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jean bed and breakfast lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

So, where am I?
And what's this house all about?

The answer is that I am at Harrington Harbour (with the name spelt correctly of course), and the house is a little bed-and-breakfast establishment here, a room of which will be my little home for the next couple of nights.

You may remember that back in Natashquan I said that I had made a couple of phone calls. One of them was to the lady who lives here, the telephone number being kindly provided by the man in the Shipping Company office for which I am grateful.

lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

Now for those of you who are interested, which I'm sure you all are, Harrington Harbour is an island in the Gulf of St Lawrence and I have come here on the Nordik Express.

She's the ice-breaker that runs the shuttle between Rimouski, Havre-St-Pierre and all of the isolated, outlying communities along the Lower North Shore, delivering passengers, freight, supplies and the mail for the inhabitants.

boardwalk lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

What is going to happen is that the Nordik Express has dropped me off here along with a pile of freight and a couple of shipping containers, and has gone off to continue her journey along the coast while I have a look around and soak up the atmosphere.

She'll be back in a couple of days to pick up the empty containers and any outbound freight and (hopefully) me as well, although many people would pay good money to see me stranded on an isolated island miles from anywhere.

"But wait a minute!" I hear you say. "I thought you said that the camera had ceased to function. So how come you have some photos of Harrington Harbour?"

There's no mystery here.

Another thing that I said when I was at Natashquan was that I was glad that I had bitten the bullet and bought a Canadian mobile phone and SIM card back in 2011.

It suddenly occurred to me, as things do every now and again, that there's a camera on that phone. While its specifications are nothing at all like as good as the Nikon D5000, the specs are very much better than on the very first compact digital camera that I ever owned and which I used with a reasonable level of success when I travelled around Canada and New England in 2001 and all over the Rockies and other places too in 2002

If that was good enough for me back in those days, then the camera phone should be more-than-adequate in an emergency like this.

First of all I needed to find the battery charger for, as you might expect, the battery on the phone was almost flat. That's going to be the next thing to pack up on this trip. I hoped that I had put the charger in my suitcase, for if I can't recharge that then this really will be the end.

It was no easy task to find it either. I ended up turning out all of my possessions all over the floor of my room twice before I noticed it, so it's not quite all doom and gloom. But it will teach me to use the charger in the car to charge up the phone before I ever go anywhere like this.

So maybe not having the Nikon D5000 is not too much of an issue as long as the camera phone holds up, but it is still a major disappointment to have spent all of this money ($162 for the ferry, $230 for the accommodation and now probably $400-$500 for a new camera body) and have almost nothing to show for it.

So here I am in my expensive Bed-and-Breakfast at Harrington Harbour with a very helpful landlady called Jean, having had an interesting and very enlightening (and also very expensive, in more ways than one) sea voyage.

I had a beautiful breakfast and an even nicer shower which I really needed after having spent almost two weeks sleeping in the Dodge. And while all of this was going on, I charged up the mobile phone because, as predicted, the battery did go flat during the night.

In case you are wondering, by the way, if I am begrudging or criticising the expense here, then let me say that nothing is further than the truth.

This area, the outlying part of the Lower North Shore, isn't like most places in the modern Western World where if you want something, you simply pop down to the shops. Here, there aren't any shops.

If you want anything at all, you either have to go to fetch it yourself from Sept-Iles or Rimouski (and how much would that cost? I paid $162 for a return ticket at Natashquan) or else order it by post, pay the delivery charges to Rimouski and then pay the freight charges to here.

You can therefore imagine how much all of that will add to a simple shopping bill, and it's only right and proper that business owners need to recover their costs. No-one ought to have any issues over this, but you need to be prepared for the additional expenditure.

pack ice lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

So having charged up the telephone so that there is at least some way of taking a photographic record of my visit, I can set out to see what I can see.

And the answer is "not much". The Gulf of St Lawrence is quite famous for its sudden, rolling fogs and this is what we are having today. I've come all of this way at all of this expense to see what I can see, and I can't see a perishing thing.

CHEP pallets lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

First port ... "GROAN" - ed ... of call at any seafaring location has to be the harbour. There's bound to be loads of things to see here. Such as this enormous pile of pallets stacked up, presumably awaiting the return of the Nordik Express.

They all seem to be carrying the logo CHEP and I'm racking my brains to think who CHEP might be because I'm sure that I've encountered that name before, and I'm not talking Combined Heat, Electricity and Power.

But here at the harbour you could have knocked me down with a feather.

