July 20, 2014
We are now cruising in some very remote areas where the scenery is majestic and there are very few people. We are seeing dozens of icebergs and have tuned our radars to be sure we can spot them. The cruising here is definitely more challenging, requiring a lot more attention. We are very glad that we are traveling in the company of Migration as having someone to talk to, compare observations, and discuss plans helps us all to feel more comfortable and make better decisions.
Labrador used to be home to large fishing fleets, but in 1992 a moratorium on cod fishing was imposed due to over fishing. Many of the coastal villages are now abandoned and although fishing for cod has resumed, it is nowhere close to the levels of old. Labrador has a huge landmass but a population of only 40,000 people, so the inhabited villages are few and far between.
We have done some great hikes, but are taking care to ensure that we all make it back safely. We have seen one brown bear so we take along our bear spray, as well as copious amounts of bug spray, a personal EPIRB (rescue transmitter), first aid kit, tools, water, and snacks. There are no actual trails in the places we’ve been, so hiking involves a fair amount of bushwhacking – finding a way through forests and undergrowth and ensuring you can find your way back. The terrain is nothing short of spectacular with soft moss and lichens making it feel as if you are walking on carpet. But we are bundled up even though it is mid-summer and it is clear that the environment here is harsh and unforgiving.
After just a few days, we have become accustomed to seeing icebergs. They come in all shapes and sizes and we’ve altered course a couple of times to go closer for some special photos. It’s hard to describe the awe one feels when dwarfed by these massive ice structures!
At or first stop in Labrador, Pitt’s Harbour, Migration launched their small tender and we went set out to harvest some ice from a nearby growler – a small iceberg easily reachable. George came equipped with a machete and we brought small coolers to fill with ice – we truly enjoyed our drinks that evening and have plenty of “iceberg ice” in our freezers! Nearby was a mostly abandoned village, though a few of the cottages still look as if they are used occasionally. There are no roads leading here, so if people come, they would do so by boat in the summer or snowmobile in winter when the water is frozen over. We enjoyed a long hike up a nearby hill, mostly climbing over gently sloping boulders and moss-lined bogs but occasionally requiring some ingenuity to find a way through the thick underbrush. We were rewarded with great views in all directions.
Our next stop was Battle Harbour, named not for a battle, but for a corruption of the Portuguese word for boat. This small settlement used to be a hub for the cod fishing industry and is now a historic trust, being restored and promoted as a tourist destination, though on a very small scale. Our cruising guidebook noted that there is a 110’ dock available and we were able to reach the town by VHF radio. They confirmed that there was room on the dock for one boat and plenty of space for us to “raft up” – tie the second boat to the side of the first. Migration tied up to the dock in order to make it easier for Gulliver to get ashore and soon we were secured to Migration.
We enjoyed a guided tour of the historic town, then explored hiking trails that led to a cemetery, a plane crash site, and the “Marconi Towers”, early telegraph stations. Battle Harbour is famous as the site where Admiral Peary held his press conference after being the first person to reach the North Pole. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Loft, along with eight other folks who had arrived for a visit by ferry. Incredibly, Battle Harbour even had internet!
Next we continued north to Eagle Cove, with another stop for a photo op with an iceberg. Eagle Cove was a beautiful anchorage – very peaceful, scenic, and remote. George and Gulliver picked us up for another wonderful hike – again with no trails and a combination of beauty, harshness, and grandeur. George and Marci joined us for a turkey dinner aboard Shear Madness and we all slept very soundly!
Needing a day of rest for our aching joints after the previous days hike, we decided to pull anchor and keep moving. We encountered a small whale visiting our anchorage – he swam around for quite some time, though he was quite camera shy and we never got a photo. Our exit took us through the “Squasho Run”, a narrow but very deep channel through spectacular cliffs and soon we were once again dodging icebergs. This time we stopped so that George could launch his drone – a remote controlled helicopter that carries a camera to record aerial video!
So far Labrador has been everything we had hoped for – exciting, scary, breathtaking, remote, exhilarating – and every day seems to just get better! Click photos to enlarge – they are low resolution due to limited bandwidth!