Sunday, July 5, 2009

Squid Cove, NL: Holding Ground

There is a nautical term -- holding ground -- that is used as a noun and not a verb. It is often preceded by an adjective, and describes the quality of the sea bottom to provide a safe, secure anchor.

Our first day of cycling on the Northern Peninsula, fresh off the ferry from Blanc-Sablon, was overcast but with a strong tailwind. Our normal mode is to find campground symbols on the map, and connect the dots that are a reasonable day's travel apart. On this day there was no physical campground to match the dot on the map. We stocked up on water and found a nice spot on a rocky beach, next to lobster traps retired for the season. The wind was howling, so we secured the corners of the tent with the biggest rocks we could find. We cooked dinner in the sheltered side of one of the fisherman's shacks nearby.

Rain was in the forecast. But we have seen the forecast delayed or predicted rain amounts decreased so many times, that we figured we would be fine. That assumption proved wrong when we heard raindrops on the tent overnight. A break at dawn allowed the tent to dry while we ate breakfast and pack up. But as we stood, bikes fully loaded, huddled out of the wind on the lee side of the shack, the rain started to come down again.

One of the shacks was unlocked, so we wheeled the bikes inside. There was a table, sofa, a roll of paper towels, an ashtray, and a broom. In a closet were dishes and cooking utensils neatly arranged, and a half-full jar of peanut butter. We waited a couple of hours, hoping the rain might subside. But it grew colder, the wind more intense, and the thought of cycling in the weather brought visions of hypothermia before me. It became apparent this shack would be our home for the night. So we swept the floors and tidied up the place, and settled right in.

We spent the rest of the day doing jumping jacks to stay warm and periodically checking the weather satellite for the progress of the front (amazingly, the Telus Air Card had coverage). The concern about enough drinking water was alleviated when John found a spring on the shore nearby. I started reading a copy of "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac, given to me by our Irish friends on the cruise, and somehow our plight seemed trivial compared to hitching rides on the back of a flatbead truck with no money. And the wind blew and rain pelted the windows all day and into the night, and we were quite grateful for this shelter, this excellent holding ground.
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