We left Ingonish at 3:45pm on August 8th heading for La Poile, Newfoundland some 105 miles to the north east. We were able to sail as soon as we cleared the narrow harbor entrance and maintained the rhumb line pretty much the whole way there. Overnight we reefed down to two reefs in the main and flying the small jib – not because we really needed to, more to make sure we didn’t arrive too early! As dawn broke, Newfoundland was clearly visible – and there was no fog! The engine was called for as the wind dropped and we motor sailed the last 3 hours. La Poile is not visible from the coast, but as you travel up the bay, it suddenly appears on the port side – a small Outport of maybe 100 houses, accessible only by boat. We anchored right in front of the town in 60ft of water at 8:30am on the 10th.
La Poile is one of just a few remaining Outports – the others having been resettled to more populated towns, with the government buying out households – apparently the going rate is $250,000 but the whole community needs to agree to move with a 90% majority vote.
The little village was quite active, with small fishing boats coming and going – mostly it appeared headed off for socials rather than fishing as the fishing season was due to open in a couple of days. We wandered the paths – along which people walked or rode ATV’s – from one end of town to the other was less than half a mile… So we ventured into the wilderness – but walking is rather challenging – with soft sphagnum moss under foot – very soft going. Fortunately for us, it has been very dry recently so we were able to walk without getting wet. I’m sure at other times the “paths” would be completely untenable. As it was, with the thick ankle to kneed deep vegetation at every step, it really wasn’t great walking.
People watching from the boat was great fun. It seems that all the men gather at the Fire Station each evening for a coffee klatch and witter away hours together. We later guessed that the women did similar – probably at the shop. The shop was an interesting collection of basic necessities and it seems everyone has an account there – as we saw notebooks for each lady in town – Elsie, Laura, etc – presumably with a continuing tally of what was purchased.
Only about 90 people live in La Poile these days and only three kids go to the school, so we’re guessing it’s days are somewhat numbered.
We had a very relaxing stay, attending to various boat projects, the laundry in our home made washing machine and Laurie baked some out of this world granary bread! The anchorage was very calm – until the third day when it started to blow about 25knots and for quite a while I was concerned we had dragged anchor so made good use of our new golfing distance measurer – very handy – and which confirmed that if we had dragged, we were no longer dragging.
On our final evening in La Poile I couldn’t resist heading over to the coffee Klatch – up until then we’d had very little interaction with anyone so I was determined to fix that. Had a very pleasant chat with various inhabitants – half of whom thought we’d dragged anchor and half didn’t – so it seems they’d been watching us as much as we’d been watching them! I also met with the ferry captain and mate – who park the ferry every night in La Poile, but actually live elsewhere – but live aboard during the week. I was able to quiz them a little about our upcoming sailing itinerary – and it sounded like Grand Bruit was a worthwhile stop to make – especially since the ferry no longer goes there, and the wharf is apparently in good condition…
So we raised anchor – I was relieved to see that in fact we had not dragged at all (it’s all rather deceptive when lying to 250ft of anchor rode) and left LaPoile on the August 13th – opening day of the fishing season (everyone is allowed to catch upto 5 Cod each day of the weekend only) – and headed the short distance around to Grand Bruit – pronounced Grand Brit so it therefore had to be a good place to visit! Grand Bruit means great noise in French (an even more appropriate place to visit therefore!) – on account that there’s a cascading waterfall at the head of the harbor – sounds great! This Outport was closed in 2012 but our guide said that one family returns for the summer…
The village is tucked away behind outlying rocky islands and we picked our way carefully through the rocks on either side until Grand Bruit appeared in a narrow entrance. As we approached it was immediately apparent that more than one family was in residence as the fisherman’s wharf on the west side of the harbor had 4 or 5 small boats tied alongside and there was lots of activity on the dock. The ferry dock on the east side looked indeed to be in excellent shape so we made for it, tying alongside using the humongous ferry cleats.
We’d arrived on a spectacular day – beautifully sunny – so we didn’t waste any time walking through the town, over the bridge with the cascading waterfall beneath, to the fisherman’s dock where we met and chatted with various of the locals. The Newfy accent is quite difficult to follow – but very tuneful – and they are certainly a happy lot.
The walking trails have become seriously overgrown, but we took a walk back into the ponds – lots of small freshwater lakes – and hiked up to the two pimples at the top of the hill overlooking the village. Again, we were walking on sphagnum mosses and were getting quite accomplished at it now! The scenes from the pimples were super – we’d picked a great day!
The following day we picked our way at low tide across to an adjacent island that houses the town’s cemetery – with headstones dating back to the early 1800’s – and as late as just last year! As we came back a fellow (Winse) chatted with us and mentioned that he’d seen some Caribou on a neighboring island – would we like to go with him in his boat to take a look? Absolutely!
We sped over to the island, dodging reefs and hidden rocks and there they were – two does… Winse had said that there was also a buck – with a full rack – and we suddenly spotted this dead tree that moved!
We couldn’t get a good look at them from the boat, so Winse took us in to the rocks and I jumped off and stalked my first Caribou! Not a bad effort for a first time! What an impressive animal! We left the Caribou in peace and came back to the boat and whiled away the afternoon playing cards!
August 15th we made our way on a windless day to the next bay – an uninhabited bay with apparently great walking trails, Cinq Cerf Bay… The entrance to the bay is quite narrow and for the first time I found myself dealing with a GPS that plotted us as being on land – while gingerly navigating a narrow passage up to our anchorage. We dropped anchor in 20ft – surrounded by a cliff on one side and a rocky shoreline on the other in Coullet Cove – and we were the only boat around.
We quickly got the dinghy out to go exploring – anxious to find the four freshwater ponds that the guidebook mentioned were swimmable (the sea up here is at 55F – no thanks!). Laurie rowed us to the small beach where we dragged the dinghy to safety and set off for our walk along the excellent trails… Except there weren’t any. The vegetation was even more thick than we’d seen before – and wetter. We hugged the rocky coastline for a little while, but that soon became untenable, but we managed to find a moose path up – and found the first pond… It was so dark with peat that you couldn’t see more than about 6” below the surface – not to our liking – and the two other ponds we found were also black as black – our skinny dipping plans had to be shelved!
After lunch we explored the rest of the bay by dinghy, hoping to find an area where we could land and take a reasonably straightforward walk – but everywhere we stopped, the vegetation was thick. Sure we could have had a go at it – but it didn’t seem like there was going to be much reward, so we headed back to the boat for a well deserved cuppa!
Checking around the boat later I looked over to the beach and saw a black bear! Got a great view of him, but of course, needed better so got in the dinghy… as soon as I started the engine, even though we were downwind and a couple hundred yards away, he was immediately alerted to me. I motored around to his left and he started to saunter off, but I did manage to click the shot below. I motored back to the boat and as soon as I spoke to Laurie, he took off like a shot!
The following morning dawned bright and sunny and I was up early scoping out the beach and surrounding hills for more bear – and guess what – there was another one lumbering down the hillside towards us. Unfortunately before it got close enough it took a turn presumably towards the fresh water ponds so we lost sight of it.
We left the cove a little later and headed towards the metropolis of Burgeo (and therefore a laundromat!), sailing with full main and Spinnaker arriving eahead of schedule in Burgeo, only to find a buslting metropolis that smelled of fish! Everywhere we went stank and we were unable to find a suitable anchorage out of the smell, so we opted to just leave and head for our next planned destination – the island of Ramea some 12 miles off shore. Another metropolis, it also boasted a laundromat, grocery store and WiFi!!!
We arrived to find just one small spot available on the town dock – so grabbed it and went exploring…