Monday, 17 October 2011

Nova Scotia and Newfoundland pilotage notes

Pilotage Notes for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland

Compiled by Trevor Robertson, yacht Iron Bark II, 2011

There are three commonly available cruising guides to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland: Cruising Guide to the Canadian Maritime, published by Yacht Pilots and the Cruising club of America’s two volumes covering the same area, The Cruising Guide to Nova Scotia and The Cruising Guide to Newfoundland. The Yacht Pilot publication is better for the area it covers, particularly its sketch charts. The CCA publications are illustrated with photocopied sections from Canadian charts, which lack a scale, have no indication of the units of depth and no latitude/longitude which limits their usefulness.

These notes are intended to supplement the information in the above three publications.


Crammond Islands

45°45.1N 061°05.5W

General: Crammond Islands are in the SW part of West Bay of Bras d’Or Lake. The anchorage is pretty, well protected, have excellent holding and generally empty.  Highly recommended.

Approach: The approach from the north has a least depth of 3m. Shallow spits extend from the points on either side of the channel: see sketch chart. These spits appear to be sand and mud so grounding is unlikely to be serious.

The southern approach has a wide bar with least depth of 1.8m. There may be a deeper channel across the bar but it is not obvious and a vessel with draft of 1.8m or greater should use the north channel or send a dinghy ahead to sound.

Anchorage: Anchor where convenient in 9 to 15m, mud, good holding and protected from all winds.


Otter Harbour

46°13.2’N 061°31.5’W

Otter Harbour is the northern-most all weather harbour in Great Bras d’Or and a pleasant, quiet spot to wait on weather and tide to exit through Big Bras d’Or.

Approach: From the south, the easiest approach is to pass east of Otter Island. This is deep and free from dangers except for a 4m shoal between Otter Island and the mainland which will not bother most yachts. There is a navigable channel west of Otter Island but it is narrow and rock-strewn.  From the north there are no off-lying dangers on any sensible course. There is no passage through the narrow channel that between the bay NW of Harbour Point and Otter Harbour.

Anchorage: In the middle of Otter Harbour there is a small islet with a white hut and crib-work platform that once housed a light and just north of it is a smaller platform on a small shoal. It is easier to leave the islet and hut to port when entering Otter Harbour as a rocky shoal extends a considerable distance SW from the islet but with care the islet can be passed on either side.  If leaving it to starboard, swing to starboard to avoid a shoal off the mainland SE entrance point then back to port to avoid the shoal off the islet (see sketch chart).

Anchor where convenient in 4 to 8m, mud and boulders, good holding but sometimes noisy due to the chain rumbling on boulders


47°52.8N 059°23.8W

General: Codroy Harbour is the only good all-weather harbour on the SW corner of Newfoundland and a useful port of refuge. There are 15 small communities scattered up the Codroy valley and a similar number of stores that sell everything from chainsaws to tombstones but only one general store within walking distance of the harbour. Fuel is not locally available but it may be possible to arrange delivery by truck from Port aux Basque.  There is water and electricity on the dock and ice is available from the fish plant. Public internet access is at the school, about 10 km from the harbour.

In September 2011 harbour dues were $10/day, $15 if using electricity. The locals are friendly and there are a number of good walks, particularly along the coast to the Cape Aiguille lighthouse where the light keeper’s house is now a restaurant.

Approach:  In good weather the church is conspicuous from seaward and is a good steering mark when heading towards the fairway buoy which is red and white, Mo A. From the fairway buoy follow the buoyed channel eastwards towards the harbour marked by two pairs of red and green buoys. These buoys are lit but in September 2011 the outer green was extinguished. The buoyed channel is not in its charted position as shifting sand has changed the bathymetry in the approaches and in the inner harbour. Follow the buoyed channel, not the charted one. There is a least depth of 6m between the fairway buoy and the inner pair of channel markers.


There is a shallow bar between the second (inner) pair of buoys and the breakwater consisting of several sand waves with a minimum depth of about 2.4m at low water springs in September 2011. The approaches were being dredged in September 2011 which should result in a deeper channel at least for a year or two. Shoals with less than 2m over them extend N from the spit on Codroy Island and out from the end of the breakwater. Neither is easy to see at high water. Proceed cautiously for the last 300m from the second pair of red/green buoys to the inner harbour, steering to pass 20m west of the outer end of the breakwater.

Anchoring/Docking: The inner harbour is U-shaped. Dock anywhere convenient except in the NE corner which is reserved for unloading of fish. There is a minimum depth of about 2m against the face of any of the wharfs and 2.5m or so 2m out from them where most yachts keels would be. The harbour is fairly busy and it may be necessary to raft to a fishing boat.

