Saturday, August 08, 2015

Icebergs and Whales

                                                Our first view of Labrador 
We sailed across the Strait of Belle Isle yesterday.  We had a favourable SW wind but we did not get to enjoy the scenery because the entire journey was made in dense fog.  It is a good thing our radar and AIS are in good working order. When we were within 5 miles of Red Bay, Labrador,  Barry saw a contact on the radar, we could not hear anything and figured it might be a fishing boat mucking about out in the Strait. We steered away from it and inched our way into the harbour at Red Bay, completely blind. We set anchor and soon the fog began to lift. We were in a lovely protected bay, the small town laid out in front of us. 
 We were very excited to see a bergy bit floating into the harbour and as we rounded the corner to go take pictures in the dinghy, we saw the bigger berg grounded in the entrance. 
We had sailed right past it without even knowing, then it dawned on us, the mysterious radar contact that we couldn't hear was most likely an iceberg, as well. 
   A 400 year old shaloop, a small boat used to harpoon the whales, found beneath the San Jaun. 

Red Bay was the site of a Basque whaling community in the 1500's.  A woman archaeologist poured over old documents in Spain and discovered that there had been a whaling settlement here.  Discoveries were made in the 1980's of ruins of the pots they used to render the blubber into oil.  There was also an indication in the literature that a whaling ship had gone down in the harbour.  An underwater excavation was undertaken and the San Jaun was discovered. There is a huge wreck,1985, that is still aground and they followed it's path to doom to find the vessel that sank in 1587. Instead of trying to re float the San Juan they just brought up every timber, measured it and took pictures and then returned it to the deep.  There is a scale model of it in the museum with the timbers they recovered done in a different colour than the rest so you can see how much they actually recovered. There were as many as 2,000 men and boys there at one time, now it is a town of 300.
My hand compared to a whale's fluke, and note my elegant boat attire, there is a layer there you cannot see!! 
We woke this morning to a clear day and the thermometer read 10 degrees, yikes!  Luckily I had my new woollen Labrador socks on to keep my feet warm. 

The Labrador flag is green and blue with that plant in it, I imagine it is meant to be Labrador tea, but I am just guessing. As we getting ready to pull anchor Barry said "look" and out in the Strait was another iceberg which somewhat resembled a house.  
We headed out and circled the two icebergs that had appeared. While we were heading towards them, there was a big  splash and there were bergy bits everywhere. We were gazing fascinated at the behemoth and a whale blew in the distance, it's spume hanging in the air so we could spot it.  Can it get any better than this!  As they say, a picture tells a thousand words so I will let them speak for themselves. 
The second one was much smaller and ready to break in two. 

We had set sail to return to Newfoundland when two whales surfaced fairly near us, wow, wow! After they had gone past us and were what we figured a safe distance away they put on a show, breaching and tail flapping. There were whales everywhere, this would be similar to the spectacle we had off of Cape Cod.  I guess those Basque whalers knew a good thing when they saw it!! 
It is really hard to take a good picture of a whale while underway, with all that flapping and blowing going on and the boat heaving and rolling beneath your feet, it is a miracle if you get a good picture, I will save you the torture of looking at my miserable attempts. A description is in order though.  First you hear the exhalation of air as the whale surfaces, and you look around to spot the water molecules hanging in the air. If you are lucky the whale starts to breach, a big black torpedo goes straight up into the air and gradually it falls backwards into the water and there is an almighty splash, the white water cascading everywhere. When you are quite a distance away, you can see the splash and then hear the whap as 15 tons of whale hits the water. Next it might try the tail flap, the tail appears and whack whack whack, the sound races across the water towards you just after you watch it happen and see the water soar up around it, quite the spectacle. Meanwhile Barry is having a fit, I must admit when they are within 20 meters of the boat I am hoping that they don't pick that particular moment to decide to breach, they never have,  so I figure they know we are there and are being careful!! 

As I sit in the cockpit sipping on my rum and coke, cooled with 10,000 year old ice, I wonder does it ever get any better than this.  This day has been one of the highlights in our nine years of cruising. 

We are using " The Cruising Guide of Nfld." published by Members of the Cruising Club of America and so far it has been very helpful.
Ports or Anchorages
Flower Cove  51*18' N X 56*45' W
Tied to the dock which was under reconstruction, to be finished fall of 2015.
No services on dock at this time.
Groceries, liquor and fuel available 20 min. away on foot. 
Entrance had lots of hazards but was well bouyed with leading lights. 
Red Bay, Labrador  51*44' N X 56*26' W
Anchored in harbour in 8m. between Saddle Island and the mainland. 
Good holding in settled weather. 
No info on services in town. 
Great museum on Basque whaling ashore, well worth the stop. 
Hay Cove, Nfld.  51*36' N X 55*31' W
Anchored at the end of the cove in 4m. Open to the NE, swell comes in from Atlantic. 
Good holding in settled weather. 
Beach landing available with road access to former Viking settlement. 
Spent a very rolly night, moved anchorages the second night.