Bay of Spirits: A Love Story (Paperback)
In 1957, Farley Mowat shipped out aboard one of Newfoundland’s famous coastal steamers, tramping from outport to outport along the southwest coast. The indomitable spirit of the people and the bleak beauty of the landscape would lure him back again and again over the years. In the process of falling in love with a people and a place, Mowat also met the woman who would be the great love of his life.
A stunningly beautiful and talented young artist, Claire Wheeler insouciantly climbed aboard Farley’s beloved but jinxed schooner as it lay on the St. Pierre docks, once again in a cradle for repairs, and changed both their lives forever. This is the story of that love affair, of summers spent sailing the Newfoundland coast, and of their decision to start their life together in Burgeo, one of the province’s last remaining outports. It is also an unforgettable portrait of the last of the outport people and a way of life that had survived for centuries but was now passing forever.
Affectionate, unsentimental, this is a burnished gem from an undiminished talent.
I was inside my vessel painting the cabin when I heard the sounds of a scuffle nearby. I poked my head out the companionway in time to see a lithesome young woman swarming up the ladder which leaned against Happy Adventure’s flank. Whining expectantly, the shipyard dog was endeavouring to follow this attractive stranger. I could see why. As slim and graceful as a ballet dancer (which, I would later learn, was one of her avocations), she appeared to be wearing a gleaming golden helmet (her own smoothly bobbed head of hair) and was as radiantly lovely as any Saxon goddess. I invited her aboard, while pushing the dog down the ladder.
“That’s only Blanche,” I reassured my visitor. “He won’t bite. He’s just, uh . . . being friendly.”
“That’s nice to know,” she said sweetly. Then she smiled . . . and I was lost.
—From Bay of Spirits
About the Author
FARLEY MOWAT was born in Belleville, Ontario, in 1921. He served in World War II from 1940 until 1945, entering the army as a private and emerging with the rank of captain. He began writing for his living in 1949 after spending two years in the Arctic. Since 1949 he has lived in or visited almost every part of Canada and many other lands, including the distant regions of Siberia. He has forty-two books to his name, which have been published in translations in over fifty languages in more than sixty countries. They include such internationally known works as People of the Deer, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, Never Cry Wolf, Westviking, The Boat That Wouldn’t Float, Sibir, A Whale for the Killing, The Snow Walker, And No Birds Sang, and Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey. His short stories and articles have appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Maclean’s, Atlantic Monthly, and other magazines. He died in 2014.
"Bay of Spirits paints a vivid picture of a man and his love for a lost place and time. It is an engaging read by a wonderful raconteur, as relevant today as he ever was." —The Globe and Mail
"Mowat has a deep understanding of the sea and the natural world. His observations of the outporters are equally perceptive and provide a fascinating window into a little known corner of North America. In this tender elegy to a lost Newfoundland, Mowat shows an amused tolerance for almost everything except the human greed that has inexorably destroyed his adopted home's cultures and environment." —Publishers Weekly
"Mowat, as memoirist . . . gazes outward at the world, human, animal and natural, with insatiable curiosity and passion." —Ottawa Citizen
"[A] moving memoir of the love of a woman and the love of a particular place." —Booklist
"If this deeply felt book, written in the middle of Mowat’s ninth decade, is a love song to his life’s companion, it is also a love song to a time and place in which he found the happiness he sought. All in all, a lovely book." —Washington Post
"Mowat describes with sailor’s envy many enchanting, exhilarating and dangerous journeys in and out of the tiniest outport villages. It is here he is at his best, telling the tales of the local people in their dialect and colour." —Halifax Chronicle Herald
"This is a briny maritime tale from head to toe, with Farley and Clare finding any excuse at all to continue exploring. . . . Farley Mowat has led a charmed and lucky life. Blessed with an endlessly curious and energetic cast of mind and an outrageously colourful personality, he has also been gifted with a perfect life companion and a love that has endured for many decades." —Quill & Quire
"Mowat reminisces about his early romance with his wife-to-be, but he’s preoccupied with a larger, harder love story—his courtship, adoration and disappointments with Newfoundland at the end of the outpost era." —Canadian Geographic