When we departed White Point in northern Cape Breton we were headed to Codroy, Nfld. We thought the weather sounded great, 15 to 20 knots of nice southwesterly wind. But we’re learning (the hard way) that Environment Canada is a little too conservative for their wind reports to be practical. We got up at 3:30 am, and were off by 4 am for the 75 nautical mile crossing. With only 5 knots of wind, and big rolling seas coming east from the St. Lawrence and west from the Atlantic, we were going nowhere fast. By 11 am we were only 20 miles into our trip. After some hemming-and-hawing we made our decision to head for Port-Aux-Basques, a closer destination on the south coast.
Matt and I had discussed this option before, with me somewhat set on going up the west coast of Newfoundland to Gros Morne. I was however worried about the long passages we would need to make to get there, as our boat is fairly slow and 100 nm for would be an overnight passage for us after Codroy. Also, of the few other cruisers we had met by that point, they had all gone to the Newfoundland south coast, and so perhaps for that reason as well, to “be different,” I wanted to go up the west side.
On our Cabot Straight voyage (between Cape Breton and Newfoundland) however, the bright side of the South Coast became apparent. The aptly named “Fjord Coast” was slightly closer, and we could easily hop from community to community (or fjord to fjord) with day sails once we were there. And I was excited at the prospect of visiting the island of St. Pierre and Micalon, a tiny piece of France just 15 nm off the Newfoundland coast.
After we made the decision I immediately started reading the guide book about the coast. Since our plan had not been to go south, we had little information and no paper charts of this area. Luckily our electronics had us covered. The biggest seller of the south coast for me however was realizing the utility of our mode of travel. While you can take ferries to the outport communities along the coast, there is no road access and no ferries to the beautiful inlets, meaning the coast is virtually untouched by tourists. In my attempt to get “away” from other cruisers I suppose I had overlooked the principal tourists in Newfoundland, who travel by car, and who head for Gros Morne, L’Anse-aux-Meadows and other sites on the west and north coasts.
Pulling into a dock at Port-Aux-Basques at 9:30 pm, with the last bit of natural light, and tired from our long day, I was pretty happy with the decision we made. A welcoming committee of extremely friendly locals we could barely understand took our lines and we were settled. This vast, barren coastline will certainly keep us entertained and it will be fun to take this old schooner to the small fishing communities that used to be full of her sisters, ready to get out cod fishing.