"the sea was angry that day my friend like ...

Trip Start Jul 06, 2001
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Trip End Jul 22, 2001


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Flag of Canada  , Newfoundland,
Friday, July 13, 2001

"The sea was angry that day, my friend. Like an old man sending back soup in a deli." - George Costanza

This great quote ran through my head for most of the day this Thursday but I'll get to that later. At this point I was inshore at the very ordinary town of Grand Falls-Windsor. There is definitely one thing going for Grand Falls-Windsor though. It has a McDonald's. I was set for a great day after chowing down on a Sausage 'n' Egg McMuffin, hash browns, and an orange juice. I then headed down to the Mary March Museum.

This museum was named after a Beothuk Indian woman whose real name was Desmasduit. In the early 1800's as her people were dying out she was being arrested by the local police on some trumped up charge. Her husband was killed during the arrest and so was a friend to tried to free her. Her small child was left behind and soon perished. After being held for a couple of months, the authorities attempted to return her to her people and she died on route. The English called her Mary March and she became a symbol of the genocide of the Beothuk people. Shanawdithit, the last known Beothuk died in 1829.

The Beothuks were a fishing society who didn't get along with the newly arrived Europeans. They moved inland where they failed to adapt to the new environment and European diseases laid waste to their population. The museum itself was rather disappointing. I thought it would focus solely on the life of the Beothuk peoples but while it gave more space to that subject than most other local museums the museum was another general history of the entire island.

I drove along the Trans-Canada for a short piece. The area around Grand Falls reminded me of Northern Ontario with slightly shorter trees. The shallow soil won't support large trees. I noticed along the 430 the previous two days that topsoil is in such short supply that people fence off gardens wherever they can find enough to grow vegetables even if it means driving 20lm out of town.

I headed north on Highway #340. This brought me into Lewisporte where there is a Dildo Street. Newfoundland has the most charming and sometimes giggle-inducing names. Here are list of some of the best: Dildo, Dildo Run, Ragged Harbour, Horney Head, Woody Point, Backside Pond, Harry's Knob, Pussey's Gully, Ass Hill, Shag Rock, Dick Rock, Piss Pot Hill and Blowhole.

I turned up Highway #342 to check in on the towns of Embree and Little Burnt Bay. I really never tired of wandering through these scenic little villages. I guess I'm just amazed to see these places that haven't been built with systematic efficiency by suburb developers.

Back on the 340 I passed by Baytona. Just think, one little typo and perhaps a whole busload of drunken frat boys end up here some March. I kind of thought that the name Baytona was rather bad but the town used to be called Gay Side and I'm not sure which is worse.

Highway #340 takes you all the way up to Twillingate. The population of Twillingate is listed at just over 3000 people, which would make it a large regional center. Rumour has it that the population has dipped significantly since the closing of the cod fishery, down to below 2000 perhaps. The town is recovering quite well now. It's pretty much converted itself to a tourist economy. Being on iceberg alley helps quite a bit. Two iceberg/whale watching tours operate out of Twillingate. Several bed and breakfasts can be easily found as well as an excellent new campground. What makes this campground so great? They actually use nice, soft 2-ply toilet paper. There are also several small local museums to visit. I immediately headed to the harbourfront to meet "The Iceberg Man."

Cecil Stockley has been running his iceberg boat tour each summer since 1985. This makes him a pioneer in eco-tourism in the area. Chances are if you've seen an iceberg photo on a postcard from North shore of Newfoundland, he was the photographer. You could see a huge iceberg right in the mouth of the harbour so the tours were booked solid. The 1pm and 4pm tours were already filled. Cecil offered to phone across to his competition to see if they had spots but I would have rather done it with the Iceberg Man so I took my chances and waited. I wandered about town and took some pictures. Then I had my trouble with the local library's computers that led to my abbreviated posting you all received.

