Treader, one of the Appledore schooners
A Northern Call To Arms
built by Bud McIntosh. For six years, he
ran a program of “sea learning” in the
Chesapeake Bay, with longer trips to New
England in the summer.
— Myron Arms
The town of Nain is about 1,000 miles
from Boston, as the crow flies, going north.
Daytona Beach, Florida, is roughly the
same distance in the opposite direction.
Nain, which is in northeastern Canada’s
Labrador province, is the administrative
capital for the Inuit territory Nunatsiavut,
which boasts a population of 5,000, or
about 1/100th the number of people who
visit Daytona Beach’s Bike Week every year.
All of which is to say, if you are the sort of
person who likes a crowd, Nain may not
be for you.
“These are places that are staggeringly
beautiful, and no one else goes there,”
says author Myron Arms, whose latest
book, True North: Journeys into the Great
Northern Ocean, chronicles his trips to
Coastal Labrador, Greenland, and Northern
Europe. “When you arrive, you’re not a
tourist, you’re a traveler, in the old sense
of the term.”
In the 1980s, when his attention
turned to the north, Arms put together an
older crew (“There was a fair amount of
risk,” he says), and outfitted a new boat,
Brendan’s Isle, a 50-foot cutter named in
honor of St. Brendan the Navigator. “She
was a very strong boat,” he says, “just
the kind of boat you want to go north.”
Brendan’s Isle was sold last year, but not
before Arms put about 100,000 miles on
her over 28 years, most of it heading north.
Arms wanted to go to Northern
Europe, he says, but he wasn’t sure what
lay along the way. With a crew of mostly
college-age students, Brendan’s Isle explored
the North Atlantic and its coast. “The top
400 miles of Labrador has no permanent
human settlement,” he says. “That’s a real
wilderness experience, and that’s what the
appeal is. North of Nain, it’s only accessible by boat or float plane.”
Arms has been a full-time traveler
since 1977, when he left behind a job as a
high school English teacher to teach teen-
agers aboard the 60-foot schooner Dawn
True North chronicles the travels of
Brendan’s Isle, but also the people, land,
and climate of areas that few take the time
Arms’s other books have dealt with
people (Servants of the Fish collects the
stories of Newfoundlanders, drawn from
ACR ResQLink 7.125x4.625 Boat US.pdf 1 6/23/11 12:28 PM
Arms’s interviews there) and the environment (Riddle of the Ice is about the fate and
science of polar sea ice).
“I grew up sailing Maine in the summers,” he says, “and the proper way to sail
Myron Arms looks northward.
was with a pair of rubber boots, a watch
cap, and maybe mittens in the morning.
That just seemed the proper costume.
Sailing in bare feet and bathing suits is for
somebody else.” — Chris Landers