This narrative recounts a 49-day 1700 nautical mile circumnavigation of Newfoundland in the summer of 2012 on the 42-foot sailing vessel Rejoice!. It is presented in the hope that it will kindle warm memories for those who participated in the trip, and will afford others an opportunity to share in the experience.
Everyone who took part in the voyage contributed to this chronicle in one way or another. Exceptional contributions were made by Alden Brewster, Charles Hirschler and Floyd Russell who provided most of the photographs, and in Floyd’s case the video, for the first part of the trip to St. Anthony’s; Fred Butler who supplied much of the chronicle for the segment from Musgrave Harbor to Long Pond, and Marina Garland and Hank Ainley who provided most of the photographs and video for the portion from Long Pond through to the journey’s end at Baddeck. A full list of the crew follows below. My thanks to all for being exceptional and forgiving shipmates, and for your contributions to this account.
Thank you also to David Rockefeller, Jr., a role model for how to plan and execute a voyage of this kind who also made specific suggestions for places to go and things to do in Newfoundland, to Jim Paul who offered the opportunity to warm up for this trip by joining him and David sailing in the Baltic in 2011, and to Julie Boak whose warm friendship and extensive research over a long winter helped enormously in planning for this venture.
Rejoice! is a wonderful boat that is beautifully suited to a venture of this kind. Many thanks to Morris Yachts who built her, and to Kirk Ritter and his team of specialists who remained available around the clock to answer questions, solve vexing equipment problems, and assist with maintenance tasks both large and small.
A special note of thanks to Wythe Ingebritson, who has been an ever-patient teacher, companion and advisor over the past six years. Without his mentoring I would not have had the courage to undertake a voyage of this magnitude.
Big hugs are due to my daughter Helen LaCroix whose meticulous editing eye contributed to the readability of what follows, and to my son-in-law Kevin Kosar who managed to find time between his multiple responsibilities as worker, parent, blogger and book reviewer to patiently walk me through the essentials of setting up a website. Peter Danshov of MSH Technologies spent numerous hours meticulously assembling a disparate collection of writings, photos and videos into the materials that follow.
Finally, my extraordinary gratitude to my wife Laura whose continuing support brings joy to my life — and to my sailing trips.
Thank you all.
Rejoice! crew members, Summer 2012 circumnavigation of Newfoundland
Lunnenburg to St. Anthony’s, June 28-July 5
Paul deGive (June 26-July 1)
St. Anthony’s to King’s Point, July 5-July 11
King’s Point to Musgrave Harbor, July 11-Jul 18
Musgrave Harbor to Long Pond, July 18-July 28
Long Pond to Trepassy, July 29-August 2
Trepassy to Baddeck, August 3-August 12
Ken Bartels (to August 7)
Darron Collins (to August 7)
Laura Hoguet (from August 7)
Newfoundland and Labrador is a province of Canada located east of Quebec on the Atlantic. It includes both the island of Newfoundland and Labrador, a thin slice of the Canadian mainland with a long north-south coastline. Newfoundland is about the same size as New York State; Labrador has about the same number of square miles as Newfoundland.
Newfoundland has 500,000 residents; Labrador has 50,000 residents. St. John’s, Newfoundland’s principal city, is more east of Montreal than north of it. St. John’s is located one-third of the way between Montreal and Dublin, 1,006 miles east of Montreal and 2,044 miles west of Dublin.
Newfoundland’s history was tied to the cod fishery for over four hundred years after the arrival of Europeans around 1500. However, in the later half of the 20C the cod fishery collapsed due to overfishing, and essentially ceased in 1992 with the imposition of a moratorium. In recent years, the cod fishing industry has been replaced by oil, for which off shore drilling in the waters around the island started in the late 80’s. Oil also contributes to Newfoundland’s welfare in the form of the Alberta tar sands where many Newfoundlanders “commute” to work. Newfoundland’s waters also support other fisheries including capelin, herring, crab and shrimp.
Icebergs appear along the northern coast of Newfoundland during the summer. 2012 was a historically warm summer, and the only icebergs encountered by Rejoice! were found at or near the northernmost point of the island.
Rejoice! Under Sail
On Sunday, June 24, our crew of four (Alden Brewster, Floyd Russell, Charles Hirschler and myself) rendezvoused in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia where Rejoice! was waiting for us. The early arrivals among us spent the day in the usual flurry of last minute preparations including final provisioning, watering, and fueling.
Of particular interest to the crew was a device that could convert a cell signal into a wifi mode accessible anywhere on the boat. Doug Philip, proprietor of the Lunenburg Boat Locker, was very helpful in setting it up. We entered the set up codes and, miraculously to me at least, it worked perfectly from the start. We were delighted to know we’d have internet and email service wherever cellular reception is available.
Established in 1753, Lunenburg’s unique architecture and civic design are regarded as the best example of planned British colonial settlement in North America. In 1995 UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site.
In time Lunenburg became a significant fishing harbor. In the 1920’s the fishermen of Lunenburg engaged their brethren in Gloucester, MA in a series of challenge match races for fishing schooners. The story is wonderfully told in Keith McLaren’s “A Race for Real Sailors,” a volume that all “real” sailors reading this would enjoy.
Alas, we were only able to get a brief glimpse of Lunenburg’s architectural and historical treasures during our brief stay. Some of us were able to pay a brief visit to a replica of the famous Canadian schooner Bluenose which is under construction in a shed on the Lunenburg waterfront. The original Bluenose, an image of which is on the Canadian 10 cent piece, was built for the Gloucester races. We also caught a glimpse of the Farley Mowat, a vessel used by the Sea Shepard organization in its anti-whaling activities, which was tied up at one of the piers.
Rejoice! departed from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia on Monday morning, June 25th, and arrived at Baddeck in the Bras d’Or Lakes Tuesday evening. It was a smooth trip mostly under sail and power. The last few hours across Chedabucto Bay and through the Lakes were a fast and furious ride with the wind 20-25 knots on the starboard beam. Rejoice! averaged 7.5 knots in this stretch, with a peak speed over 8 knots, including the final stretch under jib alone.
Dawn at Sea
Floyd at the Helm
in Foggy Weather
Our initial plan had been to go outside Cape Breton Island and to put in at Louisbourg to visit its historical site before jumping off to Newfoundland.
However, with the big easterly winds and high seas, the interior route through the lakes seemed the better bet. The choice paid great dividends when we arrived at the Cape Breton Boatyard in Baddeck of June 26th and met Henry Fuller, its proprietor, who took wonderful care of us and Rejoice! It turned out that between the five of us on board (Paul de Give, Charles Hirschler, Floyd Russell, Alden Brewster and me); we had many friends and experiences in common with Henry. He is Y’69 and heavily involved in local environmental issues.
We spent Wednesday the 27th visiting Louisbourg, a national historic site and the location of a partial reconstruction of an important 18C French fortress and harbor on the east coast of Cape Breton Island. Its two sieges, especially that of 1758, were turning points in the Anglo-French imperial struggle for what today is Canada.
The Fortress at Louisburg
We departed at daybreak the 28th, with anticipations of an enjoyable passage to Bonne Bay on Newfoundland’s west coast. The forecast for the next two days was for moderate to strong breezes from the southeast and little fog.
The following day we thanked those who had wished us fair winds, for the request had been answered. We scampered over to Bonne Bay in 36 hours, arriving late Friday afternoon June 29th. Winds of 20-25 knots on our starboard quarter and our stern, along with a substantial rolling sea, pushed Rejoice! at over 7 knots for most of the trip. The first twelve hours out of Baddeck were marvelously sunny and reminiscent of clear autumn sailing on Long Island Sound. Subsequently the seas increased, the winds freshened, and the sky turned grey.Rejoice! has an easy motion even in large following seas. Our night passage across the Cabot Strait was under jib alone. This allowed the watch to concentrate on looking for radar images in the shipping lanes, rather than on the possibility of gybing the main, worrying about a preventer, etc. We think we got 90% of the speed with jib alone; we know we had 20% of the headache. In all this was a satisfying passage.
The aptly named Bonne Bay is a fjord-like inlet in a sheer coastline with steep cliffs with rounded tops which rise immediately up from the sea for several hundred feet.
Conversely, the water depth drops off immediately to depths of 300’ or more. The Bay, which opens up some after the narrow inlet, is surrounded by sheer, steep hills with patches of snow in the high elevations. The top of this wild, arctic/alpine landscape was shrouded in fog as we arrived. The whole scene made for a very dramatic entrance.
We made our way up the Bay to the small port of Norris Harbor, one of several docking or anchoring options within the bay, and tied up next to a small fishing boat on a floating dock in front of the hamlet’s only bar. We were greeted on our arrival at Norris Harbor by a pod of minke whales patrolling its outskirts.
On Saturday the 30th Charles, Alden and Bob climbed Gros Morne, a 2500’ table top mountain that is Newfoundland’s highest peak.
