Partially obscured by fog, a container ship steams north along the coast of Nova Scotia.
Partially obscured by fog, a container ship steams north along the coast of Nova Scotia.

Moving cargo by sealift on “Atlantic Ranger,”
Canadian Maritimes, Baffin Island, port-to-port
Greenland and Iceland, dodging icebergs on
Heaving Northwest Atlantic, flying the Red
Maple Leaf, maritime way of life continues.

Shipping containerized freight from Nova
Scotia, scientific instruments, palletized and
Shrink-wrapped, research in Greenland,
We’ve cleared Customs, Halifax Harbour,
Deep-sea fishing trawlers, weekend boaters.

Thus the sea-trek begins when Cape Breton
Disappears on horizon’s distant edge, a
Few scattered radar reflections fading off
The stern, froth and mist of white water,
Churning diesels pushing, lights burning.

From the towering superstructure, wide
Row of windows, great sea curve looms
Ahead, dark liquid sphere. By miracle of
Gravity, we sail on side of a colossal
Rotating water-covered globe.

Open-ocean navigating, wave reading,
Intuition, reckoning numbers, compass
Bearings, GPS coordinates, interpreting
Weather, sea currents, and ice, avoiding
Hazards, course made good north.

Nautical charts, ocean maps, soundings in
Fathoms, contour lines, compass variations,
Harbour entrances, ocean buoys, shipping
Lanes, guiding tugs, from Halifax and New-
Foundland to Greenland southern shores.

Taking forenoon watch, port and starboard,
Binocs in hand, monitoring VHF Channels
16 and 11, we push north, watching radar
For approaching ships, ice bulletins, “Rules
Of the Road,” charts open on the bridge.

Approaching Cape Race, angle of noon-
Day shadows lengthen, GPS confirms our
Position, what we know, the historic
lighthouse beaming off the port bow,
Warning of late summer ice drifting south.

Hammered shores of Newfoundland are
Not as concerning as ice and fog, both
Hazards to Grand Banks navigation
Since Viking longboats first explored
These rocky, spruce-lined shores.

From normal running to unease, half-mile
Visibility on the Banks, icebergs appear as
Fuzzy radar images, lost in heaving swells,
Waiting bergy bits and growlers, “Iceberg
Alley” along the nose and tail of the Banks.

Ice bulletins indicate limits of all known
Ice, we are in the thick of it, as we push
Past Avalon, towards Port Nanortalik,
750 nautical miles, heading ten degrees,
Wall of icebergs off Strait of Belle Isle.

At 15 knots, GPS and captain plot time,
Speed, and distance, 50 hours, two full
Days of steaming amongst ice against
South-flowing Labrador Current, driving
And watchstanding in twenty-foot seas.

Once at Nanortalik Port, we offload, lay
Up for reloading, trip to Reykjavik, south
To Labrador, St. John’s, or Halifax, life
On Northwest Atlantic, hauling freight,
Year round, God and ice permitting.

For a stormy day on Grand Banks of Newfoundland, see this short video taken from the bridge of the “Atlantic Hawk“: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umKvaTJnrkU

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