When we first went to Newfoundland in the early 1990s, very few foreign boats cruised there, and so, when we entered a harbour, the entire population of the outport would gather on the docks to silently observe us and Morgan’s Cloud. They would move their fishing boats around so we could get the best spot and finally someone in the crowd would get up the courage to ask, “How tall’s your mast, Skipper?” That evening or the next day, almost without fail, there’d be a thump on the deck as someone brought us a freshly caught cod, a mess of trout, or a pile of crab legs.
Though the increase in boats visiting the north in recent years has changed this openness in many places, we continue to find outposts in Newfoundland, Labrador, Iceland and in northern Norway where a visiting boat is perceived as a gift from the sea, instead of as an economic opportunity or a pain in the butt, as is the case in other more crowded places.
The other group of people we have met in the north are fellow high latitude cruisers. Initially a small group, the numbers have grown in recent years, reducing, though not eliminating, that feeling of automatic connection furnished by a common passion. We still keep in touch by e-mail with the Dutch couple we spent one evening with on our first trip to Greenland in 1995…it was such a treat to meet up with someone else as obsessed with the north as we were!
And then there is the German couple, Michael and Martina, whom we met briefly in Tromsø, Norway in 2001 where we were living on our boat and where they had left their sailboat for the winter. We kept in touch over the years while they went on to build an aluminum sailboat especially designed to winter in the ice: S/V Polaris, which we spent a month on in Greenland in the winter of 2009/10.
The initial contacts made in the north may be brief but the connections formed are deep and long-lasting and our lives are immeasurably the richer for them.