As the saying goes, “there are old sailors and bold sailors, but not many old, bold sailors”. And so it’s with this maritime adage in mind that we formed our strategy for the voyage south this year. For the two previous trips south, in 2012 and 2013, from South Baffin Island to South Labrador, we have gone for the “big hop” approach, heading offshore from Qikiqtarjuaq (SE Baffin Island) and taking whatever comes our way, which inevitably includes a strong gale or two on the nose.
This year, with time on our side and a desire to explore more of the coast of Baffin Island and Labrador, we have used the “weather window” approach, moving south when the wind is in our favour, and hoping to find a secure anchorage or harbour when the gales blow through.
After the unfortunate departure of Pascale in Pond Inlet for medical reasons we were left with just Sam and myself aboard. Our first hop after getting Pascale on the plane was not a great start, as it was in the wrong direction, back to the protected harbour at Cape Hatt to wait out a gale before pushing south. When we did get going in the right direction we enjoyed a fantastic week of daysailing, stopping in seldom visited anchorages with mountain vistas and wildlife galore. The highlight: a stop in Sam Ford Fiord to visit a group of climbers aboard Dodo’s Delight with high latitude sailing/climbing legend Reverend Bob Shepton. For a night we shared their precarious “anchorage”, which resembled a climbers portaledge more than a sailors refuge, as we secured Arctic Tern to a vertical rock face with pitons fore and aft to tie our mooring lines.
In Qikiqtarjuaq we were joined by Scott, our relief crew to replace Pascale and to help bring the boat back to Lewisporte. Continuing our weather window hopping strategy, the past three weeks have coasted by with a collection of snug coves shared with caribou and polar bears, moonlit downwind sailing that resembled a trade wind passage (if it wasn’t for the down jackets and ski gloves). One evening, aurora spanned horizon to horizon, punctuated by a full moon rising, helping to guide us to a mystical feeling anchorage north of Hudson Strait, where we waited out a southerly gale before making the jump to the Torngat Mountains on the Labrador coast.
Our progress south in Labrador has been marked by stops in the Torngat National Park, followed by a couple of days in Nain as another gale blew through. Landfall in this settlement provided much needed washing and showers, courtesy of our friends at the Parks Canada office. Just by chance, this stop-over also coincided with a milestone birthday celebration for Scott, adding further credence to our “old, not bold” sailing philosophy.
Now, as we wait out the “mother of all gales” in Black Tickle, we can almost taste the cold beer and fresh cod waiting for us in Lewisporte, Newfoundland, only a couple of days away…
– Grant Redvers