St. Peter’s, Nova Scotia to Ramea, Newfoundland

Mary T at anchor in Cinq Cerf Bay

July 18, La Poile, Newfoundland, Amy

Shlomo the itinerant mohel
Found himself in the town of La Poile
When men learned what he did
They all ran and hid
And he made off with the prettiest goile

Something about the town of La Poile inspires limericks. Here’s another one:

A fisherman named Doyle
Lived in the town of La Poile
Facing wind and wave
He was far from brave
So often his pants he did soil

If I had one word for Newfoundland it would be inscrutable. From the sea, the landscape is an impenetrable rock. Only when one gets closer can one perceive the occasional settlement with houses nestled among the rocks; or a great fissure in the rock leading to a fjord. It is immense and foreboding and lonely and breathtaking.

The weather is as much a character here as the landscape and the people. Dense fog banks curl around and envelope a piece of shoreline or the boat or everything. It can last for minutes or days. When a nice sunny day emerges, no one fails to notice it. When each passerby proclaims “nice day,” it doesn’t seem like a platitude but the proclamation of a miracle.

The people are shy but curious, which happens to be a seductive combination. When we’re at anchor, they may approach slowly in a skiff and watch from a distance. If you show your face, they eventually come closer and may venture a greeting and ask a question. They never stay too long. When tied to a wharf they stand and stare for awhile and move on. They are happy to chat or not. We have not truly begun to penetrate the social milieu.

It is only today that we can clearly see our surroundings as the fog has been so thick, that we could barely see the town of La Poile upon entering. We’d been been up at the head of La Poile Bay which is a pretty remote anchorage, with only a couple of summer cottages on the shoreline. Coming up the Bay we could see neither shoreline til we were nearly at our anchorage and finally the rocky hills revealed themselves. Apart from a little trip in the dinghy to better examine our surroundings which included a waterfall, we remained on Mary T.

The following day brought us to the town of La Poile, estimated population 100 souls. There are no roads here, but a rather wide walkway which can accommodate ATVs, the only mode of transportation. On our first walk in town we were nearly run over by a tiny child tearing down the “roadway” in one of these vehicles. At one point he waved his fist in circles over his head like a bronco rider in a rodeo. I was mesmerized. I asked a passing resident his age. She said 5 or 6.

Like in most small outports on the south coast of Newfoundland, those who remain are fishermen. We purchased some fresh cod yesterday and it was delicious. There is some in the freezer too. We will be able to fish ourselves starting tomorrow. It’s open season for “food fishing” for three weeks and each person is allowed 5 cod per day. I think if we get one every other day that will be sufficient.

Now to back track…

A few weeks ago we sat out tropical storm ARTHUR in St. Peter’s, Nova Scotia, which is the gateway town to the Bras D’Or Lakes in the heart of Cape Breton. We took a slip and prepared for a big blow, but it was rather anti-climactic. We ran into a couple of other American cruisers, both of whom we’d run into in Liscomb and both of whom were bound for Newfoundland. One was the young couple on the schooner and the other and older couple on a fancy yacht called Nirvana III. The schooner couple gave us a tour of Hearts Desire, which is a truly beautiful traditional wooden schooner from the 1920s. To die for but I wouldn’t want to own it. They’re heading up the west coast of Newfoundland, so I doubt we’ll see them again.

From St. Peter’s, we sailed across the Bras D’Or Lakes to Baddeck, where we only spent one night. In the yacht club we witnessed Germany destroy Brazil in the World Cup semifinals. Everyone was aghast. What would happen in Brazil?

The following day we had a fast, wild sail to Ingonish in the Cape Breton Highlands. It was a little nerve wracking entering the harbor as the entrance was littered with lobster pots and the wind was blowing like stink. Ingonish is one of the most beautifully dramatic places we’ve visited. Cape Smoky plunges into the sea from a height of 1000 feet. The Harbor is huge and surrounded by mountains. There is a ski resort within view.

We did the same thing there as we did five years ago: hike to the fresh water lake, take a swim and then hike up to the Keltic Lodge for a bite to eat. There’s also a beach on the ocean side which we walked along, but the water was too frigid for our taste. Most of the beach is cobblestone. I’ve never seen so many beautiful rocks.

Leaving Ingonish, we we sailed for Dingwall, another 20 miles up the coast. Not long into the voyage the wind died and the fog enveloped us. We saw nothing the whole journey except one whale which I momentarily mistook for a small island. Entering Dingwall was a little scary as it’s narrow as all get out and we couldn’t see the entrance until we were upon it. Cap’n Kenny did a fine job of getting us in.

