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Adventure Canada, an expedition cruise line that’s been bringing passengers to Newfoundland and Labrador for two decades, has perfected many aspects of the cruise experience. One is the wake-up call.

No, it’s not a monotone voice on the other end of the phone gently nudging you from your cabin. At least on the morning this Downhome editor was aboard the Sea Adventurer, it’s the booming voice of the captain over the PA, announcing to passengers that the ship is sailing past a pod of orcas. I’ve never witnessed so many people (myself included) so eager to rise from slumber at 6 a.m. Sure enough, reaching the top deck I could just make out the black dorsal fins in the distance.

Downhome, as well as other media and tourism industry staff, was invited aboard the Sea Adventurer in late June for a special one-night sailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland to St. Pierre, France, in celebration of the company’s 20th year bringing cruise tourists to the province.

Others along for the ride include Newfoundland author Kevin Major, local storyteller Dave Paddon and a host of other famous faces from home. But this isn’t their first (and won’t be their last) Adventure Canada cruise. They are members of the company’s stellar resource team – typically locals with some area of expertise – who sail with cruise passengers to add that extra ounce of local knowledge and charm.

“For our guests it makes it very real. It’s not just the tour guide spiel,” Adventure Canada vice president Cedar Swan, a B.C. native now living in Ontario, tells me as we sail. “They’re actually getting the perspective of somebody that lives there, the pros and cons and the real-life situations, and I think that’s what people have come to know us for is for providing that type of insight.”

Food & fun
Throughout the journey I keep thinking that as we all filed onto the ship we must have looked like hungry souls, for they keep feeding us – and feeding us and feeding us. From hors d’oeuvres aplenty and a gigantic barbecue buffet on deck to a gourmet meal in the dining room, it’s a wonder the ship didn’t sink like a stone with all of us on it. (Still, I would have made off with the entire dessert buffet if I thought I could have done so without creating a scene.)

Canada’s literary queen, Margaret Atwood (another fixture on Adventure Canada’s resource team), is also on this trip. Shortly after we’re out to sea, the three wordsmiths – Paddon, Major and Atwood – go head to head in a game of “Nautical Bluff” in the ship’s lounge, which leaves everyone in stitches.

Late into the evening we’re treated to musical performances from talented members of the ship’s crew (which includes a saxophone-playing horse – seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried) as well as Juno-nominated Tom Barlow.

In the morning, as if on cue, humpbacks greet the ship upon our entrance into St. Pierre Harbour (perhaps the 6 a.m. orcas notified them of our impending arrival).

Canada, and especially our little corner of it, is indeed an adventure – one that’s best appreciated from the water. Next time I’m planning a cruise vacation, I might just consider sticking a little closer to home. – Ashley Colombe

Click here to view a slideshow of photos from the cruise.
There’s an interesting symmetry to Gerry Farrell’s life. In his first career, as x-ray technician, he spent his days studying images and looking at the human body in a different way than most of us do. His work inspired a new hobby, photography, which allowed him to capture images of other areas of life, often with a new perspective. And not surprisingly, he preferred to shoot in black and white.

Gerry’s photography passion continued as he transitioned from black and white to colour, and, fairly recently, from film to digital equipment. He also changed careers, graduating from Memorial University with a degree in medicine in 1974. After placements in Grand Bank, N.L. (not far from his hometown of Marystown) and Pictou, N.S., he’s currently a palliative care physician in New Glasgow, N.S.

As a photographer, Gerry says, “I am early morning person and like to take advantage of the ‘golden hour’ of sunlight, either at sunrise or sunset.” The tools he relies on to capture the best images include his Canon 5D Mark 3. “I use a variety of lenses, but my most frequently used is a Canon 24-105 f4 series. I enjoy wide angle shots and use a 17-40 lens for same,” he says.

Something more significant than good equipment that Gerry credits for his quality of photography was a special experience he had a few years ago.

“About five years ago, I spent a week with world-renowned photographer Freeman Patterson, and his inspiration made me a much improved photographer,” he says.

Gerry most enjoys shooting landscapes and, particularly, water features.

“Waterfalls have been an enduring subject for me, and I have visited many of the ones in Nova Scotia, and just returned from a photography adventure in Iceland, where there are waterfalls around every bend,” he says.

He and his wife (also a Newfoundlander, from Brig Bay on the Northern Peninsula) return to the island on a regular basis, where Gerry finds inspiration along the seashore. One of his favourite images was taken during one of those trips home.

