23 July, 2015
Port Aux Basque (P’aB), part 2
Next challenge-power. There were plenty of power outlets on the wall, but, like Canso, they were of a type that we had no adapters for. (For our fellow cruisers that follow us for crumbs of info, they were circular, 3 round prong females rated at 110V, 30A. You’ll have to make your own adapter by buying parts as I couldn’t find one on the typical marine supply sites). Anyway, the harbormaster who didn’t return calls was nowhere to be found. When I went into the fisherman’s chandlery by the pier looking for him, all I got in reply to my query was “Good luck”. When I related my experienced no return calls, the guy at the counter said that he’d heard that story from a lot of transients. VERY long story short, I finally tracked Dumbsy (as he is called locally) down, and cajoled a homemade adapter out of him. Didn’t get a good answer out of him for not returning my calls. Meanwhile, we had a constant parade of locals driving down to see “the big boats” at the pier. Our plan was to leave the boats in P’aB for a few days, and take a road trip up the west coast to L’Anse Aux Meadows, a Unesco World heritage Site, the site of Leif Eiriksson’s Norse outpost from the 900’s. Lauren had been working diligently doing the rental car boogie for several days to locate a rental car for us to no avail. She was not to be denied, and finally she found one at Stephenville Airport, some 200 km away. Well, there is a trans-Newfoundland bus service from St. John to P’aB that passes through Stephenville twice daily. Complicated, but doable. Along comes Mr. Albert White, one in the stream of townies coming by. We’re rappin’, he’s showing me some videos that he uploaded to YouTube (he bought his first computer when he retired for the second time at age 71), and we get around to “What’re you doing here?” You’re already 2 steps ahead of me. You’ve guessed that he’s going to Stephenville in the morning (to take his daughter to the hospital for an MRI) Said he’d pick us up at 0730. 0724, horn blaring (from a switch hotwired around the steering wheel, ‘cause a new wheel costs $400), the Dodge Caravan rolls in on two wheels and screeches to a stop. His wife and 32 year old daughter (a very big girl) are wedged into the back seat, middle seat and shotgun reserved for the freeloaders. In go the bags, off come the sweaters (he’s got the heat set at about 25 C), and we’re off on the big adventure. Dude. He’s got a miniature TV monitor hanging from the sunvisor, linked to videocams facing front and back, recording continuously (“Did I mention that I got my first computer when I was 71?”). For the next 2 hours, the minivan is straining up and screaming down the mountainous highway to Stephenville, but we’re not worried (much), as Albert was a long-haul trucker in one of his previous lives. What a sweetheart, won’t even let us fill the tank “Just filled her yesterday”, he comes in to the rental office with us to make sure that they have our ride.
Over the next few days, we cover the 700-odd kilometers, mostly coastal road to L’Anse Aux Meadows and back. We climbed the 750 stair trail up to Blow Me Down rock, hiked the glacial moraine at Westbrook Pond in Gros Morne Park, toured the Viking site at L’Anse Aux Meadows, checked out the iceberg that had grounded itself in the bay at St. Anthony, drove in to every little fishing hamlet, and stayed at two delightful B & B’s. Good company, 60’s and 70’s music on the satellite radio (hey, nothing but the best in NL), baguettes and cheese, granola bars, trail mix, and a case of beer (after the anchor was down) kinda made it feel like a road trip from days gone by. The navigation was stellar, as we only had to execute 14 (but who’s counting?) U-turns. The driving by Bill was impeccable (no car/moose collisions), while the monologue from the back seat was truly without peer. At 1900, we caught the bus from St. John after dropping our ride off at the (closed at 1600) Stephenville airport. A couple hours later, back at P’aB, we all agreed that the way to see the west coast was by road, as the little harbors were nothing to write home about. Dumbsy had left an envelope on the Girl, requesting payment ($80/ 4 nights), to be slid under the door at his shed. We slept hard, happy to be back in our own beds.
18th of July. While we were away, tropical storm Claudette had veered out to sea and became a fish storm. We had a fair bit of wind, but nothing like predicted. The sailboats had gone, so we were the only boats on the wharf. We hit the groceteria in the morning, and were off the dock by 1115 for the short hop to Rose Blanche harbor, where we would overnight before heading to Grand Bruit, an abandoned outport with all of its’ buildings still mostly intact.
