Waving goodbye to the last Grand Bruiters, I paid my $3.75 and sat down.
I arrived in La Poile, a rough-and-tumble fishing village full of beat up shacks, fish carcases and piles of gear, around 10:30 p.m.
At first glance, there was little comparison between Grand Bruit’s idyllic cove and gritty La Poile.
But as I disembarked and strolled around the town, I came to appreciate its rough-around-the-edges charm.
Grand Bruit may be tidy and postcard pretty, La Poile is alive, with 100 citizens calling it home.
I saw children playing in the streets and heard playful jeers as they raced off on ATVs.
Both La Poile and Grand Bruit are bar-less. Instead, the villages have little shacks that serve as bring-your-own-booze hangouts.
Grand Bruit’s Cramalot Inn was understandably quiet when I passed by, only a six-pack of beer and a couple of empties serving as reminders of happier times, but in La Poile I found a lively little plywood shack on wooden pylons in the water.
There, surprisingly, were five young men hanging out in a shed with walls adorned with autographed pictures of strippers, and surrounded by freezers full of frozen cod and cases of beer.
I explained that I’d just been to Grand Bruit. They nodded sagely as I told them how sad it was to see the community die. I remarked on the vibrancy of La Poile and said I hoped it would remain lively for years to come.
The consensus wasn’t optimistic.
Every one of the boys in the Party Shack was back in La Poile on vacation. Most worked out west in the oil patch, some on Great Lakes freighters, and there was nothing for them back home.
“What are we supposed to do here? Bring back a city girl to La Poile? Not gonna happen,” one guy said.
“Ten, 15 years — tops,” added another, “and then La Poile is as dead as all the others.”
All the others — a list of euthanized towns: Petites, Muddy Hole, Rencontre West, Grand Bruit. Their dots erased from the map. Victims of a collapsed fishery and changing demographics.
We drank until the early hours of the morning, shifting the conversation from the morbid to the inane as the beers emptied, until finally I crashed on the floor of the ferry terminal maintenance building and was woken up by the tooting of a horn.
Time to go.
Collective wisdom gone
No more fish, no more kids, no more community.
Whatever collective wisdom the village of Grand Bruit had amassed is forever gone, dispersed into surrounding towns and diluted in a whirlwind of cars and fast-food.
And while Grand Bruit the ghost town will be a mysterious, charmingly creepy attraction for years and years to come, open to sea kayakers and intrepid explorers, it’s dead.
La Poile, meanwhile, is still here, for now.
See it while you can.
And bring a six-pack.
Liam Dougherty is a creative writing graduate of Concordia University who grew up in Montreal.