A Photo Essay - Newfoundland’s Fjord Coast and St Pierre

A Photo Essay - Newfoundland’s Fjord Coast and St Pierre

A few days ago we received an e-mail from cruising friends Milt and Judy Baker saying they were leading a group of trawlers into Nova Scotia’s Bras d’ Or Lake located within Cape Bretton Island. The group began with an overnight hop from Southwest Harbor, Maine to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia then on northeast to the Lake.

My wife Mary and I made the same trip in 2012 aboard our 46’ Nordhavn, Egret. We first joined a cruising club cruise around Bras d’ Or Lake and after left for the short hop north to Newfoundland to explore the Fjord Coast, a 25nm stretch W to E along the south coast. Egret began exploring the fjords with a stop in Grey River, an out-village* on the western most portion of the Fjord Coast. We ended the trip at the far eastern part** and stopped in the second out-village of Francois along the way. After enjoying the Fjord Coast we ran south to the French Island of St Pierre. St Pierre is not a Canadian French island; it is France complete with 50-cycle service, euros, and French mainland cars everywhere.

*Out-villages in Newfoundland and Labrador have no road access.  The only access is by sea during the ice-free months and helicopter during the winter.

**Did you know that eastern Newfoundland is farther east than Bermuda?

We sent the photographs you see here to the group to encourage them to head north after cruising Bras d’ Or Lake and then on to St Pierre.  Unbeknownst to us they had plans to visit Prince Edward Island, farther to the west of Cape Breton Island, so they must save the Fjord Coast and St Pierre for another time.

We though we would share the photographs with you here on Following Seas.

Scott and Mary Flanders

Author’s note. A few years back we wrote a magazine article titled: NOVA SCOTIA, SO CLOSE AND YET SO FAR. In the end I’m not sure how the magazine titled the article, plus it was heavily edited. The beauty of the internet is there is no editing by ‘wordsmiths’ who have never been to sea as well as word count slashed and photos deleted to fit into magazine layout. (That’s today’s mini rant. I particularly enjoy rants so get used to it).

Map charting of the Newfoundland Fjord Coast.  The red boat shown on the chart is Egret’s location at the time.

Map charting of the Newfoundland Fjord Coast.  The red boat shown on the chart is Egret’s location at the time.

The out village town of Francois, pronounced Franz Way by the locals. Mary and I hiked to the viewpoint you see in the photo.  On the way up we saw a black bear running away in the distance behind the town water supply. The next day I rebuilt an outboard carburetor for a local fisherman.  They only had a few rusty tools and no cleaner. After I cleaned and reassembled the carb and gave them some fresh gas, the outboard started in a cloud of blue smoke and ran just fine. The morning we left there was a cup of fresh berries in the cockpit.

The out village town of Francois, pronounced Franz Way by the locals. Mary and I hiked to the viewpoint you see in the photo.  On the way up we saw a black bear running away in the distance behind the town water supply. The next day I rebuilt an outboard carburetor for a local fisherman.  They only had a few rusty tools and no cleaner. After I cleaned and reassembled the carb and gave them some fresh gas, the outboard started in a cloud of blue smoke and ran just fine. The morning we left there was a cup of fresh berries in the cockpit.

Entrance lighthouse to the French Island of St Pierre. We sent this to friends to make their entry easier. 

Entrance lighthouse to the French Island of St Pierre. We sent this to friends to make their entry easier. 

Douane or Customs House for St Pierre. The yacht club where Egret berthed was just beyond Customs. Within minutes of landing Customs had us checked into St Pierre. While that was going on crowds began forming and we met a number of interesting locals, one of which was an avid photographer who gave us the tip to photograph the small outlying island in soft afternoon light.

Douane or Customs House for St Pierre. The yacht club where Egret berthed was just beyond Customs. Within minutes of landing Customs had us checked into St Pierre. While that was going on crowds began forming and we met a number of interesting locals, one of which was an avid photographer who gave us the tip to photograph the small outlying island in soft afternoon light.

