With memories of the tar ponds receding, the port city is now trying to cultivate an upscale vibe — one that includes appealing to billionaires and their toys.
Not so long ago, the largest community in Cape Breton was best known as home to one of the most toxic waste sites in North America: the infamous Sydney tar ponds.
Containing one million tonnes of oozing sewage and industrial sludge — left behind after centuries of steelmaking — the site has since been capped with concrete and transformed into a sprawling urban park that opened 10 years ago.
“It’s a transformation from what was an industrial economy to one that is more service-based with tech businesses and education, ” says Terry Smith, CEO of Destination Cape Breton, the island’s tourism marketing organization.
With memories of the tar ponds receding, the port city is now trying to cultivate an upscale vibe — one that includes appealing to billionaires and their toys. It wants to become a destination for superyachts, the most expensive, luxurious boats in the world, which have become the ultimate status symbol for A-list celebrities, dot-com titans and lesser-known oligarchs.
Destination Cape Breton has hired Superyacht East Coast, based in Halifax, to attract to the island those who own boats like Archimedes, a 68-metre superyacht believed to be worth about $100 million. According to Superyachts.com, the vessel — as long as a 20-storey building is tall — has a marble Jacuzzi, a grand piano, an enclosed gym, a wood-burning fireplace and six staterooms.
Compared to some superyachts, which boast helicopter hangars and glass elevators, Archimedes is considered an understated boat.
Owned by U.S. hedge fund billionaire James Simons, the vessel spent at least a week last summer in Cape Breton, moored at the community wharf in Baddeck, N.S., where it caused quite a stir among the locals.
“The larger yachts are the ones that people tend to gravitate to,” said Adam Langley, president and CEO of Superyacht East Coast. “They come alongside, and suddenly there’s hundreds of people around buying ice cream or lunch and taking in the environment that these boats create.”