Q&A: Sailing The Strait Of Belle Isle In July

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Question: We plan to go through the Strait of Belle Isle about July 1st. Is this practical given ice conditions? I have been told that a northeast wind can choke the Strait with ice at that time of year. I also have been told that ice is less likely on the Newfoundland side of the Strait.

Answer: Tackling the Strait of Belle Isle on July 1st is perhaps a bit early but there is just no good answer. Some years you will have no problems, others you won’t get through. At a guess I would say that your chances of getting through July 1st are better than 70/30. The thing is, ice limits are just averages, as you know, and there is a huge variation between different years. We try to always have a plan B. Yours might be to be there early enough that if it is blocked you can go south around Newfoundland and leave from St. John’s. As to less ice on the Newfoundland shore, yes perhaps, but if there was a lot of pack in the Strait, I would be very leery about penetrating a narrow lead between the shore and the ice, in a part of the world where the weather can change so quickly.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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David Hayward


Enjoyed and over the years have found your article a source of reliable information. Many of the articles about sailing to Greenland are 10 to 15 years or so old. Any changes in your advice for someone planning Newfoundland, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, The Faroes, The Shetlands, The Orkneys, Scotland, England, and the canals of Europe in 2020. For example “out of Greenland by the middle of July”.

The plan for the Labrador to Greenland crossing is to leave from say Battle Harbour. If there’s not a good weather window we will work father north while waiting. The idea for the Greenland to Iceland leg is to work a ways up the East coast of Greenland before jumping off to Iceland. The fallback plan is a sail to the Torngat Mountain National Park.

I sailed up North of Nain in 2010 in a 36 foot Moody Halberdier (1969 fiberglass) and now have a 36 foot aluminum hull cutter with centreboard and dagger board. It was French built in 1979 and has a new Bata Marine 25 hp diesel engine and new rigging.