Friday, August 23, 2013

Remembering the graphic history at Fort Ross and the Bellot Strait transits by S/V KATHARSIS, S/V ISSUMA, S/V NORWEIGN BLUE, S/V NORDWIND, S/V DODO'S DELIGHT, S/V TELEPORT, M/V MABEL E HOLLAND and S/V OCEAN WATCH

Double transit by S/V KATHARSIS

Anchored Fort Ross

The Fort Ross landmark

Mariusz signing the FORT ROSS guest register... 

I wonder how many of the seven (7) yachts in 2013 signed in?

2011 Photo by Captain Richard Hudson on ISSUMA

My Bellot Strait post (went up before I got this message, but it has most of the details you asked about.  A close reading of the Sailing Directions and a good look at the chart indicated Bellot was reasonable for a 5knot boat in good visibility.  The surveys the chart was made from implied that satellite derived posisions were likely to be pretty accurate.  If we could not see the range, we figured we had three cliffs that would work as radar targets to get a fix by radar ranges (since hand bearing compasses are, of course, useless).  Lastly, Issuma has a lifting keel, and since we were motoring, I had the locking pin out, so if we did hit the rock, we had a small chance of riding over it.  That said, it would have been a really bad place for an engine breakdown.

We went well north of Magpie Rock (at latitude of 72 (72° 0' 0 N) and a longitude of -94.47 (94° 28' 0 W), is a hypsographic (rock)) because the shoals there (4-7m as I recall) were not a problem for Issuma.  We were doing 0.5 knot for quite a while against the current (we entered early).   If I was to do it again, to beat the current I'd go very close to the north shore in the hopes of finding a back eddy, or at least much less current.  I think it is scarier to go thru eastbound, as timing for slack water at magpie rock is much more difficult (ie, requires accurate tidal info) than westbound, where one can just wait in the wide open area before entering the strait (magpie rock being pretty much right at the eastern entrance to Bellot Strait).


Bellot Strait 2010 by 
Richtung Osten

Expedition Report, 01.18 CEST:
“We are just now sailing past the northern tip of King William Island. Once again we were able to escape the ice, this time through what is considered to be one of the most difficult straits in the Northwest Passage. We had some exiting sailing in between ice floes, but our timing was very good – and thus we managed to get through while it was still daylight.
Our next challenge will be the Bellot Strait, which apparently is more or less open. Tidal currents of up to 5–6 knots flush through this strait, so also here timing will be critical.
It has been cold most of the day, snowing with some sunshine in between. We have changed the batteries on our Spot sender, so hopefully that will begin to transmit again.”
Best regards,
Victoria Strait
A view of Bellot Strait during ice conditions:
Bellot Strait
Fort Ross
Fort Ross
Writing on the wall
Hans and Alex have now both rounded the Northern and Southern most points of the Americas on Nordwind…pretty impressive. We had a very relaxing motor through the strait and arrived at Fort Ross in the early afternoon and went ashore after lunch. I have to say that this is the first place on the trip that I would really like to come back to. It was beautiful. There were 2 buildings there, 1 was an old house from the 50s or 60s that was really beat up but had the remnants of an electric stove and refrigerator inside. 

File:Fort Ross 2011 (AXW 0279).jpg 
The other was a fully intact and equipped hut maintained as a refuge for whoever may need one. The hut was fully stocked with beds, pots, pans, some food, matches, a stove, barrels of diesel, shotgun shells of a varying bear deterring variety, spray in insulating foam for any leaks in the existing insulation, shovels, brooms, and even a bit of what looked like very old rum… all in all very well provisioned. The hut was just up from the beach on a little peninsula on the Prince Regent side of the strait and had beautiful rolling, albeit rocky, hills for a backdrop. 

Inscription on stone at Port Leopold left by James Clark Ross Expedition. 

