Sunday, November 14, 2010

Off to Greenland . . . by way of Brigus!!

Where: Brigus
When: November 13, 2010
Who:  Cheryl, Tony, Julie, Gary, Dean and your's truly.

The stars were in alignment for Cheryl and I - which means that we had our two kids farmed out for the day and were free to do a paddle somewhere. The season is winding down (for most people) so I wanted to get Cheryl out for one more paddle before the "really" cold weather set in.  Wind direction suggested that we head out towards Conception Harbour. An email was sent around and a time and place were struck for the put-in.  We met at the put-in but decided that, due to the increasing wind, we'd try another just up the shore - at Bacon Cove. Unfortunately that beach was not easily accessible. 

Plan C. We decided to head to Brigus to see what the conditions would be like there. I have a fondness for Brigus. I've been visiting there every summer since birth - stopping at Bishop's Beach for a boil-up after an afternoon of picking blue/partridge berries in nearby Cupids. I still have relatives in the town and my family has been connected to the town for at least 100 years. A chance to paddle there was most welcome for me!!

It was 11:30 by the time we hit the water (about an hour later than planned) but the water and wind conditions in the bay were perfect!! It was worth the extra drive!!

Putting in at Bishop's Beach, Brigus

There was ample parking at Bishop's Beach.

Putting in at Bishop's Beach, Brigus #2
And nice and close to the water as well. Certainly much closer/easier than what we contemplated back at Bacon Cove!!

Cheryl gearing up!

Dean and Tony waiting near the rocks just off Bishop's Beach.

Gary with the "new" Brigus in the background.
Brigus is rapidly becoming a trendy place to live - much like Trinity in Bonavista Bay.  Condos have sprung up on the harbour front were once there was a fish plant. Good in some ways but not in others. My Aunt owned a beautiful two story home that once looked right out the harbour. I noticed today that you can't even see this house from the water - the new condos have blocked it entirely. The Brigus in the picture above is not the Brigus I remember and love.  When my Aunt died, her house was sold, for a song, to Americans. They promptly clad it in vinyl and put plastic, i.e., fake, shutters on the windows. What was once one of the most stately homes in the community now looks like an abomination!!  Rant off!!

Julie and Gary heading towards Rockwell Kent's old cottage.
Rockwell Kent was an American artist who inhabited a small cottage on the North side of Brigus. Apple and pear trees still grow on the property. It's truly a haven. Apparently poor ol' Rockwell had a had "go" of it Brigus when, during WW1, for some reason, he was labelled a German sympathizer. As far I know, the locals' fears were unfounded.
Cheryl steaming out the bay.

Skirting the cliffs.

Julie heading towards the headland.

Cheryl keeping close to the rocks.

Gary scoping out a narrow passage.
As is often the case, when we paddle we look for tricky passages. Today was no exception. We encountered a few spots to test our skills. One in particular was quite interesting. Sorry, no pictures as it was not the place to be taking out and fooling around with a camera!!
The crew heading towards the lighthouse.

Cheryl with Brigus lighthouse in the background.

Playing in the clapotis.
As we rounded the Northern headland, we  encountered a good ocean swell - as evidenced by the amount of foam on the water.

Dining on the beach in Greenland.
My Father, may he rest in peace, was born in a small community of Greenland - which lay between Brigus and Cupids. He moved out of there when he was 2. The community disappeared not long after that. To this day, you will find the stone basements of the houses but nothing else. It's almost as if the entire community just disappeared. I've visited Greenland many times "by land" via hiking,  but have never gotten there by sea - until today. It was an amazing feeling to paddle in there and sit on that beach knowing that this was the first home of my father, my grand father etc ! Dawes have been in this area since the 17 century!!

Where once they stood, we stand!
Having a father who was born in Greenland, is it no wonder that I've taken to the Greenland paddle so eagerly??   Interestingly enough, I get my wood working, i.e., paddle making,  skills directly from my father. Can it get anymore "full circle" than this?

Gary and Dean off the coast of Greenland.
Heading back.

Scene of the crime!
On our way up the coast, we pulled in behind this rock as there was a small "cove" in behind it. I pulled in close to the rock to ride the swells and currents. I laid my paddle across my cockpit and just bobbed about UNTIL a strong current and wave tipped me over - just like that I was over!!  Foolishly my paddle was not in my hand so I could not brace!!  Instinct said "roll over to the left, come up on the right" Unfortunately the water said differently. There was a strong movement of water under the surface that was pushing me in the opposite direction to the way I wanted to roll up. I went over and could not get my body/boat in the right position, i.e., upside down and vertical. Change of plan, while still under, switch my hands and come back up on the same side I went over on. It worked!!

After, Tony asked me if I did it on purpose. I like to practice rolls but generally not that close to rocks in a good swell. Cheryl was wondering why no-one was coming to my rescue until I popped back up. She thought I was going to do wet exit as she never thought of me doing a roll. 

At the time I was not happy with my roll. Why did I not come up on the side I wanted? Why was I under longer than I wanted etc etc? After thinking about it, I am now very pleased with myself. OK, it was dumb to get caught off guard and go over. Still, I went over and tried to get myself in position to roll. The water said "no" so I had to "improvise". While underwater I had the wherewithal to say,"OK change of plan" and it worked. All that PLUS I had to come up on my offside!!  I'm happy!!

Interesting rocks on the South side of the Brigus.

Julie and Cheryl heading back in.

Tony with Brigus in the background.

Tony cruising by Molly's Island - just off Bishop's Beach.
Thanks fellow paddlers for a great day on the water and for the chance to revisit a bit of my family heritage via means not available to me before, i.e., kayak!


  1. You got a lot of great shots from our paddle. I didn't realize your connection with Greenland. Had I known I'd have like to move off the beach and look around. Maybe next time and on to Cupids.

    Tony :-)

  2. Tony: I thought of that last night too. Greenland is lovely place - very serene and the pastures and rock walls put you in mind of Ireland. I think Brigus to Cupids is a definite possibility. The swells would've been too big yesterday to go into the Gulch that lies about halfway between.

  3. Fascinating history - nice pictures too.