Blog Archive

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Newfoundland Landfall

Newfoundland Landfall

As soon as we passed Belle Isle the sun burned off the mist and we saw clearly the icy ramparts that our radar had guided us through. From then on it was plain sailing or, more accurately, steady motoring. For there was no wind and the smooth swells that rocked our boat were glassy and unruffled.

Unruffled that is until a loud splash and snort disrupted our cockpit conversation just 30m from us. A large humpback rolled and spouted then swarm around behind us floating, motionless on the surface. We motored on and he spouted a few more times then dived with a farewell tail flick.

Soon there was another whale and then a couple of dolphins dashed towards the boat. More seabirds than we have seen for ages were now gathering on the cliff faces of the Northern Peninsular as we motored close to the eastern shore.

Sally, who craves whale sightings had missed the spectacular breaching that Joe and I had witnessed in Hamborgerland, was not on deck. We all yelled, 'Sally whale!' But the faint reply came back to us, 'I'm in the loo!'

All this activity lit by warm afternoon sunshine made this a fine introduction to Newfoundland. I think we are going to enjoy our stay.

Shadows on a screen

Shadows on a screen

Just off Belle Isle, in the centre of the Belle Isle Strait, we were swathed in mist. The sea was flat and there was barely a breath of wind. Three eerie shadows appeared on the radar screen dead ahead. We slowed the engine, posted a lookout on the bow and we all stared into the murk. We passed close by one shadow and, sure enough, a whitening of the fog emerged a couple of hundred metres to port. Soon to follow was a growler, recently shed from it's parent.

We have come a thousand miles south from the icebergs of Disko Bay but they are still here, lurking in the mist, biding their time and waiting to trap the careless mariner.

St Anthony - the patron saint of Wi-fi

St Anthony - the patron saint of Wi-fi

With a little luck we will dock tonight in St Anthony which, for Joe, is the promised land. It's now 10 days or so since we had any semblance of a decent internet connection and both Joe and I have started to twitch.

It's true to say that my twitching has been somewhat dampened by the foolhardy demise of my IPhone which now lies in two fathoms somewhere under the far waters of Black Tickle.

With connectivity in sight all the geeks were on deck this morning at 0430 to prize the anchor out of the seabed. It had been well dug in by gusts to 35 knots the previous afternoon. The wind had gone from SW to NW overnight which wasn't forecast but it was good for us as our plan for the day was to make 89 miles of southings.

The anchor came up cleanly and we dodged our way out through some illegal salmon nets, pushed against the wind for half an hour and the entered the open sea where the wind died away. The swells kicked up the previous afternoon rolled us south and we quickly closed on Battle Harbour and threaded the islands and skerries to it's east. What a shame we weren't able to stop and enjoy this unique heritage museum clinging onto the edge of the New World.

The Straits of Belle Isle are renowned for fog and we were not to be disappointed. Initially just the shores were dissolved in mist and the just the tops of the icebergs were visible but, as we lined up to cross the shipping separation zone more mist rolled in.

On went the radar and the active radar reflector and, of course, our automated identification system (AIS) broadcast our course and position every 2 minutes to all nearby craft. So we are as secure as we can be with a vigilant watch and nice calm conditions. Our own AIS display, however, doesn't show any other shipping around although we glimpsed a super-yacht at anchor as we passed the SE tip of Labrador.

Supplies are running low now that we are 10 days out of Nuuk and we are down to our last 100 litres of water so we are all looking forward to St Anthony tonight and we are promised restaurants, water, fresh food and Wi-fi in abundance!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Battle Harbour and beyond

Battle Harbour and beyond

It's sad but unavoidable that we won't be going to Battle Harbour. We had been tipped off by OCC contacts that renovation work was due to begin on the wharf there this summer. Hoping that work would have been delayed we placed s satellite phone call this morning to the harbour master to see if we would be able to visit. Anchoring, by all accounts, is not an option.

The news was not so good for as as the renovation project is in full swing and there is no room for us so, sadly, we are going to have to give this UNESCO site a miss.

So tomorrow, if we get a weather window we will hop across the Straits of Belle Isle with the hope of being in St Anthony before dark on Thursday. There's still plenty of icebergs there hence the need to try to arrive in daylight.

In the meantime SHIMSHAL is dancing around her anchor in a lovely cove on the north shore of Occasional Harbour. A few deciduous trees have now crept into the pine forests that line the anchorage. The sky has gone overcast and the fresh breeze, gusting to 25 knots, has done for most of the bugs that abound in the summer heat.

With 90 miles to go to St Anthony tomorrow we will need to be up and off at first light in order to get there in daylight.

