La Scie, just on the north side of Cape John, is the first of the old French fishing ports encountered as you sail north along the east coast of Newfoundland. It is not an interesting place, except as a haven from bad weather, but it did have showers at the public wharf and a gas station nearby. In a testament to the latitudes we were getting to (we’d just crossed the 50th parallel of north latitude rounding Cape John), a notice at the head of the wharf strictly forbade the pelting of seals on it. We half hoped someone would disobey the injunction, so we could watch a seal being pelted. But no one did, and feeling very fresh from the showers, we left after breakfast the next day to take advantage of a rare un-swelly sea.
It was only 20 miles or so to Fleur de Lys, named so after a three-pointed hill that rises above the harbor. While Danielle read to Antigone and Emily down below, Damaris kept me company at the helm. This is less restful than it sounds. I made the mistake once of playing with some of her dolls, walking them about and giving them voices, and now I’m required constantly to do “Funny Shows.” It could be the same one over and over, for all she cares, as long as I’m careful to do it exactly as she remembers it. I can’t, of course, so sometimes her doll is a tyrant queen, wielding an iron bamboo spoon with which she orders her varlets about; sometimes she’s a shopkeeper, and the other dolls buy her goods. It takes more imagination than I can command sometimes, when I have to pay attention to my steering and the mainsail looks like wanting to gybe. But today the steering was easy and after a couple of shows, followed by pretending to die noisily and dramatically of pig bites, Fleur de Lys harbor hove itself into view.
It was a small sort of place, not in the least dramatic or breathtaking, but it looked clean, tidy, and somehow shiny. It was the sort of harbor where the harbormaster, if he was around, would lock up his office and hide away somewhere so as not to have to charge wharfage—at least we never saw him. It was the sort of place where locals would carefully back their cars down the wharf and sit there smoking until you noticed them and came out for a chat. You’re expected, if you see folk setting on a porch, to walk up and set as well. I was given, on one porch, a giant bowl of turkey-neck soup, with an equally giant dumpling, out of a vast cauldron that simmered perpetually on the stove. There being little else to talk about, we discussed the sad state of frozen turkey necks these days. “Not big like we used to get en.” “No, they only sends small ones along these days.”
Thankfully, turkey neck soup wasn’t the only thing on the menu. A few hours after we tied up, a couple of fishing skiffs returned, laden not only with buckets of mackerel, but a giant Ocean Sunfish, or Mola Mola.
The latter was not to eat—it was just brought in as a curiosity. “She were going to be a pod of orcas’ dinner,” said the fisherman. “They were circling all ‘round, and she come in among us to hide, so we gaffed her on in.” The sunfish was admired by all for a few minutes, then allowed to swim lazily away. The mackerel, though, were for dinner, and everyone who had wandered down to the wharf to see the sunfish got a goodly share.
We spent the weekend at Fleur de Lys, hiking a trail through miles of blueberries to Spotted Cove, where we watched two bald eagles flying along below the cliff-edge; visiting an old native soapstone quarry; fishing in the shadows underneath the wharf; setting on porches gazing out at the water. It was among the nicest places we’ve been to yet.
Though the locals told us we could easily just leave the boat tied up to the wharf all winter with no problem, we weren’t quite ready to retire yet, turkey-neck soup notwithstanding, so we cast off early one morning to trudge the 40 miles to Englee. There were possible stops on the way, but there was bad weather coming and we didn’t fancy getting stuck in an uninhabited fjord for maybe even a week when our last decent grocery store had been the sad selection at Twilingate. We spent only one night at Englee, arriving early enough to walk some trails on the surrounding high hills and see pods of whales playing and spouting out to sea, and enjoy laundry and showers at the harbor office. But the weather forecast had become more gloomy with each update, so we did another pre-dawn start and motored the 45 miles to St. Anthony though a calm made altogether creepy by the gyrations and acrobatics of the clouds that hurried along overhead. It proved to be a good decision, and there were not just us but three other cruising boats that made the dash to St. Anthony that day, mostly up from Labrador.
One of the boats was Companera, a wooden trawler-sailor from Alaska whom we’d met several years ago in Mexico and El Salvador, in Pacific Central America. We had a nice sociable time with Jill and Doug while the gales shrieked overhead, comparing notes on various stops we’d shared along the way.
They had taken the long way ‘round, through the Straits of Magellan and out to the Falklands, while we had transited the Panama Canal for quicker access to the Caribbean. But here we all were again, this time in sweaters and wool hats instead of sweltering under thatched palapa eaves. I gave them our Newfoundland coast pilot, and in return Jill gave me her book, Rowing to Latitude, by Jill Fredston. It was most welcome, since I’ve just run out of reading material and had started plowing through Bowditch again. If the bad weather continues, though, I’ll have it all read and done with before we can get out of here, and by the look of the forecast, I may have to read it twice.