Yes, the little boats are going out to sea tonight, and tomorrow and tomorrow night and for many days and nights to come this summer. It is the first night of the ‘Recreational/Food Fishery’ and the little Newfoundland boats are bobbing proudly around on their moorings just waiting to be unleashed and allowed to do what they were made to do-run through the waters and stop and go at the bidding of the master at the helm. The cove is different this evening, a much different and more free feeling in the air, more activity at our small wharf, more vehicles and children waiting to see who comes in first, who fished where, who caught the biggest fish, and all of those things that accompany the fishing itself.
It is an amazingly beautiful calm evening with a spectacular sunset, almost as if the Controller of the Universe is saying “All is well.” The reflection of the pink sunset on the still water of Shoal harbor makes the whole harbor look like a gigantic sheet of pink satin, and as each small craft leaves it appears to be cutting the satin like a seamstress would cut the lovely material. The red, yellow, blue and gold of the life vests add another dimension of color to the picture and it is truly a sight to behold. The race is on, and the little boats are straining at the bit to get out to open water where they most like to be, to do what they were made to do.
Last year was our first year back in Newfoundland after many years “up along”, and the food fishery opened, and we watched the boats leaving one by one. My husband had no boat, but friends and neighbours invited us to go along, so he went with them, caught fish and enjoyed it so much. This year he has had time to shop for and buy a boat, and is happy to take whoever would like to go, repaying kindness and courtesy that was shown to him in the Newfoundland tradition. Tonight he already had planned to take a friend with him when another young man called to see if he could join them and take his young son too. Sure he could, and off they went, happy faces reflecting the general feeling that prevails over us all.
Yes, this year we have our boat. We searched every nook and corner in Trinity Bay and beyond until we found her, and as soon as we saw her we knew she had to be ours. She is brand new, built by a man and his son in St.Jones Within. She is a beauty, a strong, sturdy craft. Sixteen feet long, six feet in the beam, and we think we have the Queen Mary. The twenty-five horse power motor moves her along slick and sure. Every day that she does not leave her mooring we can still drive by the little wharf and see her patiently waiting for us. I call her the ‘Kylee G’. After our little grand daughter who lives so far away. When Kylee is older, she will know that a smart, beautiful little boat was named for her, and she will know that we were thinking of her always, even though a long distance separates us.
A friend dropped by to see our boat on his way across Newfoundland and remarked “I thought you would have a bigger boat than that!”. I was crushed. I thought we had the best little boat in the world, and I still think so! When we were shopping for a motor for her my husband remarked that if he didn’t soon find a motor he would have to grow longer arms to bjlowe5be able to row his boat. The Kylee G. bobbed about as if she were laughing.
This small craft gives us the freedom to explore the bays and coves, to have boilups on different beaches with friends, to search for mussels at low tides while the eagles circle overhead. She comes obediently to us from her mooring and stays while we load her full of everything four people would need for a day out on the water. Then our friends get aboard, then us,, and we just sit there and think she is a grand ship.
The little boy who goes out fishing tonight will love her, his eyes wide with the delight of it all, especially when he is in the company of his dad and the other men. He has his new life vest, his blond hair ruffled, his toothless smile a sight for any photographers’ lens.
When we were looking for the Kylee G., we saw so many boats that looked sad, so many boat owners now too old to fish anymore, so many who had moved away, the boats falling into disrepair with nobody here to care for them. To see an elderly fisherman having to sell his boat is heartbreaking. He stands beside his boat and tells stories of better days, when the fish were plentiful, days when he was young, and his boat was new. One man said he would prefer to burn his boat than sell her to someone else, all so very sad.Probably that is what led us to the Kylee G. She is new, with fresh paint and no past history, her history begins with us and it has already started.
It makes me question “What happened?”. What happened to the Newfoundland of my childhood when the first question after school was always “Goin’ out in boat?” Our scrawny knees and attitude of “No guts, No glory” leading us to mischief like commandeering someones’ boat, rowing around for as long as we liked, then losing an oarlock or towpin, and having to scrounge one from someone else’s unsuspecting little boat to replace it. None of us could swim, we were all warned to stay away from the wharf, but the pull was too great, and we repeatedly went to the boats, went fishing, and caught the fish too! Now a little boy thinks it is a real adventure to go out on the bay for an evening. What a change there has been, but the fish went and with them went a way of life.
But for the length of time of the open fishery maybe we will see the Island of our younger days. The boats will be launched, men will be yarnin’ on the wharves, women complaining about the mess of the men, and telling them to hurry up, there are things to do at home! Hopefully Newfoundlanders will see that part of our heritage of the sea come to life for this short time. More people and boats out, more friends made, more proudness in their voices if they catch a good size fish, and with it catching for a brief moment some hope for the future and for Newfoundland.
During the time of the open fishery maybe some dear old fisherman will catch his last cod, and maybe some young child will catch their first one. At least we can hang on and hope, and enjoy Newfoundland the way it used to be. It will never really be the same, as the winds of change blow over everything sooner or later. Our Island in the Sea is changing, and we need time to adjust, to let the next generation steer the course, and I am sure we will find that the universe is unfolding as it should. Meanwhile, we are going fishing. We are going to feel the salt on our lips and the wind in our faces, and we will smell the salt air and remember.
As we move out little boats into the future, the fighting Newfoundland spirit will get us through as it has before during bad times. We will get through the loss, and we will accept whatever the winds of change will bring.I never dreamed I would have one of those little boats of Newfoundland when I played the song about them over and over while I was away from the Island, but now I do have one. And it is glorious. Those little boats of Newfoundland really do mean the world to me.So for a short time we will use our little boats, get a glimpse at the Newfoundland of bygone days, and hope for the wind to be at our backs as we move into the twenty-first century.