Have you ever had one of those times when things just seem surreal? When you ask yourself “Is this reality, or maybe I have died, and this heaven?” Like a series of things that “never happen,” happen all at once?
I’ve had an ongoing love affair with lighthouses since I was a small child, allowed to climb the tower of the Port Isabel lighthouse on our family vacations to South Padre Island. So consider the irony that I end up spending the night with a lighthouse called “Amour,” defined as “a secret or illicit love affair or lover.”
Twenty miles from the ferry landing is Point Amour, Atlantic Canadian’s tallest lighthouse, second tallest in all of Canada. Constructed in 1857, it stands at 109 ft tall, with 128 steps to the top. My midday ferry, chatty stop at the Visitor Center, and Labrador’s impossible roads have caused me a late arrival to Point Amour. It’s 4:00pm, which gives me only an hour to explore.
I am the only visitor on the grounds. Inside the base of the lighthouse, I walk in and the young woman asks if I’d like to tour the tower. She takes me up the 128 spiral steps, explaining the history of the lighthouse, the six ft thick walls, the original wooden stairs. And finally, we reach the lantern room. I am fascinated by the Fresnel lens, because it’s only a half a lens. I don’t recall ever seeing this before. As I am studying it in great detail, she asks, “Do you see the whales?” Huh?? I whirl around to see blow spouts right out from the lens room window! We chat for a while, and she starts down the stairs and says “Feel free to stay and watch for a little while.”
Once back down stairs, I notice they are straightening up, and I realize it’s getting to be time to close, when I haven’t even had a chance to look at the exhibits yet! She says, “You’re welcome to come back tomorrow at no charge.” I mention I’m traveling in the RV, and ask if it would be okay if I park overnight. She says “Sure, make yourself at home.”
She suggests a walk along the beach on the “Raleigh Trail,” to see the remains of the ship wreck of H.M.S. Raleigh, flagship of the Royal Navy fleet that ran aground while trying to dodge an iceberg in August of 1922. According to the lightkeeper, Jeff Wyatt, “That was the only iceberg in the Strait of Bell Isle.” The wreck became the subject for many photographers which pissed the Royal Navy Admiralty off to see their grounded ship become a tourist attraction, so they returned in 1926 to blow up the ship.
As I am returning from the wreck of the Raleigh, I catch a glimpse of something huge projecting out of the water like a missile, shooting straight up. Then it lands with a “BOOM!” that sounds like the shot of a cannon. A whale has just breached right off shore. I almost rip the pocket off my windbreaker trying to get my camera out. It happens again, and I manage to get off a shot…not very good, but at least good enough to prove at this point, I’m not hallucinating.
When I get back to the Winnie, I send an email to a friend saying I’m living in some kind of altered state here, boondocked with a lighthouse out my back window, and whales jumping out of the water. I suggest perhaps I have died, and this is heaven…
The sun doesn’t set here until around 9:30pm, so I open up the door and sit on my “stoop” watching the water churn with sea birds and blow spouts. Next, a fleet of four beautiful trawlers sail by. And dramatic clouds roll in for effect. And oh, there’s a rainbow! And finally some fuchsia clouds as a grand finale to the show.
I fall sleep to the steady flash of light, feeling the love at Point Amour.
Next, it’s off for Red Bay, thirty miles up the road, “where the pavement ends.”