Log # 50i Death of an Outport

September 12, 2010 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 50, The Logs

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

May 6, 2013

This is a modified log, prepared just before we are to set off 700 miles across the Gulf Of Mexico for Port Aransas, Texas. We made it from Roatan Honduras  a few days ago. In Texas we will put Veleda on a flatbed truck and ship it to Bellingham Washington to cruise the west coast for a few years. This will be my last communication for over a week until we get to Texas.

This log documents the closing of the outport Grand Bruit in Newfoundland shortly before we arrived there.

The original introduction to this log complained about the 9.9 Mercury outboard I dislike so much. Good news, I bought a two stroke 15 Horspower Yamaha that is working quite well and reliably. Does anyone want to buy a 9.9 Mercury four stroke outboard?

All the best,

Aubrey

~~~~~(_~~~~~

St. Pierre, Territory of France

Sept. 8, 2010

Hi Folks,

We are stuck here in St. Pierre for another day as gales are again forecast. I am getting a bit antsy to get going, but….

So, I am getting caught up on my logs. This log gets the problems of my outboard fixed, and it is working well now, starting with the first pull each time. However the main aspect of this log is our visit to Grand Bruit, a deserted outport, wandering through the recently abandoned community. It was a melancholy experience.

I have attached several pictures of La Poile and Grand Bruit with this log.

It is now noon of Aug. 9, and the gale has been blowing since 0300 at 25 to 35 knots with driving rain, and so we wait another day. I hope to send this off early this afternoon

I am happy if the Picasa website works out. Please take a look and send me any feedback. I may play around with it a bit more later for other effects such as collages, or putting more text in the album, if I can figure a way to do so. I have been helped by a few of you who suggested the Picasa procedure, and by Roger, an American former navy officer on board Reboot, his 42 foot Cal, moored astern of us and waiting out the weather as well. Thanks Roger.

I hope this comes out as I hope.

All the best,

Aubrey

~~~~~(_~~~~~

Log # 50i Death of an Outport

St. Pierre, Territory of France

Sept. 8, 2010

The outboard would not start in the morning when we wanted to dinghy the 1.5 miles over to the outport town of La Poile from our anchorage inside of Pig Island of La Poile Harbour.

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        Scenic anchorage across from La Poile

I was frustrated as it was the same problem I had two days earlier, a blocked carburetor. I was reluctant to try to take the carburetor off, especially with the dinghy in the water. It is much easier working on an outboard in a shop with an appropriate stand, all the necessary tools, and a solid floor in case any part, screw, bolt, spring, etc. is accidentally dropped. Should we head back to Isle-aux-Morts to get the chap who repaired it to do so again? I don’t like back tracking. So we went across to La Poile to see if anyone there could help.

We were in luck. The fisherman who helped us alongside came down into the dinghy and removed the carburetor, with the engine still on the dinghy in the water. I was concerned about dropping anything overboard, and assisted him by holding any parts he removed. The carburetor was gummed up again. I realized the problem was dirty gas. I was using the gas from last year before Veleda was put up for the winter. I gave the fuel to the local harbour supervisor. His boat had twin outboards, and he felt the fuel would burn off OK in its engines. Good, I transferred my dirty fuel to his tank and put clean fuel into mine. When the carburetor was replaced, the engine started well and kept running. Whew! I thanked the fisherman who had spent over an hour on it, and when I tried to give him something for his efforts, he refused any payment. So we just had a couple of beers together, even though it was still before noon. Friendly helpful Newfoundlanders. Thanks!

While alongside, we wandered through the outport. The shoreline was cluttered with fish sheds, mostly in good repair, wooden timbered docks sitting high in the water, with ramps to haul the boats up above high tide level. There were no roads. The community had wide concrete pathways (see attached photo) linking the wood framed houses and other community buildings. Rather than cars, the locals use quad ATV’s, and some snowmobiles could be seen tucked away waiting for winter use. The other buildings included a fish hut converted to a local ”watering hole” where they would meet in the evenings for a “bring your own booze” social gathering. There was a school with internet access for the 45 children of varying ages, a church, a post office/general store, another hut for firefighting equipment, and a small medical clinic that would be staffed a day or so each week, with medical personnel flown in by helicopter. There was a daily ferry from Isle-aux-Morts, and one or two homes that would serve as bed and breakfasts for any tourists coming to the outport.

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         Concrete pathway into La Poile

The large, high, solid government dock we were alongside had a small federal fisheries warehouse with right angled crane to hoist fish boxes out of the boats, a weigh scale, and several large plastic boxes to transport the catches onto the ferry. To one side was a string of solidly made floating docks, all occupied by small local fishing boats. On the other side of the bay, opposite the town, is another large government dock, mostly unused now.

