Saint Pierre back to Canada
We had a great sail back to Canada but with disappointing aquatic life – no whales, dolphins or turtles this trip. We cleared Customs in Fortune, just three miles from Grand Bank on the Burin Peninsula. This is where the Customs office is located because of the ferry to Saint Pierre. Fortune is one of the richest fossil sites in the world & has been selected as the “global stratotype”. It is the international reference point for determining the earth’s age. No fossils or rocks can be collected without a permit.
One of Maeve’s nephews is married to a girl whose mother, Dorothy, grew up on Brunette Island, just north of the Burin Peninsula. Larry & Dorothy live in Ontario but have a house in Grand Bank where they return every summer for three months to visit family & collect their winter store of moose, rabbit, cod & berries. We called them once we had cleared customs & they drove over for a visit. We visited onboard & then drove to their house where they generously packed a bag of bottled moose, rabbit & jam for us! YUMMIE!
The next morning we moved the boat back to Grand Bank with the intention of taking Larry & Dorothy sailing. Unfortunately the high temperature that day was 11 degrees with a steady drizzle – not a good day to introduce anyone to sailing. We joined them for a proper ‘Jigg’s Dinner’ in nearby Garnish – part of the community’s ‘Bakeapple Festival’. Bakeapples are cloud berries – sort of like a small orange 4-part raspberry that has never matured. They are very tasty. After dinner they gave us a road tour of the Burin Penninsula.
The weather closed-in the next day but we needed to put a few miles behind us so we pounded our way out of the harbour. The weather cleared as we passed Brunette Island & our passage to McCallum was great.
Brunette Island, Dorothy’s home (and now another abandoned community), is the site of one of Premier Joey Smallwood’s failed attempts at expanding Newfoundland’s economy. In 1964, 24 Alberta bison were moved to the island in an effort to start a buffalo herd. By 1994 only one male survived. Dorothy tried very hard to persuade us that the buffalo had walked off the cliffs on the island and perished in the ocean. However, there is a strong suspicion that the local residents preferred bison to moose or cod.
Arctic Hare were also introduced to the island and since there are no permanent residents or natural preditors, they have overrun the island. Dorothy’s brother snares hares there & claims they can grow to over 25 lbs!
Grand Bank to Dingwall
We motored through fog and light winds to the Ramea Islands. We had planned to visit more fjords – Facheux Bay (pronounced Fushie) and Rencontre Bay (Round Counter) – but the fog was so dense there seemed little point. Ramea is populated with some very resourceful folks and is one of the few communities where the population is not decreasing. They boast treated drinking water, wind generated electricity (the first in Canada), a large community centre, a swimming pool & an ice rink. They have developed several hiking trails, a museum, sea kayak & bicycle rentals and guided tours. Our guide book which was published in 2006 makes mention of turning the closed fish plant into a marina but there were no signs of that project having moved forward. We happened to arrive on ‘Ramea Day’ and most services were closed for the celebration. A large tent had been erected behind the school & local bands were providing the entertainment. The music was quite good! But played till 2:30 – way past a sailor’s bedtime.
Next stop Rose Blanche again in hopes of buying more Partridgeberry jam at the lighthouse. No such luck but they did have fresh Bakeapple jam so we bought a jar for ourselves & a jar for Mary Jane to aid our pursuit of a rabbit pie.
It was a short trip back to Squid Hole the next day which left us time to explore Isle aux Morts – “Island of the Dead”. Named so because the coast off this area is strewn with rock outcrops & ‘sunkers’ galore. The town has developed a hiking trail along the coast in the area of the heroic rescues of the George Harvey family and their Newfoundland dog, ‘Hairyman’. In 1828, George Harvey and his dog & daughter rescued 163 people (Irish immigrants) from the sinking brig ‘Despatch’. The family was unable to reach the ship lodged on Wreck Rock in their rowing skiff and so they tied a rope to Hairyman & asked him to carry it to the ship. Hairyman succeeded in reaching the ship where the crew tied another rope for him to carry back to shore. They were thus able to rescue the remaining passengers & crew. In 1838, George & his daughter Ann rescued 25 crew from the sinking Glasgow ship, the ‘Rankin’. In recognition of Ann’s heroic deeds there is a Canadian Coast Guard vessel christened in her honour.
Newfoundland dogs have waterproof coats and webbed feet. They are intelligent, loyal and great swimmers. They are believed to have evolved from dogs brought to NL by all those early inhabitants – Norse, Scotts, French, etc. Lucky they are so big – the kiss of death to a breed of dogs is popularity and they are just too big for most folks. Good thing!
We managed to pick enough Bakeapple and blueberries along our hike to make breakfast more interesting. But if it is that hard to harvest Bakeapples, then they aren’t charging nearly enough for a jar of jam! When we retuned to the dinghy, a fellow was cleaning his day’s catch in a nearby boat. He offered us a fresh cod for dinner – who could refuse? Nice way to finish our stay in Newfoundland!
What a wonderful introduction to Newfoundland!! It’s a long, hard slog to get there, the weather can be uncomfortable and the anchorages tricky but it is well worth the effort. I would, however, suggest that anyone headed to the Rock be prepared:
- Bring warm clothing, gloves, toques, long-johns and wool socks. Luckily we had installed an Espar diesel heater because we ran it every single day – IT IS COLD!
- Bring diesel – and lots of jerry cans as you can not fuel your boat anywhere on the south shore! Fuel trucks and pumps are for fishing vessels ONLY.
- Keep an open mind and your sense of humour. The pace is slower, the ways are a little different and the people are the “finest kind”; very friendly and generous.
- Bring your charts as you can’t buy any in Newfoundland. Most electronic charts have gaping holes in their coverage. Our i-phone with Navionics charts saved us.
- Plan to spend lots of time. This is a huge area with lots to see and weather which is not to be taken lightly.
- Do NOT attempt this cruise without radar and a good depth sounder. Navigation can be tricky even with good charts and electronics and the bottom is unforgiving.
This was arguably our most memorable and enjoyable summer cruise. The scenery is breathtaking, the navigation challenging and the people truly the salt of the earth. We learned tremendously from them all and are already making plans to return. I’m so glad and proud that our Canada includes Newfoundland.