We had a short trip of only a couple of weeks to Newfoundland this year. The season was getting late as we departed Baddeck in the Bras d'Or Lakes of Cape Breton Island. We had intended to make a trip in 2009 but August hurricanes had delayed out departure from Lunenburg. This year we had just enough time to go and get a taste of the "Rock".
Timing our departure from Baddeck to be about two hours before the change of the tide gave us a favourable current all the way out of the Great Bras d'Or Channel and on into the Cabot Strait. We had a following wind from the southwest and a two metre swell from the northeast as we entered the straits. Conditions were uncomfortable to start the trip but as the night progressed, the left over swell diminished and we made excellent progress.
We entered the Cabot Strait with a couple of hours of daylight remaining and made good offing before the sun went down. The lights of Sydney and area dropped astern as we sailed towards Burgeo, our fist landfall in Newfoundland. Two nights at sea found us within a few miles of the coast but nothing could be seen through the mist. We were only a couple of miles off the islands that protect Burgeo when the mist thinned and the sun appeared giving us a spectacular view of the islands and hills in the distance.
Easy Go was not able to make the anchorage at Burgeo and the winds had risen from the wrong direction for us to make it in. The channel is too narrow for us to tack. We went in to King's Harbour to anchor on a good sand bottom in the mouth of King's Harbour Brook. This is a wild salmon stream located in a very scenic place and great for exploring the hills and waters in the area.
Sailing without an engine in areas of strong tidal flows and variable winds is a challenge and tends to make a cruise longer than one would experience with the aid of a motor. We have enjoyed staying long times at anchor but would recommend an auxiliary motor for anyone seriously considering a cruise to Newfoundland. We will be putting in auxiliary power next time. The sculling oar is not up to the power that nature
We journeyed by dinghy rowing to Burgeo about three miles distant. When we were about one mile from Burgeo a small fishing boat picked us up, taking the dinghy in tow. We had an informative ride into town, passing through the pond where a whale, commemorated in Farley Mowat's book " A Whale for the Killing", was shot many years ago. We were then shown where "The Boat Who Wouldn't Float" was kept during the eight years that Mowat spent here. Burgeo is road accessible and is becoming the home to many of the people who are moving in from the outports. This year Grand Brit closed. It is sad to see the traditional homes of so many being deserted due to economics. Burgeo is small with good walks and nice people. Every one we spoke to was helpful and full of stories, history and advice. We bought a few groceries and rowed back to the boat.
During our stay in King's Harbour a gale blew through. We put out an extra anchor and snuggled up to the shore to get away from the worst of the swell and waves. I don't think I would like to be there during a real blow!
Visiting the old outports in the area, seeing the piles of firewood high on the cliff tops and the hard life that the few remaining fisherman are enduring are evidence of the amount of work and strength of will that it takes to remain on the southwest coast. Rowing among the sunkers with the suck of the waves and the power of the water needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
We got a good wind and headed back towards Cape Breton staying offshore in the Atlantic. A day and a bit out we heard that Hurricane Earl was becoming a concern to Nova Scotia. We were in a race to get to River Bourgeois or find another safe anchorage. The last two days were a beat against the southwest wind and large swell coming from Hurricane Earl. We entered St. Peter's Bay at three am where a total power failure on shore extinguished all the shore lights including the lighthouses. We reached between the two green markers located at Cap Ronge and Petit Nez until daylight then proceeded on. Tacking back and forth in the Lennox Passage we waited for the tide to turn and allow us to entre River Bourgeois. Late in the morning we made our way in under sail, put down the anchor a breathed a sigh of relief that we were in a safe anchorage. We spent the following morning getting down extra anchors and chain in what the Sailing Directions indicated was a good anchorage. Snug and secure we waited for Earls arrival blissfully unaware of the events that would take place in 24 hours as Earl blasted through and set us on shore.