Adventures in Newfoundland Part 3 (fiction)
Written by:Ed McGrath   
Posted On:7/31/2011 4:18:13 PM   

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Adventures in Newfoundland Part 3

Well b’ys, it’s been a while since I have been able to sit and write a bit. The Adventure is in 3 parts, the first part was written in 2007, so this part is long overdue. Basically it is a story about a mainlander’s first visit to the glorious island of Newfoundland and Labrador. No matter what you think of the story (or any other stories on Upalong) – please take a moment to leave a comment. All of us who take the time to spin a yarn like to hear what the readers think, it only takes a minute and it is greatly appreciated.

When I got to the bridge of Tom's house he was talking to skipper Ned Ryan, the same person who had just helped “Screech me in” about 10 miles offshore from our present location in Bonavista. There were two other hands standing there and allwere deep in conversation.

When Tom spied me, he introduced me to the group, as “Dis is Bob, he’s dat fella from Upalong.Him and his wife Belinda come down here fer a week den de are goin back to Taranta." Each of the men gave a quick wink and nod, all in one movement, as Tom introduced me to Doug and Gerald – both men seemed to be in their early twenties and were built strong.

Skipper Ned turned to Tom and said, “Poor old missus Doyle died a couple of days ago and tonight is the last night of the wake. We was goin to make a run out and get sumptin fer dem to eat tonight. “ He made a quick nod towards me and said “Do you and Bob want ta come out fer a run, we’re only goin out just past the point.”

Old Tom told Ned that we had “thousands a time” and we would go for the run. He did not think to check with me but that didn’t matter, it was a chance to get out on the water again.

Soon all hands were on board. The two hands, Doug and Gerry let go the lines while Tom watched as skipper Ned expertly slipped the boat away from the wharf and we were soon heading out of Bonavista, again.

Ned turned on a small machine on the bridge and I curiously asked him what the device was for.

Ned said “Dis is a Loran b’y, de’re sum good if ya got to find sometin das hard ta find.” With that, he turned his attention to the machine and started turning dials and setting something up.

The skipper called out to Doug and Gerry to get some gaffs ready and they would be there in about three quarters of an hour. I knew that Ned steamed at about 10 knots so we must be going about 7 or 8 miles out.

Tom sat comfortably on the gunwale and lit a pipe while he seemed to supervise the hands getting the gear ready. When we had steamed for the time Ned pulled back the throttle and we slowed to a crawl, if boats can be said to crawl. He was very intent on looking at the Loran’s two rows of changing digits and a scrap of paper in his hand.  I had my sea legs by this time and stood on the bridge without holding on to anything as the small boat rocked in the gentle swell. I enjoyed the fresh breeze and wondered why I suffered through the heat, humidity, and smog alerts in Toronto when this paradise was here for everyone to enjoy.

Ned kept his eyes on the Loran as he slowed the boat and leaned out to watch the two hands that were looking down at the water as if they were trying to see bottom. He called to the hands on the fo’c’sle to keep a close eye. Doug and Gerry were leaning over the forward ends, gaffs in hand when Doug bawled out “Skipper, I sees in a couple a pints to starboard.” Ned gently edged the boat to starboard and stopped. Doug soon drove his gaff deep into the water and came up with a bright red yellow red pole attached to a line. Gerry came over and gave him a hand to haul the line. I was surprised to see a lobster pot come to the surface at the end of that line.

Ned looked at me and winked then said “Dem Lorans are some good helping ya find sometin ya can’t see. We sets da poles down about a fathom so da Fisheries won’t see em and I writes down de numbers on da two rows on da Loran. When we goes out, I sets dem numbers as a way point and dat Loran takes me back to da exact spot where da pole is.” I suppose it’s not hard to find something bright red just below the water if you know it’s there but the chances of finding it any other way seemed remote. In a short time, with the procedure repeated, we had 4 good-sized lobsters on board and were heading back to the government wharf.

While steaming back Skipper Ned told a story about how hard things got just before the fishery collapsed. He said that there were times when the boat couldn’t make her share for the trip. In Newfoundland, the longliner’s profit usually went in 5 shares. The boat got 2, the Skipper got one, and the two hands got one each. The boat’s share was used to pay for the fuel, gear, grub, and the Loan Board. Skipper’s share was always a bit bigger than the hands, but on a good trip, everyone made a few dollars.

