St John’s Newfoundland and Hurricane Chris

With our work in Eastport and the Terra Nova NP area complete…we headed out Monday morning for the 175 mile drive down to Pippy Park. It was an uneventful drive on a nice warm day…we arrived about 1300 and quickly got checked in for our 5 night stay in the full service loop 4 site 156. Once we were setup…Neil put in a new sediment water filter cartridge in our filter setup…the old one was orange from all the crap in the water up here even though it was only a bit over 2 months old…and put 50 gallons of water in our fresh tank in anticipation of a couple of things…first was to have enough for the 3 day transit from St. John’s back over to Doyles over night, then the ferry to the mainland and the last 80 miles to our next real stop in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The second was to have water in case of issues with Hurricane Chris. On our arrival it was still motionless southeast from Cape Hatteras NC about 300 miles but it was supposed to intensify to hurricane strength 1 and then proceed northeastward…staying offshore of the US and Nova Scotia but possibly making landfall in Newfoundland…albeit it would only be an extra-tropical storm by then as it would weaken in the cold North Atlantic and would be out of the tropics and hence not a tropical storm anymore but still a cyclone…before it headed out into the North Atlantic to die.

At our arrival…all of that was still days out and the track not very specific…so we figured we would stick to our original plan of leaving Saturday morning for the 2 day drive back to Doyles just north of the ferry terminal then take the ferry and continue onto Cape Breton Highlands as scheduled. However…we did change the order of our planned activities just in case. The storm was forecast to arrive Thursday sometime so we made sure that all of the must-do stuff was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Garofalo’s pulled in to Pippy Park about an hour after we did and parked 2 sites down…so we continued the NHOG Rally, Newfoundland Edition with them…and as it turned out they followed us to Grand Falls Windsor on Thursday, and Doyles on Friday as well.

Monday evening we headed downtown to the O’Reilly’s Irish Newfoundland pub…where we had some very good brews from the local Yellow Belly Brewery…St. John’s Stout for Neil and Irish Red for Connie. He had some moose nachos for dinner…they were excellent…and Connie had Newfoundland split white pea soup…which was more the consistency of very thick stew than soup but whatever…she said it was good. 

Tuesday we headed up the northwestern arm of the Avalon peninsula…St John’s is on the southeast portion of the peninsula…for a visit to Harbor Grace where Connie’s great grandparents were married and her grandfather baptized, then on to New Perlican where they may…or may not, but it is where her great grandmother who was a Peddle was from…have resided, she’s not sure from her research. We included a visit to the village of Heart’s Content…where the North American end of the first transatlantic telegraph cable was located…after all we needed to do something Neil was interested in and she always tries to do that. We sandwiched lunch in there and got back to the rig pretty late in the afternoon.

Wednesday morning…the track of Hurricane Chris which was up to category 2 instead of the previously forecast category 1 had firmed up and it showed landfall on the Avalon peninsula where St. John’s is located…with some uncertainty that it would actually make landfall as opposed to skirting close by…but it would still be an extra-tropical storm with a defined eye, lots of rain, and winds up to about 60 knots with gusts another 15 or 20 higher than that. Since we were on exposed ground at Pippy Park, and given the potential loss of power and water services due to the storm, and given that we would have to spend most of Thursday and possibly Friday inside the rig sheltering from the rain with the slides closed to reduce our windage area…we, well actually Connie…decided to “choose wisely” as the aged knight said and leave town. Not to worry…Neil agreed with her but said he was going with her desires…although his precise statement was that if he thought she was being insufficiently conservative he might overrule her. We called Sanger Memorial RV Park in Grand Falls-Windsor and moved our reservation from Saturday night to Thursday night, called Grand Codroy RV Park in Doyles and switched our Sunday reservation to Friday through Sunday and decided to just stay in Doyles for the weekend. We’ll do laundry and potentially run down to Port aux Basques for dinner and a brew one night. With both of those reservations firmed up…we headed out for Fun Stuff©.

We first visited Signal Hill in the downtown area to see the Signal Tattoo…which is a military parade of sorts as well as the Cabot Tower on top of Signal Hill, then stopped by the local Catholic diocese offices to see if she could track down some more genealogical records for her various family trees…mostly she was looking for more info on her great grandparents and their children. Unfortunately…those records don’t exist. Back in those days the civil authorities didn’t keep any birth records and the church with the Catholic records in it burned to the ground years ago…so no joy on that front. Signal Hill and the Tattoo were pretty outstanding though.

In the afternoon…Neil dumped tanks and stowed water and sewer connections and we hitched Big Red to the rig…it was supposed to be raining starting at 0400 Thursday morning and it’s much more pleasant to hitch up and do the utilities when it’s not raining and blowing.


We then headed out again to downtown for dinner…stopping first again at O’Reilly’s for beer, dinner, and so we could get Screeched In…more on that later…and since it turned out O’Reilly’s had run out of Screeched in Certificates we instead ended up at Christian’s Pub for the Screech In Ceremony.