Progressing South

Progressing South

Despite opposing winds we are continuing to work our way south down the coast of Labrador. Today we are at exactly the same latitude as Hyssington (home) but it feels like a million miles away. We are cruising a coast line that is frozen solid for much of the year and even now, at the height of summer with temperatures in their late 20's, icebergs continue to drift south before finally dissolving 600 miles further south in the North Atlantic.

We expected to find fogs and cold, wet weather here but have been rewarded with fine weather, record high temperatures and wall to wall sunshine. Had the headwinds have been stronger they could have stopped us in our tracks. As it is we have been able to creep south in the morning calms and then enjoy the fine afternoons at anchor or ashore.

Today we are making for Occasional Harbour as it promises a waterfall for a shower. Maybe tomorrow the UNESCO World Heritage site of Battle Harbour, the ancient capital of the now extinct cod fishery in these parts. If the weather holds we will cross the Straits of Belle Isle Friday and make our landfall on Newfoundland. We plan to lay the boat up for August in Lewisporte, Newfoundland which is now just 200 miles away so happily we are back on schedule despite our Nuuk delays.

Lady’s Arm

Lady's Arm

We left early to find flat water and lighter head winds during Labrador's astonishing heat wave. The strategy worked and we were soon working our way south passing close by some icebergs, glittering in the morning sun. After a 2 hour coastal passage we ducked west to pass north of Hawke Island.

Weaving around well charted rocks we passed a northerly cardinal buoy and entered the fabled Squasho's Run. This is a narrow pass, almost completely straight, that leads for four miles down a channel of wooded crags and cliffs.

By now the wind was building a little bringing heat from the south. We threaded a narrow tickle around Stoney Island, passed a red buoy to starboard, as you do in the Americas, and then entered the anchorage of Port Norman in Lady's Arm where we anchored under the hot mid day sun.

A speed boat came alongside to deliver their greetings and sped off with Michael and Joe aboard to check their salmon nets and inspect the tiny township. They returned with salmon and arctic char which they duly devoured for lunch.

The sign on the Government Dock says, 'Port Norman population 60'. The paint on the sign was peeling betraying it's age and it was soon contradicted by the locals who told us, in their sing song dialect, that the population has now dwindled to 15.

However Lady's Arm is no Black Tickle. It's inhabitants seem prosperous and content. They run a hydroelectric plant and have a saw mill as well as a bit of crab and scallop fishing. The houses were well cared for and even the skeletons of abandoned skidoos and outboards nestled more comfortably into the landscape. Miniature wild iris, trees and birdsong were everywhere. All was heavily scented with pine and it felt like a little bit of summer paradise despite it being ice free for only a few weeks. A few yards inshore was a picture perfect wooded lake.

As the wind built and shifted a little we moved across the bay to a better anchorage where the sunshine tempted some to swim off the back of the boat. Bold given that icebergs still abound off this coast.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Black Tickle and Domino Harbour

Black Tickle and Domino Harbour

It was a short walk into the 'cod rush' town of Black Tickle from our snug anchorage in Domino Harbour. The fish processing plant in Domino, long since abandoned, was literally falling into the sea. A derelict indication of the booming cod years that have now long gone.

The rough road into town was littered with abandoned trucks. A refuse lorry, still bearing it's load, stood at the roadside broken, abandoned and forgotten. A few yards further on was the town's tip but the winds had done their work and scattered refuse far and wide over the treeless heath of wild strawberry and cloudberries.

Not then the most salubrious walk into a town that had once been the crowning glory of the hugely lucrative cod fishing industry. The town itself felt almost as broken and abandoned as the trucks that littered the road. Attempts to replace the extinct cod industry with crab fishing and processing have largely failed and the town is hanging on by a thread.

Few folk stirred but then a quad bike stopped and Vince, it's driver, stopped to chat. It was English he was speaking but it was so distorted by dialect it was pretty hard to follow.

More toothless grins and friendly chats as we walked into town and paused at the post office to enquire about those essentials of modern travel such as cell phones and internet. No, the nearest cellphone mast is 100 miles away- when it works. No WiFi, a couple of rudimentary stores with produce long expired, a health post, a school and no hope for the future. The crab processing plant finally closed in 2011 and with it went the last jobs. A gold rush town after the gold has gone. It no longer has a reason to exist.

And nobody seems to know what to do with it. There's one ferry a week in summer from here to Nain and two twin propeller flights a week to Goose Bay. A community cut off by ice for half the year and apparently forgotten. Disheveled, decaying and resigned to it's inevitable demise. Attempts to bring wind and solar power to the region have been resisted and there's no attempt to capitalise on the tourism potential of a glorious coastline that witnesses a steady procession of crisp, white icebergs making their stately progress south along a fabulously indented coastline of natural harbours, tickles, runs and rigolets.

We left at first light on another blue sky day in the hope of finding lighter winds before they build from mid day.

