Time Sensitive Placentia Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador

Placentia Bay

47°18'56.9"N 54°18'07.9"W

They say there are three hundred and sixty-five islands in Placentia Bay, and I say THEY are right! Except for the smallest of islands in this Bay; Newfoundlanders lived, loved and fished from those islands. Before the Basque, French and English Fisherman arrived on these shores in early in 16th century, there were the Maritime Archaic, Dorset People, and the Beothucks hunting and living on these islands for thousands of years. These islands have many stories to tell.

I am back in Placentia Bay for the 2016 summer sailing season with seasoned sailors Paul and Brenda Neal. Paul and Brenda are on board a Catalina 32, Dream Weaver and I am on my Fisher 37, Siboney.

Dream Weaver

For three years back in 2004 I visited many of the resettled communities of this Bay; I developed a real spiritual attachment and knew that it was always calling me to come back. Maybe it was because my ancestors who came from Placentia or the desire to understand, to feel the intensity of entering an uninhabited harbour in the wind and the fog, and wondering what small bits of information I might glean from a headstone in a graveyard or a pair of boots in someones foundering fish stage. There was the wonder and visualization of times past. It is a time that is gone and it will all but disappear as nature takes a determined hold on these once vibrant communities. Time is not on our side - our visits are TIME SENSITIVE.

Patrick Hapgood died September 27, 1927 Aged 22 Yrs St. Kyrans

Our 2016 Cruise took us to most areas of Placentia Bay - Long Island, Merasheen Island, a good portion of the Western side of the Bay, and even up to St. Pierre. All in all we stayed in 30 different communities (active and resettled) around the bay and we still have lots of places to visit. It has been memorable experience sailing in the cold fog, rain and wind. Probably more memorable for Paul and Brenda since I have a pilothouse!!!


Visiting these remote resettled communities, we spoke and listened to the fisher men and women, and seasonal inhabitants; crawled around some of the houses and fishing stages; and hiked many trails photographing the uniqueness of our surroundings hoping to capture an image accurately that reflects the beauty, the spirit, and,yes, the loneliness of the location. We left the harbours, houses, and stages like we had entered them - untouched but with deeper understanding of this Far Greater Bay.

Wooden Tool Boxes in Hay Cove
A fallen gravestone in Bar Haven
Paul and Brenda speaking with Freeman Brown of Tack's Beach.

I want you to see a part of Newfoundland and Labrador that I have been so lucky to experience, so come along with me and see the places, the people, and the treasures of that 'Far Greater Bay'; Placentia Bay. Here is the Part 1, I hope you enjoy.

The following map will give you an idea of where some of the communities are located. As this was pulled from the Google Maps, it doesn't show every community visited. For scale, the distance (as the crow flies) between Arnold's Cove and Merasheen is 26 nautical miles.

Placentia Bay

Arnold's Cove

Only a little better than an hours drive from St. John's is the harbour of Arnold's Cove which has forever been a safe haven for fishing and pleasure boats; this is where we set up home port. Electricity, water, a good sized supermarket, and a hospitable population make for an attractive base from which to explore Placentia Bay. An added bonus is boat fees ranging from $6 to $8 a day depending on the size of your vessel.

Arnold's Cove
Arnolds Cove has a very busy pilot station to aid in the movement of supertankers in and around the bay
Cleaning her bottom - It's a community effort; One man works and five provide expert commentary!

Indian Harbour

Indian Harbour is one of those places that just gets to you. It is a well protected harbour but not much to see; there is a cemetery in the woods and cabin on its shores. But its tranquility and solitude, and the singing of the songbirds that makes for a memorable day. We spent the night in Indian Harbour and had a beautiful fire. Unfortunately we could not stay up for the stars. The wharf which we are tied is pretty basic but it works. Lots of sea trout here but we haven't caught any!

Indian Harbour Wharf. Not much to look at or to walk on, but.....

Rose au Rue

Located just east of Indian Harbour, we had trouble finding Rose au Rue having arrived at Merchants Cove initially. Thankfully local fishermen pointed us in the right direction!!

A whaling station was established in 1901 and closed its doors in 1944. It looked to be quite a sizable operation and provided much needed employment to the surrounding communities.


It's June 26; Pomroys, Fitzgeralds, Connors, and Hanns greeted us at the dock; all smiles and very welcoming. They said this was the first day they saw the sun in 2 weeks! Like them who cares about the sun; it's the experience and joy of visiting these once great communities.

The sun brings a smile to everyones' face!
Entrance to Merasheen Harbour

Best's Harbour/Tack's Beach

It's Monday so my iPhone tells me; we left Marasheen and are now tied up in Bests Harbour. It was a foggy 14 mile run with winds up to 20 knots; not a problem for the fishermen and resettled people who seasonally reside on these islands. It's not a problem for us either but we probably fret a lot more about the weather than they do, not quite understanding how the winds, currents, and topography interact with each other.

Tack's Beach
Jackie, Maryalice and Spence doing the tourist thing in Tack's Beach!!
There is a pot of Gold at the end of this rainbow; it's called Bests Harbour!

