2008 Keys 2 Canada travel blog

that horn means 'the ferry has arrived'

sure enough - and it's bigger than the buildings

just a short drive down this dirt road past the fish processing...

and they're waving us aboard

soon we're sitting where the train cars used to ride

packed in with all the other dirty wet vehicles

on the deck it's too wet to go outside

so we watch from the wet windows

the 'no frills' passenger lounge - with no windows

life boat - after all we're going out on the north Atlantic

hatch to the vehicle deck

a last look at Cartwright

as we leave the dock

finally the rain stops

Labrador is lost in the fog now

we're finally at sea

the bridge

Sir Robert's life rings

meanwhile inside - a leftover mascot from the railroading days

we found a place in the bar lounge that has a WiFi...

passageway to our 'stateroom'

everything we could possibly want

the bar is filling up

it beats the passenger lounge

there is a slight swell now

some heavy coils

the sea is a deep blue - don't know where they got...

this is Prussian Blue - and maybe a little indigo

the Strait of Belle Isle

and there is the famous island it is named for

Belle Isle is uninhabited

Nazi U-boats patrolled these waters during the war

the surface is endlessly fascinating

enough movement to rock the ship

dawn finds us on relatively flat water between two chains of islands

some inhabited and some not

all set for an early arrival in Lewisporte

a good time to be on deck

Lewisporte in the early dawn

Madolyn in the early dawn

these neighborhoods aren't stirring yet

there's that yacht that costs $38,000 a week to charter

look at the height of those masts!

there are some nice boats in this yard

but this monster dwarfs the buildings and trees

Lewisporte waterfront

lining up to go ashore

departing by the same hatch we boarded

the gate to Woolfrey's Pond RV Park is a welcome sight

a colorful ride in

and now the work begins - cleaning off a hundred pounds of...

two days later we were starting to feel human again

That’s Bond - Sir Robert Bond! - Wednesday, August 20

I woke up this morning considerably less apprehensive than yesterday - but I couldn’t fully relax until we were onboard the ship. It only runs once a week, and if for any reason we weren’t able to board this morning it would be a long week in Cartwright where there is no campground and not much to do for visitors who don’t know anyone who lives here.

It was raining but the ferry was in. I’d heard the whistle at 6:00 AM announcing it’s arrival. The ship is the Sir Robert Bond, an old railroad ferry that has been converted to car, truck and passenger service. It’s an all business, no frills ship, showing it’s age a little but the seaworthy veteran of thousands of crossings.

We are taking the Sir Robert Bond to Lewisporte, Newfoundland, a voyage of 24 hours and approximately 350 miles. It is scheduled to depart at 9:00 AM. At 7:00 AM the ticket office opened and I paid for our ticket. I got talking to a young woman waiting for the ferry and she said she was born and raised in Mary’s Harbour. I asked her if she knew Lloyd Luther and she said, “Yes, he’s my uncle.” She also knew our Battle Island guide, Cyril. Small world.

At 8:00 we got the call to board and we headed for the ship. No line up area here, just a dirt road to the dock and they wave you aboard in the order you get there. This ship loads from only one end, so you have to board and then turn around and back into your space so you will be ready to leave. With our turning radius this was obviously a challenge, but we made it. We grabbed our laptop and cameras and headed for the upper decks. This ship allows you back on the vehicle deck three times a day, so we didn’t have to take everything.

The sleeping berths were all booked, but we got on a waiting list and actually did score one after we got underway. The ship’s lounge is two small rooms with comfortable seats but few windows. There is a bar lounge too, and we opted for that so we could plug in the laptop and take advantage of their WiFi. It did work, but was very, very slow.

The ship cast off and within half an hour we were into the swell and the ship was rocking and pitching a little. It continued to rain too hard to make going out on deck attractive, so we stayed in the lounge and worked on line, and watched a movie or two. We were too late for breakfast but we made it to the cafeteria for lunch. The cafeteria is open for an hour at a meal and has a very limited menu. Today was navy bean soup and meatloaf. Nothing to write home about, but edible.

