Quetzal - Kaufman 47 "... Never lost, just hard to find ..."

John Kretschmer Sailing

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A Serious Ocean

You know it by the northern look of the shore,
by the salt-worried faces,
by an absence of trees, an abundance of lighthouses.
It's a serious ocean.

North Sea off Carnoustie by Anne Stevenson


Tomorrow will have an island
by William Stafford

Tomorrow will have an island. Before night
I always find it. Then on to the next island.
These places hidden in the day separate
and come forward if you beckon.
But you have to know they are there before they exist.

Some time there will be a tomorrow without any island,
So far, I haven't let that happen, but after
I'm gone others may become faithless and careless.
Before them will tumble the wide unbroken sea,
and without any hope they will stare at the horizon.

So to you, Friend, I confide my secret:
to be a discoverer you hold close whatever
you find, and after a while you decide
what it is. Then, secure in where you have been,
you turn to the open sea and let go.


More Poetry...


Northern Wanderings

by Dallas Murphy, with photography by Nick McKinney

We were 50 miles north of Prince Edward Island on port tack doing six knots and change when John Kretschmer threw a crumpled ginger ale can off the port side and shouted, “Man overboard!” The pointers and the life-raft and ditch-bag handlers leapt to our assigned positions. Steve, at the helm, threw Quetzal to port, backing the genoa, then pinned the wheel to starboard. We were hove-to in seconds. And there it was, the “MOB” floating 15 feet away to port; not for a moment had we lost contact with it, and now we were drifting slowly down on it.
      We had been discussing MOB retrieval off and on since the previous evening, when John had assigned our MOB responsibilities and explained his preferred method. “But how does it work,” I wondered, “when, say, we’re running deep down under the poled-out genoa?”
      “The same way,” John said. “You just hove to. You have to turn farther to back the sail, but it’s the same principle. The beauty is you never sail very far from the MOB.” Beautiful indeed. I’ll never think in any other terms about MOB retrieval. This was one of several valuable lessons I’ve learned sailing with John on his beloved Kaufman 47.
      The idea behind this present cruise was to visit two places in the Gulf of St. Lawrence seldom visited by American sailboats—Îles de la Madeleine, to which we were heading when the soda can went overboard, and the coast of Quebec near the Labrador border. Then we’d round the north coast of Newfoundland to St. John’s. Crewed by John Kretschmer regulars, this was a kind of make-up trip for another, far more ambitious cruise John and I had been planning for almost a year: from Newfoundland up the length of the Labrador coast to its end at Cape Chidley, across Hudson Strait and into Baffin Island’s Frobisher Bay to the Inuit town of Iqaluit at the head of the 200-mile-long bay, the stuff of dreams for those of us lured northward since childhood. But we’d reluctantly scrapped the idea for practical reasons of time, money, wear and tear on Quetzal, and because, as John put it, not exactly kidding, his wife Tadji would likely divorce him if he disappeared for a month into northern mists. Deb, from Eugene, Oregon; Bruce, a forester from British Columbia; Ron, a retired electrical engineer from Chicago; Steve, a manufacturer from Cincinnati; Nick, a transported Canadian now producing and directing documentary films in New York; and I, a writer from New York, had all signed on for the Baffin Island trip, despite what might have been our best interests. But none of us viewed the present cruise as a consolation prize; we were going sail Quetzal to some of Maritime Canada’s most exotic coastlines.

