Getting under the skin of Newfoundland

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Tue 7 Sep 2010 16:54
Cox's Cove, Tuesday lunchtime

Well, it's been such a social whirlwind that I'm a bit late doing the blog. Andrea and I were picked up from our hotel in Corner Brook yesterday by Ivan and Lynn in their car and driven back to Cox's Cove. Bear in mind that we only met them by sheer chance on the dock at Cox's Cove - you honestly couldn't meet friendlier people. On the way back, they told us all about their lives in Newfoundland. They have a wooden house right on the beach at Cox's Cove where Ivan's daughter and her husband are building another beautiful house next door. The houses sit at the end of the road with a freshwater stream at the back and the beach right in front where Ivan keeps his Newfoundland Dory. In the graveyard next door lies one of Ivan's ancestors. The sense of history here is intense and it all seems so recent. It's not so far back that everyone's ancestors came over from England and all the major events seem to have happened in living memory.

By the time we'd seen all around Ivan and Lynn's family home, we were late to meet up with Kali and Magnus who'd anchored Saxon Blue in the cove next to another yacht called Leonora - an 80 ft ketch. We said a fond and sad farewell to all our new friends and headed back to our boat in the tender. It was great to be back although it felt strange to have left so many friends on the shore. They've all invited us back to stay if we come back this way so I'm sure we'll meet up again at some point. By the time we'd finished lunch, it was time to go over to our new neighbours and look at their beautiful yacht.

Leonora is a fully custom-built aluminium yacht, designed by Chuck Paine and built in New Zealand by Kelly Archer. She has many features in common with the Dashew's boats but is much better looking. The build quality is superb, everything is built to last no matter what the conditions and she has masses of space inside with only 3 cabins in such a large vessel. The engine room is amazing with easy access to all the mechanics - something we've been cursing about sometimes. The owner David and his crew were super friendly and gave us lots of advice on where to go and how best to clear into the USA. I must admit that I was jealous of their wonderful yacht although I think the sheer size of her would cause some problems in getting into tight spots.

From there, it was off to our next social event! The people that the Coastguard had told us to contact about where to sit out the storm were booked onto Saxon Blue for pre-dinner snacks. Tony and Joan also operate a charter vessel out of Cox's Cove so they really know these waters. In the event, they came over with two visiting friends, Mel and Kim and their son Andrew so we had a boat full again. We all got to chatting and soon realised that we have much in common. Tony has a keen interest in history as well as boats so we had plenty to talk about. After an hour or so, we headed off back to their house for dinner.

Tony built their house himself and it's lovely - a typical Newfoundland wooden house on its own plot. It was really well made and comfortable inside. Dinner was Moose shot by Andrew so you can't more local than that. Andrew showed us his collection of old and new hunting guns and turned our 3-shot shotgun into a 5-shot version as well as giving us good advice on protection from Polar Bears that will stand us in good stead if we're back in their home range again. We all spent the evening furiously chatting and ended up with Tony and Joan singing us some beautiful Newfoundland folk songs. We arranged to go out with them for one of their boat tours this morning so we had to get straight to bed at 1am this morning when we got back to Saxon Blue.

We met Tony and Joan again at 1000 this morning on the dock and set off with Kim for a boat tour around the local area. Tony combines his tour with history and music of the area and it was fascinating. We learned about the resettlement programme of the 1950s and 1960s when 600 of the then 900 Newfoundland settlements were closed by the government and their inhabitants moved to designated growth villages. In some cases, the wooden houses were simply moved down to the beach, barrels tied around them and they were towed around to their new home plot. The social effects are still being felt and Joan was one of the people resettled after her first 8 years at Brakes Cove just around the headland. Tony related all the stories and sang us some of the songs from the time when it was all happening.

We also learned about the debates in the late 1940s about whether Newfoundland would become independent or join Canada. The vote was a very close and divisive one and the pros and cons are still being debated. At the time, I think Newfoundland must have benefitted from its large and relatively prosperous neighbour but things look a little different now that they have discovered oil around the coast. I enjoyed finding all this out along with stuff about fishing and the demise of the cod. We even saw a pair of Bald Eagles soaring over us as we explored further up the fjord.

So, eventually, it was time to say another sad farewell to yet more new friends and get back onto Saxon Blue to prepare for the next stage of our journey. We're going to leave soon to catch as much as we can of the favourable winds forecast for tonight and tomorrow and see if we can get down over the Cabot Straight to Nova Scotia. It's been an amazing visit here to Cox's Cove. I think we really achieved what we've been trying to do in Baffin and meet people and find out a bit about their lives and how they interact with the environment. Newfoundland is a very special place. In some ways, it's so English yet it's very different. The people are without doubt the most friendly I've ever met and they've really taken us into their hearts. They have managed to retain that spirit of self-reliance combined with mutual aid which made life in such a harsh place possible in the old days. I hope they manage to keep it as the modern world presses in on them.


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