Typical St Pierre street scene. Thirty five miles away in a Newfoundland town we couldn’t buy a cup of coffee because there were no cafés or restaurants. In St Pierre you needed reservations for dinner and prices were equivalent to the French mainland.

Typical St Pierre street scene. Thirty five miles away in a Newfoundland town we couldn’t buy a cup of coffee because there were no cafés or restaurants. In St Pierre you needed reservations for dinner and prices were equivalent to the French mainland.

Cannon protecting the harbor entrance to St Pierre. The fort was at the north end of the outlying island of restored fisherman’s homes.

Cannon protecting the harbor entrance to St Pierre. The fort was at the north end of the outlying island of restored fisherman’s homes.

Island off St Pierre. The former fisherman’s homes have been restored by locals for weekend homes and French Mainlanders for vacation homes. It is difficult to see in the picture but next to each small home is a larger garden, a rock garden.  There is so much wind on occasion that cod were left to dry lying on the rock gardens rather than the traditional drying racks. Shortly after this picture was taken the fog rolled in.

Island off St Pierre. The former fisherman’s homes have been restored by locals for weekend homes and French Mainlanders for vacation homes. It is difficult to see in the picture but next to each small home is a larger garden, a rock garden.  There is so much wind on occasion that cod were left to dry lying on the rock gardens rather than the traditional drying racks. Shortly after this picture was taken the fog rolled in.

Typical early morning scene in Newfoundland’s fjords. It is usually overcast in the mornings with light or sometime heavy fog. By mid-morning the fog lifts exposing the mountains. Mary’s boots were waiting for her. We wore wellies like these for all inland exploring inside the fjords. In addition to exploring ashore we also did quite a bit of shoreline dinghy exploring. We even caught two near-shore lobster for dinner from the dink with a dip net.  

Typical early morning scene in Newfoundland’s fjords. It is usually overcast in the mornings with light or sometime heavy fog. By mid-morning the fog lifts exposing the mountains. Mary’s boots were waiting for her. We wore wellies like these for all inland exploring inside the fjords. In addition to exploring ashore we also did quite a bit of shoreline dinghy exploring. We even caught two near-shore lobster for dinner from the dink with a dip net.  

Fog is beginning to settle over the village. We left in the dink for Egret shortly after.

Fog is beginning to settle over the village. We left in the dink for Egret shortly after.

Mary’s favorite photograph she took at the island off St Pierre. It’s a Wyeth type setting. Not far away on the beach was my favorite photograph; a ship lying on its side with a small cottage in the background.

Mary’s favorite photograph she took at the island off St Pierre. It’s a Wyeth type setting. Not far away on the beach was my favorite photograph; a ship lying on its side with a small cottage in the background.

Another pre-fog photo of the French barrier island’s famous church.

Another pre-fog photo of the French barrier island’s famous church.

The Newfoundland out-village of Grey River, the first of two out-villages Egret visited. After docking, a small group of men gathered on the dock sitting in a semi-circle facing each other. They made no eye contact with us and we finally got them to engage by asking them about fishing. They said they hadn’t been out this year because there were so few cod because of the warm water they couldn’t pay for fuel. The entire village is on the dole putting a burden on the government. I suppose within a few years of no production at all, the families will be repatriated to a community with a promise of work and local services.

The Newfoundland out-village of Grey River, the first of two out-villages Egret visited. After docking, a small group of men gathered on the dock sitting in a semi-circle facing each other. They made no eye contact with us and we finally got them to engage by asking them about fishing. They said they hadn’t been out this year because there were so few cod because of the warm water they couldn’t pay for fuel. The entire village is on the dole putting a burden on the government. I suppose within a few years of no production at all, the families will be repatriated to a community with a promise of work and local services.

Clothes n’ cod. Drying cod is a typical village scene in Newfoundland out villages. Locals are allowed a small recreational quota. These clothes line cod are the typical size these days. In the late 1800s large cod were half the size of a man.

Clothes n’ cod. Drying cod is a typical village scene in Newfoundland out villages. Locals are allowed a small recreational quota. These clothes line cod are the typical size these days. In the late 1800s large cod were half the size of a man.

