Fogo Harbour, Newfoundland—The Kindness of Strangers

Looking over Fogo Harbour…before the rain.

Over our years of cruising in Newfoundland, John and I have been the recipients of incredible generosity; however, the latest kindness bestowed on us may very well be the most moving of them all. It occurred on Fogo Island, a place much in the public eye lately due to the Fogo Island Inn.To continue reading, please login (top right) or join us.

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Meet the Author


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.

16 comments… add one
  • Conor Aug 8, 2018, 10:53 am

    What a nice story, thanks for sharing! That sure is a warm-your-heart story!

  • Dick Stevenson Aug 9, 2018, 8:19 am

    Hi Phyllis and all,
    I suspect you may know, but that others may be interested: the generosity of Newfoundlanders has been put into a play/musical which is currently in New York on Broadway and (I believe) will start touring soon if it has not already.
    In short, when 9/11 occurred the US’s airways were closed and 38 commercial airplanes were diverted to the small town of Gander in central (sort-of) Newfoundland dumping 7000 passengers onto this small community. The kindness that Phyllis reports was manifested 7000-fold over a period of time and is reportedly (by friends who have seen it) to be well and entertainingly portrayed in the musical.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • Rob Hellier s/v DragonHeart Aug 12, 2018, 10:36 pm

      I’m from Gander and my parents lived there at 9-11. They told me a few days afterwards about how they prepared hundreds of sandwiches, baked beans and chicken salad (all home made!) and brought it up to the airport for the stranded thousands. And they did this more than once during the days the passengers were stranded there. A lot of this effort was spontaneous but much was organized through local volunteer organisations.

      Gander is still very much a product of the huge communal effort during the 2nd World War that caused its inception as an air base, later a town and airport. Ganderites have always rallied around the airport and the disasters that occasionally befell it.

      My parents and their generation took volunteerism and helping one’s neighbors very seriously. It’s less common now of course which is why it’s celebrated in the play. It’s one of the reasons we enjoy sailing so much – that sense of community and natural tendency to help and share with ones neighbors even if they might be so only for a few hours or days in a dock, flotilla or anchorage!

      Unfortunately you can’t visit Gander in a sailboat! But I do recommend visiting the Gander river (and adjacent Exploits River) which flow into Notre Dame Bay on the Northwest coast of the island. Besides beautiful scenery, there’s great fly fishing and Gander River Boat tours. Now I don’t know what facilities are available in Notre Dame Bay for keeled sailing vessels but I’m sure there are readers that do. Hopefully I’m not leading sailors into danger!?

      • Dick Stevenson Aug 13, 2018, 8:02 am

        Hi Rob,
        A nice reminisce: thanks for sharing.
        I carry 2 meter draft and have visited numerous spots in Notre Dame Bay and adjacent areas so no worries about leading boats into danger. And the Bay is large and provides wonderful cruising in protected waters.
        And hospitality commensurate with Gander’s can be found at the Lewisporte Marina.
        My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

  • Shannon Aug 9, 2018, 9:03 am

    What a great story- captures the big heart and helpful attitude of Newfoundlanders we encounter all across NL. This is one of the many reasons NL remains one of our very top sailing spots!! A gem it is… The play “Come From Away” referred to above has been wildly successful. Cheers S&S
    s/v Yamit Bayfield 29.
    P.s. really great meeting you both in Lewisporte- a fabulous marina in NE NL.

  • JAMES F PETO Aug 9, 2018, 1:04 pm

    We have found over the years too that Cruising seems to bring out the generosity of people .
    In Norway whilst wandering around islands in the North we have on numerous occasions been picked up by families who have taken us into their homes,fed and bathed us and then shewn us around their islands,whilst in Spain and Portugal we have even been lent cars too so that we could explore further afield.
    The generosity of people to complete strangers has never failed to amaze us – a lesson to the rest of humanity.

