The Knechtles – by Marike

This post is about our dear friends the Knechtles without whom we never would have visited Nova Scotia. (Which is, by the way, my favourite place on our trip so far!)


Here is the background on how the Knechtles influenced us to make Nova Scotia part of our traveling plans. I’ll also outline what we did during our week with them.

We met the Knechtles at the church we attended in Trinidad. They are an American family who have moved to Trinidad for Uncle John’s work. Lily, their oldest daughter is right between Karin and Sophia in age, so we spent a lot of time with them. Before we left, they said: “Wouldn’t it be great if you could visit our summer home in Nova Scotia?” At first we laughed at the idea, since our original plans included the west coast of America, not the east coast! But, when my Dad thought it over, he realised that it would also mean that we could see New York and maybe Washington . . . and we seriously started considering the possibility and decided to go for it.

Of course we had major delays – an unplanned month’s stay in Puerto Rico, for example. In the end the time we could spend with the Knechtles was shortened to a week.

The day we arrived in St. Peters, Nova Scotia, we found out that our cell service, wouldn’t allow us to make cell phone calls in Canada. This is really strange, as many other people there didn’t have that problem!

Because of our return to the dark ages, we realised that we had no idea how to contact the Knechtles. In the end we managed to reach them via a skype call and arranged that they meet us at the St. Peter’s marina the next day.

St. Peter’s Marina and environs are really nice, but I’ll leave the telling thereof to someone else.


The next day we decided to wait for them ashore. (We had good quality free internet there, so it was no hardship.) We started getting worried when they were late, as we had no idea what happened. (What did we DO before cell phones?!). Just when we were almost at the point of getting really, REALLY worried, they arrived! I was out on the veranda, still engrossed in my cell phone when Lily came rushing up the hallway with Karin and Sophia in tow. Everybody wore huge smiles, almost jumping up and down in their excitement.

dsc_0130Eventually we made arrangements to get everybody onto Shang Du. I manned our little dingy-turned-ferry, while our Dad borrowed aunt Heather’s car to go and find some internet of our own.

It was lovely to see people we knew! Usually you have to make new friends from scratch every time you arrive anywhere. Uncle John was away at a meeting in some part of the USA (I can’t remember where . . . ) and he had really wanted to sail up with us from St. Peters to Baddeck. (You need to cross two lakes to get from St. Peters to Baddeck.) His plane back to Sydney, Nova Scotia, was due the next day, so we decided to invite the Knechtle children to sleep over on Shang Du. Then when his plane did come, we could all sail up to Baddeck together! (Mothers not included – we needed someone to take the car that would bring Uncle John and Aunt Heather from Baddeck back there again.)

Unfortunately, however, his plane was delayed and his flight postponed to the next day. Deciding not to wait any more, we just set off for Baddeck.

dsc_0295It was a glorious day, with just enough wind so that the boat could sail at a moderate speed. Only, because there were no waves, it felt like we were not sailing at all! It was really strange to sail on the lakes. I was lying in my bed for a little while, and I could hear the water swishing by on the other side of the hull, but I wasn’t moving! No motion whatsoever! It felt strange.

(From left to right) Karin, Lily and Sophia all sitting in the bow sprit chair.

(From left to right) Karin, Lily and Sophia all sitting in the bow sprit chair.

Blake wearing one of our really big, orange lifejackets.

Blake wearing one of our really big, orange lifejackets.


It took us around six hours to reach Baddeck. By that time the sun was starting to set, and Lily pointed out some landmarks she recognised as we passed by. Those landmarks didn’t make so much of and impression then, but by the time we left Cape Breton Island they had become very familiar to us.

dscn4572As soon as we were safely anchored, Captain and kids launched JJ and swarmed ashore to find a payphone so we could summon the Knechtle mom.

I had stayed on Shang Du with my Mom and Lucy (the youngest Knechtle) and was quite surprised at the little dingy returning with a boatful of triumphant faces piled high around my Dad and Aunt Heather. For some reason I had not expected her to come to the boat. When aboard, they all insisted cheerfully that we pack some overnight things so that they could transport us away to some proper beds. It was quite amusing how they all took it for granted that we would rather sleep on land than on the boat. I have nothing against spur-of-the-moment sleep-overs, but I suppose it was strange to think of sleeping on shore again. (Which I hadn’t done since Trinidad – sleeping in the car doesn’t count!)




Now I have to explain the Knechtle’s situation before I can continue, otherwise everything will be very hard to understand later.

First, a quick description of the family: Uncle John and Aunt Heather have four children, two girls and two boys. They are Lily (13), Matthew (11), Blake (8) and Lucy (5). They all have brown hair, except little Lucy (very, very light blond hair) and Blake (dark blond.) Okay, so half of the children have brown hair. 😉 As far as I can tell, all four children have their mother’s wide smile and are much more adventurous in their eating habits than the Yoshima kids! (The children from the Brazilian family we sailed with through the Caribbean.)