Ned said “We was in tick fog, haulin our second string when she come up taut. Den, out of da fog come annuder boat, haulin our string too. Dem bloods ah bitches cut every ting clear when de see us and med off in da fog. We lost a good bit of gear on dat and a good bit of our catch too.” He told us that when the fishery got hard, people come from up da shore, looking for fish. De was pirates Skipper Dan said. Old Tom nodded his head in agreement and said “If we could get our hands on dem, we’d skin em and hang em in da salt house. I thought that things must have been very bad for everyone when the fishery was nearing its end.

The two young hands jumped ashore as soon as the boat was close to the wharf and had us secured alongside in very little time. Then they headed down to Doyle’s house with the little present from Ned. A big crowd was expected down to Doyle’s later, and we were among the company.

The story of what happens at a Newfoundland wake deserves its own space and I have written it in one of my columns called “After the Wake”, I won’t repeat it here.

After a long night, or early morning, we finally found some much needed sleep. Again, the smell of fresh cool night air in Newfoundland is something I will never forget. Next morning Belinda and me had to say good-bye to Iona Bambridge as we packed up our stuff and got ready to head back to St. John’s, our trip was almost done. Kitt would drive us back to town and Tom would come along because he had another follow up appointment at the Health Sciences in St. John’s.

I sat back in the car and enjoyed the lush green scenery and the clear fresh air as the car navigated around endless turns, hills, dips and every thing else you can imagine on the rough terrain that Highway 230 cuts through. There is a lot of wilderness to enjoy but Tom reminded me that these roads were dangerous after dark with moose on the road and because you can’t see very far ahead with all the blind turns.

Around mid morning, we were almost down to Port Rexton and Tom convinced Kitt to pull over by Bread Pond so he could get a mug up. Kitt stopped near the pond and Tom took his pole and bag and headed off. He pulled his old kettle from the bag, dipped it in the pond, and put it down by the fire that Kitt was making from small pieces of wood that were in abundance near the pond. Tom had thought of me and had a bamboo and some bait that he had dug early in the morning – while we were still sleeping off the “time” we had at the wake the night before. We caught a couple of nice pan sized trout and had them cooked over the fire on a pierced stick. The fish and strong tea made a good combination and a memorable experience. Where else in the world can you just stop your car beside the road, start a fire, drink water directly from a pond and have a good “Mug up”? I would not drink the water from any of the great lakes and would not dare start a roadside fire in Ontario.

The rest of our drive on Highway 230 and then to the TCH down to Clarenville and on to St. John’s and the Newfoundland Hotel was uneventful. We spent our last day in Newfoundland out at Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America. As we sat on the rocks and listened to the waves crash ashore, we caught sight of a family of Minke whales feeding close to the shore. It was mid July and the icebergs were out in full force, one grounded in Freshwater Bay, just north of us, made a spectacular sight. Belinda gave me a little hug and said, “Now Bob, aren’t you glad you came to Newfoundland?” Words could not describe how I felt. The people, the fresh air, the ruggedness and the whole culture of land and sea, right in front of us, a perfect paradise, when the weather wasn’t RDF (Rain, Drizzle, and Fog). Tomorrow we would be driving on the 401 highway in Toronto, along with 750,000 other daily travelers. I looked out at the whales, the iceberg, the clear sky, the ocean and took a deep breath of clean fresh ocean air…I wondered why anybody would want to live any where else. Our adventure was over but I made up my mind to visit as often as we could. Never know, we might even get invited to a good wake too!!!

This Opinion by: Jeslyn
Posted On:8/4/2011 11:11:01 PM     

Your article pfeerctly shows what I needed to know, thanks!

This Opinion by: Ted Morrell
Posted On:8/13/2011 6:27:16 PM     

Ebbie It's good to see you really are a gifted man . Makes me want to go back home for a bit. really miss the mug ups we used to have together. Keep up with the dreams they are all we really have

This Opinion by: kathleen Mcgrath
Posted On:1/2/2012 3:56:27 PM     

Oh,how i wish i was there with you all mugging up,you remind me of Pop McGrath he used to tell the stories.

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