August 22nd: Corner Brook , I'VE MADE IT !
I could write about the pod of whales that followed me for hours one day, or the beautiful view of the Northern Peninsula I had while having a sundowner of rum and coke at Cow's Head with fellow travelers, but by now I am sure you are as sick as me of the hospitality I've had and the views I've seen while paddling around the ROCK.
There comes a time in any trip when enough is enough and to accept any more would be overkill. My last day in the kayak was a glorious day of vanity. It's like for 3 months I had been preparing myself for this very moment. You see, I'm 51 and I know my days of fitness are numbered - at least at this level. I wanted one last shot at the big time. One last shot at putting in some heavy-duty mileage before retiring my paddles, and for once the weather was in my favor. It gave me a northeast tail wind of 30 knots and then some.
It's hard to imaging the thoughts one has on the last day of a trip. A good woman and good food immediately came to wind, but today all my thoughts were on the finish line. I made Corner Brook under the cover of darkness. I had covered well over 40 miles in twelve hours. In short I felt great; great to be alive; great to feel so fit, and great the trip was finally over.
Beam me up Scotty or send me down the home brew!
Until next time. Cheers Bernie
20th August: My mind keeps drifting, drifting, drifting watching the waves go by.
The weather seems to be hell bent on finishing the summer as it started; in a Bad Mood. A gale warning has been in effect for the last two days and I've been pinned to my tent. Since starting this final leg I have spent five days storm bound and two on land due to bad behavior ha!. It's like Newfoundland doesn't want me to leave.
As I write I have everything except the kitchen sink in my tent to anchor it down. The wind is relentless and the sound of sand peppering the tent has song all it's own, but what a view.
I am camped on beautiful beach with an amazing backdrop of dunes and a view of ocean surf pounding the beach only yards away. I am only 5 minutes walk from Portland Cove and I have become a regular visitor at it's store. I haven't spent much money on this trip so I have been indulging myself. I polished off all their Mars bars and now I am into their snickers. I have being buying, pre-made sub sandwiches and chips galore. I am getting ready for the real world; preparing my stomach for all that junk food it offers. I am only four good days paddling away from Corner Brook. It seams like only yesterday I said good-bye to Sept-Iles, my apartment, my friends and my life as writer in residence at the Cage my local pub.
August 18th: The long Yawn!
There was a time when I couldn't buy a southwest wind for love nor money. Now just when I don't want them I can't get rid of them.
This trip won't go down as my fastest, hardest or the one that I met the girl of my dreams, but oh what a story it will make around the rock in a bad mood.
For two months the weather has been inconsistent to say the least, but ever since I turned the corner at Cape Norman and started my long paddle south, these long lost southwest winds have suddenly turned up at my doorstep. With the exception of one day, I have woken to find myself facing a days paddle into a head wind and coupled with the fact the sea current on the Straights travels north YUK!!!!
These southwest winds are like monkey on my back, but one thing is in my favor, I have no more big bays to cross. Form here on in, I can dam near walk the shoreline and pull my kayak home. I am over two weeks ahead of schedule. I have time to spare and I am using it. I must have stopped and visited nearly all the peninsula's northern outports. If I don't stay the night in one, at least I take a pit stop and walked their streets. I have now become the Kayak Man. The guy my brother saw yesterday or you stayed two nights ago with my uncle in ----.
This trip want go down as my fastest, hardest, or the one that I met the girl of my dreams, but oh what a story it will make. AROUND THE ROCK IN A BAD MOOD the weather was brutal but the hospitality fantastic.
16th August: Rest and Relaxation
There are two types of R & R. The one that allows you to sleep the hours away totally undisturbed from man or beast, and the one that allows you to let your hair down around fellow travellers.
I have said it before, but I will say it again. I have unwinded - or lets say unraveled - on this trip before, but I have always been a little guarded about what I say or do in someone else's home. After all, I am a guest. I am a 'ROAD SHOW' and I know it. A 'here today, gone tomorrow' experience, and I know my presence as a 'tonight's star attraction' will pay the bills, but my stay in Bird Cove was different.
I had been invited to drop in by a guy called Dale - the team leader to a group of archeologists on a dig just outside Bird Cove on the north east shores of the northern peninsular. He had heard my cries of help on a message board on the Internet. I was asking for access to the Internet to update this web site during my trip. Dale answered, and now I was visiting.
Miki, Mark, Tim and Latina let me into their lives and home without missing a step. They may not have been travellers like myself, but their status as 'come from awayers' allowed me to be just your average JOE in their presence and not the center of it. Everything during my three night stay was on a help yourself basis. I topped up my tanks in their kitchen; lost at darts and pool in the local bar and got square eyes watching videos. In short, I burnt my candle at both ends, and by the time I left the only thing my body and soul cried out for was sleep and I didn't have to wait long for that either.
