Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 05 - Red Bay, Labrador

5am, and nothing in view but fog. Our GPS tells us we are in the Straits of Belle Isle, which separates Newfoundland on the south from Labrador to the north. The GPS tells us we are hugging the south side of the Strait, despite the fact that our destination, Red Bay, is on the north side. We presume that this is due to some sort of traffic separation scheme. The Strait is one of two main entrances to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River.

6am: the fog cleared for awhile, and we had a magnificent view of the Labrador coast to port. The starboard shore, while closer, remained completely occluded.


Labrador Coast in View

6:10am The portside view just disappeared again.

6:15am, the Labrador coast is again in view, and we are just beginning our turn port, to cross the westbound lane and enter the harbor. There's not much traffic either way. I recall reading that the St. Lawrence Seaway traffic has diminished in recent years, as the size of ocean going freighters has exceeded the capacity of the Welland Locks that bypass Niagara Falls. As we cross the Straits, we see our first iceberg!


Iceberg in View

As was the case yesterday, we have such fond memories of our prior visit that we do not wish to spoil them with a less than perfect reprise. I guess we will just stay on the boat and eat our way through another day.

In the meantime, a bit about Red Bay. At the beginning of the 17th century, Red Bay was the largest whaling center in the world, attracting ships mostly from the Basque region of Spain and France. Today Red Bay is a Canadian National Park and Historic Site, with a quaint little fishing village nestled alongside.


Approaching the Village of Red Bay

Our prior visit was aboard a tour bus operated by an enterprising guy named Danny. Our Winnebago caravan parked across the water at St. Anthony, and Danny took us on an overnight to Labrador. We fondly recall the trip to Red Bay, at the end of the paved road, especially the (free) (NPS) water taxi ride to Saddle Island. We also recall the low, rugged, thinly vegetated hills, left practically naked by the receding glaciers except for a scale of lichen.


Saddle Island


Glacier Scraped, Lichen Covered Labrador Rock

But perhaps the most intense recollection is Danny's music. Danny had installed his own custom sound system in his bus, with speakers everywhere. For two days, we were treated to an almost continuous stream of "Newfie" music. At the time it sort of got on our nerves, but eventually grew on us, and we still listen to the CD's we bought in Newfoundland.

Finally, about 7:30am, we approached the shore just outside of Red Bay and dropped anchor. It was almost scarey how close the captain approached the shore. We're sitting in the Crows Nest, about 200 feet aft (behind) the bow. Our GPS tells us that we are about 400 feet from shore, which means the bow is only 200 feet from the rocks. We then drifted back a few hundred feet, then began to swing. I was not clear at what point in this process the captain dropped the hook. I can only say how thankful I am that there is essentially no wind. Later in the morning the stern swung inshore. I didn't drag out the GPS, but I estimate our stern rail was no more than 100 feet offshore. The hills along shore are quite steep, so I'm guessing that the bottom drops off quite sharply offshore. If this is the case, then it may be that we need to me close in for the anchor to find bottom.

Red Bay Anchorage


Red Bay Village


Feels Like We Could Step Ashore

If any of you are still with us after breakfast, we now have moved to the pool area. The roof has been opened partway, so the soothing Labrador breezes filter through. We sat for a couple of hours, while Kathy read and Keith composed, and read. By that time the haze disappeared and the sun shone, emphasizing the verdant green vegetation and the brilliant white icebergs, and shore side houses. By this time the crew also had the poolside lunch set up. How could we bypass this opportunity? The poolside lunch theme today is Indonesian. Some of the selections were excellent, particularly the shrimp salad. Afterward we snuck into the Lido ice cream bar for a good old fashioned chocolate sundae.

Following our daily afternoon nap we wandered up to the Crow's Nest, where Kathy imbibed her afternoon drink while Keith listened to the drama on the VHF. At this point the reader is supposed to ask "what drama?". It seems a part broke in the stage lighting a couple of days ago, causing magicians and comics to be substituted for the regularly scheduled evening entertainment. Replacement parts were procured immediately by the home office, and shipped to Red Bay to meet the ship. It's just that the shipment was a bit late, delaying departure by a couple of hours. Keith was amazed how much VHF chatter this generated, between the bridge and the tenders (who's going to stay behind at the dock to take delivery, between the bridge and the gangway (do we leave it deployed until the last tender returns, or do we pull it in and hoist the tender with crew, spare part and all); between the bridge and the port authority (changing the ETD (Estimated Time of Departure)), between the bridge and customs (we aren't officially cleared until that last tender driver is aboard), etc. Honest to gosh, folks, there was constant chatter for the two hours of the delay, dealing with all this red tape.


Another Happy Hour in the Crow’s Nest

After the late departure, we elected to dine in the cafeteria, so Keith could watch us sail away (the view from the windows in the cafeteria, and the poolside areas, is almost as good a s the view from the Crow's Nest observation lounge).

We planned to sit on deck, outside our cabin after din-din, but quickly changed our plan after sampling the 45deg. temperature and the 20 knot breeze.

And then to bed!

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