A little bit of France 🇫🇷

Anxiously waiting for our go at jousting!!

So we went to France. I kid you not. And competed in the annual Jeux Nautiques in Saint Pierre. We came 8th! The other international team, a bunch of well prepared, motivated 25 year old Spanish lads, who have been working in the construction industry in Saint Pierre for a number of years came first. No matter. We fought well and kept up our end .

The rules for each game seemed mightily complex. And my French doesn’t stretch to complexities such as “the priest and the mayor bring the bride and the unicorn back with the signed contract and champagne”. Let me put a bit more context on that phrase…In one of the games, Dave and I got married again, an inflatable unicorn playing a significant role. That’s all you need to know.

Thankfully we had Amelie and Agathe in our team who did the translating of the rules. Plus Hans who was a star at diving for gold coins. I was rubbish at this being a natural floater rather than a sinker.

Our team was formed from the small gaggle of cruising boats in Saint Pierre. Our paths have crossed on more than one occasion as it seems we are the boats plus maybe 5 others who seem to make up the cruising contingent of south Newfoundland this summer.  Oh, and the two French islands, Miquelon and Saint Pierre. Mustn’t forget those as they provide the focus of this little report.

We are now sat at anchor in St Peters at the southern end of the Bra D’Or Lakes having made the overnight crossing back to Nova Scotia. All officially checked back into Canada with a shiny new Canpass number and no access to cheap French wine. It’s maybe 150 miles back to Halifax and ‘ta da”, we will have wind with some north in it for the next few days which is fine news for us sailing folk. The engine had a hearty workout coming back across the Cabot Straight and now deserves a long and well deserved rest.

Dave has woken up with a sore throat and an irritating cough. Both for him and me. (Perhaps wife should be more understanding and supportive?) I mused if it was a reaction to the thought of doing some work in a couple of weeks time. Unfair I know.

A few sailing decisions still to make….do we sail to Halifax in one hit or break the journey up which will give us time to see a bit more of the Nova Scotia Coast? Jury is still out. It may depend on how Dave feels. I will look after him, honestly. 😀

And yes, I guess I should tell you this too. There were 8 teams in the Jeux Nautiques.

 

La Hune Bay

We found what we came to look for in Newfoundland. No U2 ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ for Dave and H. La Hune Bay is a truly stunning place. The understated Mr Savage has spent the last three days saying ‘wow, this places is just amazing. I’m blown away by it’. For those of you know Dave well, that’s praise indeed. It’ll be tough to top this place for grandeur, scale and pure beauty. Plus we saw an otter.

We availed ourselves of a little rock climbing expedition one day. With no guide book, it was ‘make it up as you go’. Dave was route finder general. It was impossible to have a good gauge on how high this particular cliff actually is or how difficult it was all about to get. In the end, the rain came and stopped play and we sensibly backed off. We were 5 pitches up with the climbing being relatively easy but the position was quite committing. We abseiled off in 3 rope lengths with a bit of scrambling and hand lining at the bottom. Drinks deserved that evening.

Now we are in France. I kid you not. Miquelon and Saint Pierre are two French islands off the Newfoundland coast. We have been visited by customs, dug out the euros to buy bread and been filmed by French television who were collecting footage and stories for a piece on visiting boats. It all feels a bit bonkers but the French atmosphere pervades and St Pierre, where we will head to tomorrow, is apparently a tourist destination with restaurants and gift shops. That’ll be a contrast to uninhabited fjords you can only access by boat.

 

 

 

 

Walking with mosquitos

Newfoundland seems to be all about scale, be it big or small. Massive granite cliffs power from sea level up to 1,000 feet. Fjords with hidden entrances open up to reveal sedate rivers and sheltered waterfalls. The humpbacks are big, the mosquitos are small. One being more irritating than the other. Dave was resting his eyes yesterday afternoon so I headed off for a stroll around Francois, (pronounced Franz-way by the locals). It’s a place only accessible by boat. I wondered if there is a David Attenborough tv series to be made….walking with mosquitos. Perhaps I’ll pitch that one to a tv producer.

It’s a stunning coastline. Newfoundland is spectacular but more than that, an example of how events at an international level impact on local communities. The small towns, they are barely villages in our sense of the word, that occupy the sides of the deep fjords relied totally on fishing. They were expensive to keep up and the government here provided financial incentives to move away to larger less remote places. Then the cod fishery collapsed, and Canada having a longer term vision than most, instigated a moratorium on cod fishing. Overnight whole communities had no work.

We were in Grand Bruit a few nights ago. There are about 50 houses there. 6 people were in residence the night we stayed. Maybe 20 is the maximum over the summer as families visit their old homesteads. The pattern suggest such places will eventually die completely and these fjords and villages will become totally quiet.

We met three of the six residents, friendly folk who come to chat. Gerry and Joe we called the ‘Cod Men’. They gave us 4 massive cod fillets, caught maybe an hour beforehand. We had cod for breakfast and cod for dinner. Thanks boys.

Isle aux Morts is an island which has a similar story to the Northumbrian tale of its local heroine Grace Darling. A link to our boat no less! Ann Harvey was 17 when she assisted her father and brother in rescuing 163 people from the shipwrecked vessel Dispatch. There’s a tiny museum on the island which we visited. I was able to impress the two local ladies who worked there with my knowledge of Grace Darling as she is mentioned in their dispatches. A few brownie points for me there. History in action. I got an E for O level and a B for A level in history from the auspicious Hayden Bridge High School. Work that one out if you can.

Today the fog has returned. Tomorrow it’s supposed to bugger off again. Let’s hope so. La Hune is next for us. More granite and the bag of rope and bits of metalwork may well see an airing if the rock is dry. Dave may have a sleepless night like a kid waiting for Christmas.

Crab and viper

 

 

One day we bask in close cloying humid heat, maybe 34 degrees centigrade. The next I’m cooking porridge for breakfast like a dreich Tuesday in late November. Goodbye Nova Scotia, hello Newfoundland.

Newfoundland is delivering well on the fog quotient. We have been here in Port aux Basques one night and today was a public holiday. Imagine a typical british bank holiday but with a layer of wet dense fog cloaking the view. There you have it. We, of course, went for a 2 hour hikette along part of the coast. It was quite gloomy. 😀

Rather than being anchored as normal, we are on the public dock. It’s about £6 a night. A load of laundry is 60p. The WiFi is strong and we can pick it up on the boat. We like this kind of pricing. When the fog lifts and the sun shines, it’ll be a very different place. Fingers crossed.

Our last destination in Nova Scotia was Ingonish. We met a lovely local couple on the dock who took us under their wing and ferried us about generously so we could walk a couple of trails. They also treated us a snow crab cookout at their cabin. I’m now a whizz at dispatching, cleaning and cooking said crustaceans. Boy do they taste good and sweet. Allan also has a Dodge Viper, an 8 litre, 10 cylinder muscle car and he took me out for a little spin. In return, we took Allan and Corein out for a sail on Grace. He’s in the market for a sail boat and hopefully we were able to increase his knowledge a modicum. Our time in Ingonish was special.

As I write, the kerosene heater is getting a work out. Dave has an Ikea blanket across his knees as he finishes his book. We’ve watched a couple of episodes of a series recommended to us on Netflix called Longmire which looks promising. There you have it. A summer evening in Newfoundland.