Do you remember when we were at Kegaska on the Nordik Express yesterday? We saw those two large lorries and I speculated half-heartedly that I was expecting to discover that someone in the vicinity had possession of an old World War II LCT.

mecatina 2 ferry lower north shore gulf of st lawrence chevery harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

Well, you will not believe what is right at this very minute coming putt-putt-putting into the harbour here. The ship in this photo is the Mecatina II, of a mere 53 tonnes, and is owned by the Societe Des Traversiers Du Quebec.

To be fair, the Mecatina II isn't actually an old LCT. She was built in 1990 and is an island-hopping ferry of the type that many British readers will recognise if they have ever been to the outlying Scottish islands on an old Caledonian-MacBrayne service. The design of these ferries is however based on the principle of an LCT - shallow draught for manoeuvring close to the shore, drop-down ramp for speed of unloading a small car or two (or in wartime, a tank or a couple of Jeeps).

In fact, when you think about it, it does have to be said that wartime exigencies have been responsible for a great many benefits being brought to peacetime civilian life. In war, people can experiment and take risks and value-judgements without having to worry about Health-and-Safety rules and regulations.

But where was I? Ohh yes. There is a settlement called Chevery on the mainland just opposite Harrington Harbour but the Nordik Express doesn't call there. My landlady told me that the Mecatina II provides a connection between here and Chevery for the transport of freight and motor vehicles. Not, unfortunately, for passengers, otherwise I would have been out on her like a shot.

lower north shore gulf of st lawrence pack ice fog harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

One thing that you cannot possibly have failed to notice in these photographs is that despite the saline nature of the Gulf of St Lawrence, it is pretty much frozen up. And today is, if my calculations are correct, the 11th May.

You can therefore imagine what it must be like here in the middle of February, and it's no surprise that with the collapse of the cod fisheries and the absence of any other good reason to be here, so many people are moving on from places such as this.

autozam mini pickup lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

One of the things that is quite often said about Harrington Harbour is that motor vehicles are banned from the island. There were one or two around the harbour, which is only to be expected with this freight that needs to be moved around, but I did encounter one motor vehicle on the island.

It's an AUTOZAM, and whatever else it might be, it's almost certainly a clone or a badge-engineered Japanese micro-pickup of the mid-80s, such as the Cushman that we encountered on Roanoke Island in the Carolinas in 2005 .

quad golf cart buggy lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

This is the predominant type of vehicle that you will see at Harrington Harbour. I'm not sure whether you would call it a quad or whether you would call it a golf cart but you can see that it would certainly have its uses around here.

You can throw all kinds of rubbish, freight and even half a dozen kids in the back for transport around the island, and I wouldn't mind having something like this around on my farm . I can think of a thousand uses for this.

While I was musing on the aforementioned, my mind fluttered back to that famous photo from Vietnam of a family of 5 people clinging on somehow to an old Honda 50, on their way to the shops or something.

Why this might be relevant to our story is that a quad has just gone past me with a woman at the handlebars, a small child on the seat in front of her, and a slightly larger child clinging on behind.

I suppose that there isn't much of a risk out here of the police becoming involved in something like this. It's the kind of place where the Nanny State has yet to intervene (up to now, at least) and people are free to follow their own consciences and common sense.

Are there any houses for sale here?

There's a little museum of island life here. It's called the Rowsell House Interpretation Centre and if it's open (and just for once I was lucky) the staff will tell you anything that you would like to know about Harrington Harbour and the neighbouring islands, if you can't work it out from the interpretive display.

It's situated in the Rowsell House, as you might have gathered. This is one of the oldest houses on the island and formerly belonged to the Rowsell family, who came to the island in 1888.

As an aside, the name of Rowsell means something to me, for this was the surname of my headmaster at school, although I doubt that he had anything much to do with Harrington Harbour.

bombardier sarasota skimobile lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

In the Interpretive centre this Bombardier Sarasota was on display. This is another machine that I would take home with me in a heartbeat given half a chance. You may recall that we encountered its big brother when we were in Labrador in 2010 .

I was disappointed not to see any dog-sleds on the island. This would be just the kind of place where I would have expected to see some. However it's this kind of machine that killed off the dog sleds.

There are a couple of disadvantages with the Sarasota though. Firstly, where do you find the fuel when you are in an Arctic wilderness? And secondly, if you are snowed in and starving, you can't eat a Sarasota as you could a sled dog.

In case you think that I am being far from serious, I am in a little way, but it is a well-known fact that Nansen, returning from his unsuccessful attempt on the North Pole and as his sleds were becoming lighter and lighter as he and his colleague ate the supplies and so needed fewer dogs to pull them, solved the problem of what to do with his unproductive sled dogs by slaughtering them and feeding them to the others.

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