Resettlement on the Southwest Coast With Port aux Basques Marine Excursions!

Resettlement! Our province is enriched and embedded with stories about how our people were relocated over the years to mainland Newfoundland. Forced to move their families in search of a better life. Some welcomed the change and for some it was heartbreaking. I recently became somewhat fascinated by resettlement in our province. Not knowing much about it I am always intrigued by people who are knowledgeable on the topic. Port aux basques Marine Excursions and Mandy Ryan Francis and her husband have devoted their lives to the waters of the southwest coast of our island. Fishers for life and in the off season they run tours to the islands off the coast! Amazing right! I spoke with Mandy and I asked her to describe what they do….. now I def want to go! Here is what she had to say about what resettlement means to her business.

Beautiful!

“Our Resettlements Grand Tour is a boat tour of the resettled communities along the coastline from Rose Blanche to Grand Bruit on the Southwest Coast of Newfoundland. This a full day (8 hour) interpretative excursion with visits to Petites, West Point, Grand Bruit and the still-active fishing community of La Poile”

“Points of interest along the way include two registered heritage structures: Bethany United Church in Petites (https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/society/bethany-united-church.php) , and the historic Rose Blanche Lighthouse (http://www.roseblanchelighthouse.ca/lighthouse.html?lh#a) . There are wildlife viewing opportunities all along the coastline such as sea birds, dolphins, orcas, whales, caribou and moose along the way.” That sounds pretty amazing to me for sure.

Rose Blanche Lighthouse!

She also said that “This experience is truly authentic to the culture and the destination. Our tour guides are from La Poile, they know the communities, the people and the coastline. You will also fish for mackerel and/or cod (in season) along the way if you like”

Their lead skipper George, is a seasoned commercial fisherman. When he’s not in the wheelhouse of our tour boat, the Miss Georgia, he is fishing for lobster, halibut and cod fish. His son Andy also fishes commercially and is also is our tourism interpreter and qualified second skipper. Both are quick at spotting wildlife and sea life. From the start of your tour right the end, your complete satisfaction is our goal. George and Andy love to answer your questions.

Their tour boat Miss Georgia, was custom-built with your comfort in mind. It can accommodate up to eight passengers and two crew. What do you need to bring? Only a thirst for adventure and some lunch for the day. If you’re interested in something extra, they can arrange a traditional lobster boil on the rocks. That sounds like a day trip to me.

They typically would tour the south coast and visit these 4 communities along the way with some stories to share with the tourists… or locals. Lol

The community of Petites once held a population of over 200 people in 1946. The main industry was fishing. A Gothic revival church is centrally located in the community with open doors for visitors. Petites was abandoned almost entirely in 2003 through the government-assisted Resettlement Program. Homes and other structures are now falling victim to harsh weather conditions. Sadly, the time for seeing the community as it once was is growing very short.

Grand Bruit, a fishing village divided in the middle by a waterfall, was resettled in 2010. It is peppered with brightly coloured homes whose paint is beginning to dull. Many people from here continue to visit their home during the fair weather months. The United church here is also open to visitors, and a walk through this beautiful place is a photographer’s dream. Here, on the wharf, we have a lunch before departing for La Poile.

Our skippers’ hometown is the last surviving isolated Newfoundland villages on the southwest coast that is dependent on the commercial fishery for survival. It’s residents (numbering somewhere between 75 and 85) enjoy fresh air, hunting opportunities, berry picking and quieter way of life without vehicles or streets. A visit to the local shop provides opportunity to meet and chat with the local shop owner and learn more about life in La Poile. Like other coastal communities, the doors to the Anglican church are always open. You will be in awe of La Poile; stepping back in time is the only way to describe a visit there.

Last but certainly not least the resettled community of West Point is usually our last stop along the return home. It was resettled in the 1960s and the majority of structures left today are cabins or summer homes of nearby neighboring communities.

I FEEL the stories that could be told. I can visualize the details of the move through photos of this historic event. It’s part of our culture that needs to be remembered and told. It’s part of US as a people.

They LOVE to FISH as well. Why not take a tour and experience the thrill of catching your own supper! Skipper George has been fishing for over 40 years! He fishes commercially for Lobster, Cod Fish and Halibut. When he’s not fishing commercially, he’s taking people like you to prime fishing grounds to sink a line in search for Atlantic Cod or mackerel.

Big catch!

What can you expect? First, you will meet your skipper at the floating docks at 7 Marine Drive, Port aux Basques for a safety briefing and PFD fitting on the dock. From there you will boat out around the coastline of the southwest coast to prime fishing grounds for an epic Deep Sea Fishing adventure! You will direct for Atlantic Cod or mackerel.

They provide all fishing and safety equipment. All you need to bring is a thirst for an awesome fishing adventure. Once you reel in your catch for the day you will boat back to Port aux Basques Harbour for a lobster demonstration at Vardy’s Island. Have you ever seen a lobster trap or live lobster? Do you have questions about how they catch them? Have you ever posted a photo with a live lobster yet? Now is your chance. Once the lobsters are safely returned to the harbour bottom, your skipper will steer Miss Georgia back to the floating docks. But your fishing experience doesn’t end here. Next you will learn how to properly clean and fillet your catch inside the skipper’s fishing stage so that it’s pan-ready when you leave. This experience from start to finish is two hours. They have regular departures at 7 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. during the summer months, from July 3-end of September. (although this schedule has been disrupted since the start of Covid-19).

How’s that for a true authentic Newfoundland experience! I thought it was very interesting that she describes the tour in stages! I could picture each community in its own beauty. It resonates with me as the people that had to experience that uprooting must have devastated! But Newfoundlanders being resilient and hearty people just adapt! It is bred into us as a people to learn new ways of life! Better ways of life. The pictures I see of resettlement tells a story of community and togetherness as a people. It’s very heartwarming.
Thank you Mandy for sharing your story and I hope to meet you one day!

Much love.

Lori

Lori King
Author: Lori King

Lori King