Saturday, July 31, 2010

First and Second Impressions of Newfoundland

Our goal was to sail to Newfoundland as quickly as possible from Baddeck.  As such, we threw off the lines at 0300 in the morning of the 17th to catch the tidal current through the Great Bras D'Or channel expecting to arrive in Ingonish on the northern coast of Cape Breton by lunchtime.  The dock in Ingonish was deserted except for a few empty fishing boats.  We took a quick walk along the road but found no accessible walking trails so headed back to the boat.  It was a beautiful day so we set up a bath for the monkeys on the dock and they frolicked about for the afternoon.
We left Ingonish again at 0300 to sail the 75 nautical miles to Port aux Basques on the south west tip of Newfoundland.   About 15 miles from Port Aux Basques the strong wind (25 knots) turned against us and we were forced to tack back and forth making extremely slow progress under the coast.  As the boat pitched about on its upwind tack the outboard motor suddenly came loose from the aft stanchion and hung precariously from its safety rope.  Seb quickly pulled it back aboard but we were a little shocked an extremely grateful that we had tied on that silly little safety rope.  
A thick fog set in at the same time as the coast should have come into view so our first impression of Newfoundland was not as positive as we had hoped.  Fortunately, Port aux Basque harbour has a radio tower that is manned for 24 hours and they require all boats to check in at the 12, 5 and 2 mile radius lines.  They provide up to date conditions on fog levels, buoyage and marine traffic and make it an easy and friendly harbour to enter even in pea soup conditions.
As we tied up on the dock at 1830 the empty wharf slowly started to fill with people coming seemingly out of nowhere through the fog.  The evening was dreary and we were weary.  The welcoming committee consisted mostly of older men and they just stared at us initially and no one responded to our greetings.  When they finally spoke their words were almost completely unintelligible to us. Everything appeared to be closed for the night.  Fortunately a very nice lady named Katie (and her dog Olivia) directed us to a little fish and chips hut where we gratefully devoured a warm meal.

Our last conversation of the evening was as follows:
Owner of the F&C stand: “Brrr, she's cold tonight”                     
Me: “Oh, is it colder than normal? “                                                                             
Owner of the F&C shop: “Nah, she's allus cold ‘round here”

We decided to turn in early and re-evaluate our first impressions in the morning.

The morrow dawned as a bright and sunny day. We wandered about the town and were able to do a wash and dry out the boat (on the way Seb tried to close a hatch but a wave beat him to it). Everywhere we went we were warmly welcomed and had long and cosy conversations.  A lovely man named Stan drove us up to the Traffic Control Tower where Candice and Ray enthusiastically showed us how they guide boats into the busy, rocky and frequently extremely foggy harbour.  The tower is located on the top of the hill with a 360 degree view over the town and harbour, they definitely have the job with the best views.  
Week nights bring the local population down to the harbourfront stage to hear various musicians delivering traditional and modern fare.  On our second night we took a stroll around and listened to the music.  Emma danced vigorously in front of the stage and gave a deep and elegant bow as the applause began. On the following night there was an even bigger crowd and lots of kids to run around and dance with.  Emma and Macsen had such a good time that both cried when they had to go home.

We had more wonderful interactions with people in Port aux Basques than in any other place we have been to to date (and we've had some good ones). Bob and Katie (who grew up very close to where I did in New Brunswick) brought us preserves, beets, marmalade, prickleberry jam from berries only found in Newfoundland and fresh eggs from their farm chickens.  Stan drove Seb to the gas station to fill the jerry cans with diesel.  Stan lost his leg 15 years ago to an aneurysm while out fishing and although retired still spends a good deal of time chatting with the boys on the dock while sitting at the wheel of his car.  Stan's good friend Clarence took us to the fish store where we bought fresh scallops and halibut and Clarence gave Seb a hand line with a lead weight and feather hooks for catching cod and mackerel.  All in all our time in Port aux Basques was warm and wonderful.  I have never met such welcoming and generous people and we left with regret to say goodbye but eager to see what else this lovely island has to offer.

1 comment:

  1. Was great to meet you guys too:) Hope you enjoy the preserves. See ya soon

    Bob Kat