As I write we are passing a stark white and icy cliff face that must have drifted 1500 miles since it calved from some northern glacier. Icebergs speckle this coast and they are at their best when glinting in the morning sun in a blue sea beneath a blue sky. Black Tickle may be past it's prime but the landscape will survive.

Oh and there's one more black spot to add to Black Tickle's misfortunes. As we rowed the tender back to the anchorage my wonderful new iPhone chose to slip, silently out of my pocket and into the deep, dark waters of Domino Harbour. The last message it gave me was, "Your iPhone has not been backed up for 44 days."

Monday, 16 July 2018

It’s time to mention Michael.

's time to mention Michael.

Now that we are all safely and legally checked into Canada it's time to mention Michael. We didn't intend it and certainly he didn't intend it but somehow, when in Nuuk, we acquired another member of crew. He's Michael the Kiwi.

In recent years our crew have presented themselves on board with certain signature items of dress. There was Tim and his increasingly off-white overalls. Then there's Joe in his banana coloured onezee. Michael came fully prepped for the Arctic and beyond in an Hawaiian shirt!

A native of New Zealand, living in Ireland, Michael had hitched a ride on a yacht in Dingle bound for the North West Passage. I'm not entirely sure he knew where the North West Passage was but clearly he had a notion that, if all went well, he might end up in Hawaii. Hence the shirt.

But don't underestimate a Kiwi as they quickly adapt. He sailed on a sturdy ship west into a series of Atlantic storms forcing him to break out the Ugg Boots, the MUK Boots and he learned, as most Kiwis do, to wear his thermal sleeved shirt underneath his Hawaiian too. Somehow he survived his first ocean passage. Ten days, hard against the wind with a landfall at the entrance to Greenland's Prins Christian Sund would usually be a passage to work up to but our brave Kiwi took it all in his stride.

He learned to fend off icebergs and started to get a feel for what the North West Passage might entail. Three souls pitched against ice, ocean, huge distances and extreme cold. Commendably he soldiered on undeterred and quite certain that the Hawaiian shirt would come in handy at some stage and that palm trees were beckoning.

Once onto Greenland's West Coast his ship took a terrible pounding that could have done for a lesser vessel. Again he just shrugged it off and assumed that every sailing holiday was a voyage of survival with all comforts sacrificed to the team's unblinking objective.

Having accumulated a lifetime of nautical experiences in just a few weeks Michael's sturdy 4x4 of the sea slipped into Nuuk and rafted up against SHIMSHAL who felt a little squeezed between battle tank and pier. This arrival was his undoing as he came to know SHIMSHAL with her central heating, carpeted cabins and fine dining. He glimpsed a little too of her crew and their slovenly ways. Maybe, he thought, he could use the Hawaiian shirt more often if he was in the Arctic on a boat with heating?

Days came and went quickly in Nuuk as Shimshal's skipper searched and searched for non-existent weather windows and fretted about delays that might cause missed flights and lost jobs. "No worries" though is the Kiwi mantra and he must have wondered what all the fuss is about when there's seas to be sailed, ice to be nudged and storms to be confronted.

He had a nagging doubt though that made him wonder if the sturdy ship of three really was for him. It wasn't the impenetrable ice or the gnawing cold that was causing him to dither. It was more the perennial dynamic of three in a boat.

Most things get settled over a coffee. Maybe it's the caffeine that stimulates the imagination and sparks ideas but where there is dithering there is opportunity. When Team Shimshal came to know in the Seaman's Mission that all was not so well on the Ship of Three Shimshal's skipper, believing that every crew needs a Kiwi, didn't hesitate to offer a berth to the New World but by a more genteel route. A route that had plenty of challenge in it but that might lead sooner to palm trees and grass skirts. The skipper of Shimshal insists that his offer was not influenced at all by the thought of an Hawaiian shirt on board.

And so it was that Michael the Kiwi became Shimshal's Man from
Motueka. It was made clear that on board his new ship life would be very different. He would have to endure pancakes for breakfast with a little bacon and maple syrup most days. Watches would be restricted to no more than two hours. Storms would be avoided wherever possible and icebergs would be left to their own devices.

He seemed to accept the new rules with alacrity and proved that Kiwis
can adapt to the most extreme of environments. He seldom complained that Shimshal hadn't got enough sail up but he did get caught once on his watch wide eyed and racing along at 9 knots with Shimshal all powered up and trying to fly. The skipper soon put a stop to that and reduced sail and speed to a more sedate 6 knot pootle.

Tears? There have been none. Our team of four seem to happily rub along eating, sleeping, dreaming, planning and moaning about Brexit. We've still plenty of miles to go but the conversation never dries and the crew's not revolting.

Regrets? There's been no palm trees for but we have seen some trees at last. The temperature hit the twenties and the Hawaiian shirt came out without the thermals. But the MUK Boots and the Ugg Boots go unused and they must surely be pining for the far frozen north and the icy battles that could have been.

