Wednesday, 28 August 2013

More food news …

Tyson helped us with fuel
We have just left Cambridge Bay … a delightful community which we visited for less than 12 hours (most of it spent asleep!) We filled with fuel at the dock … Tyson helped and he told me the Post Office would be open already (it was 0830 and that the grocery store wouldn't open until 1000). I rushed off hoping to send a few post cards. Just as at Arctic Bay, there were no post cards available … but one could find them at the School Library which also sold warm Inuit-made apparel to support the library. When I spoke to Pam (the librarian) and let her know I'd lost my wool neck-warmer, she said there were none for sale. She then took her OWN scarf out of her coat and gave it to me! I rushed over to the store and bought some fresh veggies and bread - I won't have to bake for a while, and we left the dock at 1100hrs.

Now that there will be just two of us on the boat, we'll each cook on alternate days. We'll each be standing watch 12-hrs daily. Darker days and long watches outside (watching for ice) are ahead of us. The presence of a third person and only 6 hrs daily watch-keeping made it possible for me to play the piano and focus more on making tasty food. So in future we'll be eating and cooking for survival only … not for gourmet experiences. I know that some of my trusty women friends are reading not just for the adventure but (if they're sailors) for real tips to help them provision. Here's a list of the meals for lunch (L) and dinner (D) that we had over the last month that Claude was here. Listed also are *assorted spices*.

One month of Boat Menus
Su 28/07 {Bathurst I} L: sandwich (see after Menus list) Southern stew *chili flakes, cinnamon* D: Tuna capers parsley pasta
M 29/07 {travel} L: Southern stew toasted cheese D: Pork chermoula *curry powder, ground cumin, paprika, jalapeno peppers*
T 30/07 {Tay Bay} L: purple cabbage w mackerel soup D: CLAUDE - pizza (cheese & onion)
W 31/07 {Tay Bay} L: Split pea soup w ham D: Kashmir chicken *cardomon pods, cumin seeds, ground coriander*
Th 1/08 {Tay Bay}L: Pea soup D: Fish curry *kaffir lime leaves, fresh ginger, de-seeded red chili pepper, star anise, fennel seeds*
F 2/08 {travel} L: Pea soup D: Salmon/broccoli pasta
S 3/08 {Arctic Bay} L: Aubergine curry *medium curry* D: Salad, steak, potatoes, onions
Su 4/08 {Arctic Bay} L: Aubergine curry D: Cabbage, carrot, raisin salad: Mushroom pilau w. kippers *hot curry powder, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds*
M 5/08 {A.B.} L: Vegetarian goulash *smoked paprika, sun-dried tomato paste* D: Rogan Josh lamb w potatoes *purchased rogan josh curry paste*
T 6/08 {A.B.} L: Vegetarian goulash; D: CLAUDE tuna w shell pasta, black olives,pesto, lemon zest
W 7/08 {A.B.} L: Homemade vegetable soup D: Cabbage and carrot salad, Paella *chili powder, saffron*
Th 8/08 {A.B.} L: Veggie mulligatawny soup *curry powder, thyme* D: Paella, salad
F 9/08 {A.B.}L: Green pepper Mexican stir-fry w. cheese *cayenne pepper, cumin seeds* D: Chili crab *coriander, ginger, de-seeded green chili*
S 10/08 {travel} L: Bean & celery soup Ham n' cheese tortilla D: Stew w lamb, pork, carrots, red pepper potatoes, *star anise, cinnamon*
Su 11/08 {travel}L: Kipper beet and bean soup D: Ham, lentil and potato curry *medium curry powder*
M 12/08 {Scallon Cove} L: Salmon and celery soup *fresh frozen dill* D: carrot and cabbage salad, Steak, mash spuds, mushrooms
T 13/08 {Scallon Bay} L: Salmon soup; Claude makes his special tuna dinner
W 14/08 {Scallon Bay} L: Mackerel barley soup D: 'Chinese' rice w egg, soya sauce, peas, ham
Th 15/08 {Erebus & Terror Bay}L: Barley soup D: Chicken Thai curry w peppers, baby corn & spinach *Thai green curry paste, 2 red de-seeded piri-piri peppers*
F 16/08 {Scallon Cove} L: Barley soup D: Thai green curry w chicken
S 17/08 {travel} L: Thai soup w leftovers D: Chicken w tomatoes capers & pasta
Su 18/08 {travel} L: Vegetarian goulash D: Chinese rice
M 19/08 {Fort Ross} L: Vegetarian goulash D: Vegetarian goulash and chicken
T 20/08 {Brands Is} L: Acalephe over: salad: cabbage, apple, green pepper, raisins Chicken and tomatoes w rigatoni D: same as L
W 21/08 {Brands I.} L: Spanish rice D: Spanish rice with salmon
Th 22/08 {Brands} L: Green and yellow lentil curry D: Lamb w potatoes and green beans
F 23/08 {through Bellot, anchor Willis Bay} L: lentil curry w. fish D: Capers, tuna, parsley and rigatoni dish
S 24/08 {Willis Bay} L: Black bean soup D: Steak, potatoes, mushrooms
Su 25/08 {travel} L: Black bean soup D: Pasta w salmon and broccoli
M 26/08 {travel} L: Salmon corn chowder D: Lamb Jalfrezi *madras curry paste*
T 27/08 {travel}L: Salmon corn chowder; D: CLAUDE's special tuna pasta

