Archive for August, 2010

Up with the sun

Sunday, August 29th, 2010



Up with the sun, up with the anchor, up with the sails.  I depart the fabulous anchorage that was so welcoming last night.  The wind is right but light out of the north east.  Clear of the bay and out on the lake I can see a wind line building and coming this way from the southwest.  It was not unexpected, just earlier than I had hoped.  Ten miles from the anchorage my stern wind died and was replaced with yet another strong headwind.  Rather than fight it with endless tacks and little progress I head toward small cape offering a lee to the wind and waves.  It lies across a shallow sandy shoal of 8 feet.  I’ve crossed shallower.  At 1000 or so, I anchor and wait at Latitude 53° 30’ 20.0” N ~ Longitude 59° 11’ 28.3” W in 14 feet of water.


By 1400 the wind has slackened and I venture out around the point into the main body of the lake and hoist the sails.  By making a long sweeping starboard tack can gain 1 mile for ever 2.5 I sail closer to my goal of Goose Bay.  Thunderstorms are predicted for tomorrow night and the storm of last year on Goose Bay is still fresh on my mind so I press on.


The wind backs ever so slightly and ever so slowly and I’m able to curl around the point and come into Kenamu Bay to anchor at Latitude 53° 30’ 20.0” N ~ Longitude 059° 55’ 44.8” W in 26 feet of water.


My last Lake Melville sunset

My last Lake Melville sunset


Friday, August 27th, 2010

Excerpt from the song  Sailing, By Chris Cross


It’s not far back to sanity
At least it’s not for me
And when the wind is right you can sail away
And find serenity
The canvas can do miracles
Just you wait and see
Believe me 


Canvas and wind

Canvas and wind





Leaving the Dark Tickle Harbor astern, there was first a puff, then a breath, then a wind and all from the north.  Up the main and out the jib.  The clouds are few and the sun is, yes, warm.  Passing quickly by Puffin Island, I see there really are Puffins and by the hundreds if not thousands.


The days of pinching into the head wind dissolve into a memory before a glorious beam reach sometime hitting 9+ knots.  The windward amma flies while the leeward still holds above water, the telltale sign that all is in balance so I let her go as she will. The hours turn into miles.


Flying Amma

Flying Amma





My intentions of calling at Rigolet were superceded by the need to transit the Rigolet Narrows on the flooding tidal currents.  As the wind slacked at sunset the currents picked up and the CAP’N LEM progressively built speed through the narrows toward Henrietta Island.  The chart plotter flashed a warning and I called it up to read “Do not attempt to pass the east side of Henrietta Island on any tide other than a neap tide at anything other than slack water”.  I double check, yes I’m on the west side and still the currents increase.  The narrows fork again around Eskimo Island and I take the eastern deep water route rather than save the mile of the western shallower route would afford.  The vessel is making a slow 5 knots through the water but 10.5 knots over the ground. 


All the tidal waters of Lake Melville spill through just three tributaries of the Narrows separated first by Henrietta and then by Eskimo Islands (see lat 54° 08’ 02.7”N ~lon 058°  26’ 39.0”W) and this was a spring* flood due the full moon that was just rising to the east.  In the failing light if day I see the tidal bore and its 3 foot chop all this water is making as it spills with such force into the large lake against a wind I have not yet felt.   I furl the jib and do the only thing I can do, square the bow to meet it at a clean 90 degree angle.  What happens next was… nothing.  As scary as that line of rough water looked the CAP’N LEM simply skimmed through the chop and out into the lake to be caught by a fine wind astern.  Still, it was a full 10 minutes before I stopped shaking.


The tidal bore behind me and the wind in the right direction (sail long enough and it will be in the right direction at least some of the time) I start the long journey to the only anchorage available within a nights sail.


The cloud covered sky glowed with the light of the full moon rising on its other side and gave the islands ahead a foreboding blackness.  But darkness doesn’t change the world, only my perception of it, and I perceived them might close.  I check the radar and the chart plotter obsessively drawing from them short lived comfort.  I check again.  The seas are building behind keeping the progress down the track line steady and fast. 


