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June 8th: Harbour Breton to Point Rose

I am not the 'young buck' I use to be, but what I have lost in speed, I have made up for in good old 'commonsense'. There was a time not long ago when I would puncture my way through 30 to 40 knot head winds and enjoy the ride. Today, I earn my gray hairs the respectful way through age, and not stage fright.

Today I pick my spots. I get up earlier to beat the wind, and have also paddled during the night when the winds have died. For the last week the weather has been dreadful. I have been crossing bays point to point, and I have never once been able to relax and enjoy the ride. My plan of crossing Fortune bay via Brunette Island went out of the window the day I left McCallum under a 'Gale Warning', and its been all down hill ever since. As I mentioned earlier, I got storm bound in Harbour Breton for a day and a half. Now, I have been storm bound for two days in Point Rose, but what a ride I had to get there.

The ride started in Harbour Breton at 6:00pm. I had been storm bound the day before and had tried to leave that morning, but heavy winds and choppy seas forced me back. I pitched my tent close to the head of the harbour where I could see the action, set my alarm for 5:00pm, then went to sleep. By 6:00pm I was in the water. The wind had fallen and by 9:00pm had died completely. By 10:00pm I was paddling under the stars and by 11:30pm was paddling into English Harbour. I pitched my tent on a fishing stage, pulled up my kayak onto its slip and was tucked into bed by 12:30pm.

I woke at 5:00am. Two fishermen were talking by my tent. I had camped on their stage and they were inspecting my kayak on their slip. They told me the storm had done a turn-about and was heading back in our direction. I was dead tired through lack of sleep , but their promise that it wouldn't strike until afternoon woke me up. They made me some coffee, gave me their sandwiches and fired up the stove in their shed to warm me up.

From English Harbour to Point Rose across Fortune Bay its over ten miles. The skies were clear; the sea relatively calm and only the hint of a breeze. I decided to gun it. I left at 7:00am and reached Point Rose by 10:00am and just before the winds pick-up. Ninety minutes later the gale arrived. I was lucky.

Now once again, I am storm bound, but this time surrounded by friendly faces and safely tucked away in someone's cabin. The wood fired stove is piping hot and the rain beating down outside is only a side show to the main event this evening. I am invite to a pot-luck-supper.

footnote: The winds lasted for three days. The old name for Point Rose on my map is Point Enragee - french for Angry Point. Boy was it angry..........

 

June 6th: A good lie is better than the boring truth.

 

Did I tell you about Cid from Burgeo? For the sake of this letter and for the sake of Cid's reputation, I will call him Bernardo Franchetti. Bernardo as the story goes arrived in these parts from Sicily under mysterious circumstances, and ever since that day boots filled with rocks have been turning up on shore.

Cid is just your average Joe except for one small tick. He collects boots. I did ask him about the scores of rock filled boots piled up on his stage, but his answer "To weigh down my nets", to a city slicker like me wasn't good enough. Now it takes a leap of faith to believe that Cid has been to every yard sale this side of Burgeo in the last twenty years, and even a greater leap of faith to believe he only buy boots, not any kind of boots, but ones with rocks in them. What Cid doesn't know about boots isn't worth mentioning. The guys a walking dictionary of waiders, poggies, wellies, rubbers and boots. Personally, I like the story I made up about his Sicilian connection to the Mafia; of feet incased in rock-filled waiders; of bodies been lobbed overboard during full moon; of maggots eating up the evidence, and of time returning Cid's boots back to shore.

P.S. You can still see I am still storm bound!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Cheers Bernie

 

5th June: Is there anybody out there?

I am storm bound in Harbour Breton and for once the weather forecast was spot-on. So far the 'Marine Weather Forecast' has been about as predictable as my daily plans and that's not saying much. I had given up on their predicted wind speeds, and even their directions leave alot to be desired. The weather forecast like the radio beaconed sea boys and unmanned lighthouses are geared towards the offshore dragging fleets and merchant shipping. Us coastal inshore users are their poor cousins. You can't blame them back in H.Q. for discounting the poor old lobster fisherman, the coastal long liners out fishing cod, or the crab trapper. We are too close to land and too few in number to count, and that's why I ask for local information from local fishermen whenever possible.

Newfoundlanders are a breed unto themselves. They have a rare genius for place names that advertise local conditions. Take for instance the two 'Blow-me-downs' between Francoise and McCallum; they really did blow-me-down. Then there are the dangerous shoal waters around the aptly named 'Wrecks Cove' near Burgeo. And 'Cape Spear' doesn't exactly sound welcoming. Points of land, high hills and deep bays seem to manufacture their own local conditions and you can't beat it when you hear of these little quirks of nature from the locals who have to live by the side of them. But and this is a big BUT. When the 'Marine Weather Forecast' forecasts a 'GALE WARNING' everyone listens.

Today, it's that windy I dare not even leave my tent in case it takes off for the mainland. My pegs are history. They left the ground during the first hour and now all that keeps the tent from being airborn is me.

The storm arrived just after dawn and hasn't abated yet. The noise has been deafening. Between the constant flapping noises of the flysheet beating on my tent; the constant wine of the wind, and the rapping of the rain at my door the day is turning out to be a lesson in patience.

Sometime in the morning, I stepped into a pool of water. That's not a big deal; a wet foot here or there wouldn't bother anyone, but in my tent is another story. I had conveniently camped in a hollow that was now rapidly filling. I spent the next hour using my towel as a sponge, but no sooner had I sponged one pool dry when another would form. Then I found the problem. The water was been blown in through a tear in the side of the tent.

The whole situation was laughable, but when the wind changed direction in the early evening and blew my vestibule-cum-flysheet on top of my tent and threatened lift-off, I wanted to cry.