ÎLES DE LA MADELEINE
      There’s this string of unique islands lying in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence 70 miles north of Prince Edward Island that most people in the U.S. and few in Canada have ever heard of. I was one. As John and I planned the shape of the cruise, I had suggested we bypass them to spend more time on the appealingly empty Quebec coast and in Newfoundland. Man, was I wrong.
      The southernmost island, Havre-Aubert, hove into sight, a humped smudge on the horizon as John, from below, announced Captain’s Hour. Only a raging gale, blue water over the deck, forestalls that Quetzal tradition. Drinks are passed aft. The helmsman, who happened to be me, is served first (we’d been hand steering since the autopilot went on the blink), then the others in the cockpit from aft to fore. Before the crudités and Canadian sausage came topside, we’d sailed into a fog bank. Havre-Aubert vanished, and the wind died to a trifle. We rolled in the genoa and started the motor. Then, suddenly, I was wildly off course, compass card spinning…. I’m a reasonably competent boat driver, and I’d had only a sip of rum, honest. I tried to follow the compass back on course, 120°.
      “Wrong way,” said John with a questioning glance at the, uh, helmsman.
      In windless fog there was no sailing reference but the compass. That’s usually enough, and I was getting back near course, had her at 90° turning toward 120°—until the compass went careening off in the other direction. Huh? Mortified, I asked Steve, who happened to be near the wheel, to steer, and as he passed me, he patted my shoulder to say, “Don’t worry, old man, you’re probably not losing your mind.” Gratifying.
      But he couldn’t control her either, Quetzal snaking around her course, wherever that was, as the compass card danced randomly.
      “You know, come to think on it,” said John, “the cruising guide says compass anomalies have been reported in this area.” I was much relieved to learn I wasn’t the anomaly, and Captain’s Hour proceeded unmarred by further magnetic disturbance. Then the fog lifted, the fickle wind resumed, and landfall excitement bounced around the boat as we broad-reached for the entrance between Île d’Entrée and Havre-Aubert in falling light.
      Four large islands connected by sandbars (“tombolos” in technical lingo) form the 30-mile-long, hook-shaped archipelago. The fifth, Île d’Entrée, forming the starboard side of the entrance, is the only one unconnected to the rest and inhabited by English speakers, most from Scotland. Roughly dome-shaped, fronted by red sandstone cliffs and topped with rolling green meadows, grazing sheep, and fruit-colored homes, the island seemed to glow in the soft, falling light. None of us had ever been here before, few of us had ever heard of “ the Maggies,” as someone in P.E.I. who’d never been there had called them, but it was clear we were somewhere special. Still, we still had to find the harbor at Havre-Aubert (the islands carry the same name as their main towns), eight miles east of Entrée and dead into the freshening breeze. It was dark as we picked our way through the tricky entrance flanked by sandbars where gulls and cormorants waded, so we anchored out for the night.
      Early next morning we docked at the sweet little Club Nautique, the best and really the only small-boat harbor in the islands, where locals sat around under the portico drinking cappuccino and speaking French. After showers and shore-side breakfasts, we strolled the main-street galleries, craft stores, and mostly tasteful tourist emporiums, each housed in charming Acadian architecture. But this isn’t exactly a tourist town. It was a perfect day in August, and there were a lot of us out and about, but there appeared to be a healthy and young population (it’s easy everywhere to distinguish locals from tourists) interested in the arts and in being Madelinots, of which there are 13,000. This would be a place worth getting to know, but you give up leisurely visits traveling by sailboat on a schedule; it’s a willing compromise for the sailing, for the boat life itself.
      While the others chose different means of transport to see what they could see of the Madeleines (we stopped calling them “the Maggies”), Nick, Ron, John, and I drove the dinghy across the channel, dragged it over the sandbar, and hiked over the grassy hook-shaped sand spit to reach the ocean beach. And this wasn’t just any beach. It was, I’m convinced, one of the finest in North America, certainly ranking with Fire Island or the Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod. Perfect white sand that squeaked when you walked on it (because all the sand grains, I later learned, are uniform in size and shape) with high, grassy dunes behind and very few of what Melville called “water gazers” even on this exquisite, cobalt-cloudless sky.