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La Poile Town (fishing) docks                                             

 

Rather than stay alongside we went back across to the anchorage behind Pig Island for the night and set off next morning, another ten miles down the coast to the harbour of Grand Bruit.

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    Entering the harbour at Grand Bruit (notice there are no other boats in the harbour)

The name is French for Big Noise and pronounced locally as “Grand Brit”, so called because of the waterfall that bisects the town, the cascade creating a continuous white noise.

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  Waterfalls at Grand Bruit

However, this is now a deserted outport. There are many outports around Newfoundland which have been deserted over the past 30 to 40 years because of the declining fish stocks.As Wikipaedi commented,

As of 2009 it had an aging population of 31. The last school in the town closed on June 22, 2007 as the last students from the town graduated from elementary school. As of September 2009, 26 out of 31 residents had voted their intent to move the community and take payouts from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador of $100,000. A provincial law on resettling outports requires 90 percent of a community to consent to relocation before a community can be moved. Residents have the option to apply for government permits to return to their homes seasonally for use as summer cottages.[1]

As of July 2010, the last remaining residents of Grand Bruit accepted the provincial government’s offer of $80,000 per household ($90,000 offered to households of 2 or more residents). By 2010, the last permanent residents had relocated. [2]

Long accessible by ferry, its only outlet to the outside world, there were no cars in Grand Bruit. But in 2010, the following notice was posted on the provincial government’s ferry service website:

Public Advisory

Please be advised that effective Thursday, July 8, 2010, the vessel will commence a new schedule between Lapoile and Rose Blanche only. New schedules are posted below.

Department of Transportation and Works, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador[3]

(The above Public Advisory basically indicated there would be no more ferry service to Grand Bruit.)

We went alongside the large solid government wharf, flanked by a very serviceable floating dock, which had the only boat in the bay tied up.

 

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    Veleda at the town dock

We found out it was for a couple of electricians who were finalizing the removal of the town’s electrical syastem, junction boxes and transmission cable. They left shortly after we arrived, leaving Veleda the only boat in the harbour and us, the only living souls in town.

The town was closed down only a month ago!

The Death of an Outport

It was a melancholy experience to wander through this recently deceased town, originally one not unlike La Poile where we were last night. There was an article written by Brodie Thomas for the local south shore newspaper, the Gulf News, in August (2010) from which I would like to quote regarding this sad development.

Jo Billard will go down in history as the last man to leave Grand Bruit … as the last provincial ferry left the dock on July 7 (2010) .

Although the phones were still working that morning, power to everything except the government wharf had been cut off the previous day.

The last ferry and the cutting of the power marked the official end to Grand Bruit as a Newfoundland outport with full time residents. Although slated to end at the end of June, the provincial government extended the ferry service for one week to give residents more time to ship out their final belongings.

The residents knew the end was coming for some time. First the final two school students left in June 2007.Then came the closure of the store. The post office shut down in 2008. The church was decommissioned last month. The end of the ferry and power services were just two more things in a long list of lost services.

With the writing on the wall, the final residents voted to ask for government assistance in resettling from the community in 2009. Each resident received $80,000 for their home, plus $10,000 for each additional resident in the home to a maximum of $100,000 in assistance. Everyone had the option of leasing back his or her property as a summer residence. – – –

For years he (Jo Billard) has been welcoming tourists and locals alike into his retrofitted fishing shed, aptly named The Cramalot Inn. The shed operated as an informal community watering hole with a “bring your own bottle” policy. Teetotalers were equally welcome when people gathered in the building almost every evening to sit on the benches and swap yarns. The door was never locked.

On the final night before the last boat, Mr. Billard had only two guests at the Cramalot: Gordon and Linda Farrell. “We were kind of just reminiscing, talking about things years ago, and kind of talking about what the future will hold for us” she (Linda Farrell) said.

For his part, Mr. Billard isn’t sure how long he will hang around the deserted community. He purchased a house in Burgeo, where his sister lives. Although repaired and renovated, he has yet to spend a night in the new home. He promises to be back and forth all the time. Mrs. Farrell also believes she will be back with her husband later in the summer.

“Grand Bruit will live on,” she said. “We’ll just take our memories with us.”

Mr. Billard was not there when we were. No one was! It was a strange feeling walking through this empty deserted town, the concrete walkways also used for 4×4 ATV’s and snowmobiles were still in good condition,

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      Judy looking along a deserted walkway

The brightly painted houses, many with wooden plaques naming the inhabitants were in good repair, including the church and firehall.

