Sunday, 28 July 2013

Across to Canada:

Spring is late coming to the high latitudes. When it does arrive, it touches the land first with the sea lagging well behind. Anchoring spots in Arctic Canada are choked with ice until what southerners would call mid-summer. Open water creeps up the coast of Greenland and makes its way across to Canada typically at the end of July and then creeps west up the myriad of channels amongst the Arctic Islands.

For our first stop in Canada, we needed an ice-free inhabited place in order to clear customs and refuel. ... yes, we are in a sailboat but summer winds in this part of the world are particularly fickle. Three choices along our route were Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay and Resolute. In early deliberations, we decided on Pond Inlet. This idea was later dashed when we found it choked with ice when Arctic Bay was already clear. We further realized that the open roadstead of Pond Inlet could make fuel loading difficult in onshore winds and its 2-knot tidal currents wafting large pieces of ice back and forth would certainly complicate things.

So, with an acceptable weather forecast, we set out for Arctic Bay - still with an eye on Pond Inlet should its ice situation improve.

The past three days of travel have been an infuriating mixture of fog, sunshine, calm, winds from every direction - all within very short periods of time. Sailing has never been for us so much work in so little time! In the middle of it all, ice charts indicated that the ice at Pond Inlet had thickened, or rather moved in from Eclipse Sound where there was lots of ice, and Arctic Bay had become separated from its approaches in Admiralty Inlet by bands of ice.

We declared that Tay Bay in Navy Board Inlet would be our temporary destination. Ah, but that was before the west winds in Lancaster Sound piped up to considerably more than forecast.

So here we now sit, 1/4 mile of water separating us from a Canadian beach in Bathurst Bay, Bylot Island. It is mercifully ice, wind and [almost] wave free.

In this age when everyone seems to have high speed internet, it is difficult to convey in a meaningful way the difficulty and expense of acquiring the information we need to safely conduct our voyage. Our satellite telephone costs $1.60 a minute for outgoing calls. A call TO us would likely be billed at close to $10 per minute! When we use it for data, 5 to 10 minutes vanish in the uploading of a few text emails.

Normally our email is transmitted by short-wave radio. This very old technology is cheap but very slow - on a good day, it is one tenth the speed of dial-up internet. Dial-up internet is the sort that no-one uses any more. An uncompressed 1200 x 900 [1 megapixel] image would take us 16 hours to download! ... so, of course we don't download or upload such things. We make do with text forecasts, digitally compressed weathermaps, and ice maps either cropped and compressed by our friend David Lloyd in Edmonton or received from grainy fax broadcasts [another 1940s technology].

You probably know far more about what awaits us by using Google in the comfort of your home than we do in the middle of this adventure.

Likely tomorrow we will be on our way again toward the west, weather and ice permitting.

Bathurst Bay,
Bylot Island

At 28/07/2013 13:00 (utc) our position was 73°24.31'N 076°07.97'W

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