Local fishing boats in Francois. Slightly larger boats like the one in the upper left almost always have twin outboards. The engines are small because of fuel costs but twins allow a margin of safety. A stalled outboard in these waters could quickly turn into more than an inconvenience.

Local fishing boats in Francois. Slightly larger boats like the one in the upper left almost always have twin outboards. The engines are small because of fuel costs but twins allow a margin of safety. A stalled outboard in these waters could quickly turn into more than an inconvenience.

Egret entering a fjord on a clear morning. What was up around the corner? We didn’t have a clue. That’s what cruising is all about. Another mini adventure and something new to see.

Egret entering a fjord on a clear morning. What was up around the corner? We didn’t have a clue. That’s what cruising is all about. Another mini adventure and something new to see.

After entering the straight portion of the fjord in the preceding photograph and turning the corner, this is what we discovered. How cool is that? And to think it is just a short hop north from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Egret visited the Fjord Coast during August in high summer. We did not see a single other cruising boat during our time in the fjords. It is such a shame so many boaters miss this extraordinary beauty.

After entering the straight portion of the fjord in the preceding photograph and turning the corner, this is what we discovered. How cool is that? And to think it is just a short hop north from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Egret visited the Fjord Coast during August in high summer. We did not see a single other cruising boat during our time in the fjords. It is such a shame so many boaters miss this extraordinary beauty.

Another look at the colorful homes in Francois. It won’t be long before this out-village too will be abandoned to the demise of the cod fishery.

Another look at the colorful homes in Francois. It won’t be long before this out-village too will be abandoned to the demise of the cod fishery.

Mary took this early morning artsy photograph of foam from a nearby waterfall floating in the current.

Mary took this early morning artsy photograph of foam from a nearby waterfall floating in the current.

Egret anchored in a secret cove at the head of a fjord. We sat here for several days dinghy exploring the shoreline and an abandoned former fishing village. There wasn’t much left of the former village but downed buildings and the remnant of a dock. Docks here are built with local timber and rock, first framing with heavy logs then filled with large stones to minimize winter ice damage.

Egret anchored in a secret cove at the head of a fjord. We sat here for several days dinghy exploring the shoreline and an abandoned former fishing village. There wasn’t much left of the former village but downed buildings and the remnant of a dock. Docks here are built with local timber and rock, first framing with heavy logs then filled with large stones to minimize winter ice damage.

St Pierre street scene. St Pierre was a real treat after the desolation of Newfoundland’s Fjord Coast.

St Pierre street scene. St Pierre was a real treat after the desolation of Newfoundland’s Fjord Coast.

Shipwreck on the windward side of St Pierre’s outer island. The locals helped themselves to the contents. What’s interesting is it was the ship's last voyage before the scrap yard. I suppose insurance paid more than scrap, eh?

Shipwreck on the windward side of St Pierre’s outer island. The locals helped themselves to the contents. What’s interesting is it was the ship's last voyage before the scrap yard. I suppose insurance paid more than scrap, eh?

These few final words are well worth reading. Please don’t be trapped by your by your current comfort level and allow yourself to be stacked against a wall with the others. You can see everything we’ve shown you here on your own personal Voyage of Discovery. Just dream a little, learn in baby steps and throw off the lines. That’s all there is to it. You’ll see if you do. If not, you’ll wonder. How sad would that be?

These few final words are well worth reading. Please don’t be trapped by your by your current comfort level and allow yourself to be stacked against a wall with the others. You can see everything we’ve shown you here on your own personal Voyage of Discovery. Just dream a little, learn in baby steps and throw off the lines. That’s all there is to it. You’ll see if you do. If not, you’ll wonder. How sad would that be?

If you enjoyed this image gallery of the Canadian Maritimes, please subscribe to FollowingSeas.Media so you won't miss future posts exploring the modern cruising experience. And I want to give you a heads up that I will be on the road for a few days following a story sure to be of interest to you. Have a great week! BillP.

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