Departing Makkovik

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

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

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

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

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.

Another Day Hunting the Moonstone

August 15th, 2010

The early sun woke me to a still water and cloudless sky. The silhouette of Tabor Island against the coming dawn was breathtaking. (I got the name from a fisherman passing. It was not what I thought it was.) How could I just up the anchor and sail away from such opportunity. I could not. It will be a long time before I pass this way again. Oh, I do hope I will pass this way again.

Having found some Labradorite, I now know what to look for. The Encarta on my computer tells me it is also know as Moonstone when blue and Sunstone when orange and yellow. So once again I launch the Gray Ghost and head to shore. No sign of the resident black bear, but he could be just over the rise. I take my air horn and running shoes.

I walk up to the quarry to see it I can find any chips from the blasting but the ground is covered with a low brushy growth of some sort of red berries. This must be what the bear was eating. If it is these things, he’s got plenty to eat on Tabor Island. I find berries but no Labradorite so back down the hill I go to the spot I found it yesterday.

This morning in the bright sunlight…it is everywhere! And it is stunningly beautiful! But mostly it is in boulders and the rock face of the hill at the waters edge. I even start to find it in smaller pieces that I can pick up. It takes a lot of will power to leave behind some of the bigger rocks sparkling blue like a peacock feather but I’ve already picked up enough to weigh down the kayak. So I just paddle around in awe of this gift of nature and her cleverness at hiding it so far away.

just below the water

just below the water

I’ve never painted my name on a rock or a wall in my life. But in Labrador there is something the Inuit did to report their passing among the islands and I can’t resist. I build an Inukshuk looking out on the bay where the CAP’N LEM is anchored. The winter wind and the heaving frost will turn it back into the pile of rocks it once was, but for just this season it is my monument to this place and its people I have grown to love so much. It simply says someone was here and when he left then went that direction.


By noon the tide turns and it’s time. Boats are made to move and sailors to move them. Up the anchor and away around the island that has given me so much. I don’t see the bear but I hope he is still there.  After traveling for 6 hours with the outgoing tide and no wind, the little engine that could brings me to anchorage at 56° 12′ 35.2″ N ~ 061° 21′ 04.2″ W in 28 feet of water. I’ll spend a restful night in this place. It is large and well protected. I will sleep the sleep of one who has had one of the best days of his life. In Labrador, that’s just about every day.

Searching for Labradorite

August 14th, 2010

1900 Position Report August 14, 2010

Anchored at 56° 24′ 14.7″ N ~ 061° 48′ 21.3″ W in 31feet of water.

I departed Nain at 1000 to start a slow leisurely trip to Hopedale. I was given directions to an abandon quarry on a small island who’s name I can not pronounce let alone spell to search for Labradorite. It’s also known as moonstone. Friends had given me a piece of it when in here on the way north. It truly is a beautiful stone with colors that remind me of a peacock feather.

Of course there was a bear on the hillside and I watched him make his way around the area I most wanted to go and then over the hill. It was a solitary male from what I could tell. I waited an hour before launching the Gray Ghost and paddling ashore armed with my trusty air horn and running shoes. Had it been a sow with cubs, no way! But from the skittishness of the black bears I saw on the way down form Port Manvers, I felt safe enough. The island is near treeless and I could see a long way in either direction.

First I walked the water line hoping to see it shining up just below the surface but found none that way. The first piece I found glistened an iridescent blue in the warm afternoon sun. Only thing is it was a part of a large bolder and is safe from a rock picker like me for at least another million years. But this gave me encouragement to keep looking and at the base of a large hill I indeed did find some in rock a little easer to handle. I would like to have spent longer in search of the lovely stuff, but enough time had past for the bear to have made a round of the island and air horn or not, I had just as soon be in the kayak heading out when he returned.



Not being one for collecting a lot of souvenirs, I’m very happy with these and other little treasures I’ve picked up. They are decorating my Cozy Fireplace both inside the firebox and out. Inside, they help hold the heat from the flame and glow a warm red like coals in burning wood. On top, the rocks help dispense the heat in to the cabin.



