Mem­o­ries of ‘cross­ing the Bar’ in Branch

The Compass - - NEWS - MA­RINA GAMBIN Ma­rina Power Gambin was born and raised in her beloved Branch. She now lives in Pla­cen­tia where she taught for al­most three decades. She can be reached at mari­nagam­bin@per­sona.ca

Most read­ers are fa­mil­iar with Al­fred Lord Ten­nyson’s poem “Cross­ing the Bar.” Grow­ing up in Branch in the 50s, my mother re­cited that poem hun­dreds of times. By the time I was 10 years old, I was quite fa­mil­iar with the “moan­ing of the bar” and see­ing “my Pilot face to face.”

Be­cause our house was lo­cated on the Hill, with a clear view of the Gut, we had an un­ob­structed view of what is known in Branch as “com­ing in over the Bar.” Skiffs, go­ing and com­ing, to and from the fish­ing grounds, had to cross this sand­bar dur­ing the fish­ing sea­son.

As a child, I was aware that the Bar was a danger­ous place, par­tic­u­larly when the seas were rough. I had grown to adult­hood be­fore I re­al­ized that a sand­bar is a ridge of sand built up by cur­rents along a shore. In order to reach the shore, the waves must crash against the sand­bar, cre­at­ing a moan­ing sound. The wail­ing noise along with the ac­tion of the break­ers as well as my mother’s nar­ra­tion from Ten­nyson had all com­bined to in­still in my child­like heart a deep dread of the Bar.

My fa­ther was a fish­er­man. From spring un­til fall he plied his trade in and around the wa­ters of St. Mary’s Bay. Once, when he was re­fer­ring to Cape St. Mary’s, he said, “I spent 60 sum­mers fish­ing there.” His 60 sum­mers were spent work­ing with a part­ner, in a small open skiff, driven by a SixA­ca­dia en­gine. That was it. They had no life jack­ets, no ra­dios, no safety in­spec­tions. If any­thing went wrong, they had to de­pend on their own re­source­ful­ness and cre­ativ­ity to bring them safely home. In hind­sight, I shud­der at the per­ils they must have faced. How­ever, as a child, the only worry I as­so­ci­ated with my fa­ther’s liveli­hood was when his lit­tle skiff had to come in over the Bar.

I es­pe­cially dreaded those days when the wind came up un­ex­pect­edly. I can still pic­ture the waves bar­rel­ing in to­ward the Easter’ Cove, send­ing spumes of white foam into the air when they broke against the wharf. Of­ten, I pressed my face against the win­dow pane watch­ing for the skiffs to come into sight. More than once, the sea was break­ing too roughly on the Bar. At such times, the skiffs would wait in the cove for the seas to calm a bit. Then, when a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self, they would point their bows to­ward the en­trance to the Gut. Only af­ter all the skiffs had crossed the bar and reached the safety of the wharf would I re­lax my vigil and turn my at­ten­tion away from the dan­gers of the windswept ocean.

Look­ing back on it now, I marvel at the skills and ca­pa­bil­i­ties these fish­ers pos­sessed. They must have been mas­ter mariners, for I can­not re­mem­ber one sin­gle fa­tal­ity oc­cur­ring, not in my day any­way. My fa­ther lived to be al­most 90 years old. When his turn came to em­bark, he did so peace­fully, on a smooth day in May. There was no moan­ing of the Bar, no tide in the Gut and no white­caps in the cove. I just know he had a smooth voy­age and that he had no qualms about meet­ing his Pilot “face to face.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.