June 2009 - Home only one week from 5 months in Asia and feeling rather bummed to be back and already bored, my buddy Elaine called up and said she and her two sisters were heading to Newfoundland to kayak around the icebergs. The icebergs come in once a year to the furtherest eastern point in North America. Seeing them was something on my Bucket List!!!! I was in without a second thought.
Elaine and I used to work together in the Police Service and her two sisters live in the USA. The three of them were meeting in Winnipeg in just a few days and Elaine, who works for WestJet, found me a flight and we were off.
We flew across the country, landed in Saint John's which is one of the most fun cities in the whole world. We all hoped to God that there would be some icebergs around the coast accessible to us. Having never really given much thought about where the icebergs come from of how long they hang around the coast, I just assumed they spent their early summers off the coast. Duh! The truth is they can take a year to make their way from Greenland and are really seasonal - some years lots of them come by the east coast, some years very few. They have a cult like following with many tourists, locals and scientists who track their movements by sattelite and provide reports hourly and daily on their locations.
As lucky as I was to be able to join the Vust sisters at very late notice, we were just as lucky when we heard that a big one had lodged itself at Bay Bulls about an hour south from Saint John's. Elaine and I knew Bay Bulls very well as many years ago we spent a very wild Labor Day holiday in a small Zodiac boat in Bay Bulls. We had outfitted ourselves in full inflatible Artic survival jumpsuits and joined a young whale watching guide on his last trip before he was to leave this small village to head off to a new life at University on the mainland. Although that is a whole other adventure worthy of telling (and seeing the pictures!), the short version is the three of us, a small Zodiac and a pod of whales enjoyed a completely wild and fearless day - one of my best experiences ever. Bay Bulls is a classic Newfoundland village, maybe a couple of hundred people, or most likely, three families. It is raw and beautiful and as with all Eastcoast places. fantastically friendly.
We drove into the town hoping to find a place to rent kayaks. We could see the iceberg in the Bay and as we looked around the waterfront past the whale watching boat dock, we didn't see any small baot rental places. Further inland, pulled up on the front lawn of one of the few houses, there were a hand full of kayaks. We went to the door and were met by a friendly Newfoundlander - they only come in one style I think, who rented us his boats and some wet suits.
The most amazing thing about icebergs, other than the incredible mass, is the noise you hear as you get close. They creak and croak and moan - really, really loudly. If you ever get to go on an alaskan Cruise that goes into some of the Glacial Bays - you will also hear this noise. The ice is in constant motion and change: chunks breaking off, air escaping. These massive icebergs are considered very dangerous to boaters as they can flip over in a second as chunks calf off and make them unstable. These incredible masses of debris can cause big waves, or worse case scenario - whack you and your little boat. We were able to experience a big chunk break off and kayaked around baby icebergs that had only recently broken off the mothership.
We had perfect weather, perfect company, and perfect music each night in St John's. George's Street in St John Newfoundland is the mecca for lovers of Celtic music. It is for us, as Memphis Tennessee or Branson Missouri or Nashville is for Country fans. Mecca didn't disappoint.
Now to get back to that list and find the next best thing........