Lunch: In addition to soup: sandwich consisting of: meat slice, cheese slice, mustard/mayo, either a green veggie or several tinned asparagus spears

4pm Snack: crackers with gorgeous Danish cheese and sausage, olives, sometimes veggies with a dip. Favoured dips: lentil dip *ground cumin, curry powder*; soft cheese dip: *sun-dried tomato, pesto sauce*

Dessert: mandarin oranges, berries (frozen), slice gingerbread, 1 spoon orange liquor; After 8 chocolate

Please note that many of these recipes have onions or garlic (or both). I also use a lot of ginger and of yoghurt (when I have it) to top-up soups or on specific ethnic recipes. Coconut milk is another favourite - it makes the curries much smoother and is essential in Thai food. I use dried soaked beans and make barley, black bean and lentil soups in the pressure cooker.

At any rate - as I said a few months ago - **Some Like it HOT!!!**

At 28/08/2013 20:36 (utc) our position was 69°00.81'N 105°35.67'W

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Onward ...

As the gale that had us pinned down in Willis Bay, Prince of Wales Island, began to reduce its intensity, the August 25 ice charts showed that those strong west winds had had a profound effect in reducing the ice in Peel Sound.

The idea was briefly mooted of leaving the next morning when the winds and waves would have further reduced. After some discussion, this course of action was rejected by all the boats in favor of an immediate departure. A delay would have risked a tongue of ice extending from M'Clintock blocking our path AND a number of boats were beginning to worry about fuel shortage. A fair sailing wind, no matter how strong, would grant many free miles and reduce this concern.

Victoria Strait on the west side of King William Island is described in the government "Sailing Directions" as having the worst ice conditions in mainland Canada. This route spelled the end of the Franklin Expedition in 1845. Amundsen succeeded in the first Northwest Passage by proceeding south along the east shore of King William. The route to the east of King William via Gjoa Haven is, even today, typically more reliable but adds two or three days to a very time-constrained voyage.

It was our good fortune that the gale which cleared Peel Sound of ice also demolished most of the ice blocking Victoria Strait. All five boats that were anchored in Willis Bay [TRAVERSAY III, ACALEPHE, BELLE EPOQUE, ISATIS and LIBELLULE] are now approaching Cambridge Bay after a three day passage.

It is our plan to refuel as quickly as possible and be underway toward the west in less than a day. It is a sobering thought that in five or six weeks it will be possible to WALK across Cambridge Bay. Time is of the essence!

Claude is leaving us in Cambridge Bay and we want to thank him for helping us thus far on our trip … we never could have done it without him. He will be greatly missed and not only for his dishwashing and cooking skills. While with us, he engineered a successful "fix" of our anchor windlass, he made helpful suggestions about how we could save energy in the galley and save heat from escaping from our companion-way hatch. He also helped us with some great sailing tips. He left earlier than expected due to pressing obligations at home in Quebec. I'm sure Normande will be thrilled to have him back - just one day late for his birthday!
Our last meal with Claude as a Trio

Our next problem shaping up is that Cape Bathurst - four days travel to the west - is blocked by 20 miles of five-tenths ice. As we saw in Peel Sound, a gale can change the situation radically but you have to be nearby to take advantage. Thus we, and probably the other boats too, will be on our way toward this obstacle in the hope that it will allow our passage.

Beyond, there is open water along the Alaska Coast ... for a while anyway.

At 27/08/2013 23:04 (utc) our position was 68°49.01'N 104°33.76'W

Sunday, 25 August 2013

How to wait gracefully …

If you're following our map you'll notice that we're stopped again.