After the fog lifted we took a walk about. Not much there, but plenty of deserted beach and one intrepid German who went for a swim. The next day we set sail for Newfoundland. Arrived in Port-aux-Basques with two other sailing vessels. Philip of the sailing vessel Evergreen kindly took our lines when we approached the wharf.

Port-aux-Basques is a pretty big town as far as Newfoundland’s southwest coast goes. I would guess the population to be over 1500. They have a grocery store and pharmacy and a couple of restaurants. Plenty of people walked down the wharf to check us out, but if we were below or occupied they wouldn’t bother us, but they were happy to chat if we emerged. The Newfie accent can at times be difficult to understand, but I usually can get the drift of what they’re saying.

One of my favorite things in Port-aux-Basques are the giant oil paintings scattered throughout the town depicting various aspects of life in Port-aux-Baques.

Philip of Evergreen borrowed a car and I hitched a ride with him to the gas station for diesel. Kenny refilled the water tanks and I did some grocery shopping. After two nights there we were ready to move on. There was only one concern–our water was not getting hot after running the engine. We feared the water in the engine’s cooling system was not circulating properly and that our engine might overheat. This had been a problem a couple of years ago on the ICW in South Carolina.

So departing Port-aux-Baques, we tested it and the water was only luke warm. Not only is this a drag for bathing, but it could mean we had a real problem. Rather than go too far, we elected to anchor in Isle-aux-Morts, a stone’s throw from Port-aux-Basques. We rolled up our sleeves and embarked on a number of tests on the cooling system. One of these tests resulted in a shower of anti-freeze all over ourselves and the saloon of Mary T. This led to a long clean-up and somewhat frayed nerves, but we soldiered through it.

After the clean-up and a short break, we re-filled the “header tank” with anit-freeze and water (like a radiator) and decided to move on the next day and see what happened. As luck would have it, we now have hot water again! Maybe we just needed to make a big mess to fix it.

While anchored in Isle-aux-Morts, a trawler approached us and as I climbed out of the cockpit to greet them, I thought I recognized the people. Indeed it was Tom Harvey with his wife, daughter and grandchild. We had met five years ago when we tied up at the town wharf during Hurricane Bill. Tom had generously invited us to his house for beers and showers. This time we told him we’d be moving on but would try to come back for a visit after our trip up the coast.

The next day we sailed in mixed up seas and a tail wind through the fog up La Poile Bay, writing limericks….

July 21, 2014, Ramea, Amy

From La Poile we moved onto Cinq Cerf Bay and found a perfectly lovely little anchorage in a cove. No human habitation in sight. We were unable to find the hiking trails we’d read about, but we did find a lovely stream and fresh water pond in which we happily bathed. Of course we wrote a limerick.

We sailed to the Bay of Cinq Cerf
Hoping to hike on firm turf
We discovered a pool
It felt nice and cool
But the land was squishy like nerf

Yesterday we sailed 35 miles to the island town of Ramea, about six miles off the coast. It’s a very tidy little town full of helpful friendly people. Unfortunately it was dinnertime when we arrived, so no one was on the wharf to catch our lines. It took three approaches before we got it right and managed to attach ourselves. It was close to high tide so at least we could reach the top of the wharf. At low tied the top of the dock is over our heads.

The big event the night we arrived was the spotting of a giant lobster in the harbor. A small crowd making excited noises was gathered on the wharf staring down with great interest, so I jumped off of Mary T to see what was up. A man pointed down toward the beast. It was the biggest lobster I’ve ever seen. The biggest claw had to measure at least 7 inches in length.

We’ve taken a couple of hikes around Ramea which boasts a lovely wooden walkway around the much of the island. After our morning stroll, we spent much of today at “Eastern Outdoors” which offers meals, internet, showers, laundry and of course kayak tours. We took advantage of everything except the kayak tours. Darlene, the woman in charge, was very attentive to all our needs. I told her we’d fallen in love with the place and wanted to move to Ramea. She said there were some places for sale including her sister’s.

“What’s she asking for it?,” I ventured.

“$15,000.00.”

“Can we have a look at it?”

Darlene arranged for us to see her sister’s house a couple of hours ago. It was tiny but tidy and solid. The view was pretty good especially since the place across the street is about to be torn down.

Kenny was amazed that you can buy any house for that amount of money in a place that’s beautiful, clean and safe. One is tempted…

A rocky Island town called Ramea
With all the charm of Hibernia
Boasts a house by the sea
For a very small fee
An exotic option to suburbia



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