The day wasn't a complete right-off. I got my diary up to date. Wrote those long overdue letters to family and friends and stayed in bed.

 

Cheers Bernie

 

June 3rd: Pissed-off and Waterlogged

No matter how careful I am during the day, it seams that some wave or other will swamp me. Water will force its way through the protective cockpit skirt I wear (just for that reason) and end up puddling in my seat. Inevitably, I will end up the day sat in a pool of cold sea water. I have tried everything from duct taping the skirt to my waist to seal it, to tightening up the band that secures the skirt to the cockpit frame, that if I capsized, I would have a hard time getting out of the kayak. In short, I am just about glued in, but nothing seams to work.

Just the other day, I thought I got away with a dry one, then I got a call from nature. There I was holding onto my best friend; hanging it over the side; pointing its jet down wind when an errant wave slapped me. I got swamped yet again! Soggy and Wet.

Bernie

 

3rd June Burgeo to McCallum

Boy! The scenery on the South West Coast from Burgeo to McCallum is just fantastic, but I cannot say the same for the weather. The cliffs on this section of the coastline are like huge knuckles of rock; sometimes barren and sometimes topped by stunted trees, but always vertical, and together with the narrow fjord like bays and inlets cut an impressive sight on the coast.

In have been paddling point to point recently (two and sometimes four miles out to sea). It's not that I am trying to make up time or cut corners, its just that the big sea swells that the constant south west winds have produced lately are more uniform offshore than in, and that the strong gusting offshore winds (caused by the tunnelling effect that the high walled fjords create) influence my progress little two miles out. Throw in 'rafting waves' (caused when wind direction and tides are in conflict); 'confused seas' ( caused when sea currents rise to the surface in shoal waters close to shore), and 'reflective waves' ( caused by sea swells bouncing off solid walls of rock in deep water), and you can understand why I would rather be paddling offshore than in. Waves out to sea rarely crest with any force in moderate conditions, and besides having to put up with being tossed about like a Ping-Pong ball on a rubber band, my only problem is sea sickness.

It's been my choice to paddle offshore, but I do miss the close up views these amazing coastal rock formations offer, and the fjords even at this distance look awesome, and their sheltered waters seductive. I am also missing my daily chitchats with the lobster fishermen who trap close to shore. I lost my radio the other day to a beach, so they are now my only source of up-to-date weather information, but just as importantly to me right now; a blob-by-blow account of who is winning in the race for the 'Stanley Cup'. I have spotted the occasional long liner out cod fishing, but as everyone knows on the coast, cod fishing licenses are few and far between and the cod even rarer. The 'Gallipilo' the ferry that runs between Rameau, Grey River and Burgeo, did detour my way during one particularly rough patch of weather, but all was fine. Generally speaking people know where I am, where I have left from and where I am heading to, and except for the general concern one gives to a fellow seaman out in rough seas the only question I have been asked so far is..........'Have you seen a good psychiatrist lately'.

Cheers Bernie

 

June 2nd. Port Aux Basques to Burgeo

To fully understand today's folly, you have to understand my character. My mother would say, I am as stubborn as a mule. That come 'hell or high water', once I get something into my head nothing can budge me from it. That morning, I had not the slightest intention of paddling all the way to Burgeo. As the crow flies it was some thirty plus miles further west down the coast from my camp site near Grand Bruit. It had never entered my head to paddle so far, but once I had reached Muddy Point some twenty miles into the day, I had got my second wind and anything felt possible. It had helped that weather was glorious; that the whole area was festooned with golden eagles, and that half a dozen dolphins where playing around my kayak, and that a pod of whales were also swimming slowly by across the bay. I had just turned my kayak around. I was facing the beautiful barren hills behind Grand Bruit. I was tracing their peaks in my mind, following the highlands as they tapered inland when the thought of gunning it to Burgeo before evening came into my head.

All day, I had been aided by a light south westerly breeze. It had just picked up to a moderate westerly which was even better , and the though of spending a night between clean sheets with a contact in Burgeo was just too much to let go. I had checked my map at the point of the bay and judge it to be another fifteen plus miles to the finish line. It was only 3:00 p.m. and I had still plenty of coffee (made that morning before breaking camp) in my flask and enough mars bars within easy reach to feed an army. All went well till just before Wrecks Harbour. I had beached in a sandy cove to get the blood circulating in my legs. I had already been paddling for over eight hours and I was beginning to feel the need for a chance of pace. I had just seen to highland caribou grazing close to shore, then turned to look at the sky. A dark cloud was looming over the horizon and I could see lop starting to form on the seas ahead. It wasn't long before the wind picked up. Soon, I found myself paddling in rough waters and by the look of the sky would only get worse. I should have beached near Barasway Point. I had seen two cabins half hidden away behind some rocks sheltered from the waves, but I chose Burgeo some six tantalizing miles away across the bay. I was stupid, but that's now. Half way across the bay the wind changed to a southerly and started to act against the falling tide. To say the waves were 'confuse' (as they say in these parts) was putting it mildly. It was now eight o'clock, and try as I may to angle into the wind in my vain attempt to go point to point it just wouldn't come to me. The wind was pushing me into the bay, and the deeper I went the steeper the waves became.

I have this golden rule about keeping energy in reserve, but that night it flew out of the window. I had just got a toe hold on the other side of the bay when my tanks went dry. I had eaten three mars bars, finished off my flask of coffee,but nothing had could stop the inevitable. When my tanks went dry, it happened it happened so quickly it shocked me, and had I not been so close to shore, I would have been in a right state. I beached as the sun was setting; set up my camp just above the high tide mark, and just had about enough energy to make a cup of coffee before falling into bed. I had been within spitting distance of Burgeo. But as the saying goes, ' close but no cigar'.

Cheers Bernie

 

 

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