Leaving with Regret

Cruising Newfoundland with the family some years back.

There have been, in the nearly thirty years that I’ve been cruising, certain places that I leave with regret and remember with affection.  Like peaks that rise above the rest of a mountain range, these destinations stand out in memory as highlights of the cruising experience, and places that I would love to revisit.  None, however, stands out as high as Newfoundland.  Since our family cruised there nine years ago, which you can read about if you go back to the very beginning of this blog, I’ve been dying for an opportunity to return.

Whooshing through Cape Breton Island.

I was pretty excited, then, when our plan to sail to Greenland included some stops on the west coast of Newfoundland.  Not many, since we must haste northward without undue delay, but it’s a long coastline, and our ship’s crew needs to rest and re-supply from time to time.

We whooshed through Nova Scotia so quickly that we still had edible vegetables bought in Maine when Polar Sun emerged from the north end of Cape Breton Island and set off across the Cabot Strait toward Newfoundland.

The crew enjoying a downwind run with the spinnaker.

There’s not too many suitable harbors on the southwest coast, so we carried way on up to the Bay of Islands, and were good and ready for a break by the time we arrived at a narrow cove on Wood’s Island an hour before sunset.

The landscape was the same as I remembered from cruising the other side of the island: craggy iron-grey hills and cliffs rising straight out of deep water, a stark landscape as forbidding as it is beautiful.  Behind the coastal cliffs bald, rounded summits of inland mountains, still capped with patchy snow, loomed along the jumbled skyline.

The rugged west coast of Newfoundland

Woods Island looked exactly like all the other island harbors we grew so fond of on our last visit: perfectly charming.  Clusters of cottages stood here and there along the shore, each with its own launch landing ramp.  A thick forest of young evergreens covered the island, with long green grass in every clear space.  A quick walk ashore before sunset showed a breathtaking view of the bay and the entrance to the Humber Arm that leads to Corner Brook.

Polar Sun anchored at Woods Island in the Bay of Islands

It is the most heavenly thing, after a few days of rocking along, to sleep at anchor in perfectly flat water; to wake up when it’s morning rather than time for a trick at the helm.  It was with a slight pang of regret that we left Woods Island—it’s one of those magical places where you could relax forever and never tire of the view—but this is not the meandering pleasure cruise these waters deserve.  That will have to wait for next time.

Late evening light in the Bay of Islands

We only chugged up to Corner Brook because the customs people wanted to see us about some camera gear, but I was glad we did.  Though the tire-festooned commercial wharf was hardly suitable for a cruising yacht, and the working paper mill next door was loud with the moil of industry, the town was pleasant and well supplied.  Walking past an open doorway where a white-haired man sat blandly surveying the road, he gave the Newfoundland greeting I had loved so well before: “Foine day!”  I was so glad to hear it I nearly forgot the mandatory countersign: “Beautiful day!”  He looked at me intently until I gave it, then nodded, satisfied, as I proceeded on my way.

Polar Sun tied up to a gritty wharf in Corner Brook

Like Woods Island, I could have stayed in Corner Brook; I could have stayed in Bonne Bay, where we went next day;

I could spend a week here in Flowers Cove, our last stop in Newfoundland.  Funny, this is just a couple of miles from Savage Cove, where Ganymede last stopped on this grand and lovely island nearly a decade ago.  As it is, we’ll spend two nights here instead of one, while this gale that’s whistling through the rigging overhead blows itself out and the strait of Belle Isle becomes fit for civilized seafaring again.  It’s a madhouse out there right now, but Polar Sun is snug inside the public wharf in the lee of a big shrimper, as ready as we’ll ever be to jump off for Greenland.  As exciting as that is—I’ve never sailed that far north before—I can truly say that we leave this enchanting place with regret, and as always, hope someday to return.

Neddy’s Cove
A random evergreen, just because.
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