We spent the afternoon the same way we spent the morning and before we knew it the dinner window of opportunity had arrived. The choices were Chinese or a dish called Fish and Briuis (or something like that - the blackboard wasn’t real clear). We asked what it was and it turned out to be salt cod and hard tack. An unknown entity to us foreigners, but one thing we did know - this ship is a l-o-n-g way from China. So we skipped the Chinese and opted for the Fish. It tuned out to be a good choice. The hard tack was softened by fish broth, and the whole tack/broth thing took the edge off the salt, and the meal was quite good.

The evening went the same way as the rest of the day. A young man played the guitar and sang in a gravelly voice, and after you got used to it he was not bad. He sang a song called “Stuck in Lodi” which struck me as strange for a Canadian kid who probably had no idea where Lodi is, and then later Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison” so later when I passed him in the lounge I asked him, “So if you’re ‘stuck in Lodi’, how far are you from ‘Folsom Prison’?” He laughed and his eyes said he didn’t have a clue. He said, “Where are you from?” I told him “About 100 miles from Lodi and Folsom Prison.”

It stopped raining and at sunset I went up on deck and took some pictures of Belle Isle and the view down the strait. We went to bed about midnight. Sleeping in the bunk beds was not bad - not much room but the rocking of the ship put us right to sleep

Friday, August 21

I woke up early and was out on deck by 6:00. The ship had slowed and we were traveling in flat water between chains of uninhabited islands on both sides. The sun was shining and the clouds were white. A low mist hung over the water between the islands and the scene was incredibly beautiful.

A man told me the ship was going so slowly because the Lewisporte docks don’t open until 7:00. That meant we were several hours early. About that time the ships speaker announced we would be docking in 40 minutes and I went to make sure Madolyn had heard it. I found her already up, so we collected our stuff and went out on deck to watch the docking.

Lewisporte is an attractive town on Notre Dame Bay, a large bay surrounded by wooded hills. The town is mainly a port, and besides the ferry terminal there are several large marinas. Our ship made a right angle turn and maneuvered up to the dock, while the passengers lined up on deck waiting to go below. At the next slip was the largest sailing yacht I’ve ever seen. It was a blue ketch with two steel masts that seemed to go up forever. We later heard on TV that it was in town to pick up some VIP passengers who wanted to go sailing. They showed pictures of the inside and the main compartment even has a fireplace. You can charter it for a mere $38,000+ a week.

We were finally admitted to the vehicle deck, and we got in our RV and waited to be waved ashore. Madolyn had the name of an RV park in Lewisporte, but we had no idea where it was. Fortunately a sign across from the ferry pointed south and said to turn on Church Street. A large church we’d seen from the ferry seemed a likely candidate to have a street named for it, and sure enough it was. Naturally we turned the wrong way on Church Street (there being no sign to tell us which way to go) and we had to make a tight U-turn in the RCMP parking lot. Fortunately there were no Mounties around to witness our blunder.

We found the park easily as soon as we got on the right road, and we checked into a nice grassy space with water and electricity. The park is on a large pond and the owner is a friendly guy who waved off my attempt to pay him extra for water to wash the RV, and even loaned me a spray nozzle.

Saturday, August 22

What followed for the next two days was a lot of clean up and a little R and R. We were pretty worn out from our trek through Labrador, and our home was filthy. Thursday we spent the day working and napping, and Friday we did the same, finally going into town late in the afternoon to do laundry and pick up some groceries.

One high point of the two days was meeting a Newfoundlander named Randy who has spent his life ‘on the rock’ and was not only a wealth of information, but a very friendly guy I enjoyed talking to. He has a fifth wheel, and said that there is still a lot of Newfoundland he hasn’t seen yet. He directed us to a museum dedicated to the aboriginal tribe that inhabited this area before Europeans, and we hope to visit it on our way out.

The second evening we took a walk on the lake shore, and then spent the rest of the evening watching the Olympics. It’s good to see the Canadian coverage, and how they support their athletes even when they lose. By contrast the U.S. coverage treats silver and bronze medalists as though they are losers. I love my country, but I sure wish we’d grow up and show some class for a change.

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