July 10, When fellow sailor and explorer Mark Nelson, dropped me off at the airport in Juneau. I took a deep breath. After checking my 3 enormous bags in, and passing through security, I sat in a chair and tried to relax.

This was it. If I did not have it with me, it was not coming. The budget was thin and time was up… The 5 days hours prior to my Juneau departure went something like this.

Buy totes for storing personal items.
Load and organize totes.
Work as usual. Every hour counts…
Clean Conex home. (Another story)
Post Conex for sale on Craigslist.
Complete final tuning to forge.
Cast Samantha’s wedding ring with forge (Another story)
Inventory and pack bags.
Pre pay storage unit.
Check Mail.
Pre pay post office box and request to hold all mail.
Load truck. In the rain.
Cover stuff with crappy tarp.
Drive stuff to storage.
Unload truck. In the rain.
Lock up tools and stow in Shop. (ready to work when I return)
Throw away crappy tarp that leaks water onto stuff.
Sleep on floor.
Wake up.
Final organization.
Check e-mail.
Clean out truck.
Leave title in glove box (Pre sold truck, prior to departure)
Catch ride to airport from fellow sailor, (whom I met in another Alaska town 3 years before)
Look at bank account…. Cringe…
Pay bills ahead…. Cringe…
Contact client for private sailing instruction in Resurrection Bay.
Catch flight to Anchorage Alaska.
Ride with Client to Seward Alaska.
Teach 3 day custom sailing class in Resurrection Bay.
Splice 2 safety harnesses for Northwest Passage.
Visit Isaac and Steven.
Go sailing with Isaac, his girlfriend and Jason Wilson. On Jason’s boat (SV KATABATIC)

Sailing Resurrection Bay
Sailing Resurrection Bay

Watch Isaac teach others about sailing and put on a magic show… Smile big..!
Pay final bills.
Play Mandolin (Daily)
Cram last load of laundry.
Video documentation for future film. (Daily)
Call cell phone company and suspend service.
Ride to Anchorage with Isaac.
Lunch with friends.
Rush to Airport.

Isaac driving me to Anchorage.
Isaac driving me to Anchorage.

And a hundred other little tasks in between, that require no elaboration.

Once checked in at the Anchorage Airport I relaxed a bit more. Then the ball began rolling again. To include;

Fly to Seattle.
Sleep on floor…. Play mando with a random kid sitting next to me…
Fly to Edmonton Canada in the morning.
Talk very nice to the nice customs people….
Breathe a sigh of relief after being Granted entry.
Meet Samantha and team up on all future adventures!

Such as;

Camped in the yard at her brothers house.
Cooked meals
Played music
Rode Horses (Samantha is teaching me)
Wrote Blog posts.
Visit the Merritt Family.
See a cool horse show in Edmonton.
Merge inventories for NW Passage gear.
Packaged and weighed boxes for shipping to Cambridge Bay.
Built Shopping list.
Bought groceries.
Packaged and inventoried EVERTYTHING…
Loaded the car (Full)
And hit the highway for Yellowknife.

Here is our inventory we loaded onboard “Nellie” Samantha’s little blue car…

Loading up "Nellie" in Edmonton Canada
Loading up “Nellie” in Edmonton Canada

Box 1 – Vital hardware (42lbs)
1’ x 6” hard neoprene (1” thick)
Metric tap & die set
Standard tap & die set
400 pc O-ring kit
Camp-style toaster
Linesman pliers
Lock-wire pliers
Electrical crimpers
Spool of marlin
2 bags misc. hardware (hose-clamps, plugs, etc.)
Large and small pick and awl set
Mini hacksaw plus spare blades
Feeler gauges (greased)
Flat file & mini screwdriver set
Inspection mirror & pickup magnet
12 hose clamps
Misc. screwdriver bits
Belt knife
Large snatch block
Rudder packing and neoprene
2 tubes marine sealant (3m 5200)
Electrical pigtails (2)
Swivel for parachute
Fishing reel
Stove air controls
Drill index & bits
50’ 3/8” Bungee

Box #2 – (48 lbs.)
Storm jib
Sail repair kit (Traveling)
Electrical wire
Maud knives
Modular v-Belt
Electrical wire
Zip ties
Hand plane
Fish tape (Electrician’s tool. Handy on boat)
Fuel & oil filters
Radios (hand held “Talkabouts”)
Analog Calipers
Outdoor Bluetooth speaker
Ram mount for I pad
Sewing kit
Survival bivvy
2 small pulleys
Wood Stove top plate
Winter gloves & masks

