JOURNEY THROUGH LABRADOR by Bernie Howgate

( Chapter 9 )

 

 

JULY 3rd

For the first time since starting this trip, I was beginning to ask the question why? Why Labrador?

Born in England, I emigrated to Canada in the early 70's and have been travelling ever since, but usually in warmer climates. I've tasted the American dream, got under the surface of Asia and been bitten by the darker sides of Africa. In the process I've seen the power of tidal waves, awaken to volcanic eruptions and even lived through a bloody civil war in Uganda. A man who has experienced all this, and logged 30,000 miles cycling around the world on his own, doesn't have to prove himself to anyone; but here I am nine days into my kayaking trip and have not even reached my first port of call, Rigolet. I'm beginning to wonder why I'm here.

My first day out from Mud Lake ended quickly. I only made Rabbit Island before hunger pains got the better of me. I stopped got out all the wonderful goodies I had been given and proceeded to pig out on them. By 5 pm, I was fast asleep.

Day two was also uneventful. I made good mileage to Sebakachu, but from there on, things got serious. Crossing Mulligan's Bay I got caught in a sudden squall; within minutes calm waters boiled, waves came from every direction and I felt like a ping pong ball in a table tennis match. For a man who only three weeks before had his kayak flow-in and who's only previous experience had been two three-hour outings in the sea swells off Victoria Island, British Columbia, I sure surprised myself when I got through it all unnerved.

"You're stupid you've never even kayaked before!" Comments like that came from people who didn't know me; people who did, offered only encouragement. My best advice came from a lady who had paddled the Pacific. "It's all in your hips and in your head," she said. "Don't fight the waves, just let them go under you. Balance, that's the key and if things get desperate, concentrate on the point you are aiming for and don't get sucked into the waves. If you think you are going to capsize, you will." The lady was full of common sense. She hadn't offered books; told me to research or even buy sophisticated equipment. Maybe her advise wasn't for everyone, but it sure struck a chord with me.

The weather really turned ugly at Charley's Point. For the last three days, strong winds from the east had geared down my progress to a crawl and now it was blowing a gale. I know I shouldn't have tried it, but I wanted to experience extreme conditions before I got onto the open seas, any other reason would have been crazy.

At first, I drifted out into mid channel to gain the tide, but the winds blew me backwards. Inside, I gained shelter, but the tidal whirlpools, and strong back eddies made progress painfully slow. It took me four hours to cover three miles. Rain cut like pins into my face and back. Swells had the waves clapping and cresting all over the place. I still hadn't struck a rhythm with my paddle stroke and when fatigue hit, it came quickly. That night I slept in one small cove, while my kayak lay high and dry beached in another. There was just no room for both of us against the cliffs.

The 'Narrows' should be renamed 'The Gates of Hell'. Charley's Point was a piece of cake to this tidal rip. Everything went wrong that day. First I misjudged the tide. I'd camped in Big Pot Cove and while I watch it rise, two miles away in the Narrows, it was roaring out and by the time I got there, it was on the turn. If that wasn't enough, the 'Northern Ranger' - Labrador's coastal ferry - was bearing down on me. Boy, did I have fun.

It's now day ten and Rigolet is in sight. For the last six days, I have been paddling in the teeth of an easterly wind, with gale warnings still in effect up and down the coast. I am now cold, wet and tired. That question of Labrador still hangs around my neck. My back aches, my arms feel like lead weights and my legs are torn with cramps. Rigolet is now rushing towards me and I can see a group of onlookers down in the harbor.

I arrived in Rigolet at 2 pm., July 3rd. Smiles went unnoticed, shouts unacknowledged. Other things were on my mind. I was heading for the Grenfell Mission and wild horses couldn't drag me from my course. That question 'Why Labrador' was about to be answered.

"Linda, could I have a bath?"

Five minutes later all my aches and pains were dissolving in hot water. There lies the answer: hospitality.

 


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14