It’s time to mention Michael.

's time to mention Michael.

Now that we are all safely and legally checked into Canada it's time to mention Michael. We didn't intend it and certainly he didn't intend it but somehow, when in Nuuk, we acquired another member of crew. He's Michael the Kiwi.

In recent years our crew have presented themselves on board with certain signature items of dress. There was Tim and his increasingly off-white overalls. Then there's Joe in his banana coloured onezee. Michael came fully prepped for the Arctic and beyond in an Hawaiian shirt!

A native of New Zealand, living in Ireland, Michael had hitched a ride on a yacht in Dingle bound for the North West Passage. I'm not entirely sure he knew where the North West Passage was but clearly he had a notion that, if all went well, he might end up in Hawaii. Hence the shirt.

But don't underestimate a Kiwi as they quickly adapt. He sailed on a sturdy ship west into a series of Atlantic storms forcing him to break out the Ugg Boots, the MUK Boots and he learned, as most Kiwis do, to wear his thermal sleeved shirt underneath his Hawaiian too. Somehow he survived his first ocean passage. Ten days, hard against the wind with a landfall at the entrance to Greenland's Prins Christian Sund would usually be a passage to work up to but our brave Kiwi took it all in his stride.

He learned to fend off icebergs and started to get a feel for what the North West Passage might entail. Three souls pitched against ice, ocean, huge distances and extreme cold. Commendably he soldiered on undeterred and quite certain that the Hawaiian shirt would come in handy at some stage and that palm trees were beckoning.

Once onto Greenland's West Coast his ship took a terrible pounding that could have done for a lesser vessel. Again he just shrugged it off and assumed that every sailing holiday was a voyage of survival with all comforts sacrificed to the team's unblinking objective.

Having accumulated a lifetime of nautical experiences in just a few weeks Michael's sturdy 4x4 of the sea slipped into Nuuk and rafted up against SHIMSHAL who felt a little squeezed between battle tank and pier. This arrival was his undoing as he came to know SHIMSHAL with her central heating, carpeted cabins and fine dining. He glimpsed a little too of her crew and their slovenly ways. Maybe, he thought, he could use the Hawaiian shirt more often if he was in the Arctic on a boat with heating?

Days came and went quickly in Nuuk as Shimshal's skipper searched and searched for non-existent weather windows and fretted about delays that might cause missed flights and lost jobs. "No worries" though is the Kiwi mantra and he must have wondered what all the fuss is about when there's seas to be sailed, ice to be nudged and storms to be confronted.

He had a nagging doubt though that made him wonder if the sturdy ship of three really was for him. It wasn't the impenetrable ice or the gnawing cold that was causing him to dither. It was more the perennial dynamic of three in a boat.

Most things get settled over a coffee. Maybe it's the caffeine that stimulates the imagination and sparks ideas but where there is dithering there is opportunity. When Team Shimshal came to know in the Seaman's Mission that all was not so well on the Ship of Three Shimshal's skipper, believing that every crew needs a Kiwi, didn't hesitate to offer a berth to the New World but by a more genteel route. A route that had plenty of challenge in it but that might lead sooner to palm trees and grass skirts. The skipper of Shimshal insists that his offer was not influenced at all by the thought of an Hawaiian shirt on board.

And so it was that Michael the Kiwi became Shimshal's Man from
Motueka. It was made clear that on board his new ship life would be very different. He would have to endure pancakes for breakfast with a little bacon and maple syrup most days. Watches would be restricted to no more than two hours. Storms would be avoided wherever possible and icebergs would be left to their own devices.

He seemed to accept the new rules with alacrity and proved that Kiwis
can adapt to the most extreme of environments. He seldom complained that Shimshal hadn't got enough sail up but he did get caught once on his watch wide eyed and racing along at 9 knots with Shimshal all powered up and trying to fly. The skipper soon put a stop to that and reduced sail and speed to a more sedate 6 knot pootle.

Tears? There have been none. Our team of four seem to happily rub along eating, sleeping, dreaming, planning and moaning about Brexit. We've still plenty of miles to go but the conversation never dries and the crew's not revolting.

Regrets? There's been no palm trees for but we have seen some trees at last. The temperature hit the twenties and the Hawaiian shirt came out without the thermals. But the MUK Boots and the Ugg Boots go unused and they must surely be pining for the far frozen north and the icy battles that could have been.

It’s time to mention Michael.

's time to mention Michael.

Now that we are all safely and legally checked into Canada it's time to mention Michael. We didn't intend it and certainly he didn't intend it but somehow, when in Nuuk, we acquired another member of crew. He's Michael the Kiwi.

In recent years our crew have presented themselves on board with certain signature items of dress. There was Tim and his increasingly off-white overalls. Then there's Joe in his banana coloured onezee. Michael came fully prepped for the Arctic and beyond in an Hawaiian shirt!

