Travels in and offshore Newfoundland Canada 1988

Moments in fine paddling and camping

Gail Ferris


        Jon Cons and I took off from his home in Kezar Falls Maine in his Chevy Blazer for the ferry in Portland to take us up over night to Nova Scotia. 

On our way we stopped at the Shelburne Museum in Nova Scotia to look at the shop where dories are built.  This was my first time seeing how dories are be built with Nova Scotian traditional methods and materials.

From there we were to drive up the coast of Nova Scotia and overnight at the Bra d’ore lakes.  Then we were to drive to North Sydney Nova Scotia and hop the ferry for Newfoundland.




        From there we were to drive up the coast of Nova Scotia and overnight at the Bra d’ore lakes.  We got there in great time, few people on the road, nice early July summer weather with endless flowers in bloom.

The next day we were to drive to the northern most tip of Nova Scotia, North Sydney and hop the ferry for Newfoundland.

        Jon told me that the ferry does 23 knots it also has hydro capability to do turns.  Wow I thought as I watched the Newfoundland ferry arrive doing 23 knots and make a dime turn to the slip.  That was a fun sight!  It just dropped in and spun around on a dime turn.

        So as we were ensconced in the ferry the crossing of the mouth of the saint Lawrence was not all that bad.  Just out of curiosity in the bar on the ferry we decided to experience a sample called “Screech” touted to be  a horrible mixture of anything distilled mixed together.  It turns out to be sold in liquor stores as a mix of rum, not of anything distilled in the closet as might be.

        Whew I can tell you that “Screech” is some mix of hard booze!  I can tell you that this stuff is not sold anywhere else than Newfoundland and you have got to be pretty desperate to drink that stuff, but we tried just so that we would know!

        In preparation to know something about Newfoundland I happened to have read about this concoction in A Whale for the Killing by Farley Mowat where he describes people just pouring together what ever booze they can find and that makes “Screech” which makes you sort of do that when you drink it!

        Once we landed on the other side, sure enough it was grey and gloomy.  All the houses are small and painted all sorts of colors as if the town was an endless experiment in testing paint colors.

        Parts of San Francisco neighbor hood houses are like this but they use more integrated colors and pay more attention to trim and highlights to accent the post Civil War era houses.

We knew one thing, “We ain’t staying here that’s for sure!”  This place is just as said to be in the guide book as a very dreary place.  So we high tailed it up the road, but soon enough it did not look so bad.

        I was concerned about an un avoidable passage noted for high winds between some mountains that features very strong winds that can send light high volume vehicles off the road.  We made it through there without any problem, it was summer.

        All along we were wondering what to do but things were looking better now, should we drive on up the coast or should we look for a park with camping available?  Who reads maps anyway? But signs are a different matter!

        Luckily Jon noticed a provincial park sign indicating camping was available along the road just after we were leaving town.  That could have not been better because neither of us wanted to travel any farther.  We just wanted to stop, set up camp and relax now that we were officially in Newfoundland. 

        The park was JT Cheeseman Provincial Park.  We had gotten there at about 9 in the evening here in Newfoundland it was still very light even though by our standards the sun would be setting if we were still south in Maine.  

        No one else was there but we did not think about it.  We were up from Maine and vacation season was already underway in Maine as the schools had let out.  Here in Newfoundland we were early.

        Now we where in the Newfoundland time zone which is 1.5 hours ahead of eastern time.  It was so hard to believe that the sun was sill very bright at 23:00 in the evening. 

        The area was lush with basalt cliffs sheltering the area so we went for a lovely walk along the bay edge.  The shallows were bright and filled with plenty of seaweeds indicating how lush this area is.

        What fun the bright sun so late at night?  We planned in advance not to paddle on the south coast because the weather was often really difficult stormy, windy, very foggy and rainy.  We had heard this and read in advance about where the best weather would be and I can tell you it is not in the Strait of Bell Isle either, because every possible thundershower seems to just go up and down that strait.  We wanted to have a nice paddle in our Klepper Aerius II and see what the north and northeast shoreline of Newfoundland looks like.

        The next day was pleasant we broke camp and drove up the west coast of Newfoundland on the Trans Canada and stopped in Corner Brook which was a small but sophisticated city.  This was definitely the last place where we could purchase any items we had forgotten.  We looked around in the hardware store just to make sure.

        On the northern shore of Newfoundland we planned to paddle from the west to east in the Bay of Exploits.  That looked like a good place on the map.