      As we reconvened on Quetzal for Captain’s Hour, the captain of the little tour boat Le Navigateur II crossed to dock to give us enough mackerel fillets for everyone we knew. He introduced himself as Robert. A casting-agency salt, born and raised right here, Robert told us, tapping his temple, that he knew “the—how do you say in English?...The holes. Where they live.” The tour-boat operator next door later told us that Robert has some kind of knack. “When nobody else does, he catches.” Incongruously, Robert also sells insurance. Robert, Nick, and Bruce reverted to French, the more useful language in these islands, and I lost track of the conversation.
      The next day we drove a rental car north to buy big-scale charts of the Quebec coast and other needs in Cap-aux-Meules, a busy town built around the ferry terminal (regular service from Montreal and P.E.I.) and to see more of the Madeleine geography. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, this sandy incongruity in the rockbound north. Linked by those tombolos, the inhabitable islands were formed by ancient uplifts of sandstone tinged red by iron oxide that glows as if with its own internal illumination, especially in low-angle sunlight. Battered by surf and wind, the soft red sandstone is constantly eroding, forming complex fissures and deep caves in the cliff faces. The iron oxide is merely a thin covering over quartz, and when erosion wears away the iron, it leaves that pure white sand we found at Havre-Aubert and elsewhere. The plateaus atop the islands are well populated, but the neat clapboard homes painted in bold primary colors fit without offense into the wild, windswept landscape.
      The higher dunes and sand spits are covered in exotic vegetation, sandwort, beach pea, bayberry, black crowberry, starflower, and something called poverty grass. Bogs laced with channels that made me long for a kayak—and time—have formed and matured on the larger spits. Parallel dunes have created shallow lagoons linked to the open sea by narrow channels, which would also have been a delight to experience from a kayak.
      North of Île du Cap-aux-Meules, the lagoon between Dune du Nord and its parallel associate Dune du Sud is nature’s gift to kite sailors. An itinerant coterie of kite sailors had gathered at the lagoon, camping in trailers, cars, and tents so as to miss not a moment of nature’s other gift—wind. We envied them their wind as we stopped to watch svelte, serious men and women skim across the water at, what, 20 knots? More? From a distance their kites looked like extravagantly plumed tropical birds. One area of the lagoon is reserved for the experts, the other for fledglings. Alas, we were also skimming over the Madeleines. Maybe I wasn’t alone among us in longing to somehow participate physically in the alluring environment.
      That feeling reemerged when we stopped at the one of the islands’ major attractions, the beach adjoining Havre aux Maisons. Here red limestone cliffs, their caves and crenelated faces, climb 30 feet directly over the white-sand beach, and in places little waves lapped at the base of the cliff. On the wall of an eave-shaped cave, John scratched “Tadji & John” in the soft rock and ringed it with a heart. Aww. Sweet. He’s not such a crusty old salt.
      We turned around at the tip of Dune du North, planning to visit Île de la Grande Entrée aboard Quetzal later that day, and we still had provisioning to do, the charts to acquire. It’s 25 miles from the Club Nautique to the harbor on Grande Entrée, and maybe there was time to catch enough of the kite sailors’ breeze to please Quetzal. There was; we sailed fast in flat water in the lee of the islands, reached the harbor and tied alongside the commercial wharf shortly after Captain’s Hour.
      There was nothing here for yachts, none of the Club Nautique niceties. This was a fishing port, period, fishing being the base of Madeleine economy, tourism a close second. Here tourism was absent. Every slip was filled with fishing boats rigged for trawling, long-lining, scalloping, and crabbing depending on the season. That night a string of cars drove along the wharf. Had they come to see the strange sailing vessel from away, or was this part and parcel of the evening’s entertainment? A salty guy in a pickup with his dog (named Al Capone) stopped to chat, told us that the lobster season had just ended and the bottom-fishing season was about to begin.
      We’d had only a fleeting glimpse of this multilayered string of islands in our two-day stay, but now it was time to go. There were other seldom-visited landfalls to make, first in Quebec.

