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Boatbuilders of Labrador LABRADOR WINTER GAMES RETURN

Tales from the TLH

Shipwrecked in Black Tickle


Published by Downhome Inc. 43 James Lane, St. John’s, NL, A1E 3H3 1-888-588-6353 • www.insidelabrador.ca

Editor Tobias Romaniuk Art Director Vince Marsh Graphic and Web Designer Cory Way Operations Manager Alicia Hanlon Distribution and Subscription Representatives Joseph Reddy, Marlena Grant, Amanda Ricks, Drew Ennis

Advertising Sales Senior Account Manager Robert Saunders Account Manager Barbara Young Account Manager Tiffany Boone Publisher and CEO Grant Young President Todd Goodyear Chief Financial Officer Tina Bromley

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GREAT EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

SERVING THE COMMUNITY FOR 51 YEARS ~1968-2019~ Carol Automobile Ltd. 55 Avalon Drive, Labrador City

709 944–2000 1–800–563–5555 www.carolauto.com


table of contents 6 Editor’s Note 8 From Our Readers 10 My Champion Catch

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12 Game On! Winter Games returns to Labrador

16 Avery Aggek Eczema Warrior

22 A Portuguese Connection 30 Readers’ Photo Album 32 Wooden Boats and the People Who Build Them 46 All Sewn Up Getting to Know a Labrador Upholsterer

52 Readers’ Photo Album

54 Noah Nochasak Explorer, kayak builder, educator

58 To TLH or Not to TLH 64 Photo Finish Cover: Outside Labrador City. Dominique Andrews photo

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We are an incredibly diverse group, us humans,

with our various cultures, traditions, practices and ways of living. But we’re also the same in many ways, and with a bit of effort, we can all find common ground. It’s easy to point out ways that we are different from each other. I’m far more interested in finding ways that people, no matter where they are from, are similar to the people in their newfound home. This was on my mind as I called up Danny Swearinger, an upholsterer in Happy Valley-Goose Bay who moved to Labrador from Georgia, USA. The two places are different in climate, culture and history, but I wanted to know what about the two groups of people – Georgian and Labradorian – were similar. It turns out that, for all their differences, there are also many similarities between the two. You’ll have to read the story to find out, though (turn to p.49). And speaking of differences, the Inuit culture of Labrador is definitely different from European culture. And these differences should be celebrated, treasured and maintained proudly. Take, for instance, boat building. Crystal Brae, a folklorist with the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador, illustrates those differences in this issue, while in a separate story, Noah Nochasak explains why he feels a traditionally made, skin-on-frame kayak is important, and why he felt the need to build one. Here’s to celebrating our differences while we find something in common with one another. Tobias Romaniuk Editor Inside Labrador tobias@downhomelife.com

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From Our Readers Recalling a Disaster

Re: Downhome Jan. 2017 issue, pg. 118 - Disaster at Goose Bay Airport A U.S. Airforce military aircraft AC130 Cargomaster crashed on takeoff on Nov. 7, 1964. I and one of our aircraft mechanics were on our way home at the time of the accident and witnessed the whole scene. Weather may have been a factor. Approximately 45 minutes before the accident the temperature was around one to two degrees above zero when the temperature dropped suddenly to -1° to -3° with wet snow showers still falling. That’s when we noticed the aircraft taxiing to takeoff position, snow showers just ending. We watched the aircraft pilot complete his engine runup and start his takeoff run. Just before liftoff the pilot cut the engines and aborted the takeoff and taxied back down the runway. The engineer and I assumed that he was heading back to the hangar to be de-iced. We were surprised when the aircraft passed the hangar and continued to the takeoff position again. After doing an engine run-up, the pilot started his takeoff run again. The aircraft lifted off and reached an altitude of approximately 200 feet when its right wing dropped dangerously 8

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low. The pilot brought the wing up and levelled the aircraft for a second when the left wing dropped and the aircraft went into a nose down position. With the loss of altitude and airspeed, the aircraft stalled and crashed into the fuel tank farm. Thus the disaster. I believe the pilot tried to avoid the fuel tanks, but the aircraft was beyond control. At the time of the accident I had 18 years of experience in ground handling all of the world’s commercial carriers. William Maloney, Clarenville, NL

A C130 Cargomaster similar to the one that crashed.

Kayak Memories I just happened to pick up your magazine, Inside Labrador, and saw these interesting stories on life in Labrador. Right away the picture on the front cover caught my eye. It is a picture of Cartwright not far from where my parents grew up in Sandwich Bay. I was very impressed with the kayak WINTER 2019


stories and the importance of the kayak many years ago. It brought memories of my father when he was a young boy living in White Bear River. His uncle Edward Learning was the last known person to have used his home-built Labrador sealskin kayak, which he made himself. This was his transportation around the bay as well for hunting. My father told us when he was 10 years old in 1922, his uncle Edward would give him a ride on the top of his kayak. In a canoe, I’ve paddled the Churchill River, Sand Hill River and Big River. I only have pictures of the Churchill River trips. I am now a kayaker and it all happened by accident. One summer, my wife took a kayak course in Goose Bay, and one day she wanted me to go kayaking with her. I was 55 years old in 2001 and had never sat in a kayak before. I was a member of the Canadian Rangers and I was able to rent kayaks from them for a day. I was very reluctant to go kayaking; I was always told how tippy they were and I would most likely end up in the water if I was to get in one. Well, down to the river we went and there I was, sitting in the kayak and still upright. I nervously pushed off from shore, and soon l was floating along in the water. Now, not knowing how to paddle was going to be a challenge. Still with the fear of rolling in my head, I causally put my paddle in the water and slowly moved it along the side of my kayak. I was surprised to feel the kayak move along the water quickly and without too much effort. I was nervous about turning over, and WINTER 2019

yet paddling this kayak was much easier than I could have imagined. Here I was sitting up right, just moving my shoulders and arms in a slow fashion, gliding through the water like a glider in the sky. After a few strokes I thought this is great and so easy to do. I was hooked. It was September and I spent at least four hours in the kayak, but I would not sit in a kayak again until the next summer. In July of 2002, I did my first kayak trip to Cartwright with my brother Jim, who did river kayaking in the past. He had a frozen shoulder and I ended up renting a double kayak for two weeks from the Canadian Forces. This was the beginning of my many adventures along the Labrador coast. I have kayaked both sides of Lake Melville. I have kayaked from Goose Bay to Nain on a 36-day trip. I have, over time, kayaked from Goose Bay to Blanc Sablon, Quebec. I have, in all, kayaked a distance of 2,700 kms along the Labrador coast. I am planning on kayaking from Cape Chidley to Nain with a friend this summer. I am a member of the NunatuKavut Inuit group. Our culture is very important to me and preserving it means a lot to me, to revive our Inuit spirit that is still hidden inside of us. Richard via email

