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Down Memory Lane: Rencontre East

The picturesque and isolated Fortune Bay community of Rencontre East is fast becoming a must-visit destination for many people. Thanks to aquaculture and a viable lobster fishery, the town with a population of 140 people has hardly any unemployment.
The picturesque and isolated Fortune Bay community of Rencontre East is fast becoming a must-visit destination for many people. Thanks to aquaculture and a viable lobster fishery, the town with a population of 140 people has hardly any unemployment.

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.  

Visitors to Rencontre East in Fortune Bay are welcomed by the eye-catching slogan “Isolated and loving it.” On a visit to the bustling little town in August, the photographer’s two sons, Marc and Steven, couldn’t resist posing for a photo by the prominently displayed signage

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.

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 is a long-time resident of Grand Bank. He can be reached at amstoodley@hotmail.com and he welcomes comments on this or any other article he has written.
 

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