Captains Log

Captains log.

Friday. 08/08/2014 0018 hrs.

We have been underway continually since departing Cambridge Bay, Wednesday evening. The weather has been stable, cold and blowing from the NW 10-20 mph the entire time, besides a temporary SW shift on Thursday. It is near or below freezing outside right now and I’ve just come off shift.

Sailing from Cambridge Bay
Sailing from Cambridge Bay

This is great weather for sailing east. But bad weather for melting Ice. So we have decided to anchor in Jenny Lind Bay and let some ice melt.

Samantha took to the helm with confident ease. Because of that, I can lie in my bunk and relax, knowing we are in good hands. It’s great to be a team with the love of your life.

Samantha at the helm.
Samantha at the helm.

It’s also great that the stove is working so well. The modifications I made, coupled with Samantha’s dedication to cleaning the chimney, are paying off and the fire is crackling away. No more smoke in the cabin!

Baking potatoes on the wood stove
Baking potatoes on the wood stove

Also, more good news: the rudder post seal is working famously. Not a single drip!!!

0551 hrs.

We sailed steady and quick under a double-reefed mainsail and full mizzen, just past Clestrain Point. Then headed up in the bay, with a little motor and an over sheeted main. That way we had the engine ready for anchoring and charged the batteries at the same time.

Samantha tending reef lines at the main boom
Samantha tending reef lines at the main boom

Here on anchor it is very windy. I do not believe that the Island protects you from any wind, only reduces the fetch. But the bottom is nice sand at 25 feet deep where we anchored.

We began dragging with 80 feet of rode out, so I doubled the rode length. We seem to be holding firmly now.

The fire is crackling away and we have decided to take 1 hour anchor watches until the wind subsides.

1708 hrs.

Once the wind eased, we slept hard and had some time together. I bounced out of bed off and on to check the anchor. We held well in very strong winds and 2 foot seas. Our Anchoring position has been 68 Deg 38.489’ North / 101 Deg 47.03’ West.

After some solid sleep we got a message and it looks like the ice is passable to Gjoa Haven. The wind is letting down a little and the timing is beautiful. Samantha scrubbed the beloved wood stove and I took care of the head. We are eating now, then weighing anchor for departure.

Slow steady sailing
Slow steady sailing

Off the top of my head we sailed 36 hours from Cam Bay. The engine Hobbs meter shows we ran the engine 10 hours. At least 4 was to charge batteries at anchor. So our sailing to power ratio remains high. There is plenty of wind up here and it perplexes me why all seem sold on motoring like mad…

Arctic sunsets...
Arctic sunsets…

To each his own. We have our ship to worry about. And that’s enough.

Samantha moves so fast, the camera cannot keep up.
Samantha moves so fast, the camera cannot keep up.

2200 hrs.

Wow what a nice shift. It was nice and warm (35-40 deg f) when we pulled anchor at Jenny Lind. Blowing 25 out of the NW but subsiding. We set the mainsail to double reef and kept the full mizzen in play, sailing off at 5 knots on a broad reach.

A note on anchor pulling. Our block and tackle works great. We drag the rode down one side of the deck, 40 feet at a time. It pulls up 40 feet of ½ inch chain and a 45 lb Bruce with little effort, no power needed, and best of all, no reliance on an electric windlass.

Ice was grounded on the shores of Jenny Lind and also immediately visible to the East. Most of it was a thin band, set perpendicular to the wind and made up of hunks the size of school busses and small cars.

A nice sized cake
A nice sized cake

Though the ice was not thick in concentration, the openings were narrow, but passable without striking any.

Note-I should have brought a fishing net, to snag Ice bits for the cooler.

Keeping warm in our Stormr Gear
Keeping warm in our Stormr Gear

Samantha made a curry that smells great. Time to eat and sleep. We will be approaching Requisite Channel soon.

08/09/2014 0600 hrs.

Last night we encountered the thickest ice I’ve seen since Pt. Barrow last year. Thankfully the winds are light. We sailed and motor sailed in very light air, sometimes slowing to 2 knots, in order to negotiate the pack.

Requisite Channel Ice
Requisite Channel Ice

We are now past Hat Island, headed for the next turn of the, “Recommended” channel.