On Friday after our release from Bellot, we navigated through moderate ice floes towards the south but were stopped by an implacable wall of (for us) impenetrable ice. The Henry Larsen would have no problem, but as mentioned in an earlier Blog, we cannot follow them through a lengthy area of thicker ice because of our power and hull-thickness-limitations. So we had to travel further north to find a safe anchorage.

We're not alone here … there are five of us - two more boats successfully transitted Bellot somewhat later on Friday - La Belle Epoque (Austria) and Isatis (France). Due to arriving later on Friday, Isatis and La Belle are positioned near the entrance to Willis Bay and last night they were joined by Libellule (Switzerland) who left our area yesterday and made a tiring attempt to break out of Peel Sound. They joined their European compatriots near the entrance to the Bay when they re-anchored.

Everyone tries to help each other with information about ice and weather conditions gleaned from outside sources. Yesterday Phillip on Libellule reported on what they saw during their time in the ice. Claudia on La Belle Epoque radioed Peter Semotiuk - a former Cambridge Bay resident who has made studying the NW Passage and its winds and weathers his personal mission. His helpful positivism was gratefully absorbed by all of us and we've decided to 'hunker down' until the winds and ice are reduced.

It's very cold and very noisy here … the winds persist and howl continually - this is amplified by the many bits of rigging which add a kind of unmeasured and undisciplined percussion section to the orchestra of sounds. Claude tries to subdue the worst offenders in this drumset as they appear, but he has had to give up. Last night it was so loud that I didn't hear the anchor alarm (my job) and Acalephe had to alert us that our anchor was dragging. When Claude and I went forward to lift and re-set the anchor, there was ice on the deck and we were splashed several times by ice-cold waves as Larry drove around. We feared for our newly glued and screwed-on windlass support. However, it HELD! We spent the rest of the night taking turns on anchor watch.

I've been reading some interesting books. As you all must know by now, we have no internet connections (although Microsoft irritatingly offers updates EACH time I turn on the computer, and Norton keeps warning us of potential 'bugs' away out here!!!) Fortunately, I downloaded a number of very large but free (or nearly free) volumes on my Kindle before we left England. I thought I'd only want 'light' reading out here and many friends in England contributed books of that ilk. I quickly devoured those, cannot get anything currently in vogue, so after reading some books which I consider 'light' (like all the Ann of Green Gables series) I turned to the first-person accounts of historical figures. I've read the autobiographies of Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt.

I am currently forging my way through John Marshall's five-volume work about the Life of George Washington. Marshall was the United States first Chief Justice for 35 years, and details the troubles that the universally beloved Washington had when he reluctantly accepted the call to act as the very first President. It was a task to which he was called by each and every member of government. Marshall writes lucidly about Washington's inability to get anything done because of the distressing growth of partisanship and the desire for power of the opposite party. Of course, it's instructive to those of us outside the U.S. mainstream to reflect that both Washington and Abraham Lincoln were Republicans … I still have 27% of the "Life" left to read - and perhaps Washington in his day was able to get more done than Obama has been able to accomplish. I was born in Washington state and, despite being a Canadian for most of my life, have always been interested in our neighbour.

In Canada and other countries we have our own way of dealing with history to justify our political decisions. Reading actual works from the time, or well-documented works about history is instructive. Two years ago we read Pierre Berton's books about the Canada-USA "War of 1812". Like A.N. Wilson's book "The Victorians" you can check original sources cited to confirm questionable statements. Reading partisan newspapers in your country or listening to politicians views of history can be dangerous. The Falklands controversy was ongoing in Ben Franklin's day (in the 1700s) … Washington's "opposites" wanted to re-start a war with England and embraced the dangerous ideas of the French guillotine-favoring rabble rather than wanting to take their place as responsible members of the world community.

It's dangerous to read "Travel" writers who add their own impressions to cultures and events - even changing dates and putting words in people's mouths just to stimulate their audience. Here up North a famous Canadian author (alas - featured on many school reading lists) is known as "Mr. Hardly Know-it" because of his distortions of events and of people's words. Good books about the North: in Canada: "I, Nuligak", "Arctic Pilot", "Nunaga", "Arctic Man", Alaska: "Ada Blackjack", "A Divided Forest". Many of these books were given me by friend Elaine (her sister is part of the Inuit community at Pond Inlet).

