Big White Bearskin Island

1700 August 6, 2010 Position Report:

59° 22′ 14″ N ~ 063° 47′ 00″ W At anchor in 41′ of water in Sea Plane Cove near Big White Bearskin Island, Labrador. It’s very calm and very quiet. I’m sure beautiful too if I could see it but for the fog!

I awoke at 0430 due to having gone to sleep at 2000 (8 pm) to just a hint of twilight. The nights are lengthening now both from the date and the latitude toward the south. Fog. But in the fog was the hint the morning north wind so I quickly did my chores and prepared to get underway. Engine cooling, check. Radar working, check. Let’s go.

Up the anchor and slowly retraced my track line out of Eclipse Harbor for open water. Air temp 44° F. I didn’t take the seawater temp. The fog tells me, 100% humidity. It’s going to be a long day. At the mouth of the harbor I raise sail and catch a bit of north wind and turn south.

The radar, the GPS, the large scale charts showing small areas on the plotter give me the confidence to go. By noon, no change, still foggy. The wind comes and goes so mostly I motor at a slow 4 kts to conserve fuel. I never push the ‘little engine that could’ hard anyway. The wind will change and I’ll make up the time. But still, I can not give up the opportunity to go south with this light breeze from the north.

I’m reminded of one August sailing trip out the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Washington State and Vancouver Island with my brother-in-law and two young nephews. We were headed for West Port Washington around Cape Flattery but the wind and swells made two of the three so seasick we aborted the trip and turned around…into the fog. My boat, my idea, my trip…my responsibility.

Oh, ye landsman, what do you ever do that gives such weight to the shoulders as a trick at the wheel, in the fog, in the wind, in the night. There is no more precious cargo than young ones sleeping in trust below while you make way for port. Nine hours of looking, listening, doubting, confirming, checking, correcting, and repeating. To be captain of anything, sail boat, ocean liner, battle ship or airplane is to know the terrible weight of responsibility that can not, must not slip from one’s shoulders for a moment. One of my favorite captains that I served under took a nap every afternoon underway while the rest of the ship worked. Why? As he said, because he never knew when he would be needed to be up all night long.

So think long and hard before you set you sights on that lofty title “Captain” as I once did in my youth. It comes with a price.

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