The Knechtles have a family farm just a few minute’s drive out of Baddeck. This farm used to belong to Uncle John’s parents, but now the children share it during the summer. Each one gets something about two weeks to spend at the farm and the Knechtles had really wanted us to be there while they had the farmhouse. Unfortunately, we were still in Florida at the time, so by the time we arrived in Nova Scotia they had already moved out.

Happily for the Knechtles, they have some friends in Nova Scotia who don’t stay on their property all the time. These friend had allowed the Knechtles to stay at their place for the remainder of their holiday.

Next to the wharf house in the early morning.

Next to the wharf house in the early morning.

The property itself has some other buildings on it besides the main house, which includes the warf house. This is the little cottage next to the water where my parents, Franci and I stayed for the rest of our time there. Karin and Sophia slept in the main house in the same room as Lily.


The main house is built on a hill overlooking a thin little finger of the lake and the breath-taking view of the almost-cliff on the far side. The whole countryside is covered in pine trees, and you can’t even see another house from the kitchen windows.


The view standing on the patio just outside the kitchen – amazing!

A lot of the country there has gypsum in the ground. Any borehole you drill supplies water that is so full of gypsum that it leaves a filmy residue on everything you wash. The Knechtles had struggled with this problem on their own farm – they had bored at least two wells before giving up on their own hill and started piping in water from the hill across the valley. They had to purchase a little plot of land for the new borehole. 😉

The friends’ property still has the gypsum problem though. All the water on the property still contains gypsum. You couldn’t put dishes in the dishwasher, because they would come out with a white filmy finish on them.

During that week we were graciously allowed to stay there with the Knechtles – even to dock Shang Du just outside the wharf house! (That was SO amazing! But more on that later . . .)

We had planned to do a lot of things together, and we did get quite a big lump done, but what mostly counted was that we got to spend time there with them. There were two or three major activities that we did with them that we couldn’t have done if we hadn’t known them. One of those things was to experience their farm. (Even though other family members were staying there, we could go and do things on the farm. )

dsc_0365Later on the same night that we arrived at Baddeck, uncle John came in on his plane. The next morning Aunt Heather went to drop our Dads off in Baddeck so they could sail Shang Du round to the wharf house. Everybody else drove out to the Knechtles’ farm to ride on the horse and the pony.

The Knechtles usually have a horse and a pony for the summer. This year the horse was a white (I think horsy people would term him grey . . .), 14 year old called Victor. The pony was a real grumpy, stubborn, brown, 17 year old called Salem. He never wanted to do anything you asked him, and the only time he would move while not actively being led around, was when he could stay right on Victor’s heels.

This was not on the same day but we are also riding. Here a friend of the Knechtles' is trying to convince Salem to go into an independent direction, but he wouldn't have it.

This was not on the same day but we are also riding. Here a friend of the Knechtles’ is trying to convince Salem to go into an independent direction, but he wouldn’t have it.

After they had caught the horses and had saddled them, we took them up to the little paddock so we could take turns riding them.

It was the very first time I got to ride on a horse all on my own – I think all my previous experiences from age 2 and up probably amounted to something like an hour and a half total that I spent on horseback, with maybe 10 minutes of that with the actual reigns in my hands. 😉



I’m very glad that Victor was such a sweet tempered and obedient horse, otherwise I might have been put off of horse-riding. It was quite scary to go into a jolty trot, and very reassuring that the horse would actually stop when asked. I never understood before this why it was that in the books, cowboys wouldn’t be able to walk after a few days in the saddle. I mean, they’ve been sitting on a horse all day – it’s the HORSE that did the work! But now I very much understand that you don’t actually stay on the horse if you’re not able to grip properly. Quite an eye-opener to all those stunts in the movies. I’ve gained a lot of respect for all you people who are able to ride horses so well. 😉

dsc_0486The paddock where we rode is located near a small log cabin at the very end of the long drive. This drive snakes up the hill past the main house, the barn, then up, out of sight of both these and past the main paddock. Here it veers sharply to the left and onto the final stretch. The view from the top is AMAZING! There aren’t any trees right on top of the hill, and you can see the whole valley and a small stretch of lake. A lot of the country used to be farmed, but is now allowed to run wild. Since there are no fences, all the animals that live there have more than enough space to live.


My mom and Matthew are in the blueberry patch, and little Lucy is running to us from the left. The backdrop consists of amazing view!

My mom and Matthew are in the blueberry patch, and little Lucy is running to us from the left. The backdrop consists of amazing view!

