JOURNEY THROUGH LABRADOR by Bernie Howgate

( Chapter 13 )

 

 

AUGUST 3rd

'Prepare to meet thy God'. I would like to meet the optimistic soul who painted that remark on a rock half-way round Cape Makkovic. Seriously, you keep an eye open for land marks. There is nothing more infuriating than to pass a settlement after spending days dreaming about a hot bath and a night between clean sheets.

Forgive me, but I'm a city kid. We are pre-programmed at birth to stop at lights, cross at crossings and to keep to the right, nothing is left to the imagination, not so on the Labrador coast. Here there is no such thing as just one way, you are spoiled for choice, and beside the occasional speed boat and sightings of the coastal ferry 'The Tavenor' and 'The Northern Ranger', I had the sea to myself.

At the beginning of this trip, I had nightmares about rounding capes and dreaded crossing open bays, but island hopping I thought would be fun. Now, I have my doubts. Skyline can be a jigsaw puzzle of bumps, dots and lines when islands are thrown into the equation and with few standout land marks to follow, plotting the right course between them can be like threading the eye of a needle. Rigolet had its Narrows to go through. Makkovik was second left past Cape Strawberry and Postville had only one entrance that even a blind man could follow, but searching for Hopedale through a maze of islands would prove a major headache.

Navigating Kanairktok Bay from Winston Harbor to Flagstaff Tickle started off immediately on the wrong foot. Two islands I was heading for, slowly became one, then to compound my error, a large island I had taken compass bearings from, drifted apart into three. Either I must have drunk extra strong coffee that morning or someone had slipped something into my tobacco, whatever the reason the horizon just didn't read right.

Distance was an illusion and speed was anyone's guess. It took me four hours to cross the bay and if I thought the worse was behind me, I had more of the same down Hopedale Run. All the morning the wind had increased. Glass calm had turned into swells and with strong cross currents to contend with, I found my kayak surfing one minute and crashing through waves the next. The sun had long ago disappeared and my fingers were numb. I should have stopped then but I couldn't get those clean sheets out of my mind. Just past Flagstaff, I nipped in behind a small rocky island for a rest, only to reappear ten minutes later completely lost. A fine mist cloaked my view, all silhouettes fused into one and I was half way down Deep Inlet before I realized my mistake.

There is nothing more strength sapping than realizing you have just added six miles to you days work and it wasn't until I stopped to climb a hill and saw Hopedale's red and white radio antenna that I realized I was back on track.

By 7:30 pm., I was limping into the harbor. I had been paddling for ten hours The fine mist was becoming a steady downpour and above clouds were queuing up to dump on me. Then, just as if to rub salt into the days wounds, I had an embarrassing welcome awaiting me. Down by the fish plant, I saw a dozen people on the wharf waving in my direction. My spirits soared. I got my second wind and sprinted, but no sooner had I come in hailing distance when Bernie Winters in his long liner 'Viola Dee' passed me. Backs turned, then disappeared back into town and I was left to come in unnoticed. So much for celebrity status.

 


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