July 20th: Par for the course on Dildo Run
Well I am not going to forget the last few days in a hurry. Or was it just a dream? I left Anchor Brook in Hamilton Sound with a light tail wind, but by the time I had reached Musgrave Harbour it had switched to a moderate offshore South Westerly. I started to hug the coast, but I was still making good progress. I was on schedule to reach Carmanville by late afternoon, then just before Ladle Cove I met two fishermen. "So you are the kayaker we have heard so much about. You must drop in to see Erick. He's built his own kayak". Not being one to turn an invitation down, I turned to shore and no sooner had I beached when a plate full of crab came my way, then the wine came out. I was already starting to stetch my stories when the second bottle was opened, and just before it too disappeared, Erick's mother invited me to yet another meal. I still hadn't met Erick and it wasn't until I was into my second plate of moose stew that he appeared.
That night we continued the drinking session at his house and the next morning under a haze of alcohol I took off for my rendezvous with C.B.C. in Carmanville. Three miles into my paddle the wind turned ugly. I beached in Aspen Cove, rearranged my interview with David Zelser (an old Labrador buddy), then sat back with a cup of coffee and waited. Interview finished we returned to Erick's, where we opened another bottle of wine.
Two days later I got lost down Dildo Run. Newfoundland may be on your left to a anti-clockwise paddler, but down Dildo Run it comes at you from all directions. I got totally confused in the islands that dot the Run, and when I ended up down a dead end tickle with only a gravel road between me an the open sea, I decided to portage. That's where I met Dirk and the girls and the rest was just 'par for the course'.
Tonight I am in Exploits Harbour: a glass of wine in my hand; two beautiful girls to pass the time away with and a glorious sunset as a backdrop. Is this what life's all about or what?
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July 15th: Bonavista Bay HOT-HOT-HOT
Beam me up Scotty. I am frying. In front Greenspond has risen from the dead. I am 8 miles away from it yet its houses look like 'Manhattan Skyscrapers' in a sea of haze. A grounded iceberg has stretched and now looks like the C.N. Tower with a cancerous growth. What did I smoke this morning? The heat is playing tricks with me. Islands unite only to break and shatter into points of land. Its difficult not only to judge distances, but focus in on objects. The midday sun wobbles and melts all before it, but I can't complain. For once I am stripped and getting more than a 'Newfie Blush'.
I wasn't the only one on the water that day. The sea was alive with the sounds of loons and humpback whales - no doubt suffering in the heat like me were continually crying out to each other.
I made Greenspond a little after 2:00pm, and no sooner had I beached in their lovely harbour when I walked straight into an invitation to spend the night in Puffin Island Lighthouse with Larry and Barry. This is the life.
July 12th: Cape Bonavista
Now there's a Cape and a half, but I am getting ahead of myself. I left Northern Cove in fog, but by the time had reached Catalina a stiff South Easterly had blown it away. I was now motoring. The miles were just ticking by. For once I was hugging the coast and enjoying every minute of it.
The main course that day was Elliston. Elliston must surely be Disney's answer to a 'WATERWORLD THEME PARK'. I couldn't have scripted the days events any better if I had tried. It had everything and then some. First I saw a grounded iceberg the shape and size of a Pirate Gallion. It had sheer cliffs the likes of Monument Valley - except that these rocks rose out of the sea. It had two humpback whales breaching and dolphins and seals were everywhere. Puffins filled the sky with noise, and nesting gulls the cliffs. In fact the whole scene from Elliston to Cape Bonavista was an awesome sight of rocks, birds and whales. And when I eventually rounded the cape and entered Bonavista Bay and it started to rain, I was disappointed. That's life. Yuk!
July 10th: My nightmare is over,
......well not quite, but the two bays I dreaded crossing (Conception and Trinity Bay) are now behind me.
I made it across Conception Bay from Cape St. Francis to Lower Island Cove in six and a half hours. It should have been a fifteen mile, five hour walk in the park, but it turned into a nightmare. I had waited for just the right conditions before leaving, but not for the first time on this trip the weather made a fool out of me.
I left Cape St. Francis en route to Western Bay at noon. The forecast had called for moderate south westerlies in the morning, diminishing to light winds in the afternoon, but no sooner had I reached the half way point when the wind switched to the west and started to blow. Just to make matters worse; the tide changed and the sea started to raft. The wind and tide were now in conflict. Within five minutes all hell broke loose. Waves steepened and started to crest. It wasn't so much the danger of capsizing - I have been in much worse in this trip, its that I still had over eight more miles to go.
I knew I was been pushed up the bay by the wind, so Western Bay was now out of the question. Soon the settlement of Ochre Pit Cove was drifting away. I was starting to get worried. I was now pretty tired and the shoreline further down the bay didn't exactly look inviting. I was digging in for all I was worth to get ashore before my options ran out The wind now was full in my face. It was a toss-up what would snap first; my strength or the kayak. The waves were that steep now the kayak was just rearing out of the water, crashing through one wave after another. The wind was cornering around the points and the closer I got to land the stronger the wind became. After thirty minutes, I gave up the battle to reach Ochre Pit Cove, turned with the wind and surfed the next eight miles until I reached Long Island Cove.