QUEBEC
      After rounding the sprawling shoals off Pointe de l’Est, we pointed Quetzal’s bow a little east of north toward for an isolated outport called Harrington Harbor, 200 foggy miles away. John likes to go. His business, after all, is ocean passages, but even in the proximity of coasts, he likes to go. Fine by us; that’s why we sign on. Ron, for just one example, has made seventeen voyages with John, including two Atlantic crossings. Quetzal is a goer as well. You can see speed in her sweet lines, narrow beam, tall rig, and sleek, low topsides. Everything aloft and alow is shipshape and simple, the evolution of several hundred thousand sea miles. When you get John talking boats, particularly his own, you benefit from listening. Speaking of Quetzal’s topsides, he points out that every inch above the waterline requires three inches of keel to compensate, but the obvious price to pay for low topsides is a wet deck. “She can be a submarine in heavy weather.” And you pay the cost of a narrow beam in the currency of diminished space below. Quarters were close with seven aboard, but nobody cared about that—you just say “excuse me” a lot as you pass—because Quetzal is a sailing boat. She’s old-fashioned in design, John says, compared to the modern trend toward wide boats that carry the beam aft to the transom.
      “There are fine modern boats out there, don’t get me wrong, and they’re faster than Quetzal, some better built. But they don’t track as well.” His long experience tells him that the most important attribute of an ocean boat, more efficacious than speed over the long haul, is tracking ability. “Quetzal makes almost no leeway.”
      Among other valuable things I’ve learned from John is the efficacy of a poled-out genoa. It solves the cruiser’s problem of downwind sailing because, unlike asymmetrical spinnakers, you can sail as deep as you please and still have the headsail in clean air unimpeded by the main. The forespar pole, stowed vertically along the forward side of the mast, is easily lowered on the inboard track, and with the outboard end clipped to the genoa sheet, all you need do is rig the fore- and after-guy. And if you need to reef, all you do is roll in some of the genoa. I wonder why this configuration isn’t more widely seen on coastal cruising boats. Anyway, all sails need wind to make sense, and we had only a dribbling SW. It would be a long motor trip.
      “Hey, look,” said Ron, no hands on the wheel. “The autopilot is working.” When John came topside, we told him Ron, the engineer, had disassembled the entire system in the cockpit, found the flaw and fixed it. He knew Ron; it was possible.
      To complete the route by the 29th of August, we needed to maintain six knots average, wind or no wind, but the breeze hung around 10 knots apparent from astern. So we motored most of the day. Come Captain’s Hour, about 1800, John set the watches. Though there’s always someone at the wheel even when on autopilot, there were no fixed watches during the day. At 2000, the night watches began, and with John standing a solo watch, we could cover the night in two-person, three-hour watches. This felt like luxury for those of us used to four-on-four-off aboard distance-race boats, and Steve and I got lucky this time, on the 2000-2300 watch. By dark, wind had come in at 14 knots apparent, and with the genoa poled out she was doing a solid seven knots to everyone’s delight. However, it’s an undependable breeze, that prevailing SW in these latitudes, and this one didn’t last through the night.
      A wet, woolen fog had settled in by the time the second watch, geared up for a cold night, came on deck. The radar was doing its good work; we were crossing the shipping lanes to and from the St. Lawrence River, but even so, if you stare too long into the murk, your eye conjures objects from their absence, container-ship bows looming over ours. We talked a lot this foggy trip about how it must have been in pre-technology days, with no position fix beyond dead reckoning when who-knew-what was bearing down on you. On this night the shipping lanes were empty; we were alone on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
      By mid-afternoon, the fog had relented enough to sight the coast of Quebec 20 miles off. By Captain’s Hour, the breeze had petered out again, and insects were coming aboard, a bad sign for conditions ashore. But bugs, like fog, are a fact of cruising life in the north. We universally preferred fog.
      This is a crazy coastline, it became clear on approach, ragged bays and deep fjords, granite islands, skerries, and a lot of sunkers, no more order to it than broken glass in the alley. A place just east of Harrington Harbor is called Bay of Rocks. The town is nestled securely behind two glacier-scoured islands; the course of the Laurentian Ice Sheet is everywhere imprinted on this coastline. Harrington’s web site says that “intellectuals from Montreal” have gravitated here for the “solitude.” Approaching the town dead slow, we looked for dockage and intellectuals. There was plenty of the former on another industrial wharf. A father, son, and dog fishing from the head of the wharf couldn’t tell us anything conclusive about the depth alongside. John took her in at a slow-walk’s pace feeling for the bottom. Finding none, we put the lines over—and plenty of fenders. Hard commercial wharfs “padded” with topsides-disfiguring tractor tires are another fact of life in these latitudes. Bring big-time fenders.
      The harbor accommodated about two dozen fishing vessels identical in everything but hull colors, and every slip was occupied because here as well the lobster season had just ended. There’s a curious, universal quirk to fishing-boat design in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and in Newfoundland. Their bows are high and sharp, the bridge is of normal size, but the stern portion seems to have been lopped off 10 feet from what should have been the transom. They look like toy boats by a maker who didn’t care much about realism. We speculated for a long time on why, but it seemed a hard question to pose here in Harrington Harbor: “Why are your boats so damn stubby?”
      We bought some stuff (Captain’s Hour) from one of the two little general stores next door to each other. The lady behind the counter told us that this had been a busy season for visiting yachts. “You’re the fifth, m’ love,” she said, in English, in Quebec. Why? Turns out the entire population hails from Newfoundland, which is why Harrington Harbor looked like it had been dragged en masse over the ice from west of Burgeo.
