20 July, 2015
The ride up to Cheticamp was smooth, with partly cloudy skies and a 3’ sea pushed onto our port bow by a 15 knot winds. Along the way, we got a hail on the VHF from “transport Canada”. Turned out to be a border patrol aircraft. After identifying themselves, they asked our last and next ports of call, and our future itinerary. It was a first for us in over 25 years of cruising in Canada. Subsequent to reminding us of the “No Discharge” policies in Canadian waters, he kindly let us know that the destination set in our AIS was Lunenburg-Oops. As we neared the mouth of the harbor at Cheticamp, we spied a small fishing boat jigging Mackerel. Having never witnessed this operation, I was amazed. He had a long line with circle hooks on it, spaced around 2’ apart, draped over a roller on each side of the boat. As he turned a hand crank, the line came up on one side, went down on the other. In the middle of the boat was a tub that caught the fish as they were dislodged passing over the rollers. No bait, just hooks. As soon as the line was paid out on one side, he’d reel it back in with 2 fish for every 3 hooks. Crazy. Cheticamp town dock was pretty “bare bones”, but Paul, the harbormaster was waiting to catch our lines when we arrived. The 30A power came through a household-type 15A outlet that had been wired by a cruiser who had been here previously, assuring Paul that the wiring could handle the load. With the help of our 50’ extension cord, an adapter and a 50’ power cord, we were able to feed in to our 30A inlet. (The Girl came with a standard 50A inlet, but with many years of cruising in rural destinations, our guy Shay, at Boat Works of Charlevoix, in consultation with the engineer at Charles Industries (electric power specialists) wired in a parallel 30A circuit. We have to watch our loads, but it has been a Godsend, both in the Bahamas and Canada). Anyway, as Paul left us, he asked if we’d like lobsters. Oh, Yeah! The next morning, he took us over to the dock where the fishermen were coming in, and negotiated a $6/lb. price for us with a French-speaking lobsterman. Now we’ve got (8) 2 pound lobsters that need cooking. Minor detail-our “big” pot will hold 2 at most. No worries, says Paul, I’ll just drive home and get my pot. And, you should really cook them in seawater with a fistful of salt added. He said not to worry if he wasn’t right back, ‘cause it would take him awhile to drive out to a beach away from town, where he could get clean seawater for us. Bill gets out his Coleman camp stove, but when Paul returns with the bathtub full of seawater, he says it’s too windy on the dock, so he’ll take the stove in to his office and cook for us. Are East Coasters awesome, or what? While he cooked, we got the skinny on the local scene. He lamented that the local women weren’t interested in a guy unless he had a fishing license. In his 70’s, retired, and single but still lookin’. We’ve got a feeling that he was married once, but there wasn’t a “right time” to ask him. Now we got chores. Bill & Lauren trek off to the laundromat, while Suz and I string together 150’ of hose to get to the hose bib on shore to fuel our wash O’matic. When we return home after our errand running, Paul is sitting on the picnic table waiting for 2 more boats to come in. He doesn’t have a VHF, but his brother lives on the point at the mouth of the harbor, and phones him when he sees a boat approaching. Using our handheld radio makes his job a bit easier as the boats approach the wharf. We enjoyed half of our lobsters at dinner, and made our plans to travel up to the Madeline Islands the following day. Paul came by after dinner to check in on us, and we had some more good conversation. He told us that he had lots of friends in “The Maggies”, and actually spent several weeks there every summer. We got some good tips from him on places to go, and things to see there. In particular, he advised against going into Havre Aubert where we had planned making landfall (as recommended by the cruising guides), and going instead to Cap Aux Meules, which was more centrally located with more services. He said that he’d be down in the morning at 0600 to help us off the dock, and sure enough, when Suz and I got up, he was already on Seastar, having coffee with Bill & Lauren. As we pulled out, he said he’d probably see us 2 days hence, as he was hitching a ride over to The Maggies on a friend’s boat.
