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Newfoundland Books

I’m a bit behind on my personal log of summer sailing adventures in Newfoundland, though Bill, Captain of our s/v Rincewind, has kept the official ship blog in good order. And now it’s time to pack for our move from England to San Francisco. I’ll try to get back to the swashbuckling tales soon, but in the meantime: quick notes on ten books I read before and during the trip:

Theatre Of Fish: Travels through Newfoundland and Labrador

Absolutely essential, the book I’d highly recommend to everyone who has confessed, “I don’t know anything about Newfoundland.” The frame of the book is personal to the author, following in the footsteps of a charitable ancestor. Unfortunately for me, his ancestor didn’t spend much time where we were sailing around the Northern Peninsula. But the historical anecdotes are delightful – though often dark – and knowing something about Newfoundland history was an automatic “in” with the locals.

Dictionary of Newfoundland & Labrador

I’m glad I picked this up on a whim in a gift shop. It’s fun! Half an informal dictionary of the Newfoundland language (what’s after happening now, b’y?) and half an encyclopedia of traditional culture. Also highly recommended, especially for anyone traveling there.

The Shipping News

The only famous Newfoundland book, and it never came up in conversation. I’d read it ages ago and didn’t get the chance to re-read until after the trip. My updated impression is that her characters aren’t much like the outport Newfoundlanders we encountered. First, hardly anything of the accent, which I love. And little of the sense of humor and kindness we met with in every port. She does tap into some of the darker history, though, and that most important island preoccupation: the weather.

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

Cap’n just told me that this true tale has been turned into a musical! It’s a sweet story about the profound kindness of local folks toward the people stranded in Gander on 9/11. Worth a read, especially when you start getting the feeling that humans deserve to go extinct. (I call these my Meteor Days.)

Death On The Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster Of 1914

This sounds highly specific, but it’s a variation on the particularly Newfoundland theme of government/corporate disregard for the horrifyingly poor working class. Also a good, if sad, yarn. My second-hand copy of the book came with a Reader’s Digest article and photo of the book-owner with the captain of the unfortunate ship.


Hold Fast

Newfoundland coming-of-age story about an outport orphan adapting to a new life in the city. Could be a good intro to the culture if you’re not quite ready to dive into The Shipping News?

Wildlife of the North Atlantic: A Cruising Guide

Indispensable for our cruise, and especially beloved of me for its literary asides – birds of Beowulf! Favorite new bird: fierce white gannets.

Icebergs of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geeeeky! Ergo, loved. Originally a booklet for the iceberg tourist industry, now printed in color with everything you didn’t know you need to know about icebergs.

Rain Drizzle & Fog: The Joys and Sorrows of Newfoundland Weather

I adore weather-talk, but this was intense. Not, as expected, quirky anecdotes but a hardcore weather nerd history. I am in no way being snarky when I say it was perfect bedtime reading when I wanted to fall asleep quickly. What better way to drift off?

Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts

Newfoundland doesn’t overflow with guide books, but this was my favorite of the few. The theme of local recommendations makes for quirky lists that reveal what’s valued locally. And there is so much to explore!


Questions? Thoughts? Tall tales? Haiku? Comment away, friends.

And geek out with me on Goodreads!

Personal Log: Woods Island

From the personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie.

July 29-31, Bay of Islands and up the west coast, Newfoundland

7.29 Recovering from 2:30am airport run. Zzz. Pancakes. More zzz. Evening park walk, watching a wedding rehearsal and mackerel fishing. [Separate events.] Mac’n’cheese dinner. Reading Death on the Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster Of 1914.


7.30 Instead of Corner Brook day, wind good enough to leave Bay of Islands. Lots of hand-steering (v. auto, though Erika is great) and tacking – great sailing. 8:30pm into Woods Island through Scylla and Charybdis rock and shoal. Nice bit of navigating! Snagged a mooring after hailing nearby sailboat Lifestyle – all good. Monica‘s delightful dehydrated chilli w/ rice for dinner + Andy’s blueberry wine – posh! Oh, and jazz on CBC2.





