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Daily Trip Log

By Peter Brewster

Time and tide

Thursday, August 2, 2001


 UNGAVA BAY: It has been a remarkable day.

 One not to be mist. Pun intended.

 It started, for us, at 4.30 a.m. when we rolled out of bed into a steady rain to portage an outfit already soaked from being packed up wet yesterday morning.

 As any camper or canoeist will tell you, one wet start is okay. Two means that too many things are going to get damp and stay that way.

 And of course it was very buggy, completing a blackfly-blighted trio of days.

 The portage was necessary because our camp Wednesday night was halfway down the final series of rapids where the Korok River empties into Ungava Bay. The light was failing when we pulled in, and it was not prudent to head down yet another rock-laden rapid in rain and failing light, wearing bug jackets because of the insect onslaught. At least it was warm.

 It turned out the rapid was not runnable anyway, so portage it had to be, to get to tidewater to meet our boat ride into George River set for 7 a.m.

 This is where things got interesting. Jean-Guy and his 20-foot boat were not to be seen, the blackflies were out of control and it was still raining.

 Out came the satellite phone, and the word was not good: "I can't see a @#$%*#* thing here for fog," said Jean-Guy, just 30 miles away by sea and our key to making it into the village to get dry and fly out tomorrow (Friday). "Call me later."

 Virtually as he spoke the Ungava fog rolled into the Korok estuary, obliterating our horizon.

 Did I mention it was buggy?

 Debates ensued about trying to paddle the 30 miles. But on a cold ocean in dense fog ... ?

 At 10 a.m., on the falling tide, a miracle happened. The sky opened up, the fog receded, a stunning sunny day ensued. We could see right out into the bay. Hopes were high for an early evening pickup, when the huge Ungava tides would once again be conducive to a boat getting back in to George River after running round the headland at Elson Point.

 The HACC kicked back. The little rocky beach where we had slithered on wet rocks in the early-morning light was littered with the trappings of a canoe expedition drying in the sun. It looked like a plane crash.

 Char were caught, cinnamon buns baked. We chatted with an Inuk called Thomas and his family when they came to fish in the rapids.

 Then, as the tide started to come in, our luck went out. In a half-hour period the fog rolled in again off the ocean, thick, damp and now quite cold.

 Another call to Jean-Guy. "I can't see the village from my house," he said. "Call me in the morning at 6:30."

 This cuts things very fine, through nobody's fault. The weather is its own boss. Our plane out to Kujjuaq is at 11 a.m. There isn't another for several days.

 As evening wore on the fog has gained density and temperature dropped. It's the kind of weather that drove hardy, dour Orkneymen into Hudson Bay service only to find more of it over here.

 The proper antidote to this weather is a full-Monte HACC char chowder, replete with canned crab and dry sherry. Topped with the cinnamon buns and tea.

 So it was.

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