Iceberg Quest ocean tours offer memories that will last a lifetime and Captain Barry Rogers thrills at sharing the wonder with sailors of all ages
On a beautiful day in downtown St. John’s, Kat Barr warmly welcomed anyone strolling by Iceberg Quest’s waterfront booth. Glen Boland, energetic and enthusiastic as he greeted those eager to step aboard, has a welcome as warm as this humid summer day.
As Iceberg Quest’s co-owner, Carol Anne Hayes, chatted with this sailing’s entertainer, the one and only Bob Taylor as Tyler Sheppard explained a few safety procedures for the wee ones onboard.
The Capo de Espera, Portuguese for Cape of Hope which is Cape Spear, bobbed excitedly in the harbour, waiting for its 11:30 Sunday sailing.
Iceberg Quest’s captain and co-owner, Barry Rogers, was born in Twillingate, and with a lifetime at sea – thirty years of that in the tourism industry – he knows a lot about Newfoundland’s picturesque coastlines and the ocean and what dwells within – and above. He’s passionate about what he does, and it shows.
“The fascination comes from growing up in a little town called Twillingate. The typical spring and summer activity had you out looking for icebergs or looking for wildlife. I spent all my early years as a young kid, say from eight years onwards, at sea with my father.”
His dad was a “fish collector,” he added, but it was more than a business.
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“I was always intrigued with watching pilot whales or in the spring we’d be passing along through icebergs. Sailing was kind of embedded into me I guess from many generations of seafarers before me – I’m the fifth generation, actually – so the sea was embedded from a very young age.”
When it comes to sharing his love, and his knowledge, Rogers is more than willing.
“When it comes to wildlife, it’s fascinating. We see things on a daily basis that most people would never see in real life. For us, it’s a standard way of life and it’s a blessing in itself that I’m able to go and do this for a living.”
The ship’s sailing takes about two hours from St. John’s harbour to Cape Spear and back. Besides the sightseeing and the education provided by the crew, there’s also opportunities for Screech Ins.
“It’s hilarious really and people seem to really enjoy participating in it and we really enjoy it too,” he shared with a laugh.
On the day we sail, the sea is fairly quiet, but that’s not always the case.
”From mid-June, that’s when the whales normally settle in here, and then up to the first or to the second week of August, really, they put on a show. A few weeks ago we broke our record here in St. John’s for the most breaches by one whale, and that was 74. A while ago we witnessed 75. And I’m saying about that whale, ‘well, how do you get that much energy? It got to be exhausting.’”
We ask if he has a favourite spot to showcase to those who join him on the sea.
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“It’s all super. But I will tell you that the Cape certainly inspires me. I mean, we even named our boat after Cape Spear. That’s the last point of land sailors saw until they got home. But the Cape really intrigues me.”
He also loves the sea caves, he added. “You’ve got such a cluster of bird-life and there’s times you can’t hear yourself speak, the sound of the birds and the whales blowing resonate. You’d have to appreciate it.”
FROM THE OCEAN
Rogers shared that the other sound he appreciates hearing is that of musicians like Taylor. After what everyone has been through with COVID, returning to normal is music to everyone’s ears, that’s why their Concert Cruises are so welcomed.
“As you know, the tourism business was devastated last year and there’s a lot of variables and a lot of unknowns. This is a different year and we are seeing locals who have never seen St. John’s from the ocean. Showing that off to our own, it’s just incredible.”
One man who sailed recently had lived 60 years in the city and had never seen the harbour from the bow of a boat.
“He was like a kid going around boat. You could see it in his eyes.”
The Concert Harbour Cruises have been a delightful new offering, he added. Mark Manning, Fred Jorgensen, Arthur O’Brien and Con O’Brien are just a few of the talented musicians eager to entertain.
“Those in the music industry obviously needing to work as well as anyone after the pandemic so this little innovation has really turned into something that is not only benefiting those who sail with us, but it’s also benefiting the local artists and it’s providing revenue for them. So that makes us really happy.”
The best part, of course, is that Rogers had an opportunity to share his love and appreciation of the ocean with others. “It’s a free life. Once I step aboard the boat, there’s nothing onshore that bothers me. Everything else just goes away,” he shared.
That love goes down the line through each member of his crew, he added. “Our job is to put smiles on people’s faces from all over the world. Our modus operandi is to make people as happy on the sea as we are.”