August 3rd: Visibility fair in rain and poor in fog, but watch out for those clear days.
Imagine dropping a brick into a square bathtub? Well that's what is was like crossing Hare Bay on a clear sunny day.
It wasn't dangerous, just nauseating. Three hours it took me to cross this eight mile open stretch of water. I was damn near sea sick. The confused seas caused by a strong outgoing tide; a large incoming sea swell and a strong cross wind had my stomach churning. Waves came from all directions and even seemed to explode underneath me.
Its not that I haven't paddled through these conditions before,but I have never done it when a 'sea was on'. Everything looked larger than life. There were no escape routes. The few islands that dotted the bay were underlined by pounding surf, and the sight and sound that it made up-close rounding 'Lobster Point' was just awesome.
If that wasn't enough I cut the corner entering St. Anthony's harbour to get away from its strong tidal current only to find myself running the gauntlet of white caps reflecting off the cliffs around its lighthouse. What a ride!
August 1st: FOG-FOG-FOG
I never thought I would be so thankful to see fog. For three days its been as thick as pea soup, but its kept the wind down. That old Newfoundland saying 'The thicker the fog the lighter the winds' is true.
I never did get to see the Northern Peninsula's spectacular mountains, and I only saw their cliffs from below their ankles. Thank god this section of the coast is as straight as a ruler. I only had to use my compass to find Harbour Deep and Williamsport, and miraculously the fog lifted just in time for me to latch onto the lighthouse at Englee before I disappeared over the horizon to Ireland (I am not very good at compass reading ha!) Generally I stuck to a north by north east setting and left the rest to hugging the coastline. It made a big change for me and I enjoyed the close up views it allowed me. They are some spectacular caves and rock formations on this section of the coast and had it not been for the fog I would never have discovered them.
I now feel rested. My shoulders are fine and the swelling in my wrists have gone down. Today I covered 25 miles from Conche to Fischot Island in a breeze. There is a sea on. The swells are huge, but it has been a smooth if not roller coaster day. Tomorrow I will be paddling across Hare Bay to St. Anthony's and a little R&R.
July 28th: GIVE ME A BREAK - White Bay
Today, I paid the penalty for five unbroken days of ideal paddling conditions. Notre Dame Bay had both smiled on me and toasted me with hardly a hint of a ripple. I had eventually taken some time out to explore some of its islands, visit some of its isolated settlements and for once relax during those long open sea crossings. Even the intimidating miles of rock that make-up Cape St. John, and its reputed turbulent waters were sleeping when I rounded them. In fact I was getting complacent. I was starting to wake later and finish earlier, but all went terribly wrong the day I crossed the 18 miles of open water across White Bay.
I had done all the right things. I had camped the night before at the closest settlement to the crossing at Fleur de Lies. I woke at the crack of dawn, went down to the wharf to get the 'marine weather forecast' but not for the first time on this trip it turned out wrong.
I was at Partridge Point by nine, but the site across the bay to Harbour Deep - my planned destination on the Northern Peninsular - wasn't a pretty one. The forecasted light west winds were funneling down the bay and the sea was boiling. I beached in a small cove. Put up my tent; set my alarm clock for 2:00pm and catnapped. Sure enough the winds died. By 3:00pm I was in the water. By 6:00pm I was within spitting distance of the shoreline. I had actually sprinted across. I was now taking a break. I was having a cup of coffee from my flask and had just lit up a cigarette when the wind picked up again, flipped ninety degrees and started to funnel down the fjord like inlet I had to paddle down to get ashore. They call them 'down drafts' out here. Its when hot air starts to cool in the mountains, falls, picks up speed in the inlets and heads back out to sea at gale force. Its not that I felt I was going to capsize. It wasn't that kind of wind. It came at you head on - forty to fifty knots. It just wore you down. It took me over two and a half hours to paddle the two or so miles to the shore line, then the extra three miles down the inlet to the only life I could see.
Thank God the mornings heavy winds had stopped two 'crab' fishermen from going out to their pots - Little Harbour Deep's only summer residents - because I don't know what I would have done without them. I arrived on the beach in front of their camp, spent, cold and wet. My eyes were stinging from the salt water spray; the palms of my hands were raw from gripping my paddle, and my wrists were like hot pokers. The light was fading fast behind the mountains, and I must have looked a rare sight to them as I came ashore. I was not really in a fit state to put up my tent let alone cook an evening meal and when I fell out of my kayak on the beach it must have told them something. That night Tom and Lee came to my rescue. They gave me freshly smoke sea trout and then some home brew to wash it all down
I am now at the foot of the Northern Peninsular. I am three quarters the way round Newfoundland. Tomorrow I start the long haul up to St. Anthony's. Just three more weeks of this........ ha!
July 26th: OOPS!
Today, I got more than I bargained for. A family of 'KILLER WHALES' visited me. I spotted their distinctive fins just after Fortune Harbour. At first I thought they were just a playful group of dolphins, then one of them breached the water. Holy Christ! I almost wet myself. Even from a distance you could spot their white underbelly.
I never thought in a month of Sundays I would spot these huge eating machines in the Atlantic. I always thought they roamed the Pacific........Wrong!
Boy they travel fast and I wasn't too pleased when they came in my direction. Lucky for me, I met a group of people out for a days sightseeing tour, and no sooner had I shared my findings with them when they were off in overdrive - cameras at the ready - in the whales direction, while I - your intrepid explorer - booted it in the other.
July 22nd: Notre Dame Bay
I am not one for paddling around islands. I like horizons. I don't like objects that block my progress wether visually or physically. That's not to say I want use their sheltered passageways during stormy weather, but normally I stay on their seaward side and go island hopping across large bays, but Notre Dame Bay was the exception. Not only is Exploits Island amazing, but all the islands, inlets and capes that make up this bay. I just wish I had the time to explore them all.
I am now on the Baie Verte Peninsula and I have no more islands to break up my route until the Bay of Islands just before the finish line and now I regret I didn't spend more time exploring Newfoundland's off shore islands.
I had to cut out Change Islands and Fogo. I didn't give Placentia Bay the Justice it deserved and I missed out Ramea on the West Coast. Newfoundland has so much too offer, and now that summer is here at last it all looks soooooooooo inviting.