“One image of sea urchin shells on the rocks along with seaweed at the Arches on the Northern Peninsula was made in the pouring rain two years ago. I wanted to make an image as a wedding gift for a friend. It included two shells and I titled it ‘Nestled,’” says Gerry.

“I always enjoy going to Newfoundland and Labrador, and walking along the seashore and photographing things I find there. Also, the fog in the early morning light creates a wonderful mood and makes one appreciate all the beauty around us.”

Click here to view a slideshow of photos taken by Gerry.
When we associate texting with our health, the topic is usually bad news: texting while walking/driving causes accidents; constant texting causes carpal tunnel syndrome; texting too much damages personal relationships etc. etc. However, as the following studies show, texting has also proven to have distinct health benefits. In fact, mobile phones have found a place in the modern delivery of health care. It’s called Mobile Health, or mHealth, which covers any use of laptops, cellphones, tablets etc. in collecting patient data, monitoring patient health and delivering services.

Here are four ways that sending and receiving text messages can improve our health:

• An emergency room doctor at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island led a study that offered a violence prevention and intervention program via text messages to young female patients who’d experienced peer violence. The teens overwhelmingly agreed to the follow-up service, believing the supportive messages could help them avoid violent situations in the future, and they indicated they would recommend the service to other young girls at risk. The results of the study were released this past March, and the positive outcome has the hospital looking at ways to expand the service to reach out to at-risk male youths and non-English speaking teens.

• A University of Connecticut study observed positive results in HIV/AIDS patients who connected with their health care providers via text messages. Earlier this year, The Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention (a division of the university) released the results of a study in which patients who received text message “intervention” were found to be more likely to stay on track with their drug regimen and have better health than those who just saw their physicians for follow-ups every few months.

• Persons at risk for type 2 diabetes could benefit from text message reminders about their health, according to a University of Michigan study. Persons who signed up for and received regular messages about eating healthier, drinking more water, exercising etc. were more likely to lose some extra weight and live a healthier lifestyle, according to the study results released in 2013.

• Receiving a simple “how r u” on their phone from a loved one can be a much needed lift to someone who is isolated or feels alone, according to a University of California Berkley study that began in 2010. The project, led by a clinical psychologist, involved sending mental health participants regular messages asking about their moods, suggesting they think about positive things that happened to them and reminding them to take their medications. When the program ended after a number of weeks, several patients reported missing the regular connection. To someone who’s depressed or under stress, a concerned text message is a welcome connection and immediately makes them feel cared for – proving that through texting you really can “reach out and touch someone.”

Feel Good Messages

Downhome asked our facebook friends, “What’s the BEST news you ever received via text message?” Here’s what some said:

“I got asked to be a godmother for the first time.” – Chantal Oake

“Friend’s baby’s arrival.” – Fousty Touton

“‘I’m coming to get you’ – when I was stranded.” – Tracy Perry Stepanuk

“Pics of my grandbaby-to-be.” – Wendy Roenigk-Crane

“I am home safe.” – Deanna Dwyer
There are two main reasons to visit the Little, Big Bear Safari, located about 90 minutes from Moncton in Acadieville, New Brunswick. One, of course, is to safely view black bears as they roam onto the wilderness site. Another is to meet Richard Goguen, a.k.a. “the bear whisperer.”

“My husband has a gift with animals,” says Vivianne Goguen, who co-owns the attraction with her partner. The couple built an observation tower in 1998 with the intention of inviting the public to safely view and photograph black bears in their natural environment. But one bear had a slightly different plan. During construction, an orphaned cub wandered into the area and, as Vivianne puts it, “adopted” Richard. They aptly named the cub, which Vivianne says followed Richard around like a dog, “Pooch.”

“After a few years she had babies and we said, ‘Oh great, she’s going to become wild and that’s ok – but after a few weeks she brought her babies out and literally introduced them to grand-daddy,” says Vivianne. “She pushed them towards Richard.” Now 16 years later, the Goguens believe Pooch has passed on, but three generations of her descendants still visit the site very frequently and maintain the unusual bond with Richard.

Check out this shocking footage taken at the Little, Big Bear Safari. Richard enters the scene at 1:20.

While they do not guarantee sightings, Vivianne says their tour groups have missed out on seeing black bears only twice since opening to the public in 1998. Once visitors are safely inside the 26-foot-high tower, Richard lures the animals to the site with food. “We have the same permit as hunters – we have the right to leave little treats,” says Vivianne, adding, “but we shoot with cameras only.”