We checked the Chris track when we got home…and it turned out that the rain wasn’t starting until about 1000…so we could have hitched in the morning but since it was done we still planned on an 0800 departure to get out as much ahead of the rain as we could.

After our 0500 alarm went off…it continues to amaze us that even though we’re retired we still set an alarm probably half the time…and a lot of time it’s at ungodly times like 0400 or 0530…crazy talk Ima tellin’ ya…anyways we had coffee, a cinnamon sticky bun we bought at Sobey’s when we picked up a few groceries, finished up our remaining pre-underway checks and were on the road and out of the park shortly after 0800 for the 275 mile drive to Grand Falls-Windsor. It’s a nice drive…at least the road is pretty good…but the weather turned out to be abysmal. Instead of starting raining at 1000…it started just about 0900 and varied from just a few sprinkles to tropical downpour amounts of rain…although again I guess that’s actually extra-tropical downpour. Fog, some wind although not really too much and a really grueling driving day. The storm was still several hundred miles from us…but the bands of clouds that spiral out from the eye kept passing over us and we would go from relatively dry weather to fog and rain you could hardly see cars through and back to dry in the space of 10 or 15 minutes.

Tomorrow (Friday) we’ll continue on to Doyles and spend the weekend at Grand Codroy RV Park then head on down to Port aux Basques arriving about 0900 Monday for the 1145 departure of the ferry. Docking is scheduled at 1800 Nova Scotia time and we’ve another 80 miles of driving to get to the campground…so it will be dusk-ish by the time we arrive. I may post again over the weekend…but then again I might just wait until we get to Cape Breton instead…ya never know.

Ok…on to the photos.

Immaculate Conception Church in Harbour Grace. This is no longer in use (another church has been built) but has been declared an historic property. It isn’t the church that Connie’s great grandparents were married in or her grandfather was baptized in, because that one burned down in 1889, but it is on the same site.The local diocese is soliciting bids to sell or lease the property for “repurposing.”

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A statue of Mary in front of the former cathedral.

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View from the front of the church. This is the view that Connie’s great grandparents would have seen coming out of the church after they were married.

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The Heart’s Content Lighthouse…the village is named due to the heart shaped bay it is located within.

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Over in New Perlican…here’s a street named after Connie’s ancestors. There are still Peddle’s living in the town according to the ladies at the Cable Station Historic Site, but she’s not aware of any that we needed to go meet.

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Shots of the small…very small…village of New Perlican.

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Note the colored fishing shacks at the head of each dock. The houses in St. John’s are all brightly colored like this too. Its a Newfoundland tradition.

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The site where the first transatlantic cable came ashore…it was actually the fourth attempt that succeeded as the steamship Great Eastern carried the cable from Ireland to Newfoundland, anchoring in Heart’s Bay to send it ashore.

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The cable station…which remained in service until the mid 1960s when it was retired. When it was open a cost of a telegram to England cost 20 pounds sterling for 20 words, 100 characters maximum, spaces don’t count, numbers have to be spelled, and the to and from names count.  The original operators were British but eventually were almost entirely replaced by Newfoundlanders.

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A repeater from the cable…about 4 feet long and 1 foot in diameter.

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The pipe that protected the cable as it transitioned from the floor of the bay across the beach to the cable station located just across the street.

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Wednesday we drove up to the top of Signal Hill for some photos…including this cool fog bank you can see as we look south-southwest. 

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The entrance light to St. John’s harbor…they get cruise ships and large container ships into this harbor as it’s the only deep water port on the eastern side of Newfoundland.

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Cabot Tower…built in the late 1800s for the 400th anniversary of the landing of John Cabot as I related a couple of blog posts back…it was used as a wireless signal station during World War I…or the Great War as it’s known up here…and also actually was the station that received the SOS from the SS Titanic after it struck the iceberg in April 1911.

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Panoramic view of St. John’s harbor…the entrance is to the left and the light in the photo above is about 200 yards past the end of the channel you can see…the harbor proper is center and right. As I said…this is an excellent harbor…albeit one that’s pretty difficult to get into.

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A closer view of the entrance…looks like plenty of water for ships to pass through, right? Well…appearances are misleading as the following images show.

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A cropped in version of the above with a couple of important things to note.  Atlantic Ocean to the left, harbor to the right. In the center of the frame is a red marker on a rock…remember Red Right Returning? There is deep water right up to the far side of the marker but on this side it’s maybe 2 feet. The red circle at upper left center shows the location of the green buoy that marks the left side (inbound) of the channel…again the buoy is in deep water but about 8 or 10 feet on the far side of it there’s a shelf that extends just about the entire width of this photo. So incoming shipping has to pass through the channel between the green buoy marking the shoals on the left and the red marker marking those on the right? How wide is that?

