Blog Archive

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Moose Joose

The Vikings named this land “Vinland” which conjours up images of acre upon acre of neatly pruned grape vines spanning the land. When the modern European settlers got here they named it “Newfoundland” and, in this new land, there was no trace of a grape or of vine. Just thousands of square miles of forest. Black spruce, birch, maple and juniper grow everywhere out the peat bogs. In the clearings and beneath the canopy grow the berries that feed the moose, the birds and the bears. Blueberries, partridge berries, cloud berries to name but a few.

At Twillingate today we ate a late lunch at the cafe next to the “Vinery” which made us wonder, “had those Vikings been right all along?”

Fascinated we bought a bottle of Moose Joose which is sold as, “a delicious local wine”. But, unfortunately for the Vikings, it is made of blueberries and partridge berries not the product of the vine. Whether it is any good or not we will find out tomorrow when we test it out on friends.

Saturday, 22 September 2018


With winds gusting to 45 knots we left the boat to take care of itself on it’s jackstays and drove up to Twillingate to visit the Boat Building Museum there. We even bought a $5 raffle ticket to win one of their boat building projects. Not sure how we will get it home if we win!


The season is drawing rapidly to a close now and SHIMSHAL has been lifted out at Lewisporte. We had to let go the back stays and drop the radar and wind generator poles to squeeze into the lift. Even then we were an exact fit!

It’s 5 years since we were Copper Coated so, after a good pressure hosing we sanded the hull and exhausted ourselves applying four coats of 2 part epoxy mixed with 40% copper filings.

Then there was all the winterising jobs to prepare her for a Newfoundland winter. It should be less harsh than last year’s in Greenland.

Gros Morne

We had a great few days hiking in Gros Morne. We climbed. The Gros Morne itself and took a boat trip on Westbrook Pond. Then we hiked along the shore of Trout Brook Pond.

We learned a lot about plate tectonics along the way and the origin of the Tablelands.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Luke’s Arm

Luke’s Arm

We had two sets of charts for a superbly sheltered bay SE of Cottlesville on New World Island. Each chart showed different depths for the entrance. One gave a minimum depth of 2m and the other of 4m. 

For the first time in years we had our forward looking sonar working with it’s freshly soldered connections and new transducer. We had removed it when in the ice for fear that it would be destroyed by an angry encounter with a growler. Today we made our approach with the sonar scanning 50m ahead. There was no obstruction to be seen and, indeed, the minimum depth we recorded during our low tide approach was 8 metres so neither chart was even close!

The pool within was perfect. Above the orange seaweed shore lay the variegated greens of aspen quaking in the breeze, silver birch and black spruce. There were a few wooden jetties in various states of disrepair, a tied up trawler, various rickety sheds and a few scattered houses each with their log stores neatly stacked and ready for the winter.

The anchor bit sweetly into the mud giving us a good firm holding and the prospect of a peaceful, stress free night. We wandered ashore and struck up some conversations with a carpenter and a fisherman. Once again comprehension was a challenge as the dialect here seems to be thicker than ever.  One exchange from the dinghy to a guy on the shore left both Sally and me clueless about what he had said!

In the evening we flew the drone high above the forest trying to capture the pure evening light and serenity of the moment. It was the first drone flight for a couple of months and rustiness at the controls, overhanging trees and flight over water made sure that it was an anxious few minutes in the air. But all went well and the drone lived to fly another day!



I tried to do something pretty darned stupid this morning and, as a consequence, thought for a few minutes that I had broken the gearbox on the windlass. 

Instead of leaning over the pulpit and taking off the chain hook that attaches the snubber to the chain I tried to winch the hook past the roller to make it easier to reach and remove. But the hook snagged the stem fitting and there was a sickening crunch before I could stop the windlass. The hook jumped off the chain but the gypsy on the windlass span freely and let out another few metres of chain before I had it locked off.