      Outside, a wiry man with ocean weather etched in the folds of his face sat on his ATV (there are no roads, only boardwalks). He said, “Yes, my people is from Newfoundland. Long while ago, b’y. I was born and raised right here.”
      “Where in Newfoundland?” I asked. He told me, but I didn’t get it, sounded like he was chewing on his words, as Newfoundlanders sometimes do. I asked again, but still didn’t understand. Probably an abandoned south-coast outport where the provincial government, unable to supply essential services to towns on that rough, roadless coast was, and still is, paying residents to go elsewhere. With a nod at those from away, he kick-started his ATV and clattered off over the boardwalk into the fog. We followed for a walking tour. Clapboard houses the color of fruit—orange, lime, apple, persimmon, and peach—all barnacled to the naked pink granite. The fog was moody, and the town felt faintly melancholy, but then, we were from away, way away, and the people we met on foot or passing slowly on their ATVs all appeared content, even cheery; isolation seemed to bear lightly on Harrington harbor. Maybe only the intellectuals felt lonely.
      That evening, a fisherman suggested we move the boat around to the other side of the wharf. “Bad roll on this side, m’son.” We tied her to the high wharf in the lee of the fish-processing plant and warned each other to be careful climbing eight feet down to the deck over slippery timbers. We liked that you had to be careful—and the notion of going where few other yachts ever go. Mosquitoes found us, so we went below, closed her up, and played Trivial Pursuit.
      By noon, after watering from a fish-plant hose, we were ready to seek the Quebec wilderness we’d come for. We sailed eastward, skipping a 30-mile stretch of coast for which we had no big-scale chart coverage, and stopped for the night in a steep, heavily forested cove at the north side of an island called Gros Mécatina. That name, Innu for “large mountain,” spatters the chart, a mountain, river, point, an island, and a bay. Cartier was here in 1535 on the second voyage in search of the Northwest Passage to the East; he’s the guy who sarcastically named those narrows in the St. Lawrence River La Chine Rapids. And the region is not entirely wilderness. The little towns of Gros-Mécatina and Mutton Bay lie nearby, but no roads connect them to anywhere else. Deb, Nick, Steve, and John dinghied ashore, but, slapping black flies, they found no way to leave the rocky beach through impassable thickets of alder, spruce, and fir. Even if they had climbed the hill “for the view,” there would have been none in the milky fog.
      The fog still hung in the morning air along with the bloodsuckers, so we got underway, sailing 35 miles east to an alluring spot John and I had noticed on the chart. Jacques Cartier Bay, a fjord, winds sinuously deep into the Canadian Shield, and at its end widens into a beautiful pool. Now this looked like wilderness. By the usual combination of motoring and sailing, we fetched the entrance with only a couple hours of daylight remaining to reach that pool. Sailing Directions warns of uncharted fish-trap nets and aquaculture structures in these bays, so no night piloting. At 2200 rpm, we were doing over six knots past ice-scoured pink and white granite rock close aboard on either hand. Alas, there were signs of civilization, fish shacks, nets and floats piled in front, but there were no people visible; besides, we didn’t want to be fundamentalists about this wilderness business.
      Here’s a secret about the imperturbable Captain Kretschmer: Overhead power lines set him twitching. I’m not saying this is irrational, just that it’s highly unusual to see him display any manifestation of anxiety. Some of us had witnessed the power-line phobia before, kidded him about it. However, the high-voltage lines from Quebec’s hydropower facilities set on towering sanctions atop the mountains sagged as they crossed Jacques Cartier Bay. The chart offered no clearance info. We slowed to a crawl. John stood on the transom, craning his neck. His mast stands 74 feet above the waterline…. On the other hand, if Kretschmer was nervous, then shouldn’t the rest of us be? We shut up and watched the lines slowly approach. It’s a tricky call, but passing below, it looked like another Quetzal mast would fit between hers and the power lines, so we resumed kidding John.
      Then the black flies attacked, exacting the price of northern travel in blood. Having spent a month some years ago at a small science station in NE Siberia, where the bloodsuckers damn near ruined the experience, I came prepared with a hooded bug shirt; so had Nick. But we evinced no outward smugness, watching the others slapping and waving and exclaiming. Mosquitoes reinforced the black-fly troops, but we pressed on to the dead end of Cartier Bay. And it was worth the trip
      The fog had cleared and the sun had dipped to the mountaintops by the time we had the anchor set. Buttery yellow light gleamed softly on the red rocks above the tree line, and, cameras snapping, no one aboard wanted to be anywhere else that evening, bugs or no bugs. Though we rushed to capture it by camera, the sublime light lingered seemingly unnaturally. Normally a boatload of talkers, we fell silent, watching. Ethereal sunsets, particularly in the empty regions, induce introspection. Then, battened down against the bloodsuckers, we scratched our wounds while playing competitive Trivial Pursuit. Afterward, Bruce, who had gone topside to use the overboard facilities, stuck his head back in the companionway to announce that the night was bug-free. The rest of us lined up to go topside to fix in memory this exquisite evening.
      Next morning we retraced our course down Cartier Bay, about 15 miles, then picked our way through narrow channels, some no wider than three Quetzal beams, amid a welter of naked-rock islands, skerries, and ledges at the mouth of the bay. The channel bent around a sharp point and gave into a textbook fjord called Mistanoque Bay, but the bugs drove us seaward.
      Now there loomed the question of where to go next as John and I consulted the chart and counted the days remaining. We had planned a stop at Red Bay, Labrador, 75 miles away, but that seemed to need modification, since we also meant to stop at the old Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, just across the Strait of Belle Isle from Red Bay. Unless you’re lost at sea, all boat trips end. Shortly after Captain’s Hour, John asked how we’d feel about pressing on through the night, through the Strait of Belle Isle to reach L’Anse aux Meadows about dawn. Fine. Of course.