Right next to the paddock and around the log cabin all the grass is cut short, because if you don’t actively keep everything short, little trees can come up all on their own. Just beyond the cut grass there is wild meadow. When you aren’t looking closely, it just looks like a random collection of different shades of green. But the Knechtles showed us – crouching down low among the grass and assorted vegetation, there are blueberries! I always thought blueberries grew on big bushes, but these were just tiny little plants! (All through our stay in Canada I have not seen anything to alter that conviction, so I assume that is what all the blueberry plants look like.)


So came about my first tasting of wild blueberries. ^_^ (I’ve had some frozen ones before, in SA, but never fresh.) They are not blue all the way through – in the middle where the seeds are, the blueberry is a sort of mix between transparent and white opaque. I ate blueberries between rides on Victor, and I enjoyed them. =)

dsc_0620We also went walking on one of the trails on the Knechtle farm. Apparently it is a sort of hobby for uncle John and his brothers to put on their work clothes and start hacking the trails open as soon as they arrive for their holiday. (Uncle John even has a set of jeans that stay at the farm permanently, as he only uses them for trail hacking!) There was one morning that we specifically drove to the farm so that we could walk a trail. We chose the longest from the selection.


One of the things we needed to do, was put on hats with netting built in to keep the bugs off. There are more bugs here than anywhere else I have ever been! It is impossible to sit outside during sunset, because if you try it, you’ll be eaten alive!


Moose track!

As I said before, there are no fences in Nova Scotia, so this makes for a number of complications as well as having good points. Good point: animals have a lot of space – we even saw moose tracks in some mud! Complication: While the Knechtles encourage their neighbours to make use of their walking trails, they do not like the little four-wheelers on their trails. These quadbikes (I think that’s what they are – but I know Blake had another name for them . . . ), mess up the trails and make a lot of noise. This is why all the parts of the trail that is close to the road is very hard to find, since they ‘hide’ the trail. 😉

Once or twice we even had trouble ourselves with finding the trails, but Uncle John found them every time . . . eventually . . . and we made it back all right. 😉

dscn4702Our last stretch of trail coming up behind the cabin, included an old beaver dam. The beavers themselves have moved downstream somewhat and it was really cool to hear how the landscape has changed under the influence of the dam. We could see the dead stumps of trees that the dam had killed. The very last bit of trail coming out from between the trees had a lot of raspberry bushes! Raspberries are nice, although I think I like blueberries better.



dscn4592The other major thing we did was “go sailing”

Yes, we DO live on a sailing boat and yes, we do sail from place to place – but it is quite different doing a crossing on a 26 tonne steel boat to going for a sail around the island in a wonderfully light, little skiff! This one can fit only about 5 people and consists mainly of deck space. 😉

Obviously our whole group couldn’t fit onto it in one go. So Uncle John and my dad took Franci and Matthew the first trip around and then Lily, Blake and I on the second – Karin and Sophia didn’t feel like sailing on such a little boat.


Matthew; Uncle John; Franci



While waiting on the dock, Lily unpacked her box of assorted shapes made from melted beads onto a card table. Her mission: sell them off to passers-by, use the money to buy books in America and take them back to Trinidad with her as part of her luggage. Then, after she had finished reading them, she would donate the books to the local library.

All this was quite a novel idea to us – and she actually managed to sell quite a few!

Most of our days weren’t really structured, but we enjoyed them. We had the opportunity to meet some of their “summer friends”. These included both people who stay in Cape Breton year round and those who only spend the summer months in Baddeck. We also made and excursion to Margaree, although Karin will tell you about that.

Our piñata

Our piñata

O yes, Lily also had a sleepover one night, the day before we went on the puffin tour. She invited four friends over besides us. That night we whacked a piñata until it caved – even Lucy had a go and she’s only a quarter of the pole’s length! We hung the piñata up in the basement, (did I mention everybody there has a basement?), which in this case, meant a room large enough to accommodate more than 10 children and a swinging piñata, along with grownups and other assorted furniture.

That’s about it for our stay with the Knechtles – we appreciated their hospitality sooooooo much! Most meals would be up at the main house, Aunty Heather cooks AmAzInG food!

We were graciously allowed to stay on at the wharf house for another three days after the Knechtles left, giving us enough time to catch up on washing and baking, which we really appreciated.

Franci and Sophia scrubbing hard at our saloon cushions outside the wharf house

Franci and Sophia scrubbing hard at our saloon cushions outside the wharf house


The baking we did in the wharf house wasn’t so much due to the fact that we can’t bake on the boat, (because we can), but it was about drying rusks. We can’t dry our baked rusks on the boat because it would use too much gas to keep the oven on for as long as needed and waaaaay too much power to run the dehydrator for that long. (It works on 220volts, so to run it we either need to run the invertor or the generator, since our system works on 12V.)

The whole week was fun and we loved being able to see the Knechtles again. =)

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