We also saw a mink, just as we did on the last visit- a regular visitor there it seems.

D R&G M.jpgPort Dover harbour, 2020       Photo by © David Ritchie

FreshFish.jpgFresh Fish, 2020   Photo by © David Ritchie

Mink.jpgMink and ducks search for fish    Photo by © David Ritchie  2020


Rant mode engaged. I was extremely angered to learn that some cretin lifted a photo of mine from the gallery and posted it- with no credit- on Facebook. It clearly states at the top of each page on my blog that “Unless otherwise credited, all words and photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without permission.”

Copyright means nothing today, artists and writers are constantly ripped off. It’s the wild west out there. The cretin ignored my request to remove my photo and the site administration only posted a photo credit for me. Sigh…

The promise of spring is evident and quickly gaining momentum. Snowdrops are blooming, and the red-wing blackbirds arrived in force this week. One day nothing, the next day I heard what sounded like six males claiming their turf from all directions. Cardinals are calling, blue jays are shrieking, finches singing, and early this morning I heard a killdeer crying- before dawn.

For many people around here, the return of the tundra swan marks the beginning of spring. They were right on cue, actually a few weeks early. Milder winters keep them closer to Ontario, with some going no further south than Long Point bay.

A wonderful time of year. Get out and absorb some of nature’s healing power, even walking down a city street it’s there if you’re observant. Look and listen.


Tundra Swans.jpgTundra Swans          Photo by © David Ritchie


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