Highs and Lows in Twilingate, Newfoundland

Things weren't looking so good for the Zartman family's stopover in this small fishing village, but then they met the charismatic and very helpful mayor.

Zartman- Twilingate

A quiet day in TwillingateDanielle Zartman

At first, Twilingate appeared to brim with promise. Negotiating the approach channel we saw the back of a Foodland supermarket dominating the harbor; we hadn’t seen more than a convenience store since leaving Bonavista. In the harbor, though the water was bright pink from shrimp processing and smelled to high heaven, there was plenty of room, and there were showers and laundry in the harbor authority building. All of it almost too good to be true—and at first it was.

Though right on the water’s edge, the Foodland was all the way around the other side of the harbor: a considerable walk. Then it proved to be one of the saddest supermarkets ever, worse even than the stores in Costa Rica (our benchmark for everything disappointing), which was surprising for such a big town.

Danielle was absolutely spoiling for a shower, and the ladies’ room shower valve didn’t work. There was no chance of using the men’s even late at night or early morning, since the fish plant went 24-7 and there were guys in and out of there all the time. Of course I had a shower, and very refreshing it was, but Danielle and the girls had to remain dirty. Then there was neither toilet paper not paper towels in the bathrooms, no coffee in the lounge, and the TV didn’t work. To top it off, there was no place for the girls to play near the boat—the wharves were crawling with forklifts, big trucks, and the usual Newfoundland casual drivers: park the car, smoke a cig, drive away. Far too many chances for little girls to get squashed.

There was bad weather on the way (anytime there isn’t bad weather in Newfoundland it’s on the way, depend upon it), and we were beginning to regret our decision to wait it out there when another big pickup idled along the wharf and stopped. “Hello the boat!”

I stuck my head out the companionway and returned the standard greeting in my best ‘Newfie’. “Hit’s a foine day!”

“Beautiful day!” came the countersign. Now we could get to business. But this was no idle driver—it was the harbormaster, come to welcome us to Twilingate and collect the nominal wharfage fee. But he wasn’t just harbormaster, it turned out. Gordon Noseworthy was also the mayor of Twilingate, and he gave us the rundown on everything there was to see and do, offered to drive us wherever we might need to go, and promised to do his best to find several crucial charts we were lacking for our cruise to Notre Dame Bay. Wharfage, which here included the showers and laundry (not coin-op; just normal machines), worked out to about ten dollars a day, Sundays free, and there was wifi in the lounge. Things were looking up.

Maybe it’s not too often that cruisers visit Twilingate; maybe he was up for re-election—no telling. But in the few days we were there Mayor Noseworthy exerted himself heroically. A new, working television appeared in the lounge, which also became stocked with coffee (complimentary), creamer, sugar, paper towels; needful things appeared in the bathrooms, and though his efforts to find charts were fruitless, he evidently did have a good try. He wouldn’t take wharfage for more than just two nights, and stopped by now and again just to see how we were getting on. One could see why he was mayor—I’d have voted for him too. We never got a chance to mention the shower valve, so Danielle never got her wash, but we did find a splendid play park for the girls up the road from a second supermarket, one which somewhat filled in the gaps left by the Foodland.

Our chart supply dilemma was solved by someone else—a local resident who was attracted to Ganymede because he also happens to own an Atkins-designed gaff-headed cutter. Eric Facey had an impressive sailing resume, it turned out as we talked, and also three huge boxes full of charts we were welcome to borrow. I spent a very pleasant afternoon at his house, which was more full of seafaring books and artifacts than I imagined existed, sorting through charts of Notre Dame Bay, the Northern Peninsula, and the straits of Belle Isle, returning to Ganymede with a triumphant armload of needful cartography.

Though still noisy, smelly and largely unattractive, Twilingate proved less of a disappointment than we’d feared: it is, after all, full of Newfoundlanders, who excel at looking out not only for each other, but for any strangers that happen to wash up on their shores. And those that do are never strangers for long.

We are the Zartman family: Ben & Danielle, and our three girls, Antigone, Emily and Damaris. We created this blog to chronicle our sailing adventures on Ganymede, a home-finished 31-foot gaff-rigged cutter, which has been our home since 2009, when we sailed from San Francisco, California, to the Sea of Cortez, then down along the Central American coast.