I remember sitting aboard Dad’s pick-up, rolling down over that steep hill into the heart of Bauline, and seeing the ocean – water as far as you could see.
Bauline, my hometown, had its staples – some still there today, others long gone, just a memory in time. The United Church, the softball field, Duck Pond – our swimming hole, the community centre and so on. But the pillar of the small fishing community is its wharf.
Cod brought with it a livelihood for the men of Bauline in years gone by – bringing home nourishment for the family, and a paycheque for the wife. In a community separated from the big city of St. John’s by nothing more than a cow path, residents had no choice but to make do. Only a small, fortunate few, could afford to travel to the city for the necessities of life. (In modern day, by car, this drive takes a mere 10 minutes.)
The women raised the children, cleaned the house, and prepared the meals, while they watched the water – waiting for their husbands to return from a day at sea.
It’s a past that the small fishing community is proud of, but the days of driving down to the wharf to see the boats and watch the fishermen are not what they use to be.
Bauline remains, and forever will be, a fishing community, but the cod moratorium has changed its landscape for a lifetime. The only boats that remain are the fishers who still head out for their quota, but the numbers are small. And without crab, lobster and other hauls, they too may have had to pull in their ropes and call it a day.
Twenty long years. It’s over half of my lifetime. But although my love and my professional life moved me inland, I cannot deny my roots.
My father, the son of a fisherman, shares a fishing boat to this day with his four brothers. It’s been in the family for years. My grandfather raised his family, most days, from a boat, miles away from my grandmother and her children, surrounded by water. And with it, he made a life for them.
Progress came in the form of an automobile, a rare luxury of those days. It came in the form of indoor plumbing, running water, new clothes for church on Sunday, and a new pedal bike for the children to share.
Bauline, and the families who made it a home, has a history book of struggle and hardship, but with the cod, they made a life for themselves. Community events, house parties, music and celebrations kept the children happy, the women entertained and the men motivated.
And over the years, the cod built the small community into much more than that – now it’s more of a town – a bedroom community for families who work in the city, a quiet settlement to escape the chaos of larger centres and a tourist destination.
The men and women who raise their families in Bauline nowadays do so on salaries far bigger than those of the fishermen who built the town in decades past; newer generations of doctors, lawyers, business professionals, engineers and educators.
But it was the fishery that got them there. Very few of us baymen would ever argue that, and are incredibly proud of that.
My father never followed in the footsteps of his father, but he was passed on Pop’s values, his knowledge of the deep blue, and the secrets to his catch. It was a hard job, nothing ever came for free, and those life lessons have becoming priceless to our family, and those who also grew up near the spray of the salty ocean.
Although we all don’t have the privilege of heading out to sea at will, now we look to the recreational food fishery to get back to our roots – and if only for a time, it makes the old wharf feel like home again. Anyone with a more modern speedboat or a hand-me-down, wooden fishing boat, will occupy the little bay.
It’s a fun, yet beautiful reminder of whom we are as individuals, many of us bursting with resilience, never taking even one day for granted, especially the more senior of the community.
I might have only been a young girl when news of the cod moratorium became a reality, but in a province where most every rural community has a story like that of Bauline’s, it’s not hard to feel its effects, 20 years later. We lost a part of us that defined us. And while the young children who play on the wharf in Bauline today might never feel its history the way we do, we can only pray that someday, they too can get back to their roots.
Someday, I hope to go back home, and see the men in their oilskins, hauling their ropes, and bringing home their catch. It’s who we are. It’s who I am.
Pick up a copy of Monday’s special edition of the Advertiser for more coverage on the impact of cod moratorium 20 years later.