Archive for August, 2009

The Northwest Passage in an Open Boat

Monday, August 24th, 2009

-Ken here. Kevin Oliver and Tony Lancashire, both Royal Marines have made it into Cambridge Bay in their 17.5′ open boat. Check them out over at Arctic Mariner

Eastbound and Westbound meet

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Ken here.

Working their way through the ice, the Bagan has received some good news that a passage may have opened.

Right behing the Bagan, last report has the Fiona tipped over and caught in ice.  They reported that they’re not in immediate danger, and they are still updating their position report.

Still no details on the Polar Bound, but there’s a wonderful article on David Scott Cowper in the Telegraph.

The Bolaum Gwen is currently stopped in Iqalukttutiak, taking a slight side trip to Mount Pelly.

There’s a group in port in Cambridge Bay.  The Ocean Watch, the Silent Sound, both coming from the west and one I’ve not heard before, the Fleur Australe which seem has made it through from the east!  Amazing.

Home for a while

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

I’ve made it home to Port Angeles. Everyone wants to know “what next”. I’m wondering myself, so I fall back onto my one day at a time, one mile at a time concept while keeping the goal out in front to act as a guide and think of my lessons learned.

The first great lesson of my 3366 mile trip from Two Harbors Minnesota to Happy Valley – Goose Bay Labrador is this: The journey is the adventure and the destination is the excuse. By stopping here I save a lot of problems that could have been show stoppers later. Let others be the Hare, I’m happy being the Tortoise.

It’s easier to stay healthy than get healthy. The first order of business here is to get to the gym to maintain my edge. I go to the gym just like it was my job. I’m not exactly a fitness nut but I am a believer in motion and once in motions it is always easier to stay in motion. And of course, hard work pays off.

As I moved into middle age, two things took me by surprise. One was that I have as much hair on my head as I have and two that I have remained as healthy as I am. When my work was finished and I no longer had to keep up an image, I stopped getting haircuts…just for the fun of it. And I kept up my exercise program. The pounds started to melt away when the stress of maintaining a career was gone. I don’t like to use the word “retirement” as it implies a stopping of activity. That is a dangerous thing to do, much more dangerous than solo sailing, from my observations of life.

My time home will be spent reflecting on the things I’ve learned. When I was interview by the young man for the CBC radio in Labrador, one of the things he ask did I feel defeated having not made it through the Northwest Passage. I could only smile and answer “Goodness no! Defeat would have been to have stayed home in the first place.” One who acts to make their dreams come true is never defeated. My experience is that once I do realize a lifelong dream come true, I must replace it immediately with a new one or even an old one revisited. It is a part of the human condition to imagine then act.

There are lot’s of things to be done between now and next year and I’m so enjoying writing about them. I want to revisit the comments and questions about the trip and maintain contact with the wonderful people whom I’ve met in person and by e-mailed. If in the cold of the winter to come you wonder what’s the old sailor guy up to, check in from time to time. I’ll let you know. If you have a dream, share it with me as I’ve shared mine with you. Together we can be a source of encouragement. And why not? In a world so full of doom and gloom, we should encourage one another.

To My Shipmates

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Adventure is more than miles and places, storms and calms. Adventure is a state of mind that finds excitement and purpose in living moment by moment on this beautiful planet that is so accommodating to life. Everywhere I’ve looked there was life busy living. For the past four months, I’ve been very busy living and sharing what I’ve seen and felt by being the central character in my own dream. You have given me a part of your life by taking time to come along. You’ve offered me encouragement when I needed it most. When loneliness overtook me or the going got tough, I would reread your e-mails and comments and resolve to make one more mile. You ask questions that made me think deeply about the reality of making a dream come true. Everyone who visited the site contributed whether leaving a comment or not. Your encouragement has sharpened my desire to move through my doubts and fears to take the adventure farther next year.

Because you were there, I have always felt a sense of obligation to not take risk, or be fool hearty or caviler about the dangers of solo sailing. I weighed the risk against the reward and moved forward. I’ve never tried to do the impossible but rather show by example that fun things can be done safely and has this ever been fun! (Even in spite of the one or two times it wasn’t “fun”.)

My hope is to somehow encourage you to step out and make a dream come true. If you can think to yourself something like “If that old guy can go that far, at his age, in that boat, then I can…” (You fill in the blank). That’s what Captain Lem and others have done for me.

I can see clearly it’s going to be a wonderful winter collecting my lessons learned and planning ahead. There are yet great things to see and do. I will keep you posted. In the end our time will be well spent on this Arctic Solo Sail.

Your sailor pal,

One more storm picture

One more storm picture

Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

My plans to store the CAP’N LEM are coming together. I’ve been ashore now twice. The main body of the town is a ways away so I rented a car. The first few miles or kilometers as they use here were taken pretty slow. Coming off the sea has always made the adjustment to any traffic a little strange for me. It’s not too bad here though with only two stop lights.