Yellow Bag (waterproof)- gear & books (44 lbs)

2013 Stormr jacket
2013 Stormr bibs
Large & Medium Stormr surf top
Stormr Medium Bibs
Stormr Small bibs
Stormr Booties (3 pair)
Stormr Gloves (4 pair)
Stormr long gloves (1 pair)
2 Lanyards & tethers & harness
Misc books & reference
Seal cement
Scuba tank valve
Plastic box
Pajar boots
1’ flex hose
Drill scale
Egg poachers
Laser thermometer
1 gal thermos
Misc shims (round shims)
Parachute cord
Waterproofing Wax

Blue Waterproof Duffle

Seal Skin Hat
Wolf hide hat
Beaver Mitts
Cold weather masks 2 pair
Cold weather gloves
Ski Goggles 2 pair
Spare dry bags for final packing
Wool socks
Cold weather boots for Samantha
Wool gloves.
Dental picks and mirrors.
Bug head nets
3 pair pants.
1 pair shorts
3 shirts

Boxes 3 and 4 (Groceries, stripped of packaging)

7 lbs, assorted dry salamis (non sliced)
10 lbs assorted hard cheeses (Non sliced)
40X AA Batteries
40X AAA Batteries
1 lb fresh ginger
2 lbs candied ginger
Fresh Garlic
Fresh Lemon Grass
5 lbs milk powder
2 lbs cocoa powder
Assorted teas
10 lbs red potatoes
5 lbs yellow onions
2 lbs instant potatoes
Bullion Base
10 lbs Coffee
2 boxes Yogurt Culture
4 lbs Wheat Tortillas
Bread Yeast
2 canned Hams’
Hard Crackers
5 lbs rolled oats
2 lbs dried prunes
2 lbs Chia seeds
1 case dissolving baby wipes
Chocolate bars
Treats (we snuck in a box of twinkies and ho ho’s)
5 lbs carrots

After we stripped the packaging, we broke down each product into small ziplock bags. Then returned them to their original bags. This helps portioning and prevents spilling or contamination.

But there was another obstacle.

Numerous forest fires had dominated the Northwest Territories for over a week. The highway to Yellowknife was closed, as the very ditch was on fire. So we lay and wait in a campground until the fire subsided enough to pass through.

Holy Smokes...
Holy Smokes…

There were no alternative airports that we can fly out of on our way to Cam Bay. So our patient approach to the arctic will start early this year.

It seems we must first pass through the fire, in order to reach the ice. The irony was thick like smoke…

But on the 17th of July, we caught a gap in the forest fires and rolled into Yellowknife.

We were stomping hard to get North. But in the midst of our travels, we learned that Samantha’s good family friends, who live off grid in the Northwest Territories, had lost their home to the forest fires.

They were still on site, 200 miles from civilization and we had an opportunity to catch a flight out there.

So the following morning, we flew to the site and immediately went to work on the scorched homestead. (Another story)

Samantha and I agreed that though we were in a hurry to get North. It was best to help however we could.

What is the point of ambition, if such a focus has no room for lending a hand? The answer: there is no point. Help as you can and offer what you have, lest your journey be a selfish wandering.

After 5 days of waiting for smoke to clear and enjoying the company of those wonderful and resilient people, Samantha and I caught another float plane to Yellowknife and continued our trek to Cambridge Bay.

Samantha kissing her buddy "Tico" goodbye for a while.
Samantha kissing her buddy “Tico” goodbye for a while.

That evening it was a whirlwind of final inventory, where we added another hundred lbs. of sailing tackle, books and arctic gear to our pile.

The next day we shipped the load out as air-freight and got on the plane. Shipping was not easy, as the scheduled freight jet had been cancelled due to smoke.

But as usual we worked our way through the problems as a team and got it done.

Our flight was delayed as well, which allowed us just a brief reprieve before darting into the smoky skies.

We watched the blazing fires below, slowly transition to icy waters and tundra, laden in heavy cooling smoke.

In the early evening on 07/24/2014, our wheels chirped down in Cambridge Bay. All our travels faded away. Soon we stood holding our bags, in the quiet little airport in Cambridge Bay.

Just down the beach, EMPIRICUS sat waiting patiently….


One thought on “TRADING FIRE FOR ICE

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