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COLUMN: A Ferry Good Picnic

Many years before the MV Blue Puttees plied the ferry run from Argentia to North Sydney Dearest Duck commenced nagging — no, not nagging, bless her heart — commenced gently coaxing me to embark on a ferryboat voyage.  

“Harry, my sweetheart, my darling, my love,” she cajoled me, annually. “We should take a vacation. Perhaps we could put the car on The Boat and take a little holiday in Nova Scotia.” 

“My Duck,” I replied, shaping a frown on my forlorn face. “That would be nice but it can’t happen.”

“Oh my,” she sighed.

Luckily, the first time Dearest Duck suggested an ocean voyage to Nova Scotia, I pulled an episode of maritime horror from my Santa-sack of excuses and planked it on the table, so to speak, and wearing my most wretched look, explained why I couldn’t possibly climb the gangplank of a CN ferry.

“Mind January 1960, my Duck, when my family shifted north to Schefferville?”

“Yes, I do. Your mother, you and younger siblings, rode the Bullet to Port aux Basque and sailed for North Sydney on the William Carson.”

“True, my Duck, and a vicious storm blew up and rocked the Carson from port to starboard, and I spewed my guts from stem to stern.”

“And ever since you can’t abide sailing.”

“True again, my Duck.”

For years, when marital bliss was happiness enough, Dearest Duck commiserated with me — her otherwise stalwart helpmate — sufficiently to let me wiggle off the nautical holiday hook. The William Carson had long sunk when, as a result of a sheaf of gaudy tourism pamphlets, Dearest Duck approached me, all a-swivel and siren-like, with a bright new vacation pitch.

“Harry, my sweetheart, my darling, my love, we’ve never been to Gros Morne National Park. Why don’t I reserve a cabin for a week and we’ll drive across the island?”

Startled, I hovered over a mug of herbal tea like a wily fox with one paw suddenly frozen in the air above a bone-crushing trap.

“Ah…..,” I said.

“We could ride the Bonne Bay ferry through the fiords,” said Dearest Duck.

“My Duck,” said I. “You know it cannot happen. If I drive beyond Gander the “come home” drawstring in my back begins to drag me east.”

“Harry, for …,” Dearest Duck started, but gentility forbade her finishing her expletive.

“Besides,” I added. “If ancients had charted the latest road maps, terrain west of Gander would be marked “Here there be dragons.”

Gentility be buggered. Dearest spoke her mind. Some seasons passed before Dearest Duck proposed another holiday location.

“Harry, my sweetheart, my darling, my love, we should drive up to Twillingate and see the summer sights. No need to enter the dragonlands west of Gander.”

“Ah…,” I said, as on guard as a goalie.

“I believe tourists can take a ferry ride among the islands.”

“My Duck, think once again,” said I, despite the storm clouds building on her brow worse than harbingers of a node-east gale. “You’re talking about Notre Dame Bay. Likely, it’s stogged with icebergs. You know bergs and I don’t mix.”

Lightning flashed and scorched my chops. Wrathfully, Dearest Duck hurled small furniture, creating more indoor chaos than a poltergeist. This summer, inspired by boat traffic streaming past our door, I have planned a surprise excursion that I hope might — marginally at least — appease Dearest Duck’s urge for a holiday involving boats.

B’ys, please don’t tell her.

One fine day I’ll pack a picnic lunch in our antique Coleman cooler. With promises of delights barely imaginable, I’ll persuade Dearest Duck to wear a blindfold while we drive on our adventure.

We’ll motor up the Argentia Access Road and head ‘er east when we intersect the Trans-Canada Highway at Whitbourne. At Roaches Line we’ll steer our noses north until we reach the dandy spot fixed in my mind.

I’ll pull into the parking lot. I’ll hike the Coleman cooler onto my shoulder, take Dearest by one trusting tiny hand — She’ll be required to carry two folding canvas chairs in the other — and with her blindfold still secure, lead her along a boardwalk to a gazebo deck beside the sea.

“Don’t peek,” I’ll say, guiding her into a chair.

“Just wait,” I’ll say opening the cooler and hoisting out a bottle of my Dearest’s favourite wine — Baby Duck, what did you expect?

“Ready?” I’ll say when Dearest is holding a fluted glass filled to the brim.

“Behold,” I’ll say and rip away the blindfold…

…allowing Dearest Duck to feast her eyes on the rusting carcass of the legendary, the renowned SS Kyle keeled over off-shore in the harbour.

“Cheers, My Duck.”

Thank you for reading.

Watch for us. Join us if you wish.

— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at

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