My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.
Two years ago I reached Cartwright, Labrador, frightened, discouraged and exhausted. The voyage to Ungava seemed at an end after years of endless mechanical troubles along a coast of rocks, shoals and islands and sudden, unforgiving changes in the weather. I had turned back just north of here with yet more strange noises from the engine compartment and losing half the engine oil.
I put the boat up for sale on a website and took the Northern Ranger cargo-passenger ship north down the coast so that I could at least see what I was missing. A week later I returned more settled, took the boat off the market and started a slow, wary trek south to the only place in Labrador where a boat can be hauled out. As I’ve written before it was simple choice of “get out or get in deeper”. So I choose deeper, went to school, went house-painting to pay extra bills, worked on Kuan Yin some more.
And yesterday I arrived back in Cartwright – one of only 4 communities along the Labrador coast – after a week of sailing with no major problems, despite the fogs and some icebergs. I feel like Kuan Yin and I have slain a personal monster. It certainly feels like a huge weight has been lifted from me and the boat.
And I now have the wonderful Cape Horn windvane self-steering installed and working. Which means that after more than 2500 miles of hand steering in all weathers and sea conditions, Kuan Yin now steers herself and I am free to make a meal or drink a coffee or keep warm down below. My sincere thanks to Orland Larson and his Foundation for the lifetime achievement award that enabled me to purchase the Cape Horn and to Yves Gélinas the inventor of the ingenious mechanism.
Coming down the coast (or north) each day has brought it’s delights and challenges. A few days ago, with blue skies, Kuan Yin was romping along at 4 knots with just two sails, the Cape Horn windvane doing all the steering in about 15 knots of wind. Then about a mile from the entrance to a fjord-like entrance to the anchorage I’d selected for the night, the wind increased significantly and thick thick fog came down. I could not see anything at all. Trust your instruments! Thankfully I’ve been using the radar (other fog!) and found the entrance (which came up much sooner than I would have thought) and turned in, unable to see anything, not sure at all where the reefs and islands and wall of rock were around me.
Then suddenly I saw breakers at the foot of the wall of rocks as I was approaching rapidly. Actually this was a good thing – once you find one danger, you can keep away from all the others. So I hugged the wall of rocks going inside the fjord, passing the reefs, islands totally unseen. On the wall of rocks I did notice a single green rope dangling in the water (I was that close!). Finally I reached the cove I was aiming for, only to discover an iceberg emerging from the fog. Don’t argue with icebergs. So I anchored in the southern passage.
Next day I found I was just yards from an unmarked rock, but the wind held the boat off. In the afternoon a local man came into the cove – it was his winter cabin on the shore 200 yards away, he said. Notice the boarded up window, he said, to keep out polar bears in the spring. It was his green rope that I’d seen dangling on the rock wall. Is that for salmon, I asked him? I’m Métis, he said. We chatted some more and then he pulled out a magnificent salmon from a sack, asked for a knife, and gave me half of it. We laughed , because for a non-native, non-resident even to be given salmon is illegal and the Department of fisheries patrols are apt to show up anytime (it’s happened to me in a bay 18 miles from the nearest community). What a day!
I am ever mindful and grateful for the unending help and support of so many friends and others without whom I would not be exploring this extraordinary part of the globe nor hot on the trail of the Voyage of 1811.
You can check on Kuan Yin’s location by clicking on this Where Am I? link.