Its 0200 hours on 08/05/2014 in Cambridge Bay. I feel thrashed. But my checklist says “Blog Post,” so here we go.
Since Samantha and I got here, we have gone flat out. Fixing, repairing, cleaning and walking back and forth to town for cell service.
EMPIRICUS sat just as I left her, perched perfectly on her drum supports and resting on her keel.
It felt so good to be home… and also to introduce Samantha officially to “EMPIRICUS”, our launch of exploration.
One of our first tasks was going through all the food that was left onboard to overwinter.
Surprisingly, we lost very little. I’d say we lost less then ten percent of our onboard stores, the biggest being only 2 or 3 bottles of green Tabasco and Worcestershire to freezing and splitting
Our batteries were in fine condition as well. I hooked them up and began using them straight away.
So far the only nuisance has been canned food. The cans were rusty and the cardboard cases moldy. So we stripped the labels and re-labeled them with sharpie. I am pretty sure I did not mix them up… but there may be a few surprise meals.
After they were cleaned up, we smeared them in Vaseline and re-stored them. The cans were moved to the front of the line. I think we will avoid cans in the future.
The next day, our freight arrived so we walked through the tundra to the airport, and met our shipment. First Air Cargo kindly delivered our goods to the boat. In the meanwhile we walked to town and got re-aquatinted with friends made in 2013.
Back at the boat a few hours later, we began hand hauling our freight up the boat (we had no ladder) and began stowing parts, tools, and fresh groceries. This took a few days – opening cabinets, wiping, cleaning organizing and stowing everything. Samantha and I estimate we have well over 2 years worth of groceries onboard!
Samantha also brought a bread maker, which I was unsure of. But to my delight, the bread maker draws little current, and while on the hard, we often had the generator running for power tools and battery charging. So with a little timing and forethought, piping hot bread was served regularly.
We smashed ice from the shore nearby to fill the cooler. This was an obvious indicator of the ice and how much there still is here in the Arctic. It also snowed a little along with howling winds and a lightning thunderstorm that shook the boat quite hard. I did not sleep a wink.
The first big technical project was the rudderpost seal, which I blogged about previously. With a little adaptation and fine tuning with an orbital sander, the piece fit perfectly. The cage was installed and the steering loosened and greased. I sewed the boot on, installed the ships wheel (stored to keep from the weather) and all worked well!
The true test will be when we are sailing at 7 knots and the waterline rises at the stern. Fingers crossed!
Then it was onto the stove. I installed the air controls I had built back in Alaska and the airflow was drastically improved. But we still had no way to clean the soot just below the stovepipe. So while bread was whirring away in the galley, the grinder was blazing away in the cabin.
I cut a large “V” shape from the overhead reflector. This way I could reach a tool or gloved hand into the void and sweep away the soot.
Success. We have burned wood and coal for 10 days straight with no smoke issues and lots of heat!
My first mistake of 2014 was to top off the alcohol stove with diesel fuel… Bummer. For some reason, diesel fuel had been stored in an alcohol can in the galley. I had probably used the can for bleeding diesel and water from the separator. But the error was actually made last year. When I must have thought re-labeling was not needed. Well…. it was.
So the cook stove stinks on one burner. We burned it off outside several times but the problem lingers. Lesson learned. Re-label containers…
Other projects have included, but are not limited to:
• Re-connect battery bank and top off water in cells.
• Haul water (4 gallons) by foot from airport (Samantha)
• Receive and load all the gear and food we shipped in from Yellowknife. With no ladder.
• Open all cabinets, voids and stores for a complete inventory.
• Remove leaky faucet in head. Replace with water jug. Much better!
• Go get more water to replace leaky faucet water.
• Install new LED light in stateroom.
• Muck out bilges.
• Pry up swollen floorboards.
• Wax drawer slides.
• Organize and oil hand tools.
• Create an ongoing giant to do list.
• Get water – this time with an ATV and 5 gallon jugs.
• Attempt to schedule crane to lift us in.
• Cut firewood.
• Rebuild fuel transfer pump.
• Rebuild starter solenoid.
• Replace bobstay cable with chain and tackle.
• Test run and service generators.
• Drop rigging for haul in.
• Re-set and tune rigging.
• Wire all shackles.
• Assemble para-anchor components and splice rode in place.
• Inspect anchor rode and re-splice eye.
• Retrieve medical supplies from storage.
• Load and tie down fuel canisters.
• Transfer fuel.
• Grease engine linkage and test run engine.
• Renew firearm permits with the RCMP.
• Eat canned food…
The list of tiny projects would bore the reader. But trust me when I say there was plenty.
By the third day, we were ready to lift in, but not to sail and by the time the crane showed up, 10 days had passed. That is the Arctic for you. Make your estimate and triple the time.
But regardless we made use of the time and enjoyed ourselves in between projects. We even offloaded Scarlet and took her to town a couple times. These little two-hour sails kept us sane and reminded us why we were here.
Mike Johnson, Captain of SV Gitana, was also in Cambridge Bay. Gitana had hauled out after us in 2013 and needed to return to the water before us, by virtue of their position alongside Empiricus. We helped each other out and the lift-in went as smooth as could be expected. We crunched a section of toe rail on Empi with the rather thin strap, but other then that the lift was fine.
After the lift in, we motored over to the dock and gathered together. SV Gitana, Le Manguier, Canadian Research vessel Marty Bergman and Empiricus all piled on the dock. To our understanding we were the only boats floating in the Northwest Passage as of August 3rd. (Le Manguier is a French vessel that had overwintered in Paulatuk, west of Cambridge Bay.)
It has been great meeting fellow explorers. We trade tools, parts and charts along the way. Looking out for each other as we slide through this unforgiving place.
We trade stories and ideas and even have a drink at the dock. But the underlying focus of progress always takes front stage, each of us going about our path as ice and weather allow.
Mike Johnson told me about a strange piece of wood on the beach between town and our boats. He thought it was a piece of the Maud mast and thought I may be interested.
Samantha and I found it just where he said, when we were gathering our mountain of firewood.
Corey, of “ALL WHEEL RENTALS” loaned us a truck to use. We got the truck full of firewood blocks. Then we topped it off with one enormous mast step.
Samantha and I dropped it off at the Visitors Center, so that the Maud recovery team from Norway could pick it up.
We took on fuel and water after the Canadian “Civic” holiday and are poised to depart this afternoon just behind Le Manguier, who departed Eastbound for Gjoia Haven on the 5th.
It took me 3 days to write this abbreviated post, in my weary evenings, and it will be a while before I can post again. We do not know if the passage will open. There is much more ice in this area then last year. But true to form, we will slowly explore the Northwest Passage, taking advantage of openings as we work our way North.
Samantha and I have agreed to not rush, but to take careful, bold steps toward Iceland.
There is a phrase used in tactical shooting and marksmanship that translates well to sailing the Northwest Passage.
That phrase is “YOU CANNOT MISS FAST ENOUGH TO WIN”
So off we go, amongst the ice, with keenly fixed sights on every possible gap.
Capt. Jesse Osborn
Cambridge Bay Canada