As we have done so many times over the 20 years we’ve been together, John and I are sitting on top of a barren hill that we’ve just hiked up, eating our packed lunch, looking out over an ocean dotted with icebergs, and revelling in our good fortune to be able to visit such a beautiful place.
But this time, unlike most of the other times we’ve done this, we’re sitting at a picnic table instead of on bare rock; there are only two bergs in sight instead of myriads (can the ocean be dotted with only two bergs?); we walked up here from the government wharf in a small village, instead of from some remote anchorage; and we’re looking forward to welcoming a local couple aboard when we get back to the boat, instead of being far from other people.
So, where are we, you ask? We’re in Fox Harbour, Southern Labrador.
For those unfamiliar with this area, Southern Labrador, between Blanc Sablon and Groswater Bay, is more benign than further north in Labrador, much less frightening than anywhere in Baffin Island or East Greenland, and a lot closer to home (for North Americans, anyway) than West Greenland.
Several things which make cruising this area less intense than some of the other places I mentioned above, are:
- most of the charting is up to modern standards, except for in a few anchorages;
- there are lights and buoys to aid in navigation—a few, anyway;
- the risk of running into a polar bear is negligible in the summer. However, because there are black bears around we still carry deterrents when hiking here, though not a firearm;
- and there are a number of villages in case of an emergency and also for provisioning, including water and fuel.
Despite these mitigating factors, this is still the North, so don’t underestimate the challenges:
- no yacht services;
- cold water (we saw temperatures between 2 and 8˚C);
- clouds of biting insects;
- changeable weather;
- deep anchorages with challenging holding;
- and the presence of isolated growlers (the size of a car, say) that don’t show up on radar, which means constant vigilance when underway and no overnights unless you are comfortable heaving-to.
But, if you make sure that you and your boat are properly prepared, Southern Labrador makes for a wonderful “arctic-lite” cruising ground.