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Here’s another shot…the boat coming in is about 18 feet long…so that means that the entire width of the channel from green buoy to red marker is maybe 100-120 feet. A container ship has a beam of 80ish feet and a cruise liner a little more depending on the size of the liner…so the crew, well actually the harbor pilot with the assistance of probably at least 2 tugs and the bow thrusters that most modern ocean gong vessels have…has to thread a 700 or 800 foot long 80-100 feet wide ship with a 26-30 foot draft through a narrow channel about 100-120 feet wide and maybe 1,500 feet long before it widens out into the harbor. If you look straight up from the boat’s location to the far shore…you can see portions of the ledge that extend almost out to the green buoy. Obviously they do this a lot as there are 6 or 8 vessels in port in the panoramic photo above…but it’s carefully done, requires a harbor pilot and tugs, and isn’t done in anything remotely approaching bad weather or nighttime. If the seas or wind are high…the shipping has to just wait outside the harbor. 

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Two things from this shot…which is about 200 yards or so further into the entrance channel than the red marker in the above shots…the narrowness continues until the harbor widen out. Second is the cannon at the King’s Battery… the point right down the center of the channel and although there are only 6 of them they would have turned any wooden vessel that tried to force entry into driftwood. 

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Shots from the tattoo…it’s performed in honor of the members of the Newfoundland Battalion that served under a total of 4 flags during it’s history. The performers are all college age re-enactors.

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Connie got a shot of them firing their muskets.

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Neil on the other hand…put his camera in burst mode and got a nice sequence of the firing…you can see the muzzle flash in the second one and the blast from the artillery piece in the background in the last.

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They then fired off one of the mortars up on top of the hill you can see in the above shots.

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With that…our day was done…so we headed back and finished up the pre-underway chores I talked about before…then headed out to first O’Reilly’s and then Christian’s Pub for the Screech In ceremony. You’ve probably been wondering ever since back at the beginning of this post…so Ima gonna tell ya about it.

You see…to a Newfoundlander…they are extremely proud of their heritage, history and culture. St. John’s is one of the oldest settlements in North America and the folks here have a long history of fishing…and of selling their fish to people down in the Caribbean islands in exchange for rum. They also believe that there are only two types of people in the world…Newfies and CFAs…that stands for Come From Aways…or outsiders. However…being friendly people, and thinking that everybody wanted to become a Newfie…they wanted to have a way for CFAs to become Newfies, or at least  an honorary rum Thusly…they needed to establish certain requirements, ceremonial rites, secret handshakes and the like to go along with that. So’s they got to thinking and decided that three things needed to be involved…first up is cod since fishing for cod is the oldest industry in Newfoundland…second is rum since they brought it in from the islands and hey, who doesn’t like drinking shots of rum in the bar…and third you needed to learn some of the Newfoundland language.

First up…the language. Now most of what we learned has to remain forever secret…except for those who’ve become honorary Newfies by completing the ceremonial hits and receiving their official Royal Order of Newfoundland Screechers certificate. However…the one Newfie word that is allowed for CFAs is ah bye…it means Yes and is a general reply to just about any question from “how’s the weather” to “did ye catch any cod today” to whatever else one Newfie might ask another. We learned other words as well…but as I noted those must remain a mystery for CFAs.

Next…you must kiss the cod…and by cod they mean an actual used to be swimming in the ocean whole cod. There was a piece of sautéed maple bologna to go along with it.

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And finally…a shot of Screech Rum…which is the locally distilled stuff…no, we didn’t drink all of these but there was one for every former CFA taking part in the aforementioned ceremonial rites. We had people from as far away as India in our group…and even 3 year old Casper (the son of Leisha and Dimka the Indian folks) participated…although he got gypped and got no Screech…just some sugar syrup.

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Connie couldn’t resist getting another kiss o’ the cod along with our master of ceremonies…aka the bartender…who is an actual Newfie.

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We’re official!! Connie thought that she shouldn’t have to kiss the cod as her ancestors were born here…but you’re either born a Newfie or you’re a CFA…not any more though.

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With that our day was done and we headed home…I already talked earlier about the trip over to Grand Falls Windsor.

On to interesting things found on the net…although none of these were actually found on the net this week…they all came from our camera.

The menu from O’Reilly’s…notice the part over on the left about there being no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet…Neil’s been saying this for years.

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Only in Newfoundland would they name a village Dildo.

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Only in Newfoundland 2…where they actually have 3 liter bottles of booze…these are the aforementioned Screech Rum…biggest darned booze bottle ya evah dun seen…Oooh Wee, it be wundermus as Justin would say. (Google Justin Wilson if you don’t get the reference.)

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And finally…these 20somethings pulled in yesterday evening to camp for the weekend. I’m not sure what is going on over there as it’s 3 guys and 1 gal in a 24 foot class C…but hey, whatever. Anyway…they were out having breakfast this morning at 0737…as you can see they’re having Beer…the Breakfast of Champions! Score! One of the has no shirt, another is dressed only in a towel, one is wearing pajama bottoms and a t-shirt, and the young lady was dressed in only a thin lace swimming suit coverup…sans suit.

What were they thinking?

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About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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