A PAUSE IN THE JOURNEY
Per my last post, we left the Joint Adventure for six days in L’Anse Beaufils, New Brunswick, and traveled to Killington, Vermont for our 48th friends and family reunion (we call it “Mecca Mash”). Started in 1974, it has evolved over the decades from a fraternity-type weekend extravaganza featuring multiple kegs of beer that sometimes drew over a hundred twenty-somethings, to a sports weekend with kids vs. adults soccer games, volleyball, softball, swimming, etc., much of which focused on all of our collective kids (the “second generation”), to a weekend party with a live band this year and the integration of the first 13 “third generationers”, who, I’m sure, will increasingly dominate the festivities in the years to come! Including the third generationers, we were a group of about 75 friends and families!
I know this is not strictly about our journey, but at the risk of boring some of you, I couldn’t resist posting a few pictures from the weekend in Vermont:
Putting on an extravaganza like Mecca Mash is a great deal of work, so everyone has to pitch in and help. Niko Hart volunteered to drive to the store to buy some more ice:
T-ball for the Third Generation Saturday afternoon::
Dan, Frida, and Christine Luciano – you may remember them from their two-day ride with us through New Your City:
Gabe Goldberg playing chess – this board was set up for the next game before Gabe decided to play….another job well done, Gabe!
A tender moment for Katie Atkin, Wes, Liam, and Cora:
It was Nancy Geisel’s birthday – so how better to celebrate with her than shotgunning beers together….notice Noah in the background – what the…???
Live music out on the deck by local Killington maestros “The Gully Boys”; they played listening and dance music for us till nearly midnight:
Taking in the music, getting ready to dance!
Movin’ and groovin’ to the music –
OUR JOURNEY CONTINUES
Our trip back to the boat in L’Anse A Beaufils was anything but routine. We drove to Montreal on Monday, where our plane took off for Gaspe airport an hour late. At the stopover in Quebec City, one of the overhead storage bin doors wouldn’t latch, so after a two hour delay, they canceled the flight! The next flight wasn’t until 3:00 the next day, so we had to stay in a motel, where we didn’t arrive until 11:00 PM. We finally got back to the Joint Adventure around 7:00 PM the following day (Tuesday).
I took this picture of the St. Lawrence River from the air as we finally left Quebec City; heading down-river, the St. Lawrence begins to widen after Quebec City, eventually reaching a width between 67 and 90 plus miles at the mouth, depending on where you measure it:
In L’Anse Beaufils that evening, I snapped this picture that I thought I was interesting:
The next day (Wednesday) back in L’Anse Beaufils brought high winds, so we spent another day there to wait out the weather. There is another story that unfolded in L’Anse Beaufils, but I’ll save that for the next post.
Our next stop was Shippagan, which represented another milestone for us – we departed French-speaking Quebec after 5 weeks, and arrived in New Brunswick, which is officially bi-lingual (Quebec is officially French-speaking, and the other Canadian provinces are officially English-speaking). We also entered the Atlantic time zone, so we had to set our clocks forward by an hour.
To reach Shippagan, we crossed the wide mouth of Chaleur Bay to enter Shippagan from the bay side, on the west. The weather was sunny and the seas calm, so we had a pleasant passage. The 9 mile long channel through the Baie of Shippagan winds through shifting sand and mudflats, but was well marked.
Shippagan is billed as “a major commercial fishing center for herring, lobster, scallops, and crab”. That being said, the lobster and crab season is only two months long, having ended on July 1; therefore, there were only three fishing boats in the large commercial harbor, but there were perhaps 30 or 40 already hauled and on land. The harvest must have been good the last few years, since the boats were virtually all freshly painted and appeared to be well maintained and in very good shape.
Unfortunately, the small harbor for pleasure craft is very shallow. We stirred up mud as we entered and docked, and were very nervous as we tied up at one dock then had to move to another in the shallow water. We draw just 2 1/2 feet, and I’m sure we were in water barely over that. Our depth finder registered close to zero.
Shippagan is quite remote and off the beaten path, and is another town in which traditional industries upon which it was founded have, for the most part, faded; the town is trying to re-invent itself. The massive fish processing plant has long-since closed, leaving the hulk of the buildings on the waterfront to slowly deteriorate. Cod fishing has been banned since the 1970’s. However, there is a thriving harvest of peat moss which provides new jobs, and there is a large aquarium as part of an effort to promote tourism, despite the town’s remote location..