Wildflowers on the Gros Morne Trail
Rockwell Kent Depicts Newfoundland
Once again the weather gods smiled on us as the mists lifted just as we began our ascent. The climb, a challenging scramble, took us eight hours with Charles and Alden kindly adjusting to Bob’s slow pace. As we reached the summit the fog closed in only to clear 20 minutes later to reveal spectacular vistas. We saw alpine lakes on the far side of deep fjords, all lit by brilliant sunshine and the passing shadows of white clouds. On the way up we encountered a moose and calf loudly chewing as they calmly eyed us. On the descent, we passed a ptarmigan family with chicks. We also created a scene Thomas Eakins would have enjoyed, stopping for a refreshing skinny dip in one of the numerous alpine lakes.Additional Photos
On the morning of Sunday, July 1, Canada Day, we left Bonne Bay under clear skies for Garden Cove in Noddy Bay. It was a perfect drying out day. The forecast predicted more strong winds from the south. Noddy Bay is at the extreme northern end of Newfoundland’s northern peninsula, and offers access to L’Anse aux Meadows. Our plan was to arrive there Monday evening.
The winds continued to come from the S/SW at 15 knots and pushed us along nicely. We were aided by a 1-1.5 knot current. We were mildly concerned to pass large fish holding areas and nets, marked only by low floats but extending in diameter 50 yards or more. These were invisible to radar and we decided to remain at least a mile and a half off shore on our passage up the west coast.
The wind diminished as the day wore on, so we fired up the engine. Towards dusk we entered a fog bank.
Our initial plan had been to push through to Noddy Bay near L’Anse aux Meadows in a two day-one night sail. We intended to arrive at the western entrance to the Belle Isle Strait at around 4 am on the morning of July 2nd, so as to go through it in daylight. We were encouraged by the prospect of a full moon should we enter the Strait while it was still dark. However, wind, current, and some engine pushed us along faster than the 6 knots we’d used in our calculations, the fog “patch” proved to be extensive, and it began to rain intermittently. In addition, while we found much discussion of the currents in the Strait online, we were unable to locate a forecast of its direction and speed for the Strait either on the Net or within our onboard resources. Our reading suggested that fresh water flow, which is affected by the severity of the winter can combine with winds to influence currents in the strait as much as tidal flow. Some reports mentioned a current of 6 knots. Additionally, we noted the Canadian iceberg monitoring site reported the presence of 17 icebergs in the Strait, which is known informally as “Iceberg Alley”.
In the end we opted to get a few hours sleep rather than enter the Strait in darkness, fog, and against a potentially strong adverse current. The charts showed a perfectly sited cove on the north side of the New Ferolle peninsula just at the western entrance to the Strait. We arrived there at 2AM and promptly anchored. We were all asleep by 2:05.
Sometimes, Bigger is Better
We are very appreciative of our new anchor, purchased after much research and advice from several very experienced world cruisers. It is 50% heavier than the manufacturers, but not these sailors, recommend. Its quick, solid set gave a very, very secure feeling and a worry free night’s sleep. 200’ of chain rode also helped!
Charles in the Galley
Inshore Fishermen at Work
We were up and off by 7:30 AM Monday, July 2nd. Just outside the anchorage we passed through a small fleet of four or five open boats in which fishermen were working nets identical to those we saw on our way up the coast. We must have passed some nets during our night entrance into the anchorage. We motored for most of the day in light winds and calm, while enjoying a marine wildlife spectacle that included a minke or finback whale (we are not sure which), a pod of killer whales that included one male and four or five females, and four different energetic porpoise pods.
Bob at the Helm
Porpoises off the Bow
We spotted our first iceberg at some distance off the port bow just before we exited the strait. No disappointment; Iceberg Alley lived up to its name.
In mid-afternoon we rounded Cape Norman, the northwest corner of Newfoundland. At 7PM we anchored in Garden Cove of Noddy Bay. It is 1 ½ miles from L’Anse aux Meadows, which we planned to visit the following day. The last few miles into the Cove seemed to be whale heaven. We saw perhaps a couple of dozen within that space, many fairly close aboard. At one point we counted four spouting simultaneously. We are not experts but think we were looking at minke, humpback, and fin whales.
We were now at the top of the Isle and had completed the longest and most challenging (from a sailing perspective) leg of the circumnavigation. We covered close to 600nm in six sailing days that included two and two thirds nights at sea. The sea nights were cold, and occasionally wet. But they were also mercifully short as we were both near the solstice and 11 degrees of latitude further north than NYC (51 vs 40). We found that the practice of sailing straight through for two days and one night followed by a night’s sleep and a day of R+R day worked very well. That schedule allowed us to knock off about 200 nm at a clip, remain reasonably well-rested, and enjoy the sights along the way. It also helped to have fun places to visit like Louisburg, Gros Morne and L’Anse aux Meadows on the off days. We were glad to be in Newfoundland.
On Tuesday the 3rd we walked a mile and a half in weather which broke into the 80’s-a surprise at this latitude-to L’Anse aux Meadows, home to a Viking settlement in the 11th century. It is the only known Norse site in North America outside of Greenland and represents the farthest known extent of European exploration and settlement of the New World before the voyages of Christopher Columbus almost 500 years later. It was “discovered” in 1960, excavated and researched during the subsequent decade, and named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1978.The site consists of an excellent museum, the remnants of the foundations of about a half dozen huts, and a reconstructed hut that features actors who play Viking roles and answer questions about life in the settlement. Most of what is known about the Viking settlement comes from Norse sagas written 200 years after the fact, and from artifacts found at the site that have been demonstrated to be of European origin and date to the 11C. As you can see from the photos we got into the spirit of things during our visit
During our stay in Garden Cove Charles struck up a conversation with some local fisherman who kindly provided us with several pounds of filleted herring and cod. Charles took full advantage of this bounty by preparing an excellent meal of grilled herring which proved to be quite tasty.We were pleasantly surprised by the clarity of the water in Noddy Bay. We could clearly see the bottom 15 to 20 feet down, kind of like the Caribbean or Mediterranean.
Iceberg off St. Anthony
We arrived at St. Anthony’s, a fishing harbor town of 5,000, in mid afternoon. We refueled at a commercial fishing pier and then tied up across the narrow harbor at a vacant space on another commercial pier.
Our berth was very close to shore, so we confirmed the depth with our hand held depth finder before committing to the space for the full tidal cycle.
Thursday, July 5th was crew change, supply replenishment, and laundry day. The weather continued to stay sunny with temperatures in the 80’s. Bob bade good bye to Alden, Charles and Floyd. The four of us proved to be a strong crew over 10 days with complementary skills, compatible personalities and a shared appetite to “go for it,” within the limits of our ages and abilities. Bob was joined by Laura, and by George and Maleen, his brother and sister in law. We stayed tied up for the night, but started off with a bang by enjoying the still very fresh cod acquired two days earlier.
We spent Friday, July 6th acquainting the new crew with Rejoice! and enjoying a pleasant sail 30 nautical miles south to Croque Harbor in 10 knots of S-SE winds. However, we were taken aback on arriving to discover a small
iceberg or large bergy bit squarely in the middle of our preferred anchorage two and a half miles up an inlet. We felt a little bit like Groucho Marx: “There’s a duck in my soup.”
Fortunately there were alternative anchorages within the harbor, and we motored up to one of them. It was a small “hole” at the entrance of a short river, and across from a small fishing community of 25 families located a half hour’s drive from the main road.
On the way in to it Bob was startled to see the GPS based chart plotter taking us across solid land even though we were clearly afloat. We’d been warned that the charts in Newfoundland were not always up to date, but the dissonance between what Bob saw when he looked down at the chart plotter and what he saw when looked over the side was a bit disconcerting to say the least…
We had a nice topside dinner of shrimp and veggies while being entertained by the pleasant sight and sound of salmon jumping on all sides of the boat. This was our third meal of fresh, locally caught fish in the last four days.
We spent the next four days proceeding in a generally southerly direction. We stopped at Fourche Harbor on the Northern Peninsula on the 7th where we saw an abandoned whaling station
and then at Fleur de Lys and Snooks Arm on the Baie Verte Peninsula on the 8th and 9th, respectively. On the 10th we proceeded to King’s Point at the tip of the Southwest Arm of Green Bay on the east side of the Baie Verte Peninsula.
We encountered generally good weather during this period, with winds of varying intensity generally from the S or SW (on our nose!) as well as some calm periods during which we motored. The coasts are bold with very little buoyage compared to Maine, and not many boats of any kind to be seen.
Anchoring at Fourche Harbor in a fairly strong southerly wind presented a particular challenge. The prime location is very precisely located in a small cove. You need to be midway between the E and W shores off your beam, and just the right distance in. Too far out and your anchor will find poor holding ground in deep water. Too far in and your stern-and perhaps rudder- will make the unwelcome acquaintance of any one of several large boulders in a shallow “rock garden.”
We had by then seen several icebergs in these latitudes. They are carried south from Canada’s arctic northern waters by the Labrador current and vary tremendously in size and shape. The entrance to St. Anthony’s was guarded by an iceberg that looked like the Watergate complex. The entrance to Snooks, per contra, was guarded by an iceberg that looked like the Sydney Opera House that had the temerity to ground itself, somewhat restricting our access. Then, of course, there was the one in Croque Harbor mentioned above. Cheeky these icebergs!
The harbors we visited ranged in size from the totally uninhabited Fourche Harbor, through the small fishing and sealing community of Fleur de Lys to the “large” town of St. Anthony’s (population 5,000. We’ve noted several tiny communities-or “outports”-of perhaps 25-50 families. We have also seen some places where it appears people have pretty much pulled up their socks and moved on. We’ve learned that many “young” people, now in their 30’s and 40’s, have left these communities and moved elsewhere, often to the States. Some communities we’ve visited have “coming back” festivals or weeks during which those who have moved away are invited back to reunite with childhood friends and family. We’ve also talked with several men of working age who labor in the Alberta tar sands fields-two weeks on, a week off, flown back and forth on company planes.
