Full Circle – St. John’s and Conception Bay

The morning we leave Long Harbour to sail to St. John’s, the weather is promising. Our plan is to stop in St. Brides for the night and then continue to St. John’s harbour next day. It’s an overnighter, whatever way you slice it, and there are few places to pull into between Long Harbour and our final destination. Yet, when we reach St. Brides we aren’t ready to stop, the sailing is pretty good, so we carry on. Maybe not the best decision in hindsight.

Cold Captain Al
Sunrise off Port Kiran
A cold sailor with layers and layers of clothing

Coming round Cape St. Mary’s does not disappoint, the variety and number of seabirds in the sky and water is captivating. Once in Golden Bay we encounter fishing gear in the water, but it is well marked and the spectacular sights of seabirds everywhere are making up for the hazards. As the sun sets, the temps drop, dramatically. Our overnighter turns into the coldest night we have experienced on the water since leaving Newfoundland over a year ago. It is so cold that we reduce our shifts to 30 minutes so we can take turns warming up below. I could not have worn more clothes. Filbert refuses to come up and stays down below in a fleece blanket with the Espar cranked. Sometimes I wish I led my cat’s life.

Early next morning as the sun rises and the fog clears, we reach Port Kirwan. The fog clears as we approach the shore, only to reveal the tip of a massive iceberg that has grounded about a mile before the harbour entrance. It showed up on our radar well before we could see it visually. Too tired and weary to explore the iceberg, we head straight for the wharf and tie up. A strong westerly is coming this afternoon, so we sleep for a couple of hours and awake to move into the Fermeuse town dock where one local told us, “Bye, you could tie her up with a piece of yarn and she’d be fine”. Sure enough he is totally accurate and even though the blow is big we feel no discomfort. I take Filbert for a walk before the wind comes up. He is so happy to be out and about and exploring. He also eats enough grass to fill a small cow.

After an excellent sleep we get up with the birds and continue our trek towards St. John’s, The day is warm and sunny and there is a profusion of wildlife. In fact, it is the most we’ve seen since we left Newfoundland 12 months ago. There are so many seabirds at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, its astounding. The reserve near Bay Bulls, contains North America’s largest Atlantic puffin colony. Over 260,000 pairs nest here during the late spring and summer. It also hosts the second-largest Leach’s storm-petrel colony in the world, over 620,000 pairs come here to nest. Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve, is the largest.

The birds scurry on top of the water as our boat approaches, half running and flying away from us. Orange flashes from puffins, the cutest birds on the ocean. The hurried wing beat of turres too full to move, scurrying across the water, almost gaining flight but not quite. And the great majestic gannets soaring high, a ballet in flight, you could watch them forever. The sky is darkened at times with the flocks of seabirds filling the sky.

There are whales everywhere too, obviously feeding. They hang out on top of the water rolling, slapping their fins, while others do a few tail slaps and we catch sight of one breaching. There’s humpback, fins, minkes and their spouts dot the horizon for the entire trip.

Whale wave
Bird watching
Signal Hill
The Battery, St. John’s

Near St. John’s, the wind picks up to 35 knots as we approach the harbour. A small iceberg sits outside the narrows, to make a superlative day, perfect. Whales, puffins, gannets, turrs, waterfalls, icebergs – Newfoundland has put on a great show.

We call ahead to St. Johns Port Authority and they direct us up into the basin to where we should tie up. They’ve advised that we have to tie alongside another boat and that boat just happens to be S/V Terrapin, our sailing buddies that we last saw in St. Anne, Martinique. Molly, Baxter and Kala are up on deck to catch our lines as we arrive at the dock. It’s so incredible to meet these guys here and we have many stories to share. Maybe our cruiser days aren’t finished yet!

Meeting a fellow cruiser in any port is exciting, but in your home port is awesome. When we head out that evening for a meal, there is so much to catch up on that we have trouble getting an order in. Molly, Baxter and Kala are heading to Ireland, and Dan, their sailor friend, is accompanying them. Hearing about their upcoming journey to Ireland is riveting and all I can think of is, “I want to go too!”.

An interesting note, while tied up in St. John’s harbour, a sailboat came in later and tied to us, S/V Valiant. They told us they were sailing to Greenland and Iceland but their adventure took a turn. Read about it here.

S/V Terrapin in St. John’s Harbour
S/V Valiant tied to the port side of Ingomar
Dora Maar says hello as we pass each other at Cape St. Francis
Calm day in CBS

The next day we sail around the Avalon peninsula, and head up Conception Bay. We meet several sailboats heading into St. John’s for the Port Authority race and receive warm welcomes from all. Once we clear Cape St. Francis, the south eastern tip of the island, the water inside Conception Bay is mirror calm and the weather is sunny, warm but windless. We finally reach Middle Arm where we reconnect with a bunch of sailing buddies. Over the weekend we visit Holyrood and Brigus and the party continues, meeting old friends and introducing our new ones. We manage a few road trips and explore some of the Avalon with the Terrapin crew. Their stay is short as a good weather window opens for them to cross the pond.

Reunited with good friends
Middle Arm
Filbert, do you want to sail to Ireland?
The lads up on deck
Party with friends on Ingomar

Terrapin finally gets the weather forecast they’ve been waiting for and pull out of Brigus early Tuesday morning. We wish them a safe and speedy trip and we also wish we were going with them. It is here in Brigus that we have finally reached the end of our great big sail. But it’s not the end of our cruising adventures and we plan on setting sail again. When? Not sure. Where? Doesn’t matter. How? That’s what were going to figure out.

Kala, super dog
Pretty houses in Brigus
Terrapin and Ingomar on mooring in Brigus
New restaurant in Brigus is worth a visit
Kala says hello
Dan checks messages before heading offshore
Farewell guys and Fair winds!

We’ve learned so much about cruising but we also know there’s way more to be discovered. Knowing people like Molly, Baxter and Dan, and super dogs like Kala, and following their adventure just makes us want to go again. We love the lifestyle, the adventure, the people, the challenge and the opportunity to travel. Most of all, we found living on a boat is the best way to see the world. And so we have come full circle and become landlubbers again. But not forever.

Author: tess

A full-time adventurer, I am sailing our 37-foot Tartan with my husband and kitty, to the Caribbean from Newfoundland while documenting it on our blog, greatbigsail.com

4 thoughts on “Full Circle – St. John’s and Conception Bay”

  1. You completed a very wonderful adventure – Bravo! Glad you got home “safe and sound” – Gladys and Jack were sure guiding you all the way. Enjoyed seeing you all in Long Hr. All the best in your land adventures and God Bless!

    1. Hi Carm! It was lovely seeing you as well. I love to think Mom and Dad were there in spirit as well. It’s nice to be home and reconnecting with everyone, like yourself. Take care!

  2. What an adventure. Thanks so
    Much for sharing with us. We are happy to have you back on
    Terra firma.
    ♥️ Me and my familiar!

    1. Hey Jac! Thanks, it’s been fun having you along for the ride. I loved your comments and whenever I posted I always looked forward to your response. It’s good to be back but I am wishing I was in Gros Morne today with all you guys! Love to you and Murph.

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