Do you have a story about life in Labrador? Share it with us. editorial@downhomelife.com inside LABRADOR

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BY BURTON K. JANES

THERE HANGS on my wall a picture of an ice-fishing scene. I often look at it, as it holds great personal significance. It was a gift from my parishioners at a farewell party they held for me when I left my pastorate in Labrador City some years ago. My friend, Jamie, whose name has been changed to protect the guilty, invited our family to join him and his family at Ashuanipi Lake for an overnight fishing expedition. I’m not much of a fisherman, but I was determined to impress my family and friends with the biggest catch ever. Out on the ice, a considerable distance from the cabin, Jamie and I made two holes. I stood over the hole I had made, my line dangling in the water, and patiently waited for a bite. What seemed like hours passed without a nibble. I felt discouraged.

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Jamie walked over to me and helpto rein him in. But what resistance I fully suggested, “Leave the line in place encountered! Then the object came and come back to the cabin for a mugabreast of the hole, but would come up.” Never one to ignore good advice, up no further. This encouraged me to and not thinking for a moment that shout even louder. “Jamie!” I called in his kind invitation had an ulterior panic, “I can’t get the fish up through motive, I jumped on his snowmobile the hole! Help me!” with him and left my spot. As quick as a flash, he grabbed the Throughout the meal, I said things line and began tugging at it with like “I wonder if I got one yet? What if determination. Moments later, he’s so big he breaks my line? What if though, he exclaimed, “Pastor, b’y, the he pulls it out of the hole and swims brick is too big to come up through away?” the hole!” Unnoticed by me, Jamie had left the The brick? cabin. Shortly after, I heard him I stared at him in disbelief. When I shouting in the distance, “Tell Pastor turned toward the shore, there were Janes he caught a big one!” all my family and friends, standing at I jumped up from the table and the cabin window, laughing that dashed from the cabin. Tearing across Jamie had gotten me, but good. the ice to my fish hole, I yelled, “How I should add that, later that day, big is he?” my son Christopher and I did make a “He’s some big, Pastor, b’y!” real catch...and I have the photo to When I reached my fishing hole, prove it. Jamie passed me the line, saying, “Be careful. He’s a big one. Don’t let him get away. Tug gently on the line.” I tugged on the line – it was taut. This had to be my champion fish. Stooping down, I peered into the hole. All I could see was the unmistakable colour of a fish, responding grudgingly to my tug on the line. Of course, I was screaming and gesticulating by now, to let everybody back at the cabin know I had hooked a monster of a fish. When I figured I finally had the champion beat out, I slowly began Burton and son Christopher with the “real” catch

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All photos John Graham

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THE LABRADOR Winter Games returns to Happy Valley-Goose Bay this winter, with a few changes intended to improve the Games experience. Held every three years, the Games first started in 1983, when travelling around Labrador wasn’t as easy as it is today. Nicknamed the friendship games, the event was started, in part, as a way to bring together people of Labrador’s geographically diverse communities. This year, says Labrador Games board chair Ernie McLean, the organizers are making adjustments in an effort to include as many communities as possible. The Games organizers are hoping to see every community represented, and have begun discussions on options to involve smaller or under

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represented communities, including possibly allowing for smaller communities to join together in creating a team. The Labrador Games is a team event, with each community encouraged to enter a team. To encourage participation, says Ernie, the board will visit each community, speaking with representatives from the teams, in an effort to answer questions and promote involvement in the Games. “The Games represent a lifestyle of Labrador that was once a way of life,” says Ernie, explaining the events of the Labrathon, which recreates the tasks an outdoors person – like, say, a

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Many of the events of the games represent a traditional Labrador lifestyle. trapper – would typically encounter, including starting a fire, cutting a hole in the ice, and other skills. In that spirit of representing the region’s history, the dogsled race is still part of the Games, but is no longer one of the mandatory events. Instead, sled teams will compete for the Winter Games Cup. The new format allows for multiple teams from a single town, unlike the former race,

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which allowed for one team from each community. Ernie says the change was made, in part, because most of the dog teams come from three or four communities, and partly as a way to increase the visibility of dog sled racing. To participate in the Games, each community enters a single team of 18 athletes who each compete in at least one of the mandatory event sports

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and some of the optional sports. This year, the mandatory sports are snowshoeing, target shooting, the Northern duathlon, snowshoe biathlon, cross-country skiing, the Northern games (consisting of the high kick and other traditional games) and the Labrathon. Optional sports include table tennis, volleyball, darts, badminton, and a running road race. New this year is a snowshoe race for athletes 50 years old and older. In 2016, the games saw 22 communities represented, although not all were able to filed a full slate of athletes. The 2019 Labrador Winter Games will be held March 17-23. For more information, visit www.labradorwintergames.ca.

