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

1 comment:

  1. Question: The MS HANSEATIC passed south through Bellot Strait last night, likely escorted by CCGS icebreaker HENRY LARSEN. Why didn't all of the yachts follow through the ice pack to open waters?
    Are you running your AIS 24x7 and keeping a round the close watch? What are you plans when ice blocks your exit from the Arctic? Where are you wintering over?