Our 2017 Phyllis and John

In the late fall of 2016 we moved from our uninsulated Base Camp into a rented house in Lunenburg as part of our continuing project of figuring out what we want to do when we grow up—previous experiments were two winters in Canmore, Alberta and one in Halifax.
Lunenburg is quiet in the winter and, for some reason we just don't understand, the tourists stay away.
The same is the case all around the province. Just weird, we say.
What's a little snow between you and your front door.
For most of the winter we spent far too much time at our desks working on Attainable Adventure Cruising and a new edition of the "Norwegian Cruising Guide". But we did manage some fun winter activities, both of the snug dinner kind and not so snug outdoor activity kind, with some of the many friends who have helped make Nova Scotia feel like home to us.
After many years of voyaging, this community is most of why we are now happy to spend more time ashore and in one place—great days like this with friends Grant and Sarah are part of that. And it has the added advantage that we see more of our families, including our new granddaughter. Different times in life require different life decisions, and we consider ourselves to be extremely fortunate.
In the late winter and early spring, Phyllis continued to sweat over the latest edition of the "Norwegian Cruising Guide" and was often heard muttering "if we don't get it out the door before the end of the year, anyone who wants to can have the copyright for $5 and a cold beer"—I'm pleased to share we shipped it on December 1, 2017. While I spent some very chilly days in this shed at East River Marine fitting a new propeller shaft to "Morgan's Cloud". Not sure how she felt about only having motorboats for company over the long winter, but they all seemed to be getting along.
Finally, and I do mean finally, because it came late to Nova Scotia this year, real spring arrived and with it came launching day. After two winters there, the crew at East River have launching our boat and stepping the mast down to a fine art, but it's still a stressful operation we will never grow to love. As yard foreman Don said after stepping the mast, "If it wasn't 11:00 in the morning, I would be having a large rum now".
If doesn't matter how many times we get ready for a cruise, there is always a point where the task and provisioning list seems insurmountable. Phyllis is having one of those moments.
Time for one more hike with friends before boats completely took over everyone's attention.
We finally did get away, bound east and north, as we have so many times before. The reward for all the preparation came quickly, in the form of several lovely days at one of our favourite harbours anywhere, Maskells, in Cape Breton.
But a good forecast for a fair wind convinced us to get cracking, bound for Labrador, taking our departure from Nova Scotia at the light at the north end of remote St. Paul Island. When we first passed this way over 20 years ago, we got a friendly wave from the lightkeeper but, sadly, those days are long gone.
A lovely overnight sail brought us to...
...Bonne Bay, on the west coast of Newfoundland, site of spectacular Gross Morne National Park. You can get a sense of the scale of the place by finding "Morgan's Cloud" in the picture.
One of the best things about visiting Newfoundland is the spectacular hiking. Parks Canada, as part of their Canada 150th celebration branding, placed these red Adirondack chairs throughout the country's parks. Given the steep trail we climbed to get to this vantage point, we suspect that a helicopter played a part in positioning this one. It has been suggested that this shot should be titled "John's nose visits Bonne Bay". Some people are cruel, I say.
There was a day when, with a goal far to the North and thousands of miles to cover in a short Arctic season, we would have had little time for stops along this coast. But this year we set a more modest goal of exploring just a small part of the South Labrador coast, and so there was time for day sailing and stops.
Port Au Choix has long been one of our favourite replenishment stops on our way North, and this year we were pleased to find that the harbour had been improved with a new breakwater and wharf.
One of the best parts of visiting Newfoundland is the people you meet, here represented by two staff from the Anchor Restaurant where we have, on several occasions, had our first meal out after many weeks in the North. This year we enjoyed the fresh cod and moose burgers so much that we ate there on two successive nights so each of us could enjoy both dishes.
Talking of fun people to meet, this is folk artist Ben Ploughman who we visited at his studio. His wide grin may have something to do with our purchase of the piece on the easel.
The slower pace also let us visit many of the harbours we have studied on the chart and wondered about over the years. This is the seasonal lobstering station on St John Island, deserted when we visited.
This berg, with its attendant growlers, welcomed us to the Strait of Belle Isle and Labrador.
Now in Labrador, with plenty of time still in hand, we slowed down even further while visiting several remote anchorages, so as to really savour them, together with the mussels Phyllis collected.
Our furthest north was the remote island community of Black Tickle, now sadly struggling to remain viable since the collapse of the fishery and closing of the fish plant. The village is one of the few holdouts from a time where nearly every cove and island had a few hardy residents harvesting the sea.
On the way back south along the Labrador coast we transited several of the inside channels that we had never had time for in past years. This is Squasho Run.
In 2003 we were chased into Fox Harbour by a building nor'east gale, but were not allowed ashore because we had not cleared in to Canada after our transit from Greenland. But the neat fishing village looked so intriguing that we vowed to return, and this was the year.
Our perseverance was rewarded by making new friends Warwick and Elaine.
And the opportunity to take some nice walks around the village.
We have been carrying the charts for the remote Quebec Lower North Shore for over 25 years, but never managed to visit...until this year. This is truly an undiscovered gem, with only a few cruising boats visiting this archipelago of literally thousands of islands cut by sheltered inshore passages and sprinkled with remote anchorages.
Two weeks flew by as we explored and then hung out in lovely anchorages to let a bit of weather pass.
Hiking was a challenge, due to the thick undergrowth around the anchorages, but we did manage one spectacular ramble, once we got up a bit higher after struggling through what seemed like miles of tangled black spruce. You can play "where's Phyllis" with this shot.
Our final stop on this shore was the island community of Harrington Harbour, where, despite its being part of Quebec, the residents are anglophone and the feel much like outports in Newfoundland.
Like in Newfoundland, wonderful lawn art flourishes.
It was great to see that, unlike many outports, Harrington Harbour is still dynamic and flourishing, aided by a locally owned co-op fishplant that has managed to sustain the community and its fishery rather than enrich some owner from away.
We left Harrington Harbour at dawn in near gale conditions, after a noisy night alongside the ferry wharf, bound for Îles-de-la-Madeleine, a group of sand bar islands just north of Prince Edward Island, but part of Quebec. This outlier with its remote and no longer inhabited keeper's house was our land fall next morning.
You can just pick out "Morgan's Cloud" alongside the snug community marina at Havre-Aubert, where we enjoyed amenities like washing machines and well-stocked grocery stores, after nearly two months of slimmer pickings. Except for two small anglophone communities, the islanders are Acadian and proud of it, as well as incredibly friendly to all comers.
A couple more overnight passages and several pleasant day sails brought us home to Base Camp just in time to welcome a group of our Nova Scotia friends at the end of their own cruise in company.
With work and other travel pending, it was time to decommission and put "Morgan's Cloud" back to bed in her snug shed for another winter.
But before winter set in, Nova Scotia treated us to a spectacular fall.
And a few weeks after we got back from our cruise, I was honoured to become a Canadian citizen.


©2017 johnharriesphotography.com

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