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Prime Berth Fishing Museum

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Prime Berth Fishing Museum, Twillingate, Newfoundland
Prime Berth Fishing Heritage Centre, Playing the Ugly Stick

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To reach Prime Berth Fishing Heritage Centre and Twillingate you will go north on HWY 330 from TCH (Trans Canada Highway) in Gander. After about 40 km take HWY 331 Northwest. When you reach HWY 340 turn right onto it and head north. Using a number of causeways you will cross over to New World Island, and finally to South Twillingate Island. On your left, even as you are crossing the bridge, you will see the Prime Berth Fishing Heritage Centre.

Cod Splitting, Prime Berth Fishing Heritage Centre
Cod Splitting, Prime Berth Fishing Heritage Centre

(click photos to enlarge, click caption for mapped location)

The first thing that will greet you from the bridge is the skeletal remains of a sei whale. Dave the owner, was told about the carcass, towed it over to a beach area to allow nature to process it, expose and dry the bones. Then he dismantled it and rebuilt it at its current location.

Once you enter the parking lot you are immersed in the ways of old. The various fishing traditions, the lives of the fishermen and their families, the tools they used, how the catch was cleaned, processed and made ready for sale, their diet, housing, and music are brought to life. The role of the government in dismantling this way of life that had existed for hundreds of years is also part of the history explained. This is an amazing place, privately owned by a family and built as a tribute to their fisher forefathers. Short of going out in a boat, harvesting and processing the fish yourself on a cold, windy, wet day, this is the closest you are going to get to knowing and understanding what it was like to earn a livelihood in this manner.

The family has collected everything from hooks and nets to sheds used to do the various jobs required. In addition to all of this you can also book fishing and boat tours. Most days you can see a demonstration of cod splitting. A tad messy but really fascinating. There is live music that introduces you to some of the instruments used and the haunting Newfoundland music. Ask to see and hear the Ugly Stick, a kitchen party would not be complete without it. Last, but not least, you can also rent a heritage home that is located in Tizzard's Harbour. It is the house Dave was raised in as a child.