We were continually impressed by the friendliness and hospitality of the Newfoundlanders we met. Rejoice! attracted a good deal of attention along most waterfronts, and people were typically eager to chat. One gentleman was pleased to show Laura a moose cow having breakfast by a pond near the road. A beautiful, velvety brown, infinitely graceful creature, the treat for the day.
We arrived at King’s Point late Tuesday, July 10th after a thrilling 6 hour motor sail to windward in 25-30kt SW winds, with gusts into the high 30’s, even 40 for one brief moment. The seas reached 6’ or so, but abated as we moved closer to land. Rejoice! performed like a champ under reefed main combined with the engine, and some excellent sailing suggestions from George. Our planned destination was Springdale, but the big winds encouraged us to cut about 10 nm off the trip and put in to Kings Point instead.
We were confronted with a couple of options of places to tie up in King’s Point, and found ourselves a little unsure of which, if any, would have adequate water at low tide. We were also hoping to find someone ashore to help us dock as it would otherwise be an adventure between the high winds, high docks, and our aging bodies.
Rejoice! at King’s Point
We were in the process of approaching a dock which had some bewildered looking tourists standing on it when an agile man came running out of a nearby building and made welcoming gestures toward the pier on which he stood. A heartening sight indeed! Five minutes later Rejoice! was neatly tied up sans dings. It turned out we were in front of the local restaurant on a pier which the owner had recently built for the purpose of attracting cruisers like us. As a bonus, the food in the restaurant turned out to be pretty good.
King’s Point marked the completion of our trip south along the east side of the Northern Peninsula and around the Baie Verte Peninsula. We looked forward to turning eastward into Notre Dame Bay for the next leg of our trip and getting to know this highly touted cruising ground. We expected to enjoy a more leisurely pace as our itinerary called for us to cover about 30nm a day-which will typically take 5 or 6 hours. No more overnights for a while!
On Wednesday July 11th we said farewell to Bob’s brother and sister in law and welcomed Julie Boak and David Irons who would be with us for the next leg.
On Thursday morning July 12th, Laura and I enjoyed a four hour hike on a local hiking trail up to the 1000’ high Haypook Summit. It was nice to get off the boat for a while and to enjoy the spectacular vistas. We left King’s Point in the afternoon and had an exciting four hour downwind sail and reach under jib alone in 25-30 knot winds, gusts up to 34 knots. We spent the night at anchor in North Harbor on Little Bay Island, a lovely protected anchorage which we had all to ourselves.
Laura on the Trail
David Takes it Easy
Julie at the Helm leaving King’s Point
Leaving King’s Point
On Saturday, July 14th we moved on to Twillingate, a substantial (for these parts at least) commercial harbor. One indication is that it includes a hospital. The harbor was busy with shrimp in season, and capelin soon to come. Workers were busy loading containers of fish, and shuttling them around on forklifts.
Whales off Twillingate
On the way into harbor, we were delighted to encounter at least six whales, three of them close enough to photograph, including a pair that appeared to be a cow and calf. The weather continued to be excellent, with enough wind to sail but not so much as frighten the animals.
These last three days took us through the heart of Notre Dame Bay. From this experience we can endorse the Cruising Guide’s description of it as “Penobscot Bay on steroids.” Like Penobscot, Notre Dame offers islands and islets scattered at appealing distances, waters that are largely sheltered from major ocean swells, and multiple harbors and snug anchorages. However, it is much larger than Penobscot and far less populated, without any of the sights familiar to the Maine coast—no summer houses (indeed many seemingly uninhabited large islands), no lobster boats, no lobster pots (at least at this time of year when the lobster fishery is closed), few navigational marks, and almost no sailboats. In fact, we had seen only two or three other sailing vessels since leaving Baddeck, and one of those at some distance. US flag vessels seemed to be quite a curiosity. Newfoundlanders all wanted to know where we come from, where we are going, and so on.
On Sunday the 15th we had a lovely six hour sail to Deep Bay on the Northwest corner of Fogo Island. Fogo is about the size of Martha’s Vineyard and has a comparable series of hamlets/small towns, with a total population of about 2,200. We spent Monday, July 16th touring Fogo Island in a car kindly provided by Kingman Brewster, Alden’s nephew who has recently moved to Fogo to work as an architect on a major development project sponsored by Zita Cobb. Cobb is a Fogo native who made a fortune in the tech industry and is using some of her money to “improve” Fogo. The project includes a 29 unit luxury resort currently under construction, and four or five completed artists’ studios, scattered like misplaced children’s building blocks throughout the semi-arctic landscape.
Fogo – Old and New
For some time we’d been concerned about the seemingly slow drainage of Rejoice!’s shower stall, the cause of which seemed to be a faulty sump pump. While not critical, it did leave a very wet sole in the head, and made showering a messy proposition. Further, the sump overflows into the bilge, creating the potential for the bilge pump to clog over time. With telephonic help from Paul Lamoureaux of Morris in Trenton, ME we were able to disconnect the automatic switch and rig a manual bypass. Paul also mailed a replacement switch to the Royal (!) Newfoundland Yacht Club for us to pick up when we arrived there in about ten days time.
On Tuesday the 17th we had a short sail of perhaps 20nm to Musgrave Harbor on the north side of Newfoundland proper. We had moderate winds, with grey skies. Musgrave is yet another commercial fishing harbor that shows the impact of government-supported improvements including an expanded wharf, dredging, and a new breakwater, which we happily got behind (in company, regrettably, with a fishing boat with a recurring bilge alarm problem). Places like Musgrave gave us plenty of practice at docking and tying up alongside these fixed “government” wharfs. We’ve seen only one floating dock since Baddeck. Fortunately the tidal rise and fall in most of the places we went was typically four feet or less.
Our time together in Notre Dame Bay surpassed all of our expectations, which were high to begin with.
Bob and Laura on Fogo Island
Skipper at Work
We bade farewell to Julie, David and Laura at Musgrave Harbor on the morning of Wednesday the 18th, and welcomed Jim Paul and Fred Butler, two college classmates with whom Bob had sailed some in recent years. We took advantage of their early arrival to take a short sail in the afternoon across to Seldom on the south side of Fogo Island. We were motivated by the cruising guide’s description of sail boat friendly facilities in Seldom, including a laundry, as much as by a desire to “get going.”
Tucked in among the usual fishing boats and the local fish processing plant, Seldom did indeed have a wharf marked by a large sign restricting use of the facilities to pleasure craft only. We tied up and were shortly greeted by a very pleasant and outgoing woman. Sharon proved to be the manager of the facility and a teacher of ocean science at the local school. In addition to showers, laundry, and electricity, all rare for cruising boats in these parts, the complex included an historical museum with photos and narrative relating Fogo’s recent history. Before leaving Seldom, we took a tour of the Museum, guided by Sharon and her young assistant. The tour had five other visitors. We learned that Newfoundland had a referendum in the 1940’s as to whether they should join Canada, and of course voted to do so. Previously, it had become independent from the U.K. but then had gone bankrupt and was forced to ask the U.K. for assistance. It made the right decision to join Canada; for one thing, its school system was immediately raised from a very low level to meet Canadian national standards. This happened through the supply of major financial assistance from the national treasury.
Once the Canadian government imposed a moratorium on cod fishing in 1992, Newfoundland became a very poor place – up to 60% of its people were on welfare. Fogo was severely affected by the moratorium. The cod fishery remains closed to this day for all but very limited extraction (more on this below). We understand the growth in the mainstay fisheries of today (capelin, crab, and shrimp among others) has arisen since the imposition of the cod moratorium. In our conversations with fishers and their kin we sense a general recognition that stock depletion of these species as well as of cod remains a major challenge, and that these fisheries must be well managed if they are to endure. However, these new fisheries seem to be poor substitutes for the once vast cod fishery, and we understand that welfare and other government assistance remain significant contributors to Newfoundland’s economy. It may help public acceptance of fisheries restrictions that many of the working age men are employed in the oil and tar sands fields in the Canadian west or on off-shore rigs in the waters around Newfoundland. The standard arrangement for those working in the west seems to be that they work for two weeks and then fly home for a week off.
The Seldom facility also included a 100 year old building housing a museum with photos and artifacts of the historic cod fishery. We were particularly taken by the living tank of various small marine creatures. The highlight was watching the hermit crabs’ reaction when our guide turned their seashell homes over so that the open side is up. Lo, the crab emerges, turns the shell back over so as to be less accessible to predators, and then crawls back into its nest. The final stop in the three building complex was a small museum devoted to the Funk Island rookery. Now an important bird sanctuary, Funk Island was at one time home to the auk, a flightless bird which, like the dodo, was hunted to extinction.
On Thursday morning the 19th we enjoyed a guided tour of these facilities, and took full advantage of the shore side facilities including the shower and laundry. In the afternoon we took a day sail west into Notre Dame Bay so that Jim and Fred could get a taste of this extraordinary cruising ground. We started our sail today in perfect conditions, and finished it five hours later in the same ideal weather – a 12-15 knot breeze from the S and SW, clear skies, flat sea. Our moment of adventure came when we sailed at seven knots in the narrow channel (called a “tickle”) between two islands. We sailed through in fine style, but were somewhat chagrined when the depth finder went to 0.3 feet at one point, where the chart showed about 11 feet of water (Rejoice! draws 5’3”)! It would have been a spectacular grounding…
Once through the tickle, we sailed on a broad reach, tacked around a set of three islands, and sailed back to Seldom on a close reach. On our return that night we found another sailboat tied up at the pier reserved for pleasure boats. It was the first one we had been close to, and perhaps the fifth or sixth we had seen on this trip.