The people are friendly and so helpful. I’ve located storage and a trailer. I only need to fill in the middle with a truck. The week end has hampered that, but it will work itself out. I simply make my needs known without being pushy about it and people respond. What a wonderful way to live.

It’s very obvious I’m a stranger here (I talk funny) but I feel a kinship with people who live in remote places. They have a natural adventurous spirit. I’ve experienced it in places like Tasmania and Australia, Alaska and all over Canada and of course all along the track of this trip. It helps to not be in a hurry.

I have to row my rubber raft to shore. I make sure I take the air pump with me as the leaks have only gotten worse. A few strokes on the pump and I’m ready to go. I’m reminded of an old Pete Sellers movie where he masqueraded as a “salty old seadog” with an inflatable parrot he had to continuously pump up. The things one thinks of when on the water!

More to follow.

My Inflatable Parrot

My Inflatable Parrot

Last Storm?

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

last_storm-reducedCarter Basin was as exquisite at sunrise as last night at sunset. The morning clouds are light and puffy. A gentle wind pushes the CAP’N LEM this way and that on the anchor string. I had marked the channel well with a series of way points to ensure a safe exit no matter what the tide was doing. I deferred getting underway until 0900.

Out in the bay I could see one lone boat going somewhere on calm waters. A loon cruised the mouth of the basin looking for an early lunch. As I went from waypoint to waypoint the fathometer dropped 16feet-14-10-7-6.5-5-4-3.6, then rose ever so slowly 4-5-6-9-14-24 and I stopped watching it. I was over the bar. I added more waypoints to be saved for next year’s return.

My next obstacle is the Goose Bay Narrows. Eons of glaciers and runoff have filled Goose Bay with long rocky shoals and sand bars too shallow even for the CAP’N LEM so I’m confined to closely follow the marked channel through the Narrows. The chart shows too many one foot marks.

And as we so well know, how things start out is no indication of how they will end up. By the time I reached the first red buoy at the north end of the Narrows, the wind was 25kts right on the nose. Tacking in these confined spaces was not worth the effort. The over the ground speed dropped to ½ knot and the motor started to hobbyhorse out of the water. I gave up! The only shelter to be found was back the way we came. Once again, 14-9-6-5-4-3.6-4-5-6-7-10 across the bar and into Carter Bay. The loon had found his lunch and was gone. This time I anchor just inside so I can keep an eye on the bay.

No more had I anchored than the wind died to 0. In a half-hour the bay was calm, in an hour, glass. Up the anchor and go again, 5-4-3.5-4-5 and over the bar. What else is there to do? But glassy waters never stay glassy. First a ripple, then a gurgle, and time to get some sail up. The wind was not what I wanted and not what I needed but with a tight trim and the motor ticking over to help keep the edge sucking me forward I can do the Narrows. In this place, though, the wind is either building or dying and once again in the Narrows it’s building. Oh, I can see the goal. If I can just clear the channel I can fall of enough to make it to Rabbit Island then tack on in but the going is slow with the waves building along with the wind. It is a delicate balance but I can make a short tack or two. Anything but backtrack again. This is not this morning’s wind though it’s close. The CAP’N LEM can to it.

The AIS indicates traffic coming this way. The TANKER NANNY is inbound and needs the channel. We talk on VHF #10. I assure her should I still be in the channel when she enters I will go outside and stay outside the markers. I try very hard to not be a concern for any commercial traffic.
The wind is 20 knots with gust higher. I make plans, check charts and positions, even ready my anchor should the unthinkable happen and I lose power just as she’s coming by. I live by Murphy’s Law in all its variations. “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong and even if it can’t it still might,” and that’s the optimistic version.

I clear the south end just as she enters the north but still I hold my close heading into the wind by sacrificing speed. CAP’N LEM barely makes 1 knot over the ground not wanting to even suggest we might try crossing in front.

Of course she passes without incident and I’m able to turn off the wind and start making up the speed the channel cost me. With my reefed main and very short jib, the TANKER NANNY walks away toward Goose Bay with me following behind.

Then a day filled with changes gets even fuller. To the west is a squall line, a big squall line getting bigger by the minute. First the sun is blocked, then the sky, then the land under the sky. The wind I’ve battled to clear the Narrows changes ever so slight, the waves act confused like a child lost in a crowd. The air is warm and electric. And it’s coming for me.

No running this time, and no hiding. It’s just too far. I get ready. Off in the distance the NANNY is engulfed in rain and I lose my visual reference point for Goose Bay. I put on rain gear, my helmet and my gloves. I reef even farther down. I double check my safety line around my waste. I double check my fuel; I’ll be needing that extra push to hold my headings. I take up my station under the hard dodger and standing on the wooden steps and watch. I even put on my sunglasses should a lighten strike close. Maybe it would help keep from blinding me. I do everything I can think of because this baby’s got everything. Lighten, rain, zero vis, and lots and lots of wind. What have I go? I’ve got the CAP’N LEM and some sea room, not a lot, but some.

