Bay d'Espoir Part 3: Round Counter East

Rencontre East, Newfoundland (Map)

Summer 2013.


The third item of this Bay d'Espoir weekend might have been the easiest, in that the only challenge was making sure to meet the ferry in Pools Cove by 8:45 am. Munching snacks and guzzling water along the curvy, mountainous NL-360; eventually a turn was made for the easier roads of the NL-362, where Pool's Cove lay at a short distance, at a turnoff long before Belleoram.

With my newfound skills for managing time and getting things done, there had to be 15 minutes of standing on the top deck of the passenger ferry. I stood there watching the gulls and swallows flutter about, while studying the homes and wharves of Pool's Cove.

Downtown Rencontre East.

Once the ferry went ahead and entered Fortune Bay, the realization that it wasn't a balmy day was even more apparent. Sitting on the back bench of the ferry, like the backseat of a wood station wagon, the cliffs and islands presented themselves by moving from my periphery and into my field of vision.

To the south you could see the islands and mountains of the area surrounding Belleoram - and if I understood Kenny's accent more clearly, I would have been better at identifying them. I managed to identify the resettled sites of Lally Cove and Doctor's Harbour though, on account of resettled communities being less numerous and of greater interest.

An hour's time would pass with no one else coming outside, instead choosing to sleep and watch television. A slot in the Rencontre Islands gave a brief window into what was coming, before the boat rounded the modern beacon on Mal Bay Island and pulled into Rencontre Harbour.

The welcome sign reads "Isolated and Loving It" as you step off the ferry and onto the cement wharf. I always envision the whole town coming out to meet the ferry - and inspect the newcomers - but with the now falling rain, the crowd was thinned.

Not wanting to spend the next five hours soaking wet, I scanned the village skyline seeking refuge. Noticing the hillside school with an overhang covering the front steps, it was off to the west side of town. It wasn't raining sideways, so with this surplus of time to inspect the village of 141 people, I'd relax and hope the weather improved. I could always walk around in the rain if it didn't stop before 2pm.

The school's door would open and a young man came outside with recyclables, surprised by the presence of someone on his steps and hopeful that the weather would improve for pictures and exploring. He was friendly, yet short with his words. I liked him.

Within an hour the rain let up and it was time to check off the Dowden's Pond boardwalk.

In visiting these isolated, outport communities, you generally see people doing laps in town, walking end-to-end until they finally make up a long enough distance to constitute an evening walk. It would seem that the residents of Rencontre East have it a bit better in that they can mix it up with this pleasant boardwalk.

Even with the light rain, a man's man walked his dog past, a funny little frou-frou dog, which I'm sure his daughter named...

"Cookie! Cookie! C'mere!"

I held in the giggles.

Returning to town, the weather slowly improved as the tangle of streets were explored for every vantage point and home. At one point, a father and his two children were stopped ahead on their ATV, calling out and eventually getting their dog to hop on the four-wheeler as well. They would rumble up one of the angled streets, Rencontre East's version of a family vehicle bringing them home.

Satisfied with exploring the west end of town, it was time to come to the centrepiece of Rencontre East - as from the moment you round Mal Bay Island, a large Anglican church stands out from the rest of the community.

St. Stephen's Anglican Church was built in 1926 with a seating capacity of 300.

Rencontre East's isolation was evident when I looked at the guestbook inside St. Stephen's. Flipping a single page, I was already back into entries from 2011. There couldn't have been more than 30 names in the last two years! (And that's including some entries from people like the ferry captain and his crew.)

Eventually leaving the Anglican church, I decided to pass on the Japanese Knotweed-choked cemetery that was just across the ATV pathway. Walking down the hill, across the bridge and into the convenience store, it felt like something out of an isolated northern town; with dark lighting, organized can goods on white shelves and freezers of frozen meat against the wall.

Sipping on a Pineapple Crush it was time to finally explore the east end, known as the Point and the Brook. It was here that the more modest Catholic Church was found, on account of the non-English, early Hartigans and Giovanninis settling in this area.

There was a donation jar in St. Joseph's, and while I wondered what the modest sum would do for a small building in a place with limited Roman Catholics, I threw in a couple of bucks regardless.

It was worth it alone, for relaxing in the creaky building, peering out over the nearby harbour through leaded windows and swinging the large, wooden front doors closed.

Sitting down for lunch, I was going to eat myself into a food coma, but for some reason I had doubts that the Metrobus was running today...

I mostly watched the goings-on about the fishing stages, but you could also see activity in the aquaculture area out in the harbour.

I also noticed this butterfly in the grasses below the Metrobus bench.

The main harbour of Rencontre East. The long wharf you see at the top is where the ferry docks.

With the afternoon advancing, there was one last harbour on the east side to investigate.

I'm not sure where everyone was - maybe down by the main harbour - but one was free to casually wander about the wharves and stages. Coming to the end of one dock, nearby falls rumbled from where Rencontre Lake emptied into this harbour, while a rock was awash and had metal rods stuck up to let boaters know of its presence in the middle of their passage.

As fog blew in and the air grew colder on this June day, the ferry emerged almost exactly at 3pm; the ferries being a bastion of punctuality in a province which generally follows island time.

Rencontre East isn't under an immediate threat of resettlement like other ferry-accessible places such as Little Bay Islands or McCallum. In addition to their resistance towards resettlement, Rencontre East now has a newfound hope in aquafarming. Whereas this place had been experiencing a loss of families for years because of slim employment opportunities, now there are decent jobs located right in the harbour of Rencontre.

The ferry would pull into Pool's Cove at quarter after four, leaving a six hour drive home from another great trip to Bay d'Espoir.


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1 - Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador - J.R. Smallwood

2 - Rencontre East - Wikipedia