HAPPY VALLEY--GOOSE BAY: In the north, the weather rules.
You can make the most careful plans, but unless Ma Nature co-operates, it means nothing.
Which is why we are cooling our heels tonight in this busy community, where the fighter jets of NATO airmen in training share runway space with the workhorse planes of a typical frontier airport.
We flew here this morning from Summerside, PEI, three hours in an Air Labrador Twin Otter with the 17ft. 2in. Old Town canoes down one side of the fuselage, stuffed with our gear, and five of the gang seated either beside or just behind them. Your scribe, being the most compact of the crew, was wedged on the other side of the boats with a riveting view of red ABS Royalex and a window in the emergency door.
HACC members aboard an Air Labrador Twin Otter en route to Labrador. (Digital photo by Michael Peake)
Not that there was much to see. When we took off, it was clear enough that we got a good view of the 14,000-strong Boy Scout CJ'01 Jamboree
where we spent the last four days. Then, leaving the beaches of Summerside behind, we climbed into cloud and things stayed that way until we descended over the dense bush surrounding HV-GB.
And now we're stuck. And the word is not good.
Thick overcast blankets the Labrador coast, and has for several days. Visibility at Nain, just south of our current drop-off point at Saglek Fjord, is awful.
When we came down here, a planned stop anyway to refuel, we were quickly told that we weren't going anywhere.
After getting rooms at the Royal Inn, in the Happy Valley end of town, a council of war ensued while Geoffrey fried up his tofu wieners for lunch.
You see, the other great enemy (besides wind and cloud) is time.
The tri-partite fabric of this trip presents some interesting and potentially problematic logistics. We need to go up the coast to get to Nachvak Fjord and the mouth of the Palmer River to begin the ascent into the Torngat Mountains.
If we get behind at this stage, the only way to gain time is to further reduce the days on the ocean to enable us to complete the rest of the trip. (Changes in plans, sadly brought about by the untimely death of Angus Scott and the need to replace his son Peter, an HACC regular, with Tom Stevens, ate into this week initially. Further - albeit immensely enjoyable - commitments to Woods, our sponsor, took care of another day.)
But to trim time on the coast, we would have to fly further north and land on floats because the most northerly landing strip available is the U.S. installation at Saglek Fjord. (It would help here if everybody took a look at the maps on the website to follow the thinking.)
The trouble with that idea is that a Twin Otter on floats would need to refuel to make the trip, as they are thirstier due to the increased wind drag from the pontoons. And there's no fuel up there.
Of course, we could wake up tomorrow to clear skies and be able to keep our 10 a.m. date with de Havilland.
But as I'm writing, the skies are leaden, the rain is misting down, and Sean is snoring.
Trust me, none of these are good signs.
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