22nd of July. That’s cruising. We’re sitting on the bait station dock in the harbor over from Rose Blanche. The breeze has been brisk for the past few days at between 20 and 30 knots out of the East, driving off and on (mostly on) deluges. The high temperature cracked 50 F (I think) yesterday. Right now, the temperature is 48 F, its pouring rain, and we’re clocking winds with gusts to 29 knots. The Girl poked her head out into the ocean this morning, not because we really thought we’d travel, but just to placate ourselves, and affirm our decision to stay another day. Decision affirmed. Driving into a 10’ head sea with 5 second intervals against a 24 knot breeze made our decision a no-brainer. Turning the boat around in these conditions was another story altogether, and certainly entailed quite a “pucker factor”. When you’re halfway through the turn, broadside to the wind and down in the trough between waves, it can be a real cupboard rearranger. This one was no exception. Full power, hard rudder, but flying stabilizers tend to set off alarms, and bow thrusters don’t work all that well when they’re trying to push air-no mean feat on a 62,000 pound vessel. Anyhow, Lauren and Bill didn’t know what they were missing, but took our word for it as we slinked back to the pier. So,now I can take this down time to recap the last couple of days in beautiful Rose Blanche, Newfoundland.
The village dock was filled with locals’ boats when we pulled in, so we decided to anchor up under Cain Island. As we rounded the island, it was plain to see that there was some aquaculture activities going on here, so no go. The abandoned fish plant back to the west, in Diamond Cove, had a dock, but didn’t look too inviting…..Hmmmmh. The lobster season had just closed a few days earlier, so we figured that there wouldn’t be a whole lot of traffic at the Newfoundland Bait Depot dock. Sure enough, the place looked like it was buttoned up for the year. We eyeballed the fixed, L-shaped dock, and figured that we could put the Girl on the 35’ face, and Seastar on the projection from shore. After tying up, we paced off the other segment and checked the depths-looked like Seastar had room. We gave Bill the option of rafting off the Girl, or pulling onto the dock around our hanging-out bow, and he opted for the latter (trusting soul that he is). No problemo. He whipped her in with a couple of feet to spare. A couple was motoring by in their dory just then, so I waved them over to ask them if it was okay to tie up here. “ Oh yah, fishin’ season’s ower. Ain’t nobody been ‘ear ‘til Spring. Ont some Cod?” “What’s that?”, says I. “Ont some Cod?” “Yes, please” is my answer, so he throws a Cod up onto the dock. “Ose people witcha?” “Yep” “Here’s anudder.” Whap! “Wont anudder?” “No thanks, that’s plenty”. Off they go with their bucket full of Cod. There’s been no commercial Cod fishing here since 1989 when a moratorium was put in place after Cod were practically fished out, but there is a season for individuals that had opened a few days previously. Welcome to the East Coast. There’s no power or water at the dock here, but it’s very secure, and the small bays’ shoreline is dotted with colorful, tiny (maybe 600 sq. ft.) homes. There’s no cell service, and we’re thinking that we’re really getting out there. I guess we are. The following morning, we packed up our rain gear and hiked over to the Rose Blanche Lighthouse, quite possibly the only all-granite lighthouse in Atlantic Canada that’s open to the public. Built in 1871 by Scot craftsmen, and designed by the engineers at D&T Stevenson (named after father and uncle of Robert Louis) of Edinburgh, it was abandoned in 1941, gradually falling into ruins. In 1988, a group of locals began the lengthy process of reconstruction, using nothing but hand tools and muscle power, utilizing 90% of the original stones and quarrying the rest from the rocks below the site. By 1999, the project was completed. The reconstructed house is furnished with period pieces and local antiques. The Canadian Coast guard has since dismantled the modern light tower at the site, and employs the restored tower for its’ light. Our tour of the lighthouse had a bonus courtesy of the crummy weather. We were just about the only ones there. The hike out over the barren, windswept rocks with the waves crashing in below was pretty spectacular. With the exception of our high tech clothes, we could easily envision ourselves traversing these same paths in the late 1800’s. Oh yeah, there were 3 bars worth of cell service on the highest rock of the point (note to self). After the lighthouse, we took the “Old Road” over to the outport Harbor La Cou, a couple of