A sailing expedition always has an ETD, an estimated time of departure. The day the adventure begins. The day you cast lines and leave terra firma for the open seas.
We were well ready, precisely on schedule, when that day arrived in Gananoque, Ontario. We sailed safely and quickly to Québec City. But then, as any adventure deserving of the title requires, we met a headwind – a mechanical one in this case – before we could head offshore and make sail for Greenland. Consequently, the stopover in beautiful Québec City lasted a few days longer than planned; time for the whole crew to settle in on board, meet and start working together. Waiting for parts for the engine, we had time to do a lot of the little jobs that every vessel demands: seal the hatches, make sure everything on deck is well attached, scrub the deck, change the carpet, etc. We may have been behind schedule for the journey, but we were ahead of schedule for maintenance!
With the engine repaired and purring, we were more than ready for leaving and could not wait to be sailing toward the Strait of Belle Isle. We left Québec city on June 15th, the day of the music festival, leaving those parties and excitement to the people on land. Time for us to be Sailors!
Let me introduce the crew as we start to sail along Baie-Saint-Paul and Tadoussac with light winds and helpful tide currents: Grant (captain), his partner Pascale (first-mate and communication manager) and Valentine (second-mate and Science/logistics manager) are the same crew members as last summer. We welcome Samuel on board with us, as a biologist and in charge of the pelagic bird survey we will do all along the way.
We reached Havre-Saint-Pierre after only 2 days, time for refueling at the dock and 2 hours later, we were heading for Blanc Sablon. This region is famous for its often foggy, windy and icy conditions, even in June/July. Last year, it confirmed its reputation, this year we were luckier and only had strong winds! But… from the north-east…
Do you know the impression of hammering when you are motoring against the wind? Each big wave has an impact on our speed, and Blanc Sablon seems a bit harder to reach everytime. Despite Samuel being seasick and our feeling of being in a washing machine, 20 hours later and in the middle of a dark wet night facing 25-30 knots, we finally approach Blanc Sablon with excitement and hopes! Time to rest, time to dry, time to eat, time for a little break if possible. A beluga (quite rare in this area!) is even around the boat and seems to show us the way! Among the fishing boats well tied up at the dock, we manage to find a spot around 2AM on Wednesday.
It feels good to be already here after 4 days on the water, meet friendly faces as everytime we pass by this unavoidable stop in the Strait of Belle Isle. The beluga seems to enjoy our presence as well, turning around the Arctic Tern, sticking his rostrum to the hull, swimming on his side as if he had a look at us starring. Who is observing who? As we go to bed, we hear him “sing” across the hull, nice berceuse.
June 20th: time now to prepare the crossing to Greenland, checking the weather, and everything on deck, going for fresh food, having a shower. Watching the ice charts, we learn that the Strait of Belle Isle is full of icebergs. Already 2 massive ones in front of the harbour give us a hint of what is further east. “More ice than in the past 7 or 8 years, maybe back to normal” as a local fisherman told us.