Archive for the ‘Labrador Coast’ Category

Nain to the Mugford Tickle

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Departing Nain THE CAP’N LEM headed north through the route to the west of Aulatsivik island passing through the First Rattle and the Second Rattle. Labrador has a way with words when describing passages and channels. Rattles and Tickles! I want to sail them all! But the Siren call of the Northwest Passage is strong and the time is now. Each day becomes more and more important. Once clear of Port Manvers on the north side of the Island I’ll be in the open Sea of Labrador.
It’s a slow go through the Rattles even with the current with me. No wind. I never overload the little engine just to make an extra knot. She has to last a long long time. So far, she has never failed to start. Even when I ran the battery down once, she started on the first pull of the cord.

Waterfalls north of Port Manvers

Waterfalls north of Port Manvers

Though time is precious, the trip this way was more than worth it. After the First Rattle, I spied my first Inukshuk, the little stone guardian of the traveling Inuit people. At the Second Rattle, there were more, a good reminder this is an old land belonging to a proud and honorable people. I sail through admiring the beauty of waterfalls and cascades, the likes I have never seen before. I feel as though I have sailed through a great church.

One big Iceberg

One big Iceberg

Friday night, I spend underway in a calm sea with light southerly wind pushing me 2 knots. I see a ship of in the distance and check my radar on the 8 mile scale. Yes, she’s there. That’s comforting. The radar had given me some trouble a few days ago but Ken and I opened her up to discover the drive belt to the antenna had just come off. Two days running and no problem.

First Fur Seals

First Fur Seals

Saturday is glorious in sunshine and warmth, like a Puget Sound summer day, except there are ice bergs and snow on the islands. It won’t last, but it is here now. I use the calm to harvest ice from a giant of a berg grounded in 400 feet of water. All around are berg bits and I get a chance to use my ice harpoon I fashioned from the sculling ore handle. I’m rich with ice again. Press on. I’m not alone out here. Crossed courses with the Sailing Vessel ARGO V sailing for Nain from Greenland.



There is one more tickle I must transit. My trip to Labrador could not be complete lest I sail through …THE MUGFORD TICKLE! It’s just up ahead and it gets me around Cape Mugford. I’ll let ya know how it is.


Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

There is a Polar Bear turned to stone by a powerful Shaman long ago to watch over Nain. He forever guards the harbor and people from the mountain southeast of the harbor. Ken has flown home to adventures of his own and I’m preparing for the long and somewhat lonelier sail north. It’s not being alone that makes one lonely, but seeing such wonders of man and nature without company to share it with. It helps tremendously that you are with me.

Where I docked seemed to me to be the social center of Nain. Sometime during the day most everyone in town came to the dock with rod and reel to catch an Arctic Char. If they didn’t fish, they came to see those who did. But it was the children what came and came and came. “What’s your name? Is that your boat? Can I come on board? Where are you from?” I learned to say “Port Angeles Washington, near Forks!” (Forks Washington is far more famous in the world now than Port Angeles). They gathered on the pier even after dark and I fell asleep to the music of their laughter.

But laughter often hides broken hearts. The north is not without its problems, mostly imported from the south, drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. Too damn much candy from the looks of teeth. There had been four tragedies in the last few weeks. Suicide, the permanent solution to temporary problems. And drowning. There are few second chances in the cold water of the north.

I awoke to the sound of a slow turning diesel engine slinging one massive propeller in docking maneuvers. I have a neighbor. He is the WANDERBIRD from Main on expedition to Greenland with a group of intrepid souls. I chat with crew on the dock. Young, eager to see the world, each carrying the unmistakable mark of a true seaman; a sheath knife with a lanyard securing it to the belt. They would have been at home climbing the rigging of the LADY WASHINGTON.

Captain Rick and Chief Mate Karen held a hotdog roast for anyone willing to brave the long line. They have imported a boat load of love to Nain. You would do well to book a passage on WANDERBIRD when she comes north again rather than another summer on a hot beach and cold hotel.




Hopedale to Nain

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

CAP’T LEM departed Hopedale in sunshine and fair winds from the east, but not before getting to wish my friend Jim from Goose Bay a happy 62nd birthday.  He had come to Hopedale from his cabin up the inlet in hopes of catching us.  He did.  We met at the fuel dock. The friends I’ve made in Labrador will be my friends forever.


With the wind off the quarter we threaded our way through countless islands large and small.  When we rounded Nunaksaluk Island the wind freshened and back to North East but we could make a new heading to the North West.  As the sun landed, so did the fog.  In these high latitudes in the summer the sun does not drop but slowly slides below the horizon landing like an airplane. With the dark and fog came more wind so the search was on for a suitable lee harbor.  The chart showed an anchorage behind an island at 56° 08’ 00.5”N ~ 60° 52’ 34.5”W.