7.31 Pancakes! Then underway around 9am. Strong winds = shwabbie naps. Some Emily and Erika [our autopilot] time while the Captain naps. 5pm passing Trout River on land. Starting to have real engine troubles. Bill installed rebuilt water pump. 5:45pm Official log: “Emily mucked out the head with a butter knife from the galley. Yay” [Not one of my fondest memories from the trip.] Most incredible night. No moon, all the stars and milky way, and phosphorescence like electric sparks around the boat.




[Little did we know what adventures the failing engine would lead to…! Stay tuned…]




Personal Log: Trout River

From the personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie.

July 28, Trout River, Newfoundland

First stop: Discovery Center for wi-fi. Then a bit of the Green Gardens walk, adding a stone to the cairn. Seemed like a good moose spot but we never did see one.



Lunch in Trout River: partridgeberry scallops!



Trout River cat memorial. Rest in peace, Kibbles.

Walked up to a lookout and could seen an old man scything his garden. On the way down we talked to him but could barely understand a word – the first truly difficult accent. If I hadn’t read at the Discovery Center that “whippersnipping” = weed whacking [“strimming” in England], I would have been completely lost. Old-fashioned real place.



Snagged Tablelands and Woody Point geocaches on the way back, the former in a parking lot but the latter a pleasant waterside walk. All of this, I should say, in the sun. We’ve had the best weather luck this trip.


Final s’mores and then some sleep before taking Mom to the airport at 2:30am.



Gros Morne: Cow Head

From the personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie.

July 27, Gros Morne National Park

Emergency stop for calamine this morning: poison ivy on my face from cursed Port Hawkesbury cemetery geocache? There’s no poison ivy in Newfoundland, though possibly cow parsnip? Cousin to hogweed can cause rash or burn.


Found a Pokemon in the woods! Am I doing it right? #geocaching

Sunrise Cafe lunch: chilli and patridgeberry muffins. We drove up to the Arches, photogenic seaside rocks eroded by waves.


Started Cow Head walk, soon fell on a slippery bridge, fab bruise on lower arm. [See bruise in photo above!]


Dinner theater SS Ethie, fun show with cod dinner. Young Doctor Who fans for dinner neighbors. We’d seen the remains of the wreck of Ethie the day before.

[The SS Ethie was a mail and passenger ship that deliberately grounded in a terrible storm, December 1919. The crew and passengers all survived, including a baby who was delivered to shore in a mail bag. Great Newfoundland story, one of many on the theme of greed and disregard for the well-being of common folk.]



Gros Morne Mother/Daughter Day!

From the personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie.

July 26, Gros Morne National Park

7am dropped Bill off for Gros Morne mountain hike. Mom and I started our mother/daughter day with the Berry Hill walk and then visited Lobster Cove lighthouse.



Then Rocky Harbour  for our first partridgeberry pancakes – wow. Some shopping and a good cemetery wander.


We stopped by the restored Jenniex House for the views and a nearby geocache.


Time to pick up Bill! To celebrate his hiking accomplishment, we made mini-bunting from our boat tour tickets and a small chain.


Snacks at the Little Red Chip Wagon on Norris Point and then back to the cabin to rest up.



Gros Morne, Newfoundland: Western Brook Pond

Personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie

July 25, Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park

I didn’t keep a good log while we were in the absolutely stunning Gros Morne National Park – too busy! But on July 25th we visited this stunning not-quite-a-fjord.

First, a short hike to the tour boat.


Then a boat tour through magical Western Brook Pond, former glacial fjord now cut off from the sea.



Pissing Mare Falls, among the highest in eastern North America.

Gros Morne, Newfoundland

Personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie.

July 24, Gros Morne National Park

I didn’t keep a good log while we were in the absolutely stunning Gros Morne National Park – too busy! Here are my cryptic notes, with some photos:

Stanleyville hike – over the saddle to a beach. We carried gravel to improve the trail. Found a geocache hidden next to a moose antler.




Woody Point. Lunch at The Loft. Artsy place, lighthouse.


View of Gros Morne mountain from the lighthouse.



“The Tablelands, found between the towns of Trout River and Woody Point in south west of Gros Morne National Park, look more like a barren desert than traditional Newfoundland. This is due to the ultramafic rock – peridotite – which makes up the Tablelands. It is thought to originate in the Earth’s mantle and was forced up from the depths during a plate collision several hundred million years ago.” Wikipedia, Gros Morne National Park



We had s’mores almost every night outside our cabin in Lomond.