The wind is not in my favor tomorrow so I don’t expect to make much to the south. The thousands of islands are so pleasant to travel through I’ll ride the morning tide as long as I can before finding yet another anchorage and wait out the afternoon wind.

The Solution

August 13th, 2010

It is human nature that the first reaction to a problem is denial in the hopes it will simply go away. If the problem does simply go away it wasn’t a problem at all. After only a moment, I knew this problem was not simply going to go away.

By now you’re thinking, “Go from one crisis to another! Is this all this guy does?” Well, that’s pretty much the picture. But that’s sailing in a hostile environment, a long way from help, of any kind, alone. By presenting these situations to you and the solutions I come up with I hope to stimulate your own thought processes as to how you would handle things when you sail into your great adventures what ever they may be.

What now is simply a great problem of great inconvenience only moments before could have been much more had it happened while crossing the threshold into safe harbor. Oh, I had my plans and I had my sail set and I could have gone this way or another and on and on… but this is about what did happen and how I did act and the results of that action.

Recall those words now, that launched the greatest rescue attempt of the 20th Century, “Houston, we have a problem.” I admit I have a problem. I define my problem. I have put the engine in reverse then attempted to put it back into forward. It stays in reverse even though the shift/throttle lever is moved into the forward position. The engine stays in reverse and throttles up in RPM. I start a mental list of what could be wrong: Broken cable, lose cable, something broken or lose inside the remote control system, or worse, lost transmission, broken levers, spun hub, (I don’t know exactly what a spun hub is but it used to happen a lot on the outboard motors in fleet of boats at Clean Sound, Inc.) gear box gone out, propeller fell off…enough!

First things first. I must get to anchorage and I won’t be sailing forward in these light airs with an engine in reverse. I kill the engine.  I can not restart the engine. The cutout switch which prevents the engine from starting in gear is working just fine. Now I have two problems.

I anchor as described before. I awake at my usual 0500 in time to witness the beauty of yet another Labrador sunrise. I make my coffee and think. I get ready for the day and think. The first order of business in this day, find the true source of the problem.

After dismounting the Remote Shift/throttle unit, I open it and inspect its marvelous design. It moves two cables, one the throttle and the other the shift linkage in unison but at different rates and different lengths of travel and in two different directions, all with one lever. Sounds complicated? Well, it is. The shift lever must only move a short distance from neutral to forward then back to neutral to reverse then back while the throttle must move from idle to fast and all points in between in a smooth action. I look for the obvious. Is the cable visibly broken? No. Is it disconnected? No. Does it move with the lever? Yes. Reassemble. Remount.

Engine with cowling off

Engine with cowling off

Move back to the engine, and open it up. To do this I have to partially hang off the end of the boat. I check my safety line yet one more time and contort my body through the gantry and out over the engine. Inside I find the levers the cables are connected to. Going back from the stern to the cockpit I watch for the actions and reactions of the Remote on the engine levers. My observation: the throttle cable moves as it should, the shift cable does not. I gain hope from that. It really is a broken cable on the inside of the shift cable. By using a pair of pliers I can actually shift the engine into neutral and start the engine. This is getting better and better. Not creating a new problem faster than I can solve the old problem is at the forefront of every move. Frustration and anger are to be avoided at all cost. I’ve seen men break fixable things irreparably in anger at an inanimate object. (Heck, what am I saying? I’ve done it myself!) If I have to try and fail and try again, so be it. I keep my sense of gratitude that I may just have on board everything I need to make it work.

Something happens, if I manually shift the engine into gear, I can then shift it out of gear using the Remote Shifter. This is indicative of a broke cable in a tight housing such that it can push but not pull. I catch an imaginary vision of the solution, how to shift the gears on the little-engine-that-could from the cockpit while sailing the 300 or so miles back to Goose Bay.