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BY AIMEE CHAULK

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AVERY AGGEK is proud of himself. “I never spent $50 on anything today,” he says. He was tempted by a video game or a remote-control car, but he held back. He’s got his own money. “I’m doing newspapers. I’m delivering them,” he explains. But he’s saving his cash. What would a 10-year-old be saving his money for, if not those things? Avery is hoping to attend a camp for kids with the same medical issues he has. He has dealt with severe eczema and allergies for nearly his whole life. “It’s itchy, but after you scratch it, it hurts and it stings. And cream feels really weird,” he says. He gets eczema all over, primarily on his face, hands, feet, and behind his knees. Since he was eight months old, he’s been in and out of hospital, visiting specialists, dealing with flare-ups and infections. He’s missed a lot of school. “Last year, it came to the point where he had to be hospitalized and he had

week upon week of antibiotics and getting medevaced to St. Anthony and St. John’s,” says his mom, Tabea. “Summertimes are good, but fall is here, and already eczema has started on his face. Wintertime is really bad for Avery. It gets to the point where he has to go to emerge all the time. Hopefully it won’t be so hard this winter. We’ve got his creams started already.” They’re veritable pros at dealing with Avery’s health challenges, but at times, they feel a bit alone. Being allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, eggs, and dairy, Avery can’t eat much food

Left: Avery (centre) and mom Tabea (right) with another attendee at the National Eczema Expo and Kids Camp in Chicago

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Avery and his mom Tabea in front of the Chicago skyline at birthday parties, for example, and Tabea asks to see ingredient lists for everything they eat. But last year, they went to the National Eczema Expo and Kids Camp in Chicago, and learned that they’re not so alone. Tabea says the experience was lifechanging. “It was so good to know that I’m not the only one dealing with my child’s eczema and allergies, and that there are other people out there to talk about it.” The two even made new friends. “His name is Aiden, and he’s the same age as me. He’s fun,” says Avery. Aiden is also from a small town. Just like Avery and Tabea visit the Janeway for yearly appointments, Aiden and his mom Sarah visit the big city to see specialists, too. They’ve battled the same infections, the same itchiness and sleepless nights, the same problems with missing school. They’ve

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both felt the emotional ramifications of dealing with severe eczema. When Aiden and Avery met, they just clicked – and so did their moms. “They live in Tennessee, so hope fully we’ll see them again. Last Expo, we were talking about how to get together. It’s good to know I’m not alone and we’ve made friends for life,” says Tabea. Besides sharing experiences with other “eczema warriors” (as Expo participants call themselves), Tabea learned about new treatments from researchers and doctors who specialize in eczema cases. The hotel linens were washed with special detergents, and each room had supplies for dealing with eczema, like bleach baths. All the food served to kids at camp was free of the “big eight” allergens, so there were no worries about Avery’s health or about feeling different. Continued page 20

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At camp, the children had lots of fun just being kids without worries, and without feeling self-conscious about their skin. “We played tag in the hotel, we went bowling, and we went for a scavenger hunt outside the hotel,” says Avery. They also talked about things like dealing with eczema at school, and building self-esteem. The camp spaces were carefully cleaned to prevent staph infections, which kids like Avery know all too well.

“I was so shocked. I didn’t realize there were supports like that out there…” The mother-son duo learned about the Expo last spring, and as soon as Tabea heard about it, she knew she had to get Avery there. “I was so shocked. I didn’t realize there were supports like that out there,” she says. Tabea is a single mom of three who had just started a new job at Them Days, a non-profit organization. She knew that if she was going to get Avery to Chicago, she’d have to do everything she could to make it happen. It was an expensive venture: a large camp and expo held in one of the United States’ most expensive cities, and the exchange rate is not favourable to Canadians travelling south. She also only had a couple of

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months to come up with the money. Tabea and Avery were awarded a partial scholarship to attend, enough to cover their plane tickets, plus they were offered a reduced rate for the conference, in exchange for volunteer work for the National Eczema Association (NEA). Then Tabea turned to crowdsourcing through the NEA’s website, and she wrote to local service organizations for assistance. She also went on Facebook, and asked people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for their returnable recyclables. This was a huge undertaking. Not only in terms of fundraising, but Tabea needed to obtain birth certificates and passports for herself and Avery so they could cross the border. The photos, fees and bureaucratic wrangling they went through in obtaining Avery’s passport were enough to make anyone throw up their hands in defeat. But Tabea kept trying, doing it for Avery. Her persistence paid off. “It was worth it. Avery got to go to the kids camp, and I got to go to sessions with other parents dealing with the same thing. That was my big thing. Hearing the stories that I was going through, I didn’t feel so alone.” In 2019, the Expo and camp will be held in Phoenix, Arizona. Tabea and Avery are already hoping they can attend. “I want to see if there’s anything new in the eczema field, and to hear how our friends and the other kids are doing. They have eczema drugs down

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Avery and Tabea found some time to take in the Chicago sights, including a stop for a reflection selfie in the “The Bean.”

there that have yet to be approved in Canada, and I’d love to hear how they’re working,” says Tabea. “I want to see Phoenix, and see the same people,” says Avery. He’s also hoping to see coyotes in the desert. Expenses should be lower, as the National Eczema Association has booked a more affordable hotel for their participants, but travel to Arizona from Labrador doesn’t come cheap. However, considering that they have more time and they also don’t have to obtain passports, Tabea hopes that this year’s fundraising will be a bit easier. She has set up an account at

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Rogers’ Recycling and has begun collecting already. Avery helps her sort the cans and bottles before they bring them to the depot. Tabea is researching what she needs to do to get a lottery licence to hold a merchandise bingo at the Legion. Avery, of course, has started his paper route, delivering the weekly paper in his neighbourhood. (Unfortunately, in the weeks since, he has had to give up his route because the dry, cold weather has caused his eczema to flare up.) These eczema warriors have battled it all, and now they’re prepared to do what it takes to get them to the next Expo. It’s a challenge they’re happy to take head-on, and judging by their persistence, it will get them far – hopefully all the way to Phoenix.

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How a shipwreck brought new faces and stories to a remote Labrador town BY DENNIS FLYNN

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JOHN AND GINNY RYAN went to Black Tickle in 1980 for the first teaching jobs of their careers, where they taught children during the day and adults during the evenings, while hosting and assisting 64 shipwrecked sailors who showed up on the first day of school. Black Tickle is a remote fishing community of approximately 150 people (based on 2016 census data) located on Island of Ponds along the coast of Southern Labrador. The ferry ride from Cartwright to Black Tickle takes roughly four and a half hours to cover the 113-kilometre trip. On September 4, 1980 in crashing seas, and 140km/h winds, the 78metre Portuguese trawler Maria Teixeira Vilarhino ran aground on the reef of Salmon Bight, beyond Black Tickle harbour. L’Anse au Loop fishermen Leonard Barney, aboard Blue Charm, and John Normore, of Northern Transport, were the first to respond to the SOS. They rescued 22 men from the grounded ship; Canadian Marine Rescue Auxiliary removed another 13.

