The evening of July 30, we received an ice map showing dramatic improvement at Arctic Bay. This was a bit earlier than expected and would allow us to take advantage of the tail-end of strong following winds in Lancaster Sound and Admiralty Inlet. Since at our next stop hundreds of liters of fuel will have to be boarded from the beach via dinghy in 20 liter jugs, the saving of perhaps 80 liters of fuel by traveling under sail was a powerful incentive.
As we motored out of peaceful Tay Bay into Navy Board Inlet, we began to feel a noticeable ground swell but the wind remained calm. The lack of wind in Navy Board was expected from the forecast and we assumed the swell was from the strong easterlies in Lancaster Sound. After a short time underway, Mary Anne took over the navigation and Claude and I went to sleep.
An hour later, Mary Anne woke me to strange engine noises and a gale [34+ knot wind] from dead ahead. The winds gusted in direction and speed to such an extent as to make sailing impractical; any sail combination would be either too much or too little as conditions rapidly changed.
The engine noises were from propeller cavitation. Short steep waves were being generated by the gale winds and tidal effects at the junction of Navy Board and Lancaster. Our collision with these waves slowed us to such an extent, placed us at odd angles to our forward progress and entrained so much air under the boat that the propeller couldn't grip the water. This slowed us further and made continuing futile.
After 2 1/2 hours, we again entered Tay Bay. As we anchored behind the sheltering promontory at the bay's entrance, Mary Anne spotted a polar bear on the shore. We called Claude outside from his interrupted sleep and our disappointment at returning was quickly drowned in the sound of clicking camera shutters.
After perhaps an hour of bear entertainment, we all went to bed in preparation for a 5AM start the next morning to perhaps take advantage of those still fair winds in Lancaster and Admiralty.
Well ... to shorten this endless story, we set out after 5 hours sleep and got only half as far as before when the wind, waves and cavitation led to another return to Tay Bay. Although this time there was no bear, we had more excitement then we needed due to a bilge-water alarm. No, we weren't sinking, but the cavitation produced enough vibration in the propeller shaft that water was spurting out around the shaft seal. As soon as we set course toward "home", the cavitation and thus the shaft leak stopped.
So what was wrong with the forecasts? During our one hour return trip back to the anchorage (which was still basking in an eerie calm), I downloaded a new comprehensive set of forecasts both from Environment Canada and a computer model from the US Met Service. Both had revised their forecasts to indicate unacceptably strong contrary winds in Navy Board Inlet. We only needed to make 12 miles in Navy Board before turning off the wind into Lancaster Sound ... but it was evidently 12 miles too many!
Meanwhile the forecasts suggest another opportunity will come in a couple of days ... maybe our bear will even come back for another look while we wait.
At 31/07/2013 15:23 (utc) our position was 73°29.59'N 080°45.27'W