After dinner, we checked the weather report. A taciturn voice told us some alarming news. The breeze the following day would build until it reached 30-40 knots and the seas reached 4-6 meters. We would be okay until noon but in gale conditions thereafter.
The wind direction was favorable as we planned to head east, but we found the prospect of strong winds, heavy seas, and rain somewhat daunting. After discussing various alternatives, we decided to take advantage of the weather and planned an early start before the winds and seas really built up. Our aim was to include both a near and a far destination, so that we could quit early if the weather became too rough. The far destination lay on the far side of Cape Freels, which would provide some protection from the seas and winds once we rounded it, early in the afternoon if all went well.
After some discussion we decided to venture out on the 20th, but to make an early start. The weather forecast turned out to be spot-on; the breeze was 30 knots. We were required to sail around Cape Freels, an area at the mouth of Bonavista Bay with many rocks and islets. The seas were four meters before subsiding as we reached the lee of Cape Freels. In the end we had a wild ride, with consistent boat speeds in the 7.5-8.5 knot range, and a brief high of 10 knots. We furled the jib completely and reefed the main early in the afternoon when the apparent wind got into the mid 20’s, and preceded the rest of the way under reduced main alone. Along the way we enjoyed watching numerous seabirds and several whales, including one who “saluted” us with his flipper from a half dozen or so boat lengths away.
This was a downwind journey that stands out as a highlight of the trip. There were sea birds all around us. Why did the birds – the puffins, the murres, the gannets – enjoy this weather most of all? It was easy for the puffins to fly slowly in the air just above the surface of the ocean, flapping madly but barely making headway into the 30-knot breeze.
The murres were the cutest of all, seeming to walk on the water before finally taking off, or sitting on the water before suddenly diving. They are said to fly underwater, taking short swings with their wings.
The quantity of the birds, the variety of their movements, their apparent happiness with the conditions, and the different species – all this made for an air of busy bliss that relieved the stress of the ever-growing wind and waves.
By mid-afternoon we arrived at Valleyfield, well into Bonavista Bay. The Cruising Guide described a floating dock inside a long wharf which meant no seas and some protection from the wind. Nevertheless, on rounding the wharf we found the wind still very strong on the inside. Space was very tight with docked trawlers on one side and small boats crowded along most of the floating dock. Under the conditions we were nervous about being able to dock Rejoice! without incident. We were debating whether to anchor or to attempt the docking when a man appeared at the end of the dock and motioned us in. With his help we were able to tie up successfully and without major incident. This wasn’t easy: Rejoice! got the first “dock bite” of its life – it is four years old – and Jim fell as he jumped to the dock. He did an expert roll as he hit, and wasn’t hurt.
Don, the man on the dock, spent most of the rest of the day with us. He turned out to be a retired school principal who lived nearby. He had been at home when he saw Rejoice! approaching the harbor. Anticipating our dilemma he had gone down to the dock to help us out. Like so many Newfoundlanders he could not have been more helpful and friendly. He told us that capelin was good to eat, and proved it. He drove home, brought back a generous amount of frozen capelin, told us to shake it in a bag with flour, put some oil in a pan, and pan-fry it.
He then drove Jim and Fred to a grocery store, waited, and drove them back to the boat with our provisions.
Saturday morning the 21st we awoke to clear skies, and gentler winds, with a forecast for a few more days of the same. We took our time in the morning. Don brought his wife Cheryl to look at the boat, and gave us some olive oil. We waved goodbye to our new friends and set off to explore the western coast of Bonavista Bay with a goal of visiting Terra Nova National park near the lower end of the Bay. We departed on a perfect day – 15-knot breeze, low seas, sunny – bound southward for Salvage, a classic village halfway up Bonavista Bay on the western side of the bay. Our whole time with Don, Cheryl and their friends was another wonderful instance of the exceptional hospitality and friendliness we found in Newfoundland.
We sailed for several blissful hours, until we found ourselves in a sheltered archipelago off the southeast corner of Tumbler Island. We spent Saturday night at a quiet anchorage, and enjoyed the extraordinary quiet grandeur of the spot during the long summer evening.
We grilled hamburgers on the propane grill mounted on the transom rail. Jim mixed goat cheese, pepper, sage and Italian seasoning into the meat by kneading. We opened a bottle of Sonoma Cabernet, had brown rice pilaf and salad, and enjoyed a choice of peach, blueberry or strawberry yoghurt for dessert.
We were in no hurry to leave our gorgeous anchorage. We all rose at 7:30 on the 22nd, had pancakes with blueberries at 9:30, and hauled anchor at 11:00. The wind was so light on this warm, sunny day that we motored all the way up Bonavista Bay to Terra Nova National Park, where we tied up to the wharf at 4:00 p.m.
That left us time to take a nice 7km walk on a beautiful hiking trail before dinner. Along the way one of our number took a brief dip in a large, tranquil pond along the trail.
Back at the boat, we filled up with water, plugged into the shore power to charge our batteries, and washed the salt off the deck.
Saturday had marked the opening of the cod season, a brief seasonal window in the cod moratorium during which recreational fishers are allowed to catch cod for their own use subject to strict limits. This event was highly anticipated by many Newfoundlers we had encountered. We passed many runabouts and other small open motor boats between Valleyfield and Terra Nova, brought out by the cod season and good weather on a summer weekend. We also passed a sandy beach, with bathers on it and cars parked atop a small cliff behind it. We were reminded us of similar scenes along the east coast of the US, hundreds of miles to the south.
We continued to enjoy fair weather and sights of wooded shores, many islands, and surf breaking dramatically on the rocky coast.
On Monday July 23, we left Terra Nova Park and had a pleasant sail and motor trip across the eastern half of Bonavista Bay to Bonavista, at the tip of the Cape. This day was warm and sunny, with a light breeze. We left at 8:00 a.m. in calm, later raised the sails and stopped the engine, found the wind was too light to reach the town of Bonavista early per our plan, furled the jib, and proceeded under engine and mainsail, finally furling the main also.
Our passage across majestic Bonavista Bay was rapid. Upon arrival into the man-made harbor, formed by two massive breakwaters, we called the harbor master, Jerry Mouland, and were told to raft up to Moongate, a large motor yacht.
Moongate was owned by Dan and Peggy, who were proactively helpful. They keep Moongate in Newfoundland, live on her all summer (they live in Dover-Foxcroft, near Bangor, in the winter), and are currently fishing for cod with a couple who own Zephyr, another motor yacht on the floating dock. This was the first time we had seen so many pleasure craft, other than several runabouts at Terra Nova.
Here are typical examples of Newfoundland helpfulness: Dan loaned us six jerry cans (five gallon cans); Jerry Mouland drove us to the nearest gas station, where Jim and I filled the jerry cans and put them in Jerry’s truck; and Don, the owner of Zephyr, carried two of the filled cans down to the dock to Moongate. Jim and I carried the cans across Moongate to Rejoice!
As we filled the boat’s fuel tank through an opening in the deck, Dan gave us a piece of material that absorbs fuel that has been slopped on the deck. Then he gave us a bottle of special soap that removes fuel from the hands.
It is at Bonavista that John Cabot is thought to have landed on his first voyage in 1497 and “discovered” Newfoundland and its rich cod fishery. He was seeking a shorter route to China by sailing to Fastnet Rock, north along the western coast of Ireland, then due west of northern Ireland. By luck, he discovered a great fishing grounds – the Grand Banks, off southeastern Newfoundland. Three great ocean currents meet at the shallow Grand Banks – the Labrador Current, the Gaspe Current, and the Gulfstream, roiling the waters and stirring up nutrients from the ocean floor.
A full scale replica of Cabot’s vessel, Matthew, is one of Bonavista’s principal attractions. The vessel has its own museum, and is occasionally put to sea for brief excursions. We were much taken by the story of Cabot’s venture to the New World so shortly after Columbus, and by the story of his disappearance on his second voyage two years later with a larger fleet.
The Ryan museum is the other principal attraction in Bonavista. It is a complex of five buildings that served as both home and business facilities for the Ryans, a multi-generational family that supplied and financed the cod fishers. As with so many extractive industries it appears that those who provided services to it usually did much better than the extractors themselves. The local fishermen (not those who fished the Grand Banks) never had much cash. They borrowed from a merchant like Ryan for their living needs, then paid the debt with fish.
Ryan set high prices for the flour he sold, and low prices for the fish he accepted as repayment. He lived in his fine house in Bonavista from 1861 to 1907, built a finer house in St. John’s and moved there in 1907 leaving a manager behind, and died in 1913. His father had moved from Ireland in 1833, ran a successful pub, and financed his son’s startup. We were struck by an early 20C picture of this patriarch; he was clearly a man of substance in many senses of the word.
Unlike the plethora of local historical museums, the Ryan museum has exhibits covering the island as a whole, as well as relating to events of the second half of the 20C, These latter-day developments include the arrival of foreign flag factory trawlers on the offshore fisheries, the emergence of new technologies for the inshore and offshore fisheries before the 1992 cod moratorium ended that industry, and the exploitation (“harvesting”) of other species besides cod in the wake of the moratorium. Among other things we were surprised to learn that the seal “harvest” has recently attained the levels reached in the late 19C. The seals hunted are harp seals whose population runs into the millions.
