Friday, August 27, 2010

No Wind, Whales and Familiar Faces

After a brief stop in Trepassey on the South coast, to wait out some heavy winds, we headed of for a two day sail around Cape Race to Long Pond in Conception Bay just passed St John’s. Our weather checks were extra thorough before departing on this trip. Cape Race is famed for creating high winds, is located by the notorious Grand Banks of Newfoundland, has seen numerous shipwrecks in its history, Titanic's distress signal was first received here, and it experience 158 days of fog a year. 
We approached the Cape with conservatively reefed sails as the winds were indeed high leaving Trepassey but then ended up motoring around due to a lack of wind. This confirmed our experience of the extremes of Newfoundland weather, it either ‘blows the cows off the dyke’ as they say in Holland or there isn’t a breath of wind. We had no thoughts of complaints however, as we sailed along the 100 metres cliffs. As we approached the cape the air and water around us was suddenly chock full of thousands of sea birds, gulls, sea pigeons, turrs, razorbills, shearwaters, gannets and cheeky looking puffins to name a few that we recognised. We quickly jumped to the conclusion that there were capelin running in the area (we have slowly been filling in our knowledge of Newfoundland wildlife). 
Whooosh! Suddenly we were also surrounded by another, much larger, capelin fan. Humpbacks and fin whales were feeding around us. Water spouts kept erupting and you could hardly get a “Thar she blows!” past your lips before another one broke just next to us. The humpbacks showed us some wonderful acrobatics with their tail fins often coming incredibly close to the boat . Sadly, we also saw a humpback caught in fishing gear. After some complex satellite discussions with my parents they tracked down the Newfoundland and Labrador Whale Release and Stranding organisation and we reported our sighting. Fortunately, they were aware of this whale and had already removed the majority (and dangerous) part of the gear. We bobbed slowly around the cape glancing about in absolute rapture. Slowly the feeding activity diminished and we continued up the coasts towards St. John’s.

We met the Boag family, Olous, Vicky and their kids Naya (5) and Rogan (3) in La Gomera in the Canary Islands last October when they were sailing around the Atlantic on their boat the Atmosphere. The joined us for a trip to The Gambia and we’d promised to look them up again when we got to Canada (of course at that time we thought they would be in the more accessible Saint John, New Brunswick).
Olous had arranged a very secure and protected berth for us on Long Pond, close to St. John’s and the whole family came out to welcome us when we arrived. It was great to see their friendly familiar faces and Emma and Macsen were thrilled to have some people their own size to play with. The family Boag then took us in hand and cared for our every need (entertainment, meals, laundry, showers and the use of one of their cars).
St. John’s is a great city, lacking the harsh beauty and open friendliness experienced in other areas of the province but great all the same. It is located in a narrow, cliffy bay, is extremely clean, full of charming brightly painted houses and the city and surrounding area is full of festivals, great walks and stunning scenery. At the St. John’s Folk Festival all six of the children in our group spontaneously jumped on the stage to act as back up dancers for Rose Cousins. Fortunately, she took it with great humour (see video) On three occasions we took the kids for a short trips to the beach and were able to watch whales swimming in the bay. As a final touch, Seb and I were 'screeched in' on the famous George Street, which has more pubs and bars per square metre than any street in North America. Being screeched in involves drinking a shot of local rum-like alcohol, kissing a cod fish and answering the question "Is ye an honourary Newfoundlander?" with the phrase "Indeed I is me ol' cock, and long may your big jib draw."

Macsen and Emma are also integrating well. Their favourite bedtime song is now “I's the b'y that builds the boat. ” Not very lullabyish but a nice change and more seasonal than Macsen’s previous favourite “ Jingle Bells.”

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