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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

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