The next day was Tuesday July 24. While Jim and Bob took showers, Fred chatted with Dan and Peggy in the spacious cabin of their motor yacht. Their story: Dan had owned a surveying and forest management business, and sold it. Four years prior to Peggy’s retirement as a nurse, they started planning their retirement summer life in Newfoundland, where Peggy’s grandmother had lived.
They drove up and looked at the ports where they planned to stop in their boat – one every 80 miles. In late August, they took their boat to its winter anchorage in Harbour Grace, Conception Bay. The following summer, they made friends with a group of boaters going to Labrador.
They joined the group, and profited greatly from the group’s local knowledge. Before coming to Newfoundland, they had never taken their boat more than 10 miles out in Penobscot Bay.
Peggy told Fred about her proudest accomplishment. In the 1980’s, she took a job as a do-all nurse in Port Hope Simpson, a town of 600 people on the coast of Labrador. The first thing she heard after she arrived to take up her duties was about the affliction of 65 people, from two families, with a rare disease that was similar to muscular dystrophy but not the same.
She brought in a team of five geneticists and neurologists, which took the blood of all the members – about 100 – of these two families. The team discovered the gene for the disease, its position was right next to that of the muscular dystrophy gene.
After the discovery, each member of the two families who was about to marry was checked for the gene, and sterilized if he or she had it. When Peggy returned 20 years later, the disease had disappeared from the town.
Peggy told us that the many small boats we were seeing were used by their owners only during the three weeks of the cod-fishing season every year.
Once Bob and Jim were back on board, we said goodbye and motored out of the harbor. We continued by motor in a light breeze to Cape Bonavista, which separates Bonavista Bay from Trinity Bay. We rounded Cape Bonavista and entered Trinity Bay. Right at the point of Cape Bonavista we found many whales.
From here we would be in the waters of the Avalon Peninsula for the next ten days or so. The peninsula consists of four arms off the southeast corner of Newfoundland that connect to the rest of the island by a narrow isthmus. With a population of just over 250,000, the Avalon Peninsula is home to half of Newfoundland’s population, but contains only 8% of its land area. (Virtually nobody lives in Newfoundland’s vast interior). About 200,000 people live in St. John’s on the east coast, Newfoundland’s capital and largest city.
Our hope was to get to Trinity, a journey of perhaps 40 nm. The wind appeared and we raised the sails. The wind increased and we reefed both sails. We cut it short after about 25 nm when we encountered winds of 25-30 knots from the S and SE-dead on the nose, realizing we couldn’t come close to our target port of Trinity Harbor. We entered Catalina Harbor instead. Just outside this harbor, Fred spotted several large splashes a couple of miles astern of us. We had seen several whales in the few days before entering Catalina, including one or two at very close range. We turned around and motored back to investigate. A good thing too, as we wound up watching a spectacular show as two whales cavorted and played, including several partial “breaches” (when the whale breaches the surface of the water). We’re not sure what we were watching – Whale play? Whale sex? Whale wars? Whatever it was, it went on for a good 20 minutes or so, and was well worth the detour.
Once we were inside the entrance to Catalina Harbor, we decided to anchor in Southeast Cove, a natural and protected spot that we had all to ourselves. After a pleasant period of snoozing and reading, we roused ourselves and cooked steaks on the transom grill. This was our first down-time on the trip. We enjoyed a peaceful and quiet night.
The following day, July 25th, we had planned to motor to the town wharf, get a taxi to Trinity Harbor, and walk the famous 5 km Skerwink Loop Trail, which our cruising guide describes as “justly known as one of the twenty or so top hikes in North America.” We decided instead to take Rejoice! by motor to Trinity Harbor when we awoke, eating cold cereal on the fly as we raised anchor.
As we sailed, the wind died. We furled the jib and turned on the motor. The bold coast of Trinity Bay was spectacularly beautiful. Skittering in the water, below the water, and in the air just above the water, were innumerable adorable puffins.
Trinity is an extensive and wonderful natural harbor-indeed we are told one of the best in Newfoundland. We entered the harbor between bold headlands and saw two deep bays to right and left within the harbor, with a cove in the center between them. The harbor offered the choice of three or four places to tie up. We chose one, and after negotiating a tight docking between the end of one boat and a pier at right angles to ours, found ourselves directly in front of a decent restaurant. We dressed up a little and walked 20 feet into the restaurant, where we enjoyed a nice dinner.
Trinity Bay offers several attractions including, as it turned out, a local historical pageant portrayed by professional actors. However, our main interest was in the Skerwink Loop Trail. It took a little doing but eventually we were able to arrange transportation to the start of the trail which was a short distance away by boat but significantly further by car- not an unfamiliar story. The trail follows the contours of a peninsula, and like many other trails we have encountered it was beautifully laid out with a board walk and wooden steps. Most spectacular of all however were the vistas which were gorgeous. The trail is reminiscent of Big Sur – truly wonderful.
Fred on the beach
We had introductions to Rob and Deb Harley from Sandi Whitmore, a fellow board member of Bob’s at the International Crane Foundation. We arrived at Old Perlican around noon and called Rob and Deb. They picked us up at the dock in Old Perlican and drove us to Grates Cove, where they live five months of the year. They gave us a tour of the locality, and turned out to be fonts of information about both Newfoundland and local history. During the afternoon and evening, we learned a lot about life in the small coastal villages (called “outports”) of Newfoundland.
For example, Rob told us that no-one has a deed to his/her property. So, when Rob bought his house and two additional parcels, the seller in each case had to get evidence of ownership by having neighbors swear that the seller’s family had occupied the land for as long as they could remember. There is too much land in Newfoundland to bother with deeds.
Rob bought his house for $30,000, and put windows in the wall of his living room, which faced the harbor and cove. Even though fishermen build their houses next to the sea, they don’t like to look at it when they are relaxing at home. The sea signals work; looking at it is like looking at your lathe if you’re a factory worker.
Rob wanted to protect himself by buying the land on his right as he looked at the sea. The owner had died, so the niece had apparently become the owner. Rob called her and told her he would like to buy the land. She said, “Sure, make me an offer.” Rob said, “How about $5,000?” She said, “Oh no, I could never take that much for it. How about $1,000?” Rob said, “Well, think about it.”
The next day, she called and said she had discussed it with her brother the night before. The brother said, “How about $1,000 each?” So, that was the price.
Then Rob thought that the site on his left would be great for a small house. He asked the owner, his next-door neighbor, if he would sell it. The neighbor said, “No, I’ll give it to you,” and held firm to that position. So, Rob got the land, and the neighbor allowed Rob to build him some stairs from his deck down to the ground.
Rob and Deb
We all walked outside Rob and Deb’s house, and went down to the cliff’s edge in front of the house, 100 feet above the cove. We watched three gannets dive from high in the air straight down into the ocean. They have sacs outside the top of their skulls, which they fill with air somehow. The air-filled sacs cushion their skulls from injury as they hit the water.
Rob told us about the Quinlan Brothers, who own the fish company in Old Perlican. The Quinlans are not well-liked, though they are good businessmen. The locals will only work in the factory for 16 weeks a year, just long enough so they can qualify for unemployment checks for the rest of the year. They then give up the job, often to friends or relatives. The Quinlans asked for, and received, a government subsidy to bring in laborers from Taiwan. They brought in ten of them; these Taiwanese are happy to work in the fish factory.
We walked near Rob’s house, and he showed us a “scrape,” a 200-foot slope down to the sea, with a bald eagle’s nest on a ledge a little below the top.
He also showed us a large flattish area on a hillside, with several stone walls each forming a circle. These were built in the 1700’s to keep the free-ranging sheep out of people’s vegetable gardens.
After the tour and history lesson Rob and Deb joined us for a delightful dinner on board, The cocktail hour was on deck, where we watched a gorgeous sunset over flat water in the harbor of Old Perlican. The evening was perhaps especially delightful since they graciously offered to bring a pre-cooked meal. It included fresh crabs which Rob showed us how to eat from the shell. The crabs make the fifth local seafood dinner we’ve enjoyed.
Finally, a comment on the good life. We’ve always thought happiness in ventures such as the present one consisted of a good boat, pleasant cruising grounds, “unspoiled” natural beauty, favorable winds, fair skies, amenable companions, enjoyable side trips, and three squares a day. That all remains; however, after this trip we’d like to suggest one addition to that list which is…(drum roll)… a cell tower, barely visible far in the distance, but nonetheless on one’s line of sight!
The following day, July 27th we left at 7:30 and motored to Grates Cove, where we raised our sails to show ourselves properly clad to Rob and Deb. As a final gift, Deb took several wonderful pictures of us and of Rejoice! We received the photo later that day, along with portrait photos she took of each of us after dinner the evening before. She is an artist, using an old-fashioned single lens reflex camera. She deploys it very quickly when her subject has assumed a characteristic pose.
Rejoice! Off Baccalieu Island
We rounded the point into Conception Bay, and sailed close-hauled until the wind blocked our south-southwest route for Long Pond, the final destination on this leg of the trip. The wind died out as the day wore on, so we fired up the engine in order to be able to get to Long Pond, home of the Royal (!) Newfoundland Yacht Club, at a reasonable hour. We took down the sails and motored for four hours up Conception Bay. Once again, just as in Trinity Bay and Bonavista Bay, the bluffs were often 300 feet high. One set of three stele-like massive pillars reminded Fred of Rodin’s Burghers of Calais at the Met Museum.
