Captains Log Taloyoak to Bellot Straight.

08/28/2014 0200

Taloyoak NU

Can it get any better?

This place and these people are amazing me. Where do I start? I will have to reflect and write more of our visit to Taloyoak.

But for starters, we spoke again at the school. This time to a group of 35 school kids under 12. The kids were squirmy but fun. They loved the pictures and our story of love, meeting in Cambridge bay.

After the class, we were presented with dried fish and Bannok, (a home made bread).

Next thing you know, Samantha and I were on the front and rear cargo rack of the schoolteacher’s ATV. A “big city” woman, gone Arctic named Dierdra.

We rallied through the village, to her home where we had lunch and visited a while. Meeting her half poodle/ half Shepard named Guinness.

Then we walked over the foggy, rock peak that separates the town and met up with our newfound friends, the Boisevert family.

I was very glad to be able to help them with an electrical problem on their pickup truck. Meanwhile, Samantha learned some hide sewing techniques as they repaired her leather mittens, adding a fur ruff of Coyote hide to each cuff.

Samantha sewing with our friends.
Samantha sewing with our friends.

I checked the Ice report and behold! The ice is letting go from the Eastern shores of Boothia! We made plans to leave the following day.

What a rollercoaster ride. Its still not a sure thing, but our hopes are reignited that we will make it out!

Then it was a hike to the Caribou blinds, where we learned from a 3rd generation local Inuit woman named Ellen. She showed us the ring of rocks, where her parents tent once stood and some of her relatives were born… She also showed us the rock structures that were used for hunting Caribou. Amazing, simple and genius methods.

Then it was hard at the oars for me, as we ferried a couple teenage boys as well as the Boisevert family out to Empiricus for coffee and treats.

I had the kids rising and dousing sails on anchor, as the wind was calm and quiet.

As the sun went down, we rowed ashore. Scarlet had only inches of freeboard, but we made it fine.

Next thing you know, I am on the back of a four wheeler, headed to the dump! I did some filming and found another water container.

The best part about that ride was the driver. An elderly Inuit woman of approximately 80 years. Who blasted me to the dump in speed and style.

Hang on!
Hang on!

Then it was back to their home where we made pizza and insisted on helping with chores as we all visited.

Even though it was late, Corinne and her grandmother (the 4 wheeler pilot), took apart my oversized seal skin hat, measured me by tugging and twisting the skins on my head. Then set to work reconstructing the hart to fit.

We told stories and laughed while the hat was in progress with great enjoyment. I did some tricks and stunts with the kids.

We left at midnight. Full of food and laughter… I love it here.

Now on the boat, we are banging out our short list of projects, before crashing into the mattress.

Tomorrow will bring a short breakfast with yet another group of kind RCMP families we met in passing. Then we hoist Scarlet and sail hard. North.

08/29/2014 0040 hrs.

This morning (08/28) we woke to building NE wind. So much that rowing guest to the boat was not a safe or practical idea.

I decided to stay with the boat on account of the wind. While Samantha rowed to town, for a final weather check and goodbye to our new friends in Taloyoak.

She gathered wood on the beach while I ran the generator and electric chainsaw, cutting the oak 4x4s’ we found the day before.

When it came time for her to return, the wind would not allow it. 30 knot gusts held her in place as she rowed. So back to the beach she went until a local Inuit met with her and towed her out in his heavy boat. We thanked him with some food and hoisted Scarlet onboard.

Erkan hoisted anchor and was dangerously close to shore as he did so. But made it on his way unharmed.

We finished our chores and wood detail, then hauled anchor. Blasting out of the bay at 4 knots with engine at idle and the wind at our back.

An hour later we had the deck tidy and were sailing at 6 plus knots under a double reefed main. Just a couple gybes and we were out of Spence Bay, headed North. Close reaching still under main at 5 knots.

The ice we are told is clear to Bellot. The winds are easing and forecast to stay calm for 2 days.

We are now motor sailing to maintain 4 knots as we slip through James Ross straight.

We will see Ice by morning. Time to sleep.

08/29/2014 1430

Last shift Samantha woke me from a nice hard sleep, for the first time this trip. She said she needed help getting through the Ice. She was right.

We were met with a line of ice, 300 yards thick that extended far beyond view to east and west. It was 9-10 thick and wind blown together.

