Views About Nain
“When you leave Greenland you should definitely go to Nain. It’s a nice place and you’ll love the cruising the twisting inner passages between all the islands.”
“I don’t think you’ll find much of interest in Nain.”
“One might want to anchor for the night for the kids apparently never sleep and are buzzing about at all hours of the night – as are the mosquitoes”.
“Too many kids with too little to do”
“Keep someone on the boat otherwise kids might reallocate whatever of our assets they fancied”.
What to do? Who to believe? Our curiosity was piqued. The decider was the man who owned the 50 ton crane that lifted us out of the water in Nuuk. When he heard we were planning to go straight to Battle Harbour on the Southern tip of Labrador, he just looked at us and said bluntly ‘You should go to Nain, it’s much nearer’.
So that was it, we set off into a blustery afternoon, destination Nain, a settlement of some 1200 people, 75% of them Inuit, the largest and most Northerly settlement in Labrador, with no road access to the rest of Canada. No doubt it would have all the associated problems of high unemployment and alcohol abuse, hence some of the negative comments we’d received, but we wanted to see for ourselves.
It may have been nearer than Battle Harbour, but it still took us 5 days to cross the Davis Strait on yet another very benign crossing of these notoriously stormy waters.
We decided to risk the feral kids and moored up alongside the government wharf which was much more convenient than anchoring off. Our arrival drew no particular interest from anyone or anything apart from the mosquitoes and we were able to spend a relaxed evening recovering from the five days at sea. The next morning, a lot of young boys did arrive on the wharf, but they were far more interested in their fishing than us. They were catching good fish too; good sized char and ‘rock cod’ were accumulating on the wharf. A parent would occasionally turn up in a large pick-up to check how they were doing, so the ‘feral kids’ myth was knocked on the head.
Nain seemed to be a busy place. There were a lot of cars on the few roads through the town, and only the occasional quad bike; two good supermarkets and several convenience stores; a primary and secondary school and a college offering some tertiary education courses and a very smart town hall with an exhibition about the history of the town. At least six light aircraft and two helicopters landed and took off from the shore side runway during the course of the day.
Obviously you can’t get under the skin of a place in 36 hours. There were posters in the supermarket raising awareness of the evils of ‘elder abuse’ and dire warnings about the consequences of ‘bootlegging’ which suggested that perhaps all was not well in the community, but we found everyone to be extremely welcoming, greeting us with big smiles as we walked through the town.
About an hour after the first helicopter landed, a large pick-up with ‘Woodward’ emblazoned on the side drove onto the wharf. All the doors flew open and six very large men climbed out and stood along the wharf overlooking our boat. They explained that they were from ‘Woodward Oil’, the company that has the contract for delivering oil to all the settlements along the Labrador Coast, in Hudson Bay and through into the Northwest Passage. They had arrived by helicopter and were doing a tour of all their oil installations along the coast. They wanted to know all about our travels and where we were planning to go next. One of the men was delighted to see that ‘Suilven’ was registered in Dartmouth. He’d been over to England and visited Dartmouth because his family had come from there to settle in Newfoundland in the 1700’s, a very old Newfoundland family. They asked where we were going next and we said that Battle Harbour was a priority they all laughed and pointed at the man who had been doing most of the talking and said that he was the chairman of the Battle Harbour Historic Trust. He was of course delighted that we were going there. As they were leaving was asked him what his name was. ‘Pete’ he said, ‘Pete Woodward’. We all looked from him to the sign on the side of the car and back to him. ‘Yep,’ he said, ‘that’s me – that’s my company’. And with that they all climbed back into the truck and sped off back up the wharf.
Later that day, this was confirmed when a Woodward coastal container ship tied up alongside the wharf. The captain came down to talk to us while his ship was being unloaded. He’d worked for Woodward for many years, and Pete was now the boss, having taken over from his father who had died a few months ago. The captain’s job was to do weekly deliveries to all the ‘outports’ or settlements with no road connections to the Canadian highway system, all along the Labrador Coast. He had previously worked on the oil tankers delivering oil to Hudson Bay and North West Passage settlements and described how in 2012, a low ice year, they had taken the tanker through Fury and Hecla Straight, a very narrow waterway linking Hudson Bay to the Northwest Passage which is usually completely choked with ice. His job provided him with employment in the summer months, and in the winter he was free to go hunting moose.
Our final visitors, incongruously, were two Jehovah’s witnesses. Mercifully they were not in proselytising mode, and were merely curious about where we had come from and where we were going.
We had a good lunch on the boat, sitting in the sunshine watching the Minke whales splashing about in the harbour.
We wanted to go for a walk in the afternoon, but had been put off from wandering too far from the settlement because of the black bears that apparently live in the area. Although not hugely dangerous, we didn’t want to risk meeting up with one so confined our walk to the local Labradorite quarry along the shore.
We have a two night passage ahead of us and are leaving at first light in order to get through the narrow ‘tickles’ and ‘rattles’ in the daylight.