The water turns black and oily looking. The old wind dies and the new wind is born screaming so hard it flattens the previous southwest waves to nothing then commences to rearrange the sea to its liking. The rain pelts the boat and off we go! First one way then another. By using the engine, I keep from turning down wind and merely run back and forth. The amas bury then rise casing of one wave after the other. The bow does her part breaking water and helps keep the speed down. The speed I would reach running down wind would soon eat up my sea room and I hate the thought of threading the Narrows in this. For now, things are ok. Lighten strikes somewhere and thunder follows soon. Still, things are ok. I leave the GPS and the radar on. I need them. I inspect everything. The akas are stiff and working like wings holding the body stable in the building waves. The mainsail is tight and pulling hard. The little ever faithful motor is giving steerage way. The dagger board is down and tight. The auto pilot, my beautiful epoxy smeared autopilot holds the rudder.

A squall line is just that, a line. It moves over me with all the indifference nature can show a fool, and I see a bright spot to the west. Now it’s that bright spot that is getting bigger. Then, the speck that is the TANKER NANNY reappears. The wind doesn’t stop; it just leaves to travel with its companion the rain. It’s still another two hours before the water calms down, though. Once again, I make progress.

At 1030 local time, the charming little anchorage in Carter Basin becomes my “next to last” anchorage as I drop the hook one more time inside of Torrington Basin at Lat. 53⁰ 21′ 17.7″N ~ Long. 060⁰ 24′ 29.2″W in 16 feet of water having traveled 3366 nautical miles in 4 months from Two Harbors Minnesota.


Last Anchorage for 2009

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Last night a high wind maybe 30 knots came down out of the mountains so it made for a restless night of waking, checking position, and dosing sitting up. The anchor alarm went off but I believe it was from the swing radius and not actually dragging. Still, I let out more anchor rode and checked for chaffing. The wind was surprisingly warm. All was well. About middle night it calmed down and I went back to good deep sleep but the break of day popped my eyes open. When I wake up, I have to get up. It’s an old habit.

Getting the anchor up took more than I could muster by hand so I pulled it up short and used the engine to power it out. Not hard, just slow and steady in the opposite direction of last night’s strain. When I got it to the surface I could see why it held so well. It was a ball of good sticky gray mud. I didn’t mind it was a chore to get it clean before bringing it aboard.

One thing I’m learning about Labrador is no two days are the same, this time of the year anyway. In fact things can change from hour to hour. Yesterday started in fog went to bright beautiful sunshine with east wind to hard rain with no wind to no rain and a hard wind. This morning the wind is from the west and building. So, underway again beating into a 12-15 knot wind. There is plenty of good water to tack in and the current is with me most of the morning.

My decision to hold and regroup has bought me some precious time. Time is the Great Problem Solver. The problem with time pressure, that is feeling pressed for time, is I tend to make mistakes faster than time can solve the old ones. That’s not a good thing on a little boat a long way from home. What a relief to just say I will be there when I be there.

Nearing sunset, I rounded Epinett Point in light winds and made way between copious shoals to cross a shallow sandbar with only 3 feet of water to spare below the CAP’N LEM to enter the most protected anchorage of the voyage, the Carter Basin. A lovely forest and sandy beaches ring the basin. There are cabins here and there. Labradoreans have an eye for beautiful settings. I anchor at Lat. 53⁰ 29′ 43.1″N ~ Lon. 059⁰ 51′ 29.7″W in 30 feet of water having traveled 3,330 nm from Two Harbors MN. The sunset was so beautiful it broke my heart. This is a fitting place to be the last anchorage for Arctic Solo Sail 2009. So ends this day.


The Inland Labrador Sea

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Before turning toward the Labrador inland seas, I tossed the bottles with the notes from Cory Jo, Justin, Taylor and Blake and also the bottle with all the names of the children in Mrs. Johnson’s 4th Grade class into the Labrador Current at Latitude 54⁰ 05′ 17″N ~Longitude 057⁰ 05′ 17″W to be carried to their destiny on the seas of the world. I’ve carried them with me a long ways myself, but to put them into the Labrador Current seems the best place ever. It runs south form here out into the Atlantic Ocean. They were such pretty bottles when they do wind up on shore someone is sure to find them. It’s only a matter of time.

I made a cove located at Lat. 53⁰ 42′ 48.9N ~ Long. 059⁰ 01′ 33.5″W to get out of a bit of weather. Were this place in the States they would make it a National Park. High rugged mountains, breathtaking water fall, rivers, woods, canyons and beach. This place has everything and only one lonely little cabin at the head. Wow. But it’s my home for the night.


