Newfoundland Recap

Okay, so here’s the recap on the south and west coasts of Newfoundland.

The Weather.  Well…..not so great.  The first half of our trip was pretty rainy and cool, but it didn’t hamper our activities too much.  Shouldn’t complain about rainy and cool, ‘cause when it gets warmer, the fog rolls in.  That did diminish our experience.  Navigation wasn’t a problem, but we missed a whole lot of incredible scenery due to the fog, which, most of the time, reduced visibility to 200 meters or less.  That said, what we did see was breathtaking.  This summer was unusual, in that it was one of, if not THE coldest on record.  Fog is usually a problem in June, and into the beginning of July, not this late.

The West Coast.  Definitely a road trip coast.  The distances are long, and the harbors are, in general, not suited for private vessels.  Most are very small and shallow, with working piers.  With the exception of a few small cities, many harbors are surrounded by not more than a few dwellings.  Gros Morne Park, L’anse aux Meadows, Western Brook Pond and other attractions would require obtaining transportation from your boat.

The Fjord Coast (southwest).  Definitely a water trip. 

Words cannot describe the grandeur of this stark, rocky coast as it meets the North Atlantic Ocean.  The narrow fjords cut slashes into the 800’ high, nearly vertical coastline, the depths of the cuts mirroring the heights of the surrounding cliffs.  With depths approaching 600-700’, many of the fjords extend for several miles inland.  Most are completely uninhabited, with NO access roads.

The Black Flies.  These little guys don’t bite real hard, but they raise a welt that develops a hard head and stays itchy for 5-7 days.  I don’t mean just itchy.  REAL ITCHY!  I’m still nursing 8 or 10 on the back of my head between my hat and collar.

The Outports.  These places, only accessible by water, won’t be around for long.  During the era of economically viable commercial fishing, these villages made sense, bringing fishermen closer to their grounds.  With the collapse of the commercial fishery, outports make no economic sense.  Electric power is usually supplied by an onsite diesel generator.  None of the all-grade schools in these towns had more than 10 students.  Getting a teacher was a real challenge, and if there were any special needs students, a specialist was also required.  (The gene pool is pretty shallow in these towns of 100 inhabitants, most of whom are 4th generation.  My sense is, because of this, there is a higher incidence of these needy kids.)  These villages need supplies, so the Canadian government maintains a ferry system to do so.  It’s not unusual for the ferry to come in several times a day, usually with only 2 or 3 passengers at a minimal cost of $4 CAD.  Medical care is difficult.  None of the outports that we visited has permanent health care professionals in residence.  Usually, a visiting nurse comes in every week or two often by helicopter.  If folks need to see a physician, they have to take the ferry to a larger town.  Same with the dentist, although this didn’t seem to be a high priority here.  Jobs are very scarce, and the residents of working age eke out a living, many by going away to follow the fruit crops in Nova Scotia, or the oil in Alberta, living “away” for months at a time.  The young people, by and large, move away to find work.  That being said, the simple lifestyle here seems to draw the natives back, no matter how long they’ve been “away”.  Consequently, the population is aging.  Many of the outports here and in Labrador have been resettled.  How does this happen?  The issue of resettlement is brought to a vote by the people of the village.  If 90% of the residents vote for resettlement, the Canadian government buys them out, the electric power is shut down, the ferry service is discontinued, and they must move out.  The current buyout is $270K.  Former residents may rent their homes back from the government for 5 years at the cost of $1/yr. for use as a summer cottage.  As you might imagine, these votes can be quite contentious and cause lots of hard feelings in these small communities.  Recently, McCallum voted and fell a couple votes short.  Word is that some very hard feelings have sprouted up in this formerly tight knit community of 70.  They’ll vote again in December.  If you want to get a glimpse of life as it was for the last few centuries, get there soon.

The People.  OMG, I thought that people in the rest of the Maritimes were great.  As a group, the Newfies on the south coast are the most gracious, giving people that I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.  They really understand the interdependency that is required for living in the wilderness that is their home, on both the land and the sea.  Also, they don’t complain about the weather.  Typical of the attitude-the rain is blowing in sheets, water dripping off my nose in icy droplets.  Terry turns to me with a straight face and observes that the “The tempshur’s purd ged but kaynda umid”

All in all, if we had a chance for a do-over with the same weather, we’d both do it again in a heartbeat.  We’re talking about a possible road trip in the future to hit St. John’s, the eastern and northern coasts…we’ll see.

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