Sunday, 28 July 2019

To Iceland

French Connection

After leaving Bermuda, it took us only eight days to make landfall - surprise, surprise - in France! The archipelago of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon was first ‘discovered’ by Portuguese explorer Joao Alvares Fagundes in 1520 but already in 1536 the islands were made a French possession by Jacques Cartier. During the following centuries, France and Britain took turns invading and occupying the islands until, in 1814, the Treaty of Paris gave the territory officially to France. In 1816, the islands were resettled mainly by fishermen and whalers from Normandy, Brittany and the Basque region, which is also manifest in their flag. 

The islands are the last stronghold of France in North America and so totally French that although their population is only about 6000 and Canada’s English-speaking provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia are just around the corner (minimum distance 12 miles), many of the islanders speak and understand only French. 
Despite our disability to communicate with the locals, we took full advantage of the islands’ Frenchness and enjoyed their crunchy baguettes, smelly cheeses, and full-bodied wines with relish. 

Canadian Courtesy

From Saint-Pierre we continued to St. John’s, Newfoundland, where we were warmly welcomed by an amiable pair of Canadian customs and immigration officials, named Bill and Phil. While Bill and Pekka took care of the formalities, Phil compiled a list of the best downtown restaurants and recommended some of the books he had read recently.

Before our departure, Riitta made a tour of the town’s secondhand bookstores and bought, among others, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Phil’s recommendation, which helped to distract us from the infuriating winds that seemed determined to take us to Greenland. 

Rotten Luck Fishingwise

As we had had no luck while fishing for tuna in the Gulf Stream, we hove to in Grand Banks to fish for cod, the traditional catch of the area - or haddock or halibut - we didn’t really mind, whichever would take the lure first. But, alas, all we got was these inedible-looking fish pictured below. And after the fourth one, we were ready to call it a day.

We resumed fishing closer to Greenland where we caught - a Northern Fulmar! Luckily, the bird was unharmed as it had managed to avoid the hook but the line had got tangled up in its wing. We reeled the bird in, released it - and haven’t been fishing since! 

Unexpected Company

About 85 nm from the iceberg limit off Cape Farewell, we found ourselves amongst a pod of about a hundred pilot whales that kept us company for several hours. At some point, one of the whales clearly miscalculated either our speed or the distance to our hull and, as a result, collided with Sarema. On the basis of the sound the collision made, we believe that the only thing the whale hurt was his pride!

We went our separate ways only after the direction of the wind had changed so as to allow us to turn to the east. The whales didn’t alter their course but continued north which was a good thing - the further away from the Faroe Islands, the better!!!

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