Log # 50h Fjords of Newfoundland

September 8, 2010 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 50, The Logs

St. Pierre, Territory of France

Sept. 6, 2010


Hi Folks,

Happy Labour Day. I often forget that as a teacher, Labour Day was the day before school started and all the concerns and preparations for another academic year heralded the end of summer and back to the classroom. I don’t miss it at all, although I enjoyed the kids!


Hurricane Earl was not as bad as what hit Nova Scotia and especially Halifax. Here we had heavy winds, but only up to 42 knots (about 80 kilometres per hour), but it was enough. We didn’t even have any rain.I’m glad we made the preparations we did, even though they were a bit excessive. It is better to be excessively prepared in advance than try to make any changes once the winds hit. As our new bimini is not heavily constructed, we lashed lines athwartships and fore and aft in a X fashion, overlapping the solar panels. We removed loose gear from the foredeck (the Spinnaker bag, cockpit cushions below), took down the dodger, lashed the sail cover to the boom, and doubled up all lines, sufficiently slack to accommodate the 8 foot tides we have here. Judy was apprehensive, especially when the gusts heeled Veleda a bit. However, we were on the leeward (downwind) side of the large pier, and so we were not bouncing against it, and our lines held well. We had no problems.


This log is the first of the fjords of Newfoundland. Every entrance, fjord, and anchorage has a dramatic wild charm. I wish we had gotten here a month earlier; the area is well worth a month or more exploration.


Our current problem is leaving here for Cape Breton, as it is due west, and guess what, the predominant winds are from the west: we would be pounding into them for 180 miles. We may have to wait a few days for some easterly winds, but may head back up to Newfoundland, and then down from Burgeo or even Port-Aux-Basques where we started to get a better angle on the westerly winds. We’ll see and I’ll let you know next log. I want to get this off as we have easy access to the internet here at the dock in St. Pierre.


I have attached several pictures to this, a difficult chore as we have so many spectacular shots. If I could figure it out, I would set up a blog or album so I could show more of our experiences. I will set up this E-mail, then add a PS to let you know what the pictures are.


Al the best,





Log # 50h Fjords of Newfoundland – 1

St. Pierre, Territory of France

Sept. 5, 2010

Port-aux-Basques (47 34.47N, 059 08.33W) on the southwest corner of Newfoundland is the main ferry terminal from Sydney, Nova Scotia, with at least two heavily subsidized ferry runs each day. This would be the main way in which tourists could come to Newfoundland, with a car or as walk-on passengers.


Port Aux Basque Ferry

I recommend a trip to Newfoundland, especially one along this fantastic south coast, in your own boat or as traditional tourists. There are no roads a few miles outside of PaB, except the 500 mile highway going up through the province and over to St. Johns. The trip I would recommend to any interested in exploring this part of the province would be to hop on the local ferries and bed and breakfast it along the outports of this coast, before or after travelling around the island by car or RV. The people are fantastically friendly and helpful. In each outport there is at least one bed and breakfast in a local home to savour the character of this area. You could arrive unannounced in a port and someone would be able to direct you to the local B&B’s. We have often said Turkey was our favourite country as the people were so friendly, and the scenery so spectacular. We would put Newfoundland in that same highly regarded category.  We don’t want luxury, pampering or haute cuisine, but down-to-earth friendly people and interesting scenery. This stretch of Newfoundland has it!


We were alongside the floating docks of PaB rather than the larger fixed piers. Floating docks are preferable as then one does not have to worry about tides, and tending lines as they rise and fall. The docks float up and down with the ebb and flood of the twice daily six to eight foot tidal range. There were several open fishing boats tied alongside, and a fish net and a few floats scattered across some of the dock area, but these were no problem. We tried for three days to find the Harbour Supervisor, with no luck, and so did not have to pay the nominal $5.00 or $10.00 a day for dockage. However the harbour office building was open, allowing us access to the washrooms and showers as well as the laundry room.


Large scale fishing has collapsed in Newfoundland and with one or two exceptions every town or outport has a derelict closed down fish plant (see  attached photo). The local fish catches are iced and shipped to the few fish plants still operational outside of Newfoundland. In PaB part of the fish plant is being used to process whelks which are being harvested in several areas and shipped to Japan and other interested markets.


The town is stretched out from the peninsula where we were alongside, past the ferry terminal, a mile or so out to a larger shopping plaza with a gas station, museum, and a Tim Hortons coffee shop (for those not Canadian, this is an iconic Canadian establishment). Several said this area was a twenty minute walk, but it proved to be closer to an hour to get to the shopping plaza. We walked it, and also went to the Canadian Tire store as well as the Astrolabe and Railway museum (see attached photos). The railway operated up to the mid 1980’s when the road to St. Johns was completed so the trucking industry took over. The railway was a narrow gauge affair, so that every time trains from the mainland came across on the ferry, the undercarriage of each car had to be changed to fit the narrower track. It was an interesting tour through the last remaining train with its passenger, sleeping and mail cars as well as the caboose and steam engine and snow plough. The museum featured early life in the area and had on display two original astrolabes (precursors of the sextant) found by local divers at Isle-aux-Morts, dating back to the French fishing boats of the 1600’s. They were in remarkably good shape with the degrees of altitude still etched in the instruments .


