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August 19 2005

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August 19, 2005

We fueled up in Tuktoyaktuk, the price has gone from $0.89 to 1.09 per liter plus taxes while we were away in Alaska. For 2,500 dollars we had gone 2260 nm or 4160 km.

Gary Ramos with Arctic Wanderer came into Tuk late August 8. He had a collision with an iceberg which did considerable damage to his rail and self steering wind vane. He will fix what he can and do better repairs with new parts in Cambridge Bay. He left Tuk August 11 also bound for Cambridge.

Tuk kids always at the boat so we gave a couple tours. Mike Whittaker and Dan from the NTCL tug ‘Edgar Kotokak’ came to visit and provided some interesting advice on August 9. They will be heading to Spence bay a little later in the month.

We left Tuktoyaktuk on the 10th at 13:30. Wind 10 to 15 kts so the sea was nice and we made good time until we came to solid ice at 09:45 on 12th.

Ice reports said north (and east) side would be best but a problem getting there without going west as well. We eventually found short openings and in spite of often back tracking we made progress, 15 nm in 6.5 hours, then ice was better for a few miles. It is getting darker at night now especially if cloudy or foggy so, we spotted a nice bay, Falaise Bay at 69°16’N and 115°00’W and anchored for 6 hours. The water was very clear giving a good bottom view through 33’ of depth.

Soon after we got going in the morning things got tougher and places that appeared at first to be closed would open up if we detoured enough. We were at low rpm and reduce to 1 or 2 kts if we were hitting ice to try to push through. Twice we pushed through short spans but once nearly got stuck and had to back out. Backing up is perilous because of potential rudder damage and little control in reverse. Ever present cross winds complicate it further.

At 11:30 August 13 we spotted the Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker, ‘Sir Wilfred Laurier’, which was escorting an NTCL tug ‘Kitikmeot’ and 6 barges out of Bernard Harbour. We spoke to him on the radio, they were going our direction, and had put up their helicopter earlier. They were going slow, probably for the tug whose cort nozzles around the propellers were plugging with ice, So, in spite of having to detour frequently we were out of the ice well ahead of them. Once 2 miles into Coronation Gulf we were free from ice to Cambridge. We were very fortunate that visibility was good except for a few showers and Kevin stayed up the whole time to navigate. Kevin has monitored ice reports, charts, and wind to provide us with the best information we can get. He even climbs the mast to get a better view which has got us out through ice jams more than once.

Once in Dease Strait winds were up to 20 kts and the boat pounding so reduced to 6 kts from 7 and a marked difference in ride smoothness.

At Cambridge Bay we are 1755nm on our around the world trip which started 15 miles south of Little Diomede Island where we turned around in the Bering Strait. We won’t be counting the 3260 NM we traveled down the rivers and to the Bering Strait to get there in our around the world mileage and everything will be in nautical miles (nm) unless stated otherwise. Multiply knots (kts) by 1.15 to get statute miles and by 1.84 to get kilometers.

At 18:30 every evening starting Aug 10 Peter Semotiuk of Cambridge Bay is hosting a sailor’s radio network on 6224 kHz. He is very generously providing weather and ice reports as well as giving us the opportunity to hear the reports of the other 6 boats trying to travel the Northwest Passage this year.

Jason and Troy Fimrite arrived on tuesday the 16th after a nice flight with First Air with 737 service here. We hope to see Brian Peterson soon also.

Cambridge Bay has been an excellent place to visit. JR Ings gave us a tour of the Amundsen’s ‘Maud’ ship wreck that had been designed to get locked frozen into the ice and drift through the NW passage. We also saw some other historic sites near town. Wilf and Ruth Wilcox as well as JR generously lent us a few quads and we were able to tour the area. We saw muskox and several historic and informative sites such as Mount Pelly.

The terrain here has been etched by glaciers moving past and there are some small mountains. So much of the ground is covered in lakes. Caribou are the most common animal in the arctic eating lichens but here we have seen small herds of muskox instead. Much of the ground is fractured rock without much soil. The bay here gives good protection but deep enough for tugs and barges to dock bringing fuel and any supplies. Here like so many places in the north aviation plays a primary role.

We are awaiting for some of the ice sections west and northwest of our position to open up. But with nice calm weather it has been going slow. Windy conditions accelerate melting from the wind and the water and the erosive effect of the ice moving against itself. We hope to leave Cambridge Bay on saturday for Gjoa Haven then north to Bellot Strait when conditions allow.