Repairs at the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club
at Long Pond
We called ahead and were successful in arranging a berth. We pulled into our reserved slip, No. 88, at the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club, where we found a typical Canadian warm reception. The RNYC offered all the things the cruising sailor needs: water, diesel, showers, laundry, nearby shopping, especially for provisions, access to cleaning and repairs, as well as the convenience of a restaurant. Yea!
Most of Saturday and Sunday, the 28th and 29th, were spent taking advantage of the RNYC’s multiple facilities and very hospitable and accommodating staff and members. It was literally a breath of fresh air to have Rejoice! professionally cleaned after a month of use.
We were also delighted to find a replacement for the helmsman’s chart plotter waiting for us at the RNYC. It had been shipped there by the Morris service department after ours had begun acting up earlier in the trip and the usual measures of rebooting, changing menu selections, pulling the plug, etc. etc. had failed to tame it. It turned out to be easy to swap units. The results however were mixed: the new unit performed well for a week or so, and then began to exhibit the same misbehavior as the old.
A word or two of explanation is due here. The chartplotter is the most important piece of navigational equipment on a modern vessel. Rejoice’s integrates information from the GPS, the radar, the autopilot, and the wind, depth and speed instruments to provide a complete visual representation of the boat’s position and its relationship to its surroundings, as well as all relevant data such as course and speed, wind speed and direction, and the like. The chartplotter also has a comprehensive planning capability such that one can map out a journey with great precision before leaving the dock, and then program the boat to follow the prescribed route. In all, it is a highly sophisticated piece of equipment whose use takes some time to master especially for those of us who are over 30.
Rejoice! has two chartplotters which are linked electronically. One is at the helmsman’s station for use while steering. The other is at the navigator’s station below and is normally used to plan ahead and lay out a course from the comfort and warmth of the cabin. This latter unit performed quite well throughout the trip. However, shortly after St. Anthony’s the helmsman’s station began to lose its position fix from time to time. At first these outages were occasional-once a day or so-but as the time went they occurred with increasing frequency-several times a day-at irregular and unpredictable intervals.
By themselves, the outages were more of an annoyance than a hazard. More often than not they set off an alarm, so we knew what had happened even if we were irritated by the buzz. The immediate remedy, as is so often the case with computers, was to reboot, a matter of a minute or two.
With the nav station unit unaffected, and three back up systems available (including a very useful iPad App), we were more put out than worried by these outages. But we got more and more put out as time went on and their frequency increased, In addition, we were frustrated at spending a lot of time, including many phone calls to Morris, in an effort to find a solution, but to no avail. Finally, the unit displayed an uncanny capacity to wink out just when it was most needed: entering a harbor for example, or approaching a shoal, or threading through a “tickle” or other narrow passage, or in the fog, etc. etc. In short, it was remaining true to the British dictum that the odds of the toast landing jam side down are directly proportional to the price of the rug.
So we were very glad to find a replacement unit waiting for us at Long Pond.
St. John’s is the oldest English-founded city in North America, and also the most easterly. Its long history, winding streets, colorful houses and active night life combine to give it a funky atmosphere, somewhat like parts of Seattle or San Francisco. Bob also found time to pay a visit to The Rooms, the leading museum in town, a large modern building and a major landmark on the skyline. The Rooms’ permanent exhibition highlights the history of Newfoundland from both a human and ecological perspective. It traced the human settlement back 11,000 years and wove the human, animal, climatalogical, and geological threads together into a single narrative most effectively. It is by far the most comprehensive exhibition we have seen, and one of the few that puts Newfoundland’s cod fishery and European settlement in a larger perspective.
On Saturday, Jim and Fred roamed the town for several hours. After lunch at The Rooms in its top-floor dining room with great views, the two spent some time in an art gallery, and then paid $25 each to enter the closed-off George Street and listened to Newfoundland-based Irish folk music for a mellow two hours or so. This was the week of St. John’s annual Music Festival. They met Bob at Bacalao (Portuguese for salt cod), an outstanding restaurant for dinner.
We continued to enjoy good weather; Sunday especially was a gorgeous day with temperatures which reached the 80’s in the sun.
Bob bade goodbye to Jim and Fred over the weekend after some enjoyable farewell dinners, and welcomed aboard Hank Ainley and Marina Garland, newlyweds and recent college graduates. We three were joined by Patrick Thrasher, a friend of Bob’s daughter Marie. The average age of the crew has now dropped by 30-35 years, which is to say in half! The effect is dramatic.
July 30-August 2
The four of us left Long Pond in mid-afternoon of Monday, July 30, and sailed and motored around Cape St. Francis. As dusk came on and mist rolled in we took a look at a spot named Flat Rock Cove that looked promising as a possible anchorage. However, we backed off after an inquiry with a local fisherman confirmed our suspicion that the cove’s name referred to the bottom ground as well as to the shape of the visible rocks. While we have great faith in our new anchor, we think it would be asking a bit much for it to hold on flat rocks… At his suggestion, we motored a few miles further on to Tor Bay, where we anchored in the spot where our chart showed a neat little anchor just as it was getting dark. While the holding ground was good, and the location protected from the wind, it was not as well protected from the swells as one would like, or as Bob had deduced from the charts. It was too dark and too problematic to move, but the result was one of the two most uncomfortable nights Bob has spent in a boat at anchor. Live and learn…
On Tuesday July 31st we awoke early and motored to St. John’s where we had made an appointment with the local Raymarine dealer to take a look at our malfunctioning radar (more on this later).
We enjoyed entering this busy but pleasant harbor, which has floating docks for visiting pleasure craft. In due course the repairman arrived, ran some tests, and pronounced the scanner in need of a new brain which could be installed at his shop. This meant sending Patrick up the mast where he spent a productive and challenging hour or two detaching the scanner.
Houses at Petty Harbor
Whales at Witless Bay
Puffin on the Water
We then went past Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America, and in the late afternoon around Cape Race, where the first distress call from the Titanic was picked up. At Cape Race we turned west, the fourth direction in our circumnavigation. By dusk we arrived at Trepassy Bay where we anchored for the night in a beautiful spot with the smell of conifers thick in the air.
Thursday the 2nd, dawned foggy and calm. This was the first fog we had seen since the Belle Isle Strait, one month ago. Weather-wise this seemed to be the best summer Newfoundland has had in some years. We slept in after the long day yesterday, ate a leisurely breakfast, and showered on board. After some discussion we decided to stay here for the crew change scheduled for tomorrow rather than try for the next harbor which would be convenient for a crew change but which was a good day’s travel away. We did venture out of the long harbor entrance in the hopes that the forecasted 10-15kts of wind would develop and we could enjoy a nice day’s sail, but to no avail.
It has been a great pleasure to have three young people aboard. They are bright, interesting, full of enthusiasm and energy, and very willing and able to help out with the numerous tasks involved in maintaining Rejoice!
With Hank and Marina and Patrick as exemplars, Bob quickly found out that he could get used to having a knowledgeable and experienced young person or two on board all the time. You don’t have to say things twice. Lines and fenders magically and smoothly appear as you approach a dock, and disappear as you leave it. Jumping off the boat to reach piers and docks when tying up, be they high or low, is no problem, nor is going forward, climbing the mast, performing the various contortions necessary to reach into odd nooks and crannies and the like. The anchor hums up and down with little problem. The deck gets scrubbed. But perhaps best of all, a hot cup of coffee, prepared to his precise taste, was ready and waiting when he emerged from his sleeping bag every morning. He’d only to reach out, pick it up, and sip to become fully awake. Ahhhhh!
One benefit of reaching this point on our journey is the declining impact of The Great Food Hunt on our daily routine. Early on we stocked up, overstocked actually, on what we thought would be adequate provisions for a seven week trip, planning to purchase only freshies along the way. Provisioning for such a long period meant that most of Rejoice!’s dozen food storage lockers, four refrigerator compartments, and numerous nooks and crannies contained some food, many to the point of bursting. While we’d attempted to stow food in ways we thought were logical, it seems that people think about food in different ways. David Irons had prepared a careful stowage plan, but alas, once he was gone, things fell apart quickly. Locating items in an overstocked locker requires pawing through a small space while kneeling down or bending over, or otherwise warping yourself in ways that are not especially comfortable, particularly for the not so young. An early consequence of this system was that not everybody could find everything they wanted. The typical reaction, especially of the undisciplined (foodwise at least) males who have made up most of the crew, is to.. you guessed it… buy more food! The result of that is of course more overstocking, further amplifying the difficulty of searching, leading to more.. well, you get the picture. The result is that for much of the trip we spent as much time looking for food as eating it, while at the same time inadvertently winding up with multiple containers peanut butter, oat meal, cookies, crackers, cheese, orange juice, rice, flour, and so on open at the same time. However, after much effort we finally began to see progress against The Great Food Pile.
