Saturday, 4 August 2012

Aboard Taniwha - Part 3: Port Aux Basques - First taste of Newfoundland

As we sailed out from the bay we had been anchored in, we saw a motor launch heading straight for us. I jokingly said to Nick, "If they don't give way to us, we should call the cops!" The boat got closer and closer, and it became apparent that they were heading straight for us. They circled around our stern and drew up on our port side, and I realized that they were the cops! They were just coming to check up on us since we had our Canadian courtesy flag on display to show that we were not local. Unfortunately, our Australian ensign had fallen off the back of the boat in the first strong winds out of Québec, but these police did not seem to mind, as long as they had our Canada customs number.

After a day's sailing through rather large and complicated waves, the wind dropped and we motored into the night, which suddenly became very foggy in the early hours of the morning.

As we got closer to the shoreline, Nick handed me a vuvuzela, which serves as Taniwha's foghorn!

Although I blew on it a few times, we did not really need the vuvuzela: we emerged from the fog into brilliant sunshine about a mile offshore.

 Nick gingerly steered us into the harbour, never quite sure that there would be enough water to allow Taniwha's 10-foot keel to pass.

No sooner had we tied up to a slimy wooden jetty than an enormous ferry came roaring in through the channel we had passed through. Dominating the little harbour, the ferry executed a skilful handbrake turn to dock at the ferry port on the other side. This ferry that runs from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port-Aux-Basques and is the main link between the Canadian mainland and Newfoundland.

From the moment we tied up, a steady stream of locals pulled up in their cars, mostly to look at us - although some talked to us in the characteristic Newfoundland accent with its unique turns of phrase. For some reason, I could understand the accent almost perfectly: being from the British Isles must help a lot, as does having spent nearly a year in Canada: "Newfounese" seems to be a mixture of West Country, Irish, and rural Canadian, with the occasional touch of cockney thrown in.

Our most prolific visitor was a retired man called Brainer, who gave me a tour of the town in his car. He drove me along pretty much every street in the place, showing me where the many fish processing plants used to be, and where the few remaining ones are, as well as all the houses he had lived in, all the houses his ex-wife had lived in, and all the houses and cars his brother owns.

Port-Aux-Basques has two ends, separated by a plateau of wilderness a few miles long.

 I first discovered the plateau when walking up the largest hill I could see, which had a radio mast on top. I spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering around on top, watching frogs basking on the shores of black ponds.

Leaving Port-Aux-Basques, we soon found ourselves agaion surrounded by fog, and started to hear the fog horn of what must have been a rather large ship. We guessed that it must have been one of the leviathan ferries - fortunately we could see on the radar that it was over 2 miles away. In a clearing, we got a confirmed sighting of the ship, passing about a mile off our stern, but still looking pretty massive.

A few miles on, Michelle spotted a large and dark strange shape in the water ahead. Our first thoughts were of whales, but the shape was unlike any whale imaginable. Michelle wondered aloud whether dugongs inhabit these waters, but as the creature lazily sculled its way past our starboard side, we could see that it was a HUGE leatherback turtle, over a metre long! We later learned that these creatures come up north to feed on the plentiful jellyfish that inhabit these waters in the summer.

That night, shortly after sunset, we saw what looked like a bright red light on the side of a huge ship on the horizon. This light got wider and wider, and then started getting taller and taller, and as it rose into the sky, we realized that it was the moon as we'd never seen it before.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I love your blog!