It should be possible to anchor is the entrance to the bight SW of the dock. Depths here will change as the dredging programme continues, so proceed with care. It is too shallow to anchor N of the dock.

Caution: The inside of the breakwater looks to be a convenient berth but is only tenable in good weather. It is exposed to any wind from the north and is dangerous in winds over 35knots.  Although the breakwater appears to be well protected from winds from the S, fishermen report that in a SE gale the sea breaks “20 ft high over her” and piles of rocks, some weighing several kilograms, are thrown over the breakwater and would end up on the deck of a vessel lying there. It would be dangerous to try to enter Codroy in a SE gale as the bar will probably break. This may change when dredging is completed.

Isle aux Morts

47°35.2N 058°58.8W

Isle aux Morts (pronounced Eye la Mort) is a small town connected by road about 6 miles east of Port aux Basques. There are two public docks in the town and several good anchorages nearby. There should be no problem entering in most weather.

Approaches: There are two main entrances to Isle aux Morts. The Eastern Passage is wide and well marked. The Western Passage is narrower but also well marked and presents no problems in good visibility. There is little reason to use the rock-encumbered Middle Passage.

Docking: There are two public docks in the town. The largest and newest is NW of the Marine Service Centre and boatlift. It is a substantial pier with adequate depths alongside all the way to shore. Some surge usually finds its way down the Eastern Passage making the SW face of the dock uncomfortable. In September 2011 there was plenty of room on the inner (NE) side of the dock. This side of the dock looks as if it would be uncomfortable and perhaps dangerous in a NE gale. There is a long fetch to the NE and the valley beyond will probably act as a wind funnel.

The other public dock is in a narrow tickle south of the town. The dock is L-shaped. The outside of the dock has 2-3 metres alongside and should be a good berth in anything except a SW gale when surge could find its way in around Pitmans Island. The outside of the dock was unoccupied in September 2011, which may indicate the locals feel the same way. The inside of the dock is well protected but the gap between the dock and the shore is only 10m wide so most yachts would not be able to get in even if there were room amongst the small local boats crowded in there. The safest place if severe weather is forecast is probably at anchor in Squid Hole or Mickle Tickle. In September 2011 Iron Bark rode out 40-50 knot winds brought by Hurricane Maria in Squid Hole with two anchors and two shore lines and probably would have had no problem lying to a single anchor.

Anchoring: There are two good anchorages, Squid Hole and Mickle Tickle, and a number of other options in settled weather.

Squid Hole looking NE

Squid Hole: The entrance is through a 50m wide channel leaving Squid Island to port. The opening is not visible until the last moment when approaching from the Western Passage. From the Eastern Passage the apparent opening to the east of Squid Island is rock-filled and there is no passage through this gap: leave Squid Island to port. Enter mid-channel between Squid Island and Isle aux Morts Island then turn to starboard keeping 25m off the west shore until past the rocky ledge which lies approximately 70m south of Squid Island. This ledge covers at HWS but is covered with bladder-wrack weed which is visible when the rock is covered. Once inside anchor anywhere convenient except in the cove on the NE side where the bottom is rocky with much kelp. Elsewhere holding is good in 7-8m, mud. The shores are mostly steep-to so there is more swinging room than it first appears. Shore lines can be used if severe weather is expected. The spruce trees on the shore are not suitable tie points as they are diminutive and shallow rooted so Iron Bark used ropes to chain slings, one around rocks and one knotted and dropped in a rock crack like a climber’s jammer, to ride out gale to storm force winds brought by Hurricane Maria.

Mickle Tickle: This is a narrow NE-SW trending tickle entered through a 40m wide cut with a minimum mid-channel depth of 3m. Rocky ledges extend out from either shore reduce the navigable width in the entrance to about 20m. Past the entrance the tickle opens up to a maximum width of about 90m with depths of 3-5m. Depths then decrease to 1.8m or less where the tickle narrows. The narrows lead to a narrow, shallow dinghy passage connecting the south end of Mickle Tickle to Western Passage. There should be adequate swinging room in widest part but the tickle looks as if it could become a wind funnel in a NE or SW gale because of its orientation and high sides. I chose Squid Hole in preference to either Mickle Tickle or the public docks when Hurricane Maria was forecast but probably would have been safe in one of these other berths.

Services: It is only a short drive to Port aux Basques and its shops so only basic supplies are available in Isle aux Morts.  There are at least two convenience stores and a post office but no fuel in town. The Marine Service Centre was still operating the Travelift in September 2011 but the boat yard looked neglected.