The experience didn't really sink in until I reached Grates Cove at noon the next day. The sea was glass calm, and the other side of Trinity Bay lay tantalizingly only twenty miles away. Any other day I would have gone, but I was still suffering shell shock from the day before. I camped for the night in Grates, then talked myself into a two day storm bound. Actually I had met two kindered spirits Cal and Vicky. They gave me all the excuses I needed - good food and a library of videos - to stay.
On the third day, I woke to a forecast calling for light south westerlies, and although the wind never dropped below moderate, I made the twenty mile crossing to Northern Cove in only five hours.
I am now bedded down in a cabin overlooking its small secluded beach. I have already seen six golden eagles, a moose, two humpback whales breaching out of the water, and the sight of scores of gulls lining the beach is a sure sign that the caplin are about. Its one of those 'iffy' days. I am storm bound again, ha!
July 5th: A Halfway House called St. John's
Well, by my rough calculation, I am about half way round the 'ROCK'. I told myself before leaving that if I made it to St. John's by the beginning of July, then the rest would be down hill. It's not that I expect tail breezes from here on in, or that the seas are going to get any easier, its just that I can now relax and take those 'iffy' days off if I want to.
It has definitely got warmer this last week, and the day I left St. John's it was down right balmy. I really suffered the first two weeks of my paddle. I was always cold and wet and the wind cut right through to the bone. The next two weeks it rained off and on, and I ended up taking too many risks, and the last two weeks the weather has gone from one extreme to the other.
Until a few days ago I couldn't say with any honesty, that I had had one completely relaxed days paddle. Even on the few days when the seas were calm and the skies clear, I couldn't believe my luck. I have been on edge ever since starting with one eye on the sky and the other on the sunkers ahead.
I now have two huge bays to cross - Conception and Trinity. I said earlier that there is something about letting go of the land that frightens me. I have already paddled across four bays on the Southern Shore, but in my head there's a hell of a difference between a 10 mile crossing and a 15 to 20 mile one. I can sprint a 10 mile bay, but a 15 mile bay is beyond my sprinting endurance, and 20 mile sprint is just a fantasy. It's not so much the physical endurance of a 6 to 8 hour crossing of open water, but one with my nerves, wondering if the weather will hold-up until I have crossed to the other side. I learned to kayak in the rough shoal waters in Labrador and on the Quebec Lower North Shore. Bay crossing is new to me, and if I have to wait for the right conditions cross one of these bays, I will.
July 3rd: Hello and Goodbye
It is hard enough to say goodbye after one night with new friends, but after two its depressing. The upside to all this Newfoundland hospitality is after six weeks paddling the coast, I have only put up my tent fourteen times, and that my six weeks supply of freeze dried food - I calculated would last me until St. John's - has yet to be dented. In short, I have been spoiled rotten.
On the down side its hard to strike a rhythm. It is so easy to turn over in bed and go back to sleep when you are between clean sheets. I have got lazily recently; spending more time storm bound than paddling. I know the weather has been bad of late, but the last two days I took off weren't all that bad.
Am I feeling guilty? Not likely. One thing about getting older is that not only do you accept your physical limitations, but enjoy the 'down time' ten times better than in your youth. Let me take you through just a few of those relaxing moments;
I was not three days into my trip when I was bedding down in a camper trailer, tucking into my first lobster supper with Art Hynes in Port au Port. The next day Gordon Gilbert gave me the keys to his cabin near York Harbour. Then there was the night I met 'sunny' Russel Noseworthy in Headlands. He not only found me a place to stay for the night in that fishing community, but insisted I stay in his house when I reached Codroy. The day I arrived cold and wet in Port aux Basques it was Russel Graham who not only came out to greet me, but gave me the excuse to unwind with a bottle of rum. In Rose Blanche, Dennis Farrel lit the stove in his fishing stage so that I could dry my equipment, then rolled out the red carpet. In Grey River, I stayed two days storm bound with Stanley Young and his family, and in Point Rose, Philip Fazzel invited me in out of the rain. In Point May it was Peter Stacey who came to the rescue when I was dog tired and wet after rounding Dantzic Point. In Lewis Cove, Richard and Cindy wined and dined me for two days, and Edwina and Donna in Branch spoiled me rotten. Raymond Hawyart adopted me like a long lost brother in St. Vincent's, and the 'mob' on Merasheen Island. Donna Hewitt braved a storm and the gossip and invited me to spend the night with her family in St. Shotts, and it was Arnold Ward who insisted I spend the night with his family in Portugal Cove. Tonight I have the keys to Bruce Peters home-away-from-home in St. John's harbour, and god knows where I will end up tomorrow.
I can't say enough about Newfoundland hospitality, or thank all the people who have helped and encouraged me since starting. I know I am the person who does the paddling, but without the aforementioned people and all the rest I have not had the time to put in. Thanks a million.
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