4 August, 2015

Bon Jour

Well……  The fog didn’t clear up.  Radar and chartplotter showed us that we were in the outer harbor of St. Pierre, but you couldn’t prove it by looking out the window-pure pea soup.  I had forgotten just how disoriented you can get moving at slow speed in zero/zero visibility.  I love my instruments.  As we approached the rock jetty leading into the inner harbor, the fog became wispy, then immediately gave way to bright sunshine.  Lucky, lucky, lucky.  As usual, the Harbor Authority wasn’t answering their VHF, so as we passed a commercial fishing boat that was idling around waiting for the rail tram to pull them out of the water, Suzanne asked them where we should tie up.  Uh oh, here we go with the French.  Fortunately, the Admiral retains and builds on her vocabulary, while I have to start from scratch every time we’re with French-speakers.  We sidle over to a long pier, and by the time we’re close to the dock, the fishermen have tied up and are ready to catch our lines.  By the way, they’ve called both Customs and Immigration to come down to the boat for us, so we won’t have to walk up to the office.  Really?  Clearing Customs is a breeze.  The head officer speaks perfect English, and lets his two pals practice theirs on us under his watchful eye.  As usual, Suz is pumpin’ him for some local knowledge, and he tells her that the bus tour is a must (by the way, his daughter is home from University, and she’s the guide).    Suz and Lauren are all smiles, ‘cause it’s our plan to eat our way through this French town, meaning no menu planning for a few days.  We head over to the Touriste Informacion office, and get the skinny on treats, eats, and tours.  Our new best friend at the office, John-Pierre makes dinner reservations for the next 3 nights, and we’re good to go.  At 18h00, we’re waiting for the bus tour, chattin’ it up with Emilie, our guide-more local info.  The tour needs 6 to go, and there are only the 4 of us.  As we’re leaving, 2 ladies run up, so the tour is on.  The tour was well worth it.  We wound through the narrow streets in town, and then drove out to the country for some photo ops, as Emilie pointed out the high points and gave us a short history lesson.  Passing by Emilie’s Grandfathers house, he gives her a thumbs-up.  Oh yeah, he owns the tour bus.  Back in town, her Dad is waiting to drive her home.  He looks a little different from the last time that we saw him.  Cargo shorts, Tee shirt and flip-flops are quite a contrast from the crisp uniform with the sidearm on the hip.  Over the next 3 days, we enjoyed being in France.  The stores had a great selection of cheeses, cured meats, and pate.  The bakery had fresh goodies every morning at 06h00.  Our nights out for dinner provided a nice diversion, with wonderful food, decent wine, and good conversation.  The weather was rainyfoggywindy, but hey, what’s new.  One of the locals told us that they had 45 straight days of fog last year, so we’re not gripin’.  The “Prohibition” tour (one guide and the 4 of us), gave us some insight in to the effects that Prohibition in the States had on this sleepy little fishing community during the 30’s.  During that time, 300,000 cases of liquor passed through here every month, destined for the United States’ east coast.  Al Capone was said to have spent some time here (although I couldn’t verify this independently), and lotsa money was made from running liquor.  During our stay, the sailboat racers coming from the Madeline’s dribbled in from the fog, completely overwhelming the facilities.  By the time they were all in, their boats were rafted 3 and 4 deep along the pier, along with monopolizing the (free) laundry room, drying all of their wet duds.  No biggie, though.  None of them were up at 06h00, when I usually do wash.  We departed on a sunny Friday morning, the first day of the “Rock ‘N Rhum” Festival, as the ferry disgorged groups of pierced and tatted young folks arriving for the scene.  We diverted out to Colombier Island, a couple of miles out of the harbor, as it was rumored that there were Puffins out there (you already know how the Admiral has this thing for Puffins).  Pete (the stuffed Puffin) stood watch from his perch next to the compass, while the Admiral manned the binoculars.  No need.  There were a gazillion Puffins in the water, air, and on the rocks.  In spite of their numbers, it was tough to get their pictures, as the little guys are pretty shy.  Out of 100 or so shots, hopefully, we’ll get 5 or 6 good ones.  After idling around for a half hour or so, we continued our cruise up to Langlade and Miquelon, the other 2 islands in this French Archipelago.  Langlade has only a few summer cottages, and Miquelon only 600 inhabitants, as compare to St. Pierre’s 6,000.  The reason for our Miquelon drive-by was that we were told that there were seals on its’ North end.  Where there are seals, there are usually Orcas, and we hadn’t seen any of these killer whales yet.  Well, I think that maybe we were sold a bill of goods (or maybe it was the language barrier), ‘cause the North end was bordered by sandy shores-not exactly seal territory.  The bonus was the Minke whales that we saw on the way.

