August 2, continued

“Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning” must surely have been penned by someone who looked on the same redness in the rising sun as I saw this morning. I can only imagine what must have followed that red sky for him but I am intimately acquainted with what followed my RED SKY IN THE MORNING.


Fog eating iceberg

The fog ate the icebergs around me one by one before seizing hold of the whole world as I knew it. The wind veers to the northwest and seems to spew the fog from a nozzle. The red of the morning is gone. The horizon is gone. Even the line between air and water fails to be discernable. This is no tall tell and I’ll not say “couldn’t see the bow”. The CAP’N LEM is only 31′ long. I could see the bow and perhaps one more boat length into the gray white mist over gray blue water. As the cream dissolves into the coffee so the fog dissolved into the water.

My little radar flashes its warning HD-SIG-MISS on the screen and is useless. I leave it on anyway. I become obsessive with staring into the fog only allowing a glance at the plotter now and them. I break away long enough to take in the headsail to slow my progress even farther. Then back to the stare. It takes me 35 minutes to open and warm a can of chili for breakfast. (Get the can, go back and stare, get the can opener, go back and stare, get pan, go back and …) My minds eye sees over and over the 200′ wall of ice from last night’s nightmare.


berg in fog

How long do I stare in to the nothingness before I see something move in the water off to port? 20 minutes, 40? A bergy bit wallowing in the swell. For a moment I’m relieved to know just how far I can see. Perhaps 50 yards, more or less. It passes on into the fog and once again I lose all perspective, but there are more. My speed over the ground, 1.6 kts, mostly from the little engine at idle ahead, ready to help if I need to turn quickly. It would help me stop to if I slam it into reverse. Still I only creep. The wind is in the fog and I pick up speed with the mainsail along and I don’t like it but I just keep staring into the white of it all. 2.5, 3.2, way too fast for comfort.

Vision is based on contrast, here there is no contrast beyond the lines of the vessel and a few wavelets on the water close aboard. I jump at shadows. A cold tingle races up my spine. You know the kind, like someone just told you a ghost story that you believe. The fog is thick horizontally but thin vertically. There are clouds overhead and a cold hazy sun moves in and out. The shadow I see this time is the sail on the silver screen of the fog.

The next shadow is a berg, big but not especially so. I’m relieved to see it. At least I know where this one is and it’s off the port. I steer around and look for the next one. By noon, I’ve encountered 5 bergs in this manner. By noon my nerves are shot. By 1300 the fog lifts long enough to show me a clear path…south. Quickly, I e-mail Ken. I’m done, I tell him. I admit to Ken, myself, God and the whole world. I’m done, I can’t do this. Then, the fog closes in for more. My one mile trip has now become my 100 yard trip. My thoughts are, just make the next 100 yards toward the clear pathway you were shown. That’s all that is important now. The next 100 feet.

The fog doesn’t lift for another 3 hours and I see the sea ice, bergy bits and ice bergs I’ve navigated through. And that was just the beginning!

I’ve come to the doorway of the Northwest Passage and not even made it up the steps. Doesn’t matter, it has given me my White Dawn adventure, and I’m sick of it! Let the Sons of Norway* made their historic voyage. It’s fitting. Let them prove the Corsair -31 a proper vessel for the Northwest Passage. I have nothing to prove. Not to myself or to anyone. After hours of staring into the unknown I see the fate of Franklin, the misery of Amundsen, the disappointment of those who tried and failed and those that tried and died. I’ve seen enough ice to last a lifetime.

It was a beautiful dream to sail the Northwest Passage and now it is a beautiful reality to turn my back on it and head toward other adventures. If we’ve learned anything at all, it is this: The journey and not the destination is the adventure. The destination was just a wonderful excuse. Let’s go to Labrador and look for white bear!


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