In order to keep a positive mindset I find it helps to think of my job - cooking. I baked pressure cooker bread yesterday and two gingerbread cakes today (Sunday is the day to re-stock our gingerbread). We'll buy an extra tank of cooking fuel when we get to the next town so I can add to my baking skills. It helps to stick to a routine, so after writing this my day will include exercises and piano playing. We also have fun watching "Hornblower" episodes which Claude hasn't seen. I sleep as much as I can - sleep offers a release from worries and the excitement of being here. No matter what happens, this will have been an unforgettable experience.

At 25/08/2013 16:28 (utc) our position was 71°55.89'N 096°42.74'W

Friday, 23 August 2013

Setbacks and Triumph

There are still many miles ahead of us before we are able to cross the Arctic Circle southbound in the Bering Strait. Nonetheless there is a defining location that decides whether you must turn around to avoid the arctic winter and return whence you came OR continue onward toward your goal. This spot may change from year to year but in 2013 it was Bellot Strait.

Heavy ice blocked the northern entrance to Peel Sound leaving Bellot Strait the only practical route into Peel Sound from the east. While the part of Regent Inlet east of Bellot Strait was largely ice-free, a shrinking but still formidable area of 9/10 ice sat off Bellot Strait's western entrance in Peel Sound. Additionally, incessant westerly winds jammed this ice into the Strait where the 5 to 9 knot tidal currents wedged it into the narrowest point.

After the amusing day applying a temporary repair to our anchor windlass, a forecast of east winds presented the possibility that the icejam would move out of the strait and off the coast.

At 11pm on August 20, another Canadian boat ACALEPHE and TRAVERSAY III retrieved anchors and headed into Bellot Strait. We felt some trepidation due to rumors of strong turbulent currents hurling unwary boats into walls of ice across the strait. It turned out not so bad but the swirling currents DID present rapidly opening and closing jaws of ice waiting to catch the inattentive sailor. We negotiated a lot of ice only to find ourselves blocked at Halfway Island which is, as you guessed, half way along the thirteen mile strait.

While we hovered out of reach of the slabs of ice drifting by in the current, Claude noted that if we waited, perhaps ALL the ice would pass us. Repeatedly we backtracked to ensure an escape route was still open and then went back to the ice barrier. At each iteration, the water behind became clearer and we advanced further and further down the strait.

We were very hopeful but as the tidal flow turned, we remained 2 1/2 miles from the exit.

During the slow return to our anchorage near Fort Ross, we resolved to do the whole thing again at the next tide after perhaps 3 hours of sleep. Alas this time the wind had shifted to the west and, surrounded by snow squalls, we only just got past Halfway Island as the turn of the tide approached. Clearly the exercise was futile!

On the 22nd there was a big west wind - obviously a no-go for the Strait. But then we needed a rest, the engine needed an oil change AND we wanted to go for a walk on the northern-most part of the North American mainland.

At this point the northern exit to Prince Regent Inlet was starting to block with ice leading many of the NWP contenders to contemplate how one would winter over at Fort Ross - a geographic location with no settlement. TOOLUKA and ARCTIC TERN - we believe - headed back north to return to Greenland [note that all this writing reflects the beliefs of the authors - who lack internet - and may not be in tune with reality].

Anyway, a strong easterly forecast on the morning of the 23rd presented our penultimate or ultimate opportunity to get to the west. So off went ACALEPHE and TRAVERSAY III one more time in the middle of the night. Night is now becoming a factor here as August plays itself out.

This time we were blocked by ice with only half a mile to the western exit. As we pointed back east into the current with the ice wall behind us, our instruments showed us still moving west at nearly a knot. The ice blockage kept moving west as the last hours of west-going tide played themselves out. The Swiss catamaran LIBELULLE joined us in our early morning vigil. In the end, perhaps 50 meters of ice separated us from freedom. In calm waters, we would have tried to push through but in the swirling tidal currents, it would have been very dodgy.

But there was a trump card! The evening before we had discovered that the Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker HENRY LARSEN, named for the RCMP officer who skippered the first return Northwest Passage, would be escorting a cruise liner and a super yacht through at this precise time.

After his primary duty was done, HENRY LARSEN came back and cut a short path for three tiny sailboats. It closed almost as soon as he cut it but all three of us managed to scoot through!

At 23/08/2013 18:40 (utc) our position was 71°40.34'N 096°35.77'W

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Shades of Apollo

Abandoned anchorage covered in ice floes

We're anchored in Fort Ross … this is the site of a former Hudson's Bay Company trading post which had to be abandoned in the late 40's. The reason: for each of three successive summers the Company supply ship couldn't get through because the ice never once relented to allow an approach to the community through Bellot Strait.