Next stop, Fortune Newfoundland, where we cleared customs, and planned a visit to Fortune Head Point, where there were some significant geologic formations (read “fossils”-Nerd time).  On the way, Lauren and Bill discovered that their macerator (the little chopperupper gizmo that pumps out your holding tank) had crapped out-pun intended. Sh%t!  Literally.  Along the way, we called Canadian Customs and got our reporting number (we both have NEXUS cards, which streamline border crossings for Canadian and U.S. citizens).  Seastar wasn’t so lucky.  The Customs agent told them that they needed some face time with the officers in Fortune.  The good news was that the guys were at the dock when we arrived, and cleared Bill & Lauren without a search of their boat.  Kinda ticked Lauren off that we didn’t have the same treatment, but the fact is that a lot of Canadians return home with prodigious amounts of cheap liquor from France (the “sin tax” on liquor in Canada helps fund their health care system, making booze very expensive), and don’t declare it.  We still had plenty of time, so we hooked up with Kendra (a geology student on leave from university in St. John’s), to give us a personal tour of the museum, and drive us out to the park to view the actual formations.  So…..Fortune Head is the recognized GSSP (Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point) for the Precambrian/Cambrian Eras.  Getting’ deep, but a GSSP is an internationally designated reference point on a stratigraphic section which defines the lower boundary of a stage on the geologic time scale.  In other words, the rock formations that have been thrust up here by continental drift clearly show fossils from the end of the Precambrian, and the beginning of the Cambrian eras.  (For you non-nerds, the Precambrian Era had very primitive single cell life forms such as bacteria and simple soft bodied worms, whereas the Cambrian Explosion witnessed the largest evolutionary changes in life forms on Earth.)  After all that fast-moving geologic excitement, we stopped at the local watering hole for a few brews to cool down our overheated neurons.  When dinner was done back at the boats, it was time to dope out the macerator issue.  I swear, the guys who design boats are sadists.  Why is the stuff that you need to get to always in a spot where you need to go through your repertoire of yogic  stretches, feeling like half of that couple on a plate from The Kama Sutra (you know-the one where you say “is that even possible?”)?  Anyway, the aforementioned macerator is tucked on the back bulkhead of the engine room, behind the generator, over the propshaft.  The 8” passage around the gennie is guarded by a pair of skin-devouring hoseclamps waiting for new meat.  I don’t want to get too graphic, but it’s still pretty hot in there from the engines, and I’m balancing off one foot with my head jammed against the bulkhead 5” from the evil apparatus when I pop the waste-welded hose off.  Splash, followed by uncontrollable gagging.  You get the picture.    The pump is fried, but where can we get another one?  Scottie says he can send us one, but it’ll have to get through customs, then be shipped to wherever we project we’ll be-not happenin’.  Enter Bryce (remember the facilitator in Harbour Breton who got things going for the tranny repair?).  He still hasn’t gotten around to sending a bill for his previous services, but he finds a pump in Gander.  His wife’s picking up their nephew at the airport there and he’ll have her pick up the pump.  Then, he’ll drive over to Hermitage and put it on the ferry to Gaultois (say gol tiss), where we’ll be going tomorrow.  Do I have to say anything else about the generosity of Newfoundlanders?  Anyway, this is getting long, so I’ll sign off.  No bandwidth, but we’re lucky to have internet as there’s no cell coverage here, so no pictures for now.  I’ll shoot this up, and talk to you


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