The anchorage was good but not the best.  Enough wind made its way around the island to make the CAP’N LEM dance on her string.  The morning proved no better with the addition cold rain.  We upped the anchor and headed around the island.  Clear of the lee it was even worse than we had hoped.  To fight a storm large or small if caught out in is one thing, but to go out in a storm from a safe anchorage is quite another.  Back to a different anchorage close by we went to spend another night dancing to the gust that wrapped themselves around the point and into out harbor of refuge.  By nightfall, perhaps it should read “by night rise” for that it seems was what happened, the night rose up engulf us and the wind veered enough to add a swell to the chop. Still the anchor held in the good sticky mud.  Sleep was fitful, waking every 15 minutes to check the position.  But that’s what a captain does in a strange anchorage with a rocky lee shore in a gusty wind. 


The only relief that Sunday morning brought was the wind had continued to veer to the east making the anchorage even more uncomfortable.  But it would give us a good run on the beam once clear of our protector the little no-name island on the Labrador Coast.  We battled tacked to gain the headroom to make the point.  Three tacks and Ken steered us onto our planned route with the wind strong but abaft the beam and we were on our way to Nain.


A windy anchorage

A windy anchorage


Monday, July 19th, 2010

Darkness overtook us on the way to Hopedale.  We searched the charts for an anchorage and picked a likely spot on a small no name island.  What looks good on a chart may not be so.  When we edged our way through the narrow channel into the anchorage it was easy to see no anchoring here. Too rocky, too shallow, ah, too bad!  On to Hopedale.  Ken steered and I dropped the hook inside the harbor at 0200.


We awoke to a stiff wind coming down off the mountain guarding Hopedale from the Northwest winds.   It seems the NW wind finds the harbor just fine, though.


Up the anchor and CAP’N LEM moved to the public pier.  A few minutes tidying up the boat and then ashore.  It was easy to see we weren’t locals and children came from every where to check out the strangers.  They were friendly and the older ones wanted to know where we were from?  “Washington State”.  “No, no not were Obama lives, other side of the country”.  Do we know any celebrities?  “Yes, the LADY WASHINGTON”.  And do you have any candy? “No comment.”


As we wandered the streets being careful not to be run over by 4wheelers, we came to the old church, with its bell tower.   Two young women came running toward us asking all excited if we had come to see their museum.  “Well, of course!”  That’s the best place to start to get to know a community.  The ladies, Hilda and Sybilla, were working at the museum for the summer and they introduced to us to Tyler.  It was Tyler’s first day on the job. 


Hilda was the keeper of the key and let us in to the beautiful old building that made up the display rooms.  It was filled with wonderful things from Hopedale past and the ladies were eager and informative guides. Tyler was a bit reserved for fear we would ask him a question he didn’t know. There were many artifacts of Inuit life and the early European settlers.  It was the photographs of the beautiful people of the past that touched my heart the most.  Good people living in a harsh land


When you visit Hopedale on your Great Adventure, look for Hilda, Sybilla and Tyler.  They were the best.   



Friday, July 16th, 2010

Uncle Jim was waiting on the dock to greet the strange little sailboat coming to Makkovik.  James “Uncle Jim” Andersen, born in Makkovik in 1919.  Artist, musician, photographer, film maker and a keeper of the history of Labrador, bright eyed Uncle Jim started slow, almost shyly, talking to Ken as I took on water.  They were the usual questions; where ya from, where ya going and why did you come to Makkovik? 

But then, bit by bit’ he began to open the treasure chest that was his life in the north. 


“When ya get done here, why don’t you fellers come up to my house?  I’ve got something for ya.  It’s the one with the anchor just below the kitchen window.  That anchor was pulled up by a fishing boat off Belle Isle 1950.” 


We move the boat to a better moorage, secure her from the days sail from Double Island, and head down the road to Uncle Jim’s.  He meets us at the door.  Inside it truly was like entering a treasure chest of wonderful memories, photographs, books, and awards.  Every picture tells a story.  Father, mother, brother, sisters.  Grandfathers and grandmothers, come to the new world form Norway in the 1800’s. 


Uncle Jim played a DVD for us he had made of life on the land in Labrador.  Beautiful people, many or most gone now, at work, at play.  All living life on life’s terms.  Enjoying the joy, bearing the sorry.  That’s just the way it’s done. 


Uncle Jim spoke so tenderly of his dear sister.  How musical she was.  How she had passed not long ago at 96.  He gave me a magazine with an article he had wrote in tribute to her.


He gave me a book about his photographs.  He gave me 4 DVDs of his films about life the way it was.  He gave me smoke fish.  Uncle Jim is a giver. 


My only offering in return was to come back in the morning with my little slideshow of the trip thus far.  He showed such interest, asking questions about the boat and the pictures, and what my life at sea was like. 


A man like Uncle Jim should live a thousand years.




Ken and Uncle Jim

Ken and Uncle Jim



Uncle Jim and Tommy

Uncle Jim and Tommy


Hunting Ice

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Hunting iceberg pieces for the cold chest is a lot like hunting a mammoth; even the small ones go a long way and they are a lot less likely to kill you.  On the last hunt we barely got enough to go around.  Oh, there was plenty of ice but the swell and wind made coming along side a bergybit a little too uncomfortable in an eggshell of a hull like the CAP’N LEM so we only got enough to last a few days .


