Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Good View of Bonavista

The entire coast of Newfoundland is made up of many peninsulas and islands. All these add up to almost 18,000 miles of shoreline. Our plan was to spend as much time as possible along the coast so we had to pick and choose which areas would be best to visit. We decided early on that we would not have time to explore much of the southern coast in the RV. Traveling to Twillingate was a 120 mile round trip from the Trans Canadian Highway (TCH). We next went to Bonavista, a 150 mile out and back trip from the TCH. The roads on these excursions off the TCH are often narrow and not as well maintained making the drive a little more intense. We stayed at Paradise Farm Trailer Park and discovered that in Canada a trailer park is not what it is in the states but is just another name for a campground.
Typical of most of the roads on the peninsulas, very narrow, no shoulder and in poor repair. But with beautiful scenery and very little traffic. The main road, that we used to return to the TCH, was in a little better shape.
The 35 foot tall Cape Bonavista Lighthouse began operating on September 11, 1843. The masonry tower rises through the center of the surrounding keeper's house. As with other lights that are now provincial parks, it has been restored to reflect the way it appeared in 1876 when Jeremiah White was the keeper. The flues for the fireplaces in the house were built into the tower. The signal flag room has the flags used to communicate with ships at sea. The day we were there it spelled out warm. The light was different than others we have seen. It just reflected off a polished parabolic background. There was no Fresnel lens in this one to increase the power of the light.
Cape Bonavista is also were it is believed Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot to most Americans and Canadians) landed in 1497 aboard the Matthew. Cabot claimed the New Founde Lande for England making this their first possession in the "new world". Cabot along with four ships disappeared on a second voyage.
In 1997 to mark the 500th anniversary of the discovery, a replica of the Matthew sailed from Bristol, England to Bonavista to mark the occasion. The queen was here for the event. The locals then decided they wanted their own replica so one was built here along with a boat house where it spends the winter. The doors open, the ship with it's masts is pulled inside, it is then lifted out of the water. The boat house allows the ship to be toured year round in any weather. Even though it was raining when we were there they would not put it inside for us. They said getting wet would make the experience more realistic. It is hard to believe that people sailed across the Atlantic in a wooden ship that was less than 100 feet long.
The Mockbegger Plantation was the home of F. Gordon Bradley the first federal minister when Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949. Bradley was a fish merchant and the home reflects his wealth. It is restored to the 1939 era when they had electricity but still no indoor plumbing.
Bonavista has many large wooden buildings dating from the late 1800's to the middle 1900's. The largest building is the Loyal Orange Lodge. The building to the left is the boat house for the Matthew and the yellow building is the courthouse. Even the movie theater was built with wood. It was a very beautiful little town.
Not far down the road is Port Union, the only union built town in North America. It was built by the Fishermen's Protective Union to give them a better option than dealing with the fish merchants. It was way ahead of its time as it had electricity in 1918. It included a branch railway, shipyard, factories, salt fish plant and retail stores. The whole thing was the brain child of Sir William F. Coaker, local publisher, activist, businessman and political leader.

1 comment:

and Mike said...

Nanc &Jim
Sandy & Mike of 07 class
Been following your blog and we were wondering if you will be doing the lobster fest? We just left Mn. today and are making to Maine. We enter Canada on Sat. and plan on doing Ottawa, Monteral, and Quebec City before getting to Maine. We have learned a mountain of info from your blog, we also plan on going to the maritimes after the lobsterfest. My email address is barski47

Play safe and drive careful.