Oh, my friends, isn’t it interesting that the solution to this critical problem is rooted in the solution the father and son team engineers at Birdwell Machinery used to solve the rigidity problem with the gantry they built for me 6000 miles way and a year and a half ago. They used thin stainless steel cable to X the gantry, thereby giving it remarkable strength and stiffness. The same roll of extra cable left over from that solution is the same cable that I squirreled away, the same thin s/s cable that I used to clear the cooling water port when the engine wouldn’t pee, and it has once again come to my rescue.

And did it work? Well, I’m writing this moored to the public dock at Nain, Labrador!

Here’s how.

I threaded the wire from the cockpit to the engine through the cable run. Then, I drilled a hole in the rubber gasket that holds the shift/throttle cables and threaded it into the engine compartment. Once inside I put a Molly Hogan eye splice in the end of the wire and looped the end over the engine shift lever after wrapping it around the cable once to help hold it in place. I added a sail twine constrictor knot to hold the two cables together and help the eye splice not jump off.

Molly Hogan eye splice looped over the engine shift lever

Molly Hogan eye splice looped over the engine shift lever

At the cockpit side, I put another Molly Hogan eye splice in the end of the measured and cut cable and make a handle from a discarded file handle. (I’m a sailor. I save everything that might prove useful.)

Makeshift handle

Makeshift handle

I tested it and it worked. The s/s cable will get it into forward and out of reverse. The broken cable will still get it out of forward and into reverse. How long will it work? I don’t know. Is it the final solution? No, but for now I call it “My Come-Home Cable.”
PS Special thanks to Larry Smith. He’s a part of my “brain trust” in solving engine problems and went out of his way to help with the solution. Great minds work alike! It gave me confidence when he offered the same solution of using the cable I had mentioned before. “Together we are smarter than anyone of us alone.”

Note: The splice I call the “Molly Hogan” is simply the unlaying of a cable then reversing the direction and relaying it back together to form an eye. It is strong and very useful. You may know it by other names like Yachtsman’s Splice. I like Molly Hogan best because it conjures up thoughts of some young girl dressing like a man to go to sea in years by-gone and showing the guys how it’s really done! Some of the best sailors I know are ladies.

The Problem

August 11th, 2010

I sail and motored through the opening into Medusa Bay, also known as Port Manvers, having completed a long run down wind with heavy following seas all the way from abeam the Mugford Tickle. The predicted 25 knot N wind built to 35 with a 4 meter following sea. What a ride! But the CAP’N LEM, being a better boat than I am sailor, saw me through. With such strong winds astern she often reached 15 knots over the ground when the seas pick up her stern for the race. Even at that, though, the seas moved faster than the vessel and would roll out from under her breaking of both sides.

The Raymarine ST4000 Autopilot did a yeoman’s work of steering down wind for most of the two days I was off the coast in the Sea of Labrador, but when we made our way in toward shore and the seas grew steeper and deeper due to the shallower bottom, I manned the helm down past the Willis Rocks and into the mouth of the bay and a most welcome calm. The track required I come back into the wind putting the boat on a tack with accelerated speed way above my comfort level and abeam seas of 2 to 3 meters just as I came into the lee of the small rocky island awash with breakers. I formulated a back up plan should the entrance be breaking of turning down wind once again and going farther into the many islands and shoals that would help me make it to the channel to Nain. Not my first choice as it was still another 25 miles in heavy wind and it was not needed. As I reached my go/no-go point, I could see the shoals to the northwest of the rocks had already taken the edge off the swell so, with the sail in a partial “fisherman’s reef’ and the little engine that could pushing just above idle, I made the ground I needed and entered the beautiful calm and safe harbor.

A mile or so into the harbor the wind died to near nothing. I made prep to go to anchorage between Challenger Point and Hare Point in a cove of splendor like I have rarely seen anywhere on earth. Water falls, Cascades, high mountain crags, seal playing in the water. I checked my reverse gear before going into any tight quarter and then it happened. Oh, she went into reverse alright but did not come out. The throttle and shift lever word differently. Much too…smoothly. Something has happened and it’s not good.

