Friday, 30 August 2019

Shipping News

The Port of St John's is a busy place. There are seagoing vessels of all sizes coming and going at all times in the harbour. In recent years, St John's has become a popular stop for the big cruise boats. The cruise ship usually arrives in the morning and the downtown fills with passengers and their cameras for the day, and then leaves for it's next port of call overnight. Around 30 cruise ship visits to St John's are scheduled in 2019.

 The MS Sea Princess is operated by Princess Cruises and was built in Italy in 1998. She can carry 2000 passengers and 900 crew.
 MSV Botnica is a state-of-the-art multipurpose offshore support vessel and icebreaker built in Finland in 1998 at a cost of $303 million.  Botnica is used as an escort icebreaker in the Baltic Sea during the winter months, but carries out subsea and offshore construction work supplying oil and gas drilling during the open water season.
 PSV Siem Pilot is a diesel electric driven offshore supply vessel and pipe carrier built in Norway in 2010. Siem Pilot is currently based at St John's, but in 2016 was in the Mediterranean, and was instrumental in picking up 2,400 migrants and carrying them to safety. Read about it here.
The St John's Pilot Boat is moored at a berth by Harbourside Park, right on the harbour's edge. All ships going through the Narrows are required to use the services of the Pilot to navigate the narrow entrance to the harbour. I was told that this is the oldest Pilot Boat still working in North America.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

R.I.P. JoJo

A sad day for the family. Goodbye to fluffy little JoJo. She came to live at OlderSon's house in 2001, a tiny feral kitten found starving in a barn. She never really warmed up to being with people, and spent most of her time happily hiding in the basement. She started venturing upstairs a couple of years ago and eventually seemed to enjoy tolerate being petted, especially if the person doing the petting had some fishy cat treats on hand. JoJo, you will be missed.

Sunday, 25 August 2019


It was a bright sunny morning in July and I was enjoying the view from Signal Hill, looking over the Atlantic Ocean, a great vantage point for watching the marine traffic that goes in and out of St John's harbour.
According to the Oceanex web site, Oceanex is a leading provider of intermodal transportation solutions to Newfoundland and Labrador from anywhere in North America. They have a fleet of ice-class vessels operating through the ports of Montreal, Halifax and St John's.

At the mouth of the harbour in the background is the lighthouse at Fort Amherst. It was built in 1951, the third lighthouse built on that site.  Below the lighthouse on the cliff are the remains of gun emplacements and pillboxes built during WWII to defend against German U-boats. Two of the guns are still there, but rusted over now. The original fortifications were built in 1770, but no longer visible.

Navigating a large vessel through the entrance to the harbour requires the services of the Pilot. The Narrows is the only entrance to St John's harbour, and at it's narrowest point is only 61 metres wide.  Not much room for error! It's about 11 metres deep. In the late 18th century a defensive chain was erected across the narrows from Chain Rock to Pancake Rock which could be raised in the event of enemy ships advancing into the harbour. During World War II a steel mesh was installed to prevent enemy submarines from entering the harbour.
The Oceanex vessel was heading towards the Oceanex Terminal at the far end of the harbour. It's the largest general freight terminal in Newfoundland, and is the only container, trailer, and RoRo terminal in the Port of St John's. (RoRo = Roll on / Roll off, like a car ferry)

A week after I left St John's this ship visited the harbour.

Photo borrowed from Dean Porter at Thanks, Dean.
Cunard's Queen Elizabeth, probably one of the largest ships to ever enter St John's harbour. She was built in 2010, is 964 feet long, and can carry over 2000 passengers and 1000 crew. That's a crew member for every 2 passengers! I wish I had seen this!

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Window on the World

As I ambled along the streets of downtown St John's this summer, I noticed that some of the residents are keeping an eye on things from the front window. It's comforting to know that the neighbourhood is under surveillance at all times.

But sometimes keeping your eyes open all day is just too much trouble, and you have to give in to the promise of a comfy couch nap in the sunshine.

Yawn...... purrrrr......

Monday, 19 August 2019

The Crow's Nest

One of the best hidden secrets in the City of St John's is the Crow's Nest Officer's Club. The entrance can be easily overlooked as you walk down the steps on the left of the National War Memorial on Duckworth Street. A plaque tells part of the story.
At the height of the Battle of the Atlantic in WWII, in 1942, St John's was the home port for the Newfoundland Escort Force, a handover point for the critical supply convoys across the Atlantic.  The Crow's Nest Officer's Club served as a retreat for the remainder of the war where allied naval and merchant officers could relax, share stories of victory and loss, and have a home cooked meal.  The Club has become a living museum owned and supported by volunteer members. It commemorates the contribution of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve,  and the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve during WWII.
The Crow's Nest was originally known as the Seagoing Officer's Club during WWII, opening it's doors on January 27 1942.  It was a safe space where officers could relax with other officers who understood the horrors of war only too well.  It still maintains it's war-time look and feel with an extensive collection of gunshield art and memorabilia from the Battle of the Atlantic.
I dropped in for lunch one Friday, and spent a couple of hours sharing a table with some fascinating people. The Club Secretary, Margaret Morris, was a fountain of knowledge about the history of the Club, and is passionate about preserving the stories and sacrifices of the men who served on those Naval ships so long ago.  And not only was there good conversation to be had, I enjoyed moose stew for the first time, washed down with an ice cold QV Iceberg Lager!
A couple of days later, I noticed that even though the Crow's Nest is usually closed on Mondays, there was a concert there that Monday evening.  Kelly Russell would be sharing his Tunes and Tales.  Kelly Russell is a leading musician in Newfoundland and has been part of many well known bands playing traditional music, and has been awarded the Order of Canada.  Kelly recreated the unforgettable characters of Uncle Mose, Grampa Walcott, Aunt Sophy, Skipper Bartle, and King David (a billy goat)..... great stories of the imaginary outport community of Pidgeon Inlet originally written by his father, storyteller Ted Russell. And shared the living traditional music of Newfoundland on his fiddle and his concertina.
Every seat was taken, and the audience were spellbound by his playing and his storytelling. What a lovely amusing and talented man.  Totally unforgettable evening, well worth my walk in the pouring rain to get there.

