Friday, July 26, 2013

Fair Island

On the way from Little Bay Islands I stopped for a night to visit Long Island, a larger island with several settlements just a 5 minute ferry ride from the mainland. I didn't intend to stop long, or make any art while there, but rather to just have a look around and get a sense of the place. While I was grabbing some snacks at the only convenience store a guy showed up on his quad to pick up smokes and food. He saw me, introduced himself as Bob, and invited me over to his place for a chat and a drink. "Past the post office, then turn right and down over the hill." I told him I planned on seeing the whole island, but that if I got back before dark I would stop in. "I'm not from here either," he left me with as he drove away.

Bob turned out to be an interesting fellow. At the age of 19 he became a firefighter in St. John's, working shifts at the various departments throughout the city. At the age of 44 he had his 25 years put in, his family raised and was eligible for retirement with a pension. Separated from his wife, he bought a fibreglass boat, then a tiny fishing shed in a hidden cove on Long Island for $350. For the past ten years he's spent 10 months a year living in that shed-turned-home. Later he commissioned a new wooden boat, because, in his words, "the fibreglass never did feel right."

He enjoyed hearing about my travels and my project, and was determined to give me some assistance. "Paul's Island, in Bonavista Bay, is covered with shards end to end." I like getting local knowledge in this little mission of mine. We talked until the twilight faded, when I retreated to the campsite I had scouted out earlier.

So, while it was never on my itinerary to visit Bonavista Bay it was perhaps inevitable that I did. Stopping at the only restaurant in Centreville I scoffed down a meal before asking the waitress whether she knew anyone who might take me out there. Not twenty minutes later her next door neighbour, Gary, showed up to see me. We negotiated a price and agreed to leave first thing in the morning.

It's only 10km to Paul's Island, but it was evident that Gary just loves being on the water, and the trip turned into a two hour tour. We went to Silver Island, Pork Island, Sydney Cove, Lewis Island, Paul's Island and Fair Island. Bob was right, there were shards on Paul's Island, but there were even more on Fair Island, so that's where I stayed.

There was little beach to speak of on Fair Island, just smooth granite sloping down into the sea. But sand gathered in the cracks between the rocks, and on top of the sand was a dizzying constellation of shards of all shapes and colours.

I made a few arrangements to be swept away by the tide, like this one on a slipway:

And this one to be swept into a hollow in the rock:

But on this trip I was ultimately more interested in making layered images of shards underwater like those I posted in the previous post.

Fair Island was a strange place to be - it was, after the solitude of Peckford Island, like a metropolis. All the islands in Bonavista Bay, or certainly all the ones that I saw, were covered with cabins and buzzing with activity, and Fair Island seemed to be the busiest of them all. I was there on a weekend, which added to the crowd, and I got invited around for drinks and tunes. Lots of the cabin goers were born on Fair Island, and had vivid stories about the old days before resettlement, which I obviously enjoyed.

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