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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Waiting ...

So why are we still here at King Cove?

Well for a start, every day since we arrived we have seen wind speeds over 40 knots, sometimes for hours on end. At times the screaming sound of the wind is confirmed by anemometer readings touching 55 knots! This is not good weather for sailing "outside".

One fisherman told me that the weather doesn't affect them much.  There are various restrictive time periods when, by regulation, fishing is allowed and they always go out.  In contrast though, close observation and chats with various mariners yield that a number of fishing boats are waiting out the weather here before journeying on or heading for their fishing grounds.

So we are going to leave when the wind dies down, right? ... well not right away.

Earlier in the blog, leading up to Tuktoyaktuk, we described a problem in which any significant use of engine power led to water ingress around the propeller shaft.  We found all four engine mounts to be compromised and eventually had them re-welded in Tuktoyaktuk.  At that point, we believed the problem to be fixed but nonetheless have babied the engine a little bit ever since.

150 tonne boat lift
As we arrived at King Cove, the first place since Reykjavik with a proper boat lift, I decided to do some experimentation.  I advanced the throttle up to a fast cruising setting and was greeted with a modest inrush of water around the shaft.  Clearly the engine mounts were not the whole problem - OR their failure during a period of time had led to further damage.

At any rate, while we could live with the problem when no opportunity for repair existed - and when we were offshore sailing rather than motoring anyway - that was no longer the case.  We would feel very silly having left a repair facility if the water ingress increased and we needed the engine for coastal navigation, anchoring and so on.

We now have parts on order which may take another week to arrive.  In most harbors, we would then be able to lift the boat out and leave it in the yard while we work on it.  The lift would then drive over and transport us back to the water.  Here though, we need a calm day to haul the boat out of the water.  It cannot be left out because the high winds here could topple it over.  Thus it must remain in the lift while we install these underwater parts [prop shaft seal, underwater bearing etc] and will then be launched immediately after.

THEN [again if the weather suits] we will be able to get underway up the coast  in our journey towards Victoria.

We know this is frustrating for those who await us and who follow the progress of our journey.  It is frustrating for us too as the weather gets colder and the season advances ... but it is the safe thing to do.

We are waiting for furnace parts too.  They wouldn't have incurred a delay [we're tough right!] but while waiting for the essential drive train parts, we thought we would put as much right as possible.  And our failed refrigerator has already been fixed thanks to the tender ministrations of the refrigeration technicians at the seafood cannery.

Meanwhile, we see the ever changing light patterns on the high surrounding mountains as sunshine and squall alternate against the steady backdrop of swiftly moving cloud. This is a place of great beauty.

And the people who make this small town their home or workplace are an endless delight - both to meet and to learn from.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Journey Pauses!

Bob - a typical Alaskan
After the excitement of anchor watches, ice watches and worrying about whether our anchor windlass will survive another bout of heavy pulling - or whether our engine will start allowing water to pour in rather than just trickle in, it feels really restful to be tied to the dock here.

We're here waiting to fix Traversay that we can finish our trip towards Victoria.

The people we've met here have made up for the gloom and wind outside by their cheery helpfulness. This is a town made up of two components - the fishing community and the Peter Pan Cannery which (mostly) seems to buy their catches. We were met at the dock by a S African couple - Alec and Cherry - whose boat "Rainbow Gypsy" had met with greater troubles than ours in an attempt to reach Vancouver from Japan.

Beautiful King Cove
"Rainbow Gypsy" lost her mast
Following their advice re: laundry and other amenities here, I left Larry here to order parts yesterday and I traversed over to the Cannery ... losing my way because the Office door faces the water (not the road). Luckily, I ran into Dave and Larry - told them I wondered if I could speak to a mechanic and was introduced to Bob who offered to come over and have a look at the engine after work (1930 last night). My attempt to get laundry done was foiled because of not going through to the Office first, so then I was taken home to Harriet. Harriet and HER Larry run a 'B and B' and they let me do my loads of laundry on their machines, and also watch a re-run of 'Gunsmoke' while I was waiting. Meanwhile, Dave let me use his laundry soap as I hadn't realized I'd need any.