I’ve explained before.  I am a sea fearing man.  I know the only thing separating me from life and a cold watery death is the hull and integrity of the vessel that carries me and the choices I make.   The CAP’N LEM has proved her integrity time and again.  I ever remain the weak link.  It is situational awareness that is my only edge over the forces of nature that keep pummeling me on these adventures I thrust myself into.   But, at night, at sea, my eyes become liars, my feelings untrustworthy, my mind, a fabricator of false terror.  In the dark, the seas are bigger, the wind stronger and the time, slower.  Only the truth will do.  And the truth is this:  I can not trust myself! 


So, once again, I’m alone, on the water, with a building wind, in the dark.  And I know…I can not trust myself or my senses!  What can I trust!  Luck?  I don’t believe in luck.  Prayer?  Well I do some of that to be sure, and the echo of my mother’s words comes back to me from the past, “God helps those who help themselves”.   Yea, but not even God suffers fools for long.


So, how is it that I can do these things, go these places, experience these experiences and still be here to write to you about them?   Because there are some things that are completely and perfectly trustworthy and they are “Principles”.  The clear and clean principles of good seamanship and good navigation are trustworthy!   The principles of situational awareness!    The principles of knowing where I am and which direction I am going and keeping track of how fast I’m moving in order to predict where I will end up.  The principle of shortening sail before the wind blows.  And this, first and foremost, the principle of telling myself the truth about the situation in spite of how I feel!  And to this end, I must use ever resource available to me to discover the truth and every ounce of the will to make the clearest judgment possible based on that truth to keep the vessel safe and moving toward the goal.  Judgment then must be rooted in the knowledge gained of many nights looking into fog and darkness, the lot that is the sailor’s life.  And this too, I must not allow my fears and feelings to cloud the truth for that is the cloud of which nothing can penetrate!


My only company is the soft glow from the running lights reflecting back off the tips of the ammas, the little flashing symbol that says “your vessel is here” on the chart plotter and the clockwise sweep of the radar antenna.  I use the radar to double check the GPS.  I use the GPS to double check what I see.  I can even use my senses now that I admit their limitations and draw reassurance that dark mass against the sky really is the island I must get around.    


There is 35 miles to be transited between Eskimo Island and Etagaulet Bay where I can tuck into a cove hollowed out of the stone mountains by glaciers long ago, drop the anchor and sleep.  The islands at the north end of the lake only buffer the running swell for a short time and I continue to wallow along down wind with the main rolled down to the first reef. The CAP’N LEM often comes off the face of the swell at 9 and sometimes 10 knots.  I stay huddled in the companion way under the hard dodger bathed in the warmth from the fireplace.   Several times I jump out of my skin at the “quick snap of sheets and canvas as the boom swings wildly from starboard to port or back again in an accidental jibe from the strong winds fickle directions.   Anticipating this, I kept the main sheets at short stay.  This both increases the chance of a jibe and lessens its effects.  Sailing is a series of trade-offs.


When I reach the bay, I force a controlled jibe and work my way into the lee of Point Etagaulet then to the comparatively calm waters south of the hills guarding the bay from the north wind.  Here I bring down the sail, and motor toward the great blackness of the cliffs.  Just when it seems impossible to get through, the blackness of the water changes to reflect the moonlight coming through the clouds and the CAP’N LEM enters the channel to the anchorage.  At 0217, I drop the hook at Latitude 53° 45’ 00.9” N ~ Longitude 058° 58’ 51.3” W in 26 feet of calm water, turn off the running lights, turn on the anchor light and go to sleep having traveled 94 nautical miles from anchorage to anchorage.











*The term “spring tide” is often confused with the season Spring, but spring used in describing a tide simply means those tides of greatest range between high tides and low tides that occur when the moon is either full or new and is a function of the sun and moon working together to create the greatest movement of sea water.  The term “neap tides” are those tides occurring when the moon’s gravity is pulling at a 90° to the suns gravity at the half moon phase thus giving the lower ranges in tidal differences and the weakest tidal currents. 