I went back to check in on Cecil's shop in mid-afternoon to see if they had a cancellation. He had decided to add a special 6pm tour. He claimed it was just to reward me for my loyalty but I knew better. The iceberg was moving out to sea and it was a way of getting some last revenue before it was beyond reach of his boat. I decided to try and take a better look at it from land in case it was indeed gone by 6pm. I went over to the town of Durrell, which sits near the eastern opening of the harbour but couldn't get very close for any pictures. I decided to try Long Point on the western side. Long Point is actually a part of a municipal park that has a nice lighthouse and some great cliff-side trails. I noticed when I arrived that the iceberg looked different from this vantage point. Another onlooker then told me that it has just buckled and sheared in half. One large piece lay almost totally underwater while the other still had a large above water profile (just not nearly as large as before). In the ten minutes it took me to drive from one side to the other I missed this awesome event. Well, in a mainlander's eyes I'm sure it would have been awesome. Two locals laying sod near the lookout point weren't nearly as impressed. One worker looked up and casually said, "Iceberg broke."

"Humph," shrugged the other without even looking up.

I went back into town and killed time by visiting the Twillingate museum. There are a lot of nice old antiques donated by local residents and a very good display about Marie Toulinguet (her real name was Georgina Sterling) who was from Twillingate and considered a huge opera star in her time.

It's time. It's time. It's iceberg time!

By now the sky and really gotten dark and a wind was whipping up. With no sun in sight Cecil still jokingly called it his sunset tour. Besides Cecil, his first mate and myself we had 8 other hearty souls willing to brave the sea spray for a good look at the iceberg. Inside the harbour we were okay. The water was a bit choppy but not uncomfortable. Then is started to rain but it wasn't too bad. Then we left that harbour and the weather really changed. The boat got quite tossed about and the wind drove the rain into your face. The first time we had a huge dip over a wave most of the other passengers made their way into the cabin (some never to venture out again until we were docked). The iceberg was quickly moving out to sea. We had to go 3 miles offshore to get to it. This particular one had been in the area for 6 weeks and now it was going to be gone for good. Cecil kept lamenting, "This single iceberg has been worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local economy. Now it'll be gone!"

Cecil is a pretty cool guy. He's a teacher and he never mentioned which pursuit provides supplementary income to the other. He explained that he was once like me, wandering around the country in his van seeing and learning everything he could.

"Then you meet a lady and that all changes," he snickered. The lady in this case is another teacher as well as a playwright and composer. They have four daughters. After giving up this information he then remarked, "And that's really why I need to have two jobs!"

I toughed it out on the foredeck of the boat all the way out. The rain wasn't that bad but then I caught a couple face-fulls of salt water. That will chill you to the bone. Cecil had a good laugh at my bravery/stupidity. I'm surprised my pictures turned out as well as they did considering how much I was being tossed around. Actually a couple of times both my feet left the deck while inside some passengers were thrown from their seats. We did a slow circle around the iceberg. It was a pale blue colour and remarkably smooth in places where the water lapped at it. It looked like polished marble.

During this time a thick fog had rolled inshore so Cecil had to navigate by radar. We had been gone for some time and apparently some people on shore were concerned because they couldn't see us. Cecil's mechanic radioed in to check on us. He and Cecil carried on this conversation that I found mostly unintelligible due to the mechanic's thick accent. While talking Cecil kept looking over at me with a big smile on his face and giggling. After he finished he asked, "Did you understand much of that?"

"No, your side of the conversation for sure but very little of his," I replied.

"I couldn't understand half of what he was saying too," he giggled.

We made it ashore safe and sound. I immediately headed to the bathroom to change my clothes. It was raining even harder now so I decided to wait in out inside the R&J Restaurant who serve an excellent fish 'n' chips. They didn't specify cod so I don't know what fish it was but they had an exquisite light batter and the homemade fries were well seasoned.

Just before the sun set a small piece of blue sky opened up which gave me hope the next day would be better. Of course, I was wrong.
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