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Our route.

Onora's launch in Trinidad.

Disko Bay is the source of many of the icebergs that enter the Atlantic.

Jean spotting a path through the ice.


June 2007

Trinidad to St. Anthony Newfoundland

We left Trinidad on June fifth for a very easy twelve day, 2400 mile sail to Cape Breton. Corky Van der Giessen and Tim Donovan were waiting to take our lines. Six years had passed since we said goodbye at Henry Fuller's boat yard. They had pushed us off when we sailed our old boat, Mara, down the St. Lawrence to Chicago.

It felt good to be back in Baddeck. There are a few out of place McMansions but the otherwise not much has changed It is still the rare sailor who ventures up here to discover the beauty of the Bras d' Or Lakes, Newfoundland and Labrador.

After five days of boat projects, mostly working on the heating system, we said goodbye again and headed across the Cabot Straight for St. Anthony at the top of Newfoundland. After fifty foggy hours we creped into St. Barbe near the top of the northern arm of Newfoundland. The next day we encountered the first of many ice bergs as we passed through the straights of Belle Isle to drop anchor in beautiful Sacred Bay.

On the twenty seventh we arrived in St. Anthony and met Tony and Coryn Gouch on Taonui, Victoria based high latitude sailors bound for Labrador. We invited them over and found that we had sailing friends and destinations in common. The high latitude fraternity is small. Whenever we see another boat above 45 degrees in the Northern Hemisphere or Southern Hemisphere, chances are we know them or have friends in common.

Jim spent four days replacing and cleaning every part on our Hurricane heater before it sputtered to sub tropical life. It is amazing what happens to stuff when you don't use it.

As the heater was Canadian made we wisely waited the few days to have a new regulator shipped in. Experience has taught us that having parts sent to remote places is simply tossing them into a black hole.

We waited a few miles away in Hare Bay. Maiden's Arm, our first stop, was by far the best. Moose came to feed in the evening. We watched eagles being chased by gulls. We also explored the Southern Arm and Hough Bay, where the wind howled out of the north.

July 2007

Crossing to Greenland and Disko Bay

On July 10th we left to cross the Newfoundland fishing banks in the ever present fog dodging ever present icebergs. Two hours into it our heater stopped. We added layers of clothes and carried on.

After six days of hard sailing in a 40 degree cold cabin we had covered the fifteen hundred miles to Disko Bay. At 69 degrees north, Disko is a third of the way up Greenland's west coast and 180 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Our plan was to go non stop to our northern most destinations and then leisurely turn south exploring the coast by day and anchoring during the sunlight night. We spent a calm week in Disko Bay with sparkling days in the 60's. We marveled at the ice behemoths crashing from the glaciers and into the Labrador Current to be carried down the Canadian side to menace North Atlantic shipping.

We checked in at Qeqertarsuq, the former Godhavn and first capital of the northern area. We set ablut looking for the harbor master with our ships papers. We were told to ask for 'AUTOOK' who was found driving a fork lift truck on the commercial pier. He spoke no English and we not a word of Greenlandic so who knows if we did check in. Autook finally got the message that we arrived by boat and said 'no problem'.

We have been so conditioned to filling our forms and having passports that the lack of such was unnerving. We asked Autook to write out his name so we could at least enter it into our log that he checked us in. He wrote 'Otto Magnusson'.

We roamed the town museum for an hour and learned that there had been a coal mine on the island mined by Scotts. One must have been 'Autook's' father. As we left we were advised to stay beyond the reach of the sled dogs chained to posts between the bright blue, yellow and red houses.

The excitement of the day was the butchering of a whale. Only two are allowed a season. All who take part in the hunt are given shares which can be eaten or sold. It was offered for sale in the open air fish market at the landing or as frozen stakes in the Pasifik general next to reindeer, musk ox and seal steaks.

The next day was so beautiful we decided to see if we could get to 70 degrees north. As we sailed along ice gradually increased until going further seemed like a bad idea. We looked for shelter at Paakitsoq 69' 30 N and 50' 50 W,

Going in was a nail biter. Using a hand drawn chart with the instruction to stay a 'biscuit toss offshore', we bumped bottom but after several tries, found our way into a wild deserted pool. With our anchor down and a line to shore we slept well.

We left in fog southbound for Ilulissat. We picked our way through bergs and bits using radar until it became so thick that Jean had to go forward and issue had signals. When the fog lifted it did not look much better. When we finally reached Illussat it looked totally blocked with multi story bergs but the local boats showed us the way. It is a small harbor jammed with fishing boats, supply ships and fiberglass runabouts.

We were learning that if you ask you can't tie up but if you tie up you have a good chance of staying. We tied up at the only free space, the fish plant, and, as it was Saturday, we were allowed to stay until Sunday night.

The hike along the Ilulissat glacier must be one of the finest in the world. The mountains of glowing ice grind past the mountains of black rock to implode into the bay. It ranks as one of the Foley's seven wonders of the natural world.

Captain Jim had planned to give Jean a break and take her out for dinner for the first time since leaving Canada but this was not to be. We were surprised that the restaurant and two hotels were fully booked.

On the dazzling Sunday morning we untied our lines and slipped around the quay to see a towering wall of ice in front of us. We waited until a local boat appeared and followed to pick our way through silently praying that nothing toppled over to crush us. We passed the ferry and a large Greenland Atlantic supply boat waiting for the monsters to clear.

We motored south in front of the face of the glacier. A lead had opened between it and the bergs and brash. The day was calm, brilliant and unforgettable.

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