NEWFOUNDLAND
      “She’s a rugged coast, b’y.” (a Bonavista resident)
      Shortly after dawn, we anchored at a little cove on the Great Northern Peninsula called Straitsview. Most of us aboard had circumnavigated Newfoundland aboard Quetzal in 2010, and I’ve been longing ever since to return to this strange island, which, once visited, reaches out and grabs you by the imagination and the sensibility and never lets go. Perhaps because it’s a cold, foggy, rugged, as the man said, even a treacherous coast and because life has never once been easy for outport Newfoundlanders, the people are warm, friendly, and almost unbelievably generous, especially when you arrive by sailboat. (“You’ll be needin’ supplies, b’y. Here, take my truck.”) Maybe the sailboat and the fact that we’ve come by the ancient means of travel to see their island touches them in some fundamental way, here where most everyone has lost relatives to the sea. Or maybe they’re just congenitally sweet. One of the two fishermen we met on the dock, both with that typical weather-whipped face, offered us his car. “It’s a fair walk to the site.” I wished we’d taken him up on it, a fair walk indeed in an anomalous heat wave.
      The Vikings-in-Newfoundland story is fascinating and familiar. Suffice it to say that in 1960, the Norwegian husband-and-wife team Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad went searching for the “Vineland” of the sagas based on their theory that the name did not refer to grapes, which grow naturally no farther north than Cape Cod, but to “a land of meadows and includes a peninsula.” A local man, George Decker, led them to what he called an Indian mound that turned out to be the remains of a Viking-style lodge like those in Greenland and Iceland with artifacts, notably a spindle and bone needle, indicating the presence of women in the settlement. Archeologists found eight such dwellings and a wealth of artifacts reliably dated to the year 1000 during five years of excavations. The museum, run by Parks Canada, is successfully designed to fit smoothly into the environment, and though the actual sites have been reburied to preserve whatever artifacts remain, there is a tasteful reconstruction of the Viking-era rock houses with sod roofs.
      We straggled back to the boat, Nick and Bruce hiking overland, Steve and I trying unsuccessfully to hitch, since the plan was to get underway for St. Anthony, on the other side of the Great Northern Peninsula, for fuel, water, and supplies, b’y. Midafternoon, we rounded Cape Bauld, a spectacular, quintessentially Newfoundlandic headland with a lighthouse half shrouded in fog for picturesque effect. At 51° 39” N by 55° 25” W, Cape Bauld is the northernmost point in Newfoundland, and looks it.
      Ramshackle, down at the heels, the government dock at St. Anthony, seems to have declined since we stopped there for the same reason in 2010. Tonight it was silent and empty except for the rusting hulk of a small freighter called, interestingly to us, Baffin Bay, with a sign on the wheelhouse, “Enter at your own risk.” Right. There was no dockside fuel, and the water, we heard, was suspect. No one minded getting in the wind early the nest day for Fogo Island at the east end of Notre Dame Bay, 120 miles SSE.
      When Captain’s Hour passed, then dinner in the cockpit, and the first night watch was gearing up, I sensed that end-in-sight feeling settle over the boat, that is, unless I project. I think I felt it first as we rounded Cape Bauld. We still told jokes (admittedly, their tenor sometimes drove Deb below to read something decent) and old sea stories and remarked on everything we saw as we sailed fast, but the energy was different. We had just three days to reach the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club, where John would leave Quetzal for a couple of weeks. The trip had to end, they all do, and just as a sense of excited expectation pervades the boat at the outset, a subdued mood comes aboard as the end hoves into sight.
      “Whales!” Deb pointing away off the port bow. Whale sightings always alter the mood. We had seen minkes and humpbacks rolling and diving in the Gulf, but we were late for whale sightings, the capelin run having come and gone a month before. Now the whales were close aboard—they were orcas, and they were really close. You could tell the male by his towering dorsal fin about the size of a Laser sail; six smaller dorsals probably indicated females or juveniles. What were they doing, milling about in a small patch of ocean? Feeding? Or was it just a social game?
      Nick and John were conning her toward the town of Seldom-Come-By on the south side of Fogo Island, one of the largest off-lying Newfoundland, when the rest of the mid-night watch standers came on deck to handle lines and fenders at the same dock we’d used five years ago—in front of the F. U. Trading Company. (You can imagine the quips and jokes, as Deb rolled her eyes.) And we were greeted by the same friendly lady, who ran the store and the charming little fishing museum next door. She remembered us, she said.