On the way over to the Maggies, we spotted 9 Minke whales, all traveling solo. For the 7 ½ hour trip, we had no wind and mercury-flat seas under an overcast sky. When we arrived at the city harbor at 1430, they weren’t ready for us, so we tied to the wharf with Seastar rafted to us, and waited for a slip to open up for B & L. The harbor here contains a mix of commercial and pleasure boats, the common denominator being that very few folks speak ANY Anglais. By the time that we got Seastar situated, it was time for sips and dinner aboard the Girl. The following morning, the 11th, we headed to the tourist bureau for maps and info, then to Hertz to secure a car rental. HaHaHa. All cars were booked through August. They did, however, have scooters available. Okay, they weren’t exactly Harleys, but it was the best we could do, so reserved 2 for the 13th, as it was supposed to rain the next day. We hit the bakery then the ATM (lots of our dockage has been cash only), and were pulling the bikes off the boats by noon. Our intended ride would take us over a tomolo to Ile du Havre aux Maisons, where we would visit a fromagerie (cheesemaker, Pied-de-Vent), a Fumoir (smokehouse, D’Atan), and a winemaker(BarboCheux) while traveling scenic backroads. Before we got here, we had pictured the archipelago as being flat and sandy. Au contraire! Our 16 mile tour was mostly upanddown. We scored some great cheese, and got some smoked fish after being treated to a tour of the smokehouse by Felix, the fourth generation of his family, home from university on summer break. We were pretty whacked, but had to hustle back to the boats to meet Paul for dinner. Well…..no one at the harbor had seen him, so we headed to his buddy’s Resto d’Italia for dinner. Five minutes later, there’s Paul and his friend (with the boat), joining us for dinner. The entertainment was a hoot. A French speaking guy singing American songs in English (without an accent). Over dinner, Paul said he’d be at the boats the next morning with his pal’s car to take us on a tour of the islands. True to form, Paul’s having coffee with B&L when we rouse. Slight change of plan, he can only be with us until 1400, as he’s meeting a ladyfriend up at the North end later. We cover all of the archipelago to the south, including Havre Aubert. We’re happy that we went to Cap Aux Meules, ‘cause Aubert is a little fishing village converted to T shirt shops and galleries. The harbor is windy and wide open. So much for the cruising guides. Returning back to the boat, and anticipating his rejection of “gas money”, we present Paul with a handheld VHF as a token of our friendship. He gets kinda teary, but is happy, happy, and happy. For the rest of the afternoon, we just walked around town in Cap Aux Meules, took the shoreline walk, and climbed the rock overlooking the harbor to get some snaps. We had been watching for a weather window to cruise up to Port Aux Basque, on Newfoundland’s southwest tip, and it looked like tomorrow night was the night. Tropical storm Claudette had been working up the East coast of the States, and was projected to hit Newfoundland in 36 hours, making the window tight but doable. Bill and Lauren were excited/apprehensive, as it would be their first overnight crossing, but it was now, or stay in Cap Aux Meules for the next week. We all agreed to sleep on it, and make our decision the next day. By 0830, we were picking up our scooters for our push to the northern end of the archipelago. Oh, the horrors of frugality (cheapo, cheapo)! 49cc’s of raw power with 2 people onboard saw us traveling at a blistering 30kph (18mph) on the uphill, and (our record) 60kph on the wind-assisted downhills. Well, the flip side was that we had a good chance to see all the scenery along the way. And, the scenery was beautiful, from breathtaking vistas across the moors (can’t help it, looked like Scotland) ending abruptly with cliffs dropping into the sea, to quaint little hamlets filled with brightly colored houses. At our turning point in Grand Entrée, I acknowledged the 900 pound gorilla, and asked for a decision on crossing to Newfoundland that night. Bill and Lauren were in. Looked like we were a go. Suz had checked the GRIB’s before our scooter tour, and suggested that an 1800 departure would be best. On our way back, we stopped at the seal museum, which had some very good exhibits detailing the natural history of the seals endemic to this area. In addition to the science, we found the local perspective regarding the seal hunt (which is still legal and takes place annually here) to be quite interesting. Seal products, including pelts, clothing, and meat are still sold here and in Newfoundland, while being banned in the European Community. Back on our trusty steeds, we stopped at Captain Jack’s for some unremarkable fish and chips, returned to the Fumier and the Fromagerie, fed the gerbils at the gas station, and returned to base. Paul’s waiting at the dock to throw off our lines and bid us “Adieu”. On our way to the sea buoy 5 miles to the east, we are escorted by a small fishing boat, with Paul on the deck snappin’ away with his Ipad. I’m a touch concerned, as I have been calling the Harbormaster in Port Aux Basque for the last few days to try to secure dockage at their wharf, leaving messages at his home and office without getting a return call. With Claudette bearing down, we had some anchorages picked out, but it would’ve been nice to know we had a spot on the dock. I kept my concerns to myself. The seas were calm, and I closed my eyes for a few minutes while Suz enjoyed a stunning sunset. Everyone has a preferred schedule, we like a 5 hour on 5 hour off routine through the night, with nap time available to either of us during the daylight hours as needed. During the night, we talked with B & L a bit, but for the most part, just enjoyed the solitude of an overnight. By the time that we reached P’a B, the sun was up and the sky was bright. As we passed the sea buoy, a twin engine plane circled over us, losing altitude with each pass. Over the VHF, you guessed it, “Alizann, Canadian patrol aircraft blah, blah, blah, switch and answer channel 10” Same routine as before-Curious. In the harbor, the U-shaped wharf had plenty of room on the windward side (not the side you want to be on in the predicted 45 knot winds), with 2 sailboats berthed in such a way that they took up the whole leeward side. We tied up on the windward dock and I walked over and paced off the space in front, between, and abaft of the sailors-looked like there was enough room for all of us with a bit of juggling. After a bit of initial reluctance, we moved the boats around so we could all get tucked in. Ready for tropical storm Claudette. Their instant reward for moving was that they were able to score some charts that they didn’t have from Lauren and Bill. Pay it forward.
This is getting long, so
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