One thing we haven’t said much about is repairs. On a trip of this nature and duration one should not be surprised to have some of the equipment on a complex vessel such as a modern sail boat break or fail. Rejoice! has done impressively well in this department, as only a couple of issues of any real consequence had arisen by Trepassy. The first was that the radar began to behave erratically shortly after leaving St. Anthony’s, with interrupted scans and images that did not conform to our own observations. Lack of radar seemed a small problem on Newfoundland’s north side which has little fog, especially this year, and where we did not anticipate sailing after dark. However, we wanted to have radar for the last couple of weeks of the trip on the south coast, an area more prone to fog. The radar would also be important for the overnight sail across the Cabot Strait to Cape Breton Island. With the help of the Morris service department we tried various tests in an effort to diagnose the problem and made several attempts to fix it, including reloading the software, but to no avail. Eventually we succumbed and involved a technician in St. John’s who reported that the scanner needed a new circuit board which he installed, and held for an incoming crew member to pick up and deliver to us at Trepassy.
The Goose Neck Repaired
The second issue was that the plate that holds the goose neck fitting which attaches the boom to the mast to the mast loosened, and at least two of the thirteen screws that attach it stripped threads. A permanent fix would need to be done at a yard. However, at Trepassy we made a temporary fix with a ratchet strap and Loctite, and limited our use of the rig in some conditions thereafter. For example, we avoided fully extending the sail while running.
Off Cape Race
Finally a word on communities we have visited. As we’ve commented, many are small, ranging in size from a few hundred people to a few dozen. These “outports,” as they are known, seem to contain a few universals in addition to the ubiquitous “government wharf” with its yellow foot foot rail. These include least one church, often the most prominent building in “town,” a cemetery, usually in a highly visible location such as the side of a hill, a small historical society devoted to local history which emphasizes the community’s role in the cod fishery, and a scenic walking or hiking trail. Many of the trails are quite elaborate affairs featuring extensive board walks and steps. We understand they were financed with government money, a “benefit” of the oil boom.
Darron at Work
The weather remained cloudy on Friday the 3rd. In the morning Hank and Darron fashioned a splint with the ratchet straps to support the weakened goose neck. (Thank you Wythe for the brilliant suggestion!) We then considered our plans for the day. The Cruising Guide noted: “there is a shortage of good harbors” between Trepassy and the Burin Peninsula, our next destination some 70-80 nm away. In addition, the weather remained pretty foggy, with a forecast of 20-25kt winds from the W and NW, the direction we wanted to go.
However, the forecasts here are nowhere near as accurate as those we are used to at home. Perhaps this is because the weather can change so quickly and so frequently; we’ve gotten used to experiencing several different conditions – fog, sunshine, and then fog again, with varying winds – all in the space of a few hours. So after reviewing the options, we decided to poke our heads out around Cape Freels and see what awaited us in St. Mary’s Bay. We were rewarded with a delightful 7-8 knot sail across the bay, though the Atlantic swells and impressive wind took a toll on the stomachs of our incoming crew members.
In late afternoon we arrived at Branch, a tiny harbor, perhaps 200’ x 200’, whose entrance between two breakwaters seemed not much wider than Rejoice!’s 42’ length. On the way in we misjudged the narrow channel and ran briefly aground in the sand at near low tide. Aroused by the sight of our entrance, several local residents shouted directions from the shore and showed us where to tie up and how to avoid pitfalls along the way. In short order we were inside the already crowded inner harbor and tied up alongside the fishing boat, Dreamcatcher. We offered our new friends a beer and were promptly invited to their party, it being a Friday night. We accepted, and spent a most enjoyable hour getting to know some interesting and fun people. Marina entertained the crowd by singing “Valparaiso” with all of us joining in the chorus.
On Saturday morning August 4th we were again graced with 15-20kts of wind from the SW. This meant a glorious smooth sail with the wind on our port beam across Placentia Bay to Oderin Island on the west side of the Bay. There were some fog patches, but the weather cleared by late afternoon. Oderin proved to be another candidate for top anchorage on our list. It offered a very well protected anchorage in a small pool the inside apex of its V like shape foundation. At one time Oderin supported a fair sized fishing community, and this inner harbor was lined with the houses. However, the community was abandoned in the early 70’s as part of the government’s centralization program which resettled residents of such isolated “outports.” We saw a dozen or so houses, three of which were occupied as weekend and summer residences by members of one extended family. One of the people we talked with, Charlie, was one of those who had been resettled (he was 7 years old).
Anchorage at Oderin Island
On Sunday morning August 5th we enjoyed a brief hike around this small island. Our experience was enriched by Darron, Hank and Marina’s combined knowledge of birds, aquatic species, flora, and geology.
Hoisting the Colors of the College Of the Atlantic
at St. Lawrence
After lunch we motored in calm weather down the inside of the Burin peninsula through several islands. We saw porpoises twice from afar as we crossed an area known as Whale Bank. That evening we anchored at Little St. Lawrence, a well protected harbor with a lengthy entrance.
On Monday August 6th we had an uneventful sail to St. Pierre in winds in of 15-20kts off the starboard beam. Rejoice! is happy in such conditions, and easily maintains 7kts with a pleasant motion.
Late in the Day
St.Pierre and neighboring Miquelon, two small islands off Newfoundland’s south coast, are technically part of France, having been ceded to France by treaty in the 18C towards the end of the long struggle between England and France for control of Atlantic Canada, including Newfoundland and its rich fishery.
The weather turned foggy as we approached St. Pierre. We were cautious negotiating the harbor entrance and in picking tour way to the yacht club through this small but crowded harbor which accommodates industrial, commercial, fishing and recreational users. We cleared customs quickly with the help of professional and extremely friendly officials.We were very happy to take advantage of all the services the yacht club offered: laundry, shower, water and electricity, plus access to a service station across the street offering diesel. At such moments Bob is reminded of his first exposure to crossword puzzles at the age of ten or so. He was astonished when his grandfather without hesitation answered “ashore” to the clue “where do sailors love to go?”
Ken and Darron both had return flights from St. Pierre, so we said goodbye to them on Tuesday morning August 7th after enjoying a fine French meal the night before hosted by Ken. Our original plan had been to meet Laura here this morning. However, she had been delayed by 24 hours because of an airport closure and a cancelled flight (!).
Leaving St. Pierre
Consequently, we changed plans and motored 24 nm in fog and light to moderate airs back across to Fortune on the west side of Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula where we cleared Canadian customs and met Laura. On the way we saw an enormous mola mola, an oddly shaped fish with no tail.
We then motored in similar conditions to Harbor Breton on the west side of Fortune Bay where we spent the night. On the way in to Harbor Breton, we were momentarily taken aback to get no flame when we turned on the stove for afternoon tea. A quick investigation confirmed the obvious: we had used all of our seemingly inexhaustible supply of propane. This problem was fixed within 20 minutes of our arrival in Harbor Breton; a fisherman offered us a ride to the nearest service station before we were even fully tied to the dock! Wish everything were so easy.As we’ve noted, we enjoyed excellent weather for most of the trip; indeed the best Newfoundland has experienced in some years. However the last several days have been foggy. While we were “about due” for some fog in the grand scheme of things, finding it on the south coast in August was somewhat ironic, as the research we had done, confirmed with conversations with local residents, indicated that the fog on the south coast should be largely gone by August. But we didn’t want to complain after our seeming extraordinary run of good luck.
Hole in the Wall
The geology too was spectacular all along – we’ve done a lot of armchair geologizing, and have been fascinated by endless cliffs of obviously stratified sedimentary rocks with impressive features including distinct thrust faults, bends, and folds. In the last couple of days the sedimentary cliffs gave way to equally impressive glacier-carved cliffs.
We are very taken by the Newfoundlanders’ sense of place. They seem very rooted to the place and community where they grew up. We’ve experienced that in many ways-the well attended “coming home” days or even weeks that many communities sponsor for those who have moved away, the long distances that many commute to work (e.g. to the Alberta tar sands, or to St. John’s on a weekly basis), and the weekend homes that many maintain in their place of origin, even if it was long since abandoned.
We’ve seen many signs of oil’s importance as we traveled the coast and noted a variety of ships and boats that tend the oil rigs in the major harbors we visited. Many of the Newfoundlanders we talk to are employed in the industry or have relatives who are. We suspect, but do not know, that much of the improvement the government has made, and continues to make, to the harbors in the last 20+ years has been made possible by oil revenues.
August 8- 10
On Wednesday, August 8 we left Harbor Breton under power and in fog, and moderate air. We sailed in the afternoon after rounding Western Head and our course changed to a more northerly direction. We were entranced with the prospect of running the Pass Island Tickle of about a mile or so, but abandoned the thought when a close inspection of the charts revealed an overhead power line that was too low for our mast. We arrived at McCallum, our destination on the south coast, at about 7PM. The entrance involved passing through a narrow S curve in the fog, which we successfully negotiated. This episode provided our dose of adrenaline for the day. We saw a humpback whale breach three times on our way to MacCallum this afternoon, followed by Atlantic white-sided porpoises which played in our bow wave as we passed through Dead Man’s Bight.
Cod Fish Drying at McCallum
McCallum is a pretty outport that shows evidence of civic pride. And it’s truly an outport–there is no road that connects it to the rest of Newfoundland. There are wooden walkways connecting the colorfully-painted houses with clotheslines strung above, numerous gardens bursting with potatoes, peas, carrots, cabbages, and flowers, and the ubiquitous friendly people. Marina and Hank even found salt cod drying in the sun when they went on a hike through the little town.
