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A Special Visit to the 'KYLE'

The car I was driving steered obediently as I drove the stretch of almost empty highway in the direction of a sign that read 'TCH West’. Wanting silence I had turned the radio off, and the cool air blowing through the air-conditioning was a contrast to the hot August air outside. This was the last leg of a necessary and important journey for me. It was 1999, I was fifty years old, and feeling a restlessness that was all encompassing. For the past thirty four years I had lived in Nova Scotia, having married a member of the RCMP whose career took him to many different places in that beautiful province. Nevertheless Newfoundland was forever in my heart. This feeling of unease had forced me to set out once and for all, by myself, to make a big decision. I needed to know if I really could leave the province of Nova Scotia with all its beauty, farmland, and the home of my children. I had many friends, worked as a Registered Nurse in a hospital where everyone knew everyone else, and I was well settled in a way of life with my work, friends, and family. This impulse had swept over me so quickly, the longing to be back in Newfoundland, with the rocks, the sea, boats, family and a place where I grew up but had left at the age of twenty-one. I had lived in so many places in Newfoundland and loved them all. Out of nowhere came the incredibly strong desire to be back in Newfoundland, back where I had spent my childhood years. Now I had set out to make my decision in that summer of 1999,before the new century began. I had taken time off work, tired and anxious for my life to change in some way.

In an off hand conversation someone had told me that the 'KYLE' was sitting in the harbour at Harbour Grace and had been repainted and looked so like she did when she ran as a coastal boat. The whole thing came as a bit of a surprise because over the years I had visited Clarkes' Beach and my good friend Jean who lived there, had seen the rusting hulk, the remains of a ship obviously but had never known that it was my 'KYLE'. And to find out it was her, and she was looking better was incentive enough to set out to see her for myself.

Growing up around the coast of Newfoundland in various communities I was certainly quite familiar with the coastal boats, the steamer reports, the term 'stormbound', and it was an accepted part of our lives in the outports. Those boats such as the ‘Northern Ranger’, the ‘Baccelieu’, the ‘Burgeo’, and the ‘Bar Haven’, to name just a few, were like today's air transports. They were necessary to carry goods and people from place to place and were an absolute necessity for the isolated outports of the Northern Peninsula and Labrador. When the ‘steamer’ arrived everyone headed to the 'government' wharf to watch the activity, the unloading of goods and passengers, and although we were warned as children not to dare go around the wharf, we still did it. We were just really inquisitive and wouldn't miss it for the world as we watched the activity from atop a grassy hill.

So, here I was, still going to see the 'coastal boat', but in a slightly different way today. In no time I was driving Roaches Line, and then through Harbour Grace. The sun was shining, the flags fluttering in the wind, and as I rounded the final turn I saw her in all her beauty, or so it seemed to me, the painting of the hull had done wonders for the dear old ' KYLE'. She was sitting out her retirement years in Harbour Grace. A small viewing stand had been built, an airplane named 'The Spirit of Harbour Grace' sat nearby, and I felt my spirits soar. So many questions I had for the ‘KYLE ,and I wished she could answer them for me, but obviously I had to find my own answers.

You see I had a connection with this ship I was born in Mary’s Harbour on the Labrador coast in 1948 and it was this ship that came to the edge of the ice in Mary' Harbour, and took mother and me on my first boat trip. Born in November in the Nursing Station in Mary' Harbour made it a cold and uninviting ocean trip for my mother I am sure. We were going home to my father, a Newfoundland Ranger, stationed at Port Hope Simpson. It would have been December by the time my mother and I were taken to the ‘KYLE’, the harbour frozen, the biting winds almost unbearable, but the boat was the only way back to my father. The ‘KYLE’ took us to Port Hope Simpson safely.

A few hours passed that day in Harbour Grace as I sat and wondered, fretted, mulled and tossed decisions around in my mind, with my eyes fixed on the old boat sitting on bottom, the tide low, the gulls flying overhead. I wanted to know where Mother was on the boat, was she cold, was she sick, was I a good baby? All things to find out another time.

Now she sat proudly, valiantly trying to hold herself upright, her colors bright under the sun. I contemplated the pros and cons, as I watched and listened to the sounds and sights of the day. After an hour or more I had made my decision, a decision that I have never regretted. I was coming home to Newfoundland.

The feeling of coming full circle, of being where I belonged, and where I should be had taken hold. There was an unmistakable drive to be back on the Island where I had grown up, where my roots were, my family lived, and where my childhood memories kept me grounded.

Yes, coming full circle, feeling complete, and best of all feeling at peace with the world.

The KYLE is still in Harbour Grace, and I will visit her again. But this time I will be on a different journey, a journey taken from a new home in Newfoundland, with the comfort in my soul of knowing I am where I need to be.

I have truly come home!


Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe

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