So why are we here? Don't worry - we're not unique and all the other sailors we've met are nearby and have the same idea. Our goal: get to Larsen Sound which leads into Gjoa Haven and points west. There are two approaches and both are channels which lead down from Lancaster Sound in the North. The more westerly approach - Peel Sound - is direct. The easterly one also uses Peel to get to Larsen. But you get into Peel halfway down through the narrow (1/4 mile wide, 9 mile long) Bellot Strait which is connected to Lancaster by the more easterly Prince Regent. This year - as in many recent years - the ice in Prince Regent Sound has melted earlier than the ice up at the top of Peel Sound. Bellot Strait is a canyon with scary tidal issues - there's really no going back once you go in. There are also scary high dark canyon walls which keep up the melting job once the ice has cleared from both ends of the Channel.

We got here and anchored at 0400 yesterday. Our chosen site was a beautiful little bay quite far back with a GREEN meadow at hand (we haven't seen that colour for quite some time). An ice watch was mounted, but somehow between an exciting radio story about a nearby polar bear incident, and a discussion with the Coast Guard icebreaker Henry Larsen about whether we cruisers could follow in his wake, we neglected to keep the watch properly. The Coast Guard answer was politely negative - we were advised we would have to keep up with a 65000 horsepower diesel (ours and most are 65!) The bear story raised our hackles. Our kilometre-distant neighbour La Belle Epoque had nearly been boarded by a polar bear - a bear which surfed up to them on an ice-sheet and couldn't easily get aboard due to their somewhat steep sides and canoe stern. We reflected that OUR stern has convenient steps from ice-sheet level right up into the cockpit!

Just as this thought penetrated our sleep-deprived brains, we were attacked by an ice sheet … we hastily put down the flare gun and horn and rushed to raise the anchor. The anchor windlass complained about the additional pieces of ice and rock-embedded kelp it was asked to raise. When we proceeded to a North and East-protected bay opposite, the windlass positively refused to let the anchor go down again. Gleefully our fore-sightful Captain brought out a brand-new motor. But closer inspection revealed there were massive intestinal injuries with the wiring. This ganglia of huge red wires - some rusted- had been yanked out and helpfully encircled by a few over-eager coils of chain. The still willing motor was no longer supported by its collar of plastic mountings which had been trashed. A new engine platform had to be fashioned.

Luckily it turned out that our superb dishwasher Claude has also taught Engineering Design at Laval University. Under his direction and - in Apollo 13 style - using whatever we had on the boat (which turned out to be only some pieces of wood and Sikaflex glue) Dr Claude and Larry designed and fashioned a new support. This took eight hours. My job was to drive the boat around for that entire time so they could work up at the bow. I drove around just like the Flying Dutchman but in Arctic cold and wind - not in a warmer more hellish clime. NOT in turbulent Wagnerian style but in gentle circles so they could work undisturbed.

It WORKS! We anchored again and if all goes well we'll only have to anchor twice more on this trip - getting fuel in Gjoa Haven and in Tuktoyaktuk. We'll be tied to docks at our other fuelling stops.

This is not the first time we've had a failed-windlass-problem - last time it happened we were in Patagonia. We tied three-ways to trees in Cinque Estrella 5* which (since the Armada gave permission) avoided the regulation which bans anchoring in the beautiful tiny bay. Larry Dremmeled a misshapen gear up on deck during a snowstorm.
5*anchorage in Patagonia

At 20/08/2013 12:48 (utc) our position was 71°57.56'N 094°25.88'W

Sunday, 18 August 2013

A Little South

In an email containing one of our compressed ice charts, friend David Lloyd commented that "It is a little like a chess game with the ice."

We are continually asking ourselves "What will the ice do next?" and trying to keep from being surprised.

After a day and a half at anchor at Erebus and Terror Bay listening to howling winds and contemplating the accumulating snows on Beechey Island's lonely graveyard, a new ice map showed an angry 9/10 ice floe approaching Beechey from the west. Here in the Arctic, the day starts when it needs to start; not necessarily in the morning. So at 10:30 in the evening, we upped anchor and returned hastily to Scallon cove. We had accomplished nothing save lightening the boat of 100 liters of precious diesel fuel. .. well, sure - some of it certainly was used keeping us warm and would have been used anyway.

Fuel is a big issue here. Due to propane valve incompatibilities in various countries and perhaps a lack of interest in barbecues, we are now into the second of two tanks of cooking fuel - last filled in Stornoway, Scotland. Mary Anne soldiers on in the galley daily producing wonderful food for a hungry crew. Nonetheless her propane usage worries cramp her style with baking in the gas-hungry oven only allowed once a week. Diesel fuel is easy to find at any inhabited place; perhaps we will be lucky with propane too.