The Dark Tickle

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
Islands shores littered with abandon homes

Islands shores littered with abandon homes

To head toward Lake Melville from Emily Harbor I would have to either go north again and round the whole of the big Brig Harbor Island or pass south of Deadman Island and dare the Dark Tickle. The Dark Tickle is a deep but narrow passage between Butt and Camel Islands. The islands shores are littered with abandoned homes from an era long gone from the lands of Labrador. They add a sense of forlorn loneliness to the stark beauty of this remarkable place. Was the tickle named for these broken dreams on her shore or the darkness of the rocks that bound her waters? Even in the bright sunshine of this morning, there is a darkness here and a trepidation. Still, I choose to dare the Dark Tickle.

A passage less than half again as wide as the CAP’N LEM

A passage less than half again as wide as the CAP’N LEM

I checked the tidal current by creeping through the channel past Deadman Island. It was near slack. The wind? None. Slowly I turned the CAP’N LEM south around the Camel Island and felt as much as sighted my way toward the north entrance. The rudder is free to kick up, the dagger board is floating in its case ready to rise. Bump! A rock! I’m too close to the shoals of Butt Island. The slow impact merely slides the hull to one side and I reposition more to the west for the run into the tickle. Checking the chart plotter I see it is I and not the rock that is miss positioned and this gives me courage to press on. The little engine is pushing ahead ever so gently at idle and we slip into and out of the passage less than half again as wide as the CAP’N LEM without incident. With each boat length the waters grow deeper into Dark Tickle Harbor and I line up my escape. But not time to relax, there are rocks and shoals a plenty around Double and Thomey Islands and Man Of War Point. The main channel is still ahead. And the wind just started to rise.



NOTES: I define deep water as any water that will float my boat and shallow water as any water that won’t. Bumping a rock at anytime is not to be taken lightly and I made a thorough assessment to be assured there was no damage.

Daring the Dark Tickle

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

No blog from Tommy today, looks like he’s got the wind so will sail until late.

“One great day! 69 miles so far. Still underway on Lake Melville. Wind at my back for the first time in a long time. Will ride it as long as it blows Thursday wind back on the nose again and I want to be in Goose Bay before then.

Will blog about the Dark Tickle tomorrow. What fun! it was so narrow but went through fine. No wind then. then the wind came up on the quarter and I sailed all the way to the Rigolet Narrows.

All systems go t.”

In honor Tommy letting me sail with him on the way up to Nain last month, here are a few of my favorite images:

Tommy's makes the world's best French Toast, all in a pan just barely large enough to hold a single piece of bread.

Tommy's makes the worlds best French Toast, all in a pan just barely large enough to hold a single piece of bread. He says the secret is to toast the bread before frying, but I think there is more

Tommy makes new friends wherever he goes.

Tommy makes new friends wherever he goes. If you have to chance to meet him in person, you'll understand immediately.

A narrow channel just off the north edge of Western Kingitok Island.

A narrow channel just off the north edge of Western Kingitok Island. This moment of calm belies many hidden dangers; wind, rock, tides, and cold. Without the decades of experience Tommy has amassed, I would never have been blessed with such a view. Thank you Tommy.

Tuchialic Bay to Emily Harbor

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

2100 Position Report August 23, 2010

Anchored in 41 feet of water at Emily Harbor, Brig Harbor Island, Labrador. Lat. 54° 32′ 36.9″ N ~ Lon. 057° 11′ 07.6 W

It was a long run out from Tuchialic Harbor to Cape Harrison with no wind to help the little engine that could only to come around the Cape to a head wind from the south east. That’s just the way it was. I set sail due east out to sea to gain room to tack south. But the way things are, are not always how they stay, and the wind did backed enough to the east that I could tack and make some progress to the south. I fought the urge to tack back out off the coast and threaded my way through shoals and rocks. They were well charted and easily spotted by the breaking swells washing over them. Then, when I needed it most, half way between Cape Harrison and Cape Rouge the wind changed again and this time to the south giving the lift to clear Cape Rouge and run for Emily Harbor on Brig Harbor Island making 7 to 8 kts steady and some spurts even higher. It was a 13 hour day from anchorage to anchorage filled with everything from motoring in calm to some fine white-knuckle sailing. Then the last five miles into the anchorage, it was right back on the bow at 20 kts in some tight quarters. I give up, and motor in at 3 kts. Whee, what a day.

