Zita Cobb’s perfect weekend on Fogo Island

The philanthropist, entrepreneur and former fibre optics business leader co-founded the Shorefast Foundation in 2003 to promote economic, social and cultural resilience on Fogo Island

Zita Cobb on the coast of Fogo Island, Canada
Zita Cobb on the coast of Fogo Island, Canada | Image: Jon Levitt

“On Saturday, I wake up to the sound of seabirds – you hear them wherever you are on Fogo Island. I’ll have organic oatmeal with cinnamon and ginger and then go for a run. My route is determined by the direction of the wind; if it’s from the east, I’ll take the Lion’s Den Trail, a 4km coastal route that offers great views of the icebergs that litter our shores for part of the year.

I’ll stop at Flat Earth for a coffee. Curtis Burns, who owns the roastery, once imported beans from the other Fogo, off Cape Verde, in an unlikely twinning of small islands. Then I’ll check in with the team at the Fogo Island Shop. We might talk about which artists we would like to invite here on residencies or inspect the stock. Some pieces, such as the Punt chair, are really difficult to make as they feature naturally curving pieces of spruce and tamarack, which split easily. The trees on Fogo grow along the ground for as long as they can to counter the inhospitable climate, and locals believe that they have to be harvested during a certain phase of the moon’s cycle or the wood will rot. If you want to challenge that, go ahead! 

Later, I’ll meet two of my brothers for lunch at Fogo Island Inn. Alan is an adviser for Shorefast and Tony runs Fogo Island Fish, which sells handline-caught cod to ethically focused restaurants. I’ll order either the fishcakes or the fish and brewis, which is dried bread soaked in soft cod and melted butter – it’s what the English sailors ate when they came to Newfoundland in the 17th century.

After lunch I’ll head to Corbett Cull’s Foodland in Shoal Bay to buy my groceries. If you can name it, Cull’s will get it for you. Visitors and artists in residence request many things, from coriander to tofu, but we islanders eat what is around us: fish, moose, caribou, root veg and more than 20 kinds of berry that grow here.

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In the evening, there might be an artist’s talk or a film screening at the Inn, or I’ll meet my best friend Pete Decker, a retired fisherman, and his wife Margaret for supper. We talk about art – and fish; every conversation in Fogo includes at least 10 minutes of chat about fish. We might eat crab or local shrimp and drink wine from Norman Hardie, who grows Pinot Noir grapes in Ontario.

After supper, I’ll go home, light my wood-burner and read until 2am. I love poetry and fiction by Canadian writers such as Wayne Johnston, who writes about Newfoundland and Labrador. Every night, I go outside and say goodnight to the stars. My father always had us do it as kids, even in a blizzard, and it’s a ritual I stick to.

On Sunday morning, I walk to Oliver’s Cove to look for “wish rocks” – small, smooth stones with a band around them, which are abundant on this huge beach. I give them to people as gifts. From there, I’ll go to Tilting and buy veg from Norman Foley: you take what you want and settle up later. He sells onions, garlic, kohlrabi and potatoes, and even manages to grow carrots here. Then I pop into Herring Cove Art gallery to see what Linda and Winston Osmond are up to. Winston is a painter who also makes ornamental saltbox houses and Linda makes beautiful quilts, jams and preserves.

If it’s a sunny afternoon, I’ll go with Ketanja Boat Tours to Little Fogo Islands where I have a house – with no electricity. I have slept in it, though, and might move there one day to write. Otherwise, I’ll go to Deep Bay and climb up to the writer’s studio to watch the sun set into the ocean. 

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On Sunday evening, I pop to Nicole’s Café for a partridge-berry tart. Then I’ll head home, drink tea and pack a suitcase. I travel all the time and I’m usually on the first ferry Monday morning to the main island, destined for the check-in at Gander International.”

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