There’s nothing quite like the shock of 16C water to clear the head of the fogginess wrought by a Newfoundland kitchen party.
The sudden dunking in Bonne Bay at Norris Point was a brutal first lesson in weight shifting on a standup paddleboard. One moment John was enjoying unusually balmy conditions and a 360-degree panorama of mountains, the next he was tasting salt water.
This pristine location close to Gros Morne National Park was the first of at least 20 paddling adventures we will take on over 30 days during our Canada 150 celebration as Canadaonboard, a tribute to our nation and its’ waters.
John’s pratfall, his first after a handful of successful paddles, came just as a group of kayakers pulled close to us. Pam, a SUP instructor and guide, expertly braced the two boards together so John could scramble back on board and try to regain his dignity.
We explained our mission, the blogs and eventual story for The Canadian Press, and one of the group recognized John. “The Spectator, right?” he said, a reference to John’s time at The Hamilton Spectator.
You have to get right back on the horse, so minutes later John was on his feet and enjoying the rugged setting that included the Shag Cliff, a formidable face of limestone that gleamed in the sun. It was a section of seabed thrust upward back in the mists of time by continental plates colliding. Later, glaciers gouged out the Gros Morne fiords.
It was one of several paddles recommended by the helpful folks at Gros Morne Adventures, who operate small-group kayaking, hiking and backpacking adventures in the park.
By Land or Sea – Unforgettable Vistas
A Must-Do in Newfoundland!
A night of Newfie music and humour and a dance called The Stomp climaxed with the screeching-in ceremony that included a vow to return to the Rock, a shot of rum screech and a kiss of a frozen cod named Sophie. It was only fitting that a restorative baptism in cold water the next morning would follow.
Neddies Harbour Inn
We enjoyed the convenience of putting into the water right behind our hotel, Neddies Harbour Inn, sliding the sturdy Cascadia inflatable SUPs off the top of our SUV in the classic setting of a fishing port. Lobster traps, nets and rope were the backdrop to our launch.
The Inn is a simply striking accommodation, recently refurbished with touches of elegance and affording brilliant views of the water, the mountains and tablelands of Gros Morne embracing Bonne Bay.
We enjoyed cod in an infinitely nicer context the night before with the panfried filet at the Inn’s sunny restaurant, The Black Spruce, where award-winning chef Jason Lynch hangs his toque blanche. It was a delicate rendition of the island staple delivered with a flurry of “my loves” and “my darlin’s” that attend Newfoundland service.
The Old Store Café is a delightful surprise, a cheery little eatery with great coffee, baked goods, and soups and salads. The setting is unstuffy with colourful local art on the walls. It is a former general store for the area and our server pointed out the corner where he used to ponder the candy jars. The breakfast sandwich and couscous salad were delicious.
Meet the Locals – Science Collaboration
The sea and its creatures are never far away here but rarely as close as you can get to them at the Bonne Bay Marine Station right at the Point’s tip.
It’s operated by Memorial University and is home to ongoing research as well as displays open to the public explaining the staggering range of diversity of marine plant life, fish and invertebrates in the area. The in-your-face encounters with snow crabs and rare blue lobsters are a highlight.
Combined with the soaring and twisting drive to and from Gros Morne, an epiphany of land and sea, it was a remarkable first leg of our journey.
Around & About Norris Point, Newfoundland