The Gander-based 103 Rescue Unit evacuated the remaining 29 sailors later that day, once the tides subsided. The rescue efforts earned Leonard and John a National Transportation Week Award of Valour, reports the September 5, 1981 issue of The Newfoundland Herald. At the school in Battle Harbour, John Ryan was told of the incident by a student. “There was a Portuguese shipwreck in the storm last night and the men have no place to stay,” John recalls the student telling him. “Sure enough, the men started arriving wet and cold and only partially dressed, and probably scared, and only one of them could speak English. We didn’t know what to do, or how to communicate, but we

Left Top: Crew members on the deck of the Maria Teixeira Vilarino (bottom) Above: Ginny and John Ryan in Labrador during the 1980s

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The Maria Teixeira grounded near Black Tickle harbour with the supply vessel Cathy B had to put them somewhere, so the principal cancelled school and set so many sailors up there, and so many more came to stay with us.” John and his wife, Ginny – also a teacher at the school – were the only tenants in the town’s boarding house, which was also the only place for visitors to stay in the small town. “It is very hard to explain to people in a way they can relate to today unless they lived through it,” says John, “but even in 1980, Black Tickle was still incredibly remote. It was very difficult to reach and could only be got to by coastal boat in shipping season or small plane in the winter. If the

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weather got bad the plane might not get through for weeks at a time. There was no internet or cellphones and we didn’t even have TV. There was radio, of course, and some landline phone connections, but all these things were expensive and very sporadic at times.” Going to a department store for supplies, like dry clothes, simply wasn’t an option. “I gave as many of them as I could some of my clothes to wear, and I think lots of it ended up back in Portugal, but that was OK, too. Eventually we found that two more of them could speak fluent French and then we all had a way of relaying informa-

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tion. It would go from English to French and then passed on in Portuguese.” The ship’s cook set up in the school’s kitchen, where he made meals for the sailors using supplies salvaged from the wreck. About a week later, the ferry stopped in, leaving with many of the sailors. Those who remained stayed for about two months, working to salvage as much as they could from the ship. “We rescued a canary called Pincaro off the ship from one of the sailors,” says Ginny, “and they even had canary seed shipped up from St. John’s for it. I don’t know any particulars, but was told it was a great winter in Black Tickle that year and very unusual food and products showed up in many homes, perhaps brought ashore and left behind by the grateful Portuguese sailors or others.” The town’s lone Mountie valiantly, but ultimately unsuccessfully, attempted to stem the flow of goods from the shipwreck, recall the couple. Anything coming off the ship would, in theory, have to have taxes paid and collected on it upon entry into Canada. Of

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John and Ginny opened their home to the shipwrecked crew. course, the crew members needed to eat, and with no supplies easily obtainable, they regularly bought their own food and utensils and other items off the vessel when ever it was safe to travel to it. “One thing that makes me a little sad when I think about it, though, is the fact that the Portuguese drank wine traditionally as part of the midday and evening meals and had large vats of table wine aboard,” says Ginny. “With no way for one police officer to effectively control access to the wreck and with so many different people in the area – visiting fishermen, locals, the wreck survivors, and members of

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Some souvenirs from the Maria Teixeira given to the Ryans by its crew the salvage crews – it was felt the risk was too great so the wine was poured overboard. There must have been a ring of red wine a quarter mile around the ship until it washed away.” The wine was lost, but other items, like boxes of fishermen’s mittens – used for handling the wet and frozen cod – remained, although they no longer had a use. “When it became apparent that they were not going to be able to refloat the ship and could salvage nothing else major off of her, the captain asked repeatedly if there was anything else we would like,” says Ginny. “There were sacks of these mittens at the time

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and we gave them to local people. Funny enough, the women in the area did not like them, as they felt the knitting was too loose, but they apprec iated it just the same and, being very practical, they unwound the mittens and knitted new goods to suit their own needs.” The main item in the informal collection is a bit of a surprise. It is the ship’s flag, the national banner of Portugal. “The ship broke up that winter and went down in deep water off the reef,” says John. “You can’t even see a trace of her from the surface I was told, so this may be all that remains of her.” Continued page 28

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Ginny and John today with the flag from the Maria Teixeira It may sound strange, but it’s all completely true, says Ginny. “We even have some wonderful souvenirs from the ship that the captain and crew gave us.” Those items include a plate; a tiny cup; a wine glass; a large covered bowl; some assorted cutlery; a fisherman’s pocket knife bearing inscribed initials, and a colourful carving of a tiny man done in the folk art style of mariners amusing themselves during quiet moments on long voyages at sea. Many of the items are in white, ringed with a thin blue border bearing the

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name of the vessel, Maria Vilarhino, above a stylized cross. John and Ginny would later travel to Portugal where, says Ginny, “We showed up unannounced for a short visit with members of the ship’s crew and we could not believe the reception they gave us. They treated us like royalty... to us, what we had done was no big deal, but to them, I guess, they were just so glad to have had someone to help them. We look back on Black Tickle as one of the most amazing years of our lives.”

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Readers’ Photo Album Colour& Romance Bohemian Waxwings sharing Dog Berries.

TIMOTHY COLLINS Labrador City, NL

Snow Kid

3-year-old Irellyn Oldford Broomfield of Happy Valley-Goose Bay is “up to her neck in snow” CARLA OLDFORD Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL

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Labrador Aurora

Aurora enjoying what she loves the most – out under the skies of Labrador West. APRIL LUCY Hopedale, NL

Catch of the Day Kayla Power from Corner Brook and her first Labrador Speckle caught down river at Lopstick structure Labrador. MICHAEL SNOW Wabush, NL

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BY CRYSTAL BRAYE

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FROM SKIN-COVERED umiaks used by the Thule to the dories hauled ashore with the 1992 cod moratorium, wooden boats have been ingrained in Newfoundland and Labrador’s cultural landscape for centuries. For generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, boats were essential for a life alongside the sea. They were used for travel, for fishing and hunting, and for recreation. They permeate the history of the province - from the kayaks and canoes used by Indigenous peoples, to the faerings and chalupas of early European visitors, to the more recent schooners, punts and dories that have become iconic symbols of Atlantic Canada.

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Welcome to Labrador

As a folklorist with the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador (WBMNL), my work includes travelling throughout the province to collect oral histories from boat builders and technical data on their boats as part of WBMNL’s Boats and Builders Documentation Project. The oral histories collected from boat builders, fishers and their families weave a story of history and heritage as experienced by communities across Newfoundland and Labrador. Their boats, adapted for local environments, also reveal the unique histories experienced by different regions of the province.

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This past summer I travelled to Labrador twice, with two very different boats on the agenda and an ambitious list of boat builders to interview. I landed in Blanc Sablon in early August with Jeremy Harnum, WBMNL curator and photographer. As we headed for the infamous TransLabrador Highway, we were immediately struck by the landscape. The sandy beaches that greeted us as we left the airport gave way to vast open expanses and rolling hills as we headed north along the Straits. Over the next 10 days we interviewed 22 people, from Red Bay to Cartwright, and heard stories about

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Red Bay with Saddle Island in the background

how boats were built and used, and about the lives of those who built and used them. People told us about going in the woods to search for the perfect stempost, and many recalled memories of hauling wood with dog teams in the days before snowmobiles. In Red Bay we met Jim Yetmen, model boat builder and third generation lightkeeper at Saddle Island. “I’m the only lighthouse keeper in Labrador,” he told us. “1936. That’s when my father started, and his father was there for 30 years before that… He used to come in from Cape St. Mary’s in the summertime to fish.

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When he was over on the island fishing, and heard boats coming in, he could hear them shouting, right? He had an old oil drum set up and he had a mallet. And he used to bang on the oil drum. He used to do three, and then he’d hear someone sing out. And then he’d do three and they count the three, and then he’d do one more. He used to listen for them, and every now and then he’d shout at them to guide them through… When they put a light there [1906] they hired him. And he was there for 30 years after.” In Lodge Bay, those we spoke to told us about spending summers fishing from Cape Charles. “We’d go out in

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April and mend our nets,” David Pye told us. “And in October time we’d come back, haul up our boats and leave them there for the winter, and walk up.” Growing up in Lodge Bay in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Sheldon Pye remembered a time when wooden boats were still commonly being built. “We used to just go around watching them, because that was the thing [to do] . In the evening, Dad and them would take off and see what they was doing with the boat and me tagging along

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Above: Lodge Bay residents Stuart, Guy and Ward Pye recall the times when building wooden boats was a common community practice. Top: A 32-foot cabin cruiser Stuart built in 2016.

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behind him.” In 2016, Sheldon built and launched his first boat, a 32-foot cabin cruiser. “I always wanted to build a boat, just to say that I built one. And now I got one… One of these days I want to build one with the little feller, when he gets a bit bigger. Another couple years.” “Yes, my son, it’s an interesting job, boat building, I tell ya,” Tom Holley told us in Saint Lewis. He built his first boat, a 13foot rowboat, at the age of 19. “I learned a lot from her father… He was the best boat builder in Labrador,” Tom said about his late father-inlaw, Paul Poole. This wasn’t the first time we had heard about Paul, as his reputation as a skilled boat builder preceded him all along the Straits. “I’d be there with him lots in the winter when he was building. Same with getting the [timber] for the boat, I’d go help him.” In Port Hope Simpson we met boat builder and skilled woodworker Lloyd Hicks who recalled his first impressions of the community when he arrived in 1958. “I came down on the ol’ Kyle when I come down. I got on

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her in Twillingate… I was never on a big boat before up to that time. All we had was an old punt and a motor boat. Got on the Kyle anyhow, three or four days later I ended up here… The 25 of July I landed here… When we come in through the tickle, b’y the trees seemed like you could reach out and touch them. ‘Cause I come from

A punt under construction by Lloyd Hicks in Port Hope Simpson. Twillingate and there was a hardly a tree on that island at all. It was all woods here then.” Lloyd was 16 when he arrived to join his uncle Edgar

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This rowboat in Cartwright built by Bruce Martin shows the lapped planks on top with smooth planks on bottom, a unique design to the Cartwright region. Hicks, who had moved to Port Hope Simpson in 1934 to work for the Labrador Development Company, cutting lumber for pit props destined for the coal mines of Wales. During his first winter, Lloyd built a 25 foot motor boat, outfitted it with a five horsepower Acadia engine and started fishing for salmon with his uncle the following summer. Our final destination for this leg of the journey was Cartwright, where we were looking to find a regionally unique speed boat design I’d heard about. It was described as having clinker (or lapped) planks on top and smooth planks on the bottom. When we arrived in Cartwright we surveyed the shoreline and immediately found what we were looking for. There, resting on a platform alongside the shore, was a boat that fit the exact description, and beside it was an equally interesting clinker-built rowboat. Both boats, we later learned, were built by the late Bruce Martin, who was well known, along with Clayton 38

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Learning, to have built many speed boats in this style. “The first boat I built, there was a guy that built boats. His name was Clayton Learning. And he give me a few tips for how to build the first one. That was it,” said Cartwright boat builder Howard Mesher, who was 18 when he built his first speed boat. Like elsewhere in the province, when outboard engines became available boat builders started to experiment with designs to best accommodate them. “The first few I built were completely clinker, like Bruce Martin and Clayton Learning, when they started building those boats. And they were probably the original guys to start building speed boats – what they call speed boats – ... modified a rowboat is what they were doing,” he said, “’Cause the rowboat had a completely different shape on the counter and that was no good for speed.” While Clayton and Bruce settled on a combination of clinker and strip planking for their speed boats, WINTER 2019


These days Howard Mesher of Cartwright designs his boats more for speed, recreation and high powered engines instead of as a workboat.

Howard favours strip planking with the addition of a splash rail. “I change my design. Every several years it slightly changes. Until I come up with this here,” he said, referring to the boat under construction. As the primary use of speed boats changed from fishing to recreation, Howard’s designs have been adapted more for speed and high powered engines than the workboats of the past. RETURN TO THE COAST In September, I returned to Cartwright with Jerome Canning, WBMNL master boat builder, to document the technical details of Bruce Martin’s speed boat, as well as the clinker rowboat. Using a process called “lifting lines,” we WINTER 2019

collected all the data required to produce architectural drawings known as lines plans and all construction details necessary to build a replica. Jerome and I landed in Blanc Sablon and headed for the Trans-Labrador Highway, past the same awe-inspiring scenery and notably straight trees. We had made arrangements for a special stop at Red Bay National Historic Site, home to the remnants of 16thcentury Basque whaling operations. Of particular interest was the chalupa recovered by archeologists in the 1970s, a 26-foot rowboat once used by whalers to harpoon their enormous prey more than 400 years ago. On Saddle Island, we saw the site of the San Juan shipwreck (a Basque galleon that sank in inside LABRADOR

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on to younger generations in the same ways. In recognition of this, the WBMNL has undertaken a number of projects and initiatives that reflect a provincewide mandate to build archival collections, celebrate the traditional skills of building and using wooden boats, and pass along this knowledge to younger generations. We headed north from Cartwright for a very different kind of boat: the kayak (Inuktitut: Kajak). We caught a flight from Blanc Sablon to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and boarded the Twin Otter en route to Over the past fifty years, a Hopedale the following day. As we flew north combination of factors have led the Labrador coast, to the decline of wooden boats and, over I was captivated by the as a result, the skills and knowledge rugged landscape below, with fjords, of building and using them is no islands and inlets visible longer being passed on to younger on one side, and rolling generations in the same ways. rocky terrain for as far the eye could see on the other. After a brief stop in Postville, cally rose and fell around us, at one we landed in Hopedale. With our point nearly swallowing half our tools meeting scheduled for the following before we noticed how high it had day, Jerome and I took some time to risen. With detailed sketches and endget some fresh air and explore the less measurements, we became familcommunity. As we wandered around iar with every detail of the boats, and the buildings of the Hopedale Mission noted construction details that and walked along colourful rocks near revealed skilled hands and care taken the shore, the evening light provided a by the builder. natural filter fit for a tourism ad. Over the past 50 years, a combinaThe next day, as we approached the tion of factors have led to the decline home of Ross Flowers, we could see of wooden boats and, as a result, the seal skins hanging in the window of skills and knowledge of building and using them are no longer being passed Continued page 42 the harbour in 1565), the remnants of rendering ovens used in oil production and a burial ground for whalers who lost their lives in Red Bay. And, of course, the lightstation that Jim Yetmen had talked about. After the best fish and chips I’ve ever had (ever) at the Whaler’s Restaurant, a flat tire (who knew tire ply was important?), and a black bear sighting, we arrived in Cartwright. We spent the next two days climbing and crawling around Bruce Martin’s boats on the shore while the tide dramati-

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Unlock your Potential Join us and become a part of the transformation. Contact us at 709-237-6715 mark_baldwin@dalecarnegie.com @DaleCarnegieNL @Dale_CarnegieNL dalecarnegienl


Above: The rugged coastline of Hopedale. Right: A sealskin kayak built by Hopedale resident Ross Flowers

the shed and piles of antlers waiting to be carved. Ross invited us inside to talk about his experience building a sealskin kayak – the reason for our visit. Despite having no previous experience with kayaks, Ross was inspired to build one by the stories he heard from his mother. “My mother, she used to tell me stories about them when she was young. She used to be in them when she was a small girl… with her father, my grandfather.” Ross showed us his ulu (traditional Inuit knife) and demonstrated how it was used to remove the seal meat from the skin, and then showed us how the skins were sewn together with sinew using a waterproof stitch. He took us out to his shed to see the 19-foot kayak he built in 2016, the

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first one to be built in the community in decades. The wooden frame made of juniper and birch was covered with pelts from nine seals, all hunted and stitched by Ross and his family. We left Hopedale for Nain, our final stop, where we were scheduled to meet Noah Nochasak, skilled kayaker and lead for Nunatsiavut Government Kajak Revival Program. Noah talked in depth about the history of kayak use among Inuit people and its role in the lives of his ancestors who used kayaks for long distance travel and hunting activities for thousands of years. A number of factors led to the decline of kayak use among Labrador Inuit populations since the 1950s, and knowledge of how to build and use Continued page 44

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them was lost from the community. Through trial and error, Noah built his first kayak at the age of 21 and covered more than 500 kilometres in his first year on the water. As part of the Kajak Revival Program, Noah teaches people in the community how to design and build their own kayaks and provides onthe-water paddling instruction. He sees the construction of the kayak as one aspect of the whole experience. “Being an Inuit person, it’s good to know the complete picture. Historically, you would have to build your own Kajak. You would never be able to buy a Kajak. You had to build it. It was part of the process.” Unlike other boats built from moulds, kayaks are uniquely designed to fit the physical dimensions of the individual while accommodating their needs for use. To capture an example, we lifted the lines and collected construction details from a tandem kayak designed by Noah and his student, Liz Pijogge, intended to be used on short excursions by Liz and her 10-year-old son. On my last day in Labrador, I made arrangements with Noah to go kayaking before we had to catch our flight home. As we pulled up to the shore where the kayaks waited, a minke

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Jerome Canning takes measurements of a kayak. whale breached just off the wharf and it became clear I was going to be reluctant to leave. All the people we had met on our journey and the stories they shared help to paint a picture of the unique experiences of Labradorians. With the boat as a lens, we learned about the history and heritage of people and their communities. The glistening water and breaching whales, watched over by Mt. Sophie, provided the perfect tranquil finale for a whirlwind tour of Labrador’s boats and builders.

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THE FIRST LEATHER gun cases by Danny Swearinger were well made, quality products, available in several colours. He sold a couple, but there really wasn’t much interest in them. The experienced upholsterer, based in Happy Valley Goose Bay, realized a change was needed. He reworked the design, using the white, blue and green of the Labrador flag for the case, adorning it with a bullet pouch disguised as a Labrador flag. That one sold quickly. Then another, and another. “That’s when I figured out if you want to sell something in Labrador, put the Labrador flag on it,” he says on the phone from his shop in the basement of his home. All photos Michelle Parsons

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That was a good few years ago, when the first gun bag took him about four hours to make. Now, he can make one in 45 minutes. These days, he has no trouble finding people to buy his goods. Talking to Downhome last fall, Danny is in the middle of his busiest time of the year, making items to sell as Christmas gifts and fulfilling client orders, as classic rock blares from speakers. Music is his sanity, he says, adding that he’s a drummer and plays in the band Limited Edition. His success comes, in part, from use of another uniquely Labrador (and Newfoundland) item – seal pelts. Pillows for hotel rooms, ottomans for the Chamber of Commerce, and the list goes on. Together with his wife, Michelle, whom he credits as being the design-minded half of the operation, they’ve come up with unique products with a local angle, like the seal skin ottoman Danny makes and sells. But it’s not all footstools and firearms – after 40 years as an upholsterer, there isn’t much he hasn’t seen, including a commission to make a fabric cover for a loader/backhoe that he considers one of the strangest requests he’s ever filled. He’s also made car covers, dumpster covers,

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Danny Swearinger snow machine saddlebags, tents, komatik covers, and, well, pretty much anything that’s asked of him. There is, he says, a big call for a wide range of items. “If I haven’t ever made it, I’ll figure out how,” he says. Danny has been in Labrador for the past 13 years. It was love that first convinced him to visit, after meeting Michelle, his wife, online while living in Georgia, in the southern United States. She first visited him in Georgia, but found it too hot, so Danny made the trip up to Labrador. “I came Continued page 50

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here 13 years ago, got off the plane, loved it and stayed,” he says. Now, when they visit the U.S. for vacation, he tells people he’s from Labrador. When he used to call Georgia home, he specialized in show car and antique car upholstery, but there isn’t much call for that sort of work in Labrador. Sometimes, though, he’ll be asked about doing some vehicle work. And being Labrador, where snow machines are a regular mode of transportation, he’s worked on giving new life to snow machine seats. After more than a decade in the land of the long winter, he’s gotten used to the weather. But that first winter, after a lifetime down south? It was tough. “Oh jeez, I was going to go back!” he says, laughing. “I thought I was going to freeze to death.” He’s since gotten a snow machine of his own, and a cabin, too, and has settled into the Labrador life. While the

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land and weather are vastly different, the people of Georgia and Labrador are, he says, fairly similar. They both build sheds to use as more than just storage places, and they enjoy hunting, fishing, and getting out on the land. They are, he says affectionately, northern hillbillies. The term isn’t used with negativity or derision, but rather as a way to describe people who enjoy hunting and fishing and being outdoors, away from the crowds of a big city. For as different as Canada and the United States are, and as different as the people of the southern United States may seem from us, they are, in many ways the same. And after a vacation at the ever-busy and crowded Disneyland, or time spent in a big city, Danny looks forward to the relative calm of his Labrador home. “You come back here and you kind of appreciate that two-lane highway that goes all the way through town,” he says.

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Readers’ Photo Album

Chasing Trains

Rolling through a winter wonderland outside Labrador City. DOMINIQUE ANDREWS Labrador City, NL

Winter’s Hold

Lodge Bay on a calm day. GLEN PYE Stephenville, NL

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Wild Labrador

This male spruce grouse was one of many spotted during a moose hunting trip in Twin Falls, Labrador. ALICIA KAVANAGH Labrador City, NL

Lab City Sunrise A crisp morning as IOC employees head to work under a beautiful Labrador Sunrise.

TIMOTHY COLLINS Labrador City, NL

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John Gaudi photo

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OFF THE COAST of Northern Labrador, Noah Nochasak paddles his kayak, on the hunt for seals. Spotting one, he reaches for his rifle, pulling it from the case, readying it to fire, but by the time he’s ready to shoot the moment has passed, the seal is gone. And he realizes how difficult hunting from a kayak really was. It is just one moment in a larger adventure involving paddling more than 2,500 kilometres in a self-built skin-on-frame kayak. Noah, at the time, was completely self-taught. The kayak is a global sport now, with multiple boat styles and disciplines and professional athletes with corporate sponsorships. Kayaking is an Olympic sport, even. But the kayak’s roots are in the North, where it was invented by Inuit people way back when. These days, commercially available, mass produced kayaks are made from plastic, fiberglass and other synthetic materials. There is also a vibrant and active community of craftspeople making kayaks the way they used to be made, with a skin – natural or synthetic – stretched over a wood WINTER 2019

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frame. None of those people were in Nain, Labrador’s northernmost community. Until Noah decided to build a kayak. For most kayak enthusiasts, it’s a means of recreation – a way to enjoy being on the water. For the Inuit people, though, the kayak was a tool for harvesting food from the sea – seal, fish and whales. Then motorboats and snow machines came along. People didn’t have to make their own boats anymore, and, well, they didn’t. Before Noah built his first kayak, there hadn’t been a locally made

“Traditionally, kayaks were never bought, they were always built and that was a very Inuit thing to do.” kayak in Nain in decades. Only a few old timers still knew how to make a kayak in the traditional way, and the knowledge wasn’t being passed on to the younger generations. Buying a kayak would have been far simpler, but a factory-made boat wasn’t an option for Noah. “I would not use it because it didn’t strike me as true to the art form, true to the history of kayaks, which is historically, like, you build your own kayak and that’s why you have a kayak,” says Noah. The handful of old timers who knew how to build a boat didn’t offer up their knowledge at first, which Noah attributes to them not taking him and his boat building efforts seriously. With just a small, 25-page manual to work from (for comparison, 56

