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Seaside Getaway in Newfoundland

By late afternoon we've had lunch, gotten our fishing licenses at the post office, collected sea glass and scallop shells by the wharf, and made prints of found feathers (see "On-the-Road Art Project," below). But the ocean still looks ominous, and Owen hints that he might have to cancel. Finally, after consulting with village fishermen, he decides it'll be safe to head out in the early evening, after supper.

We came to Newfoundland for a bit of adventure; we just hadn't expected to find it on a boat navigating 15-foot swells. Scott is at the helm, carefully steering us head-on into each wave. (This, we're informed, is preferable to having the waves hit broadside, which could capsize us.) The kids love the ride and scream with every rise and fall, but Robert is looking green and I'm thinking about the Titanic. It's late in the season for icebergs (they float down from Greenland and usually melt by midsummer), but even in the darkness I can make out rocks that could easily splinter a small craft. Owen says he ordinarily does the trip in 45 minutes; it takes us well over two hours.

In the morning I peek out of our tent at a corner of the world that feels about as far from civilization as you can get. Our camp in the wilderness consists of four canvas platform tents, each with a pair of cots, sleeping bags, and pillows. A cabin houses the kitchen, a shower, and a woodstove that takes some of the chill off the morning air. Owen is already up, brewing coffee and tea on a propane stove and setting out a breakfast of toast with homemade blueberry and partridgeberry jams. The shower water, piped in from the pond above camp, is hot but brown (it isn't rust—just the peat moss that lines the pond's bottom and is, I notice, an excellent hair conditioner).

The sun is coming up over the cliff when Jesse emerges. "I'm catching a fish today," he announces, utterly confident although, in truth, no one in our family has ever fished before. Luckily, there's no skill required. Owen's boat is equipped with radar and a fish-finder that detects underwater activity, large and small; judging from his screen, this ocean is mobbed. Each of us is given a pole and line with six phosphorescent flies that we drop whenever Scott stops at a promising spot. In minutes we're pulling up four, five, six mackerel at a time. But this is just the bait for bigger fish. After Scott threads our hooks with strips of the mackerel (Elly doesn't have to touch bait after all), we cast again. Before long, Jesse's rod starts to bow. "I got something!" he screeches, while Owen reels in a three-foot cod. In less than an hour, our coolers are full.

Back at camp Robert and I sip Chardonnay as Scott fillets our catch and Owen prepares a feast of fish-and-chips, mackerel sushi, and tossed green salad. Jesse, the avid fisherman, has never been the most enthusiastic fish-eater, but after several helpings of cod he smacks his lips and says it's as good as any chicken he's ever had. Although the adults, by now fairly groggy with food and drink, would be content to sit for a spell, the kids persuade us to explore the inlets around the bay by kayak. Elly and I paddle to a waterfall and watch a bald eagle circle high above. We coast in silence past a village abandoned in the 1960's when the provincial government forced residents of isolated settlements to relocate to areas with electricity, running water, and roads.

The itinerary has us leaving camp tomorrow, but, given our first day, Owen offers to extend our stay. We accept gratefully: there's still the cliff above camp to climb, more bogs to sink into, blueberries to pick, scallops to harvest, and caribou to track. When we finally say good-bye to our idyllic spot, Jesse informs us that he plans to return—as a professional fisherman. On the boat ride back to Harbour Mille (calm and without incident) we fill two more coolers with fish and attract an escort of puffins.


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