There was also a lake just up from the beach that had a field stretched out behind it. Maybe it was just the fact that there was grass, but I thought it was spectacular. That night we had the entire Dodo's crew over for dinner, which was a lot of fun and, thanks to Laura, a well fed success. Turning out food for 15 people on a boat is no small feat. We woke the next morning a little groggy but headed back to Bellot Strait to resume our trip south. This time through the strait we hit a 5-6 kt current head on and really put the 480hp engine to work. The water was flat calm other than the current ripples and with the sun out it was actually a really nice day. I was sitting on deck reading glancing up every so often, but we had just come through the strait the day before…on one of my glances I saw some seagulls flying around a white spot on land that looked like it had legs. Now I couldn't possibly tell you the number of times that in the heat of the moment I've turned chunks of ice into polar bears in my mind, and just the day before I excitedly thought a flock of Canadian geese by the lake might be Caribou…This time I said nothing, went and got the binoculars and took a good long hard look before shouting POLAR BEAR!!! We took the boat right up along shore, thanks to the 60m depth 4m from shore, and followed this massive polar bear along as he tried to scamper away from us along the beach. He even ended up swimming a little but gave up quickly because of the current. After lots of excited photo taking we continued on towards these beautiful orange cliffs with bright green grass patches which were equally photogenic. As we were taking pictures of the cliffs we happened on ANOTHER bear hanging out at the bottom! Boom 2 polar bears in 20 minutes. Great success. We are now anchored up in a cove on one of the "Tasmania Islands" 50 miles south of Bellot Strait. It's blowing 25-30 kts right now out of the south which is good because there is a massive plug of ice locked up all around King William Island that is blocking our progress. Hopefully the wind will break up the ice and allow us to pass but until then we are stuck waiting... To see the ice charts that we get, google "Canadian ice charts" and click the first link. Then click on the map for the area where we are, bottom left part of the Northwest Passage, and then you can download a bunch of .pdf or .gif files which will show you the daily ice flows for the area.
The saga gets even better....

We sailed in to Cambridge Bay last night, relieved to pass painlessly through the normally ice-blocked Victoria Straight, historically the crux of the North West Passage. 

Personally, however, the triumph was bittersweet, tainted by the fading prowess of the arctic pack. Akin to knocking down a retiring champion in his final bout.

The ice-prone Bellot straight, clean as a whistle today!

As of this writing, a vast expanse of open water occupies both the Peel and Larson sounds–an historically unprecedented ice-free corridor through.the heart of the northern passages. Sadly, one doesn’t have to look many years back to find year-round “chock-a-block” ice charts for this area. The ice is melting rapidly because of an effect known as arctic amplification, an unfortunate step-child of global warming (or more accurately climate change).


So many more pixs to share are here:

Crew Log 73 – Out

Open the below photos in a full-screen slideshow in Flickr

August 26th, 2009 – At Sea 71 58N, 94 00W
by Herb McCormick and Mark Schrader

(August 26): Atop the very apex of North America, at the far end of a piece of remote Canadian real estate called Boothia Peninsula, in the middle of a fjord-like waterway by the name of Bellot Strait, sits a rather nondescript heap of rubble that slopes gently into the sea. On the appropriate nautical chart, this rock pile is labeled Zenith Point (see main photo above). In person, its one notable characteristic is the dilapidated day mark perched in its crevices, a rickety aid-to-navigation that could really use some attention.

An unremarkable landmark, at best, in ordinary circumstances a place like Zenith Point would not exactly be something that any traveler would remember. But because the rocky cape, just north of 72 N, is in fact the northernmost spot on the North American continent – the zenith, if you will – for certain wanderers the pebbly spit will always be remembered with joy and fondness.

Out of the pack ice, out into open water, out of the Northwest Passage.

Wanderers like us.

For around mid-day today, the crew of Ocean Watch rolled down Bellot Strait and past Zenith Point on their ongoing voyage Around the Americas. And for one unforgettable moment, in the most significant waypoint of our journey thus far, we left the whole of the Americas – North, South and Central – hard to starboard.

Since sailing north of the Arctic Circle so many weeks ago, the most important, daunting, overused and frightening word in our vocabulary consisted of just three short letters: Ice. Today, we gladly replaced it with another diminutive word, one that also denotes multiple meanings. For as we slipped through the strait from ice-wracked Peel Sound to a clear blue channel called Prince Regent Inlet, we were out of the pack ice, out into open water, and for nearly all practical purposes, out of the Northwest Passage.


For heaven’s sake, as we neared the end of Bellot, making a good 14-knots through the water with the boost of a

Ocean Watch heads through Bellot Straight.
ripping 8-knot current, our photographer David Thoreson – one of a handful of sailors to ever negotiate the Northwest Passage twice, and the only American to do it both ways, eastward and westward – yelled down to the crew from his perch on the pilothouse, “Hey guys, I can see the way out!”

Like, man, all I could think was: Far out.

It’s been a long day here on Ocean Watch, which started at 0200 local time. As I’ve been typing this report, skipper Mark Schrader has been pecking away at his Captain’s Log. He just passed it over to me. Are we thinking alike? You be the judge.

From Mark:

“We’re out!


Bellot Strait

Bellot Strait #2

Bellot Strait #3

Magpie Rock awash - eastern Bellot Strait

Around the Americas -

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