16th September 2016, by Meret:
As the landscape slowly appeared in the morning light, we approached Mugford Tickle, a narrow channel between Grimmington and Cod Island. We had tide and wind pushing us along, closer and closer to our anchorage, named Moos Harbor. Actually it is not a harbor, just a protected anchorage except for winds from the East @ N57.44.615W62.00.842.
A storm was coming and we didn’t plan on being out in the open sea for it. We entered the cove that would be our shelter and were pleased to see it was wind still, flat calm and surrounded by hills. Then we also noticed some green, it had been a while.
As some of us paddled ashore, it started raining. We got soaked through and through quickly but being able to move freely, walk, run and jump again, made it a minor matter. The kids ran ahead and started calling back to us all the interesting things they found. “Bear poop! Bear poop, with lots of berries!” We don’t know if it was polar bear or black bear poop but there was a lot of it around and some of it quite fresh. We kept our eyes peeled but we couldn’t spot the individual that had left the droppings.
Bear poop filled with berries told us one thing though: there had to be lots of berries near by. ” Blueberries! Many many blueberries! Come quick, mmmhhh they’re so good!” The berries the bear or bears hadn’t eaten, were quickly polished away by us.
Later, Andri found a huge antler and carried it along for the rest of the hike. He went on to catching little fish using empty mussel shells. Sabine’s water bottle became a temporary marine aquarium. Unfortunately, the biggest fish ate the smaller ones.
On the hike we particularly noticed one thing: the change in vegetation. There were small plants and shrubs again, forming a carpet over the rocks. The colors ranged from a deep red to light green, mixed with mustard yellow and a lichen grey and many variations there of. Every so often a yellow, purple or pink flower would also pop up. And then we saw it, the first little tree, perched on a rock in midst the stream we were crossing to get to the lake we had seen on the map. It was a conifer of sorts and no taller then 1 meter. And though some may have laughed at its size, for us size didn’t matter. It was the first tree! We are hovering just above the tree line here in Northeastern Labrador, so soon we should see more and more of this little chaps friends, something we are all dearly looking forward to.
Vagabond the white and red motor-sailor had joined Pachamama in the bay, while we were on our walk. We had been planning on meeting them before passing though the Fury and Hecla Strait but never quite caught up with them. We didn’t have very accurate charts for the Hudson Strait and a larger draft, so we didn’t anchor at all, whereas Vagabond stopped in Kimmirut. They hadn’t been planning on stopping here but a problem with their engine, made them change their plan.
Their boat is made for the ice: It has no keel, so they can pull the boat on shore in winter. The disadvantage of not having a keel however is that they have to have at least one engine running whenever they are under sail to compensate the drift. Therefore and to have enough energy to heat the boat, there fuel tank is more than 10 times bigger than ours (which is 400 l). The boat is also super strong, it is made out of 10 mm up to 20 mm steel in the front. Luckily so when they hit an ice berg at night. It still caused a lot of damage though but they did not sink. It is a work boat, where they accommodate up to 6 scientists. At the moment they are sampling for Coraline algae. These algae produce layers like “year rings” of trees, where scientists can study climatic changes.
It was a pleasant surprise to see them on the horizon and then realize they were heading straight for us. TOPtoTOP has been in contact with them for almost a decade and now they would finally get to meet in person.
Vagabond did the Northwest Passage in 2003 and France was telling us how there had been so much ice. They had been pressed up out of the water heeling over near the Mackenzie River delta at one point. This year they saw none, apart from in the Fury & Hecla Strait, where they tied on to an ice flow on purpose to enjoy the ice and drift along with the huge block, as a break.
The family on Vagabond came on land right after lowering their anchor. The children of both boats were so happy to see children other than their siblings. Soon they were all running around chasing each other and comparing their lives on boats.
The children on Vagabond spend a few months a year going to school in France, but the majority of the last five years they spent in the Arctic in Nunavut, where they joined the local school. They didn’t see a single tree in that time. This is the furthest south they have come in a long time. The two girls were so happy to see a tree, they scrambled and hopped right over to it and gave it a big joyful hug. “Maman, finalement un arbre, un arbre!”
We decide to have a joint dinner on Pachamama, as Sabine had made enough delicious mashed potatoes and lentil- apple curry for all. Just as we finished our last mouthful, SY Caledonia, who we had been in radio contact with throughout the NW Passage and who we were expecting here, sailed into the bay. They had been beating against wind and waves all day and were exhausted. This anchorage had suddenly become very popular. The children paddled over in our dingy to greet Jürgen and Claudia.
As we were chatting, the predicted wind suddenly hit. The kids now paddling over from Caledonia, were suddenly drifting quickly away from the boat. Alarmed at first we watched them prove they had grown up on boats and even from far away we could hear Salina calling: “We can make it, keep going! 1,2; 1,2! Left a bit more! Go, go, go!” As she got tired, we took over cheering them on. Sure enough they made it back and we’d be lying if we said we weren’t just a little proud.
They made it back in the nick of time though, as the wind made no attempt to build slowly, instead it hit full power like a brick wall. Its force was clearly visible: Vagabond was dragging and rapidly drifting by us, the whole crew still on Pachamama. Instantly, they gathered their things and sped off in their dingy to catch up with their boat. A re-anchoring exercise followed for Vagabond, during which we secured our boat for the storm. This means we tied ropes around the genoa, jib and main sails, so there is no way they can open. Any extra surface adds to the area that the wind can attack and could cause us to drift. The barometer had dropped from 1016 in the morning to 995 this evening, that is a lot! The storm was a foehn storm and we had over 50 knots of wind. Foehn forms locally here. The air comes over the sea and picks up lots of water vapor do it gets humid. Then the mountains force the air to rise and it cools down. Cold air can’t hold as much humidity, so it starts to rain. When the wind has passed over the mountain it drops rapidly down the otter side and warms up again. Now there is nowhere for it to pick up more humidity, so you get a very dry warm wind.
The night fell with all three boats in their chosen spots. The surprisingly warm gale tugged at our anchors testing their strength. The night sky had cleared and the beautiful bay was lit up by the full moon. Above the mountains behind us, some dark dramatic clouds were all that gave away that we were in a storm. Cosy inside the boat, Dario read us the forecast for the next two days: “North Labrador Coast, Tonight and Saturday
Storm warning in effect. Wind southeast 20 knots becoming variable 15 to 20 this evening then increasing to northwest 45 to 55 late overnight. Wind becoming northwest 45 Saturday afternoon then diminishing to northwest 25 to 35 Saturday evening.
Seas 1 metre building to 2 this evening and to 3 to 5 late overnight. Seas building to 5 to 7 Saturday morning then subsiding to 3 to 5 Saturday afternoon.
Snow or rain changing to a few flurries Saturday morning. Fog patches forming early this evening and dissipating late overnight. Visibility 1 mile or less in snow and in fog patches.”
We were all glad to be at anchor and not out in 7m waves. To be on the safe side we decided to do anchor watches. This consists of checking and writing down the coordinates, wind speed, depth, if the boat is swinging, where the boat is facing, and if the anchor is holding. If any one of these variables is off, we wake up Dario or Sabine. If the wind turns, we could be a little close to rocks to the E of us but so far it’s looking good. We are very lucky to have a great SPADE anchor, which always holds so well! Gofundme link: