As I was canoeing from Bells island across to middle one dark windless night I saw. a light in one of the three empty houses along the beach. The house was not derelict but had been neglectedl since the the death of the owner, Captain Warfield, i6 years before. There were several such houses remains on Middle Island some quite habitable others no more than rotted floor timbers with a pile of shingles and rusted nails. I also remembered stories of lights seen in unoccupied buildings and the phrase ‘a forerunner’ came to mind. As I watched from the silent canoe in the quiet night, the light was obscured and then again shone brightly from the upper floor--all this in the time it would take a person to walk.up the stairs. If this was a forerunner it seemed prudent to stabilize the canoe by sitting on the floorboards which I did. When I returned the next day to see who (or what) I had seen, the house was locked and bolted with no sign of footprints or traces of a boat being dragged up (or down) the beach. When. I told Percy Baker he was unequivocal: “What you seen was a forerunner--somebody’s going to get drownded”.I was uncharacteristically cautious for the rest of that summer, alert for a further visitation and there are times when I still wonder.
Percy himself had his share of superstitions many of which were common to sea faring men around the globe. If a crow flew across the boat when he was on his way out to the herring nets he felt like turning back because “I knew there wouldn’t be no fish. Two crows and I could't get out there fast enough. I believe into the crows, Simon--it's proved out so many times.
Some of the vessel skippers were set in their ways and got testy when challenged. Even minor decisions--which way to turn the vessel when leaving a berth in Lunenburg harbour for example. Taking a left turn towards the open sea was the most obvious but that would have meant ‘turning against the sun’ so the helmsman would turn right, make three quarters of a circle and only then head out the harbour. Few people now remember that the Latin word for Left is Sinistra.
When a vessel was signing up a crew for the next trip there some who had difficulty getting a berth. These men were considered Jonas--bad luck people who could contaminate the ship. Any mishap could be blamed on the Jonah and like any irrational fear this prejudice was not subject to reason.
The captain and first hand (mate) would usually eat with the crew and there were certain subjects to avoid--like pigs. Some mischievous lad would get a pig yarn up--boasting about the size of his pigs--and a captain might leave the table rather than suffer in silence.