Wood stowed, bilges dry, deck secure, woodstove pipe modified with reflector behind pipe, Scarlet clean and ready to load, deck secured, floor mopped.
A TV crew will be meeting us on the beach at 0800 for an interview and we are not in a hurry. So we will meet them and bring them aboard for coffee and an interview.
Then row them ashore, load Scarlet and gently sail away.
Winds should be NW 15. Perfect close-hauled slow sail North.
08/22/2014 1655 hrs.
At 0800 this morning we had a TV camera crew aboard, interviewing us before our departure. They were nice guys and one was a sailing enthusiast. It was an enjoyable interaction to be sure. I hope they got what they needed from us as they both seemed to enjoy their work.
Shortly before noon, we hauled the anchor from its 11 day trench in the mud. Again the block and tackle broke the fluke free and hoisted the tackle nicely. Plus I got my morning workout.
Minutes later the main was hoisted to double reef, followed by the staysail, as we fell off the wind and shut down the engine.
We sailed out of Gjoa Haven Harbor in silence, with the sound of a few 4 wheelers in the background as the community went on about it’s rhythm.
Unexpectedly, the NW wind gave way to a SW.
I looked over the chart and the wind direction. We were set up perfectly for a nice hove too sail along our path. And seeing as our intentions are to be slow, that is just what we did.
Once clear of the shoals near Gjoa Haven, I struck the Mizzen, centered the main and backed the Jib.
Since then we have sailed, hands off, directly toward the recommended route path at a speed of .5-1.5 knots depending on the wind.
I took a nice Nap while Samantha made hot potato soup on the woodstove. And by the way, our chimney modifications have had an amazing effect. It burns hotter then ever and the door can be wide open, with no smoke escaping. Plus we can clean the chimney without disassembling it!
So as we safely sail along, saving fuel we spend time together, checking our position as needed. The viz is great, we do not see any ice yet and the plan is unfolding nicely.
Soon I will ease the mainsheet, strike the jib and sail a broad reach Starboard tack, Northward.
We have 65 miles to go before the dense Ice is reported. So we will try to keep our speed under 3 knots.
This will give us a day or two to find our rhythm and sleep cycle before encountering the heavier ice.
I really like this approach. There is little stress, were not in a hurry and were saving the engine for when we may need it or to charge batteries.
Note. Buy more solar panels!
08/23/14 1024 hrs.
Last night was great! We hove to just out of Gjoa Haven and enjoyed creeping along in open water.
We watched a movie after studying our course and tactics. Then slept well, checking progress every hour or so.
Only once, did we start the engine and motor clear of a shoal. This gave us some breathing room while we slept.
At 0400 heavy fog rolled in. I eased the main sheet and started sailing slowly North in a 15 knot NW wind.
The winds steadily died off as the sun came out, warming the day nicely.
I shook the Jib out for the first time, to use in this light air. Only to find it was hanked on upside down. I laughed at myself and was glad to find the mistake in such benign conditions.
Going forward to flip the hanks was a nice chore in the sun. I always enjoy being on the bowsprit and watching our bow, split the water.
Well the wind is all but gone, So I doused the, now properly rigged Jib. Samantha came on shift and we sheeted the staysail, main and mizzen in for a slow easy motor North.
We got news that Altan Girl is 30 miles North of us already and is waiting there while we slowly approach.
Once ice is 5/10 or less near Mattie Island, we should be able to proceed.
OK I’m beat and headed for bed. I’ve got 60 minutes to sleep.
After trying to contact Alton Girl for the past few hours on VHF. We finally connected.
I could see a slight mirage of his boat from a distance. It was very difficult to distinguish between it and floating ice nearby.
Distance and perspective are all askew in this place.
A couple hours later we came along side Erkan who was in good spirits and feeling healthy.
He said he had a small tear in one of his reef points which I offered to repair. But he was not to interested. He is a very independent and pleasant man and I find his story interesting.
Although independent, he is interested in staying within radio contact from here on out. We will of course attempt to do so.
After some hot split pea and ham soup. Then a cup of “rocket coffee”, I sit to write this.
