The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Fogo Harbour, Newfoundland—The Kindness of Strangers

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.

We spent our first two days at Fogo Harbour, a fishing harbour on the north coast of Fogo Island, hiking the fantastic local trails in a very uncharacteristic heat and humidity wave.

On day three, feeling the effects of two days of hiking in the heat, we decided to take it a bit easier, opting for activities that required either sitting or gentle forays around town.

After a trip to the grocery store (okay, that walk wasn’t all that gentle, as I’m sure our packs weighed a ton each, but it was relatively short), we decided to visit two museums located on the opposite side of the harbour from where Morgan’s Cloud was moored.

We knew a front was imminent, but didn’t think it was going to happen that soon or be very dramatic. (Environment Canada radar doesn’t cover Fogo, so we couldn’t check on the rain. Now that’s living on the edge…literally!)

It was still so warm and humid when we left the boat, we went out in t-shirts and shorts. And, since were going to stay close by, we didn’t bother taking sweaters or rain gear. (You know where this is going, don’t you!)

When we exited the first museum, it was just starting to cloud over and there were a few spits of rain with slightly cooler temps, but it didn’t seem too bad, so we walked over to the second museum.

And then, while we were perusing historical artifacts from the early days in Fogo Harbour, it happened: torrential rain, a precipitous drop in temperature (from 24˚C down to 11˚C), a strong gusty north wind, and, let me not forget to mention, fog—in Newfoundland you can have gale force winds, rain and fog…a delightful combination!

Yikes! The 15-minute walk back to the boat was starting to look more like a marathon! But, nothing if not intrepid, we steeled ourselves and exited the museum at a trot.

Which is when the door of the house across the way opened and Frannie (who we had never met until this point) came barrelling down her front steps, yelling, “Get in the car…I’ll drive you wherever you need to go.”

Once installed in the car, she told us she’d been in her backyard and felt the wind come up and, having lived in Fogo Harbour all her life, she knew that it would bring in dramatically worse weather.

Having seen us enter the museum, she waited at her front door until she saw us come back out, not wanting the two ignorant under-dressed come-from-aways to get cold and wet (it was too late for the cold—we were freezing—but she forestalled the wet!).

Random acts of kindness are wonderful, but Frannie’s premeditated act of kindness took our breath away.

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

Dick Stevenson

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

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

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


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.


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.


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 Harries

Hi Rene,

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

Marc Dacey

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


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:)


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 Harries

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

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

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


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.

John Rapp

We were headed by pickup truck with travel trailer to the Fogo Island ferry. Our arrival at the dock was going to be close. The road surface was like a washboard and the truck and trailer were not dancing to the same tune. That’s when the trailer departed. Fortunately, after coming to a grinding halt, we found the safety chains had done their job. But, how to get the rig back together. Before I finished scratching my head there was a fellow standing next to me with a 3-ton floor jack asking if he could help! He lived across the street from the scene where we were blocking the lane and had heard the commotion. From beginning to end we were there for five minutes. We made the Fogo Island ferry!

Having spent the previous summer sailing the south coast of Nova Scotia we marveled at how friendly and accommodating the locals were. Humbly they said “you think we’re friendly, wait until you meet the folks in Newfoundland!”