Saturday, September 14, 2013

Woods Island Harbour, Bay of Islands, Newfoundland

After spending a few days in Lark Harbour it was time to move on and see some of the other beautiful locations in the Bay of Islands.  Woods Island is located about 5 miles away and is my destination.

Getting away from the dock in light winds the weather was threatening rain and a mixed bag when I left the protection of the harbour. Dories and some larger boats were coming in and out of the line squalls and fog banks as I headed towards my unseen destination. The Navionics charts indicated that I was on the correct bearing and that I should approach the narrow entrance after going through a heavy squall.

The tablet showed a weakness at this point that made me glad I had taken a compass bearing to the destination as well. Heavy rain drops affect the touchscreen much in the same manner as touching all one's fingers to the screen in a random touching fashion. Chaos ensues and no information can be read. The tablets, with electronic charts are best left below in heavy weather and traditional piloting with the compass and watch take over. Back to basics and it works.

The rain eased, the fog lifted and Woods Island came into view just about where I thought it would be. The entrance was at close to high tide and with the calm waters I could not see any evidence of the rocky shoals guarding the entrance. The Bay of Islands Yacht Club has placed some range markers to give a safe entrance when combined with charts. Take caution on the entry as it is narrow and well guarded. We motored into the entrance and close to the shore before taking a dog leg to starboard which took us into the large basin for anchoring.

The basin has a few moorings, a large floating dock and small wharves and skidways. The docks are also part of the Bay of Islands Yacht Club and are used by members and non members to access the trails of the island. The docks are in a very well protected bay.

I brought Easy Go to anchor close to the eastern end of the bay in about 5 fathoms to avoid the shoaling bottom closer in. A good mud bottom took the anchor well. A nice day without wind invited me to put the dinghy in the water and go to land for some hiking and explorations.

The Blow Me Down Mountain has a magnetic attraction for me. I head out on the trail that I think will lead me there. On the way I get some great views of the entrance to the Bay of Islands, ruins of old dwellings and finally come out of the woods and there is the mountain in all its majesty. These mountains are not as large as those in the west but they exude the same majesty in this rugged environment. Looking out the harbour entrance and noting the location of the range markers I can't help but appreciate the view from the cabins overlooking this scene. There is a person sitting out on the porch taking in the beautiful day. I walk down to introduce myself.

Liz is a friendly lady, born just up the hill in a house that no longer exists greeted me with a "How do you drink your coffee, with powdered or canned milk.She and her family, were forced to move away in the 1960's. The church and  the school were burned and the more than 1000 residents were forced to move to the mainland. At one time Woods Island had the largest population on the west coast and was the centre of the herring fishery along its shores. Many of its residents also fished for cod on the Labrador.

Liz's uncle, Earl, stopped by with a couple of cod fillets. Liz went to make him some breakfast and brought out a plate full of sandwiches. Such is Newfoundland hospitality. Breakfast, coffee, good company and lots of stories. Liz's daughter and new son-in-law were also visiting and rose late to join us having just arrived the day before from Ontario. Liz stated emphatically that this was family land and would be passed on to the next generation and kept in the family, never to be taken away again. It is refreshing to see the residents claiming these lands back for future generations before their history is lost.

There are some very interesting references, historically speaking, to Woods Island to be found via a Google Search. One interesting fact that I was told indicated that this, now very well wooded island, was entirely cut over by the 1960's. The community collectively cut firewood on the mainland of Newfoundland and brought there firewood home by horse teams during the winter. The island is now very well forested.

Back to the boat and the next day the forecast weather brought in the wind. Winds of 48 knots were predicted. Redirected by the hills they came in from the SE and blew all day and night. Sitting to one anchor seemed secure, however the next morning it appeared that we were starting to slip a bit. Using the motor the boat was shifted to starboard and the second anchor, a sturdy 40 lb fisherman, was set out on a combination of chain and rope rode. We now sat secure as the gusts healed Easy Go.

The next day the winds diminished and I was able to go for a walk on more of the trails. Also had the opportunity to meet Mike and Jayne on Phantasia. They had moved from a mooring to the Bay of Islands YC wharf in the wind and were now comfortable and safely out of the winds that were forecast to swing to the SW. The forecast proved to be correct and I got back to Easy Go just before the winds picked up again.

I had the opportunity to get to shore one more time and met more of the members of the Bay of Islands YC and get some local advise on where to go and anchor for the next part of the trip.

Next stop is Goose Arm with Cox's Cove and some interesting topography on the agenda.

View the Woods Island Harbour Photo Essay.

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