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 12 – So Far So Good – AND So Beautiful, So Daunting!

This was originally posted way back in July but mistakenly tagged as private:
It’s only been four weeks since I left St. Anthony, on the northern tip of Newfoundland, but already it seems a world apart.  Every day has been filled with living – even when I’ve been curled up on my berth with a book and wood stove waiting out the fog or a gale.
However, I have to say, the start was somewhat daunting. I finally left the harbour at 5 in the morning on a grey cold day with no fog and was motoring into the wind  to get around the headland when , there was a terrific banging from under my feet.  I thought the new transmission had failed or something like that.  What to do?  There was a fishing boat coming inbound so I called them on the radio thinking a tow back might be best.  Even if I sailed  away from the headland I was not prepared to go to Labrador without a reliable engine. Fortunately the fishing boat did not answer the radio. I tried the gear again – there was no problem, Kuan Yin starting moving through the water again. The banging was probably a piece of flotsam in the propeller.  I could have been sick with anxiety.  Certainly if I’d gone back to St. Anthony, I don’t think  I would ever have left again to go north.

Henley Harbour in the fog

That first day out became a glorious run up the coast and across the Strait of Belle Isle to Henley Harbour in Chateau Bay.  The English had a fort here in the 128th Century and Captain Cook surveyed the waters.  He also took the leader of the Moravian Mission there to meet Inuit, but they were not there.  Henley Harbour was abandoned about 25 years ago – more than 3 dozen cabins stand empty but with everything intact, just as if the people just walked out one day and never came back.  I stayed a month; sorting out a fuel line problem and because of thick fog and SE winds making a dangerous lee shore.
After that, I finally left on a calm morning at 4.30 through thick fog. Out at sea the air was clear and looking bag even miles later, Chateau Bay was still fog-bound.  My next stop was the former “capita”l of Labrador. Battle Harbour on the southeastern tip of Labrador is where all the fishing schooners used to wait for the sea ice to clear from farther up the coast.  today it is a remarkable in-situ museum.  The original buildings are still there and as you look around there is a real sense of the atmosphere of the place – with the wind and fog and salty air blowing in your face.  I stayed almost one week, partly to sort out continued fuel line problems, then because the weather was so beautiful and then because the winds were too strong and then because there was thick fog once more.
The day I left Battle Harbour heading north started well; making 5 knots in a steady south-east wind, though the air over the Labrador Current was cold.  Then the tiller broke and I lost all steering.  I quickly made a temporary tiller to get control of the boat and heave-to but it was too rough (with short 4-metre swells) to attempt make proper repairs to the rudder.
I was horribly seasick – the worst feeling in the world. The cabin reeked of diesel from the earlier problems incident days earlier. I decided the best thing to do was – nothing. I filled a hot water bottle and climbed into my sleeping bag to rest and to get warm, leaving Kuan Yin to look after herself for 8 hours.  By 6 pm the wind had dropped somewhat, the seas were a bit less so I set to work to jury-rig a tiller, sawing a thick piece of wood (which thankfully I had) and fitting it to the rudder bracket. Then I motorsailed back towards the coast – 15 miles away.  Rain, fog descended. The auto pilot is not working so I rigged two strings and watched on the chartplotter down in the cabin as the boat see-sawed in the general direction of an easy to enter harbour. My fear was that I’d have to negotiate the entry into an unknown harbour in fog using radar late at night when I already felt very weary. Fortunately, the fog cleared as I approached the coast, and as I came into the harbour the wind dropped. The big jetty at Williams Harbour that was supposed to be there had gone. The harbour was more than 100 feet deep, so too deep to anchor, so when I picked out a 50 foot fishing boat tied up, I ran alongside and tied up went to bed exhausted after midnight.

I slept most of the next day, then in the evening three local men came with beers and a salmon for me: “We saw you come in last night and didn’t see you today, so we came to see if you’re okay!”  What kind people.  I stayed a week, redesigned the tiller attachment and cut off the rot in the tiller.

Since then, I’ve been anchoring, enjoying the rain, and hiking and looking at icebergs.
Two days ago I sailed 44 miles in a rush to get to the safe harbour of Cartwright before a gale hit. I was chased into harbour by fog from the north and the rain began as I was tying up – three hours later, we had a full-scale howling rain that lasted all night.  Next morning at 6.30 am the official weather said the wind here was 25 knots gusting 35 knots.  How pleased I was to be snug at home with the woodstove and lines to the dock!
This land  is incredibly beautiful, though desolate.  Rocks are everywhere.

I’ll be heading north again in another day or two – as soon as the wind turns to come from the south.

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2012 by in Kuan Yin, Labrador, Sailboats, Sailing, Voyages and tagged , , , , .
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