A native of New Zealand, living in Ireland, Michael had hitched a ride on a yacht in Dingle bound for the North West Passage. I'm not entirely sure he knew where the North West Passage was but clearly he had a notion that, if all went well, he might end up in Hawaii. Hence the shirt.

But don't underestimate a Kiwi as they quickly adapt. He sailed on a sturdy ship west into a series of Atlantic storms forcing him to break out the Ugg Boots, the MUK Boots and he learned, as most Kiwis do, to wear his thermal sleeved shirt underneath his Hawaiian too. Somehow he survived his first ocean passage. Ten days, hard against the wind with a landfall at the entrance to Greenland's Prins Christian Sund would usually be a passage to work up to but our brave Kiwi took it all in his stride.

He learned to fend off icebergs and started to get a feel for what the North West Passage might entail. Three souls pitched against ice, ocean, huge distances and extreme cold. Commendably he soldiered on undeterred and quite certain that the Hawaiian shirt would come in handy at some stage and that palm trees were beckoning.

Once onto Greenland's West Coast his ship took a terrible pounding that could have done for a lesser vessel. Again he just shrugged it off and assumed that every sailing holiday was a voyage of survival with all comforts sacrificed to the team's unblinking objective.

Having accumulated a lifetime of nautical experiences in just a few weeks Michael's sturdy 4x4 of the sea slipped into Nuuk and rafted up against SHIMSHAL who felt a little squeezed between battle tank and pier. This arrival was his undoing as he came to know SHIMSHAL with her central heating, carpeted cabins and fine dining. He glimpsed a little too of her crew and their slovenly ways. Maybe, he thought, he could use the Hawaiian shirt more often if he was in the Arctic on a boat with heating?

Days came and went quickly in Nuuk as Shimshal's skipper searched and searched for non-existent weather windows and fretted about delays that might cause missed flights and lost jobs. "No worries" though is the Kiwi mantra and he must have wondered what all the fuss is about when there's seas to be sailed, ice to be nudged and storms to be confronted.

He had a nagging doubt though that made him wonder if the sturdy ship of three really was for him. It wasn't the impenetrable ice or the gnawing cold that was causing him to dither. It was more the perennial dynamic of three in a boat.

Most things get settled over a coffee. Maybe it's the caffeine that stimulates the imagination and sparks ideas but where there is dithering there is opportunity. When Team Shimshal came to know in the Seaman's Mission that all was not so well on the Ship of Three Shimshal's skipper, believing that every crew needs a Kiwi, didn't hesitate to offer a berth to the New World but by a more genteel route. A route that had plenty of challenge in it but that might lead sooner to palm trees and grass skirts. The skipper of Shimshal insists that his offer was not influenced at all by the thought of an Hawaiian shirt on board.

And so it was that Michael the Kiwi became Shimshal's Man from
Motueka. It was made clear that on board his new ship life would be very different. He would have to endure pancakes for breakfast with a little bacon and maple syrup most days. Watches would be restricted to no more than two hours. Storms would be avoided wherever possible and icebergs would be left to their own devices.

He seemed to accept the new rules with alacrity and proved that Kiwis
can adapt to the most extreme of environments. He seldom complained that Shimshal hadn't got enough sail up but he did get caught once on his watch wide eyed and racing along at 9 knots with Shimshal all powered up and trying to fly. The skipper soon put a stop to that and reduced sail and speed to a more sedate 6 knot pootle.

Tears? There have been none. Our team of four seem to happily rub along eating, sleeping, dreaming, planning and moaning about Brexit. We've still plenty of miles to go but the conversation never dries and the crew's not revolting.

Regrets? There's been no palm trees for but we have seen some trees at last. The temperature hit the twenties and the Hawaiian shirt came out without the thermals. But the MUK Boots and the Ugg Boots go unused and they must surely be pining for the far frozen north and the icy battles that could have been.

It doesn’t come any better!

It doesn't come any better!

When we went to lift the anchor this morning the chain was firmly jammed into something on the sea bed and took a lot of force to prize it out. The anchor itself came up with a thick ball of gloriously gloopy mud. We made a mental note to set the anchor buoy in the future and not risk losing the all of our growing tackle.

We left Makkovik at first light (0500) and within an hour or two the wind was strong enough to sail. What's more it was off the beam and off the shore which means flat seas and fast speeds. Initially there were a few feeble spots of rain but soon we sailed away from clouds into a fine summers day.

Things could not have been more perfect. The route threaded us around island and narrow passages (called tickles here) and along the way we dodged numerous icebergs. All lit up by summer sunshine with the temperature in the 20's. Better still conditions didn't change and it wasn't until late evening that the wind died away and we reluctantly put on the motor.