The next day, Thursday, August 9, dawned with fair skies but a light wind on our nose, so we motored to Hare Bay, one of the Cruising Guide’s most highly recommended places on the South Coast. Hare Bay is a five mile long uninhabited fjord with two arms at the end. Our plan was to go to Morgan’s Arm, the west most of the two, for lunch and a shore side exploration, and move to the recommended anchoring spot in the other arm for the night. We anchored at the end of Morgan’s arm without trouble in 15kts of wind coming straight down the fjord, and inflated our small dinghy for the trip ashore of a half mile or so. Having been advised that we would face exactly this situation, we had purchased a small electric outboard to power the dinghy. (Think of it-only 20 pounds or so, no gas, few moving parts, disassembles into three parts for easy storage, little metal-what a dream for our purposes.) We’d used it once before on this trip, but even so it took a few minutes to assemble and attach to the bouncing dinghy.
Hare Bay Waterfall
Hank, Marina, and Bob motored the dinghy in to a beautiful inner pool a quarter mile or so around that lies at the foot of rushing water fall. Bob landed them on a sloping rock near the base of the waterfall, and set out to return to Rejoice! to pick up Laura. However he had trouble operating the outboard, which kept torquing up on the hard flange which allows it to attach to the dinghy, which had itself lost some air pressure as it was exposed to cold water. In addition, the kill switch was attached to a short cord which made it difficult for him to sit in a place that properly balanced the boat. After a few attempts-tussles might be more accurate-the outboard stopped responding entirely and produced an incomprehensible error message on its oh-so-modern digital read out. Rowing with the outboard attached to the dingy proved impossible, especially against the substantial head wind, so Bob put in to shore, detached the motor, and rowed back to Rejoice! with it as a docile passenger.
On the way into Hare Bay
The Cruising Guide says that “there have been several attempts to enter the inner pool, some successful and some not.” It also contains some very specific directions on how to enter the inner pool, although no diagram. Our anchorage, while conservative from depth standpoint, was clearly inconveniently far from the inner pool, particularly with a suspect outboard. In addition Bob was intrigued by what he’d seen of the pool while dropping off Hank and Marina. Consequently he and Laura decided to attempt to enter it.
The Inner Pool at Hare Bay
Count us among the unsuccessful attempts. We nosed our way in at a crawl, paying careful attention to the Guide’s directions. We’d made it past the narrowest part of the entrance when a sharp, rude bump disabused us of any notion of success. Running aground on sand or mud is one thing; but bumping a rock is quite another, no matter how slowly you are going. A second rock promptly appeared 2’ away to starboard. Unnerved at this point, and mindful of being on a falling tide, Bob backed off and anchored about 1/4 mile outside the pool, closer in that the previous anchorage. Hank and Marina appeared on the shore shortly thereafter, and the outboard having revived, Bob motored in to pick them up. They said it was an incredible hike up along the falls with a calm eddy to swim in about a mile up the river.
Back aboard Rejoice! we motored three miles around to the other arm of the fjord and dropped anchor in yet another candidate for the most beautiful anchorage on this trip. Surrounded by cliffs 300 or more feet high, sprinkled with occasional waterfalls, we ate dinner on the “veranda” while watching bald eagles and the sun set. The Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast says: “Setting our around Petit Manan on the heels of a summer southwesterly is as close to perfection as man can get on this imperfect earth”. We agree as we’ve done it, but this spot, and a few others mentioned above, sure give “Tit Manan” a healthy run for its money.
We had noticed that our battery had not been charging properly. Normally the battery charges when the engine is running. However, this had not happened in recent days; indeed, running the engine increased the rate of discharge according to the instruments on the electrical panel. We checked all the things we could think of, as well as several new ones suggested by our manuals, but all to no avail. We’d experienced problems with the fan belt in the past which had affected battery charging, and so decided to tighten it again, although it was showing no obvious symptoms. No success! We went to sleep with the knowledge that unless something changed the batteries would shortly be uncomfortably low. Losing battery power would spell big time trouble for us-no windlass, no refrigeration, no lights, no flushing head, no electric winches, no chart plotter (though we had two hand held back ups), and, in the extreme, no engine. When Bob was 20 years old, sailing with those kinds of problems seemed to him to be kind of a fun adventure and an interesting challenge. At 71 he found it quite a different story.
Friday, August 10 dawned hazy and calm. We did little enough motoring on some of the earlier legs, but this one has more than made up for it. We were ready to go sailing, but the gods were not with us. So we set off under power, while watching the battery voltage drop with a depressing feeling. As we were out of cell phone range we couldn’t call any of our usual sources to ask for advice. Similarly, our satellite phone, brought along for just such an occasion, gave a disappointing “No Service” response when we turned it on and pointed its antenna skyward.
The Cruising Guide advised that Burgeo, some 30 nm distant, offered marine services. However, Francois (pronounced Franz-way in Newfoundlandese), a tiny outport at the head of a steep but short fjord, was closer and offered internet and perhaps cell phone service. We headed there, firm in the conviction that somehow we’d missed some switch or other obvious point in dealing with Rejoice!’s user friendly but complex electrical system.
Coming into Francois
We arrived around midday. At first Francois didn’t seem like a likely spot. It is the avatar of an out port, with a population of perhaps 100 people who live in three or four dozen houses located on a narrow shelf between cliffs and water. The town has no roads and no cars-inhabitants use ATV’s to cover the main street of a quarter mile or so and to ride up into the surrounding heights-and is serviced only by a daily ferry.
At the Pier at Francois
We were in luck! The first people we encountered at Francois turned out to be electrical workers who were there to repair the town’s generator. We asked them for help, and within five minutes one of their colleagues appeared. A minute later he was on board with his head inside the engine box. Within two minutes he had discovered a disconnected wire behind one of the engine components and reconnected it. Presto! The amperage instantly went from -12 to something like +30. Ten minutes later we were on our way.
While we obviously don’t blanch at depending on the kindness of strangers, we are nonetheless disconcerted to think that so much depends on one wire that is not obvious, at least to us. Thank you, Paul of Franzway.
With our spirits soaring along with the battery charge we set off again on our journey west. The battery issue resolved, we could look for quiet at night rather than head to a bustling, for these parts any way, harbor like Burgeo. We chose an anchorage between the “mainland” and Fox Island, a small island that was favorably described in The Cruising Guide.
Anchorage at Fox Island
Hank at Fox Island
We’d been aware since the start of this trip that the charts are not always accurate and up to the standards that we are used to in the US. Indeed, we’d experienced a couple of cases in which we found ourselves “sailing” across dry land, at least according to the chart plotter. Many of the of surveys of Newfoundland’s waters date from the 19th or early 20th century. Nonetheless, we were a tad surprised to find (the hard way) an uncharted rock on our way in to the anchorage. The irony is that we were in the process of skirting another (charted) rock at the time. Or maybe the rock we bounced off was the charted one and its lat/long is off. Or maybe… Anyway, we wound up in a tiny, quiet cove enjoying the splendid sound of fish jumping around us as they did their bit to control the mosquito population. Go fish! Marina and Hank went ashore to explore Fox Island, a long-abandoned outport.
August 10 was our last night on Newfoundland. We set off for the 165nm trip across the Cabot Strait to Baddeck early on the morning of Saturday, August 11. The forecast was for light winds and calm seas in the morning, with east and southeast winds which are good for us coming in later in the day. We took a cautious route leaving the anchorage, not wanting to encounter any more “uncharted” rocks.
We arrived back The Cape Breton Boat Yard in Baddeck at midday on Sunday August 12, after a largely uneventful 169 nm, 27 hour trip across the Cabot Strait.
Crossing the Cabot Strait
Most of the trip was made under power alone or motor sailing since the winds were light as predicted. However, we were able to kill the engine for a few hours early in the morning and enjoy a nice reach as the wind came in from the southeast to the joy of all aboard.
Tanker in the Cabot Strait
We were very glad to have functioning radar. The night was cloudy with some fog patches, and the trip crossed two shipping lanes.
Marina and Hank got to watch a handful of little squalls roll toward them on the radar screen and enjoy the rain they produced as they passed. The only event of note occurred about 3AM, under sail, when Bob noticed a clear radar return about 20 nm out off our starboard bow. He engaged the radar’s “target tracking” capability and noted that while the range closed over time, the bearing did not change.
On watch at night
Trouble ahead! He resolved that if nothing had changed by the time we were within 2nm of each other he’d alter course significantly to starboard so as to pass astern of the other vessel. At 3nm two things happened virtually simultaneously: first the radar began to crump out intermittently, losing the target tracking capability, and second, the other vessel’s steaming lights, which are mounted at different heights, began to change their aspect relative to each other, suggesting that she was altering course. Sure enough, a minute later he was looking at a green running light, not a red one. Ten minutes later he watched her slide safely by about 1 nm astern, invisible in the dark save for her steaming and running lights. Ships that pass in the night.
Our arrival in Baddeck completed the goal of circumnavigating Newfoundland. It was a fabulous trip as you know from these missives and the accompanying photos. Everything we’d heard about Newfoundland – the spectacular scenery, the wonderful, welcoming people, the importance of history and place, the fabulous sailing – was true. We are very grateful to those who were able to share this adventure in person, and to the kind words and encouragement that have come from those of you who have “participated” by reading these notes. Thank you all.
Coming into Baddeck
Journey’s End-Cape Breton Boat Yard
From Baddeck, Hank and Marina went to Montpelier where Hank will work for the Agency of Natural Resources and Marina will continue her work on plastics research. Laura went to East Hampton to visit our children and grandchildren. As for Bob, well as you can see, he found an oar and started to walk inland… at least until next year!