July 1, 2011
As always, the weather determines our schedule, but specifically, it’s the wind we pay attention to most. The push northward has been at a good clip, but sometimes waiting for the right weather window can feel like forever. Onboard Elizabeth we yammer on and on about the weather, so much so, that it seems to comprise about 90% of our conversation, the other 10% must be food related.
Eric & Susan Hiscock have remarked that their long term cruising (and marital) success can be attributed to waiting for favorable conditions. Sometimes, it takes a lot of patience to wait for the right wind. Bob, our new found friend aboard Easy-Go, an engines Benford design has been waiting for over 3 weeks for the right wind to move his boat 3 miles through the locks. Now that is some patience indeed! Our window was a 20knot South-Easterly. Perfect for crossing the Cabot Strait and making a run up the west side of Newfoundland.
Our new friends aboard Hannah, a beautiful gaff rigged double ender built of ferro cement was also on their way out of the lakes to catch the SE’lies, and we enjoyed their company for a few minutes and exchanged some kind words about each other’s boats.
The North exit/entrance to the Bras D’or Lakes can be tricky. It’s a narrow opening through which a lot of water must flow, resulting in a strong current. Opposing wind a current can produce standing waves that will not only stop the boat, but push it backwards, or worse yet, onto the shoals that surround the channel. Even with light easterlies, we saw a momentum-stopping wave set upon our exit, and without the current flushing us out to sea, we would have been going absolutely nowhere. If those waves had been any bigger, we would not have made it out. We’ll miss the Bras D’or Lakes — it was warm and calm in the lakes, a welcome change from our journey so far.
The Cabot Strait (Between Nova Scotia & Newfoundland) is also known for it’s dicey wind and steep seas. Again, the contrary personalities of wind and current can co-mingle with an unpleasant result. However, our crossing proved to be serene…one of the merits of waiting for the right weather. And the stars… the milky way… so bright, so vivid. Studying this intense night sky helped pass the lonely cold night watches.
The west coast of Newfoundland is bold with steep cliffs and breathtaking ravines. Not surprisingly, there was still snow in these mountains. We enjoyed a good, but chilly, sail up the coast—for a while—then our wind died, completely. It was a welcome change of pace. We had not seen such flat calm seas since leaving the dock in Huntington, NY. We pressed on in search of an iceberg. The sea was flat, but the sky was foggy and rainy. Through the mist we heard the ‘whoosh’ of a porpoise exhaling. Then we’d see them, a whole bunch of them swimming towards us. They’d swim alongside the boat for a few minutes, then be on their way. There aren’t many boats out and about up this way. The occasional fishing boat or two, but we haven’t seen another “yacht” since we left Cape Breton.
As we crept up the coast, the bold cliffs diminished and the terrain took on a flatter, lower look just as the water temperature dropped. We are approaching the Straights of Belle Isle, where the Labrador current flows into the St. Lawrence. This is whale territory. This is the western extent of iceberg alley.
Humpbacks in the fog. Thick fog. We could barely make them out, but there were so many, I could’t even count them. This is where Carpon, the whales’ food source, are plentiful. So abundant this year, that they are washing up on the beaches of Northern Newfoundland. The locals enjoy drying and salting them. The whales I suppose enjoy them cold and wet.
Now with a stiff NE’ly blowing, we rounded the northern most corner of Newfoundland called Cape Bauld and made way for St. Anthony, the big “city” of the Great Northern Peninsula. We’ve heard that a few large chunks of the Peterman glacier are on their way south, and will be passing by here any day now. Sounds like a good place to see an iceberg we thunked.