It is so beautiful out here and we have it all to ourselves. To our understanding, Lue Monguire, Alton Girl and Empiricus are the only 3 vessels to visit this water in a years time. Not even the icebreakers have come this way yet.
But shortly, we hope to be in their company. Or at least get a radio report if they pass though the area.
In the mean time, we kick back. I’ve got some projects that need doing and maybe some writing on my book. Plus a planning meeting with Erkan about our next move.
I like where we are. Free moving on the ocean, well clear of the dirt.
1923 hrs. Drifting slowly North, still rafted to Altan Girl. Erkan and I agree that anchoring anywhere near ice is a bad idea. So we will drift, hove too, as a unit as long as the seas will tolerate.
The next 2 days are forecast SE and SW winds under 20 knots. If that holds true we will drift toward Mattie Island for the next 48 hours. Burning 0 fuel as the ice lets go ahead of us.
I’m calling this approach “Passive placement” as we are tactically placing our hull and sails to advantage. Only actively sailing or motoring, as required to “Set up the next drift” toward our goal.
This is possible and quite doable. With a little weather planning and anticipation. While always taking care to avoid lee shores, should the weather change unexpectedly.
08/23/2014 1800 hrs.
Last night was a blast. Altan Girl has a tremendous assortment of fenders around her hull, like a tugboat. When I rafted along side her to windward, we tied with light lines at bow and stern.
Being lighter then Empiricus, she rose in the sea much more, but because of the bumpers this was not a problem. Even to 20 knots of wind.
I found it interesting, that Erkan was hove to with a jib backed. We were hove to with a double reefed main. So the combination of the two, created a centered main and backed jib. We hove to perfectly, although a bit faster then we would on our own.
It was fantastic watching our track North. We lay exactly along our plotted path. Burning no fuel and enjoying the ride.
While hove too as a unit, we were visited by the Canadaian Coast Guard “Air Patrol “ unit. They requested our information and sailing intentions this season. Which we shared gladly. I must say, these guys are out here working. My respect for the Canadian Coast Guard grows with each contact. They are sharp, professional and forward thinking, while also being personable and helpful.
By 1400 hrs. the next day, the swell had come up to the point where damage between vessels was probable. So we split ways with Altan Girl and hove too individually.
Samantha and I have been reading and practicing storm tactics regularly. Because this is our lifestyle, we see value in constant learning and preparation. So we spent the afternoon, tuning the mainsail, adjusting the helm and noting the results. So far, “Storm Tactics” by Lin and Larry Pardee. Is the best and most accurate resource regarding heaving too, and the mechanics behind it.
Being gaff rigged, we really enjoy the benefits of lying comfortably at sea, just downwind of our slick. We did some hi fiving after our good practice session. Then enjoyed watching the breaking wave crests, die out in the force of our undulating keel. Breaking waves ahead and behind us, but smooth water just to windward. This practice is empowering and practical
The winds gradually subsided that afternoon. Leaving a lumpy smooth sea.
Most sailors put forth a great amount of effort, learning to go fast, and so do we. But learning how to go slow is just as important.
Imagine having a lee shore 10 miles away in storm conditions. Your only tactic is to sail with it at hull speed or greater. Your engine is out, or not powerful enough and you will ground in roughly 90 minutes.
Or… You have practiced and studied. After minutes of preparation, you are lying hove too, with no breaking waves at less than one knot, under a sea anchor on a pennant line. With 10 hours to solve the dilemma, fix the engine, let the gale pass, get some sleep. Or any of the other things you would rather do, than run aground.
As the winds subsided we spent the afternoon playing Mandolin and Guitar by the fire.
Reports tell us that the ice is still thick. But we don’t mind. Mostly we are glad to be out here on the ocean and enjoying this trip. If the passage does not open, we will have spent our time and effort well. Exploring the Arctic and enjoying the process of living at sea.
Altan Girl hailed us a little while back and would like to head into Spence Bay and visit the town there. So after a short discussion we figured. Why not, could be cool. If we don’t like it, we will leave again. At the very least we can get some more firewood and fresh water.