This morning I got to interact with some of the fishermen who collect at the Harbor Office - when they gave me the forecast (55knots of wind) we all agreed it's not weather for any of us to be 'out there'. We did have some lovely weather while getting here from the Bering Sea and were able to take this photo of Eickelberg Peak.




Eickelberg Peak



Sunday, 22 September 2013

Unimak Pass

The weather forecast for the Unimak Pass section of the Aleutians was, we are told, typical for this time of year. Later in the year, it gets worse.

PKZ170-210300-
EASTERN ALEUTIANS CAPE SARICHEF TO NIKOLSKI
400 AM AKDT FRI SEP 20 2013

.STORM WARNING TONIGHT...
TODAY...S WIND 20 KT BECOMING SW 45 KT BY EARLY AFTERNOON. SEAS
10 FT BUILDING TO 16 FT LATE THIS AFTERNOON. PATCHY FOG. RAIN.
TONIGHT...W WIND 50 KT BECOMING NW 35 KT TOWARD MORNING. SEAS 23 FT.
PATCHY FOG.
SAT...NW WIND 35 KT. SEAS 15 FT. PATCHY FOG.
SAT NIGHT...NW WIND 35 KT. SEAS 12 FT.
SUN...W WIND 20 KT. SEAS 8 FT.
MON...SW WIND 20 KT. SEAS 8 FT.
TUE...W WIND 20 KT. SEAS 12 FT.

Thus as we approached St. Paul Island, we threw in a bit of a delay at anchor in order to let the worst pass as Mary Anne said in the previous blog. The dreary morning of our arrival at St. Paul was followed by a brief treat as we left 10 hours later: the rain had diminished enough that we could see the shores were carpeted with fur seals! These animals used to be hunted here but now it is forbidden to even go ashore on the rookery beaches during the breeding season. We had not seen such a spectacle since South Georgia.

Our furnace has failed. This is not the disaster in the "warmth" of the Aleutians that it would have been in the frigid chill of the high arctic .. and we can always run an inconvenient electric fan heater (but only when we don't have the 12 ft waves we're currently experiencing).

The failed part is only worth a few dollars. So why wasn't it aboard? Well it was!

After giving faithful service for years, the glow-pin igniter failed further north when it was REALLY cold. I replaced it with a spare and we were warm as toast in minutes. The new part failed, however, after a few more weeks of use.

So why don't we stop a while and just get things fixed? We HAVE fixed many things on this trip from England either in port or with on-board spares and materials. This sort of voyage gives hard usage to the boat AND the people. But non-essential repairs? Further north, a delay of days might mean stopping for a 9 to 11 month winter and not being able to live on the boat which is, after all, our home. As we emerge south of Unimak pass, it is finally possible to stop for repairs but because of the rapidly worsening autumn weather on the offshore North Pacific, such a delay will almost certainly prevent our timely arrival in Victoria via the offshore North Pacific. These realities of small boat sailing are so foreign to modern life that it is difficult for the uninitiated to understand how a few days stopped can mean as much as a one year delay. As an aside, we met a Dutch sailor in Colonia, Uruguay whose one month delay for a mast repair cost him a year because he missed the "weather window" for a high latitude voyage he was planning.

As it is, the current forecasts indicate abysmal weather on the route to Juan de Fuca Strait. This starts a couple of days after our Unimak passage and extends for a week and beyond as a succession of weather systems move from the Aleutians out across the Gulf of Alaska. We only once in our New Zealand to Chile voyage saw such deep lows, strong winds and high waves - and in that storm Mary Anne was injured and our boat was damaged.

It is true that we left Washington State in November, 2004 into a wintry North Pacific. What is different? When southbound from these latitudes, you can deal with the close of a single weather system and perhaps the rapidly weakening southern reaches of another. In a few days, you are so far south that autumn and winter can't touch you. The forecasts stretch out that far with some reliability. When eastbound, on the other hand, you do not escape this stormy stretch of ocean until almost two weeks later as you arrive in port.

