September 21, 2012

Leg 6: 24/8 - 5/9 2012: Cambridge Bay to Point Barrow: the NW Passage is accomplished!

In Cambridge Bay an all new crew boards the boat. Great to see Kees, Patrick and Marco. But sad to see so many good friends leave. Not much time to think things over though, since we have a tight schedule to Point Barrow. Close to 1200 nm in less than 14 days. We start with some of the best weather of the North West Passage so far. 15 knots from the south east pushes us along nicely. With a brilliant sun it feels tropical to me. The new crew does not really agree on that. At the end Coronation Gulf we should sail into Dolphin and Union Strait but the wind has veered northwest and is now heading us, we find a nice anchorage under lady Franklin Point. Muskoxen roam the flat tundra but keep their distance when we go out to stretch our legs. We never get close and the heard moves on. Might be that they do not really fancy that bright yellow foul-weather gear that some of us are wearing.

Early morning the wind has dropped off but as soon as we are in the strait we have a 3,5 knot counter current. Tacking soon becomes a useless affair and we have no other choice then to motor against an 18 knot headwind and the current. All the ingredients are there for me to get grumpy, I hate motoring at the best of times ... We enter Pearce Point Harbour just after dark. The spits that protect this perfect bay show nicely up on radar. The chart plotter agrees with what we see on radar so lat- and longitude match up for a change. We wake up in a great place, a bright blue sky, white beaches and dramatic rock island in the middle make us decide to stay for the day. We spend most the time onshore exploring the area, we find a derelict cabin of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a workshop that was used by scientist and some leftovers from the DEW line the Defence Early Warning system.

The Gribfiles leave us little room to play, we got to move on quickly towards Point Barrow, in hindsight not a smart place for the next crew change. The anchorage of the town is only good in very settled weather. And the entrance to the shallow Elson Lagoon winds between shallows of which the pilots says that they can be easily shifted by the pack ice. The wind forecast makes it a lee shore in up to 30 knots of wind . . .

So we give Tuktoyaktuk a miss but cannot possibly bypass Herschell Island. Rowing ashore the Park Ranger comes to the beach. They already closed the station for the winter but the strong winds kept them from leaving in their small open boat to the mainland 40 nm away. We get a short lecture on Inuit life and how the commercial whaling was at the root of all the changes to their culture. We came to see what was left to see of that time and now we hear what is left of the Inuit culture and how they fight for their rights.

Early next morning we move on towards Point Barrow 350 nm to the west. The strong north easterly pushes Jonathan at great speed, surfing down the waves at 13.8 knots in a 19 ton boat is fun. But it builds up quite sea too. No way we can get in Elson lagoon under these conditions, next stop is Nome. 500 nm down the Bering Strait, some might miss their flight connections ... The Gribfiles show a lull in the wind for almost a day. The swells won’t die out that fast though. At 30 miles off we hove to, to wait for things to get better. The wind eases of to 15 knots but we still measure 2 meter swells. Either we go in before it gets dark or we loose our chance for tomorrow the wind will be back again. Shifting sand banks on a lee shore, bad visibility, a nice swell and no navigation aids to speak off . . .

1 comment:

John van Oosterom said...

He schippert, gefeliciteerd met het volbrengen van de NW Passage
Mooie tocht en blijf drijve
Groet van de mosselman