This will also put us in nice close striking distance to Matty Island and our exit North. Sooo, off we go!
08/24/2014 1841 Hrs.
Last night was allot of fun. We charged batteries while motoring a flat sea to the Northwest of Spence Bay, well clear of the shoals at nightfall. Then heaving too again, we drifted straight toward Spence at a rate of 1.1 knots until morning.
Also while hove too, we got our first good ice report from the HF Radio, onto the i-pad in weather fax form. I was pretty excited, because its been a steep learning curve figuring out the radio, tuner and antenna setup. The system still needs work. But it is functioning and we are a little more independent.
The fog was heavy and cold. We were glad to be offshore in those conditions for sure. Then once day broke, I eased the mainsail, unlocked the helm and sailed nice and easy, all the way to Tolyoak.
The approach to the harbor was pretty tight and the marks and buoys were not set yet. But we slipped in with 7 feet of water under the keel and dropped anchor in 12 feet of water, next to the Altan Girl.
Erkan came to pay a visit, and dropped us on shore with our water jugs and a jerry can.
It was a big surprise to see our friend Corey from Cambridge Bay on the beach to greet us, with dinner already planned!
We are well cared for in the Arctic for sure.
A comment on Tololak. Do communities get more friendly?! As we walked into town, we were stopped virtually every five minutes with people asking how they could help us with directions or information. Then while at the store, we met a nice woman, who’s son is a very good hunter. Shortly after, Samantha Brokered a deal on the most beautiful, home tanned Muskox hide you’ve ever seen. It is amazingly clean and scent free. The tanning was done by the buys Grandmother in the traditional way.
Following that, I went back to the boat, loaded the water jugs and fuel jug onboard, with the hide. After 4 days of exploring, Empiricus burned 3.5 gallons of fuel and we consumed 12 gallons of fresh water. Not bad!
After that I helped Erkan hoist a fuel drum onboard the Altan Girl and we returned to town for our dinner invitation.
What a wonderful night it was. We met elders and teachers from all walks of life. Clustered here in the Arctic, these amazing people, fully embrace their location and lifestyle. We met elderly women ho have witnessed a full transition, from traditional life, to internet and fancy cars. In 1 single generation… I cannot imagine how confusing it has been for many in her situation. But she has adapted and gets on well.
These experiences are the best part of exploring the Arctic.
Tomorrow we have been invited to speak at the local schools, which I am excited for. We seem to be a bit of a spectacle here, in a nice way. This community is well off the beaten path. One elder mentioned he has not seen a sailboat here since the 1970s. We think that’s pretty cool. But cooler than that is the opportunity to share our perspective with these young people.
On our way home after dinner (Fresh arctic Char and pasta) Yum! We gathered some nice scrap wood for the fireplace. Including an oak 4×4! We love burning scrap oak because it burns for a long time, and leaves no ash.
2330 hrs. Back on the boat
The Muskox hide is now our top blanket, for especially chilly nights. What a useful treasure!
One thing Samantha and I keep rejoicing in. Is that we left Gjoa Haven to sail and explore. It would have been a shame to miss all this.
Our plan at this point, is to sail from here in a couple days, then make our way to Josephine Bay.
Samantha got a fishing license and many locals are there fishing now. So we will sail there and wait for the ice to clear.
If the ice lets us out of the passage this year, so be it. If not, we have plans in place and will not begrudge the arctic, for being the cool, coy lady she is. We came here to sail and explore. Which is exactly what we are doing!
If we return from the arctic, having not sailed through the passage. Our time will certainly not been in vain. We are not in love with the outcome. But the moments in time, which lead to the end of our season.
Today Samantha and I spoke at the high school all afternoon. We had one senior high class and one Jr. High class.
Students ranged from age 12 to age 30 in these classes.
They were riveted to our photographs and were a lively inquisitive bunch.
One of my favorite things to do, is pass on what I have learned about enjoying life and exploring.
“Let the effort and reward be equal. Then max out your effort to that end”…
Capt. Jesse Osborn