Log #50g Across to Newfoundland

September 4, 2010 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 50, The Logs

St. Pierre, (a territory of France)

Sept. 4, 2010

Hi Folks,
We are in St. Pierre, a French territorial island here in the Gulf of St. Lawrence just off the Burin Peninsula on the south coast of Newfoundland. We would have spent another couple of days in the fiords of Newfoundland, but we ran out of propane and had to head more directly down to Fortune on the Burin Peninsula to resupply.

As Hurricane Earl is currently headed northwards along the coast of Nova Scotia, we have stayed alongside here in St. Pierre for a few days and will wait until it has passed us, and then we will head west across to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The hurricane is not expected to come over this way, but is headed up the coast of Nova Scotia. We may get some heavy winds here, but we are securely alongside a large fixed dock, and don’t plan to leave until it has passed and the seas have settled down.

This log takes us from Riviere-aux-Renard in Quebec 246 miles across the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Port aux Basques in Newfoundland, an enjoyable two day passage. The one attached picture is of Port-aux-Basques. We were alongside in the second bay on the right side of the picture. Beyond it is the ferry terminal for the Port-aux-Basque to Sydney, Nova Scotia ferry, a picture which I have also attached.

We are OK and will wait out any storms which may come our way. Judy just returned from a friend’s boat and reported the winds here are expected to hit 55 knots. We have doubled up our lines, and Judy has lashed a line around our sail cover, and is taking down our dodger, precautions I think are excessive, but we will see if such was necessary. I want to get this off before it hits in a few hours and I will let you know the severity of the storm in my next log.

All the best,
Aubrey

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Log #50g Across to Newfoundland

St. Pierre
Sept. 4, 2010

Aug. 13 we hoisted the main before weighing anchor at 0930, to motor out of Riviere-au-Renard for our 250 mile passage across the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.

As we motor sailed out into the morning calm waters of the St. Lawrence off the Gaspe coast, I found myself thinking about the history the St. Lawrence has seen; the explorations of Cartier and Champlain, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West company fur traders in their cargo canoes, the English fleet with Wolfe besieging Quebec (incidentally, Captain James Cook was the navigator for that fleet), the ongoing conflict between Britain and France, the repelled American invasion in the war of 1812-1814, the cruise liners that plied the river heading from Europe to Quebec and Montreal, including the ill fated Empress of Ireland, the German U-boats that sank several ships in the St. Lawrence River and the wide expanse of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the fishing boats and the merchant ships — coastal traders, long ore-carrying lakers, giant tankers and towering container ships, some breaking their cargo at Montreal or Quebec and others going another 2500 miles into the heart of North America as far as Chicago at the base of Lake Michigan or Thunder Bay at the head of Lake Superior – all traversing the mighty St. Lawrence. The St. Lawrence is indeed a river of history.

Out into the Gulf we were out of sight of land for two days. It was the same as being on the open ocean, as Judy and I got into our sea watch routine. During the day we would alternate casually whoever was on watch. If I was on watch and wanted to go below to do something, I would tell Judy she has the watch, or vice versa if she was going below. This way we know who is responsible for keeping a lookout at all times. At sea I do most of the cooking and below deck chores as Judy’s stomach does not feel comfortable when she is down below. We followed the same nigh watch routine as on previous passages, whereby I take the first watch after supper until midnight or so, when I would make her a mug of tea and call her for the middle watch from midnight to 0400 or 0500 or so. Then I would take the morning watch until she gets up between 0800 and 0900 after which we follow the informal day routine. I sometimes have a hard time getting to sleep at sea, and thus I am happy to have that first watch to get me tired and sometimes I will take a Gravol seasick pill to help me sleep. Another advantage I like about my watch times is that I get to see some spectacular sunsets and sunrises. On this trip I saw the green flash both evenings, as the air was clear and there was no land or clouds on the horizon to obscure the view. I was surprises as I thought the green flash was a southern phenomenon only, as we had seen several down in the Caribbean. As the sunsets and the upper orb just goes below the horizon, an iridescent green fringe can be seen for a couple of seconds.

The first day we were able to shut the engine off within a half hour of our departure, and we had an enjoyable broad reach for the next seven hours with a gentle ten to twelve knot west wind from slightly aft the beam gently, quietly wafting us southwest for over 30 miles. It was an idyllic sail, including a pod of dolphin we saw feeding accompanied by a flock of graceful gannets swooping and feeding as well on a school of fish just below the surface. I had out a couple of fishing lines all day, but caught nothing. In the evening the wind dropped down and we motor sailed most of the night until 0620 next morning when I called Judy to help get the spinnaker up.

We had another fantastic day with the spinnaker wung out to starboard and the main held out to port with a preventer. (A preventer is a line from the boom to the forward part of the side deck to prevent the boom from accidentally swinging across if the wind shifts and backs the main, causing an accidental gybe) We sailed under the spinnaker and full main all day until 1730 when the wind again lessened to light evening breezes and we motor sailed all night. It was one of those glorious days under full sail, with the wind in the right direction, the sun was out (even if a bit on the cool side) and all was well with the world! I even saw a second green flash at sunset.

Next morning we called Port aux Basques traffic radio to report our arrival at the 12 mile first reporting point. The operator took our details, and requested us to check in again at the five mile and two mile radius points and indicated there was no traffic in the area other than local open fishing boats.

This south western coast line of Newfoundland is a rugged, deeply indented, craggy, granite shoreline with rocky shoals extending outwards. The low lying rolling hills ashore are matted with low boreal vegetation, and no trees. We saw several fishermen in their open boats, most giving us a friendly wave as we passed. Around Channel Head lighthouse, we motored up the estuary past the Coast Guard station and around the first and second breakwaters to go alongside the floating dock of Port aux Basques (47 34.47N, 059 08.33W). We were in Newfoundland after a pleasant voyage of 48 hours and 246 miles.