Returning to the story, on August 17, after less than a day at Scallon, the new ice chart showed our move had been prudent. Ice now filled Erebus and Terror Bay. On the negative side, it also showed Scallon to be threatened. We would have to leave right away. On the positive side, Peel Sound was beginning to clear out. While its entry from the north was plugged up, we could navigate through a narrow band of 2/10 ice into Prince Regent Inlet and perhaps enter Peel Sound through Bellot Strait if the clearing continued.

So at 5:30 in the afternoon, all three boats at Scallon, TRAVERSAY III, Swiss LIBELLULE and British ARCTIC TERN, set course to the southeast toward Bellot Strait's eastern entrance at Fort Ross, an abandoned HBC trading post.

Today has a different feel. The sea temperature has risen from 1C to 2C and the sun is shining. Is it really warmer or is the knowledge of having traveled 100 miles or so to the south fooling with our imaginations?

The pace seems to be quickening ... today's and tomorrow's ice charts will tell.

At 18/08/2013 17:40 (utc) our position was 72°59.46'N 091°30.83'W

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Setback in Beechey

After receiving slightly improved weather and ice charts yesterday, we left Scallon Cove on Devon Island and proceeded westwards. We hoped to explore the ice at the North end of Peel Sound - one of several 'choke points' which in normal years must be cleared prior to accessing the western portion of the NWP. Last year's 'good year' allowed two boats to make their way through Parry Channel and McClure Strait, thus cutting many miles off the route. Given this year's heavy ice conditions, our hopes were much more modest. If we failed to get further west and head down into Peel, we hoped to get to Resolute and re-fill our fuel.

Unfortunately, we got turned back by ice and re-emerging wind. At 0730 we anchored back on Devon Island at Erebus and Terror Bay after passing Beechey Island in high winds and a snowstorm.

Beechey Island contains the memorial to a number of crew members from Franklin's ship who died here in the 1840s on their journey of exploration. We hope to honor their memory by a visit to their graves if more suitable weather prevails. Some years ago the remains of one of these explorers was sent back to Edmonton for testing. This furnished conclusive proof that lead poisoning was a contributing factor to the demise of these men.

We ourselves are eating well and our stores still include all food groups including not just tinned but also fresh veggies, meat and bread. Today will be another 'at home' day and we have various repairs underway. We can't repair the broken refrigerator - and with current temperatures we don't really need it. The men are now fixing a really annoying problem. An ear-splitting alarm sounds whenever water splashes up high on the side of the bilges. It's happened several times (mostly when one of us is sound asleep) because the shaft seal leaks whenever the propeller cavitates or we're in heavy waves. Claude has diagnosed the problem and Larry is currently trying to put more compression on the bellows which would stop the leak and silence this annoying alarm forever.

Good news came in from our friend Nicola on his red steel boat - 'Perd pas le Nord' - (sailing under a Belgian flag). He and his crew have surged forward to the south of Boothia Island and headed for Gjoa Haven. Nicola with his friend Alex and family (Veronique and their two pre-teen girls Emy and Elyse) are through the worst of the ice on this side. They have accomplished this miracle by crashing through REALLY thick ice - working very hard with one person high up the mast to check for possible routes, and with using their boat somewhat like an icebreaker …

We're going to continue to wait for better ice reports. We feel unable to use Traversay as an icebreaker … if the echo sounder on our hull were destroyed in really thick ice, it could let water in and we really don't need cold baths!no-footer

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Choices ...

By the time the northwest winds decided to take a couple of days holiday, they had pushed the unlimited supply of ice at their disposal a little around the corner into Admiralty Inlet. The brief break in the winds was not to be wasted so on Saturday we hauled anchor and set course as far west as the ice would allow with no clear destination in mind ... Vancouver Island perhaps.

By the time we reached the north end of Admiralty some six hours after departure, it was clear that the ice had been very busy; a carpet of it stretched as far as we could see to the north and east and to the shore in the west. We motored and sailed east and, in the eastern 1/3 of the inlet, finally found our way around to the north and then west. A few hours later, we received a faint call on the radio from ACALEPHE who had shared the anchorage in Arctic Bay. They were wondering whether there was a route through the ice and where we had found it. With the ice moving east, they no doubt had to go very close to the eastern shore to get around it. The Environment Canada ice map of the following day showed no small boat route through the ice to or from Arctic Bay.

