July 29, 2015
This whole “cruising the Newfoundland coast” thing has had a big unknown pop up-weather. Before we came up, we figured a week of weather delays into our plans. With 4 days in Rose Blanche and another (looks like) 4 where we are now, in Ship Cove on Ramea Island, our weather budget is shot. Oh well, that’s boatin’. Lemme back up to our departure from Rose Blanche.
On the morning of the 23rd, the wind finally dropped and the seas calmed to 3’. We set our course to Grand Bruit (pronounced brit-another Anglicized corruption of an originally French name. Rose Blanche originated as Roche Blanche, meaning “white rock”. Bruit (brooey) refers to the sound made by flowing water-a nod to the waterfall that flows through the middle of town here.) Geez, as long as I’m doing housekeeping, let me get this item out of the way. Yesterday, I got a compliment on one of the pictures in the gallery-undeserved. The snappin’ is totally within the purview of the Admiral. She takes 90% of the shots we put in our gallery. If I get one worthy of posting, it’s just dumb luck. As long as we’re talkin’ about the gallery, if you click on the opening pic, it opens up the gallery behind it for that particular date. We’re in the process of spiffin’ up the site, so things should get easier. Okay, back to the point (James Joyce got nuthin’ on me-I think he was ADHD too!).
Along the way, we see 2 more Mola Mola’s-Suzanne’s taken to calling me Mola Mola Man-not sure how to take that. Four hours later, we’re pulling into the beautiful little harbor of Grand Bruit. Some 60 multicolored houses are clustered around the shore and up the hillside. Across a tickle (narrow seawater cut) the graveyard filled with white stones covers the side of a small island. Up at the head of the small bay, a waterfall cascades through the middle of town and into the sea. Not a person in sight, and there’s a good reason for that. This is an abandoned outport. For the next few hours we poke around the town, peeking in windows and entering the few unlocked buildings. Most are still furnished with curtains on the windows and look like the owners just stepped out to the grocery store (5 years ago). A dory pulls in to a dock, and the family on it walk up to the church where we had been standing watching them. They’re out of Rose Blanche and have been Cod fishing. She walks in to the church and starts pedaling up the pump organ that’s there, and proceeds to play “Amazing Grace” while we’re all standing there with our mouths hanging open. “HeHeHe”, she laughs, and they’re outta there-back to their boat and home before supper. We sign the guest register which has been left in the church, and close the door as we leave. In another house, the owner has left a note on the back of an envelope-“Please take whatever you want, but don’t hurt our house. We may be back someday”. We tie the door closed with some twine that we found. Back at the boats, it’s pretty quiet-I think that we’re all reflecting on what we’ve seen, and the end of the lifestyle that this ghost town represents. What a special thing to be here as witnesses.
Morning comes. Time to push on to Burgeo, where the “Sand and Sea Festival” is happening this weekend. There is a road from the Trans Canada Highway to Burgeo, so we figure that we can pick up some groceries here as well. Bill and Lauren also need fuel, and apparently there’s a guy in town who will drive out to the gas station on the highway and fill up 55 gallon drums to bring fuel to your boat. As we get ready to enter the harbor, which looks like a small back creek, I double and triple check our charts, ‘cause it doesn’t look like the Girl will fit in there. There’s a guy cleaning fish at his broken down dock, and as I tiptoe in, Suz asks him if it’s deep enough for us (‘cause I sure as heck don’t have room to turn around). “Yep”. Okay, in we go. There are rocks sticking out of the water on all sides, but we thread our way in to the wharf, where June, the Harbormistress, catches our lines. “Got some bad news” she says. Uh oh. “We got no water” Just the dock? “Nope. Whole town. Been 3 days now. Might have it fixed tomorrow.” Well, that’s okay with us, as we had heard that the water was pretty marginal here, and we had been making water. By festival standards, the Sand and Sea would have to be a 4 on a 1-10 scale. By significance to the community, a 10. We went to the Lion’s Club for a potluck dinner put on by the Anglican Church ladies-$8 a head with lots of good food that kept on coming. I think everybody in town was there. After the dinner, there