Local biologists have openly criticized the business, saying Richard’s close relationship with the bears is extremely risky – not only putting himself in harm’s way, but also anyone who may encounter one of these bears in the wild, outside the safety of the Safari. Vivianne maintains they have never had any complaints of that nature and believes the bears prefer Richard only. However, she warns, “We don’t suggest that people do that in their backyard. Don’t try to do this.”

To find out about other wild encounters available right here in Atlantic Canada, see the July issue of Downhome.

Editor's Note: Richard's interaction with black bears is extremely risky. Never, ever approach a black bear if you encounter one in the wild. To find out what to do if you do encounter a black bear, click here.

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From the Archives
The following are three amazing adventures you can take right here in this province. For more information, or to arrange for your own adventure with these companies, click the link following each description.

Retreat Outdoors
This is a great outing for those who want to get away from it all. Newfoundland Coastal Safari in Harbour Mille brings small groups to Tickle Beach, a remote location 2 km inside the Long Harbour Fiord in Fortune Bay. Located here, the company claims, is the only luxury wilderness adventure tent camp in Atlantic Canada. Newfoundland Coastal Safari promises gourmet cuisine and, of course, tons of adventure (hiking, sea kayaking, fishing and sightings of wildlife, whales and icebergs are all on the itinerary). The company offers two vacation packages, including getaways for five or eight days. And there's no need to worry about packing food or bringing gear for fishing and kayaking - it's all provided for you.

Go Caving
Explore Newfoundland Inc., an adventure company located in Steady Brook, Newfoundland, offers "Cool Caverns" tours - journeys deep underground through the Corner Brook caves. During a typical tour, you'll enjoy a scenic hike through the Corner Brook gorge before embarking on a 1-km spelunking (ie. "caving") adventure. You can choose to explore wide-open caverns or crawl through tiny crevices and climb vertical walls. (The tour guides will customize the journey with your appetite for adventure in mind.) You'll also learn about the geology of the rugged limestone caves, carved by the Corner Brook Stream over thousands of years. The three-hour tours are offered year-round; with the shelter of the rock walls, this is one activity you can enjoy without much affect from the weather!

Dive Deep
The lapping waves of the vast Atlantic Ocean are a sight to behold. But have you ever wanted to go beneath the water's surface to take in the beauty under the sea? Conception Bay South, Newfoundland, is home to a national award-winning dive centre and adventure resort. The experienced diving instructors at Ocean Quest can introduce you to diving during a "Scuba Discovery" session in their indoor pool. If you want the real thing, they also offer recreational, technical and professional courses to prepare you for diving in the ocean. Once you're prepared, Ocean Quest can lead you on an excursion to the historic Bell Island shipwrecks on the ocean floor.

Time Well Wasted
Are you looking for adventure in Newfoundland and Labrador? Exciting activities are literally at your fingertips, with several of the province's best adventure-tourism businesses listed together on one Web site. Whether you're looking for a day-trip or a week-long getaway, there's something for everyone in this "Guide to Adventures" - from the kids to the grandparents, and for all those who like to add a little extreme thrill to their vacation.
He's sneaky and sly, and he has caused anxiety and some concern to Downhome readers since he first appeared in the magazine in April 1996. His name is Corky and he's a conner, also called a sly conner because he was known for stealing the bait of young boys who tried to catch him off the stage head in years past. Known as an ocean perch by mainlanders, who sometimes catch him for food - a practice very much taboo in this province.

Corky hides away in the pages of Downhome, and readers spend hours, sometimes days, trying to find him. My late mother wouldn't read a word of the magazine until she found Corky.

Yet for all the trouble he causes he is the most popular personality in the magazine. We get more mail about Corky than anything else. We even get poems written about him; the following, which we received from Mike Breen of Port Colbourne, Ontario in May 1998, is a good example. (Mike had found Corky on a dinner plate in the previous month's issue.)

Ol' Corky's gone and met his fate
He's on somebody's dinner plate
To be a part of fish and brewis
Is not something he would choose
What's going to happen in the month of May
With no l'il Corky to hide away
Shame on you now, Mr. Young
That is an awful thing you've done
Quick! Check! Maybe he's not dead
Hurry and toss him o'er stage head
Let him swim and frolic free
With all his buddies in the sea

But the most anxiety Corky has caused is the two occasions when he didn't appear in the magazine. I got calls and letters from angry readers on those occasions. One man had spent several days trying to find him, only to discover that he had been inadvertently left out. He took a strip off my hide when he telephoned me to complain. One woman called in to say that she was sick for two weeks because she couldn't find Corky in the December 2000 issue.

Corky's mother wrote a letter of apology to our readers on behalf of her son for that transgression. Corky would have written it himself, but our readers might have mistaken his head shot accompanying the letter for his actual hiding place.

