We weren’t sure if we should even bring the kayaks with us to Newfoundland. We knew the conditions here could be rough and unpredictable, even in the summer, and to be exploring cold, unfamiliar waters in October and November might be pushing our luck. As we drove the thousand miles northeast, we were aware of the occasional odd looks our kayaks received. Ours were certainly the only car-topped kayaks on the overnight ferry from Nova Scotia, and after disembarking in Port aux Basques, we drove past thin ice formed on the ponds. On our way into Gros Morne National Park though, we saw two kayaks riding atop a car heading out of the park. The car’s occupants seemed as eager to wave to us as we did to them. Since leaving Stonington, we have seen no other kayaks.
Should we have brought the boats? Of course! It would have been crazy not to. We’re staying in a house in Wild Cove, near Norris Point on the shore of Bonne Bay, a fjord that stretches fifteen or twenty miles inland from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. From the house, we have a view of the cove and the bay stretching out to the two-thousand-foot mountains on the other side, and beyond them, open ocean.
On our first full day here I launched my boat, just to get in the water, if just for a short, cautious paddle. The winds blew maybe 10 to 15 knots with occasional gusts. Outside the cove, the waves were low and choppy. For the first time in awhile, I tethered my paddle to the boat. I was glad to get out, but felt less than enthusiastic about the conditions, especially since chances were, they might not improve during our two weeks here. If you waited for a calm day, you might never get out.
Most days we wondered if maybe we should have gone out paddling... until we watched the winds increase quickly as the day went on, usually to 25 - 35 knots. We were glad to watch from the shore as williwaws gusted down from the mountains, the water surface erupting into turbulent white spray.
It rained on Halloween. With temperatures in the low 40’s, it seemed a better day to sit inside with a book and a warm beverage, but we found the calm water irresistible. We launched into some small surf and paddled around the point, beneath black rocky cliffs, past the small town of Norris Point with its gathering of low, small-windowed houses crouching beneath the hillside. Like the wind-stunted trees, the towns here are low, built to withstand harsh weather.
We didn’t go far- just a couple hours of paddling, but it felt great to be in such a new and different place. On shore, life went on as usual. Some builders stood atop a new roof, tacking down the first run of roofing felt as the rain started again. A fisherman opened the cockpit window on his boat and told us we were getting wet.
A woman came out of a house and shouted “Is that you, Mark?” then “Oh, hard to tell with all that gear on.” She asked us if we’d seen any whales, and where we were from. “Maine,” we told her and she nodded her head as though this explained why we were out paddling in the cold, pouring rain. “Ah,” she said. “Welcome to Newfoundland.”