For pleasure boaters, cruising guides are indispensable. Especially for those of us exploring new territory. They’re the maritime equivalent of Yelp or Trip Advisor, but so much more. They describe the best places to anchor, where dangerous rocks lie, and what to do ashore. The name Louse Harbour itself might be enough to turn you off as a suitable anchorage, following the old “Never go camping at Mosquito Lake” axiom. Except one Nova Scotia guide says beyond the tricky entrance to Louse Harbour lies “one of the quietest and prettiest anchorages in the province” complete with a pond with water warm enough to swim. A good cruising guide is like having a really smart extra crew member aboard, full of local knowledge, who you don’t have to feed. These guides also make great reading ashore in the off season. Sort of like seed catalogs thumbed by gardeners during the winter months.
Some cruising guides are the work of a single author, or authors, like the authoritative “Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast.” Known to Down East sailors simply as “Taft”, the last name of two of its three authors. Or “A Cruising Guide to Nova Scotia,” by Dr. Peter Loveridge. The feisty physician seems to have sailed into nearly every inlet in the province in his small boat. One wonders when he had time to treat his patients. His book is fun to puruse just for the no-nonsense prose. The edition I have is 20 years old but great reading still. On notorious Cape Sable, which I always want to pass as quickly as possible, Loveridge casually recommends pulling into a small cove in nearby Barrington Harbour next to a causeway where your children can swim and play in the sand dunes. Nearby, he notes, is a restaurant built by members of a religious commune “whose puritanical ways were considered too extreme, even by the standards of the locals, who at one time set a record for the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in all of Canada.” On the Honorable Billy Joe Maclean, former mayor of Port Hawkesbury on Cape Breton and the owner of a popular local bar, Loveridge notes: “He’s a rather likeable fellow, though I don’t know whether I’d want him to fill in my tax returns.”
Other guides are the collective work of sailors who contribute descriptions of places they’ve visited. These, in turn, are compiled into loose leaf volumes and updated every so often by knowledgable editors. Among the best of these are the Cruising Club of America’s guides to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. More than sixty years of observations by veteran voyageurs. Who doesn’t want that experience in the cockpit as you ponder how best to enter Grey River on Newfoundland’s southwest coast in dense fog.
Homeward bound, after EXIT’s maiden Newfoundland cruise, I intend to submit a few small updates of my own to my well-used CCA guide. There’s a new floating dock in Old Perlican. Be aware of the surge if you moor at the L-shaped wharf at St. Lawrence. The Revolution Restaurant in Saint-Pierre is not to be missed. In one instance, however, St. Bride’s on the southeast corner of Placentia Bay, just north of Cape St. Mary’s, I feel the guide understates the harbour’s problems. Navigation marks are newly missing. This particular guide entry needs an update. Here’s what I plan to email the editors:
St. Bride’s — As noted in the current entry, St. Bride’s is the only layover port relatively near the 90-mile straight line course between the Burin Peninsula and Trepassey, near Cape Race. As such, it’s tempting to stop here overnight to break up a long passage. The harbour entrance in fair weather is challenging, but doable, but beware approaching in foul conditions. Local fishermen say even they move their boats to another harbour when a severe storm is forecast. The memory of devastating Hurricane Gert lingers on. It destroyed the harbour and some of its fishing fleet in September, 1999. Fifteen years later, no one failed to mention this frightening storm and its 50-foot waves when asked about mooring conditions here. And that says something, given the toughness of the average Newfoundland seafarer.
The one red and two green channel buoys, important guides on the published charts, were gone when we arrived in August, 2014. Disappeared in a storm and not replaced. The harbour approach is now unmarked, except for three navigation lights on shore, unhelpful during daylight. On approach, stay close to the bold eastern shore to avoid the unmarked rocks awash just west of the breakwater entrance. These rocks have claimed more than one visiting boat. Unfortunately, the safe course is parallel and close to the breakwater, making it impossible to see the narrow harbour entrance, which is alarmingly close to the shoreline, until you’re on top of it. For a first-time visitor, this can be disconcerting in a fresh southwesterly with the sea pushing you from behind and waves breaking on the shore just beyond your bow. Still, it’s important to keep sufficient boat speed in order to make a last-minute, starboard U-turn around the breakwater when the entrance suddenly appears. It’s a tight turn. (Unlike almost all of the helpful Cruising Guide photos, the aerial photo of St. Bride’s gives a clinical view of the harbour that significantly underestimates the difficulty of the approach, in my opinion.)
Once inside, there’s a long wharf to starboard for off-loading fish which likely will be empty since local boats moor further back in the small harbour. There’s a significant surge at this wharf when it’s blowing southwest outside. At night, flashing red and green lights mark the ends of the breakwater. I would not attempt this entrance after dark without prior knowledge.
There’s a clean and inviting shower-bathroom in the harbour supervisor’s building. The supervisor has the key. She charged a modest $10 for a one-night stay on the wharf. We received friendly and useful advice from several local fishermen and citizens, plus a freshly caught cod, cleaned and filleted. A welcome gift from the captain of a boat on the fourth day of the three-week commercial inshore fishing season. A convenience store is at the top of the hill, a 15-minute walk from the boat basin. The town library, with wi-fi, is five minutes further on.