Free Issue! Try Saltscapes Magazine before you buy. Download Now

Saltscapes Blog

Simpler lives in simpler times

It’s sad in so many ways.

We have a piece inside this issue describing life on a coastal boat servicing outports on the south coast of Newfoundland. Visiting those isolated communities is something relatively few have experienced. We are happy to say we are among them: our first of a dozen visits was 40 years or so ago.

Perhaps the most lasting first impression was delight at the happiest kids we had ever seen. Rosy-cheeked with semi-permanent devilish grins, they seemed to revel in complete freedom.

Newfoundland outports posed few dangers for children. The youngsters could be safely left to amuse themselves as they saw fit—there were no helicopter parents here, terrified to let their children out of their line of sight.

There was no police presence either: not necessary; communities essentially policed themselves. No parking meters, no traffic lights, no constant noise, no wailing sirens—in fact, none of the common irritants and stresses of urban life.

When the coastal boat docked, the whole community turned out, for in a place where not much happens, the boat’s arrival was a major event. If there were newcomers aboard, so much the better.

Once, in the harbour at La Poile, we watched bare-chested teenage boys roar up and down in overpowered small boats, showing off for the girls on shore. It was the normal biological instinct of mate attraction played out in a marine environment—because here there were neither streets nor tires to squeal.

We arrived by helicopter once in the community of Grey River, landing the machine a few hundred metres from the nearest homes at the end of a walking trail, from where we hiked into the village.

We passed a teenage couple who had seized the opportunity to make an impromptu date out of walking, arm-in-arm, out to inspect a parked Bell Jet Ranger helicopter.

In so many ways, it was to witness human socialization in raw and pure form—as people may have interacted and behaved in villages during pre-industrial times all over Europe.

The sea out front was their bounty and “the country” in behind was their hunting ground. To experience them at close quarters was at once refreshing and thought provoking—always fostering reflective questions on the wisdom of our own hectic lives.

The 1992 cod moratorium was the death knell of these charming places populated by charming, uncomplicated people. The bustling wharfs have been silent for a generation. Young folks are long gone and only a remnant few remain.

It’s sad in so many ways.

~ Linda & Jim Gourlay
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.