miles to the east. It’s really no more than a path, but it was the only way to travel between the 2 villages before the road was built. The scenery along the way was simply indescribable-lush greenery speckled with colorful wildflowers, placid ponds, and towering granite ridges, all ending in a deep fjord, the shore of which was home for 20 hearty souls in a outport called La Cou. We met a couple of ladies there that told us of some paths to good vistas back in Rose Blanche, so after we returned, we hiked them too. We weren’t disappointed. After our 10 (or so) miles of hiking, Suzanne treated us to some Beef Stroganoff (20 minutes in the pressure cooker). We weren’t in a hurry to get up and at ‘em the next morning, as seas were predicted to be 8’ on 4 ½ seconds with wind speeds in the 20 knot range. I hiked up to the “high rock” spot to download the new GRIB’s on the Ipad. Whoa! Wind speed was slightly higher than the 20’s, in fact; it felt more like 30-35. I wished that I had thrown the handheld anemometer in the backpack. The waves crashing into the rocks below the lighthouse were blasting plumes of spray 40’ into the air, fuel that the wind atomized into a driving mist. I didn’t need a weather forecast to tell me that we weren’t going anywhere today, just when we might get a crack to slip through. It looked like our first opportunity would present itself in a couple of days. That afternoon, we walked the trail back to Rose Blanche and had a late lunch at Madolyn’s Teahouse which was attached to RoseSea’s B&B. Lynn, the 74 year old proprietor of both establishments is an Ontario native that came into some money a few years back and decided to buy and renovate a couple of run down shacks in R. B. When she asked her friends in Ontario what they thought, they told her she was crazy, hence the name of her teahouse Mad old Lynn. The food was less than unremarkable, but the rooms in the B&B were all new and tidy, if somewhat Spartan. Back at the Girl, Suz and I spent some quiet time reading while the wind whistled overhead. The morning of the 21rt was another one justliketheotherones-bleak, windy and rainy. Bill and Lauren were starting to exhibit signs of cabin fever, so we split ‘em up. Bill and I hiked up to the “high rock” spot so that we could get a new forecast, and he could talk to his son on the phone. Suz and Lauren had a spot of tea and some Girltime on Alizann. That brings up to this morning when we poked our nose out. After we came back to the pier, the skies just opened up. It’s been pouring rain in sheets all day, so we had B & L over for a “movie day”. We turned Bill on to the “House of Cards” series a week ago, and gave him the first three seasons on a hard drive. He’s been binge watching, ‘cause he’s a big Kevin Spacey fan. Soooo…. The movie choice was a natural as neither he nor Lauren had seen “The Usual Suspects”. Afterwards, the ladies cooked up some beef stew in the handy pressure cooker. I wouldn’t say that Bill and Suz stomped us, but Lauren and I are looking forward to some Euchre redemption on a rainy day in the future.
Well, that’s it for now. I’ll shoot this into space as soon as we have service.
PS. What is an outport? There are few roads in Newfoundland. Because of the huge Cod fishing industry previous to 1989 many Outports cropped up along the shores of NFL to be close to the fishing Banks. These outports were only accessible by boat. No power, no roads. As the Cod industry began to fail the NFL government was having a difficult time finding resources to provide basic services such as medical care. In the mid 1950’s NFL was almost bankrupt and the Cod industry was collapsing. The government decided to lure residents(resettlement) of the outports to villages that were accessible. Promises of housing, jobs, etc did not pan out but the people had left their homes. These abandoned outports dot the southern coast of NFL and are spooky. Houses, churches, wharf all intact just no one home. Nowadays a few outports(still only accessible by boat) exist but are slowly disappearing. How does it happen? When the population diminishes to a degree that there are not enough inhabitants to justify the cost of running and maintaining the power source, resettlement becomes the only option. The few remaining residents of these isolated ourports vote for resettlement. The diesel –powered generating station is shut down and dismantled and the power and phone lines are taken down. This is how an outport becomes abandoned. After resettlement, residents can rent their old homes from the government for 5 years for $1 a year. A few people return for a few weeks during the summer. Thought you might like to know. -The Admiral