No polar bears yet. But I did see a tiny bird, alone on an ice chunk. I thought that was curious.

Morale is great and progress is good. One step at a time.
1153 hrs.

Wow what a shift. I’ve never been in that tight of ice flow before. I’m learning that ice forecasts are very general. We were navigating in patches of 1/10, surrounded by mile wide globs of 8/10. Then sometimes stuck in the fringe of the two. All the while trying to adhere to the “Recommended” path on the chart, as soundings are incomplete in this area.

A fat lazy Seal, sleeping on the ice flows.
A fat lazy Seal, sleeping on the ice flows.

Even so, I only had to wedge ice apart a few times with the bow. Fortunately the vis was great and it even got sunny for a while. I got some poor footage of a seal sleeping on the ice. We woke him as we passed by. He did nothing other then prop himself up to look.

We are clear of the pack for now and are headed toward Simpson straight. We continue to motor sail under a double reef. This seems like a sweet combination. If the wind increases to pure sail, we simply shut down the engine. But we are ready for heavy winds should they arise while we are in the pack ice.

The Ice pack edge
The Ice pack edge

Our minimum speed of 3 knots continues to work well. Because we travel slowly and non-stop, we are rested and prepared for what may come. Also with a reefed main and no headsail you have good vis under the boom (Main boom rises when reefed). Plus a singlehanded gybe is simple, when deeply reefed.

All this is important for a crew of 2.

A more dense pack
A more dense pack

1700 hrs.
What an amazing place. All day we threaded the needle through thick ice. Then just like that we were in open water with the sun shining. I shut the engine down to keep our speed to 3 knots. This way we hit Simpson straight at high slack water and avoid the nasty currents there.

Sailing into the pack...   With a lump in my throat...
Sailing into the pack… With a lump in my throat…

I played Mando at the helm for a while, which made for a swerved course. But it was nice to be in the sun playing. I did notice that the near freezing temp put the poor instrument through a torment. If I wanted to keep playing I would have to re tune it every 2 minutes or so… I guess it’s not that warm. But temperature, like ice concentration, is relative to recent experiences…

Now I am cooking up a big pot of Ham Potato soup. Using powdered milk and white truffle oil to finish it off. Should be tasty.

08/10/2014 0330 hrs

We were sailing a bit fast and trying to hit the tide right for passing Simpson Straight. So we hove to for a couple hours, drifting with some distant ice.
We got to spend some time together which was great. It’s funny, that 2 people on the same boat can rarely speak, except at shift change.

We hove to as opposed to anchoring, which is usually my choice if it is appropriate. When the time came we struck the mizzen and motored on flat water with no wind, the entirety of the Strait. I held the double reefed main in play, just in case we needed it. As it turns out, the Strait was like a pond.

We had good vis and hit the tide perfect.

Simpson Straight sunrise.  Perfect...
Simpson Straight sunrise. Perfect…

We just slid out the other side and will be in Gjoa Haven this afternoon. This area is pretty exciting for me because Roald Amundsen is my hero among explorers.

0931 hrs.

After a couple hours sleep I went back on watch. Since there is no wind and we are motoring, Samantha ran the bread-maker off our inverter. It’s not fancy, just a 1500 watt inverter from an old semi truck.

Anyway, it worked. So by the end of my shift I was eating fresh baked bread with butter and jam. Not too shabby.

Besides that, the morning sun was beating down on the cold ocean. I saw lots of mirages, including an inversion of an island, on top of itself, flipped upside down. An arctic anomaly. So cool!

Inverted floating island in the distance.
Inverted floating island in the distance.

I can barely see straight and will try to sleep before we reach Gjoa Haven. We will have much to do when we get there. PROJECTS AND EXPLORING. I CANT WAIT!

2100 hrs.

Well we made it into Gjoa Haven at 1300 hrs. Just like we thought. Coming in to anchor in Gjoa Haven was quite an experience for me. I saw it just as Amundsen had described it in his books. A perfect little harbor.

We were exhausted from the sleep schedule interruption and droning motor sounds while negotiating Simpson Strait. So we went to bed for a while. Now it is night and we are well rested. We have not gotten the ice report yet. I may run up the dipole antenna and pull the ice charts off the HF radio. But not now. Now, after some food and a little cleanup, we’re writing and enjoying the 1st celebratory toast of our journey, peering through the portholes at this little arctic village.