A fantastic day of sailing in a remote wilderness decorated by sparse forests ashore and with the sea inlaid with icy jewels all lit up by the warm, summer sun.

When night came we slipped between some islands which seemed to keep the icebergs out so we were able to keep pressing on under a starry sky keeping an intense lookout by radar and night vision optics. By morning we will hopefully find ourselves a peaceful anchorage to explore ashore and wait for some headwinds to go through.

It doesn't come any better!

“That’s exactly where the sailboat anchored last year”

"That's exactly where the sailboat anchored last year"

You can tell you are cruising seriously off piste when the a fisherman, in an open boat, wandered across to our anchorage to give us fresh, wild salmon fillets and point out that we are anchored in exactly the same place as the sailboat that visited last year. Just one visiting yacht a year!

Makkovik is one of the tiny towns of mid Labrador that is frozen in from November to July. In their brief summer it's 300 inhabitants scramble to catch crab, shrimp and turbot which they process ashore and send onto Lewisporte, some 500 miles south, for export.

The people of Makkovik couldn't have been more helpful. The fish factory gave showers, laundry and the thinnest sliver of Wi-fi. Thankfully we escaped without being filleted and gutted! The two groceries get re-stocked once a week during the summer but the ship stops coming from November until July when the ice blocks the way.

Curiously, there's precious little infrastructure here even when compared to Greenland. No cellphone coverage, painfully slow internet, unpaved roads and a dock in disrepair. Supporting these incredibly remote towns must be a real headache for those that have to decide and fund these things. There is though a school, a hotel and they are building a new station for the Mounties.

We couldn't have had a warmer welcome to Canada particularly as the temperature climbed to the mid twenties which is such a stark contrast to what we have become accustomed to over the last 6 week. The mosquitoes enjoyed our visit too though!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Crossing an ocean in carpet slippers



Crossing an ocean in carpet slippers


I am quite sure that the rugged explorers of northern  waters look down on our boat as a bit of frivolous plastic philosophically unsuited to the privations of the Arctic. I can see it in their eyes as they glimpse the picture windows, the in-mast furling, the inside pilot position and the large and comfortable cockpit. The thought of plastic meeting ice almost brings the unspoken question to their lips, ‘what an earth have you brought a boat like that to the Arctic for?’


Thus far those rugged men of the north have concealed their contempt and tolerated our soft, southern ways. In fact they have always been polite, engaging and too charming to reveal their disquiet.


But now SHIMSHAL has earned her spurs with three seasons in Greenland and proved that it is possible to cruise comfortably in these waters. She’s dodged ice and storms and survived being frozen into a shipyard designed to deal with trawlers and tugs. Most importantly, her raised saloon, inside pilot station, central heating and humidity controlled interior have kept us warm, dry and framed perfect views along the way. The in-mast furling and electrically reefed  Genoa meant we had no foredeck dramas trying to reduce sail in a building wind. Instead of confronting the storms and the ice she used her technology, cunning and patience to sail daintily around such obstructions.


All boats are a compromise and SHIMSHAL will come into her own as we now cruise south into the Americas leaving the ice behind. Nevertheless she got us safely there and back in comfort. And without drama or mishap. 


How many of those rugged men of the north in their ocean 4x4’s can boast that they crossed the Davis Strait in carpet slippers? We did!


Riding Pillion with the Mounties!

Riding Pillion with the Mounties!


Chris, the delightful constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, met me at the pier on his steed. That’s a quad bike up here. He needed me to go with him to his station so that we could  call the Canadian Border Agency and negotiate our legal entry into Canada. Not an easy thing to do in remote Labrador. 


So off I went riding pillion through Makkovik (a town of 300 and one of the larger settlements in this region) and up the hill to the police station. Constable Chris had already taken a trip out to the boat and inspected our firearm and heard our story of how we had washed up in this remote corner of Canada. Not too many yachts come this way and few, if any, arrive here from Greenland!


We had already tried to call the Border Agency from our satellite phone 10 times and just got told that we must sail a hundred miles inland to check in at the official entry point. This time, when the RCMP made the call, we got a different guy who calmly took all the details and logged us onto the CANPASS system. We were legal.


Even the gun wasn’t a problem and when I offered to donate the ammunition to the RCMP his advice was, “keep it because there was a polar bear in town yesterday”!


Thus we are now legally admitted to Canada and free to wander at will. Thanks RCMP for the ride and for making that call. A great welcome to Canada and it’s good to be back in polar bear country.


When I got back to the boat freshly caught wild salmon fillets had been delivered to the boat at anchor by a fisherman and his dog. The dog was, of course, a Labrador!

Friday, 13 July 2018

The Perfect Lanfall

Perfect Conditions

As we near Canada we have the perfect conditions for our landfall. The seas are mirror smooth and we are motoring against the faintest of breezes. Although back in iceberg territory they are few and far between and visible from many miles away. Conditions could not be better.

