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The Old Ham and the Sea

Chester Rudolph’s travels may have been limited, but his stories know no bounds

Author Ari Burack Illustration Luci Gutiérrez

globetrotting5 NOVA SCOTIA- Standing at the helm of a small boat, Chester Rudolph peers over his glasses and starts telling the story of a Spanish galleon that tragically sank in these parts during a terrible storm. “The treasure,” he says, gesturing at the choppy water, “still lies out there somewhere.” Chester, 64, has been living at the far reaches of Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore his whole life, and he has unrivaled knowledge of local lore. It is this, as much as his seafaring ability, that got him a captain’s position at the remote Liscombe Lodge. Liscomb Mills, a former mill town about 100 miles northeast of Halifax, is not the liveliest place. It’s really just the lodge, some fishermen and Chester, who’s been working at the hotel in various capacities for as long as anyone can remember. His latest job has him taking guests out to sea and regaling them with nautical tales, a duty he has performed with relish. Indeed, to hear Chester tell it, the area has been a favored spot for half the world’s pirates, rum runners and dreadful apparitions. His impressive repertoire includes a story about a beautiful bride who drowned out here in her wedding dress. “Sometimes,” he says, squinting at the horizon, “people see her image in the fog.” Another story dates from the 1930s, when sheep began to vanish from a local farm. The culprit turned out to be a giant eel that had been snatching the animals and dragging them into the sea. Good as they are, Chester’s chilling tales all seem to have a distinctly local flavor, and there’s a reason for this. In all his life, he says, “I’ve never been farther than Halifax.”

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