Archive for July, 2010


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


Thursday, July 8th, 2010

CAP’N LEM is back in the water!  Lots of hard work but uneventful.  Ken is here to help and enjoy the coast of Labrador.  I convenced him Labrador is just too good to be missed.

I’m so excited to hear there is another F-31 heading for the Passage.  I do hope we meet up along the way.  See

The passage is still choked with ice as of July 1, but…

The Ice! She's a melting!

The Ice! She's a melting!

New Crew

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

A lot of work had been accomplished in my days here at Goose Bay.  Fix this, fix that, paint it, stow it, re-stow it.  The food stores I’ve carried 4414 miles in the shower are onboard the CAP’N LEM.  Now I can shower without a major movement of can goods and cereal boxed.


I’m sending the “Inflatable Parrot” into reserve duty status and bringing the good and faithful kayak to the front line.  As you’ve learned by now, most everything has a name and a story to go with it.  With the Gray Ghost, the stories are many!


A fellow ask me, “Tommy, why do you have seven boats?!!”  I told him, “Because I sold one”.  Of all the boats I have own over the years, my 17’ double seat, Kevlar reinforced, Easy Rider Bulge kayak will always remain the one “not for sale”.


The Gray Ghost was new in 1986, not a scratch on her.  24 years later she bares marks like an old sperm whale after a lifetime of diving to unbelievable depths.  I was Boatswain on the Ice Breaker Polar Star and in charge of the deck cargos so it was easy to slip her aboard as stowaway for the Operation Deep Freeze ‘87 deployment to Antarctica.  When the work was done and things quieted down, I could launch her over the side and paddle amongst the Elephant Seals and Penguins.  On the way home, when shipmates went to bar hop, I slipped over the side to spend my time exploring the waterways of what ever port we hit.  In Tasmania I spent 3 days in her, sleeping at anchor by removing ever thing and lashing it to the side.  I would partially inflate an air matress to take out the bumps. To turn over required waking up, sitting up, turning then scrunching back down; not the most comfortable bed but do-able.  I could even cook holding a Sterno Stove with my feet.  (There is just no stopping a coffee addict from brewing a pot).  I snorkeled from her in Tonga and stayed awake most of the night anchored near a place called Crocodile River in Queensland Australia thinking, ‘gee, I wonder why they named the river that?’


In our younger days, (we were both younger once) I dressed her bow with names of the exotic places I had paddled her.  They have long since washed away but the letters left marks that close inspection reveals names; Palmer and McMurdo Station Antarctica, Hobart Tasmania, Tonga, Princess Louisa Sound BC, Puget Sound, Lake Washington, Acapulco Mexico, Victoria BC.  It is only fitting that the Gray Ghost accompanies me on my way north. 

Shipmake Kari in the Gray Ghost, Princess Louisa Inlet BC

Shipmake Kari in the Gray Ghost, Princess Louisa Inlet BC




The Gray Ghost at Chatterbox Falls

The Gray Ghost at Chatterbox Falls