        On the map we decided the best place to overnight and organize our equipment was at Roberts Arm.  We assembled our Klepper and tried it out in the lake behind the motel.  All was fine the Klepper assembled perfectly except that I was absolutely sure that this lake must be a saltwater pond.  No! it sure wasn’t, wow was I shocked when Jon said to me look at the edges do you see any seaweed or barnacles. 

        I reached over the side at Jon’s beaconing and sampled the water, wow it sure was not salt water!  To my amazement it did not have any seaweed or shellfish in it because as Jon pointed out, it was fresh water.  Oh no was I in trouble, good thing we did not do what I thought was a great idea.  I thought all we had to do was to disembark from behind the motel.

        I just figured that we had to be so close to the water that the lake must be a tidal pond.  Was I ever surprised!

        We drove past the bottom of Browns Bay which I thought was really going to be a very uninteresting shoreline because on the map it was just a long V.  I figured it would be very monotonous and offer no place to come in for a landing.

        I suggested we look farther for an area where the shoreline was more varied so we continued toward Pellys Island on a side route.

        We happened to come across our first signed crossing labeled Flat Rock Tickle.  I looked out at the varied friendly shoreline and we also noticed another sign at the crossing stating that the property was guarded by RCMP.  We thought to ourselves this sounds very much to our needs.  There were homes and structures in good repair, new cars and a marine rail with a yacht on a cradle on the rails.

        To our relief at Flat Rock Tickle we found that there were gracious people who were delighted with our kayaking project and would be only too pleased to allow us to park our car for a couple weeks and launch near a marine railroad.  These people were from Corner Brook and would be around on their summer holiday while our car was parked there for a couple weeks.  Wow were we relieved to know that we could just launch from a protected area and not have to worry about any possible vandalism to our car, seeing as we had Maine plates on it, not Canadian plates.

        Now you probably wonder why do they call places --- tickle?  Well actually it makes a lot of sense when you are going from place to place by boat.  If you are going through a narrow passage what better descriptive term than “tickle” to let you know you are going through a narrow area most likely bounded with rocks as well.


tickle means a small passage you can tickle the bottom of your boat on


Below is our coast line we were to look forward to wandering among for the next couple weeks in the heat of summer.


tide is out and the water is flat as a pancake


        On our first day we saw this sort of weather and we were dressed for the occasion but glad that the wind was following us at 12 knots.  It certainly was hot and bright on the water, glad we had hats and sun glasses!

        I enjoyed the motion of the Klepper as the stern paddle in following seas, it was like a rocking chair gliding along.

        We were paddling the classic Klepper Aerius II with a blue canvas deck and silver hull just a wonderful kayak.




        This was our first moment of what it looks like on a hot summer day.  Note the edges of these islands are just brown basalt which means that there are not that many places to come in for a landing.

        Off these cliffs in 1989 fishing for cod was done with nets run from the rocks diagonally into the water.  This is the only place in the world I know of where they run cod nets this way.

At first we just la di dah paddled under them as we thought “oh we can just do this!” with complete impunity we hugged the shore passing under the net lines. 

        Then we thought about it, “What if we should get caught on one of these lines?” so after that experiment we decided we better paddle under those lines very carefully or go out and around them.  It would be a nasty situation to get our kayak caught under these taught lines.  We stayed clear of them from then on whenever we came across the cod fish net lines.

        At this time Cod was still the main staple of the Newfoundland economy now in 2011 that fishery has long since collapsed.




        In the photo below you can see that we are paddling with Warner Furrer paddles I think they were 8.5 feet long which is a good length for average paddler to use for paddling a double Klepper.  The Klepper is a wide boat.

        This particular paddle, the San Juan, is really tough, we knew from experience the paddle is very unlikely to break, although I assure you we were not planning to dig clams with it.  This blade has a nice shape for touring. 

Unfortunately the shaft was defectively manufactured and did have some roughness to it which constantly raised blisters.  Without the slightest doubt from this experience I recommend never using a paddle with a rough shaft because it will ruin your hands.  I can tell you from experience I wound up with every finger having some sort of bandage on them.  I wound up with terrible blisters on each finger and I cannot tell you how many band aids I used at a time but I had to cover all sorts of open blisters.

Luckily Jon happened to bring an extra paddle that had smaller surface area but a smooth shaft called Little Dipper.