All afternoon on Sunday, we moved west within a few miles of the Devon Island coast to avoid the extensive ice floes filling the southern half of Lancaster Sound. At this point, we had chosen Cullen Cove in Radstock Bay as a temporary destination. Gascoyne and Erebus and Terror at the extreme southwest end of Devon Island appeared on the ice maps to be full of, or at least vulnerable to, ice. As we passed Graham Harbour, BELLE EPOQUE, anchored therein, invited us to share their bear-watching experience. We could see the two bears through binoculars as we passed but declined the invitation to anchor out of a desire to make further to the west.

In the late afternoon when we had about 30 miles left to go, we were surprised to meet the Dutch boat TOOLUKA going the other way. TOOLUKA had been at Resolute for fuel and were now trying to exploit an apparent vulnerability in the ice wall to get into Prince Regent Inlet. We wished then luck but were a bit dubious as there was a 10 mile segment of 6/10 ice in their way ... from our vast Arctic experience comprising a few weeks, we feel 3/10 is about the limit for small boats like ours. The usefulness of being in Prince Regent was not clear either as Larsen Sound on the west side of Bellot Strait was plugged with 9+ tenths of ice. ... but it would give a 2 day head start if Larsen cleared. The truth is that no-one really knows what will happen next.

On our arrival at Cullen Bay, we found British ARCTIC TERN already at anchor and after we had settled in, Swiss catamaran LIBELLULE arrived. We had last seen LIBELLULE in Reykjavik.

This uncharacteristically crowded anchorage has provided some social opportunities. The ARCTIC TERNS were over for tea and cake; the LIBELLULEs visited after a shore excursion. The chats and ice discussions were interspersed with some singing and some piano artistry. So far, the social life is aboard TRAVERSAY III because the northwest winds are back in strength and we can't be bothered to launch our dinghy until it quiets down a bit.

Ice discussions (of course) feature in these social occasions. The northwesterlies drift ice from Viscount Melville Sound into Barrow Strait and Lancaster Sound and block the entrances to the channels south. These incessant winds also move ice from McClintock Channel into Larsen Sound and further block the only route south and west. We really need easterlies to open a channel along the east shores of Peel and Larsen. We heard in these discussions that in recent years some crews COMPLAINED that the lack of ice deprived them of the true NWP experience - not a problem this year. There will no doubt be choices to make as the weather and ice play themselves out. But for now we easily have a week to spare for waiting.

We also heard that TOOLUKA was turned back by the ice and was now anchored at Rigby Bay on the south shore of Devon.

At 13/08/2013 13:56 (utc) our position was 74°45.40'N 091°10.73'W

Friday, 9 August 2013

Before leaving Arctic Bay

Admiralty Inlet
We're leaving Arctic Bay and before we leave the 'net' behind, we asked Claude to share some of his excellent photos. {Our license plate photos were my idea - just to add some frivolity}.
View of Arctic Bay
Old NU license 

Sled dogs tied up out of town
New NU license

On our walk today we discovered where the sled dogs are kept over the summer months. There are a series of at least 7 teams - all chained and lying out along the airport drive several miles east of the town. The dogs were extremely alert and aware of us as we passed, but they didn't make a sound.

 Claude's photos as well as Claude himself have added a great deal to our trip so far. All three of us are looking forward to pushing forward into the ice with a feeling of expectancy and (in my case) a bit of fear.

Inuksuk above the town

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Waiting for the Captain waiting for the ice ...

We're still in Arctic Bay ... there seemed very little point in leaving as we can  be 'connected' both to other humans and to the ice and weather reports. The only boating  'downside' to staying here for a week would be if strong Northerlies prevent us getting back out of Admiralty Inlet. The personal 'downside' is that I wrote heartfelt (but inaccurate) letters to my friends telling them we cannot communicate with each other for weeks or even months. I hope they won't think I'm a liar!
Mom with amauti baby carrier

Whenever I ask the Captain he says "I won't actually have made up my mind about leaving until you notice that we've left!"

The Captain could write about the numerous factors which would explain our delayed departure. Any attempt I made to explain would be filled with inaccuracies and a little of my sense of boredom might also communicate itself to you. All I can say is that he does seem to take as many factors into account for leaving Arctic Bay as for each Air Canada flight!

Meanwhile, we've had a chance to look around the surrounding area - we've had some really fine encounters with the friendly folks here and we have fresh food to last us for the next few weeks. So farewell for now - see you in the ice!