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Canoecraft, a popular canoe-building book, is a couple of hundred pages long) he started figuring out how to build a kayak. About halfway through he got stuck and had a friend help him finish the boat. The kayak was good enough to use, but Noah says the boat wasn’t very good. But this is also the guy who doesn’t consider a 200-kilometre paddle to be a significant distance, and who figured a kayak should be well built enough to handle 20 foot waves. That was several years ago, before Noah headed out to British Columbia to get further educated at one of the best outdoor guide schools in North America, and to get further schooling. “You know, the ocean here can get pretty bad sometimes, so that’s why I needed the most training possible,” he says. “And that’s why I went wherever that training was.” These days, he’s the kayak revival lead, employed by the Nunatsiavut government. The job involves leading paddling and building workshops, teaching people how to build kayaks so that they don’t have to go through the trial and error process that he did. In the summer, he teaches kayak paddling skills, and in the winter months he instructs kayak building workshops. Although he doesn’t want to use a plastic or composite boat for his own adventures, he does see their use. Like, for instance, when the kayak is being used by someone who has never paddled before and is likely to bump into rocks or other boats. In those instances, a skin-on-frame boat isn’t ideal. Even if a handbuilt kayak was appropriate, it takes about 80-100 hours to build a skin-on-frame kayak, says Noah, and there just isn’t time to WINTER 2019


have each participant build their own boat before learning to paddle it. “Traditionally, kayaks were never bought, they were always built and that was a very Inuit thing to do,” says Noah. “So, you know, in addition to the skill sets of using them, there’s also the important part of building them, especially to Inuit culture.” Noah, through his work as the Kayak Revival Lead, is part of an effort to return the kayak its place of prominence in Inuit life. It was once, he says, everything to the Inuit – it was their main hunting tool. While the kayak’s use as a hunting tool has been replaced by snow machines and power boats, it still has a use as an exploration tool, allowing people to experience the coast with a quiet intimacy not possible with motors. Wanting to use the kayak as a hunting tool, Noah went out in his selfbuilt kayak with a rifle in a waterproof bag. He was fortunate enough to have a seal pop up out of the water right in front of him, but by the time he wrestled the gun out of its case, the seal had gone. Had he been successful, he would then have had to tow it home,

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Noah Nochasak (left) with Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador folklorist Crystal Brae. watching for killer whales and polar bears who would see Noah’s catch as an easy meal. Hunting by kayak was, at one time, the norm, but that was, Noah says, at a time when it was also the norm to be in a kayak from a very young age. By the time a person reached hunting age, they were already experienced boat handlers. With the work Noah is doing to make kayaks part of life in Nain, perhaps there will once again be people who grow up with kayaks as an integral part of their life.

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BY G. TOD SLONE

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Red Bay

DRIVING THE ENTIRE Trans-Labrador Highway had been in my head for three or four years. I began the TLH at the border in L’Anse-au-Clair with a visit to the tourist office. The young gal was very helpful, encouraging me to go for it. She gave me an interesting printout of the TLH road conditions, section by section. Tired of sleeping in my car, I treated myself to a room at the Northern Light Inn, where I picked up a free emergency satellite phone. It was cold and desolate, overcast and gloomy in the morning. And the coffee was rough. Well-rested, I took off, stopping at the West Saint Modeste/Pinware border to take some

photos of the abandoned fish plant where a bunch of strange bird-like houses were piled in a heap in front of it. I picked a handful of wild raspberries there too. Then I drove on to County Cat Pond just before Red Bay, walked down someone’s driveway, and took some photos of an old outhouse with a birdhouse on top while admiring some great cloud formations. Soon enough I was in Red Bay, where I drove around the cove to the restaurant/motel, where I got a room and asked if they knew anyone who

County Cat Pond

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Above: St. Lewis Right: St. Lewis resident Gordon Brown took a break from working to chat with the author. might take me over to Penny Island, where the old fish plant, store and house were. She directed me over to Truman, who agreed to take me. My years long desire to visit that island materialized. Truman dropped me off and for an hour I explored the beauty of time gone by. I skipped Mary’s Harbour, recalling the heavily pot-holed roads the year before, and took the 29-km road lined by forests and barrens to St. Lewis. I was happily surprised how wide open the cove was. And the dirt road to get there was good and compact graded. Not one pothole! There I talked with Gordon Brown, who was outside drying his cod and making sure the gulls 60

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didn’t steal it. I asked him if I could take a photo of the old shed by the water behind his house. He told me it was a twine store years ago. And in front of it there was what he called a little smoke house. My next stop was Port Hope Simpson. There I filled up with very expensive gas and entered the town, which was created in 1934 for logging. I passed the Charlottetown sign, then eventually the Cartwright sign, on the seemingly endless road to Happy Valley. As it darkened, I saw what definitely looked like a moose because the dark shape in the distance was on the road. I immediately slowed down. Ah, but it WINTER 2019


Birchy Island near Happy Valley-Goose Bay

was a lone cyclist without lights. I stopped and we chatted for a while. The guy, who was almost 70, was astounding. He told me he’d biked out to St. John’s from Vancouver and now he was heading back. He had little with him. It would take him five days to get to Happy Valley. He told me it had been almost freezing each night. In Happy Valley-Goose Bay I walked around beautiful Birchy Island, nobody present but me. Churchill Falls was quite Stepford-

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like. The houses were all exact and in line in perfect rows. It was a corporation town. I stopped at a big building, the town hall, which was like a mall, but with a post office, library, school, hotel, and Mama Bear’s coffee and souvenirs. I handed in my emergency phone to the hotel. “It’s a strange town from my perspective,” I said to the librarian. “It’s a strange town for everyone who lives here!” she said with a smile. She was the nicest librarian I’d ever met. She even made me a

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Evening near Labrador City cup of coffee. She informed me that people rented their houses and the house you got depended on family size and corporate position. Out the window, I saw lots of kids’ bikes scattered on the ground unlocked. No school bus needed! The librarian got me the hydro plant tour schedule. And so later there I was, in an elevator heading almost 1,000 feet down into the earth where a vast granite cave of

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workers toiled away. Leaving town, I soon arrived at the falls which, of course, was only a trickle today. I continued on to Labrador City, then down into Quebec, where the road was the worst, twisting and turning and pot-holed here and there. From Fermont I drove all the way down to Baie-Comeau. No flat tires. No cracked windows. Just a grey, dustladen car.

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photo finish

This gorgeous wolf was seen just 20 minutes outside Labrador City. SHERI EMERSON SANDERS Labrador City, NL

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Profile for Downhome Publishing Inc

Inside Labrador Winter 2019  

Get a current look at what the "Big Land" portion of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer from quaint tourism destination...

Inside Labrador Winter 2019  

Get a current look at what the "Big Land" portion of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer from quaint tourism destination...