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the  school, its yard and paths overgrown, and other buildings, most in good repair, including the Cramalot Inn, still a welcoming gathering spot, but nobody around. I felt like a voyeur as I peeked in various windows to see what was left in the deserted homes (They were not boarded up, but simply had their doors locked.) Some were bare, totally cleaned out, while others had many of the furnishings left; kitchen tables and chairs, old stuffed armchairs and chesterfields, rickety end tables, warped chests and dressers, some still with raggedy dolls and family pictures on top. There were some with old clothes still hanging on pegs, some with family pictures still on the walls, many with curtains still hanging over the windows, a few with overgrown flower boxes and the remains of backyard gardens, many with kitchen stoves still in place, with some pots and pans, ashtrays, rags and tools gathering dust. In one home I saw scribbled on the walls in broad felt tipped pen “Melissa grew up in this room” and other commemorative comments about life in those family rooms in the house now abandoned. Many of the houses had fishing gear still hanging from the fish shacks, and some gardens still had flowers in bloom. The skeletons of the fish docks are stark reminders that a thriving community once lived here for over 100 years.

 

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         Flowers in bloom                                                   Fishing gear outside the shacks

The church was totally empty, sterile and stripped, with just the carpeting left on the floor and the raised alter area achingly bare. There was the angular triangular frame of a Christmas tree outside with coloured lights dangling, uncared for, as if knowing they will never be lit again.

The Cramalot Inn was still there, its red trim brightly outlining the clean white shed, the weathered wooden bench-lined patio overlooking the water, the big window allowing a view inside, the outhouse next door with its open door, and the door to this lounge welcomingly unlocked.

 

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The Cramalott Inn

(Note the Outhouse on the outer side of the “patio”)

So, in we went. The benches were still around the walls, a few beer bottles here and there, many simple decorations still on the wall, a curvaceous blonde pin-up on a calendar, a few softly deflated balloons, bright yellow and purple, some plastic cups stacked on a box cupboard waiting for the next group of people to share the contents of their bottles, a frying pan and a charcoal lighter hanging on hooks on the clean blue panelled wall, and some words and drawings painted in white on the clean grey concrete floor commemorating the Homecoming for residents and former residents held in Grand Bruit in 2007. It was as if the hospitable “inn” was just waiting for nightfall for the residents to arrive and bring it back to life with their jokes and anecdotes and friendly conversation.

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Judy inside the Cramalott Inn
I crossed the rickety wooden bridge to the adjacent island which held the Parson’s House, a well maintained two story slate blue clapboard house surrounded by a solid wooden balcony with white picket fencing, on the side of a hill next to the cemetery. The doors were locked, but all the furnishings were still inside, carpets, stuffed chairs, polished end and dining tables, framed pictures of pastoral scenes, old lamps, all as if the parson were just out for a walk and would be back any minute. The only incongruous thing was a canoe lying on the front room floor. As I looked up from the overgrown path at this symmetrically designed house, on this cemetery island beside a deserted hamlet, I thought it to be a Newfoundland version of Wuthering Heights.

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Parson’s house beside the Cemetery

The cemetery overlooking the town from the island had a hundred or more tombstones, most in white granite, weathered to some extent, but still erect and readable, dating back to the 1870’s, the newer ones in black or brown marble.The Billard families accounted for about 70% and the Parson families another 15% of the gravestones. (I do not know if there are two branches of the Billard/Billiard families or not.)

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Elizabeth Billiard died Sept.1872                                Sheila Joyce Billard Born 1956 died 2006

                                                                        John Robert died Sept. 1871 age 16 months

The hill above the cemetery gave a panoramic view over the town and of the islands and shoals along the coast.

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Above the cemetery looking towards town                        Looking out to sea

Back across the rickety wooden bridge I found one house open (most of the others were boarded up or doors locked) and so I quietly went in. As in what we saw in other houses, the inhabitants did not have the money or opportunity to take their furniture with them and so left the furniture in place. It was a sad melancholy wander through that abandoned house with the echoes of family in every room.

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                    Older house visited                                                     Kitchen stove and furniture still there

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                       Upstairs bedroom                                                                    Crib and suitcases tucked away

several patches of wild raspberries and blueberries that Judy made into a delicious crisp for dessert at lunch.

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Blueberry patch

We were quite safe alongside the town dock, and could have stayed overnight. However, I did not wish to maintain this sense of melancholy in this recently abandoned town. We left Grand Bruit mid afternoon to go another 18 miles along the coast, to anchor in Culotte Cove of Cinq Cerf Bay (47 42.04N, 058 05.70W) for the night.