I got up at 0400 this morning so I could come through the Narrows with the tide. Pea Soup fog. But that doesn’t stop the CAP’ N LEM. A keen eye, radar, AIS, GPS… what more could I want. I did hug the bank though just to get a glimpse of it every now and then.

Last night, two fishermen came by as I anchored and offered me the prettiest little char for my dinner, but I had to turn them down as it was way too big for my pan and I could not think of wasting any of it. My ice is gone now and I didn’t get any before coming in. (It was too rough to be going near any bergs.) They were from Goose Bay. I hope to see them again.

I did not see another boat all day. They call this the Labrador Sea on the chart and also Melville Lake. I’ll have to get that clarified when I get to Goose Bay. In any case it’s big! I can’t see from one end to the other and it was clear today, for a while anyway.


Ted asks: Which route will I take? My plan all along has been to go outside of Baffin Island and through the Perry Channel but I must reserve the right to change that owing to conditions. I just think my life would be complete if I could see a pod of Narwhale.

David commented on the gross weight for the F-31: Though I don’t have the boat weight with all the equipment on board I do keep an eye on the water line. I’m a little above it but as I burn off fuel it helps. The fact that I’m solo and do not push the boat hard help too. When I had her hauled the lift couldn’t give me an accurate reading but it was under 6000 was all he could say.

Time and Distance

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

I would not trade one minute of meeting or talking to any of the wonderful people I’ve met on this voyage. I would not drop out a single anchorage from the list of where I’ve spent the night or miss even one of the little towns where I‘ve felt so welcome. But the apprehension over my time /distance ratio is taking its toll. My dreams of hundred mile days are not happening.

Yes, the goal is to transit the Northwest Passage. Yes, the goal is to do it solo. But I ask myself, what’s the hurry? Answer, there is none. I’m not in a race. I’m not a record breaker looking for a slot in a record book. Yes, I’ve scared myself a time or two, but in hind sight they were the results of hurry and lack of forethought. Plus many fears are the results of fatigue. After all, this is not a walk through a park. This is hard core coastal sailing, alone.

You see, everything is so ready! And that makes it hard to step back and reevaluate the timing. Hard, but not impossible. Having said that, I want to report that I have turned toward Goose Bay to find a suitable location to store the CAP’N LEM until next June at which time I want to continue on north with a greater time and safety margin and a fresher outlook. I’ve bitten off an incredible chunk of life here, and I just need to cut it into bits I can eat.

I will continue to blog and update the web site and communicate with as many of you as I can. I still have some stories to tell of the things I’ve seen on this the Arcticsolosail adventure of a lifetime. I do not want to lose even one of you who have been so faithful to come along. Just remember this is REALITY BLOGGING!

Dumpling Harbor

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

A new month and I’m moving north again though not very fast. A head wind, dense fog and a late start have slowed today’s progress. I’ve anchored early rather than head out into an open stretch of water then try to find anchorage in the dark. I’m so glad it stays light as long as it does here!

The CAP’T LEM is in 27′ of water in Dumpling Harbor at Latitude 53⁰ 50′ 26.6″N ~ 056⁰ 58′ 04.1″W. The small barier island to the south has some houses on it and I can see wash hanging out though I doubt it is drying. The bigger island shelters us from the north wind and the smaller island from the southeast swell. Down below it’s warm and quiet except for the soft music of the wind in the rigging. The CAP’T LEM sings to me, too.

I have a quiet apprehension about the time I have lost but I’m not going to dwell on it. It was necessary for reasons I have already explained. Oh, but there were some beautiful days there in Cartwright that made it hard to be at the dock. Tomorrow is predicted to bring a change in wind to the southeast. That’s when we fly.

This morning George took me once again around to do last minute provisions. I found room for two more gas cans and I got drinking water jugs filled, bought milk and mailed mail. In between we went to greet the elegant Schooner Bowdoin from Castile Maine as she came in for the Cartwright Heritage Festival. I would have liked to have gone aboard her but the miles called. I did go close by on the way out of the harbor to wish them well. She reminded me of the days of tours on the BRIG LADY WASHINGTON.


Tomorrow, an early start.

Questions and answers

Sam ask about the autopilot and changes in the wind: The autopilot only trys to hold the magnet heading when in auto mode. No input form the wind though some do have that, this unit is very basic. I can change the course while standing in the companionway under cover to keep the wind in the sails. To its credit, the two times it has broken have both been my fault. Almost all of the 3151 nm I have traveled have been steered by it. That’s why I had to have a backup.

To Bumbazer: Na, I used my knife to chip the ice not the autopilot!

To Wayne: Thanks so much, shipmate. Keep the stuff coming.

To all who have e-mailed: Thank you so much, they mean a lot to me even though I can’t answer right now. I’ll try to answer questions in the last part of the blog as I have done here. T.