Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.

Voyage to Ungava (4) – my own “English Channel”

Every sailor has a destination or a crossing that marks for them both a challenge and, if they make it, an accomplishment.  While doing the Yachtmaster course in England two winters ago, it was crossing the English Channel.  Now, on my way east to Labrador, it was the 28-mile crossing of the St. Lawrence from Matane to Godbout.  The day started with a brisk westerly wind and no fog.  The day before even the quays of the Matane commercial harbour, where I was anchored, disappeared in thick fog.

Within an hour of heading north, the wind picked up, the seas started to build and I had a reef in the sail to ease the pressure on the sail.  On the radio the Coast Guard was giving a Gale warning for the region. 

This was my first sail in “Kuan Yin” in such weather and the boat behaved wonderfully.  She rode the waves comfortably – rising and settling and facing the next oncoming peak without beating, slamming or heeling uncomfortably.  It was a wonderful experience.  I kept a good look out for shipping and saw three ships passing some miles off.

A little water came on deck and into the cockpit but drained quickly and never left threatening.  At no time did the boat feel stressed.  “Kuan Yin” demonstrated that “she’s a game little sailor”.  It may see strange to speak in such personal terms of a boat made of steel but ait seems completely appropriate.  There’s an intimate relationship between a sailor (especially single-handed) and a small boat.  Each needs the other for a safe passage.  So it was great relief to me to discover that “Kuan Yin” can be so comfortable in a near gale.

Here’s a short video – it doesn’t show the scale of the waves but it’s at least a glimpse of how well “Kuan Yin” takes the bigger seas. She was being self-steered with a piece of shock cord tied to the tiller. the day.

I made the small harbour at Godbout late in the afternoon.

The North Shore of hte Gulf of St. Lawrence – the largest estuary in the world – is very different to the southern coast.  The south has farms.  The north has granite rock with veins of pink and pines trees.  It’s also considerably older – time for thermal underwear.  At night, the temperature can be as low as 6 C even in the middle of August.

Next morning at 7 am I was brought on deck by one of the two other yachts in the small harbour telling me that we all had to clear out because the car ferry was coming!  And an invitation to dinner that evening was also shouted across.

In afternoon I went ashore with Gaiton and Max from “Lilou” to visit the Inuit museum – the reason I’d chosen Godbout as my crossing point.  The museum is the private collection of M. Claude Grenier who spent 10 years in the Canadian Arctic, mostly at Rankin Inlet, in the 1970s.  He is also a painter and sculptor. Both he and his wife provided a very warm welcome to their museum in the old post office of Godbout.  The museum is a fascinating collection. It’s remarkable that everyone I’ve met who has spent time in the far North has been deeply touched by the experience which continues to be a focal point of their lives long after they have lived elsewhere for many years.

Looking east along the coast from Godbout

The evening brought a convivial dinner with Gaiton and Max and Christine and Jeff on “Bum’s Rush”.  We had to clear out of the harbour again twice the next day into a nasty swell.  So the day after I decided to leave and head east to at least get around Point des Monts.  The day was drizzly but a westerly wind offered a pleasant passage.

The figurehead of Kuan Yin in the dying rays of the day

My destination was the Baie de la Trinite – Trinity Bay.  Evening on the next day was magnificent.  Here’s a 360 degree video of the sky at sunset.  The sea was calm, the wind surprisingly warm and the sky magnificent.

Video: Sunset panorama in Trinity Bay

After that, it was onwards due north and two days later I arrived at Sept Iles – 7 islands – a town of 20,000 people.  It’s a processing centre for iron ore concentrate from Labrador and the export port. There’s also an aluminum smelting plant.  The town is pleasant, with two museums and though the summer here is brief people have worked hard to make their gardens bloom.

From here, it was be straight eastwards towards The Strait of Belle Isle and the Atlantic Ocean about 500 miles away.  Keep you posted!

One comment on “Voyage to Ungava (4) – my own “English Channel”

  1. Arie
    August 28, 2010

    I’m thrilled to hear you happy, sailing (and singing ? – on the video) and Kuan Yin proving to be the trusted mate you always knew she was. Please convey my respects to her.
    Love the videos, keep them coming. I joined the two of “the gale” and playing them on a continuous loop so I get a feel of being on deck and can almost taste the spray… aaaah…


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This entry was posted on August 19, 2010 by in Kuan Yin, Labrador, Sailing and tagged , , , .
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