Monday, 5 December 2011

Paddling on the Ocean

First Canoeing

I am up before breakfast and go out walking with my camera at 6am. It’s a beautifully clear morning with a hint of pink in the sky. I walk back up to the viewpoint and take some more panoramic shots. I can see a mist clearing on the cliffs in the distance.

After that I walk around the village and take more shots in the warm golden light. To avoid the telephone and electricity wires I ask a couple of the locals if it would be OK to photograph from their gardens. They are friendly and chatty.


At the dock I chat to a couple of fisherman as they prepare to set sail. They are packing ice into coolers. I then cross over the bridge to Small Island and take some more shots across the harbour.


When I got back to the B&B I helped Carolyn unload the canoes and get everything ready for our first day on the water. It was then time for a breakfast of porridge and toast. Everyone was ready by 9.30.


As the tide was high we launched from the small beach instead of the ramp which slippery with slime anyway. The geography around Burgeo is a bit like Norway, with deep inlets instead of fjords, which are sheltered from the open sea. It’s flat calm as we launch into a stretch of water which is called the Short Reach. We have three canoes in the water as Carolyn and I are paddling tandem. I’m paddling in the bow so that I can take unimpeded photographs as we go whilst Carolyn can do the work! Ian and Debbie are in one canoe and Bill and Janice are in the other. It all feels a bit strange as we are paddling on the sea with open Canadian Canoes. I’ve only ever been on the ocean in sea-kayaks before. It’s mill-pond flat in the reach as we start but I’m wondering how it will be when we get some waves and the boats are riding a swell. We shall see.

We headed straight out into the reach and aimed for the opposite shore where we paddled into a piece of water called the Ha-ha through a narrow channel. It was a beautiful morning, warm, clear and without a breath of wind. The sea was incredibly clear too and we could clearly see rocks 30 feet below us. Their was also plenty of jelly-fish in the water, ranging from tiny transparent ones to larger orangey-red one one with tentacles. Not ideal for swimming.


After passing through the narrow channel into the Ha-ha it opened into a long fjord, or sound or ria. This place was once famous for the stranding of a Fin Whale which was shot and butchered by the locals. Farley Mowat, a Canadian author living in Burgeo at the time, 1967, wrote a book about the incident called ‘A Whale for the Killing’. Inside we explored some nooks and crannies and then pulled up on a beach to stretch our legs. I went for a short walk and saw a lonely house.


On the way through the main entrance the clarity of the water allowed us to observe star fish, sea-urchins and mussels in the water below us. We also came across a tiny brid which sat in the water like a tiny penguin and which allowed us to approach very closely. This one didn’t dive but later on we saw others that did dive. Looking at a book later we discovered it was a Little Auk (Alles alles), which is known as a Dovekie in North America and as an Ice Bird in Newfoundland. We were told that these birds were rarely seen inshore and were usually associated with the Grand Banks, the famous fishing area, off the coast of Newfoundland.


As we came out of the sound we saw a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) as it flew over us and as we came around the headland into Muddy Hole we saw another perched on a promontory. This one an immature juvenile, but we saw the adult bird 3 or 4 times after that. We then paddled into the next bay, the one before the Bay de Loup, and canoed right up the end passing several isolated house on the way. We think these are sumer houses or fishing lodges used by people that mainly live in Burgeo. We found another small beach here and pulled up for lunch. As usual we turned one of the canoes over onto the other two to make a picnic table. It was hot under the sun.


After lunch we paddled out towards the open sea beyond Alderidge Head and out into the main channel that leads into Burgeo in the directions of Boer’s Island. It was strange being on the open ocean in a canoe but it was flat calm and easy going. However the sea did have a long swell which was deep enough for the canoe in front of you to disappear from time to time.

We headed out to a green marker buoy in the middle of the channel and re-grouped there before heading back to Burgeo. At Smalls Island we entered the harbour under the bridge, past the small docks, before paddling out the other side into the Small Reach and down to our own dock.


It was low tide now so instead of landing on the rocky beach we tied up to the floating dock. After stowing our gear we sat on the dock in the sunshine drinking beers. I put the canoes away later when the tide rose again. After a dinner of fried cod we went out into town to see the fireworks. Apparently the town was celebrating it’s annual re-union. Unfortunately some cloud came over in the evening and the fireworks were muted in the mist.