Contingency plans, contingency plans, make your plans… what if.

What if I can’t fix it? I can’t, not now anyway. What if the tide sucks me back out into the opening while still in the calm? Get the anchor ready. What if there is not way to fix it. E-m Ken for help! What if my batteries die? Formulate everything you need to say before you turn on the sat-system. What if I need to tow in? Have Ken get a hold of Roy in Goose Bay who can then get a hold of Joe in Nain or Jim in Hopedale and … on and on, all the while watching for a puff of wind to get me farther and farther into the bay.

And it comes, not strong but steady for about 10 minutes before heading me and dying just as I tack. I wait and another, each moving me closer and closer to the cove of my sanctuary. Two hours later I clear Point Challenger and ghost into 35 feet of water and drop the hook at 56° 56′ 31.1″ N ~ 061° 31′ 07.6″ W

Willis Rocks

Willis Rocks

Sailing with Tommy

August 10th, 2010

[Guest blog post by Kari]

I first met Tommy one hot, late summer day several years ago. I had just joined the tall ship LADY WASHINGTON in Port Townsend, and had been assigned to watch the bottom of the ramp while the brig was open for dockside tours. “Good Morning” said I, to a broadly smiling gentleman with a long grey ponytail, striding purposefully down the dock. “We’re open for tours if you’d like to come aboard!” “Actually” he said, eyes snapping with excitement “I am your new mate!”

As Mate aboard the LADY WASHINGTON Tommy knew better than most the importance of keeping objects well stowed on a ship. Everything must have its place, and the place for crew toothbrushes was evidently NOT balanced precariously on a small ledge inside the head door. After several warnings to some recalcitrant shipmates, Tommy informed me one day “The way you solve this problem is to clean the head with the toothbrush… and then put it back exactly as you found it!” The toothbrushes quickly disappeared into their owner’s bunks. Tommy also showed us how to correctly sea-stow the main hold, and lash down everything on deck in preparation for heavy weather. Then, after our work was finished, he pulled out his sextant and explained how to use the big blue nautical almanac to plot our position without the GPS.

“One day this will save your life” Tommy told me as we tacked our way up Malaspina Strait on his quaint little ketch AVANTI. And he showed me how to turn a course wool blanket and an old oil lamp into something called an Irish Oven – an ingenious way to keep a helmsman warm on a cold middle watch. Later on he showed me how to get my bearings on a chart, figure out the tide tables, and to tell the difference between the ever abundant haze of shore lights, and those ever important running lights that signify an approaching vessel.

Another day we anchored off a place called Sandy Island, and paddled the Grey Ghost ashore to pay a visit to a dead man in a giant douglas fir. But it was a beautiful cloudless day – a rarity on the northwest coast in March – and we fell asleep in the sun. Lo and behold, we awoke some time later to discover the tide had gone out and dear old AVANTI was stuck fast on a sand bar. But instead of cursing bad luck or lamenting our predicament, Tommy told me a story about Captain Lem, and how the ancient mariner had once advised him to try beaching his boat – just for practice – so he’d know what to expect if it ever happened by accident. So we sat down to wait, munching on a cold deli chicken and taking turns reading aloud from Moby Dick until the incoming tide gently floated us free.

“Life” Tommy earnestly advised me one stormy night 40 miles off the Oregon Coast “is either a daring adventure, or it is NOTHING!” And that’s how it always is. Whether he’s pounding into the teeth of a gale on an old wind ship, shooting the Skookumchuck rapids, repairing a diesel engine, or setting bungs into a plank under LADY WASHINGTON’s main channels, sailing with Tommy is always an adventure. I wish Tommy was part of my family. But in a way he is. We are all part of the same family, every single person who loves the sea.

Kari in the Gray Ghost, Princess Louisa Inlet BC

Shipmake Kari in the Gray Ghost, Princess Louisa Inlet BC