Personal Log: Marina Days

Personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie.

July 22-23, Bay of Islands Yacht Club

[We were supposed to be sailing up to Gros Morne National Park to meet up with Mom, but this is where we started to have engine troubles. Some excerpts from two days putzing around the marina…]

Best pancakes yet.


Bill discussing engine starting problem with shirtless Roger of Irish Loop. Difficult to find a professional to look it over.

Lion’s mane jellyfish as big as my foot!

Read a good chunk and finished Theatre of Fish. Excellent book [about Newfoundland history].


Boat neighbors on Barabara Ann invited us for a gam. […] They might rename her Aurora for their baby, which works because you need a virgin to pee in the bilge before you rename a boat? [So they told us!]

Mt Moriah T’railways walk – steep! Found a large geocache that had been neglected since 2013.


Personal Log: T’Railways to Corner Brook

Personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie.

July 21, Bay of Islands Yacht Club to Corner Brook, Newfoundland

9am sleep in! Troubled dreams of the “where am I” variety but feeling toasty warm with my new sleeping bag. Bill’s awesome pancakes for breakfast, then some tidying up before our day’s activity: the T’railways walk to Corner Brook. (Like my affection for Melville’s t’fog!) [The Newfoundland railway from Port aux Basques to St. John’s was decommissioned in the late 80s. The old rail bed is being turned into a hiking trail.]


Bill finds his neon tribe.

Leaving the marina we met a chap who started to explain how to get to the start of the path, thought better of it, and drove us to the official start. [The first of many, many acts of kindness in Newfoundland!] Lovely path through the pines, parallel the bay. Some geocaches along the way: hanging in a tree, on a nail behind a fence, and on the way back in a tree stump and fake rock. Bill found 3/4!


Close to town: impressive paper mill, stopped at Tim Hortons for coffee and internet catch-up. Then buffet lunch at Aroma’s – chowder and salad! Need to get more greens in Gros Morne. [Lots of canned veg on the boat.]


Good walk back, found old cemetery. Lots of clasped hands and poetry. Local or mass-produced? [Still researching this.] Oh, one super anatomical heart. Made a graveyard friend who grew up in the village. We talked local and Newfoundland politics – interesting!



Memorable happy hour! Cheesy popcorn, rum & coke, watched boats go by, + Carousel tears. Good thing no boat neighbors…


Personal Log: First Contact

Personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie.

July 19-20, sailing from the Gulf of St Lawrence to the Bay of Islands Yacht Club

From the official Rincewind blog:

We finally saw Cape St. George (from about 6 miles off the coast) at 2pm on Tuesday, July 19. Getting to Newfoundland was the goal of the voyage, so this was a big moment. We set all of our clocks to Newfoundland Time, +30 minutes ahead of Atlantic Time. Lots of houses are visible on the coast, from the rocky sides of Cape Cormorant to the low, green fields of Lourdes and Winterhouse. We are sailing at about 4 miles off the coast for awhile, but then have to jibe farther out to sea to be able to make for Bay of Islands.

3am “emergency” change of autopilot as Vern’s heart (and electronic guts) gave out. Of all the autopilots I have know, he was the most…human.

7:30am Sunrise started to stretch out behind us, with some definition of cliffs and a waterfall in the hills. Then a wildly orange-red that that lit the water and hills.



Back to sleep, partly because I went back the shwabbie nook to get warm! Wind feeling a mite arctic.


Hand-steered the last hour in, lots of houses tucked into the hills. Marina rather hidden but easy to enter. We were assisted by five friendly Newfoundlanders – first contact! Accents everything I’d hoped, joking with each other and chatting with us. Later overheard an ongoing argument about local genealogy.


Surprising amount of bustle here – marina folk, tour boat, families walking around the marina and to the nearby park – where Bill helped me find my 200th geocache and first in Canada!


Dinner was from the local convenience store, a short steep walk up the hill. To my eyes, odd tins, many snacks, cheap beer, and the takeaway counter with burgers, fish and chips, poutine. First Newfoundland women,  weather talk. Couldn’t love the accent more and it’s pleasant to be able to  chat after the French Maggies.


Which brings us to the now. Ensconced in a sleeping bag and blanket in my nook, looking forward to reading – haven’t been able to at all with lumpy seas.

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