Yet for all the stress caused by seeking the elusive Corky, finding him can be very rewarding to the people who take the time and diligence. In the past 12 years our readers have won a total of $3,600 in Downhome Dollars (gift certificates redeemable at the Downhome Shoppe and Gallery, and on for finding that hidden fish.

While Lila and I were at the Discovery Days celebrations in Bonavista earlier this summer, I learned that Corky may have played a role in shaping a career. Laura Woodworth of Grand Falls-Windsor, the current Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador, was at the same event, and she told me that when she was seven she won the Corky contest. Her parents brought her to the Downhome Shoppe and Gallery in St. John's, where she purchased a set of spoons with her winnings.

That was her first musical instrument. For the past several years, Laura has played the spoons as part of Mascara, a three-girl musical group that has performed at such events as the Gander Festival of Flight.

On the way back from Bonavista, we stopped at Bellevue Beach Park to drop off some Downhome Outdoors guides. The operators of the park, Ruby and Bill Hooper, told me that she won the Corky Contest twice and he won it once.

But Corky's involvement in married lives is not always positive, according to a reader named Mark, who wrote me the following from somewhere in Ontario in November 1996:

Dear Ron,

I am dropping you a line to let you know how much I love your paper and find it hard to wait a month for the next one. But Ron, that's not my biggest concern right now; it's my wife. She loves your paper also, and reads it through and through. But she is obsessed with Corky Sly Conner. She searches from page to page and when she can't find him, she gets upset with me. Then I go through hell until she finds Corky, which she usually does about the second week; then I can breathe again.

Now in the October issue she was reading the story, "The Little Girl Who Laughed." She was so touched over it, she started to cry.

To get her mind off the story she started to look for Corky and I started looking for a place to hide. Well she couldn't find Corky and let me tell you, she took it out on me.

I said to her, "In the name of God, don't be so foolish over a fish that you can't find."

Well Ron, that was the worst thing I could have said. How dare I insult her or Corky Sly Conner? She up with her foot to kick me, missed me, and kicked the corner of the wall - oohhh the pain! She split her big toe wide open. Thank God she didn't break it.

Well that was yesterday. She's upstairs now, stretched out on the bed with her foot resting on a pillow. And I bet I've made 40 trips to her every beck and call - and believe me, she is becking and calling.

Ron, I love your paper, but either the wife or Corky has to go.

On second thought, keep Corky!

Summertime brings the welcome sound of a sizzling grill. There is nothing quite like a delicious steak cooked on the barbecue.

My favourite cuts of meat for grilling are rib-eye steak and tenderloin. But if you've ever been stumped by what to do with a less tender cut of meat - such as a skirt or flank steak - a good marinade will come to the rescue. A marinade is a seasoned mixture that adds flavour and, in some cases, tenderizes the meat. Marinades are commonly used with thin cuts, such as steaks.

Here are some marinating guidelines, and a favourite marinade recipe of mine.

• A flavouring marinade is used with tender beef cuts for a short time - 15 minutes to 2 hours.

• Less tender steaks should be marinated at least 6 hours, but no more than 24 hours. Marinating for longer than 24 hours will result in a mushy texture. Tenderizing marinades penetrate about 1/4 inch into the meat.

• A tenderizing marinade contains a food acid or a tenderizing enzyme, and is used with less tender beef cuts from the chuck, round, flank and skirt. Acidic ingredients include lemon or lime juice, vinegar, Italian dressing, salsa, yogurt and wine. Tenderizing enzymes are present in fresh ginger, pineapple, papaya, kiwi and figs.

• Marinate in a food-safe plastic bag or a nonreactive glass or stainless steel container. Turn steaks or stir beef strips occasionally to allow even exposure to the marinade.

• Always marinate in the refrigerator; never at room temperature.

• Allow 1/4 to 1/2 cup of marinade for each 1 to 2 pounds of beef. If a marinade will be used later for basting, or served as a sauce, reserve a portion of it before adding the raw beef. Marinade that has been in contact with uncooked meat must be brought to a full rolling boil to kill off any germs, before it can be used as a sauce.

• Never save and reuse a marinade.

Southwestern Marinade

1/4 cup prepared salsa
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp pepperberry spice

Combine all ingredients, stirring until well blended. Makes enough to marinate 1 pound of beef.

Click the following links for great steak recipes.
Pepper Steak
Teriyaki Steak
Grilled Steak Fajitas
Steak Diane
Steak Sandwich
Pesto-stuffed Steak
Crispy Steak
Steak Kabobs

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