Sunset at Emily Harbor

Sunset at Emily Harbor

Being anchored at Brig Harbor Island brings to mind once again all the fine people aboard the Brig LADY WASHINGTON. A ship of dreams, she is for sure! Many people come on board her as crew to find their lives are changed for ever. Mine certainly was. Many of the crew members on my four month tenure as mate have become life long friends. Some of then, I haven’t seen again, but know when I do, it will be a joyous reunion. Tall Ships are like that. Once crew, always crew.

When I meet sailors working on other vessels like the ISSUMA or WANDERBIRD, I try to encourage them with “sometime, when you’re ready and looking for a ship, go sail on the LADY!” I’m not trying to steal any ones crew, mind ya, just sowing seeds of thought for latter. There were some good sailors on both those vessels when I met them in Nain and I’d love for them to show up on the LADY WASHINGTON someday and say “Capt. Tommy sent me.”

Tomorrow, I start to make my way inland again.



Departing Makkovik

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

I stopped by Uncle Jim’s to say a last farewell before catching the brisk breeze coming down the harbor. He had told me of the time he and his brother snow shoed to Goose Bay from Makkovik to work and how it had taken nine days to get there. But only 4 days to get back because, then, they were heading for home. I was able to tell him the story of my last days with Captain Lem and how far we traveled together before he wore out and died. Uncle Jim played me a farewell song on the organ, “Every Day With Jesus”. We shook hands and promised to meet again.

91 years old, those hands, and still making music.

91 years old, those hands, and still making music.

The CAP’N LEM fairs better at anchor than at a dock and I had to get underway for lack of fendering against the wind pushing against the pilings. It made for a much more comfortable night. Tonight would be the same so I got underway to be a little farther down my track.

Coming out of Makkovik Bay the wind backed and strengthened such no real headway was going to be made so I turned in to Ford’s Bight to seek anchorage. I found my anchorage at the end of the bay in 45 feet of water and 30 knots of wind! (Lat. 55° 04′ 28″ N ~ Lon 059° 06′ 16″ W) It was a good mud bottom so we just rode it out. Looking out the hatch to check the position yet one more time, I saw a minke whale surfaced not far away. The wind died with the sun.

The forecast called for more of the same strong south east wind, right where I wanted to go! But Sunday morning brought a gift wind more from the south and just strong enough to allow me to round the lesser cape, Cape Strawberry and track into the islands I wanted to see. How could I pass up going by Pretty Harbor Island on my way to Tuchialic Bay?

Always an Island on the Bow

Always an Island on the Bow

The day truly was a gift of some of the nicest sailing in a long time. The afternoon wind did back to the south east at a gentle 12 to 15 knots and CAP’N LEM clipped along at 7.5 to 8 knots with the windward amma airborne most of the time. We crossed paths with feeding dolphin twice. I could tell they were feeding because of the birds that followed them to fight for leftovers.
I find my refuge surrounded by high mountains on all sides save the entrance and even the entrance is guarded by islands. I anchor in 60 feet of water at Lat. 54° 45′ 07.2″N ~ Lon 058° 25′ 49.7″ W. Unlike Uncle Jim and his brother on their way home, I’m in no hurry for this wonderful adventure to end.

Cape Makkovik

Friday, August 20th, 2010

The day broke calm after a night of chasing false anchor alarms. In such tight quarters in Peter’s Cove I dare not set the alarm at any greater distance than 150 ft. A 180° swing on the anchor would set it off and I get up, look around, and go back to sleep. It’s just what I have to do. So up with the anchor and out to round the twin capes of Cape Aillik and Cape Makkovik.

The sunrise calm was short lived. Coming out of the lee of Cape Aillik the CAP’N LEM struggled up and down the face of a lone steep swell coming from the direction of Greenland. Something was happening way up north and far out at sea. I’m thankful to be heading south. It’s interesting that Cape Makkovik and Cape Horn are at about the same Latitudes of opposite signs North and South. This morning I feel like it may as well be Cape Horn.

