Day 1 |
Aug 15, 2008

St. Johns, Newfoundland

By Susan Langley, Historian

Co-ordinates: 47 degrees 34.00’ N and 052 degrees 41.00’ W

Weather: Raining cats and dogs in morning, warm and humid in afternoon, rough at sea as we sailed

Early risers were treated to spectacular views of the narrow entrance to the harbor of St. John’s, the capitol of Newfoundland and Labrador.  As we threaded our way between the towering cliffs in the fog and rain, the Point Spear Lighthouse appeared to the south and the landmark Cabot Tower to the North.  Colorful houses dotted the hills and shanties clung precariously to the rock faces.  Mooring dockside in the heart of the city, we bid au revoir to many of our guests and some staff and prepared to welcome new adventurers aboard the Prince Albert II for our new expedition to New York via the Canadian Maritimes and French isles of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

A small but intrepid group of guests continuing on the next voyage joined our guide and driver for a tour of the city, the oldest in Canada, and surrounding region.  We began at mist-shrouded Signal Hill.  Although named for its use in the 18th century to signal ships and to warn the town of impending danger, it is also where Marconi received the first transatlantic telegraph message.  It is the easternmost point in North America and the Cabot Tower at the crest was erected to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of John Cabot in Newfoundland.  The group next traveled to Cape Spear to visit its lighthouse, via the picturesque village of Quidi Vidi, returning via the equally charming town of Petty Harbor.  Such a small group permitted a great deal of flexibility and a number of stops were made for coffee, snacks, necessities and interest.  Returning to the heart of the city, we toured the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and had a chance to enjoy the colorful houses that seamlessly line the hilly streets, which are punctuated by parks and statuary.  Clearing weather encouraged us to return to Signal Hill to view the Queen’s Battery and to photograph Cape Spear and its matching gun emplacements across the narrow channel.  After a hearty home-style lunch at a local restaurant, many of us elected to walk back to the ship or explore the area on foot while others chose to return in our small bus.  Some of the walkers met up with members of our expedition who had been touring separately by taxi or on foot to compare notes on the morning’s adventures.  Some even underwent the local tradition of being “Screeched In,” a ritualized process of becoming an honorary Newfoundlander (“Newfie”), generally involving some form of pledging loyalty to the fishing industry or to wishing voyagers safe travels, sometimes involving kissing a cod or puffin (not usually alive, or real for that matter) but always involving tossing back a shot of particularly harsh Jamaican rum known as Screech.

Then it was time to join our new traveling companions who had been embarking in the early afternoon.  The new arrivals had been settled into their suites and were enjoying a concert of local music in The Theatre.  Once everyone was aboard and the necessary safety drill requirements had been fulfilled, everyone had time to relax and explore the Prince Albert II until the evening briefing.  There we learned that a storm to the north of us would preclude our planned trip to L’Anse aux Meadows.  As flexibility is the watchword for expedition cruising, we determined to change course for Argentia on the far side of the beautiful Avalon Peninsula and the Castle Hill National Historic Site.

Everyone adjourned for drinks and dinner, to meet new friends and relive the day, and later to convene in the Panorama Bar for a nightcap and to enjoy Daryl’s musical talents to close another evening.