Thursday, 15 August 2019


If you lived in downtown St John's, what colour would you paint your front door? 
Here are a few suggestions......

Monday, 12 August 2019

150 Pounds of Fun

These two bronzes commemorate the famous dog breeds of Newfoundland and Labrador....  the Labrador Retriever and the Newfoundland Dog. The 1.5 scale sculptures were created in cast bronze over a stainless steel frame by Luben Boykov in 2003.

These bronze dogs live in Harbourside Park, and look out towards the Narrows, watching for the fishing boats to come home. I always have to rub their noses for good luck! But of course it's even better to meet a real live Newfie dog!
This handsome fellow is Chief. I met him and his person sitting on the wall at the top of Signal Hill. Chief is 5 years old, and weighs around 150 pounds.... that's almost 68 kg! Can you imagine trying to encourage him to get off the best sofa? He was so friendly and good natured and loved all the people who stopped to pat him and take his picture.
This is Knight, only 5-1/2 months old, and full of bounce.He still has quite a bit of growing to do. He's still a baby!
There are various theories of the origin of the Newfoundland dog. One says the dog is a cross between a Tibetan Mastiff and an (extinct) American Black Wolf. Another theory says the dog's ancestors were brought to Newfoundland by the Viking explorers. And perhaps they are descended from many breeds like Pyreanean Sheep Dogs, Mastiffs, and Portugese Water Dogs that were cross bred in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Friendly, soft to touch, lovely creatures, just as long as you don't mind lots of gooey drool! Both Chief and Knight travelled with a handy drool towel ready to mop up at all times!

Friday, 9 August 2019

Fishing Stages

Although the little fishing village of Quidi Vidi is gradually becoming gentrified, there are still many of the traditional fishing buildings left around the sheltered harbour.
How did the village get it's unusual name? Nobody seems to know. The area was settled early in the 16th century. Some people think it was a French name, others think it comes from Portugese or Italian, sounding like "quey de videy" meaning "what a beautiful sight".

Another story says that the village is named after a woman who had a hotel and tavern on Quidi Vidi Lake here 200 years ago.... her name was Kitty Vitty. Did she exist? maybe....
The village name was pronounced "Quaida Vaida" about a century ago, but the most common pronounciation is Kitty Vitty or Kiddy Viddy.
In the late 19th century there was a claim that the name was associated with John Guy, the governor of the first English colony in Newfoundland. Quidi Vidi harbour marked the division between David Kirke's colony on the Southern Shore and John Guy's colony, so it was the "Guy Divide". Say it fast with a Westcountry English accent.... it could sound like Quaida Vaida.... couldn't it??
Many of the families that live in Quidi Vidi have been there for generations. It's one of the oldest fishing villages in North America.

I think I'd like to have a beer with Lenny Hanlon.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Fishing at Quidi Vidi

Quidi Vidi (pronounced Kiddy Viddy) was known as a little historic fishing village with a small harbour near St John's, but it's all part of the larger city now. When I first visited the area it was a collection of little homes and fishing stages, and lots of fishing boats, but now there are monster homes and affluent condos.
When by the Atlantic, I wanted to catch fish, so I booked a fishing trip with QV Charters. It was a calm sunny day, ideal conditions for a landlubber like me.
Heading out of the gut towards the open Atlantic. The captain knew exactly where the fish were so we didn't stay far from the shore.
I caught the biggest fish of the trip, a cod weighing around 15lb, but of course there are cod much larger than that in the ocean. In all I caught about 5 or 6 fairly large fish, I lost count. At one point we were above a school of cod 9 metres deep.
The rods were weighted with a large lead weight. Just drop the weight into the ocean and let the line go all the way to the sea bed, then jig up and down. The cod are easy to catch, no need for bait just three hooks. The fish were lucky.... we weren't fishing for food that day, all the fish got returned to the ocean to grow bigger. There's a limit to the amount of fish that can be caught for food.... the rules are here.
This is a sculpin, a bottom feeding fish, also known as bullhead or sea scorpion. It's not going to win any beauty prizes, but has a certain fishy charm. It also went back in the ocean.
It's whale watching time in the North Atlantic, and these three humpbacks passed very close to the boat. They went on their way after giving us a good look and then all dived down, showing their tails off. What a sight!
A great way to spend the afternoon out on the North Atlantic.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Back to St John's

I was away from home for a couple of weeks in July and then, when I came back, the blogging mojo seemed to get overwhelmed with other stuff. But here goes....
I was in my favourite place... the city of St. John's on the rocky island of Newfoundland on Canada's east coast, house sitting and cat sitting for vacationing relatives.
And here are the cats, Captain Bob Bartlett (the saucy white one with a tiny paper heart stuck to his nose!) and Miss Thing (the serious one). They live together but they don't really like each other.

St John's has become a favourite vacation destination in recent years, probably due to a very active and innovative Tourism Association. The place was bustling with people from "away".  There are very few flat roads in the downtown area. This city was built on steep hills surrounding a deep harbour.  I seemed to be walking uphill all the time!  Good for the legs.  The downtown houses are mostly built of wood, and are painted some wonderful colours.... have a look.

Perhaps some of my photos may persuade you to visit Newfoundland one day.... it's such a beautiful place. More pictures to come, and for previous year's visits to St John's just click on the Newfoundland link below.