Bonnie James and Jim Miller sailed their Newfoundland-registered Victoire yacht ‘Vagrant Sea’ from the Queen City Yacht Club in Toronto via the Intracoastal Waterway (CW) to the Bahamas.
Sailing the South Coast of Newfoundland – Part 3
There’s nothing dull or ordinary to be found on this coast. Even the clouds rise to the challenge and provide a fitting backdrop to the fiord walls. The weather looked threatening the morning we awoke in Hare Bay but it all seemed to be for dramatic effect. Neither rain nor high winds interfered as we continued our westward passage.
Today we would visit another of the very few communities on the island of Newfoundland without a road link. Many, many years ago Francois was featured in a stunning photo essay in National Geographic. I resolved then to visit the town one day and here it was at last. We motored down the long channel into the harbour with its cluster of houses nestled under soaring cliffs.
Francois seemed busy. There were tourists arriving by ferry and going out by tour boat. Space was at a premium in the B and Bs. One resident told us that word of Francois as an exotic destination had reached the larger world some years ago. The new twist is that now the secret of this lovely place is beginning to spread throughout its home province. The town showed evidence of the self-reliant nature of its people. Every family has its own wharf, boats are securely moored on collars, and there are community services such as a school, library and tiny fire department.
In the well-stocked grocery store we noticed a sign advertising a lottery jackpot of $47 million dollars. The proprietor told us the jackpot would represent a million dollars for every house in Francois, “And if anyone here won, you can be sure it would be shared with the whole town.”
A short while after our arrival, Mary and I were down in the boat’s cabin when Captain Frans called below asking if we had $2.28 in change “for wharfage”. We laughed at the request, wondering what the full amount would have been, probably $22.28? Wrong. The entire bill was $2.28, prorated from the monthly charge for local boats. Here’s one summer visitor who would be happy to pay a more realistic fee for staying at such a fine floating dock.
Next day we had a glorious sail to Grey River, with fluffy white clouds topping the granite headlands all the way. [Remedio 61 and 63] There was a strong current at the opening of the river mouth. We passed up a stay in town and sailed far up the wide, tea-coloured river. It’s very unusual in Newfoundland to find a harbour that has been created by river outflow, and even more of a novelty that the river is navigable for such a distance from the ocean. In contrast to most other south coast inlets, water depths were shallow for much of the distance, so we took a real interest in the depth sounder.
Fog filled the arm we had chosen for our anchorage. It parted just as we arrived to reveal . . . another sailboat, the first we had seen since Fortune. The couple onboard Atlantis were Dutch adventurers out to see the world. Frans enjoyed meeting people from his homeland. This was the third boat from the Netherlands that Jim and I encountered in Newfoundland waters in 2006. The province seems to be getting an increasing number of ocean cruisers each year.
As we departed Grey River next morning, we passed kayakers headed west. We learned in Burgeo that there are a fair number of brave souls who rent kayaks and paddle a loop that includes Grey River, Francois and/or Ramea. It no longer seemed daring to be sailing this remote coast. Sure, we were far from the beaten path, but with 59 feet of boat around us we had it pretty soft. One man had recently arrived by kayak from Quebec – now that is courageous!
On my last day aboard Remedios, we sailed to Burgeo. We watched dark clouds collect over Ramea, an island community south of our route. A few short squalls rocked us, but we stayed dry. The government dock at Burgeo was strained to its limits in accommodating us. Several very fit young men came by to offer assistance as we docked. They identified themselves as members of the Canadian Armed Forces who were in town for the funeral of a comrade who had been killed in Afghanistan. Young people from rural Newfoundland join the military in large numbers, sometimes as career of choice, sometimes due to lack of employment alternatives. They keep us acutely aware of the implications of Canada’s role in world affairs.
In the morning I took the bus back home for work commitments. Jim remained with the boat to sail to Port aux Basques and then across the Cabot Strait to Cape Breton Island. He will continue the story from here.
Fair winds and snug harbours,
Bonnie James – Vagrant Sea
Share this article with your friends