I left Bird Cove with a stiff N.E. wind to push me along, but no sooner had I started my island hopping across St. John's Bay when the wind changed 180 degree and I became storm bound on Fox Island. I made it to Fox Island cold and wet. The strong S.W. wind had whipped up the waves, and surf stained the bay from one end to the other. I beached, found a cabin door open, and now the rest is history.
Now close your eyes and imagine a deserted island. You have a room with a view; a radio; a good book; a warm bed and a vivid imagination to curl up with.
For three days the strong S.W. wind kept me on land, but I didn't care. I was in heaven. The island was full of bakeapples ripe for the picking. The wind kept the flies away; the sun was backing hot, and I could get that an all-round sun tan without fear of being spotted. I woke every morning to the velvet tones of C.B.C.'s Michael Enright, and every evening was tucked into bed by Kurt Voneguts costic humor, but all good things come to an end. I would have stayed longer but I ran out of water and tobacco. Then just to prove the old adage ' somebody up there likes me' The wind fell away just long enough for me to reach Eddies Cove at the other end of the bay before it returned once more.
FOOT NOTE: There are many cabins dotting the coastline of Newfoundland. Many are used by lobster fishermen and many are left unlocked on a trust basis. I have only used them during emergencies. I always leave them as I have found them, and always leave a message of thanks and some of my freeze dried food as payment.
12th August: The old machine is wearing down
There is always a flip side to having fun. My body's running down. Today is one of those 'iffy' days that at the beginning of the trip would have not stopped me. The wind and the cold I experienced in may and June has taken its toll.
It doesn't take much now to inflame my wrists and also my fingers are becoming as stiff as boards. The first sign of cold and they go numb and every morning my index fingers have to be massage into life. That north easterly that only yesterday pushed me to a thirty mile day has also brought with it a cold penetrating dampness that cuts to the bone. I can still answer the bell when needed, but that early morning enthusiasm I once had to get into the water has gone. The finish line is just around the corner, and I want to arrive there in one piece.
Age has its drawbacks and this is the main one. I knew there would be a price to pay before the trip started so I have no complaints. Somehow I can't see myself retiring from all this travel. Life's an adventure, and I want to cross all the T's and dot all the I's before I go.
August 8 th: Finally rounded Cape Norman
I have finally rounded Cape Norman into the Straights of Belle Isle, and I am on my way home. Rounding the Cape was an experience all of its own. The sea was alive with caplin and the sea birds were having a feast day. One humpback whale came too close for comfort, while a school of porpoise oblivious to the food on their table played around and underneath my kayak.
The current rounding the cape was by far the strongest current I had experienced on this trip. It took me two and a half hours to crawl the six miles from the lighthouse to Boat Harbour, but from there on in the current has lost its bite and everything since has been in my favor.
I am now in Sandy Cove and it's pouring down with rain. I've just paddled over 30 miles in little over 6 hours. The sunny weather I've been getting lately has been blown away by a stiff northeast wind, but I don't care. It's a tail wind!
The scenery in the Straits has been a refreshing change from all those intimidating cliffs and jagged points of the last two months. It's good for the soul to see long pebbled beaches indented with sand and cliffs no bigger than houses. For once I can pick and choose my pit stops. I can stretch my legs, take a leak, have a brew-up and chat with fellow tourists.
Why, you may ask. Because the road runs parallel to the coast. I can be seen by passing vehicles. I'm quickly becoming a tourist attraction to be captured on film or video or even flagged down! One nice lady waved me over and gave me some freshly made bakeapple jam while a trucker, honking his horn, offered me a Pepsi. This is the life!
August 5th: The Roaring 40's
Last night I was treated to a spectacular thunderstorm, and today the after-winds are so strong, I expect my tent to become air born at any moment. I have been waiting to take a day off for over a week and today's wind is just the excuse I've been waiting for.
I am storm bound in Quirpon, overlooking it's harbour. The boys on the wharf have been treating me like royalty, and I feel proper spoiled. Word of my trip had preceded me and my sighting of two killer whales off 'Breakers Point' was the talk of the airways. A shrimp boat also spotted them coming into the harbour, and now a small flotilla of boats are out on the hunt.
This is the life. I have just finished my stew; the fire I lit on the beach is slowly dying, and the wind is dropping with the sun. I have an invite to share some beers with a crew on a shrimp boat tonight, but what I want most is rest. There is still a long way to paddle before Corner Brook and I hear the sea currents in the Straights of Belle Isle are not in my favor.