      Seldom-Come-By, usually shortened to Seldom, actually means the opposite. It’s the last port coming from the north before the “Straight Shore,” a 20-mile coastline that isn’t straight at all, but it offers few harbors to boats of any size. Thus, with a storm looming, boats would “seldom come by without stopping.” (This is the land of colorful names: Funk Island, Coffin Cove, Northeast Nonesuch, Pandygut Tickle, Bad Bay, Swagger Cove; the best we ever heard, however, came over the radio in 2010, a Coast Guard request: “Will the pleasure vessel in the vicinity of Dildo Bank come back with its position.”). We showered in pleasing facilities, started a load of laundry, and walked into town for what turned out to be the worst meal any of us had ever ingested. To make food that bad requires painstaking, diligent concentration. If, as some students of Newfoundland suggest, the future of the island lies in tourism, then the “cuisine” needs serious attention.
      The modern history of Newfoundland has been determined by two conditions: lots of fish—and no fish. When Newfoundlanders say “fish,” they mean cod. During the former condition, a kind of slavery prevailed under the so-called Truck System devised by much-hated fish merchants in St. John’s. The merchant sold the goods and gear the fishermen needed on credit (“on tick”) and then bought the fish from the fisherman. The merchant, another bred of bloodsucker, fixed the price for the goods he sold and the fish he bought. For dozen of generations, cashless outport fishermen lived and died owing their souls to the company store. In 1951, factory fishing, by Russians, Portuguese, Spanish, and, yes, Canadians murdered millions of tons of cod. Foreigners were prohibited after the advent of the 200-mile Economic Exclusion Zone, leaving the way clear for Canadian factory ships to murder the stocks. In the early 1990s, the fish stock totally collapsed. In 1992, the Canadian government declared a ten-year moratorium on cod, but still the stocks, particularly those inshore, had not recovered to a sustainable extent, and the ban was reestablished. In 2011, fishery biologists noted a glimmer of recovery, but far more slowly then they’d expected.
      Today, the once single-specie fishery has diversified to include plaice, flounder, shrimp, scallops, lobster, and snow crab. Radar, GPS, and steel hulls have eased the mortality rate, but Newfoundlanders still live in a more direct, confrontational relation to the natural world than any of us “from away.” While some of the crew went off on a guided car tour of Fogo—sights including Brimstone Head, a volcanic upthrust that the Flat Earth Society has determined to be one of the four corners of Earth—I walked to the Fogo Island Shipbuilding and Producers Cooperative Society. Established in 1967, the Fogo Coop is the wave of the future. The fish-processing operation and the terms of collective ownership are so successful that a documentary about it by Memorial University’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, in St. John’s, has been used worldwide as a model for community organization and ownership in developing nations.
      When the others returned from the car tour guided by a gregarious local woman, having “driven every road and path on the island,” they told us about the future of Fogo as they’d seen it—tourism and art. The story is that a Fogo-born woman who left the island and made a “gazillion dollars” in tech or something has returned to finance an artist’s colony, offering grants and housing. We had heard about the fledgling project on our 2010 tour, and now it seems to be in full swing. There is also a new five-star hotel, rooms starting at $350, that Oprah is said to have liked, perched on a rocky point near Joe Batt’s Arm. Nick showed us photographs; we thought it a monstrosity, but who asked us? And if it’s good for the people, who cares?
      By the way, a phone call to our friend Alan Creaser from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, an expert on everything Maritime Canada, cleared up the question of why the fishing boats are so stubby. If your boat exceeds 45 feet overall, then you pay a much higher licensing fee; if you lop off 10 feet of stern, then you don’t. Alan also told us that dirty weather, 35 knots of south wind, would arrive in Newfoundland waters in 48 hours. We meant to make one more stop in Newfoundland. With no interest in making the passage into the teeth of a half-gale, we beat it for Bonavista, 45 miles SSE of Seldom.
