October 24, 2012

Leg 6: 5-7 September 2012: Approach Point Barrow

Where am I?

Hove to we slowly drift towards the sandbanks that block the entrance to Elson Lagoon. Just 15 knots of wind left but the swells take longer to subside. How much patience can one have? We are all strained, can we get in? Waiting only builds up the pressure, let’s go than, impatience forces us on? Give it more time, it can only get better. The pilot describes the winter ice as a huge bulldozer that easily moves the sand banks. Late in the afternoon with 4 hours of daylight left, I cannot stop myself anymore and we turn the bow towards the shallows. We need to pass between several sandbanks straight towards the low sand spit. Then when we get close, the depth should increase, 90 degrees to port and find the small entrance between more shallows and the spit. There is no visibility, no buoyage; big swells are still running in from the Beaufort Sea. Radar and C-map give different positions. Where am I? In a grey world we can only see the brown breakers forcefully running on the shallows. Also right ahead where it should be 6 m deep.  Full reverse when the forward looking sounder goes down to 2,5 m. The swells break against the stern. Water is forced up through the cockpit drains. Brr so not here then, do we go on to Nome 500 nm further south? Half a mile to the north-west we try again. According to C-map we should now hit the bottom but there is the spit, the depth increases so full to port now. Radar and chart-plotter are still arguing, so much for electronic navigation….   We have to go through there?  In between the violent breakers where swells run into less than 2 meters and the spit? 9 m, 11, 14, pfff,  we are in the small gully. We turn into the lagoon and there on the high water line lays the marker that the radar could not find. Seems like the winter ice did. In the flat water of the lagoon we breathe easy again, broad smiles on relieved faces.

Welcome in the USA

Crossing the lagoon to the anchorage we pass Point Barrow, on the wrong side for now. Time to celebrate though. We get the whisky out and I light up a fat cigar that Auden gave me for the occasion. From Cambridge Bay this was the last part of the North West Passage, but only when we have sailed the Bering Sea in September can we realy celebrate. This is our first port in the US but we cannot clear customs here, well I guess there are not many yachts coming in here!!!. By e mail the crew gets permission to fly to Anchorage. Coming down the stairway an immigration officer is awaiting them. If they can pay 580$ each they are welcome in the US. Their ESTA approval is not enough when you arrive on a foreign yacht. Ai!

The vicar's faith

The anchorage is far from town so I call the cab that took Kees, Marco and Patrick to the airport yesterday. No he is not coming, the swells are still coming onto the road and parts have eroded into the sea. So I walk, the minister drives with his wife, dog and hunting gun over the spit. They seem to have less worries, not sure if it is because of their faith or their enormous Dodge 4 wheel drive in which they take me to the airport. With Penny we find a cab for the way back. The driver from Thailand just arrived here some weeks ago. He has no idea where the lagoon or anchorage is. On my instructions he finds the way back. The driver is pretty pale when we get there and Penny has a broad smile when she sees Jonathan at anchor in the grey lagoon.

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