... continued from "Newfoundland - The last frontier"
Grand Bank to France
We were fortunate enough to have another great day on the water sailing from Grand Bank to Saint Pierre. Although cold again, we had sun & good wind. This area is thick with whales, dolphins and a multitude of sea birds. A huge fin whale swam beside us about 50 feet off our starboard side for several minutes! Tough to get a proper photo as you can see by the attached! We also had a large pod of white beaked dolphins feeding near the boat and a school of large tuna nearby. Bradd spotted a Volkswagen sized Leatherback Turtle while Maeve was below making lunch :>(
It was like Old Home Week pulling into the Yacht Club. Our friends Yan & Nina on ‘Raven’, who we met 2 years ago in Bras d’Or, came to take our lines. ‘Al Shaheen’, who we played leap-frog with all summer last year were tied beside us. And Giles from Quebec City who we met in Francoise was also docked here. Unfortunately, the protected side of the dock was full and we ended up pinned to the outside of the dock in very high winds for the next 3 days.
It is only 28 nm from Grand Bank to Saint Pierre but what a world of difference! Saint Pierre & Miquelon are definitely France! The majority of goods here are imported from France and to a lesser degree, from Canada. French (Parisian – not Quebecois) is of course the official language although most citizens speak English as well. The currency used is Euros and the prices are European. French television is beamed in via satellite and everything runs on the standard European voltage. The Islands are heavily subsidized by France so the standard of living is fairly high.
The main industry has been the fishery for generations. However, the Golden Era for the islands was during the American Prohibition when fishing took second place to smuggling. With the decline of the fishery, the islands have worked hard at developing their tourist industry and have been very successful. Cruise ships dock regularly & ferries run daily to Fortune, NL. The airport is quite active.
The town itself is very colourful. Residents have not succumbed to the white vinyl siding of Newfoundland. And the shores & bays are still dotted with brightly painted fishing boats & dorys. They have an interesting method of hauling the boats ashore called ‘capstans’. They are wooden structures lining the shore and for the most part painted red. The boat is placed on the launch way and a rope from the capstan is attached to the bow. Then a long wooden pole is inserted into a slot at the top of the barrel and walked around to wind the line & pull the boat ashore. Very clever!
Bradd was kind enough to brave the cold at 7 am each day & head off to the Patisserie where he would stand in line to purchase the day’s bread – croissants, pain au chocolate & baguettes – mmmmmm! We spent much time browsing the wine shops & deciding which French rum to purchase. Tough decisions! All businesses in town close at noon & nearly everyone takes a 2 hour lunch. Most businesses reopen at 1400 but some remain closed till 1500 or even 1600. So civilized! On Saturday, most businesses close at 1200 and don’t reopen till 1400 on Monday.
The wind finally subsided and we were able to leave the dock to anchor in the harbour. We put the motor on the dinghy & explored Ile aux Marins (Sailor’s Island). This small island off Saint Pierre was the site of the original settlement. However, it is more exposed to the elements and the harbour is not as good. The community gradually relocated to Saint Pierre. Many buildings on the island are now part of a museum & open to the public. The remaining buildings are used as summer cottages by residents of Saint Pierre who want to get away from it all.
We decided to skip Miquelon this trip. It would have been necessary to anchor outside the harbour & there would likely be quite a roll left from the heavy winds we have had for the past 3 days. Besides, we have to save some of the good stuff for our next visit! Back to Canada tomorrow.