Viking Voyage series serves up string of new experiences for Guardian reporter
First time at the wheel
A furry-faced friend on the wharf at Straitsview, N.L., peeked around the Be Faithful 2 sailboat’s awning, followed by a smiling face of the human kind.
“I hear someone wants a shower here,” spoke the latter, which happened to be Barbara Blake, whose home was just a jaunt down the road from the Parks Canada National Historic Site of L’Anse aux Meadows.
Charlottetown sailors Geoff and Jane Ralling and I had been in this northern Newfoundland community for a few days visiting the Viking archeological site before it was time to set sail for the Gulf of St. Lawrence and our Prince Edward Island home, following a route that could have been taken by the Norse explorers 1,000 years ago.
“I’ve left the door open. Towels and facecloths are by the sink,” my generous host offered, after giving me rudimentary directions to her house in Straitsview where the Blakes and Hedderson mailboxes rule the roads.
To be sure and to avoid any lurid B&E shower-stealing charges on my part, I checked the route carefully to avoid accidentally taking a surprise advantage of any other local resident’s open door policy.
The Rallings tell me that’s what happens in Newfoundland – you land at the wharf, tell them what you need and help usually arrives: fuel, fish, a friendly offer of the use of a vehicle.
Well for me, that gift of a shower was a first and it was one of many for this Viking Voyage.
I’d never really even been to sea before, let alone been on a foray to Newfoundland for a six-hour coastal drive north to experience some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen.
Then there were the little roadside gardens in the ditches, with carefully tended plots that were manned by Newfoundland scarecrows, aka a cross clothes with a big shirt that billowed in the incessant wind.
I was told that good soil was so scare that locals sometimes drive long distances to find that sweet soil spot to nudge some fresh produce from the earth before the short growing season comes to a close and winter grabs hold.
And then there another first: an overnighter in the recreated sod Viking house that was built at L’Anse aux Meadows in the 1970s, which resulted in my close encounter of the over-imaginative-idiot kind with a blinking smoke alarm light in the middle of the night.
And I must also mention that I’d never experienced close quarters living in a small sailboat either.
There was the bicep-building endeavour of hand-pumping the toilet to fill and flush; the rock-a-bye baby in the berth feeling with my head butting the loo in galley when sleeping; a symphony of snores emanating at any given time during the night.
Then there was my first really big sail from the Isles-de-la-Madeleine to Wood Islands which was in 25-knot-plus winds that stirred up waves that swelled and dipped to more than 14 feet at times and whipped up some heavvy jeavvy feelings in the ole tummy.
“We’re going to be in Souris before we’ve left the Maggies,” Jane laughed as yet another big wave slipped up from behind and overtook us even at our brisk 7.2 knot pace.
“Some say that sailing is hours of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror,” Geoff smiled.
Anyone who has ever had to “go” in rough seas knows it’s like trying to use the bathroom on a Tilt-a-Whirl carnival ride.
And there were times I wished yawning worked for sea queasiness like it did ear popping on airplanes
But soon P.E.I. came into range and soon would come my last port of call in my Viking Voyage series.
All good first things must come to an end.