So what now? At least here there are options. The coast can be sailed on the rare good days [and hidden in on the bad] at least as far as Prince William Sound. We might winter at Kodiak, get our boat back in the top shape she was in before leaving England, and set out again in the spring. Or, if on arrival in Kodiak a sufficient length of settled weather were available, we might set out on the [from there] much shorter crossing to the inside passage and make our way south along that sheltered route.

Oh, and yes, our weather southeast bound in the Bering Sea on Saturday was just as bad with waves just as high as that forecast predicted.

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At 22/09/2013 22:53 (utc) our position was 54°23.04'N 164°50.33'W

Friday, 20 September 2013

St. Paul Island

We anchored here at 0700 to allow a gale to pass by us, and also to position ourselves to exit the Bering Sea through Unimak Pass at the proper time to minimize issues with the currents. It's now 0830 and just beginning to show the grey light of dawn. The rain has not stopped, and the wind is making a low moaning sound … the season up here is definitely OVER and the North country is closing the door on us.

With lots of anxiety about the next few weeks of passage-making, I'm again turning my thoughts to food issues. Today I'll be using up the fresh peppers on some tortillas for our lunch. Now that our refrigerator is broken and the sea temperature is a 'warm' 9C (49F) we're becoming more concerned to keep food (and especially meat) at a safe temperature. We were able to split a large frozen pork tenderloin in half … thawing it in the 'fridge lowered the temperature thus keeping our remaining fresh veggies cooler. The meat was turned into two really good meals. First we had a Pork with Olive dinner - floured pork is browned in some olive oil - add 1/3 cup of dry vermouth with some chicken broth … reduce to make a sauce … and then add the olives. I picked up a Special Double-Issue Chatelaine (Canadian Women's magazine) in Tuktoyaktuk and used the Balsamic Pork with Noodles recipe on page 88 (that's in the Recipes half). The meat is marinated in a mustard/white balsamic vinegar sauce and the dish is sprinkled with fresh (in my case frozen) basil leaves.

Along with our concern about refrigeration, I've been checking products to see whether they need to be kept cold or not. It's quite astonishing how many products have a "best before" stamp and date on them and it's surprising the foods which require refrigeration these days. I thought the reason many cuisines in hot tropical places use hot spices was to preserve food when there is no refrigeration … to keep away parasites and discourage disease-carrying flies. I've seen the salamis hanging in the butcher shops in Mexico - the flies buzz around but don't land. So to me it seems weird that piri-piri peppers bear the label: "once open keep refrigerated and use within 15 days". A small bottle of Hot chili peppers had a similar label PLUS a 'bubble' top to warn you if some varmint had broached the vacuum barrier. Green jalapeno peppers: "refrigerate after opening and use within 15 days".

I then looked at vinegar. I had imagined it was used FOR preserving foods and was thus itself invulnerable to nasty changes … I remember the good old days when every British pub had a jar of pickled eggs on the bar … they could sit there for a lengthy period of time. I never heard of any Britons being struck dead by eating a pickled egg or from using the old Stilton stored in the cold pantry (before most folks had refrigerators). I was wrong again: Waitrose cider vinegar had a Best Before warning and a date (now missing) on the label neck. The balsamic vinegar (from Italy) was dated. I hoped this zealousness for our health did not extend to Denmark … but sure enough the vinegar from Greenland (labelled 'klar lagerddike') also bore the forbidding message: Mindst Holbar til: 0910 2015.

What about tinned goods? The Franklin Expedition lessons should have insured that lead or other poisoning was not possible with British canned goods. Basically - an unopened can should last forever (unless dented or compromised in some way). Not so … all the UK purchased vegetables and fruit have a Best Before date.

I guess the British public must be taking these warnings to heart … as we were leaving Scotland the press came out with the story that British consumers are throwing out good food in record volumes.