The soul searching began. What a stupid thing to do! On the good side we were in a lovely protected anchorage and the wind was forecast to drop so lifting 40 metres of chain and 45kg of anchor could easily be done with patience and perseverance. Sadly though we would be done with anchoring for this season and, if the gearbox was wrecked, the beginning of next season would be spent replacing it which is a hard task in the cramped confines of the anchor locker. I had to find out what I had broken.

With an armful of my favourite tools I sallied forward to the bow on a bright and sunny morning. A perfect day for boat maintenance! I whipped  off the capstan and confirmed that the gypsy was rotating freely around the spindle of the motor but that the spindle would not spin on it’s own.  That was a good sign as it meant that the gearbox must be OK and that it must just have been a sudden loosening of the friction break between gypsy and capstan that had caused the heart stopping crunch. I put everything back together, tightened the clutch and, to my immense relief, the gypsy span with the motor bringing the chain with it. Nothing broken after all!

Moments later the anchor was up with a huge ball of stinking, dripping mud and we were on our way north to Luke’s Arm where we would be able to anchor!

Blueberry Pie in Comfort Cove

For the last few days it’s been blueberries with everything. Blueberry crumble, blueberry pancakes and blueberries with cornflakes. Tonight, at anchor in Newstead Harbour, we have fresh baked blueberry pie. It turns out we have missed the cloudberry season but we should be here for the partridge berries in a couple of weeks time.

First thing this morning we crept very gently past ‘SHIMSHAL ROCK’ within the marina which is now clearly marked with an isolated danger buoy. The rock is named after us because we discovered it on our Lewisporte arrival in July when we were following the Harbour Master’s launch to our allocated berth.

It was a perfect morning with warm sunshine, a clear blue sky and a gentle breeze. We headed north for a couple of hours before passing inside Comfort Island and entering Newstead Harbour. As we came to the anchorage I went forward to drop the anchor confident that the windlass was working because I had tested it just 3 hours before. I pressed the control button but the windlass was dead! Fortunately I was able to jump start it with a screwdriver and we quickly got the anchor down and well dug in.

It didn’t take long to discover that it was a corroded ‘waterproof’ fuse holder that had failed. Fortunately I had a spare which I installed in a more protected position.

With the windlass fixed and a fresh blueberry pie baked it was time to row ashore for an evening stroll in the warm sunshine. 

Comfort Cove still has a working seafood processing plant and there was a 60’ shrimp  / crab dredger tied up at the dock. A local sailboat was rafted up there too but there was nobody aboard.

On the way back to the boat we passed by Solomon’s Island with it’s lovely board walk out to the island in a salt marsh. According to a local we met the island had been a saw mill but the trees have taken over and now it is a nature reserve glowing in the evening sun.

Picture above is of Shimshal Rock in Lewisporte Marina. First discovered by our keel and now permanent marked.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Foraging with the locals

The logging road on the way to Brown’s Arm was recommended for blueberrying by folk at the sailing club so off we went with the bikes in the boot. Where the paved road came to an end we started pedalling the Montagues. 

For 12 years our folding mountain bikes (made by Montague)  have lived in the bilges. They had no use at all in Greenland there being a distinct shortage of roads so today was the day they got liberated, dusted off and oiled. It was miraculous that all bits worked despite their long sojourn in the bilge.

We shot off on the rough logging road on a bluberrying mission but then we realised neither of had any idea what a Newfoundland blueberry plant looked like!

At first we saw nothing with berries at all so we stopped and walked into the forest where we found lots of interesting plants but none sporting a blue berry.  Further on we spotted a swamp and wandered over in search of our quarry. Sundews, bladder worts and strange fruit bearing flowers were in abundance. Then we found a few blue berries but they didn’t look quite right being on long stalks and arising from some pointy leaves close to the ground. We decided not to taste them which was probably a good job as we then found the real blueberries a mile or two further along the track.

