Ramea, Newfoundland—Road-Served But Still Out There

The island community of Ramea glistens in the sunshine as we pull up to the wharf in Ship Cove. As we adjust the lines, Brian, the harbourmaster, appears and welcomes us in. After making sure we are comfortable, he settles in for a chat. It sure is good to see the sun, John offers. Brian says he was some relieved when the fog finally lifted and he could see Newfoundland again—he’d been worried that Ramea’d been left all alone out here!

Now, I imagine there must be many a time in winter when it feels like Ramea is alone in the world, despite the fact that there is a car ferry that travels to and from Burgeo, only 7-nm away, several times a day. But now, with the sun shining and only a light breeze blowing, Ramea feels like most any other coastal town in Canada.

Ramea’s outdoor pool with the entrance to White Bear Bay across the strait in the background.

The 500 (give or take) inhabitants drive their cars and trucks to and from the four stores, the outdoor swimming pool, the café, the post office, and the ferry. What with all this infrastructure—plus a school, a church, a medical clinic, an RCMP detachment (tiny), an outdoor hockey rink, a windmill farm, and a B&B—Ramea’s a metropolis compared to LaPoile. But the population was well over 1000 in the 1990s when the fish plant was still operating. Since then it has been slowly decreasing.

The all-grades school apparently has 60 pupils, which seems like a great number to us, but Art, an octogenarian, lifelong resident of Ramea, says that when they graduate, these kids won’t return. There’s nothing for them here, he says. He’s on the Development Corporation for Ramea but, when asked if they have any ideas for development, he acknowledges not really, though maybe cruiseships will come by. They had one in spring and another one is due in fall.

Kerry and Wade haul back and clean fish on the working deck of F/V Our Choice. John went out with them to set and haul tub trawls.

We’ve moved right in here in Ramea. It’s been six days now since we arrived. Four days ago we waved goodbye to John’s daughter and son-in-law as they steamed away on the ferry to Burgeo. Since they left we’ve been busy working and walking the boardwalks that circumnavigate the three by one mile island. We’ve climbed the lighthouse at Northwest Cove, unlocked for us by the maintenance man who is in attendance daily from 8 to 4. He says that when the cruiseship was in he had over 60 people running around the place all at once.

And we’ve scaled the stairs to the two lookouts, the highest of which gives an incredible view over the island archipelago and back across the strait to the high cliffs of Newfoundland. Art, the 80-years young guy I mentioned earlier, lives at the base of the stairs to the highest lookout and tells us he climbs them several times a day, keeping his new knees (one is 18 and the other is 7 years old) limber. “Some people retire and then just sit around”, he says. It’s easy to tell he’s not one of them!

Darlene works at the café and hostel and is another go-getter. She meets every boat that visits Ramea and invites them in for showers, laundry, Wi-Fi, and dinner. We’ve eaten there twice now—cod right out of the water, pan-fried with fresh-cut fries. Wonderful!

On our walks we stop and chat with the locals, who express their love for their community to us visitors. Hopefully Ramea will be able to stay alive what with its close connection to the roads that these days are the lifeline of civilization. But Canada is one of the most urban countries in the world and only getting more so. I sincerely hope that Ramea will be able to buck that trend.

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Phyllis has sailed over 40,000 offshore miles with John on their McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, most of it in the high latitudes, and has crossed the Atlantic three times. As a woman who came to sailing as an adult, she brings a fresh perspective to cruising, which has helped her communicate what they do in an approachable way, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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