We didn’t tarry long in Grand Bruit but set out the following morning for the only remaining out port on the south coast we had yet to visit, La Poile. I’m not sure if it was the disappointment of finding Grand Bruit empty or if I was just worn down, but I hardly set foot in La Poile. We tied up on the far side of the ferry wharf, chatted with the locals and watched the comings and goings on the waterfront. We stayed only one night and set out the following morning without a fixed destination, only intending to work our way west. We had read about Petites, a community that was resettled in 2003, so after only 15 Nmi we decided to motor in a take a look.
The Pilot guide we were using warned that the entrance into Petites harbor is very narrow and once in, there is almost no room to turn about and exit. With that in mind we anchored in the channel outside, behind Butt island, and took the dingy in to scope things out. I found Petites to be very beautiful and worth the visit but you must go in first with a dingy as it is extremely narrow and although the chart show an anchorage, there is absolutely no swing room. After locating the ledges and shallow spots we snuck in with the boat and tied up alongside the old fish wharf. This worked out for us as the weather was settled and the harbor very protected, but in another few years, or possibly one more winter, this won’t be an option as the wharf is in terrible shape. The old ferry wharf is already unusable by any sizeable boat. From the fish wharf we weren’t even able to walk to shore but had to row in since the wooden walkway was gone! If you were to anchor in the harbor you will have to run lines out to either side and I don’t know how you would manage to turn around to make your exit. At about 50‘ over all we had to warp the boat around on the dock just to get out.
In its hay day Petites must have been a place of exceptional beauty, home to one of the oldest churches in all of Newfoundland. Now after 11 years of neglect it’s once colorful houses slump towards the earth, the paved paths crumble, and the towns rotting wooden slip way is home to a family of beavers. We spent a few hours wandering around in a sort of hushed silence, poking our heads into the more stable looking buildings, windows into past lives. There was the old wood shop complete with a saw mill, and a house with coffee, tea and sugar remaining in the open cupboard!! One place even had clothes on hangers in the closet and a library full of books. It was a spooky sad sort of experience. We had now seen the progression from a fully active community back to bare land. In Grand Bruit it was fours years past relocation, 11 years in petites and 30-40 years in Rencontre West and in many of the bays and fjords we anchored in only the memories passed on to us in stories marked location of lost outports.
I don’t mean to romanticize these outports or the people that live in them but it was a very rich and touching experience I have had here. I feel blessed to have been able to visit the five that still remain and to have been so warmly welcomed into the homes and lives of the people who live here. As a point in fact, when we arrived in Port Au Basque after leaving Petites we went to look up Gord and Linda whom we had met in Grand Bruit a month earlier. We found their number in the phone book and when I call it Linda picked up and I said “Hello this Matt and Jess from Heart’s Desire, we met you in Grand Bruit a few weeks back.” Her response was “Oh yes hi, Gord saw you come in and is already on his way down to pick you up for supper.”
Hi there, thank you some much for the lovely images of Petites! It was my home to me from 1973 when I was 2 years of age till I had to leave for high school. I was describing it today to some work friends and a quick Google looking for pictures led me to your site. I really appreciate that you have recorded it.
It really was a lovely way to grow up. Your site brought back some amazing memories.
Petites ,that beautiful , rugged , friendly , barren place. Was once home to my friends whom I met when I went there in 1960 for my first job ,teaching. I arrived from Pool’s Cove Fortune Bay. That’s where I experienced home sickness for the first time. That was also where I met my husband to be . He was a young student minister, and I a teacher . I played the organ in the church for church services and Sunday school. The church was very beautiful then . It had a balcony even though it was a small church . I shall always treasure the memories of the people and the place. Warm friendly people. Some of. The best. I have been to many more places in Newfoundland since then and experienced other fond memories . All along that coast the people were friendly and treated you like family. You mentioned Cape La Hune bay. My mother belonged to Cape La Hune and I visited there as well. A very lovely place with friendly people . The church in Petites was 135 years old in 1960 . That was 55 years ago so it’s almost200 years now. It’s sad to see it like that now. The people took great pride in their church. Thanks for writing about it . Marion
Thanks for sharing such a nice story! We were exited to hear from you and your husband and were so intrigued by the interesting history of the coast. We’ll send you a longer email and hope that all is well.
Petite so that beautiful , wonderful friendly,rugged place. Started my grown up years there as a kindergarten teacher. The people were very friendly . I taught school there , played the organ for church services and Sunday school. Met the young minister, who is now my husband, and made many friends. I will always have a warm spot in my heart for that place . Makes me sad to see the church in that run down condition. The church was 135 years old when I lived there in 1960 that’s 55 years ago. Time flies and we get older . Glad you enjoyed your trip. Marion
The old United Church in Petites was my first church as a student minister. In1960 it was a beautiful building with a lot of character. So sad to see it in such a delapidated condition. Many of us student ministers had our beginning in that church and supportive congregation.
It is unfortunate that the church is now so run down and on the verge of collapse but it is still picturesque and you can tell how lovely it once was. Things don’t last too long without care in the harsh coastal environment. There is still a family using the port to fish that keeps up some paths and their house, but otherwise things are slowly going back to nature. In some ways it is a blessing that most structure were wooden and so will fade away rather than leaving a heap of plastic. I’m sure your name is still in the registry in he church. Thanks for the comment!
Hi Matt & Jess,
Really beautiful photography and an adventure to be envied for sure! I have enjoyed all of the writings and photos so very much.
Wishing you a good sail back to the Vineyard!