Refloating The 'Ark'

Anderson's Cove was a fishing settlement situated west of Long Harbour Point in Fortune Bay. Built mostly around the foot of high cliffs, records indicate it was first settled in the 1880's by nine Church of England families. There was precious little level land but it did provide a good, deep harbour and access to some of the best herring fishing grounds. Everyone was involved with the fishery. Consequently, the harbour was lined with fishing stages, sheds, and boats of every description.

Sometime in the early 1940's, young Archie Thornhill was taking care of a 30-foot trap skiff which belonged to Edwin Pope of Stone's Cove, a small neighbouring community. The boat had been altered for carrying as much herring as possible and was so deep that it was jokingly referred to as "The Ark."

Archie reasoned that if he was supposed to keep an eye on the boat, he didn't need anyone's permission to actually use it. He thought it was perfectly alright for him to borrow the boat. Turrs were plentiful, so Archie persuaded his friend, Henry Herridge, to go turr-hunting with him. They figured it would be safe enough for they both knew how to handle a boat.

As they were going out across the harbour, much to their surprise, the rudder came off the skiff. They continued on, out around the point, to the first little cove. There they beached the boat with the intention of replacing the rudder and continuing their trip.

Henry, who was wearing hip rubbers, got out of the skiff and put his back up against the stern. He tried to lift the boat a little, hoping it would ride a bit farther up on the beach. Archie then set the eight-horsepower "Barnes" engine in reverse.

While trying to back the skiff into the cove, the blade struck a beach rock and the engine quit. Investigation revealed that a rock about the size of a baseball had gone between the skid of the keel and the blade. They also discovered that a screw bolt had broken.

They replaced the screw bolt and secured the rudder once more. Then they started off for Black Rock, heading out towards the open sea to look for the turrs. Black Rock lies in the mouth of Long Harbour, about 40 feet long by 20 feet wide, flat on top, and rising about 10 feet above water. There were two big sunkers on the northwest side and the sea washed over it in times of very high winds. At other times, a mass of congregating seagulls turned its barren surface to white.

As the two young adventurers neared Black Rock in their borrowed vessel, they heard a funny sound. Neither of them could figure out what it was.

"Something's gone wrong. She's shaking," Archie said.

In fact, water was beginning to spout in through the stern of the boat. Henry, who was steering, turned the boat and headed straight for Back Cove. "I wonder could we make Back Cove," he said. But then they decided to go on to Lobster Cove, where it would be much easier to beach the boat.

Meanwhile, Archie was constantly bailing water with a two-gallon bucket, but it was a losing battle. The water was coming in faster than he could bail and, just as they reached Lobster Cove, the skiff sank. The two young men scrambled onto the head of the boat, jumped overboard and waded ashore. There would be no turrs for them today.

Sitting there on the beach, Archie tried to look on the bright side. "Well, after we're here so long, Harry, somebody got to find us, 'cause they'll be looking for us," he said.

It wasn't long before they saw a seine boat approaching. Rescue was close at hand. It was Archie's Uncle Will, Cecil Pope, and four other men. They had seen two people sitting on the rocks on the shore and decided to check it out. When the boat was almost in the cove, one of the men spotted something in the water.

"Look! You see that there?"

It was the bow of the "Ark", sticking up out of the water. The stern was resting down on the bottom. When the men went ashore, Cecil spoke to Archie. "Old man, you're up against it now, what you got done."

"How are you going to get her out of this?" Will wanted to know.

"If we get hold of her, we could maybe get her ashore and bail her out," Cecil said. "Then we could try to get her going again and get her across to Anderson's Cove."

Eventually, they did get the boat refloated and back to the community where they grounded her on the shore. Edwin Pope looked at his boat and said, "I'm surprised you got her all the way back here."

After the tide fell, the damage to the boat was obvious. The packing box was gone, the shaft was torn away, and there was a big gaping hole in the bottom. It was no surprise that the skiff sank, only remarkable that it had made it as far as it did.

Major repairs were needed. The shaft was put back in line, the packing box replaced, and a large plank was used to patch the hole.

"Well, it was a lot better for me to lose the boat than for you two to drown," Pope told them later. "She wasn't all THAT important to me."

The "Ark" was made seaworthy again and finished the herring season. Perhaps the sturdy craft was deserving of its name. Needless to say, the two young seafarers never again tried to go turr-hunting in any boat without permission.

© Fay Herridge
Published in Canadian Stories, Jun 1999; The Newfoundland Herald, Sep 1999

Non-fiction 1

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