Newfoundland at last

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Thu 2 Sep 2010 22:47
51:35.296N 55:29.489W Thursday evening

Well, we've finally arrived in Newfoundland (pronounced NOOFEN-land). We're near where the vikings set up their long house in the only archeological site they left in America. We're hoping to get to see it tomorrow but we may have to alter our plans as there is the remains of a hurricane heading this way and we need to get ourselves into somewhere safe before it arrives and spills our gin.

We had a lovely morning in Battle Harbour, a fascinating place. We'd booked in for breakfast at 8am in the canteen which got us out of bed at a reasonable hour. We had cereal or porridge followed by Baloney, eggs and toast. Now Baloney, that's a strange thing. It's a bit like fried luncheon meat but not as tasty as it looks. We had a good chat to another visitor, a guy from the south of Newfoundland who had come to stay with his parents. The two women who were running the canteen then got really friendly and we ended up comparing team kit and looking at photos of grandchildren. The whole atmosphere of Battle Harbour is super friendly which is surprising as it's very much a tourist destination - you could even say a theme-park.

Andrea and I then went for a walk around the island and another visit to the museum exhibits. The church was a beautiful, simple wooden building that just looked perfectly New England. All the equipment needed to get these cod caught, preserved and shipped out still boggles my mind. Imagine just getting that amount of salt delivered - it took loads of it to preserve the cod and all it wants to do is absorb moisture from the air and turn into sea water again. Then you need all the cordage, hooks, tools, small boats... so it goes on. The pictures of the harbour with wall to wall schooners are wonderful. Apparently, a major part of the population of Newfoundland came "down North" to Labrador every summer to catch salmon, cod and herring. Everything and everybody came and went by sea so the fleet must have been a real sight.

As we were preparing to depart, a guy zoomed into port in a tin boat and tied up behind Saxon Blue. He'd been fishing for cod for research for the government. After they closed the fishery, they're keeping an eye on the ages and sizes of the few adult cod that are left. It's all the usual story of fishermen getting more efficient, moving from fixed lines to trawls and basically destroying the fish and their environment. Of course, the fishermen all see it as some kind of government conspiracy and are convinced that there are loads of fish out there to catch, rather than as a failure of government to stop them catching all the damn fish in the first place. If that had happened, there would still be a fishery as there was for 200 years before they started trawling.

Anyway.... the guy with the boat sends the cod heads off to have their growth rings counted. He looks over to me and says "is this the farthest North you've been?" to which I took great pleasure in replying "No, it's the furthest South we've been for two months". That got him talking. We had a good chat and he offered us a cod which we accepted. The upshot of all that is that we're probably the only people in Newfoundland tonight who are sitting down to a meal of fresh Newfoundland cod.

We got off soon after 11am and left the harbour through the tricky south entrance. Kali and I had both checked that it was navigable but it was pretty tight for room as we slalomed between the rocks with the tide up our chuff. Then it was back to motoring South again with Belle Isle on the horizon. As we got clear of the reefs, we were joined by a dozen White Beaked Dolphins. Andrea and I were stood on the bow looking down at them as they swam in multiple layers beneath us, shooting from side to side. They're so muscly and sleek and it's always a total thrill when you catch one's eye.

A few miles later, on the edge of the deeper water, I saw a couple of spouts. Whales. There were a small group of Humpbacks blowing and sounding in amongst a load of dolphins. I wouldn't fancy being a fish in that bit of sea. We had another couple of groups of dolphins join us over the next couple of hours and saw another Humpback. In fact, I couldn't get a clear view of the Humpback as there were too many dolphins so I got Magnus to poke them out of the way with the ice prodder.

We've just eaten the cod, which was delicious, and were about to go ashore but Kali and I had a discussion about our options for avoiding the hurricane and we decided that it was best to use the next 8 hours to get towards our chosen port of refuge rather than just sitting at anchor so we've just pulled up the hook and set off back out into the Straight of Belle Isle. We'll head South down the West coast of Newfoundland overnight and that will put us considerably closer to Corner Brook, where we'll try to find a sheltered spot.

I'm on watch in eight hours so I'm off to bed. Good because I'm knackered.


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