Bar Haven

Placentia Bay while a photographer's paradise, it is the people that bring life and a deeper sense of place to this Bay. The men, women, and even the young people are proud of their history and traditions ever willing to provide some local history or folklore. It is the welcoming nature of its people that makes you feel at home the minute you drop anchor or tie to a stage or wharf. When we arrived on this particular day, there were several of the men to take our lines. This was Sunday and it was a special religious holiday we were told called "Lady Day" that meant drinks up at the community centre and we were invited to attend. We knew we were welcome and it would be an enjoyable evening! On this particular trip, Maryalice (my wife); Jackie Gregory and Spence Butt came along to take in the flavours of Placentia Bay.

The Bar Haven Cemetery being readied for Come Home celebrations
Looking up from the trail, one can see gravestones all the way to the top of the hill.
Emit Morris, Spence Butt, and Ralph Morris discussing world events!

Wadmans, Morris', Rodgers, and Pittmans, to name a few of the families, were here to make our visit memorable.

Lady Day Celebrations

St. Kyran's

St. Kyran's is located on the western side of the Bay and is on the Presque Shore. I didn't realize it but the Presque Shore has a reputation; tides in Placentia Bay can be eight feet and when the tide goes low, there is lots of water moving out of the Bay. Take that seasonal SW wind and you have got your typical 'hell on water' scenario; steep big seas. Well, in order to get to St. Kyran's you need to go via the Presque Shore. Fortunately, we did not encounter those seas. We endured those at a later date.

St. Kyran's offers a vista to the unsuspecting sailor that is truly majestic. Picture yourself sailing into the bottom of the harbour and seeing the Church of Assumption for the first time; no other building just this skeleton of a church in the middle of Presque Harbour, in the middle of Placentia Bay. This immense church, consecrated in 1923, built by the hands of the outport people of the Presque Harbour, Clattice Harbour, Isle Valen and St. Leonards is a testament to their ingenuity, their faith, and dedication to community. It even had electricity. Alas though, resettlement changed that!

Church of Assumption

The church is not just the only attraction. Walk a kilometre and half along the Blue Road, a road that connects St. Kyran's and St. Leonards, and you see the remnants of a concrete wishing well. You may question why this is here but then you walk a little farther along the trail and there is wire fencing with gravestones interspersed through out tree blowdowns. As I walked along the gravestones I suddenly came upon the ruins of a nineteenth century stone church consecrated in 1859 and also known as the Church of the Assumption. It was a large church in its day rising to four stories. It had burned twice; 1879 and 1922. It is said the corner stones and those of the windows came from Ireland while the remaining stone was quarried somewhere in Placentia Bay.

Remnants of the church

The Cemetery adjacent to the church is harder to find now with all of the blow downs.

Isle Valen

Valen Harbour is well protected as you can see from photo below; but it is tricky to sail into; however, a couple of strategically placed navigation aids help guide you through the shallows. We spent the night out on the old government wharf which was still in good shape. There is lots of good hiking here as we found out.

A exhilliarating walk up to the top of hill provided a crazy view of the harbour.
Slowly being overtaken by the Japanese Knotweed; this home is crumbling onto itself. Crawling through a broken window we ventured inside.

These stairs were pretty steep by today's standards, but are still solid.

Daybeds. bureaus, tables and other household items can be found in this house and provide a perspective of days before resettlement but will soon be lost to the Japanese Knotweed!

A unique bannister!

The writing is on the wall!

The Kings of Isle Valen
Barb and Aloysius King friendly and welcoming; proud of their home and Isle Valen. Barb is in her working attire and did not want me to take a photo, but I could not resist.

The Kings are tirelessly keeping Valen Harbour active with their stories of days past, maintaining their property and the trail that is carried along the harbour shore.

Little Paradise

We were some happy to see Little Paradise! A beat up the Presque Shore on a day with 25 to 30 knots of SouthWest keeps the adrenalin going and wears the body down. While never any danger; it was just damn uncomfortable. I had visited this community back in 2004 but had only tied up for a couple of hours and had a quick tour of the community. We were looking forward to spending some time to explore and hopefully meet some of the locals.

Mike Leonard with a twinkle in his eye and his wife Von welcomed us to Little Paradise!

Brian and Trudy Dray invited us to stay on their mooring. Brian said we would need a 'shorefast' and I said OK! I really was not sure what it was; anyways he took this big coil of rope and passed us one end which we secured to my boat and he tied the other end to his stage. We now had a shorefast.

Our mooring with shorefast attached.

On our departure, Trudy came running down to the wharf to wish us well, she had a package in here hand; a just-baked loaf of bread still hot. Unfortunately two things occurred; (1) I had to share the bread, and (2) we waited till next morning to toast this bread. OMG - It tasted like heaven!!

Great Paradise

Great Paradise is a difficult place to enter by boat, so we walked over from Little Paradise. Just 45 minutes with many hills and ponds on the way. There is supposed to be lots of trout in the ponds, but we figured we would give the trout a chance to live another day! We had hoped to talk with a few people in Great Paradise but there was no one around even though the doors were open and boats tied to the wharf. We figured they had all gone over to Southeast Bight for the Garden Party.

An interesting house with roofing shingles on the sides of the house. The entrance of the house is in fact rounded; someone definitely innovative built this home.

Passing by on our way to Southeast Bight. Not too many trees!!

easton is just visiting for the weekend

Coming soon

Harbour Buffett, Port Royal, Hay Cove, Kingwell, Great Brule Harbour, Southeast Bight, Pettit Forte, Oderin, Baine Harbour, St. Lawrence, Burin Island, Red Island, and Woody Island

Created By
Ed OReilly

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