We climbed up to the Coast Guard station which was also the Vessel Traffic Management centre, and spent an interesting hour talking with the personnel and seeing the system. I was surprised to find out that this was the only station on the entire coast with a radar. Other VTM reporting centers just rely on radio communications. We also got the latest weather info from them. Another example of how friendly and helpful Newfoundlanders are was that Ron Bygott, the Officer-in-Charge of the unit, dropped by our boat at the dock an hour later to take us over to the library by the mall to send E-mail, as he was going that way to get a coffee at Tim Hortons. Unfortunately the library was closed until noon hour and so he dropped us off at the local hotel which also had E-mail. While there we had lunch. Newfoundland is not noted for its cooking or foods.


By the docks there is a modern bandstand and a series of kiosks featuring local foods and souvenirs. We enjoyed a Newfie band singing some of their shanties. We purchased some line from the chandlery on the docks for a new main halyard, and were surprised at how economical it was. It was priced not by so much a foot or metre, but by weight!


Two days later we motored the 8 miles over to Mickle’s Tickle across from the town of Isle-aux-Morts (isle of the dead), so called because of all the wrecks that happened in this area because of the treacherous rocks that are just below the surface at mid or high tides. These shoals are called, appropriately, “sunkers”.  There are a series of islands and inlets leading up to the town, providing a secure port or anchorage for small boats. Mickle’s Tickle (Tickle refers to a narrow cut between islands) is a narrow isolated channel going around Mickle’s Reach Island across from the town. We were surrounded by boreal vegetation on high hills, golden kelp-fringed rocky shorelines sheltered by stunted trees, with no other boats around and no houses or lights of civilization visible. For us – idyllic!


We dropped the dinghy into the water and explored Squid Hole anchorage (no boats there either), and back across the channel to dinghy around the opposite bay – glorious uninhabited country. Next morning the water was a glassy calm, as I watched a harbour seal imperiously wafting its way close to the shoreline. After all, it was its “tickle” However, when we wanted to dinghy over to town, we set off, but the engine died after twenty feet out. I tried and tried, but the motor would not start. I rowed back to Veleda, and after securing the dinghy, I pulled my guts out trying to start it again. The spark plugs were dry. The fuel bulb was full. When I put some fuel directly into the spark plugs, the engine flashed up for a few seconds then died. We had a blockage in the carburetor! We then took Veleda over to the town dock. Johnny, a local deck hand on a fishing boat (See the attached photo – this boat goes out for three months at a time, but delivers its catches to other plants in Canada or the U.S. See also the attached photo of the abandoned fish plant there), helped us get the engine off, put it in his car and took me and the engine to a local who knew outboards. It was fixed by mid afternoon and Johnny took us back to pick up the engine. I gave the gentleman who worked on it $70.00 for his labour in removing, cleaning, and replacing the carburetor.


Rather than stay alongside for the night subject to an uncomfortable swell, we returned to anchor in Mickle’s Tickle. Next morning we motor sailed the 29 miles east to anchor in La Poile Harbour, just inside the long but relatively wide La Poile Bay. En route we passed several other bays, inlets and anchorages we could have explored. This coast is honeycombed with inlets providing good shelter and interesting anchorages. We passed the town of Rose Blanche (a corruption of the French for Roche Blanche, meaning white rock; many French names have been corrupted or mispronounced by the anglophone Newfoundlanders), the last town on this coast connected to civilization by road from PaB. Communities beyond here are outports accessible only by boat or ferry (no cars allowed). We saw the old stone lighthouse dating back to 1856, and bypassed the outport of Petites, as well as the Bay Le Moine and Little Garcia Bay, well sheltered anchorages.


In La Poile Harbour we felt our way past Pig Island to anchor in a secluded narrow bay surrounded by low tree-clad hills above rocky shores fringed with gold kelp seaweed on both sides. We launched Wavedancer, our dinghy, and motored to the end of the inlet, then up to the inside of Pig Island. A narrow turbulent tidal stream emptied into another larger series of lagoons, fringed with low lying boreal pastures and smooth ochre-tinged glaciated boulders, reminiscent of the Benjamin Islands in Lake Huron. Shooting down the tidal stream was exhilarating (see attached photo), but we wondered what it would be like when we had to go back out, up that torrent.


After meandering through a few of these placid shallow bays, we headed back for the narrow tidal cut. The current was even stronger. This inlet is the only access the tide has to flood or empty the several acres of lagoons behind the slender opening.

OK, here we go! I throttled up the ten horsepower Mariner outboard and in the middle of the pass, we were stationery, only going as fast upstream as the current was rushing at us downstream. We were making no headway. We had to get through or wait several hours, possibly until after dark, for the tide to change before we could return to Veleda at anchor beyond Pig Island.  I gave it full throttle and edged to the side of the channel, but didn’t want to risk damaging the propeller hitting a rock. We weren’t quite on a plane. The engine was straining.  I told Judy to shift her weight forward, which lowered the bow enough to get us up on a plane, and through we went, finally clearing the twenty metres of turbulent water into the quiet channel between Pig Island. Whew, glad we made it!


Next morning was another idyllic calm anchorage, the glassy water reflecting the gold fringed shoreline beneath the overhanging granite rock faces, festooned with clinging evergreen conifers (see the attached photo). Then the problem surfaced again. The outboard engine would not start!