Tomorrow we will sail Scarlet ashore with some laundry, our computers and water jugs. We will locate our resources, explore the coastline, look at the ice reports and make some calls. It’s nice to be here and to have some obstacles behind us.

Cambridge Bay delays and ice delays left us feeling behind the ball by about a week and a half. Originally we had planned to leave Cam Bay by the 1st and arrive in Gjoa Haven before the 10th. So we are back on schedule.
It looks like we ran the engine about 42 hours on this leg. Up until Simpson Strait we had run only ten. But the strong current and lack of wind encouraged us to motor on to Gjoa Haven.

All said and done we made the entire trip on about 17 gallons of fuel. Our top speed was 7.2 knots with a tail current in Simpson Strait.

Most of our sailing was at about 3 knots. All of our sailing was downwind, or just off the wind, under a double reef. Our max time, not in motion, toward destination, was 14 hours. (12 on anchor in Jenny Lind Bay and 2 hours, hove to just West of Simpson Straight)

All I all this was a safe efficient leg of the journey, full of beauty and challenge in equal proportions. Everything I hoped for!

08/11/2014 1430 hrs.

I have not made an entry for a while so let’s catch up. All the pertinent info goes into the written ships’ log. But I continue here with highlights of our voyage.

We have been sitting onboard for 2 days. The wind came up and quite frankly we were tired. So we’ve been puttering around the boat, doing projects, eating, sleeping and burning firewood!

Boy, can we burn firewood. I think we’ve used half our wood already. So we’re on the look for pallets in Gjoa Haven.

Here is the to-do list we’re pecking at now.

“To do list in while in Gjoa Haven”

• Isolate bad battery cell —Check
• Make pennant line for storm Anchor
• Transfer fuel to main tank
• Take on water
• Gather, cut, split and stow firewood
• Take on fuel
• Grease linkage and steering
• Secure spare parts in engine room
• Remove oil lamp from stateroom—Check
• Book bungee at nav station—Check
• Fix Lee cloth—Check
• Inspect engine and shaft packing
• Check tie down lines on bow
• Check Ice
• Study next leg
• Lay out charts
• Contact RCMP and pick up firearms permit renewals
• Change fuel filter—Check
• Fix salt water leak at strainer—Check
• Clean strainer—Check
• Rework HF Antenna —Check
• Practice storm tactics

Besides that, we plan to enjoy this community and take a historical journey to the hilltop, where a memorial has been erected in Amundsen’s honor.

We have only been on shore hours now and have already felt the honest generosity of this community. As always, we offer what we can, whether that be fixing something broken, or simply opening doors for people. Then taking time to ask peoples’ names and a bit about there lives here.

In the middle of the Arctic, respect trumps money. Maybe that’s why I like it here. We are all in it together and value is still relative, to need…

I think it is important to understand that we are far from wealthy.

The grand exploration of this world is not set aside for the financially affluent. Quite the opposite.

Whoever read a daring, wonderful, riveting story, about a rich kid, whose daddy covered the costs of his whims?

My point is, I like being the underdog. Bashing my way through ice and spray, in the same ocean with icebreakers and all others willing to play the game.

If the ocean is the great equalizer, the Northwest Passage is a sifter. Where only rope burned hands, wind burned cheeks and patient humility will allow your passing.

My only hope is to slip safely through, having learned the lessons this place is teaching me and enjoyed the process all along.

08/13/2014 1438 hrs.

Wow, our visit to town yesterday was awesome! We bought a nice Arctic Char from a local fisherman. Then were invited into the home of a wonderful local family. We ate dinner, shared pictures and played cards till near midnight. Then rowed home to Empiricus, played some music next to a hot fire. Then slept until the rising sun warmed our hull.

Empiricus on Anchor in Gjoa Haven
Empiricus on Anchor in Gjoa Haven

What will today bring!? I don’t know and that’s just what I love!

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2 thoughts on “Captains Log

  1. Great post Jesse and Sam! We miss you guys and can’t wait to hear all your tales as you make your way to the Atlantic. Safe journeys, and keeping showing the world that sailing underdogs can go on awesome journeys too! Can’t wait to see you guys in January.

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