The give away was the cluster of rugged trucks pulled over on the verge and some grey heads ducking in and out amongst the stunted spruce and silver birch. It was obviously a prime picking spot favoured by locals and it was reassuring to find we were picking the right fruit and not harvesting a toxic mix of poison berries. Google later told us that our first blue coloured berry is  rich in cyanide!

We filled a couple of Tupperware boxes whilst the locals plundered the bushes by the bucket load. 

Then it was a zoom downhill and onto the supermarket to buy essential blueberry condiments such as whipping cream. Tonight on the menu we have blueberry pie with blueberry pancakes for breakfast and I’m even promised blueberry cheesecake if we repeat the whole adventure another day.

Sunday, 2 September 2018


Above is the current ice chart with the eastern entrance  to the Bellot Strait marked by a yellow arrow. Blue is open water and only the green represents ice that can be safely navigated by leisure craft. The red area represent almost unbroken ice occupying >90% of the surface.

Most of the remaining boats attempting the transit of the North West Passage have set themselves a retreat deadline of the 2nd September as that is when they expect the ice conditions to be as good as they are going to get. But that may be too late! The Canadian Coastguard and other respected authorities have warned that the ice this year is exceptionally heavy and that it is already beginning to re-form in their wake thus closing off their retreat.

Already one boat has been sunk by the ice. An Argentinian couple on their newly purchased Ovni 345 (an aluminium 38’ sailing boat) had tied up to an ice floe at the entrance to the Bellot Strait. Unfortunately conditions deteriorated in the night and they were battered and squeezed between other ice floes swept on them by a brisk current. The hull was breached and the boat sank quickly leaving the crew stranded on an ice floe and defenceless against polar bears. Swept on by the current they desperately sent out a MAYDAY by radio which was picked up by two other yachts anchored in the area as well as a cargo vessel. In the darkness boats and tenders struggled to reach them but were beaten back by dense ice propelled by a swift tide. The shipwrecked crew spent a cold and lonely night drifting in the ice choked Bellot Strait before a rescue helicopter was scrambled from a Coast Guard icebreaker. They were safely evacuated early the following morning.

Of the three sailing boats left on the eastern side of the Bellot Strait one upped anchor and left for France only to be turned around by the ice that had closed the entrance to Prince Regent Sound which is their only feasible exit.

Two yachts remain poised to attempt the risky passage west through the Bellot Strait where tides run at 8 knots and the surface is still 90% ice. One boat is GRP and the other is metal. Both must now seriously be contemplating a winter in the ice.

There are commercial ships in the area and ice breakers are patrolling but being towed on a short line behind an icebreaker is no place for a plastic boat as it would be tossed around by broken ice floes in the turbulent wake. One hopes that they can receive provisions from the commercial vessels as one of the boats is just 50’ and has 8 crew on board.

Against all the odds a German boat, S/V Thor has forced its way west and is hurrying on past Cambridge Bay. This was their reward for several days of drifting in 9/10 ice on the west side of the Bellot Strait. It is a strong boat (Garcia 58) that is built for the ice and if it gets all the way to the Bering Straits then it may well be the only small boat to transit the NWP this year.

Many great sailors and strong sailboats are already well on their way home having taken the Canadian Coastguard’s advice to turn around 10 days ago. Dominique Wavre (veteran on many Vendée Globe races) on his Boreal 54 is now sailing south down the Greenland coast. The OCC’s S/V Destiny (Van de Stadt 48) is approaching Greenland having used great ingenuity to nurse a broken transmission for the thousand mile retreat.  Another boat got holed but repaired is also safely on it’s way south. 

Meanwhile, the formidable S/V Kiwi Roa, skippered by it’s equally rugged builder Peter Smith, sits patiently in a safe anchorage biding his time. Peter has a safe exit and doubtless he is just giving nature one last chance to open up his way to the west. Unlike the crowded boat on Prince Regent Inlet he and his partner will have enough provisions on board to play the long game without outside help.

The image above shows the position of Kiwi Roa ringed in red and anchored in Navy Board Inlet.