Drifting, floating

Speaking of things that have washed ashore:


These old glass fishermen’s floats were picked up on a family trip to the Maritimes in the early ’70s. Before plastic and styrofoam took over, these handmade glass bubbles were widely used to keep fishing nets afloat. They were often made of recycled glass. Many are bottle-green, but you’ll also find them in a rainbow of colours, like the ones above. From what I’ve read, glass floats originated in Norway in the 1840s and became popular world-wide, especially in Japan. The Japanese ones were made from sake bottles.

There are roughly three grades of floats if you’re a collector:
1) Authentic old ones that were used by fishermen.
2) Authentically made ones that were sold directly to gift shops. While they never saw action on the seas, they were made by the same glass makers who made the working ones, and they’re identical in form. Collectors call these “contemporaries”.
3) Reproductions. These are made from thinner glass that would likely shatter if used as floats. These started to appear in the early ’80s when the supply of the authentic and contemporary floats dwindled.

The bowl above is full of contemporaries. Back when we got them, they were a popular souvenir of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and were in every gift shop and lawn sale. When I returned to Nova Scotia several years later they were harder to find.

I have a few more hanging around picking up the light:


I have a few authentic ones that I picked up that are made from recycled bottles. You can see the circles of the bottle bottoms beneath their rotting rope. They’re not as pretty as the contemporaries, but they have character:


If you live near an ocean you may still come across the odd one that washes ashore after being adrift for many years. And supposedly there are large numbers of them somewhere in the North Pacific that have been stuck going around in circular currents for decades. I know all the man-made pollution in the oceans is a tragedy, but I can’t help thinking there’s something whimsical about all those pretty glass baubles spiralling around on the waves.

Ooh I just spotted another Nautically-themed item in one of these pictures that may get its own post eventually…



Yes, my attention has drifted away from this blog, but I’ve been getting a few requests to resurrect it.  As some downsizing is happening in my life, I may uncover a few oddities to blather on about. Or I may just get completely overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that I own. There’s a part of me that recognizes that attachment to things can be emotionally and spiritually detrimental. I’m working on that. Really. But dang, then I uncover something that is just too weird/sentimental/story-worthy/weird to part with.

Like my friend here:

DriftWoody This is Drift Woody.

For the first seven years of my life our family had a cottage a bit south of the one that later became my second home for the next 40 years. Spiritual home(s), really – both the first and second cottage. That first property was on low ground and would flood every spring. One day there was a lot of flotsam on our shore, among which was this piece of driftwood. My mother was about to pitch it back into the lake, but my grandmother stopped her and said, “Wait! It looks like Woody Woodpecker!” (For those not as old as I, Woody was a popular cartoon character of the day.)

So Grandma brought it inside, glued a bit of cork in an auspiciously placed knothole for an eye, shellacked the whole thing, and hung it on our wall.

Drift Woody came with us when we sold the cottage. It was later re-hung when we bought the second cottage. Now that cottage is being sold, and Drift Woody is coming with me. He will look completely out of place in a downtown Toronto condo. And for all I know, I may be the only person (after my late Grandma) who thinks it looks like Woody Woodpecker.