It was great fun to watch a classic boat note no running numbers and no outboard just a tiller on the stern.  The motor was a one-lunger which chugged along chukka chukka chuk. 




        We were amazed to see no identifying numbers on boats or on lobster pots.  I figure everybody knows everybody so you can’t get too far if you steal somebody’s boat or rob their lobster pots.

I noticed that lobster pots only have just only a piece of floating line with no sort of marker.  Something you never see in the States.  I figured that the ice can gather on the buoy and when the ice goes out the pots goo too.  With just a simple floating line but the ice can be shed off the line easily.

        Lobsters are caught under strictly controlled fishery in assigned areas within the proscribed season only.  The season is very short because the population is very limited.


a lobsterman checking his pots


        What a delight it was to see these boats always in white, very seaworthy with everyone going everywhere among the islands all summer long.  I enjoyed these sights where all life comes from the water.  Here these boats really are seaworthy boats able to take waves at any moment!


look at the rounded hull and the stern


        An enlargement to show you the wake sheering off the hull. This is a well designed efficient hull.


look at the wake how it shears off the hull because this hull has a hollow stern to detach of the wake forward of the stern


        One thing we found out while visiting was that nobody could figure out why we or anybody would come to Newfoundland for a visit unless we were related. 

        We kept quiet about our kayak plans.

        We got to see the first iceberg either of us had ever seen in our lives.


hot weather calm waters


We investigated it very closely as it was just sitting there, grounded out, melting by the minute with rivulets of water flowing off in the hot sun.




I was absolutely fascinated with the brilliant blue bands in the iceberg.  They reflect blue light which is why they are so blue.  Icebergs are of compacted snow.


if this iceberg had split up or rolled over we would have been toast!


The endless horizon to the south of trap rock type of basalt rock faces flanking the islands and peninsulas.




These are dry cliffs on the way east which later sported some waterfalls after a rainstorm.





some foggy paddling


        We were on our way past Fortune Bay a town on an island which had a T shaped entrance on the north side of the island.  As we passed by I was navigating in the bow seat and took notice of the details of the area.  I noticed that there was the actual entrance on the west and a dead end entrance to the inner harbor on the east side.

        Later on our return we encountered that fog that starts up from an oily calm.


in the back near the cliffs is the whale spouting


        We just happened to see a whale spouting along the cliffs.  To me at first I thought somebody has a serious plumbing problem, what a leak!  Then we realized that the spout was moving and it could only be a whale.

        Below in the photo is a view of our deck load just so you can see we had our handy bowline and our sea drogue incase of extreme conditions.

        The yellow box was for the camera and the net was the dip net Jon brought specially to fill with rocks that would anchor the outhaul.



        Rather than bring the kayak up on shore Jon had the great idea of creating an outhaul from an article I think Audrey Sutherland wrote for putting the kayak afloat out on an outhaul.  John rigged this outhaul by bringing a fish net and long line attached to the bow double the necessary length for the outhaul rig. 

        The trick for rigging an outhaul was to load the dip net with rocks tie it to the outhaul line and put on the bow deck just at the tip of the bow.  Next he would push the kayak off and just as the kayak gets far enough out he would jerk the outhaul line just hard enough to cause the dip net to fall off.  If the kayak is far enough out all was well and if not he would reload the dip net and repeat the same.  This saved us from having to completely unload the kayak and carry it up over the traprock beach.  There were very few sand beaches.


see the outhaul works, just fine.


Calm evening with the kayak on its outhaul.


why drag the kayak up the beach if you can just leave it on an outhaul?


        We paddled among inhabited islands some of them had temporary houses built on wharves and this type of house is built to float.  These houses are levered off the shoreline in the fall and are positioned in the spring because these islands are not owned as private property.

        All summer people travel back and forth in their motor boats visiting as people do in Greenland from town to town.

        In the fall everyone moves back to land.

        Various islands are being connected to land by new bridges.




Our tent served us well and we got to experience a fierce thundershower in it and it remained perfectly dry.




Jon had made sure to bring a pot big enough to boil lobsters and shell fish in.

On our way out heading east we decided that we just could not resist and bought some lobsters.  Wow were we lucky because just as we were about to put ashore we encountered a lobsterman who had some lobsters and was happy to sell a couple to us. 

The season is very short in Newfoundland and was just to close in a few days so it was now or never for lobster in Newfoundland. 

Naturally we had to compare these lobsters to Maine lobsters.  They were just as tasty.