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At 20/09/2013 23:53 (utc) our position was 57°08.63'N 170°18.30'W

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Watching the Weather

Our friends Maurice and Katie were cruising these waters and many others in the days when it was really really difficult. They used sextant, chronometer and barometer [and considerable courage] rather than GPS, radar and weather forecasts. Katie told me we had to get out of the Bering Sea by the middle of August to avoid the autumn storms that would inevitably plague the scene after that date. Of course how to do that when the ice in the Canadian arctic a few thousand miles to the east would not allow passage before that date presented quite a conundrum.

Years ago small boat cruisers based their travel plans on the average weather for the sea and season in which they found themselves and then, once underway, simply dealt with the weather that presented. Today we have access to daily forecasts predicting what will come, if not in exact detail, days in advance. This allows us to get slightly out of the way of bad weather if we are mid-ocean or time to seek shelter when we are in areas where anchorages of refuge might be found. Unfortunately, predictions for some day in the future, say Saturday, change daily. Thus every day a new plan is hatched to deal with some future gale - and then thrown away the following day.

We set out from Nome on Monday after a rushed effort to board diesel and cooking fuel. With over 2000 miles to sail nonstop to Victoria, a fair wind was not to be wasted. A low pressure storm was threatening the Unimak Pass through the Aleutian chain just before we would reach it but the winds to the north of this low would not be excessively strong and there would be advantage in the northwesterly winds that would follow it. A person COULD dreamily await a weather picture holding no future storms but the truth is that, in this season, periods of fair weather will only get shorter and the storms between them only more violent. As well, Nome harbor, like all others we have recently visited, will be frozen in in a matter of weeks.

As we speed south, the predicted characteristics of our low pressure system wax and wane daily - evolving in terms of expected track and of the wind speeds and directions arrayed around it. As of yesterday, we were considering anchoring in one of the sheltering bays that surround St. Paul Island to allow the system to pass; today merely slowing the boat to avoid the worst of it is the preferred option. Tomorrow (who knows?) we may revert to the St. Paul Island plan. As the date of the promised low approaches, its characteristics will no doubt coalesce into some form of certainty.

As the low passes and we charge through Unimak Pass, we will assess the longer term weather for the North Pacific and decide whether it is a good time to set out across a good part of it or whether to seek shelter in one of the many spots on offer to the east of the pass and await a more perfect moment.

The passes through the Aleutians and the harbors and bays of those islands and of the Alaska Peninsula mark the point where the ice is truly behind us even if we stopped for the entire winter. Meanwhile, only a month has passed since we left Barrow Strait and Lancaster Sound seeking a route west that did not yet exist through ice still blocking our path. Today, new ice is already forming in those waterways freezing them in for the upcoming winter.

What a short, short season!

And in other news aboard, a small songbird slept for the night in the cockpit gaining a few free miles toward the south. By morning it had flown away.


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At 18/09/2013 19:40 (utc) our position was 60°14.86'N 168°23.29'W

Sunday, 15 September 2013

What's in a Nome?

I'm sitting in Mark's Soap & Suds on the main street of Nome, Alaska. When Larry returns with our overloaded laundry bag, we'll be able to do our laundry, write this Blog and have a drink. We got here just as it opened after our visit by US Customs. Its hours are 3pm until 2am ... so even if I suffer from an unacustomed fit of Writer's Bloque I have lots of time to recover.

On our way here we passed right by what used to be the Soviet Block ... the mid-channel island of Diomede in the Bering Strait just off Dezhnev Point in Eastern Siberia. I felt a bit of pre-Wall chill. My father was a child refugee to Canada in the 1920s. He was born in western Siberia, and I still remember my mother's anxiety in the late 50's that the Soviets would forcibly repatriate him whenever he attended international scientific conferences. Even so, it was nice to see some brand-new names ... not the ever-familiar Nelsons, Cooks, Richmonds etc etc which have haunted us in all our travels. Of course, Cook WAS responsible for naming most of the world. And I find (in reading the "Nome Nugget") that the name Nome was actually a mistake made by the British Admiralty in the 1850s when they read what was meant to be C NAME? They were meant to re-name it,  but ignored the question mark and assumed the badly-printed 'a' was an 'o'. Since then, it's been Nome.