was dancing out at the Provincial Park (we were too lazy to ride the 2 miles out, with the ride back in the dark). Bill’s guys came with their ½ ton barrels of diesel and filled him up. What a trip! They were both speaking English, but we couldn’t understand a word they were saying. They’re asking Bill to get into the truck to come up to the gas station and pay his bill-he’s just standing there grinning and shaking his head. Too funny. They finally got things sorted out-everybody happy. We skipped brunch at the Community Center the next day, and opted for a climb up the rock (80’ tall) outside town for a panoramic view of the bay. The Burgeo Museum was next. Lots of local artifacts exemplifying coastal life were on display in this quaint little exhibit, as well as a section on Burgeo’s most (in)famous resident, the Canadian Author, Farley Mowat. Farley was one of Canada’s most noted authors, the recipient of many awards and recognition. Two of his books, “Gray Seas Under”, and “The Serpent’s Coil”, are among my favorites. His sojourn in Burgeo ended after he wrote “A Whale for the Killing”, a scathing account of the villagers killing of a stranded whale. (I’m pretty sure he was run out of town) After picking up Bill at the dock (he was taking care of some business on his computer), we rode out to the park for some live music, stopping by Mowat’s old house for a quick snap. Out at the park, (which, by the way, has one of the few sand beaches in all of Newfoundland), we spent a chilly afternoon listening to lively Newfie music and watching the little kids play carnival games (bean bag toss, basketball throw, etc.). We capped the day at the Burgeo Fire Hall, where the firemen put on their annual fish ‘n chips dinner. OMG! Lotsa fresh Cod and fries. After our early dinner, the wind died and we put the “soccer Mom” chairs on the dock and sat in the sun. We put some “Great Big Sea” (Newfie band) on the outside speakers, and tried to dissolve the fatty food rumbling around our bellies with some ethanol (not sure if it’s valid scientifically, but the concept worked for us).
On Sunday, the 26th, we departed Burgeo for Ramea, a group of islands 10 miles off the coast. It was overcast, and the seas had a 3’ gentle swell with very little wind-a perfect day for whale watc……Whoa! A pod of whales appears about a half mile off our starboard bow. As we edge closer, we I.D. them as pilot whales. There are around 30 of them within a half mile radius. Over the next 20 minutes or so, we get the upclose and personal. There are at least 2 babies in the pod, and we get some good snaps. Can’t get video up on the site, but you can see a short one on my Facebook page if you’re so inclined. As Bill & Lauren were pulling up to the dock they discovered that one of their transmissions wasn’t working. We got some lines across to them and pulled them alongside the Girl. In the engine room, there was a mess. Transmission fluid all over the place. We first thought that the filler tube cap was failing, so we fixed it and refilled the trannie with fluid. Started her up, and all looked good until fluid started streaming from a weep hole in the starter solenoid and a lug hole in the bell housing. Hmmm. It took a few minutes for me to get my pea brain wrapped around these facts, but it seemed like a seal between the trannie and the bell housing had somehow failed, allowing fluid to get into the housing. I just couldn’t figure out how the fluid moved uphill to get out. Calls to Scottie, then Shay, our experts in Michigan and Solomon’s got similar answers. VelvetDrives have an internal hydraulic pump that builds up pressure when running. This could force fluid through a compromised seal and into the bell housing where it didn’t belong. Translation-the trannie needed to be rebuilt. Now we find out just how far we are from support-FAR! After consulting with the engineer on the ferry that runs out of here, Lauren follows a trail of phone numbers for the next day and a half. She talks to techs, parts suppliers, and assorted folks from Newfoundland to Ontario to Nova Scotia. Bottom line is that there is an engineer on the ferry that runs out of Harbor Breton, some 70 nautical miles from here, that is capable of rebuilding the sick trans. He will be starting his 2 weeks off (he works 2 on, 2 off) on Friday the 31rst, and he’s willing to do the job. Lauren arranged to have the parts shipped to him. The seas are supposed to lay down on Friday, so hopefully, we’ll get on down to get the @#$%!! fixed. In the meantime, we’ll hang here and entertain ourselves.