Bonnie James and Jim Miller sailed their Newfoundland-registered Victoire yacht ‘Vagrant Sea’ from the Queen City Yacht Club in Toronto via the ICW to the Bahamas.
Sailing the South Coast of Newfoundland – Part 2
McCallum was a sight for sore eyes, or in my case seasick eyes. We had rolling seas as we crossed from Hr. Breton and it seemed as good a day as any for my annual bout of seasickness. The boat plowed along under genoa in 20-25 knots of wind, taking a little water over the bow now and then. I came on deck as we navigated the long eastern channel into the harbour. We anchored in 90 feet, keeping well away from the approach to the ferry wharf and the moored fishing boats.
From our position in the centre of the harbour, the settlement of McCallum surrounded us on three sides. About 50 houses are perched on steep hills that run straight up from the water’s edge. There is no road, so no cars, only a few ATVs. A network of wooden boardwalks covers the town. They are carefully constructed with small raised slats so you don’t lose your foothold on the steep slopes when it’s wet or icy. Very little land separated the houses, but many of the homeowners had made good use of tiny plots to plant vegetables or flowers.
High on the hill we found the service district – grocery and liquor store, the community centre, health clinic, school, playground and library. On a damp summer evening, most of the school-age population was seated at the library’s computers. Several kids were playing computer games but others were using high speed Internet to communicate with parents away from home. Isolation doesn’t mean what it used to. McCallum’s population is less than 120 and the number varies throughout the year. As with many rural communities, townspeople often spend time away working or studying. There are also a few summer residents, and some families with young children take advantage of school holidays to ‘go out”. Travel is ordinarily by ferry, but we watched a helicopter delivering staff to the health clinic.
From a cliff top we saw many boats coming and going from the harbour using the more direct western entrance. Our skipper had elected not to attempt this passage, satisfied that it would not be safe without local knowledge. Later I found an entry from the log of Capt. James Cook’s ship Grenville, made during a visit to the area in June 1766. It reads: “The passage into this place to the Westward of the Great Island from the sea is very dangerous, by reason there are several sunken rocks in the passage, and shallow water. “ If it wasn’t good enough for Cook, we were right to stay away.
We moved farther into the long inlet of Bonne Bay and found a pretty anchorage that we shared with a bald eagle. Across the cove was an odd sight. All four of us sized up the structure with binoculars and said the same thing, “It looks like a boat that is being used as a cabin.” That’s exactly what it was. We dinghied over and found a big old wooden fisheries patrol vessel supported by wooden blocks and boulders. It is permanently moored just above the high water mark.
Continuing our journey west, we had hard decisions to make. The boat was supplied with a good selection of paper charts, electronic charts, the Cruising Club of America’s guide to the island of Newfoundland, and a few recommendations found on the Internet. We pored over them at Happy Hours and breakfast times and tried to choose. So many great anchorages, so little time.
Our next few nights were spent in two magnificent fiords. In Forcheux Bay, we chose a spot in Allen’s Cove just off a small waterfall. At the foot of the cove, a river spread out over a wide delta. We paddled around up to our knees in warm water and collected a few mussels. The surrounding woods looked different from what we had seen to date, with many more deciduous trees. The cove was alive with seabirds busy catching their supper.
Entering Hare Bay we were perplexed by a problem with the electronic charts. The chart plotter was linked with the GPS to indicate our position, but it placed us about half a mile inland. Visibility was good and we could easily verify our location with paper charts, but it was unsettling to be reminded that electronic charting has limitations.
Hare Bay carried 600 feet of water for miles into the inlet. We admired Morgan Falls, a wide foaming waterfall, on our way to Northwest Arm. We wanted to anchor close to shore, away from the wind, but the chart scale left us in doubt about how far in we could come. Jim and I took to the dinghy and used a lead line to sound the water depth, not unlike what Capt Cook’s crew did 250 years earlier. You always sleep better where you are sure there’s adequate water under the keel.
Fair winds and snug harbours,
Bonnie James – Vagrant Sea
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