Of course, all the territory used to be Russian and apart from C Prince of Wales (which retains it's British name) there's a mix here ... Chukchi Sea, Ratmanov and Vrangelya Islands (Russian). And of course - Seward - one important name around here. He was Abe Lincoln's Secretary of State back in the 1860s and is known for "Seward's Folly" ... this was because of his purchase from the Russians of the whole of the huge state of Alaska for the sum of $7.2 million (about $.02 an acre). Of course, his decision (considering the oil and mineral discoveries let alone gold) has been fully vindicated.

Nome was the center of a huge gold-rush after its discovery here in 1898. WE had a lot of trouble getting here - imagine how difficult it must have been the the late 19thC? 20,000 wealth-seekers flocked here because gold (1899) was $20/oz ... and the GOLD RUSH CONTINUES today ... with gold at $1500/oz in today's money, there are literally dozens of gold-seekers here. The size and variety of craft are unusual ... but most of them look somewhat haphazard. However, since each of them have to be safety-passed by the Coast Guard, they are all navigable. Each unit has one or two sifter/sorters to go through the sand and one diver who vacuums up the bottom of the sea. The individulas trying their luck seem to be rugged individualists, and the names of their craft follow suit: "Bulhed" (sic), "Pioneer Pump", Casa de Paga ...  I mentioned to Larry that diving for gold for one of these outfits might be a good job for us next summer ... at least it would be better than sailing the NWP!

ps our seal "Sonny" is no longer worried about polar bears - now he's watching for brown/grizzly bears. He finds the fragrance of Pam's scarf reassuring just as I did (Pam is a librarian at the Cambridge Bay school)
Morgan, Jean-Gil and Nick from 'Acalephe' say good-bye

Gold-dredgers

"Sonny" watches for bears

Friday, 13 September 2013

Cape Prince of Wales, Bering Strait

After our rounding Point Barrow, the helpful wind that had been with us from Tuk faded and left us motoring past Icy Cape [named by Captain Cook] and beyond.

Near Point Hope, the forecasts began threatening 30 knot winds first from southeast and then from southwest and west. We could have anchored behind Point Hope and hidden from the southeasterly (SEly) but I was not confident that there would be adequate shelter from the southwest and west winds that would follow. There are no real sheltered harbors in the 1000 miles or so from Tuk to the Bering Strait!

The 30kt SEly really DID blow on the 12th and led to a rather bumpy day. Until it faded though, it allowed us to hold a course a little west of Bering Strait close-hauled under a stays'l and 2 reefed main.

After the frontal passage, the 30kt SWly never blew strongly. We were unwilling to add enough sail to power us through the lighter winds out of fear the forecast 30kt wind would suddenly come on the scene. We thus went very slowly during the night. By morning, it was clear that an uncomfortable 20 knots rather than a revolting 30 knots was as much as we would get. On went more sail! Of course, things being quite unpredictable in these latitudes, off came sail again an hour later when 20 knots became 25!

The line you see on the blog connects noon positions and salient headlands and thus hides the zigs and zags we make when unable to maintain our course due to wind direction. Concealed are the hour or two of fading SEly when we were pointed at Siberia and the many hours of SWly when we were pointed at the Seward Peninsula.

Cape Prince of Wales
Finally this morning as we crossed the Arctic Circle, the southwest wind had relented into a westerly and, as I write this, we are moving well towards Cape Prince of Wales [more Cook!] on the east side of the Bering Strait.

Officially, the Northwest Passage runs from the Arctic Circle in Davis Strait to the Arctic Circle in the Bering Strait. By that definition, we have done it. But, as Hillary rejoined when asked if Mallory had perhaps climbed the mountain first, "Isn't the point to get down again too?"