We have chosen Makkovik to make our landfall as winds from the south are forecast tonight which would make it difficult to progress south outside of the inner passage which is not navigable at night due to ice. Makkovik has a police station so we will be able to report our Canadian arrival to the authorities there.

With land now in sight there is building excitement on board. The Canadian courtesy flag is flying and so too the Q flag for customs. For the first time in three years we have taken out the washboard and it's warm enough to sit out in the cockpit without dressing for an icy ordeal.

In five hours we should be docked or at anchor in the New World.

Communications

Communications

We tend to take the ability to communicate for granted these days but there is still a thrill to be had when a faint voice bubbles up out of the static from a distant corner of the world. That's the magic of good, old fashioned radio and I'm not really at all sure why it sets the pulse racing.

Today, for instance, whilst still 200 miles from land I thought nothing of clearing down my home email account a dozen times and dealing with the every day business that pursues us even to the Labrador Sea.

A neighbour of one of our tenants was getting agitated by an alarm in the tenant's flat and she didn't know how to contact him. I forwarded the email and the problem was sorted within an hour and the tenant marvelled that we had email contact from the middle of nowhere.

Another example. This blog is written on an iPhone, sent wirelessly to a sat phone, beamed into space and, within an instant, sits on the www for anyone to read anywhere. It works every time and all the spelling mistakes and typos are my own and not corruptions of messages as they bounce around in mysterious ways. Because it always works I take it for granted.

All of that has become routine and unremarkable. But things change at
2330 UTC when we tune into the hissing cacophony of static that is our SSB radio. Definitely a thing of the 20th century and not the 21st. Usually static is all we hear. Tonight though a familiar voice rolled out of the whirls and warbles. 'SHIMSHAL this is DESTINY' . A thrill of excitement as we heard, faint but recognisable, Andy's familiar voice bounced to us off the ionosphere and caught by our rigging which acts as our aerial.

I could have emailed him in a moment and at anytime I could pick up the phone and called him sat phone to sat phone or sat phone to cellphone but it wouldn't have been the same. Weak radio waves beamed into the sky and dragged into our radio set a thousand miles away add a magic and a mystery to an everyday correspondence. Just like it must have been in the Second World War when desperate messages were sent by desperate people risking their lives to pass on intelligence.

Maybe it's because I can understand things analogue that require ingenuity and cunning to make them work? Whereas thinks digital are beyond my understanding and are, therefore, expected to work first time and all the time.

I think the attraction is some kind of nostalgia for a time when communication was tenuous and, as a result, more precious. Long live the SSB!

147 miles to go

147 miles to go

We are through the strong wind belt and into glorious sunshine and a bright sparkling sea. SHIMSHAL took the heavier winds of last night in her stride and sailed her way through, sometimes under staysail alone. She shrugged off the thumping from the waves and kept us all warm, dry and, incredibly, un-seasick!

We have to be in port by tomorrow night as this evening we are about to scoff the last of the 'passage' meals that Sally diligently prepared in port and then froze. The smells of garlic bread and lasagne are wafting up from the galley. Outside the sparkling seas are losing their white crests and flattening out. There's not a cloud in the sky.

We will soon be back in iceberg territory but we have excellent visibility and calming seas. The concern is for the night as, now that we are at 57N, we will get a few hours of real darkness. We have checked the batteries in the spotlights and image intensifier. We will set the radar to alarm if a hard lump of anything is ahead. And we will be keeping our eyes wide open as night comes.

It's exciting to be within a days sail of the New World having come the way the Vikings came. Our journeys thus far on SHIMSHAL have taken us from Sweden to Norway, Denmark, Scotland, Wales, the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. In a few days time we will be completing our own 'Viking journey' and stepping ashore where Erik the Red first set foot in Newfoundland a millennium ago.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

283 miles to go

283 miles to go

We slipped away from Nuuk at 0900 on Monday morning believing that we had found a weather window for our long awaited crossing to Canada. The tanks were full of fuel and water and we were fully provisioned for the five day crossing.

The inner passage south of the harbour was windless and smooth but as we neared the open sea some, 25 miles to the south, the headwind and tide kicked up a boat stopping chop. Finally we dodged this by hoisting the mainsail and bearing off for the open sea at the first opportunity. A gale was blowing to the south of us kindly sending us a swell to remind us that we were heading out into the open ocean.

Unforeseen headwinds, though light, slowed us down as we motored away from Greenland for the last time. Then came murk, mist and drizzle until, finally, the midnight sunset lit up the mountains of Greenland on the far horizon. Our last glimpse of that magical coastline that has captivated us for the last three summers.

For a while the winds were favourable and we sped along on a broad reach but the that faded into more headwinds and the light and variables. A brief patch of sunshine quickly disappeared back into grey skies merged with grey seas.

