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Letter: Christmas I remember

A traditional style letter block Santa ornament hangs on the Christmas tree at the DeWolf house.
A Christmas ornament from days gone by. — SaltWire file photo

A Christmas I remember took place in St. Barbe. I happened to be in St. Barbe as a sailor on the motor vessel Nonia.

My story starts in North Sydney, N.S. where I joined the Nonia as an oiler — a bit apprehensive, as this was my first stint as an oiler. Two days later she cleared port, her destination: Port aux Basques Newfoundland.

Laying over for a few days, we set sail for the Labrador, touching Newfoundland ports along the way. My thoughts were with my wife and two sons back in North Sydney — no Christmas home this year. The Nonia, leaving its wake behind, approached St. Anthony then sailed across the Strait of Belle Isle.

Laying over for a few days, we set sail for the Labrador, touching Newfoundland ports along the way. My thoughts were with my wife and two sons back in North Sydney — no Christmas home this year.

Newfoundland was in the grip of winter, mid-December 1970. With the bays frozen, the skipper at half-speed pushed the Nonia as far as she would go into the bay ice. Firmly entrenched, she was set upon by islanders on their motorized snowsleds, transporting mail and freight that was offloaded by the ship’s crew back to shore. This operation was repeated as we island-hopped to St. Barbe, where we would celebrate Christmas Day.

In those years throughout the CN Marine fleet, the custom was for the crew to share Christmas dinner in the officers’ mess. We dined on the same fare which occupied tables throughout Newfoundland and Labrador folk that Christmas Day of 1970. This memory still hangs in my mind as Christmas nears.

On that special day, I tip a mug to my shipmates of the MV Nonia, who were so far away from their families, but still felt at home.

Merry Christmas.

 

Ron Gillis

North Sydney, N.S.

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