Thus, we must get to port - that would be Nome sometime tomorrow. Then we must move onward to a place - the first in two months - that doesn't fill with ice during the winter.


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At 14/09/2013 03:38 (utc) our position was 65°39.34'N 168°09.86'W

Monday, 9 September 2013

Point Barrow

The Alaska coastline after Point Barrow still trends more to the west than to the south. Nonetheless the 40 degree heading change we made on passing the point is very significant psychologically: our course is now SOUTH of west rather than NORTH of west.

In many years - though not this one which found our icy hardships elsewhere - the polar pack ice hovers just off Point Barrow. A slight shift of wind brings it crashing up against the land closing a boat's only exit from a wintry prison. Though this year's ice reports and forecasts place the pack many miles off the coast, hovering in the background of our minds is the spectre of past years. Our fast, fair-wind sail from Tuk had a bit of the feeling of racing a train toward a level crossing. We know the ice won't come - but what if it did.

After Barrow, and certainly after Icy Cape a bit beyond, the ice might decide to chase after us but, unlike along the coast behind us, we can sail away to the south faster than the ice can encroach.

There are certainly many miles more to sail ... even to Nome, our next likely inhabited stop. The air temperature still hovers chillingly around the freezing mark - sometimes above and sometimes below - and the water temperature is 3C [37F]. Outwardly, little seems to have changed.

Further on, in the Bering Sea and in the North Pacific, there will be plenty of time for apprehension due to autumn storms rather than to ice. But, for the moment, as we follow Alaska's Chukchi Sea coast down toward the Bering Strait, the predominant feeling is one of relief.

Pack ice Port-side (Bellot Strait) now safely in the past ...
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At 10/09/2013 04:30 (utc) our position was 71°31.30'N 156°01.83'W

Friday, 6 September 2013

Saved from defeat?

 

Larry prepares to dive
Yesterday morning Larry wrote the following letter to our fellow Northwest Passage boat crews and to Claude and David Lloyd …

“After sailing much of the way from C.Bathurst to Tuk, we started the engine about 40 miles before Tuktoyaktuk as the winds faded.  There was considerable vibration accompanied by water ingress around the prop-shaft seal.  We established that we could power at slightly over idle [just under 4 knots] without vibration or water ingress.  Thus it was a very slow trip to and entry into Tuk.

A dive in Tuk's muddy MacKenzie waters [visibility about 6 inches] found that the cutless bearing has play in it and that the blades of the feathering propeller seem excessively loose.

We do not feel we can continue safely…”

Rad, Alec and Dale
We were about to move here for the winter (organizing mail box, cell phone, possible accomodation etc.) but Larry decided to check the engine one last time and he noticed something STRANGE. A call to Yanmar Canada (the engine people) confirmed his suspicion was correct … one engine mount had a severed bolt which was well hidden and impossible to suspect previously. Meanwhile, we had to get off the dock and we called the Coast Guard to arrange for a safe place to keep our sick boat in any type of weather.


A white truck pulled up outside the dock and three men got out. They had heard our call to the Coast Guard on Channel 16 and offered us safe haven tied to one of the barges of their owner – Horizon North – a Vancouver company which provisions this north country over the short summer season. One of them – a master mechanic – had a look at the engine and said he could help and he stayed with us on the trip over and then set to work – welding first one and then a second compromised engine mount. It has now turned out that during the course of this journey ALL FOUR engine mounts were sheared – probably one at a time following weakening in a previously described altercation with fishing gear in England. The engine has been simply resting there, and letting in increasing amounts of water when we raise the RPM.
Radovan Sumera and Larry
Radovan Sumera spent hours helping us last night, and will be back this morning to mend the third and fourth engine mounts. After that, the engine will need to be aligned with the propeller shaft and tested and with the mounts all secured, we SHOULD be on our way once again. 

Our sincere thanks to Horizon North and to Rad, Alec and Dale for coming to the rescue!






Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Cape Bathurst

One of the unusual features of this summer's ice situation is the movement of Beaufort Sea ice in a kind of clockwise gyre to clutter up the coast of Banks Island. On a bad day, it even extends across the mouth of Amundsen Gulf to Cape Bathurst and impedes navigation between Tuktoyaktuk and the central arctic.

At the time we left Cambridge Bay, the Bathurst ice picture was bleak. Nonetheless, it began to look quite rosy as we headed west toward Pearce Point; there was less than 1/10 ice in a wide band around the cape. Of course gales have a way of changing the ice picture as we have noted before.

We left Pearce Point on the strength of an imperfect but still acceptable picture. We headed away into the fading winds and waves of the westerly gale mindful that the fair winds that followed would be brief. We used up much of this available interval when, in addition to the minimal speed we can maintain when powering into large waves, we discovered a 2 knot current flowing against us around Cape Parry. We were lucky to achieve 3 knots!

Shortly after our departure we received the "new" ice chart which showed Cape Bathurst had deteriorated to the extent of being surrounded by 2/10 ice backboned by a formidable wall of 4/10. But we were on our way and LIBELLELE had reported success in getting through.

For us, though, there would be a building easterly gale that would make a return to a safe anchorage very difficult if we failed to cross the ice barrier. Our ice chart would be 27 hours old when we reached the ice!

ANXIETY ATTACK!

Various phone calls followed. On the one hand, LIBELLULE had succeeded and told us the route they had used. On the other hand, the government "Ice Operations Office" examined the latest RadarSat image and pronounced the ice impassable to us. We were loath to dash back to safe anchorage at Cape Parry without trying the ice and there wasn't time to get TO the ice and BACK to Cape Parry.

We hatched a plan! I bent on the storm sails and we decided that if the ice was impenetrable we would sail about to windward of the ice during the gale and see if things were better after: not a comfortable option, but it at least allowed us to continue with a good conscience.

At about this juncture, the official 1800UTC ice chart arrived in an email from David Lloyd. We were immediately relieved as it showed a difficult but passable situation.

In the event, it was all a bit anticlimactic. There were two or three ice barriers that took some searching to find a way through and, of course, countless VW Beetle sized chunks of ice bobbing about. Navigating in the ice was, in a way, pleasant; the ice damped out the waves normal to a gathering gale. We only really noticed the cold wind when we turned across our downwind course in search of a lead.

Now all that is behind us. 100 miles ahead is Tuktoyaktuk, our last NWP stop in Canada. Our government Sailing Directions authoritatively states that Tuk Harbour will be frozen over in the first week of October!

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At 04/09/2013 03:10 (utc) our position was 70°31.96'N 128°55.25'W

Monday, 2 September 2013

Still at Pearce

It's pleasant in this lonely, wintry wasteland to contemplate a more benign and delightful subject … so here's more about FOOD!

Depending on 'where you are' in your sailing career, food is very important. People can be discouraged and give up their cruising plans due to poor food management.

On a start-up boat: We've noticed a huge difference in what we could put up with when we were first sailing and young(-ish). Most first-time "cruisers" sail in temperate or semi-tropical climes. Traversay II had an ice box. This meant that we could have fish/chicken on Day 1, pork or beef on Day 2 and ham on Day 3 before the ice melted. All the other days on our way to Hawaii, we selected food from 3 bins. Bin 1 had tinned meat, Bin 2 had tinned veggies and Bin 3 had tinned fruit for dessert. Eggs (with Vaseline coating) would be broken in a bowl to check for freshness before use. Opened mayonnaise would last well as long as a fresh utensil was used each time. Fresh vegetables were confined to onions, potatoes, cabbage and turnip. Rice could be cooked in a mix of fresh/salt water. We tried to use the juice in the tinned veggies to cook with as well. I later found that some salamis will last well in the bilges as will certain large cheeses. We had about 100 gallons (400l) of water and we practiced water conservation. Naked bathing on deck whenever there was a tropical downpour, and salt water baths at all other times conserved our water. It was exciting to have a glass of ice water and a fresh salad when we got to Hawaii!