Leaving the cove on Double Island put us on the lookout for more.  Sure enough, right at the entrance was a likely quarry, an old guy by the looks of the rounded tops and blue strata of hard cold Greenland Glaciers running throughout, head high and grounded in 40’ of water so it wasn’t rocking in the echoing swell between the islands.  When hunting ice in Labrador it is best the bergy not have any overhangs that can come toppling downs on the unwary hunter.  Ice ten thousand years old is heavy, hard and brittle. It can and will fight back.  A jab here often fractures off a piece over there.  To every action there is a reaction some smart guy said once, but then a really smart guy would stay home and get his ice from the refrigerator. 


We circled once to ascertain if the giant was indeed sleeping, then approached one protruding promontory, knife ready for the surprise attack.  Bergybits sing in their sleep, a bell like song consisting of melting water falling into the sea and sounds like breaking crystal  as the icy keel morphs into liquid again after millenniums. Pour tea over really cold ice cubes then multiply that sound a thousand fold and you will hear the tune a melting iceberg sings. 


I take a stab.  Chips fly.  I stab again.  More chips.  I stab again… a pop, a crack, a thunderous splash as he gives up a piano size chunk to the sea along with lots of perfectly useful chest size chunk. 


The current spread the ice quickly.  Ken maneuvers the boat as I scoop the bounty from the sea.  We didn’t want to kill the icebergy; we just wanted a piece of his hide!  Success!  We’ve saved the milk!  Along with the Caribou bologna, the hot dogs, the butter and the mayo.  


Press on to Makkovik.  The wind is on the rise.








The catch

The catch

Brig Harbor Island to Makkovik

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Calm night, sunrise, clear skies, soft breeze from southeast.  Several times during the night a seal slapped the side of the amma out of curiosity.  Getting underway we thread our way through bergybits into the open Sea of Labrador.  By nine, the wind freshened 12 to 15 knots from the stern and we were on our way to Makkovik.


Ice bergs of all sizes and shapes lined the horizon.  As we approached them, keeping a safe distance of course, we could see a loose pattern to the way they lined up. It was roughly the 400 foot depth curve on the chart.  Labrador is where icebergs come to die.  Some were stark white with ice blue. Some were streaked with dirt and one even had a line of rocks on its sloping side dug up by the mother glacier and carried in the ice.   It would seem Greenland, too, comes to Labrador. 


We filled the coolers with ice from a bergybit by first knocking it loose with a crowbar, Gordon Freeman style, then fishing it from the sea with a net.  I put a piece in my mouth.  It was as clean and fresh as the snows of ten thousand years ago could make it. 


Our fair winds and following seas carried us 72 nautical miles to anchorage at Double Island, lat. 54°51’30”N ~ long. 058°23’12”W.img_1024_resizedinofficemanager


Brig Harbor Island Sunset

Brig Harbor Island Sunset

Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

I have the warmest thoughts of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador and her friendly, helpful and wonderfully interesting people.  When I first sailed into Goose Bay last year feeling forlorn and a bit defeated not to have made it farther north, then to be greeted in the bay by the blackest clouds of the whole journey, I had no idea I would grow to hold this little community at the end of the road as my Canadian Hometown.


My separation anxiety from leaving the CAP’N LEM for nearly a year made my imagination run wild. “Will the motor still be there?  Will she be full of water from rain, the hard dodger blow to who knows where? Or worst yet will she be full of flyes because I didn’t get all the food off.  Where will I work on her?  How will I move her?   Should I have…?”  Hardly a night passed during the long winter that I did not dream of my little ship so far away and the voyage still ahead. 


But I did choose the right place to winter her, to be sure!  Not one thing out of place, she was just as I had left her.  Oh, the tarp had flogged itself to death in hurricane force winds, and a little mold here and there but no mater.  She’s a boat, water is her element.


Now Goose Bay, Lake Melville, Rigolet and the Narrows have faded from sight off the stern, but not from my heart. 


I’m afraid if I started to thank people by name that “kept an eye” on her, I would surely miss someone.  So, let me just say THANK YOU to all Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

You’re my kind of people!



Side story:  Where I stored and worked on the CAP’N LEM was next to the headquarters for the forest fire fighting Tanker Plane 283and her crew.  I enjoyed the short chats we had most everyday as they made their way back and forth to the plane and I did projects to boat.  The day Ken and I raised the mast while at anchor was a flying day for that beautiful plane.  It was as if they had staged a fly-by just for the CAP’N LEM.  We stopped working every time to watch her skim the bay and take on her load of water. 


Coming in for the Big Gulp!

Coming in for the Big Gulp!


Ken is here with me assisting in navigation and planning.  He won’t make the Arctic trip but Labrador was too good to be missed so I talked him into coming along to at least Nain. We first met sailing on the Brig Lady Washington.  Tonight we anchor at Brig Harbor Island, Labrador.  Fitting for two old “brig-men” and THE CAPTAIN LEMUEL R BRIGMAN III.

Ken aloft unfouling the jib halyard

Ken aloft unfouling the jib halyard