  • rene Aug 15, 2018, 4:52 am

    Our experience with people from Canada East is limited, but we too were pleasantly surprised by the un-spoiled warm friendly kindness, while driving the Cabot Trail, during one of North America darkest days, known as 9-11

    Just over 5 weeks ago, on a Sunday morning this year, we were cruising the San Juan Islands, and heading for Friday Harbor from Blind Bay. I noticed quite a strong riptide north-east of Friday Harbor and the sea state was like a boiling kettle and noticed a kajak about 3/4 of a mile away in the middle of it driven by the current away from shore. I didnt like the looks of it and picked up the binoculars and saw 2 people, one holding up an arm, and what looked like a furry creature on the rear deck. Told my friend I dont like the looks of it and to get ready for a closer look. They did not see us coming up behind them and when closed in to about 20 ft,
    the furry creature appeard to be, what later we learned was the mother, named Ruth, whose kajak was submerged and had been in the 48.5´F water for close to an hour. Hard to forget to her large, hollow back eyes when she finally turned around. Threw a rope to her, which she barely could grab due to the very cold water, but somehow she did. Lowered the swim platform, and slowly pulled her alongside the boot to the rear. Hailed another boot in the area to take care of her 2 teenage kids in the kajak, who also were very cold . We managed to get Ruth on board, but she barely could move.
    Once inside the ladies took care of her, changing her in warm clothing and blankets. I was afraid a state of shock might set in and sent out a Mayday call and after 20 minutes a high speed Border Control boat picked her up and Ruth was on her way to the hospital.
    This was all a very emotional experience for me and had difficulty communicating with the Coast Guard , but had no trouble to stay on top of the situation. The following day I phoned the hospital to see how the 3 patiens were doing, but due to privicy laws , I wasnt any wiser.
    Do remember Ruth and kids were from North Carolina, and thats all we know.
    Ever since I kept asking myself why nobody else had not noticed the 3 in distress, while other boots were nearby. Then something dawned on me and whenever we came close to another boot, thru the binocular noticed what I was afraid of. Many were looking down at their cell phone and only glancing up for a few seconds. While in the merchant navy many years ago, there was always a look-out outside on the bridge. Not paying attention while driving has already taken many lives on the road. How would you feel, floating in the water and a ship passes you by within a hundred feet or so. A dreadful situation that has become reality unfortunately.
    However, in sharp contrast, it is an immense grateful feeling to have saved 3 people from what could have easly been something else. But this experience has also shown me that we were ill prepared for events like this and happy to say my check list is a lot longer.

    • John Aug 15, 2018, 7:39 am

      Hi Rene,

      Thanks for sharing a great story with lots of lessons for all of us.

    • Marc Dacey Aug 16, 2018, 12:54 pm

      What a tale and how telling it is about the declining state of watchstanding or even just looking beyond the rail.

  • rene Aug 16, 2018, 2:30 pm

    Hi John and Marc,
    Those handling sails are forced to pay more attention to there surroundings than those on motorboats, but many on the water appear to have an addiction for the small screen.
    I still have a flip-phone:)

  • RDE Aug 16, 2018, 6:58 pm

    On balance I’m firmly convinced that the “smart” phone is the worst addiction ever afflicted upon the human race. Just like heroin and crack, the only cure is total abstinence and withdrawal. Many “users” believe themselves immune to its power, meanwhile living their entire lives in its thrall.

    • John Aug 17, 2018, 10:34 am

      Hi Richard,

      I agree on the addiction, although not the remedy. We both have smart phones and find them very useful, without being addictive. The key is to stay away from social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All are designed to addict, but if you don’t have ’em…

      I deleted Facebook a year and half ago when I found my usage was creeping up.

      • Marc Dacey Aug 17, 2018, 11:57 am

        Well, being out of cell phone range just turns them into wee tablets and e-readers, which is more benign. But not on night watch: they kill your night vision, although I suppose music playback would be fine.

      • Dick Stevenson Aug 17, 2018, 12:12 pm

        Hi all,
        I also agree to their addictive potential. It helps me to differentiate when I use the smart phone (etc.) as a very useful, time saving tool (notes, alarm, phone etc. ) and when I use it for entertainment. Dick

      • RDE Aug 17, 2018, 2:14 pm

        Hi John,
        No question about the usefulness of smart phones. But being useful is one of the characteristics of powerful addictive substances and objects. One of the measures of addiction is the belief among users that they can control their use and not become addicted. “I’ll just have one drink with the boys after work to be sociable.” “Just one shot of heroin makes the pain go away.”

        I’m sure there are smart phone users who avoid becoming addicted, but as I walk through an airport waiting lobby I find very few actual examples. I agree that Facebook is the worst virus of the lot— to the extent that I suspect that it was originally designed and funded by Homeland Security as a monitoring and surveillance system—-.
        And the very idea of naming a communication program Twitter is demeaning— it implies that the user has nothing more serious in his mind than a little bird endlessly tweeting his territorial marking song.. Significant that the American President has chosen it as his favorite means of expression.

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