Fishing/hunting: Many of our best friends are good (and avid) fishermen - many are hunter-gatherers by avocation and some are followers of 60's guru Euell Gibbons who wrote the classic "Stalking the Blue-eyed Scallop". They learn from the locals about subsistence fishing in whichever locale they're in. Others learned to hunt as children (like our Norwegian friend Rune). The Norwegians we met in South Georgia were fishing from kayaks and lassoing and butchering reindeer. This not only bettered their diet but also helped the British eliminate an unwanted "introduced species". We ourselves find it's easiest to fish in our freezer.

If you're a vegetarian you can get by with much less. Sir Frances Chichester, the noted British sailor and aviator seemingly survived on a diet of beans. We are not by any means such ascetics. As we've become older and have a much better boat, we're able to provision well and give ourselves a more varied diet. As for the expense, we always buy the best food we can find. We found we actually saved money last summer in Norway which is reputed to be one of the most expensive sailing destinations. We cut down on drinking alcohol and seldom ate out. Of course, all the money we saved was quickly spent once we reached London. We expect to save money this summer also since our main expense seems to be diesel fuel. Today, I'm making a chickpea stew in the pressure cooker with *cumin, paprika and oregano*.

Now we're all alone here in this snowy, windswept spot. At 0600 we got a call from our friend and only neighbour Libellule that they were heading out to see how far they could get towards Tuktoyaktuk. They are going to be so kind as to call us and let us know about the conditions out there … we're really grateful for any help. Libellule is fully crewed with five adult males (some 20 or 30 years younger than us). We are not as sanguine about going off into huge leftover waves and headwinds of 20 knots. We're waiting until later in the day for the wind and waves to abate.

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At 02/09/2013 15:57 (utc) our position was 69°49.25'N 122°42.21'W
Paella

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Pearce Point Harbour

Abandoned hut

Mary Anne mentioned in our last posting that we spent a minimal amount of time in Cambridge Bay. I was aware at the time that a westerly gale was brewing and would arrive on the scene in three and a half days. If we left immediately, we would have just enough time to get to this spot: Pearce Point Harbour. Any delay would mean having to stop 170 miles earlier at Bernard Harbour, the nearest previous sheltered anchorage along the coast.

An earlier stop would not only have delayed us one day, but as the weather systems move from west to east, any weather improvement would not arrive there until an additional day later - thus costing one more day!

In the south, the word "Harbour" generally connotes a town or village; here it just means that enclosing bits of land will reduce the waves and wind just enough to anchor your boat in safety until whatever weather you are escaping has passed. There IS an old abandoned shack on the shore along with an old abandoned road leading to the disused gravel airstrip. There seems much evidence in this part of the world of people, no longer here, having passed through.

Eighty meters [270 feet] of heavy 10mm chain stretch from the bow to our anchor buried in the sand and mud under 7 meters of water. Sand and mud are our favorite sea bottom for anchoring. Much more than gravel and certainly more than rock, they allow the anchor to bury deep and hold with remarkable tenacity.

It is snowing off and on outside and the wind, steady at 35 knots and gusting to 40 knots [47mph - 78kph] is making loud moaning sounds in the rigging interrupted by the occasional staccato banging of the slightly-too-loose halyard ropes.

Only road for miles around!
It is difficult to convey an essential psychological difference between a stop on this coast and a weather anchorage further south. The weather that forces us to stop typically disallows visits ashore. Dinghy work is unpleasant - even dangerous - in large waves and we want to be aboard in case the anchor drags. Thus the enforced idleness of the weather delay is combined with an intense awareness of the dwindling supply of "summer" days set against the immense number of miles yet to be traveled.

But all things come to an end - as will this gale. We hope to be moving again by late Monday, September 2nd to deal with any remaining ice around Cape Bathurst and sail onward toward Tuktoyaktuk. Our stop there will be, needless to say, brief: a few hours if we arrive early in the day; overnight if we arrive late.