The southern shore of Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula has no shortage of great paddling opportunities and I recently took to the waters of Fermeuse Harbour for my first sea-going paddle of 2009. It was nice and sunny afternoon, if not a bit windy, as my four companions and I put in from one of several busy fishing docks in the community.
There was a small chop and a bit of a following sea due to the winds as we made our way from Fermeuse proper, but it was nothing that we couldn’t handle. We all agreed to take it easy based on the 2-3 degree water. We took our time enjoying the scenery and soaking up the five hundred years of history associated with this part of the island. The settlement here first appeared on maps from the early sixteenth century as Rio Fermoso, which is believed to be a derivative of the Portuguese word Fermosa which means “beauty”.
Nearly halfway out the 4km harbour we came across a sobering reminder of the regions rich maritime history as we paddled past the rusting hulk of a 100+ foot freighter that ran aground here a long time ago. I have tried to find out more info about the wreck but I could only come up with the ships name “Ilya”. It was very neat to paddle around the rusting hulk and I imagined that I could maneuver right inside of it on calmer day with a high tide. One of my companions told me that the wreck is popular with divers during the summer months when the water is warmer.
It took us about an hour and a half the get to the end of the harbour where the comfort of the sheltering hills disappeared into the great Atlantic. We saw plenty of sea birds along the way including, Black Guillemots, Double Crested Cormorants, and Arctic Terns. The Terns surprised me as it is a bit early for them to be back to these waters from their circumpolar migration to Antarctica. Hopefully it is a sign of an early summer to come!
On the return trip the breeze freshened and forced us to battle a strong headwind for most of the return trip. Keeping to the south side, however, we were able to tuck in from time to time, allowing us to rest up for a few minutes at a time. It was a great workout for the first paddle of the season. I also enjoyed the half dozen giant windmills that served as a backdrop for our return paddle.
I truly enjoyed this paddle and I hope to get back again to do some extra exploring around the Ilya. The harbour is very sheltered with plenty of landing spots and it also adjacent to the East Coast Trail, which features some of the best hiking in the province. I would say that this route is appropriate for paddlers of any skill level as long as they are comfortable with the changing conditions on any given day.
Follow Route 10 - The Irish Loop - from St. John's until you reach the town of Fermeuse. Aprox 90km or 1 1/4 hours
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