Each of the “fingers” that extend from Newfoundland’s northern shore has its own personality. Each has a scenic road that runs around its perimeter, all with their own “trail” name. My next exploratory jaunt around one of these fingers is called the “Baccalieu Trail,” named for the small Baccalieu Island off the coast, most likely named after the Portuguese or Spanish word for cod.
But who can even remember “Baccalieu,” when you have such interesting town names along this trail! There is Heart’s Desire, Heart’s Delight, Heart’s Content, Cupids, and Harbour Grace. Add to that the village of Dildo and Conception Bay, and well, you just have to understand those were some long winter nights. 😉
Of these quaint little seaside villages with their intriguing names, the most noteworthy is Heart’s Content, site of the Provincial Historic Cable Station, where the first undersea cable ran to Valentia, Ireland. This cable reduced the communication time down from ten days via ship, which was the case when President Lincoln was assassinated. The 2,300 nautical miles of underground cable now allowed transmission of a message and response within the same day.
If you want to reflect on the notion that “We’ve come a long way, baby!” consider the first attempt at telecommunications from Europe in 1858, Queen Victoria’s congratulatory telegram, sent to President James Buchanan. Her 98 word message took sixteen hours to transmit. This cable soon failed, and another improved cable was laid in its place eight years later.
This telegraph cable station put Heart’s Content on the map as a global communications hub, employing up to 200 workers in its heyday, transmitting and relaying messages across the North Atlantic. It remained part of the Western Union Inc.’s international cable system until the facility was closed in 1965 after trans-ocean telephone cable and satellite communication made its technology obsolete.
But for my own heart’s content, it was all about Newfoundland’s Wooden Boat Museum. After falling head over heels for wooden boat building, so much that I spent three days “embedded” in the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, WA last year, a stop at the museum was on my “must do” list.
Just up the road from Heart’s Content about eight miles is the town of Winterton, home of the Newfoundland and Labrador Wooden Boat Museum. The big, stately two story building seems a little out of place in this tiny town where the biggest parking lot is the Funeral Home. They had smokin’ wifi there in a rare location where I had no AT&T signal, so I parked overnight, having arrived after the museum closed. Definitely one of my more unusual boondocking spots, but in a small town without so much as a grocery store, no one seemed to mind. (I’ll try to resist the jokes like “People were dying to get in.”)
The museum features wooden boats that helped shape Newfoundland and Labrador’s history over the years, primarily (in order of size, smallest to largest,) punts, Rodneys, and the Grandy Dory. While the smaller wooden boats were used for inshore fishing by rowing from shore, the larger Grandy Dories were actually stacked or nested, one on top of the other on larger offshore fishing boats.
Like Port Townsend, WA, Newfoundland and Labrador’s non-profit organization recognizes that the skills required for wooden boat building are dying with the generation of inshore fishermen. Not just are the builders a dying breed, but wooden boats themselves. So through workshops, conferences, and newsletters, they attempt to keep the art alive. Their motto is “Look Aft and Learn.”
But the non-profit museum goes much further beyond the building of boats. It explores the history of the heritage of the province all the way back to skin-covered kayaks used by the indigenous peoples.
One might wonder (or at least I wondered) how such a large boat building facility supported by sponsors and volunteers might survive in a town so small as Winterton, home of approximately 500 residents. Turns out, it’s only a 90 miles from the capital city of St. John’s, where I’m headed next…