At the dock in Port-Aux-Basques a worker told us “ Newfoundlanders don’t burn, we rust.” And, despite the seemingly impenetrable layer in the sky above us we did find ourselves with a fog-burn by the end of the day, entering the minuscule opening into Burgeo harbour.
We also discovered as we moved East, that if you time it right there are a plethora of parties and festivals to attend over the first three weeks in August, starting with the Sand and Sea festival in Burgeo. We missed this party by a couple days, but hear it is a good time and the sand dunes area just to the west of town looked beautiful as we sailed by. Our time in Burgeo was however plagued with thick damp fog and so it was not the most beautiful place we visited. We did get many visitors at the dock however, including 87 year old Jack Farrell, partner of the previously mentioned Farrell schooner builders in the Northwest Arm of La Poile Bay. “I built 8 of those” he said after standing above on the dock for a while. Many people, mostly older retired fishermen, come by every morning and evening to see what boats have come in or who is around. Everyone knows the goings on and there is always someone coming by to chat or just sit. They are all friendly and a wealth of information about the coast, the weather, the history and how the fish are biting.
We stayed two nights Burgeo and it was time to move on. Grey River and its jamboree awaited!
After a couple days in the southwest arm of Grey River we went to town for their Jamboree. We were fortunate to meet fisherman Perry Baggs and his wife Deborah on the dock, visiting from Francois (the next town to the east). After a rum on their boat and a tour of ours, we moved up the hill and spent the initial part of the evening enjoying Perry and a friends musical talent at their friends Sue & Larry’s. Turns our Larry is the unofficial mayor of Grey River, a retired teacher and quite the dancer. Sue is a hoot and would not let your drink go dry. They make a great couple and good hosts. And what a treat for us to listen to a living room concert of Newfoundland ballads accompanied by guitar and accordion.
We eventually made our way to the town dance, where a one man band went to town and played non-stop until 3 am. The majority of the eighty or so people at the party were up every song to dance (and sat down between each). I think the most energy was expended walking to and from the dance floor! We had a great time dancing until the wee hours and were the only “foreigners” around. After dancing with Larry it seemed Matt and I were then asked to dance with everyone! As we made our way home around 3 am we were happy our boat was not parked on the public dock where the concert was being played.
After a few days exploring fjords we found our way to Francois, pronounced “Fran’s Way.” This beautiful town was having their “Come Home” year. I think “Come Home’s” sound like a great idea and feel like every community or group of friends should have an event like this! What a great idea to get everyone together. In Francois the week of festivities has all sorts of events: two dances, suppers, BBQ’s, boat races, fireworks… We arrived in town to see Santa Clause on an ATV followed by most of the town in Christmas costumes… somehow this was part of the festivities. Our first night in town there was dance, which happened to have the same one-man-band we’d seen in Grey River. Again we danced to the wee hours, this time in the company of some Newfoundland sailors aboard MarySol, with whom we’d been sailing along the coast. Somehow they made it up the next morning and took off, perhaps to the next fjord to recover, while Matt and I slept. That afternoon I made a blueberry pie that we took to Perry & Deborah’s house for afternoon tea. Deb and her sister Patricia introduced us to Fussell’s cream, an amazing only available in Newfoundland product (that is actually from Holland): canned thick cream! Remarkably the only ingredients are cream and sodium citrate (which I assume isn’t too bad for you). You shake it up in the can and it makes a thick cream about the consistency of yogurt. Excellent on pie!
Patricia took us to the community museum where we saw old photos of Francois as well as other now relocated outports in the area. Incredibly a small community called Broad Cove existed just outside the entrance to the inlet that contains Francois. This area is a small area of flat rock with barely any trees and no obvious water source, surrounded by almost sheer cliff on one side and open Atlantic ocean on the other. How people lived here, let alone built boats (which they supposedly did) is incredible. Deb & Theresa’s great grandfather was from Broad Cove but the town was relocated to Francois in 1944.
Francois was also the only outport community with a (unofficial) bar. A couple of guys from Halifax who bought summer cabins in town come every year for Francois day and set up an old fish shack as a gathering place for friends. They were welcoming and we had a nice time chatting with the younger locals, most of whom now work out in Alberta but “Came Home.”
The town of Francois also has a couple great boardwalks up to a look off and around the lake above the town. The lake has great swimming and lakes further upstream offer gravity-fed continuous water to all the houses in town. In fact this was the system in all the outport communities, and continues to flow in Grand Bruit long after closure. We had a great hike up to the cirque-like feature that surrounds the town, followed by a nice swim & wash in the lake. Our final night in Francois we were treated to some fireworks and a beautiful starry night as a farewell.