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Minding the Light - Celebrating local history

October 21, 2011

Imagine paying a lesser fare for your flight in return for helping with the baggage or perhaps fueling up before takeoff.

Unlikely. Right?

But for almost a century this sort of exchange was a reality when traveling via iceboat.

"As a passenger you had two fare choices. You could pay the full fair, which I think was $3 to sit in the boat. Or you could get something called ‘the strap passage,' which meant that when they are going across the ice, you help carry the boat and you paid $2 for that," says Boyde Beck.

Beck is the curator of the new exhibit at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Minding the Light: The Gentle Island's Dangerous Coastline.

"I can remember standing on the very front of the first Abegweit in the 1970s. You could watch the ice just splitting in front of you when you went across. It was so much fun," he said.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the Abegweit I these days, you can find it in Chicago being used as a clubhouse by the Columbia Yacht Club. But even if you can't make it to Chicago, you can still join in the fun by reminiscing and celebrating water travel to, from and all around Prince Edward Island by checking out the Minding the Light exhibit until March 11.

You can find re-creations of old ships and lighthouses, authentic post cards dating back to 1908, and furnishings from inside the first iceboat that have been kept over the years.

"This is part of the story of what makes you an Islander. You've got a history, start exploring it," said Beck.

 Cutline: Boyde Beck stands in front of the old lounge doors of the Abegweit II. Megan Coady photo.