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Labrador Cruising Notes: July 2010

By Sue Richards last modified Dec 13, 2010 04:32 PM

Published: 2010-12-13 16:32:41
Countries: Canada , Faroe Islands , Greenland , Iceland

Our thanks to Jim Patek of SY Let's Go! for these useful cruising notes from an area off the cruising track.

Let’s Go! visited Labrador in July 2010 on her way to Shetland, UK via the Canadian Maritimes, Greenland, Iceland and Faroe. Prior to Labrador, she sailed from Camden, Maine to Shelburne, Nova Scotia where Canadian formalities were completed most cordially and without any drama whatsoever. From Shelburne, a few overnight stops were made along the Nova Scotia coast until Baddeck, in the Bras d’Or Lakes was reached. A quick passage was made up the west coast of Newfoundland with an overnight stop at Port Aux Choix.

The absolutely essential Cruising Guide to Labrador edited by Alexander Weld and published by the Cruising Club of America is available from Maryland Nautical (www.mdnautical.com). C-Map NT was accurate and also essential as was radar given the prevalence of fog and icebergs in the Strait Belle Isle and along the southeast coast of Labrador. While it was cold at sea with water temperatures as low 5 deg C in the eastern approaches to the strait, once sheltered in the lee of the land, it was very pleasant.

Strait Belle Isle

Located between Newfoundland and the southeast coast of Labrador. In early July there were twenty four icebergs identified by Environment Canada in the Strait Belle Isle. We sailed up the west coast of Newfoundland and crossed the Strait in clear weather. We saw one iceberg. There are strong tidal currents in the Strait and we were informed by the Coast Guard that they flow continuously into the strait from the Atlantic. We found that the tidal currents up to 2 knots flowed east on the ebb and west on the flood. Commercial fisherman suggested we hug the Newfoundland coast where the current was most helpful before making the move across to the Labrador coast. We followed this advice.

Red Bay (51 deg 44 min N, 56 deg 26 min W)

The first logical anchorage when crossing the Strait from southwest to northeast. In a fresh southwest wind, the Western Arm provided a very sheltered anchorage in a pristine setting. You should push in until your bow is just off the stream flowing into the arm. Excellent holding in sandy mud.

Battle Harbour (52 deg 16.5 min N, 55 deg 35.2 min W)

The Cruising Guide for Labrador mentions a new (in 1996) 110 ft wharf where you tie up. However, this wharf has been severely damaged and is now only used when there is no alternative. A 140 ft motor vessel had reportedly used it the week prior to our visit. We were directed to another wharf.

Since Battle Harbor is a under the care of a historic trust, the staff monitor VHF 16 and direct you to the best place to moor. Our 13.4 meter yacht was easily accommodated with a sheltered berth port side the southernmost wharf with bow in (starboard tie up). The charge remains 50 cents per ft as it was in 2005 when the guide was last updated. Showers and meals are available as mentioned in the guide with reservations made at the General Store.

The staff are very friendly and helpful. Some nice social contact with visitors with whom you dine if you choose to. Fuel is not available.

Mary’s Harbour (52 deg 19 min N, 55 deg 49 min W)

The staff at Battle Harbor indicated we could refuel at Mary’s Harbour, about ten miles distance. At Mary’s Harbor, we moored alongside the commercial fishing quay on its northern side since a southerly wind was expected. Since the crabbing season was soon ending, there was no pressure for space. There is no charge. Mary’s Harbour, being an active commercial fishing port, had a well maintained quay. However, the only fuel that was available was “red” diesel that could only be sold to commercial vessels. No one was willing to sell us “Stove fuel” either, another name for clear or “white” diesel that is allowed to be sold to retail customers.

The walk from the quay to the village was quite long. However, wireless internet was available at the hotel restaurant and an ATM was nearby. While the town appeared fairly prosperous, provisions were very limited. The local fisherman were helpful in trying to locate fuel for us and driving us around town with our jerry cans.

Fox Harbour (Saint Lewis) (52 deg 22 min N, 55 deg 41 min W)

The Cruising Guide remains accurate with regard to Fox Harbour, our (initial) jumping off point for Greenland. We moored in the U-shaped commercial fishing harbor just east of the entrance to the bay, in front of the crab processing plant. Again, there was no charge. We received a tour of the processing plant and arms full of frozen snow crabs. A short walk to the village on the western shore of the bay led to a fuel truck delivering “white” diesel and we were ready to go. The locals were incredibly friendly and helpful. A truly delightful stop.

Edwards Harbour (54 deg 28 min N, 57 deg 14 min W)

Having been beaten back by a severe gale developing off Cape Farewell, Greenland, we sailed back to Edwards Harbour, Labrador to await a more favourable weather window. Again, the Cruising Guide is accurate in all respects. With the wind blowing freshly from the northwest, we anchored in the far north cove as shown on the sketch in the guide. Holding was excellent. However, at low tide, water depth was 1.5m in the cove. There is good hiking ashore in this very isolated, but protected, bay. In the morning, when the sun returned and the wind died, the mosquitoes descended in a swarm more concentrated than I had ever seen. We headed south to the town of Cartwright.

Cartwright (53 deg 42 min N, 57 deg 01 min W)

The wind was blowing freshly from the east when we arrived at Cartwright. We moored alongside the eastern commercial quay by the fish plant in 2 m. This was the only portion of the commercial docks that was truly in the lee. The wind soon blew dirt all over the boat. The next day we were requested to vacate that portion of the “public dock” so a fishing vessel could come alongside and unload. We moved to the far (south) end of the “Marine Center” quay about 300 m west of the public dock where we could moor with the bow pointing into the wind and chop from the east. We stayed only as long as it took to refuel.

Cartwright provided excellent provisions, fuel, laundry and an inexpensive local restaurant. Wireless internet was available at the only pub, under the motel. The pub opened at 7 PM.

We used the “passage to the west of Huntingdon island” referred to on page 72 of the guide entering Cartwright from the north and leaving to head north again. The instructions were easy to follow and we had no difficulty. The area is treed with mountains in the distance covered in snow and appeared to be worth exploring further.

Black Duck Harbour (53 deg 22 min N, 57 deg 03 min W)

The easterly wind we had been experiencing at Cartwright continued freshly and we sought shelter in Black Duck Harbour about 10 NM north of Cartwright that, from the chart, appeared as though it would be well protected. We found, however, that the large easterly swell (3-4 m offshore) wrapped around and through the narrow entrance while the wind was accelerated down from the steep hills above. From this I would conclude that Black Duck Harbour is best left for winds from the southerly semicircle. In addition, there were basket ball sized rocks mixed with sand in the area we were forced to anchor in due to the size of the swell. Again, a southerly would allow a yacht to be anchored off the beach and in better holding. We followed the directions in the guide attributed to Rich Feeley (p 76) and had no difficulty either entering or leaving, which we did after about 30 minutes.

Pack’s Harbour (53 deg 51.5 min N, 56 deg, 59 min W)

Within 9 NM of Cartwright and a few NM from Black Duck Harbour is Pack’s Harbour where excellent shelter and holding was found in the prevailing easterly wind and swell. The entrance to the southwest remains buoyed as described in the guide but upon leaving, our centerboard hit a rock in the channel, approximately 5 m to port of the green buoy. The guide remains accurate since its update in 2004 and we anchored where suggested. It does not appear that much has changed since then.

We departed Pack’s Harbour for Narsaq, Greenland July 20.

Jim Patek
S/V Let’s Go!

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