Trip Log – Bay D’espoir, Nfld

We are very far behind in posting about our trip, but will continue where we left off in Newfoundland around mid August. Leaving the magical fjordland and continuing our way east along the coast we entered the Bay D’Espoir. This beautiful area is a series of passages and bays that continues some way east and north becoming more and more protected the further you go. Ironically this bay is pronounced “Bay Despair” here, but it seemed like this area was one with renewed industry and perhaps more hope than despair for the time being.

Our first stop was in McCallum, a town of only 80 or so in the summer and less in the winter. It seems this town may be on its way out as votes have increasingly favoured relocation. But the “stay put” lobbie (30%) is apparently quite strong so only time will tell.

Village of McCallum, Newfoundland.

Village of McCallum, Newfoundland.

The town has nice floating docks and a good little store and post office. We met Keri & Bob Simms as we walked around town and ended up having a few beers with the entire Simm’s family, whose sons were home for a summer visit with all their grandchildren. Despite living on the ocean Bob and his brother Andy, as well as their parents Olive and Sidney, had never been sailing. Hard to believer for Sidney and Olive who are lifelong fishermen, and Bob who works for the Navy in Halifax… So we had to rectify the situation!

Mason at the helm

Mason at the helm

We had a decently nice day when we left the dock with 7 adults, 1 teenager and 3 kids. The wind was light, thankfully with that many people on board! The two younger kids, Mason and Julia, were enthralled with the interior as they had never been below on a boat before. “You have slippers!???” was a first comment, which was followed with the advice that they are for houses… They also loved that our table folds over in a couple of ways and the head (toilet) was quite the intrigue. Immediately Mason, 5 year old, had to use it.

After a short time sailing however the wind died…But we had been out long enough for the boat to heel over and get some a little nervous. Questions quickly turned to “Is this normal?” and “What happens when we tip over?” Interestingly despite spending their entire lives on the water Sid, Olive and their grand children were pretty worried. Sid quickly donned his life jacket, though I suspect he would rarely wear it gliding over the water in a motorboat at 15 knots or more.

We tried to do a little cod jigging, as this was the last day of open season, but the sky opened up, sending everyone down below while Matt and I dealt with the sails. It was fun to get everyone out, but a little disappointing we couldn’t really sail. We have a new record for the number of people out sailing and down below at one time though, and hopefully everyone had a good time.

Sailing in McCallum

Sailing in McCallum

From McCallum we had a nice sail into Hermitage Bay to Gaultois. Here we found a bustling small town, the busiest outport we saw. The floating dock here is short and was occupied, but thanks to a radio chat with the MaryT a few days earlier, we knew to use the storm mooring set up in the center of the harbour. This mooring was installed by the aquaculture industry, now the main employer in town. Gaultois appeared to us to be the most active outport community we visited. Road repairs were underway, the town has two stores, a post office, library (with wifi), and other amenities. According to some locals a lot of this has to do with aquaculture. Regardless of my opinions on the environmental impact of these operations, they certainly create jobs in an area where commercial fishing is almost dead. The huge pens can apparently hold up to 100 000 fish. The fish (salmon and trout) obviously eat a lot as they grow from small to market size (4-12 pounds) in approx. 18-24 months. Accordingly the old fish plant in Gaultois is now used for feed storage. The number of gigantic, “healthy” gulls in the harbour should have been our first indication of the feed. From two pounds of food the fish will produce one pound of meat and one pound of waste. Where does the waste go? To the bottom under the pens…. This might not be a problem as other organisms (crab, lobster, mussels, etc.) eat it, but a few problems do ensue. First, the quantity of waste that is piling up is much more than the local scavenger population can eat, but as well, the food can contain dyes, as well as chicken meal, (GMO) corn, soy and other food not naturally consumed by ocean creatures. How do these things affect the local fish? The salmon pens must be rotated every year or so, to allow for the tides and currents to carry away remaining waste, and let the scavengers catch up, but there is little belief by the locals in Gaultois that the rotation times are long enough to actually flush out the waste.

Floats left at a the site of salmon pens. The site will apparently be left open for 4 months to a year before pens are re-installed.

Floats left at a the site of salmon pens. The site will apparently be left open for 4 months to a year before pens are re-installed.

There is also the fact that these bred fish (sub?) species are different from the local populations. When they escape from the pens (most of which weren’t even closed on the top when we saw them), they can breed with the “wild” salmon and create a cascade of genetic issues in those populations. The high densities of fish in the pens also makes them more vulnerable to the outbreak of disease (viral or bacterial) and so they are can be on antibiotics/vaccinated against these issues. Upon escape however any disease they may be carrying can then affect the wild species who do not have this resistance.

Fish pen with the support barge.

Fish pen with the support barge.

After my visit to Gaultois my opinion on farmed salmon may be a bit obvious, but, to “play devils advocate” as Matt always says, we can’t keep just dragging the ocean floor clean for other wild species, and this industry is making jobs and money in areas without other options….. But for now perhaps I’ll take a break from trout and salmon until I can research further.

In any case, Gaultois is well worth the visit. The people are as friendly as we have found, and they have some really great hiking trails. We visited the old outport community of Piccare, where only a graveyard and foundations remain from relocation in the 1960’s. As well, a nice lake found just on the edge of town has a floating dock for swimmers and seemed to be the rendez-vous point for locals in the evening. From here we will start on our westward journey home.

4 comments

  1. Hello I’d like to thank you for coming to Newfoundland, I’m quite glad you enjoyed your visit and our rugged landscape and I hopes you’ll return again. For sailing, Notre Dame Bay and The Labrador coast are also very spectacular routes.

    And I had to note here when you mentioned the name of Bay d’Espoire;
    “Ironically this bay is pronounced “Bay Despair” here, but it seemed like this area was one with renewed industry and perhaps more hope than despair for the time being.”

    Even more ironically it translates to English as “Bay of Hope”

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