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.”