Sailing the Higher Latitudes of Newfoundland

Last summer, while cruising the coast of Nova Scotia, we had the good fortune to hear a presentation at the Bras d’ Or Yacht Club by Wilson Eavis on sailing the southwest coast of Newfoundland. His stories, and our love of sailing in Nova Scotia, convinced us to return to the far north this summer, explore deeper into Nova Scotia, and to sail Someday to the higher latitudes of Newfoundland.

We spent the spring, working our way north from the Bahamas, where we had spent the winter. Then in June, we crossed the Gulf of Maine to Shelburne, a quaint town and port of entry to Nova Scotia with a wooden boat-building heritage. Our next stop was Port Mouton, home of the coldest water and the most beautiful white sand beach in the province.

We explored Mahone Bay with a sail to the Oak Island, and the picturesque town of Chester. We continued with short day sails to beautiful Rogues Roost , a pristine gem and former hidey-hole for Rum Runners; Jeddore (best schnitzel outside of Germany), Tangier (in the 100 Wild Islands Provincial Reserve), Sheet Harbor, and then to Liscomb Lodge for their dockage and to enjoy the amenities of the rustic provincial lodge.

Our fastest sail of the summer was to our next stop of D’Escousse on Isle Madame, and then through St Peters Canal and locks into the Bras d’Or Lake, a World Heritage Site. Here the water is calm, brackish, and a warm 75 degrees. Since we spent 3 weeks exploring it last year, we didn’t stay but instead, sailed through it and staged for a favorable current, and our crossing of the infamously treacherous Cabot Strait to Newfoundland.

We had a great weather window, although we learned you never want 20 knots from any direction when crossing the strait. Our first planned stop of Port aux Basque would have been untenable in the impending gale, so instead, our buddy Wilson Eavis, recommended we proceed 6 miles farther to the village of Margaree. In his skiff, Captain Matt Sweet, along with his son and 2 dogs, came out to meet us and guided us into the harbor, where the menfolk from the village were there to grab our lines.

We became fast friends with Matt and his buddy Chris, and enjoyed a fire pit at his house and cocktails-plus aboard Someday. Before we left, they filled our freezer with moose and halibut, and then off we sailed to Rose Blanche, home of the oldest lighthouse in Canada, and a beautiful hike to the fjord at Harbor La Cou.

We then sailed to the outport of La Poile, and the deserted outport of Grand Bruit, where caribou roam the quiet hills. An outport by the way, is a port that is only accessible by sea. Our friends from Margaree, met us here where we toasted Old Joe at the Cramalott Pub and enjoyed grilled moose on the pier before saying our final goodbyes.

Our next stop was the town of Burgeo, home of Sands Provincial Park, with great hiking and the largest beaches in the province. Our remaining stops were all outports, Ramea, the deserted Deadman’s Cove in La Hune, and Francois. The latter two stops were in Fjordland, where waterfalls tumble off the soaring granite peaks, and wild berries grow amongst the tundra.

With signs of tropical storm activity increasing, we cut our time short and made the return trip across the strait, through the Bras d’Or Lakes, and down to Lunenberg. Here in this World Heritage site, we’ll hike, buy scallops off the boat, and wait for the storms to pass.

We are pondering our agenda for next summer when we plan to return to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland.

Emory and Kim Zimmer have lived aboard their Jeanneau 53, Someday, since 2015. Since then, they have cruised extensively, including two years in the Caribbean, an around-the-world circumnavigation with the World ARC, and numerous trips up and down the East Coast. They plan to return to the unspoiled beauty of the high latitudes in the summer of 2024.

Impressions and Final Thoughts: Some of the best hiking and most picturesque spots in the world are in Newfoundland. It is starkly beautiful, and we rarely came across other sailors. We met kind and interesting people along the way:

  • In Jeddore, NS we bought heritage rhubarb from descendants of British loyalists
  • In Tangier, NS we toured an old gold mine with a friendly excavator. Later we had beer with a young man who let us land on his beach; he brought us homemade bread, herring and Gouda.
  • The whole Margaree. NF gang with their awesome Newfie accents
  • In Francois, NF we met several locals who shared their favorite hiking trails and spots with free WiFi