I looked for the thinnest strip of ice and guided Samantha to drive into it. Once we got a boat length in, we were committed. The ice closed in behind us, leaving only prop wash to protect our prop and rudder.

 

Pushing through 9/10 strips
Pushing through 9/10 strips

Screen shot 2014-10-08 at 2.24.07 PM

For the next 3 hours, we boldly experimented with moving the ice blocks. At one point we sat for over an hour, gaining no headway. So we took to swinging the axe at the bow, fracturing the thinner pieces. Then clearing a hole to the stern with the prop, backing up, then ramming the ice with our 5/8 chain bobstay.

We then sent the broken pieces down the gap and into our prop wash, thereby disposing of them.

Once clear of the large blocks, we weaved between the vehicle sized blocks, creating openings. We did this by using prop walk to turn, while clearing ice with poles. Once we were lined up, heavy throttle bursts sent us like a splitting maul. Opening the way for our thankfully narrow and overbuilt hull.

Lots of paint and gel coat in that icepack now. But on we move, North for Bellot Straight.

08/30/2014 0822

We pressed on yesterday, leaving sails down on account of no wind. Fine by us, we have an opening and we will take it.

Since we knew the engine would be running, we ran the bread maker underway. It was timed to be done by nightfall. Perfect!

Samantha setting up the bread maker under way.
Samantha setting up the bread maker under way.

After negotiating a long winding path around another ice line, we decided to stop until daylight. So we worked through the flow in fog and dark stillness together, Samantha on the bow, pointing this way or that. Until we found a “Pond” in the middle. The shores of this pond like opening seemed solid.

We motored quietly around until we found a good place to rest. Then shut down, just as the bread finished baking, for a nice sleep.

Nestled in the ice with no wind was relaxing and quiet. We slept hard, then began moving again at daylight. I searched and pecked at the shores of the flow, using my new found ice pushing tactics, while Samantha made a great breakfast with real eggs and fresh baked bread. So tasty!

Well the sun is out and we have visual and radio contact with Alton Girl, who reports no problems other than his VHF radio not receiving well.

Its bed time for me now, as Bellot Straight is 70 Nautical Miles away and we need to keep this momentum.

1501

The winds are light and fluky mostly apparent then true, as we motor North for Bellot.

I put up the main to its standard double reef, just in case we catch some wind, as we veer around Tasmania Islands toward Bellot.

We’ve got some conflicting information on how to best deal with the tide. But similar enough to make our own assessment safely.

So far, the most useful information has been in its most raw form. Such as; Ice location, weather and the actual progress of other vessels.

We don’t do so well with “Do this” or “Do that” from the outside world, as the outside world, only has about 10 percent of the required information used in decision making.

We have asked a few select people to send us information conditions, such as ice and weather reports. We take these suggestions to heart when planning, though the ultimate result is the product of real time decision making.

Watching our track on the Delorme device must have been frustrating to some. But our path has been the result of careful calculation on the playing field…

On another note, I saw my first account of ice unpredictability today. I motored by a heavy multiyear chunk, that sat low in the water. A light breeze blew across the surface and I could see clearly that the flow was moving with the current. Directly up wind, as well as towards us. I did not expect this and had to bear away as not to strike it.

This was near the Tasmania Islands, where swirling water and confused currents seem to be everywhere. Although this area is mostly Ice free now, I can imagine how challenging it would be to negotiate an ice flow here.

It is beautiful out, but cold. Not sure of the temp. I tried every store in the arctic in 3 communities. They don’t sell thermometers here. What’s the point I guess?

I just banged on the mando for a little while. It drowns out the beautiful, awful grind of the motor.

I was at the helm earlier, humming a tune about motoring in a sailboat, but I forgot the beat before I could try and play it.
Yet grind as it may, its doing its job well. Bellot Straight 40 NM away, with plenty of ocean to sail on the other side.

08/30/2014 2049

SV Drina off in the distance
SV Drina off in the distance

Encountered SV Drina who had just passed through Bellot Straight. They reported no problems, but heavier ice in the middle of the channel. We gave them our report to the South, then drifted on by. They are headed for Alaska. It looked like a crew of 4 in good spirits.

No time to visit, but great to cross paths.
No time to visit, but great to cross paths.

More logs to follow, by Captain Jesse Osborn

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