Rose Blanche

47°36.5N 058°41.6W

Rose Blanche is a pretty little town with a population of about 600 in September 2011. It is on the end of the road from Port aux Basques. Like much of the south coast of Newfoundland is has an aging population. It is the base for the ferry to Lapoile which is the only remaining outport between Rose Blanche and Burgeo since Grand Brit and Petites have been abandoned.


Approach:  There is a red/white fairway buoy (Mo A) to seaward of the Rose Blanche Shoals and a pair of red and green buoys leading in past the shoals to Cains Island which has a light on its south end. Rose Blanche Shoals break heavily in bad weather and should be avoided even in good weather as they can break unexpectedly. The granite lighthouse on Rose Blanche Point is conspicuous. Once beyond Cairns Island the four coves that comprise Rose Blanche open up. Three of the coves are usable berths and the entrances are buoyed.


Anchoring/Docking:  The bay east of Rose Blanche looks to be well protected but requires anchoring in fairly deep water (15m). Iron Bark did not use this anchorage. There is nowhere to go alongside in this cove as the dock on the western side is derelict and collapsing and the substantial new dock on the east side in front of the small fish receiving facility is reserved for unloading fish.

The town is built around a narrow tickle with a public wharf on its east side. This dock is no longer used by the ferry so is available for use by yachts but is likely to be crowded with fishing boats and it will probably be necessary to raft outside one of them. There are floating docks on either end of the public dock which usually have skiffs alongside preventing a visitor from using them. The locals say this dock is well protected in any wind.

West of the town is another narrow tickle known locally as Crow Cove. Locals so not recommend this as an anchorage, probably because of its restricted swinging room and poor holding.

West Arm is the westernmost cove in Rose Blanche and has a large derelict fish processing plant at its head.  There is a substantial U-shaped wharf in front of the fish plant whose east arm is used by the Lapoile ferry. The ferry uses the outer 2/3 of this arm and generally seems to berth on its east face, though this probably depends on weather. The rest of the wharf is no longer maintained but in September 201 was in fairly good condition. The residents of Lapoile park their cars around the old fish plant, Rose Blanche being their roadhead. There is a good anchorage off the fish plant in 6m, mud, good holding, but by reputation it can get windy. With a north wind enough swell finds its way into West Arm to make it uncomfortable and the anchorage is probably untenable in a strong south wind. A footpath leads past the cemetery over the hill to the town centre.

Ashore: In September 2011 there were two well-stocked grocery stores, a café/restaurant and a post office. Fuel is not locally available. There are a number of good walks around the town, particularly out to the restored lighthouse on Rose Blanche Point and across to La Cou down the old La Cou road.

West Arm with the Lapoile ferry alongside the dock

Cinq Cerf Bay–Culotte Cove

47°42.0N 058°05.8W

Cinq Cerf Bay is of easy access and Culotte Cove at its head is a well protected anchorage. The surrounding country has a wild beauty with some fine walks. There are numerous caribou trails. There is a sand beach near the head of Culotte Cove suitable for beaching a vessel for bottom scrubbing or repairs. Tide range is about 1.8m on springs, 1.2m on neaps.

Approach: Leave Flat Island, a low rocky island, and black south cardinal buoy to the north of it, to port on entry then steer to pass about a quarter off Black Rock (2m high), keeping well east of Big Sunker and Tinker Sunkers. From Black Rock steer to pass a similar distance off Wild Cove Point past Diver Reef, which should be visible in most conditions. Follow the shore past Seal Rocks (2m high and quite extensive) towards Woody Island (15m high and partially covered with spruce). When Woody Island is abeam, turn to port and steer for the conspicuous cliff on Betty Head thence, favouring the north shore into Culotte Cove. There is a 3-4m bar across the entrance to the cove.

Culotte Cove looking east

Anchorages: The best anchorage is in Culotte Cove in 5-7m, good holding with adequate swinging room. The bottom in the main part of the anchorage is peat, presumably a relict from a period of lower sea levels when Cinq Cerf was a pond dammed by the bar at its mouth. Shore lines could be used if a severe weather is forecast.

An alternative berth is moored at the head of Northeast Arm between the islet and north shore where there were mooring lines set up in September 2011. This is better protected from strong winds than the anchorage in Culotte Cove but is tight for manoeuvring. Betty Cove is subject to considerable surge if there is any swell outside and is not a good anchorage but does have a good watering stream at its head.

Iron Bark careened for scrubbing in Culotte Cove


  1. If you find your way through the Bras d'Or Lakes again in the future check out the anchorage chartlets and other info at:

  2. I wanted to thank you for this good read!! I definitely loved every bit of it. I have got you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post