The coldest place on earth -but with sticky velcro
If the weather statistics are to be believed we are now sailing in the coldest place on the planet, well maybe not literally the coldest, but the only place on the earth where average temperatures are said to be falling, not rising. However as the saying goes "there are statistics and there are damned lies" and the weather this week has done nothing to suggest that Newfoundland is heading for a new ice age.
With a massive ridge of persistent high pressure over Newfoundland and the Gulf of St Lawrence we could not have asked for more benign conditions for our crossing of the usually notoriously rough Cabot Straits and up the West Coast of Newfoundland. For much of the 220 mile crossing we were ghosting along at 4-5 knots under full main and goose winged genoa in a gentle and surprisingly warm SE breeze with not a cloud in the sky. Even more surprisingly, we have not encountered a single bank of fog since arriving in Newfoundland, a place which normally prides itself on delivering fog on at least 366 of the 365 days in a year - perhaps our investment in a new radar was not wasted after all because if we hadn't replaced it I'm sure it would have been 'business as usual' with respect to the fog!
We made our landfall just as dawn was breaking over the spectacularly beautiful Bay of Islands. If we thought the remainder of the coast of Newfoundland was stunning, the west coast is even more so and must be one of the best kept secrets in the cruising world. To guide us into the Bay of Islands we had the company of a solitary humpback whale who took station on our starboard bow and only left us as we nosed our way into the rocky cleft in the mountains that is Lark Harbour. We were subsequently told by a local that it was a rarity to see these splendid mammals on the west Newfoundland coast until relatively recently, but locally falling sea temperatures are now bringing more whales into the area - so maybe the statistics are not lying after all?
The sea was mirror calm when we first dropped our anchor in Lark Harbour, but within a couple of hours of sunrise there was an extremely frisky 20-25 knot thermally accelerated wind funnelling its way down the mountains and through the harbour. We upped anchor and headed back out into the main bay which was still mirror calm before anchoring for the night in a delightfully sheltered anchorage on Woods Island.
The following day we enjoyed a gentle beat up the coast in once again perfect conditions and cloudless skies before reaching Bonne Bay, another spectacular fjord system nestling at the foot of the Gros Morne Mountain National Park. Yet again we had a solitary humpback whale observing our entry, but in what is beginning to emerge as a pattern, as soon as we entered the fjord we swapped mirror calm conditions at sea for an extremely boisterous 20-25 knot wind and accompanying short chop funnelling down the valley.
Our initial plan to berth for the night at Woody Point had to be rapidly rethought when it became clear that we were never going to get alongside the weather side of the public wharf without smashing all our stanchions and destroying our recently polished top sides, and to attempt to berth on the lee side would have simply resulted on us being blown onto the beach before we could have even thought about getting securing lines onto the wharf. For a moment morale took a bit of a nose dive as it seemed that the only way we might get a bit of peace and quiet for the night was by heading back out to sea.
In a last ditch attempt to avoid this scenario, an exploratory foray into nearby Norris Cove, which on the chart didn't look particularly promising as a sheltered haven, yielded rich dividends. Our hearts dropped when we saw an extremely well maintained floating pontoon system wonderfully sheltered from the prevailing chop, only to notice that it was liberally adorned with 'STRICTLY NO MOORING HERE' signs.
However, seconds later we were hailed from the shore by someone saying "You can ignore that, I own the wharf and you are more than welcome to come and stay alongside here for as long as you want" . Within minutes we were sitting outside on the patio of his bar, enjoying the sunshine, listening to an exceptionally good live singer, and partying with the local Harley Davidson chapter like there was no tomorrow. Black leather clad and bandana toting bikers and a couple of rather windswept yotties aren't the normal recipe for a great party, but then this is Newfoundland - normal rules simply don't apply here - no matter where you seem to go on this wonderful island, if there are people there then they will welcome you into their community with open arms!
We once heard the Algarve described as the "velcro coast - once there easy to stay, but difficult to pull yourself away from" . Whilst we enjoyed cruising the Algarve coast, that particular epithet never really resonated with us and we had no difficulty in moving on when the time came. However, the same cannot be said of Newfoundland. It occurred to us the other day that we have spent at least a part of the season in Newfoundland every year for the past 4 years. This was never a conscious planning decision, it just somehow seemed to work out that way, and although we are already a little behind schedule this season, we won't be moving on from Newfoundland until we absolutely have to - the Newfoundland brand of Velcro has definitely got us in its grip!