Wednesday, August 06, 2014

St. John’s, Newfoundland

St. John's harbour from the top of Signal Hill. 
We made it, Bob had been to the Rock twice before but had never had a chance to get to the capital so he said that the third time was a charm and sure enough it was.  We had two days to sailing in 100 m visibility to get to Argentia, our kicking off point for our trip to the capital; thank goodness for our new radar, it got us there safe and sound. 
Argentia was a big U.S. airforce base in the 1970’s.  Today it is where the ferry from Cape Breton lands so they have a lovely new terminal there where we were able to have showers.  There was no place to tie up so we dropped anchor just outside of the spot where the fishing boats are docked.  We had no plans to stay for the night we were just trying to arrange transportation to St. John’s.  It was a trial, thank goodness for Bob, he was relentless, phoning numerous car rentals outfits who didn’t have a clue where we were.  Then he and Barry went ashore and he quizzed the locals in the ferry terminal and came up with several possibilities. One fellow apparently may have a car he could rent us, it was Sunday of the Aug. long weekend and there was no ferry therefore no buses, so the only other possibility was a taxi.  
We ended up riding the hour and a half into St. John’s with Gordon the taxi driver who didn’t have very many top teeth and that accompanied by his thick Nfld. accent made him almost incomprehensible.  But it worked he took us first to the most easterly point in North America, Cape Spear.  It was a gorgeous spot with a lighthouse, and gun batteries from World War II. 

As I sat on this big long gun once again posing for a picture, I thought finally a Canadian gun.  Much to my disappointment when I read the plaque commemorating the gun I found it was a U. S. gun that was given to Canada as part of a munitions exchange.  Perhaps it is not in the stars for me to pose with a Canadian cannon this voyage!!!
Entrance to the harbour and in the distance Cape Spear.
Our next stop was Signal Hill where Marconi received the first long distance telegraph.  It is an impressive spot with much history.  The hill has a great position overlooking the mouth of the St. John’s Harbour.  The English and the French fought over this spot back in the day and it was also used to signal messages from ships to merchants down in the town.  There was a noon cannon there but it did not seem to be active at this point.  Formerly there was a hospital on the hill and those stricken with tuberculosis, diphtheria and cholera were quarantined far away from the general population.  The Cabot Tower was built after Marconi proved that long distance communications was possible and it was used as a communications centre for trans Atlantic ships and the Nfld fishing fleet. 
We had lunch and then headed to the grocery store for a load before deadheading back to the boat. Gordon, the taxi driver, was full of news about the Placentia Bridge. 
It was stuck, half raised and there was no going in or out of that harbour and he would have to drive and extra 30 km on his way home after dropping us off.  We had read in the cruising guide we have that if you went in that harbour you might not be able to get out because of the unreliable bridge.  We were very happy that we had tried Argentia and feel that in calm conditions the spot we left the boat was acceptable. 
My brother in full beard and Gordon the Nfld. taxi driver.
He regaled me on the way home with stories of smuggling girls into the Yanks commissary in the trunk of his car back in the 70’s when he was still raising a ruckus.  His stories of near misses with moose on the highway were rather hair raising as well. 
We pulled anchor and left for Cape Breton as soon as we had packed away the groceries and added fuel.  It is going to be an upwind slog that neither Barry or I are particularly looking forward to.