      Sailing fast over the bulging headland at Cape Freels, turning nearly due south in open water for Cape Bonavista, we beat the weather but not nightfall. The chart plotter claimed that a green flasher marked the approach, but it wasn’t there. (Lighted nav aids in Canada are lower and far dimmer than in the States.) Now we had to find the obscure, unmarked entrance hidden behind a sprawling rocky headland. Binoculars revealed nothing.
      “Before the chart plotter, I would have hove-to out here for the night,” John said. Though we have paper charts, and actually mark positions on them, John has gone almost exclusively to electronic navigation. He says he practices the “concept of JET.” Just Enough Technology. (There was not a single moment of navigational confusion the entire trip.) John was singing softly to himself, as he does when concentrating on something. I suspect he was thinking about eschewing this night entry. We were trying to help, but the naked eye was no use. The chart plotter knew best, and it led us in with only mild anxiety.
      Bonavista claims to have been Cabot’s first landfall in the New World, and despite scanty evidence for the claim, the town had built a replica of his ship, the Matthew, which we’d seen on our last Newfoundland cruise, but it was gone. The project found enough funding to build the vessel, but not enough to maintain it, and the Matthew had fallen apart. We found space on the floating dock near where the ship had been five years ago, and after another dinner in the cockpit we walked up the hill to a waterfront bar, played a little 8-ball before heavy weather bore in on Bonavista. It was drizzling by the time we returned to the boat. We woke up to a hard, gusty, strangely warm wind from the south with driving rain. Geared up in full foulies, boots, we waded to breakfast at the café adjoining the bar, still riffing on that execrable pile of grease we’d eaten in Fogo. Weathered in for the day, John did some speed-time-distance calculation and announced that to reach the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club, our final destination, before dark tomorrow, we’d need to bestir ourselves at 0400 and get going by 0430. He hoped we didn’t mind. We didn’t.
      After Captain’s Hour in clearing weather, we walked around the harbor to an excellent restaurant frequented exclusively by those from away, then to a gem of a movie theater, the sort you might have found in small-town Vermont in 1955, to see Mission Impossible, less of a gem. On the way to dinner, I got John talking about his nav technique and about JET. He pointed out that, while the chart plotter allows us proximity to land, to do things we’d never do with GPS alone, for instance the night approach to Bonavista and the rock-hopping in Quebec, a new, stricter kind of situational awareness is required. “I’m always thinking of bail-out strategy. Which way do I turn to escape if, say, the engine dies or something else goes wrong?” The talk led me think that I might be a little insouciant about my own chart-plotter nav, but then southern New England waters aren’t nearly as demanding as those we’d just sailed. (“She’s a rugged coast, b’y.” No kidding.)
      Yep, by 0430, we’d cleared Bonavista Harbor in full dark, followed by a gorgeous sunrise. But it was mostly a motor trip. Giving the string of sunkers and glacial rubble at the mouth of Trinity Bay a wide berth, slipping between Baccalieu Island and the high cliffs on the cape at the mouth of Conception Bay, we sighted Cape St. Francis twelve hours later. On our last Newfoundland trip, we’d happily docked along the seawall in downtown St. John’s, but now, the offshore oil industry booming, the waterfront is dominated by oil-rig tenders. Since John meant to leave Quetzal for nineteen days, head home to Ft. Lauderdale before his next charter trip, he’d picked the Royal Newfound Yacht Club, a pleasant, unprepossessing place, despite its fancy name, on the other side of the peninsula from St. John’s.
      John performed his typical nimble in on a crowded seawall, and after the lines went over, I did a quick measure—we’d sailed 800 miles in fifteen days to the delight of all aboard. We’d grown close in the tight quarters, shared a special experience that now was ended. The next day, we said our melancholy goodbyes and went our separate ways. Maybe we’d meet again aboard this special boat, maybe on another ocean. I’ll miss them all and Quetzaloo, as John calls her, and John himself.
      (A week after our return, I got an e-mail from John saying that he was cutting short his brief stint at home to return to his boat. Gusts to 60 knots of wind was forecast for St. John’s. Good luck, Skip. Good luck, Quetzaloo and all who sail in her.)

Dallas Murphy is an accomplished playwright, novelist, nonfiction writer, and an eloquent spokesperson for the ocean environment. Nick McKinney is an award-winning filmmaker whose latest film is "The C Word." Both are excellent sailors and great shipmates too.


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