Cape Makkovik

Cape Makkovik

To the east, a long cold finger of fog wags a warning from an evil looking hand gripping the top of the Cape. “Be prepared, ye who dare this way, this day. Be prepared!” I turn on my fickle little Furuno and after a very long 60 second stand-by while the internals warm up, I press the transmit key. Yes, it found its heading signal. All is well. My mind runs through my back up plans. Should the little engine die can I claw my way off the lee shore at this range and run down wind out of danger. Yes, the wind is building slowly but at an angle which will allow me escape from the crashing surf on the hard rocks. No more than now is the mile in front of me more important. On the GPS the track crosses the old track around the Capes from the trip north. I give them even more room this morning. Slowly my north east track veers to east, to south east, to near south and I’m around with the swell on the quarter and a clear run into Makkovik Bay. The wind backs to the northeast and pushes the fog up and over the mountain. I run out the headsail and enter the Bay in style.



Within minutes of docking, “Uncle Jim” Andersen, is there to greet me. “Have you seen Wanderbird? How far did you go? Come by to see me.” Were it not for one more chance to visit this most interesting man, I might have kept right on going.

Peter’s Cove

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Anchored in Peter’s Cove on the Cape Makkovik Peninsula in 28 feet of water Lat. 55° 12′ 18.2″ N ~ Lon 059° 15′ 07.6″ W.

Departed Hopedale at 1000 in calm wind and clear sky. By noon the winds picked up to easterly at 15 knots then rose steadily to 20. I threaded my way through many small islands to find the wind nearly on the nose. I was able to make some progress by short tacking several times but the going was slow and tiring. I didn’t have it in me to beat around the headlands so started to search for a suitable anchorage. That’s when I found Peter’s Cove. Peter was a man of good taste! The rock formations are fascinating. Many broken into squares. Peter could have built a castle here and never gone more than a half mile for stones.

One of the great delights of sailing Labrador is the pristine anchorages. Many show no signs humans ever were here. Where can you find that anywhere else. Always a beer can and polypropylene line washed up in a corner of the coves I’ve visited most.

But Labrador is not without its problems. The remoteness of the towns and villages lend to alcohol and drug abuse. Other factors of unemployment and isolation contribute to a high suicide rate among young people. Each community has told me of some recent tragedy. Heartbreaking. Pray for these dear people, please. They are so kind and hospitable toward travelers. I think it’s in their nature.

Peters Cove

Peters Cove

Windy Tickle to Hopedale

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
Hopedale Inukshuk

Hopedale Inukshuk

The predawn wind was freshening from the Southwest. I was up early to catch what ever of the south flowing current I could in the Windy Tickle thinking I would be bucking a headwind. But the Windy Tickle was not as windy as my anchorage and I came out the south end to just enough room to short tack and catches a lift from the southwester to make good progress toward Hopedale. The stratification of the rock cliffs of the Tickle was so interesting. They sang of the tortured geological past in their color and design. I passed through much too quickly.


The CAP’N LEM is starting to crisscross the old northbound track I’ve saved on the GPS Plotter screen. When given a choice of two courses I try to choose the route not taken for the chance of seeing something new. There’s a lot of new to be seen on Labrador Coast.

The wind allowed me to make considerable headway with only a few short tacks to clear this shoal and that island headland such that I arrived in Hopedale just after noon. Inukshuk gave me a silent welcome from the hills over Hopedale. The public dock was clear and allowed me an easy landing.

The wind is predicted to back to the east Thursday and give me the lift I need to make way toward Makkovik. I wonder if Uncle Jim will be waiting on the pier.

Shoal Tickle

Monday, August 16th, 2010

August 16, 2010 Position Report

Anchored at 55° 45′ 46.1″ N ~ 060° 21′ 33.1″ W in 24 feet of water having just transited the Shoal Tickle between Nunaksaluk Island and the mainland. Its charted depth was 4′ but I never saw less than 7 feet below the keel. You can bet I went through at a dead slow with the dagger board and rudder floating free should I contact the bottom. It saved me miles of beating against a head wind.

The day was a sunny and warm day with no wind until late in the afternoon which made for a good run to the tickle once I cleared the islands south of Nain. The bay is large but well protected and, of course, just beautiful.