Ren­con­tre East

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Al­lan Stood­ley Down Mem­ory Lane

The small, iso­lated com­mu­nity of Ren­con­tre East in For­tune Bay – un­like most other out­port com­mu­ni­ties in this prov­ince – has seen its pop­u­la­tion de­crease very lit­tle in the past six or seven years.

In fact, in 2011 there were 141 peo­ple liv­ing there. Last year’s cen­sus came in at 139.

For decades the fish­ery, mainly cod and lob­ster, kept the lit­tle town on the map and in 2011, aqua­cul­ture farms were es­tab­lished in the area.

Eight fish­er­men still hold lob­ster li­censes, with each em­ploy­ing at least one other per­son. There are also up­wards of 20 peo­ple work­ing 12 months of the year in the farm­ing of salmon with the North­ern Har­vest Co.

In ad­di­tion, eight or 10 other res­i­dents go away to work but still call Ren­con­tre East home.

In the words of Mayor Pe­ter Gio­van­nini, “aqua­cul­ture is what is hold­ing this place to­gether.”

At one time, there were 19 lob­ster li­censes owned and fished out of the com­mu­nity. Since aqua­cul­ture ar­rived on the scene, most of these li­censes have been sold to fish­er­men in other For­tune Bay com­mu­ni­ties; in fact, some of these pre­vi­ous fish­er­men are now work­ing at aqua­cul­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to Deputy Mayor Mar­garet Caines, the pop­u­la­tion of the town peaked in the 1970s with 86 pupils at­tend­ing school there.

To­day there are only 20 stu­dents with four teach­ers, but in her words, “back in the 1970s most peo­ple were hav­ing large fam­i­lies and that is not the case to­day.”

Many res­i­dents of Ren­con­tre East feel very pos­i­tive about the fu­ture of their town. As ex­pressed by the deputy mayor, “we’re not a dy­ing com­mu­nity. In fact, we’re cre­at­ing new life with new ba­bies be­ing born.”

A pas­sen­ger/freight ferry ser­vice con­nects Ren­con­tre East with the out­side world ev­ery day of the week ex­cept on Wed­nes­days. Res­i­dents have the op­tion of tak­ing the M/V North­ern Seal to Bay L’Ar­gent – a one hour and 45-minute run to the east – or sail­ing west to Pool’s Cove, which takes one hour and 15 min­utes.

Most fam­i­lies from Ren­con­tre have cars or trucks left at Bay L’Ar­gent or Pool’s Cove.

“We can take the ferry to Bay L’Ar­gent in the morn­ing, and in two and a half hours from the time we leave, we can be in Marys­town to do our shop­ping and then catch the re­turn ferry home later in the af­ter­noon,” said Caines.

The num­ber of tourists visit­ing Ren­con­tre East dur­ing the past few sum­mers has in­creased sub­stan­tially, ac­cord­ing to Gio­van­nini. This in no small way is due to so­cial me­dia. There are three va­ca­tion homes avail­able for rent to ac­com­mo­date peo­ple who want to stay overnight, in­clud­ing the Chart House, Ack­ley House and the Blue House on the wharf.

Ren­con­tre Lake, just one kilo­me­tre north of the com­mu­nity, is a pop­u­lar sum­mer re­treat, where 20-plus cot­tages have been built.

Many decades ago the lake was the lo­ca­tion of one of only a few molyb­de­num mines in Canada’s his­tory. Ap­par­ently, the mine closed soon af­ter it be­gan with only 2,000 tons of the min­eral ever be­ing ex­ported.

Ac­cord­ing to Gio­van­nini, the main body of the min­eral, which is used for hard­en­ing steel, is lo­cated un­der the lake. Back when it was dis­cov­ered tech­nol­ogy wasn’t avail­able to vi­ably ex­tract it.

When you visit Ren­con­tre East you quickly re­al­ize the town is a bee­hive of ac­tiv­ity with the aqua­cul­ture boats criss­cross­ing back and forth, tend­ing to salmon pens spread out around the coves.

Plea­sure crafts are moored around the har­bor and the lob­ster fish­ing boats are neatly pulled out of the wa­ter, painted, and ready for an­other sea­son to be­gin next spring.

With­out a doubt in fu­ture years, more peo­ple will in­clude Ren­con­tre East on their bucket list of places to visit.

AL­LAN STOOD­LEY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

All-ter­rain ve­hi­cle is the only mode of trans­porta­tion for peo­ple and freight in the iso­lated For­tune Bay com­mu­nity of Ren­con­tre East. Each time the ferry ar­rives in port, the town’s wharf is bustling with ac­tiv­ity.

AL­LAN STOOD­LEY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Lit­tle Har­bour is a must-see se­cluded and shel­tered cove in Ren­con­tre East, where Ren­con­tre Lake dumps into For­tune Bay.

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