Gina carving ... 
... the whale

Wild flowers at the graveyard

foto of us ... by Claude

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Arctic Bay

The last few miles toward Arctic Bay, we turned east off Admiralty Inlet into Adams Sound.  The leftovers from ice that only a week ago had filled the Sound required a bit of turning this way and that to avoid collisions but Arctic Bay itself was completely free of ice.

Our 5am arrival was greeted by curious looks from adults walking on the beach and by loud whistles from the many children.  Clock-time seems to have no meaning here.

After our preparing the dinghy for the trip ashore, a couple of back and forth phone calls led to the RCMP meeting us as we arrived at the beach. They drove us up to their station where the customs and immigration formalities were dealt with in a quick, efficient and friendly manner.  Almost all yachts check into Arctic Canada at Pond Inlet, Resolute Bay or (from the west) Tuktoyaktuk so we were clearly a novelty. That said, it was clear to us that the ice-free sheltered harbor would vastly ease our refueling task over other more open harbors.

Moses, the owner of the local hotel, has the fuel concession as well so we made our way to the hotel after finishing with the RCMP.  Fueling, it turned out, could not be arranged for some hours but at the hotel we had delightful conversations with one of the nurses (from Calgary) and the hotel cook (from Ghana). This chat was accompanied with very tasty muffins right out of the oven.  We also got to see photos of the successful Narwhal hunt of the previous day.  No-one is wealthy here and, given the price of flown-in food, a successful hunt is always a bright moment for the town and speaks well of the competence of the hunters.

Ah ... but the fuel ... Claude then went on a hunt for Moses and managed to set up a 2 o'clock refueling. Claude and I busied ourselves with bringing our fuel containers to the beach and, right on the dot, the diesel truck appeared.

While Claude and I did a number of trips back and forth boarding a total of 440 liters - siphoning 220 of it into the on-board tanks, Mary Anne went to the store in search of post cards and onions.  The onions were easy. Because of a northern subsidy on flown-in nutritious foods, fresh veggies and fruit are reasonably priced - but don't even think of buying potato chips (crisps) or chocolate bars! The post cards were another matter - the lack of tourists in this particular part of Nunavut has reduced demand - and thus supply - to zero. Of course it being a long weekend, the post office was closed anyway.

Now we sit anchored in front of the town  ...  motion-free because of the well sheltered harbor but listening to the annoying howling of the wind blowing from the north.  North is where we must go to make our way back to Parry Channel - our highway toward the west.

Now restored to our full fuel load of 900 liters, we are ready to move some more, generate more electricity and keep warm at the same time.

Perhaps tomorrow - or perhaps later - we'll try to find our way to an anchorage on the south coast of Devon Island and then ease our way west as the ice recedes.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Getting legal

0130 Saturday August 3
Tay Bay

Iceberg off the starboard bow

Admiralty Inlet
We’re finally on our way to Arctic Bay where the regional RCMP who perform Customs duties patiently await our arrival. Leaving Tay Bay we spotted two much larger male polar bears making their way along the barren mountains – the bears seem to have a routine and route which will allow the males to avoid each other. In the water alongside us, a solo seal kept coming up … watching us for some time from a safe distance before diving. A little later a much braver duo approached us from the front and lingered as we noisily approached (the motor was running) … finally ostentatiously making last-minute co-ordinated dives. Then didn’t an octet of seals materialize?  This troupe performed an entertainment routine by slapping into the water in sequence. Just to make sure we noticed, they played it on the starboard side and repeated it at a safe distance on our portside.
My watch-keeping arrangements have had to change – I stay outside the entire time to watch for ice instead of zipping in and out at 10-minute intervals – I’m copying the men who find this a safer method. We’re still passing a fair number of icebergs (some of them disintegrating) and we’re also expecting to be in the sea ice soon.

Motoring along Admiralty Inlet during my 9 - midnight watch, I caught a few photos of the huge ramparts of variegated-coloured and textured rocks which form the Eastern shore. We’re heading towards the 800-person town of Arctic Bay where we’ll meet with the officials and be able to re-fuel. I’ve made some pressure-cooked bread and a soup for tomorrow because the men (making a number of trips back and forth with fuel jugs) may need to eat aboard. Meanwhile, I plan to stay at the Post office and write a number of cards. That is, if it’s open on a Saturday and if it’s possible to buy cards.  I also have a small list of items to buy if they’re available and not too pricey. Although we can anchor in Arctic Bay, there’s still a lot of ice and we need to get out to a safer anchorage before the next gales strike – on Monday or Tuesday.