There was supposed to be an Acadian festival in town that week, but the only evidence we found was a mobile carnival that was set up in town. I took a ride on the ferris wheel to see if I could get an aerial view of the harbor; it was too far from the waterfront for a picture of the harbor, but here is an image from the top:
I did, however, take a couple pictures of this ride; I haven’t been to an amusement park in quite some time, so maybe this is just another routine ride, but – WOW!!
Leaving Shippagan, we proceeded eastward toward the open Atlantic rather than westward back into Chaleur Bay; we had to first pass under the lift bridge in the center of town:
Passage to the Atlantic is through a narrow dredged channel with shifting shoals about 3 mile long called Shippagan Gully. The word “Shippagan” was derived from the Mi’kmaq language meaning “passageway for ducks” – fitting, since there are huge mudflats on either side that attract thousands of aquatic birds at low tide. However, it is well marked and we departed at high tide and were vigilant, so our passage was uneventful.
Our next planned stop was a small, remote fishing outpost called Escuminac. We always call ahead to the places we want to stay, sometimes up to a week in advance, to make sure there will be a place for us to tie up when we arrive. None of the guides we have had much information about Escumiac, and nowhere could we find a phone number. The harbor is run by the local fishermen’s association, so I googled everything I could think of – harbormaster, fishermen’s association, dockmaster, etc. I even googled “Escumiac Police Department” only to learn there is none, and “Escumiac Town Offices”, only to learn that there are no websites or other information regarding any town offices which might exist, if any. I finally called the marina where we had stayed in Shippagan to see if she had any information. She did not, but she did find a phone number for the private “Escumiac Campground, Beach, and Park”. Figuring it was a long-shot, I called the number and a friendly woman named Amanda answered. It turns out the campground is a quarter mile from the harbor and her husband is a fisherman who uses it; her husband called Brent, who manages the harbor and he called me a short time later. Brent welcomed us to come in, but warned of very shallow water at the entrance and other places within the harbor, and he gave us guidance to avoid the shallow spots. We also decided to enter no later than mid-tide, necessitating an early start and running on a plane to cover the 45 mile run from Shippagan by mid-tide. We arrived and went to the fuel dock to take on diesel fuel, where Brent came by to greet us. Brent couldn’t have been more welcoming, even helping us navigate the self-service fueling operation. Brent chatted with us for 20 or 30 minutes, telling us about Escumiac. Here is Brent!
It turns out that we were a bit of a rarity, in that only around 8 or 10 please craft come to the harbor all year. In fact, we haven’t seen another cruising boat since shortly after Quebec City, and have only seen a very few sailboats, most of which were local. I don’t have any firm statistics, but it seems that perhaps only 10 or 12 boats do the Down East Loop each year, as opposed to the Great Loop, in which historically about a hundred boats a year complete that journey.
It’s hard to capture the ambiance of the harbor, but here is an image:
After we settled in, Jim and I explored the area by bike. There is no town center nearby, and local activity centers around the waterfront. There is a fish market next to the harbor, where we bought some crab legs and lobsters for dinner. Jim and I then biked to the Escumiac Campground, Beach, and Park to meet Amanda and to thank her for her help. It turns out, they sell ice cream where campers register, and Amanda was kind enough to offer us complimentary cups so we could get our daily ice cream fix!
We learned from Brent and from traveling the waterfront that Escuminiac experienced an unimaginable tragedy in 1959 when the remnants of an early-season June hurricane hit the area without warning – in 1959, there were no satellites and forecasting was rudimentary, especially in such a remote area. The following plaque tells the story better than I could:
Here is a memorial to the lost fishermen and to the heroics of those who survived and those on shore who helped rescue efforts however they could:
While we were on the boat thinking about dinner later in the afternoon, a fishing boat pulled in behind us to take on fuel, then backed up to the derrick to load or unload. A few people gathered at the stern, whom we noticed were buying 1 to 5 pound bags of fresh-caught scallops. So Paul went over and bought a bag for us, which Jim cooked up the following evening:
Early that evening, we cooked our fresh lobsters on board, but decided to eat them on top of the seawall rather than risk messing up the boat:
Earlier in the afternoon, I had met three fishermen who tied to the seawall in front of us and were loading ice to go out fishing for mackerel. Around 8:00 that evening, we heard someone calling “Hey, Joint Adventure!” I looked up to see their lobster boat pulling up along side of us, then tying to us. They had caught a bunch of of mackerel and wanted to share some of their catch with us!
Our next stop will be a major change of pace – the popular town of Bouctouche.
More to come!
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