Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Many people wait until they have to make a decision while others micro-manage daily on such a critical NW Passage

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Choices ... (

By the time the northwest winds decided to take a couple of days holiday, they had pushed the unlimited supply of ice at their disposal a little around the corner into Admiralty Inlet. The brief break in the winds was not to be wasted so on Saturday we hauled anchor and set course as far west as the ice would allow with no clear destination in mind ... Vancouver Island perhaps.

By the time we reached the north end of Admiralty some six hours after departure, it was clear that the ice had been very busy; a carpet of it stretched as far as we could see to the north and east and to the shore in the west. We motored and sailed east and, in the eastern 1/3 of the inlet, finally found our way around to the north and then west. A few hours later, we received a faint call on the radio from ACALEPHE who had shared the anchorage in Arctic Bay. They were wondering whether there was a route through the ice and where we had found it. With the ice moving east, they no doubt had to go very close to the eastern shore to get around it. The Environment Canada ice map of the following day showed no small boat route through the ice to or from Arctic Bay.

All afternoon on Sunday, we moved west within a few miles of the Devon Island coast to avoid the extensive ice floes filling the southern half of Lancaster Sound. At this point, we had chosen Cullen Cove in Radstock Bay as a temporary destination. Gascoyne and Erebus and Terror at the extreme southwest end of Devon Island appeared on the ice maps to be full of, or at least vulnerable to, ice. As we passed Graham Harbour, BELLE EPOQUE, anchored therein, invited us to share their bear-watching experience. We could see the two bears through binoculars as we passed but declined the invitation to anchor out of a desire to make further to the west.

In the late afternoon when we had about 30 miles left to go, we were surprised to meet the Dutch boat TOOLUKA going the other way. TOOLUKA had been at Resolute for fuel and were now trying to exploit an apparent vulnerability in the ice wall to get into Prince Regent Inlet. We wished then luck but were a bit dubious as there was a 10 mile segment of 6/10 ice in their way ... from our vast Arctic experience comprising a few weeks, we feel 3/10 is about the limit for small boats like ours. The usefulness of being in Prince Regent was not clear either as Larsen Sound on the west side of Bellot Strait was plugged with 9+ tenths of ice. ... but it would give a 2 day head start if Larsen cleared. The truth is that no-one really knows what will happen next.

On our arrival at Cullen Bay, we found British ARCTIC TERN already at anchor and after we had settled in, Swiss catamaran LIBELLULE arrived. We had last seen LIBELLULE in Reykjavik.

This uncharacteristically crowded anchorage has provided some social opportunities. The ARCTIC TERNS were over for tea and cake; the LIBELLULEs visited after a shore excursion. The chats and ice discussions were interspersed with some singing and some piano artistry. So far, the social life is aboard TRAVERSAY III because the northwest winds are back in strength and we can't be bothered to launch our dinghy until it quiets down a bit.

Ice discussions (of course) feature in these social occasions. The northwesterlies drift ice from Viscount Melville Sound into Barrow Strait and Lancaster Sound and block the entrances to the channels south. These incessant winds also move ice from McClintock Channel into Larsen Sound and further block the only route south and west. We really need easterlies to open a channel along the east shores of Peel and Larsen. We heard in these discussions that in recent years some crews COMPLAINED that the lack of ice deprived them of the true NWP experience - not a problem this year. There will no doubt be choices to make as the weather and ice play themselves out. But for now we easily have a week to spare for waiting.

We also heard that TOOLUKA was turned back by the ice and was now anchored at Rigby Bay on the south shore of Devon.

At 13/08/2013 13:56 (utc) our position was 74°45.40'N 091°10.73'W

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