The forecasts had identified a new low spinning off the Labrador Coast but nowhere near as intense as the one that thwarted us 10 days ago. We were prepared for heavier weather and this one, on the scale of Davis Strait lows, didn't look too bad so onwards and southwards we ploughed.

On our second night at sea it actually got dark which was a novel experience and a reminder that we would have to be very careful when closing the Canadian Coast as we would very much be back in iceberg territory.

With 283 miles to go all is good on board. The sails are reefed right down for the approaching low and the flat seas are beginning to stir as the winds build. And on that wind is a cold and soaking drizzle. Thank goodness for the comforts of our deck saloon which allows us to do most of our navigation in the warm and dry.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Photos around Nuuk


Atalante - our neighbours


Shimsgal along side the commercial dock


Nuuk small boat harbour 


Northabout heading to the fjords

Nine days in Nuuk



We are hoping that after 9 or 10 days weather watching and waiting in Nuuk we might get away early next week. It looks like the weather will be much quieter next week but we know that the Davis Strait has a habit of unleashing some nasty surprises and forecasts are fickle.

In the week we have been here our delightful German neighbours (from the Lake of Constance Sailing Club) have been waiting for a spare turbo charger to arrive from Denmark. The Swiss have taken apart their keel box, Northabout have sailed for Ireland and a stunning Andre Hoek super yacht, Atalante, has come and gone on it’s way to Ilulisaat to meet it’s owner. Wisely the German owner sent his delivery crew across the raging North Atlantic and did that bit himself by AirBus.

Most boats are on tight schedules and are forced to sail at times when they really shouldn’t. We have been getting increasingly stressed about our schedule which we thought was generous. However time slips away so much so that I emailed my practice to keep them in the loop about our currrnt delays. What we don’t want to do is get a lashing caused by sailing to an artificial deadline. My wonderful partners have rallied around and made contingency plans which I sincerely hope they will not have to use. If we can get off on Tuesday with a fine forecast then we should have enough time to make Lewisporte on schedule and our homeward flights on 28th. If not then we can wait it out.

Waiting




The sun is out in Nuuk so it’s no longer quite so irritating to read of the UK’s hot summer and the freakish fine weather enjoyed by most of Europe. Meanwhile a succession of vicious lows spin off the Labrador Coast and hurtle their way SE to southern Greenland whipping up the Davis Strait as they go.  

The low that we retreated from clobbered three boats that have subsequently arrived here after us. Kiwi Roa, built like a battleship out of 10mm aluminium plate and skippered by the hugely experienced Peter Smith, came alongside us with a damaged mainsail and broken ribs. Chaman, a Swiss Boreal 55, arrived from the Azores with a damaged keel and Brigantia, a German HR48 suffered engine failure and a crewman fell and gashed his forehead. Their mishap affirmed our decision to turn and run away from the storm. Chaman, incidentally, is skippered by  Dominique Wavre who is described online as Switzerland’s sailing superstar. He has been well placed in various around the world races and so with him and Peter rafted up to us we are very much in exalted company.

And so we wait here in Nuuk for a weather window to open up long enough for us to scamper across to Canada.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Maud and her tug



We are still here in Nuuk but delighted to again be tied up infront of the Maud and her tug TANDBERG POLAR. We were rafted against the tug for a few days in Aasiaat and, of course, snowshoed across the bay to the Maud when we visited Aasiaat in March. Now she is on her slow and stately way to a purpose built museum for her near Oslo. 

The Maud was built by Amundsen in1916 as a polar exploration vessel. She took 6 years to navigate the North East Passage and finally sank in Cambridge Bay in the North West Passage after being iced in. The Norwegian crew of the TANDBERG POLAR have spent 4 summers salvaging her and this summer she should finally reach Oslo. The TANDBERG POLAR spent the winter hauled out next to Shimshal at Sisak Teknik in Aasiaat.










Stig

Saturday, 30 June 2018

For those who enjoy meteorology

For those who enjoy meteorology


A couple of Screenshots of what we raced to a safe haven to avoid. Remember cold winds are denser and exert more force for a given wind speed. Hence the 7m seas.






A rainy day in Nuuk

A rainy day in Nuuk

We have been driven back to Greenland’s capital Nuuk by a major weather system that is now drenching us with rain. A very grey day in Nuuk.

There’s very little room for a sailing boat here in Nuuk and at first we tied up against a dredging barge but the harbour master didn’t like us there. In fact the harbour master didn’t like us much at all. Such a contrast to the warm welcome we received here last year.

We were moved to a commercial pier which is not designed for our slender fenders but we did what we could with our fender board and ice poles to bridge the fender eating gaps. As we did so the dock drains poured water onto us making this Shimshal’s least favourite berth ever. But, as they say, ‘any port in a storm’!