In 1957, Farley Mowat shipped out aboard one of Newfoundland’s famous coastal steamers, tramping from outport to outport along the southwest coast. The indomitable spirit of the people and the bleak beauty of the landscape would lure him back again and again over the years. In the process of falling in love with a people and a place, Mowat also met the woman who would be the great love of his life.
A stunningly beautiful and talented young artist, Claire Wheeler insouciantly climbed aboard Farley’s beloved but jinxed schooner as it lay on the St. Pierre docks, once again in a cradle for repairs, and changed both their lives forever. This is the story of that love affair, of summers spent sailing the Newfoundland coast, and of their decision to start their life together in Burgeo, one of the province’s last remaining outports. It is also an unforgettable portrait of the last of the outport people and a way of life that had survived for centuries but was now passing forever.
Affectionate, unsentimental, this is a burnished gem from an undiminished talent.
I was inside my vessel painting the cabin when I heard the sounds of a scuffle nearby. I poked my head out the companionway in time to see a lithesome young woman swarming up the ladder which leaned against Happy Adventure’s flank. Whining expectantly, the shipyard dog was endeavouring to follow this attractive stranger. I could see why. As slim and graceful as a ballet dancer (which, I would later learn, was one of her avocations), she appeared to be wearing a gleaming golden helmet (her own smoothly bobbed head of hair) and was as radiantly lovely as any Saxon goddess. I invited her aboard, while pushing the dog down the ladder.
“That’s only Blanche,” I reassured my visitor. “He won’t bite. He’s just, uh . . . being friendly.”
“That’s nice to know,” she said sweetly. Then she smiled . . . and I was lost.
–From Bay of Spirits
Farley Mowat began writing for a living in 1949 after spending two years in the Arctic. He is the best-selling author of thirty-nine books, including Never Cry Wolf, Owls in the Family, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, and The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float. With sales of more than fourteen million copies in twenty-five countries, he is one of Canada’s most successful writers.
“Farley Mowat writes as a good helmsman steers — with easy skill, admirable precision, and the authority of a sailor in his element.”
— Nicholas Monsarrat