Russell Berg

Our Trip to Nufunland

This July and August, Dorothy and I spent three weeks being tourists with our trailer in Newfoundland (Pronounced - NufunLAND).  The following observations were written for sailors and should interest others also.

The country is mountainous, beautiful from the water.  The coast is broken  into many coves and bights.  Some of these are bordered by magnificent headlands  Each cove has a name, many intriguing like Heart's Content and Heart's Desire.  The latter are on Heart's Cove.  On the shores of these coves, small communities sit.  These are left over from the days when the sea and the forests supported this world.  Very small, but well kept houses line the roads that connect these villages.  Except for the Transcanada Highway, almost all the roads run along the coast through the villages and connecting them.  During the whole trip, I saw very few yachts and no marinas or yacht clubs.  On a little tour boat based in Twillingate, we sailed by rocky islands covered with sea birds, puffins, dovekies and other varieties.  These were standing shoulder to shoulder on rock ledges staring at the funny people going by.  It is difficult to comprehend that this small part of the sea around these islands supports so many birds and a pod of whales.

While this island is noted for fog and bad weather, we actually experienced fog only when we left the island at Port aux Basqes, and this cleared when the sun took over.  Usually the sky was covered with magnificent clouds which worked into wonderful sunsets. Newfoundlanders like to boast about their awful weather.  On the top of the headlands the wind was often serious (at least 25-30) but on the water it did not look too bad.  However, I have never seen so many bent over, cut off trees.  Mount Washington at 3000 plus feet has groves of pines cut off at the top and growing fat trunks Bonsai- fashion.  Newfoundland has similar groves at 300 feet.  About half the mornings it was cool enough to make a cycle of furnace heat a pleasure.  As the day went forward, we usually changed to shorts.-

The people are outstandingly polite and helpful.  Near the bigger cities, the urban areas look like US, but the housing in the shore villages is small and new.  There are very few tumbledown Motif #1's.  The sales tax is 15%.

Newfoundland is making a major effort to overcome its poor economic situation (25% unemployment) by building a beautiful, new university in Saint John's.  Of interest to yachties is their ship model towing tank facility said to be the second largest in the world.  They have two tanks (the larger is 200 meters) in which it is possible to simulate speed, wind and waves.  Our guided tour through this facility was fascinating and impressive.  To make the first cut on their models they have a computer controlled pattern making machine about 40 feet long.  Their models are almost as big as our boats.

For any trip in this area, Bras d'Or Lake is a must see.  We made a side trip to Saint Peter, Nova Scotia to see the canal and locks at the south end of the lake.  This manmade canal was built to make sailing in the ocean around Cape Breton to Sydney and beyond unnecessary.  The locks are interesting, because they are unique.  The average height of the water in the lake is equal to about half tide in the ocean.  The ocean is higher than the lake at high tide and lower than the lake at low tide.  These are not Fundy tides, the tide range is about five feet, so that huge gates are not necessary.  The unique part is that, because ocean level is sometimes higher and sometimes lower than the lake, two gates are needed on each end of the lock.  Lock gates do not close straight across; they close on an angle so that the water pressure forces them shut.  Since the water pressure may come from either the lake or the ocean side, gates angled in both directions are needed at both ends of the lock.

These observations are skewed by the fact that Dorothy has a long history of bringing good weather to trips, and that in any random three weeks the weather may not be typical.  I can see why serious yachties are attracted to Newfoundland  It offers much to skilled sailors in robust, sound boats.

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