Thursday, 31 July 2008

Update via Isabella

Just had a call from Alex (18.35 UK time) who wants to update here
without unplugging all the wires. They crossed into Canada about 100
miles back and are having a challenging time, handsteering in 20 - 40
knots. Aiming for Tuk tonight, or early tomorrow am and will stay
there about 2 - 3 days. All well, but cold and wet. "That's Canada for
you," Alex said.
Posted by Isabella, Alex's sister

7022 14244 this wasn't in the plan!

McQ said it all except that we are now hand steering. I have seen sustained gusts of 40+ and some huge breaking waves. Southern ocean stuff - not in the brochure for up here. Another 36 hours of it according to the grib. Still no hf.

H tks for relay gust bk msg, Izz, just had goonish scoff. Ta.

Now going to take heart in mouth and try to send this by iridium. Have to take whole system down to do so so always a bit grey knuckle when try to bring it up again.

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McQ: Hankies

..And then the wind built, and we put away a little more of our headsail hankerchief- not just any amount, you understand, but a carefully chosen and precisely measured headsail hankie was furled away, to leave a leprechaun sized hankie (thats a relatively small amount incase anyone thought otherwise!)and the wind stayed fairly constant for a bit at 28-30 knots true. The seas were building and even with our mere leprechaun sized hankie we were barrelling along at 7.5knots in the bright sunshine!! Then the first of a row of thick grey clouds catches us up from behind, so I put away some more headsail, leaving a tinkerbell sized hankerchief piece at the front, and the wind builds- 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and stays there!! And we are still barrelling along and the sea is still building!!! (Almost) every time we go over a particularly big wave Ray loses his GPS data feed when we fall in the trough and he beeps frantically at us to let us know he doesn't have a clue which way he's supposed to be going!! Fortunately seconds later we get to the crest and he remembers his course and stops beeping!!! The biggest sustained gust I have seen in the last couple of hours is 39 knots true wind- which I think is the most wind I can remember seeing since leaving Oz!!! Boy am I glad we aren't beasting into this!!! And its very very cold!!
Lots of love
McQ
xxx

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K: Situation Normal

That forecast westerly started rolling in just about as soon as Corrie "it's been snowing" McQ found her bunk. Trickles of wind started to show on the water, so I put the mainsail back up to try and get some wind propulsion happening. As soon as I found my bunk, Alex put three reefs into said mainsail, and the next watch it was dropped altogether! So, we're now back to running downwind with a tiny hankie of headsail poled out, and the sea is building a bit behind us. Oh - and it's very cold. Extra socks, gloves and balaclavas all round.

Yesterday's floating lumber yard has thinned out for a bit, but we nearly collided with a seal who chose the wrong time and place to surface as we were hooning down a wave. Luckily he/she took evasive action and dived again so we missed each other.

Something else interesting that I noticed in yesterday's calm and rain. The rain drops didn't "dissolve" as soon as they hit the ocean surface. The temperature/density difference between the rain and sea was enough that the drops hung around on the surface like beads of water on oil. Nifty.

Today's shade of grey: silver-grey (the sun came out for a bit and most beautiful all the lumpy shining wavy grey was).

K.

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Wednesday, 30 July 2008

McQ: It's snowing!!

Its all pretty grey about tonight- ahead its dark bluey grey and behind is lighty grey and the sea is rippled steely grey... vis is fine, there is a definite horizon, everything is just different shades of grey!!
There is no wind at the moment so we are motoring towards Tuk, The grib shows no wind for here at the moment then building to 25-30 knots Westerly by this time tomorrow- After we got blasted by 33 knots of west early this morning, completely out of the blue and really no real warning, we though that what was shown on the grib for the next 48 hrs had blown through early. However, it is pretty accurate just now and there is a definite swell building and rolling in from behind, so I wouldn't be too surprised if we are back in 30 knots of westerlies by tomorrow evening!! Oooh!!
Oh yes, I nearly forgot, its been snowing!!! Wet snow and too wet to lie, but great big slushy blobs of snowflakes nonetheless... cool! very cool!! Its back to rain now and I don't think Kimbra, who is on watch now, believes me that it snowed at all in the last few hours!!!
Hope everyone well.
Lots of love
McQ
xxx
ps J'nie- happy birthday for tomorrow, while I remember!! I hope you have a fab day and everything goes to plan and you get everything you wished for!!! And I hope the pressie from Nome has arrived and that you like it!!! I'll be in touch and check in when we next get to land. Lots of love and birthday hugs, older, wiser sibling. xxx

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Thank you time and into the goody bags

To everyone who sent us goodies in Dutch and Nome - I have had little packs of stuff hidden in various odd spaces and have now extracted shortbread fingers - thanks Gonzales - for morning tea, hot stuff from Carla's bag (Butt paste not yet necessary...) and put the snickers away again. We need those for real emergencies. Dig boskets, Sue - last one went with marmelade yesterday and the smoked salmon kept me alive all the way to Nome. Izz, special dark offering still awaiting processing. And Pat and Dave B for books, Steve for your silver dollar, now on the magic wall. Judy for the satphone - Speedy for wearing his best purple frock for us and all y'all for your messages and huge support. I must have left out lots of people - never make lists like this - thanks to you too!

AGW, we will go to Tuk and at least refuel, although so far we have not used much. Amodino will be there tomoz and will fill up and go because they think the ice is ok in Dease Strait. We'll check when we get to Tuk. List of Tuk jobs if we decide to wait there. We are 311 miles away and motoring again in the tail of the big low which seems to have come through a couple of days early - might blow past Devon in time to clear for the eclipse. We will be about 600 miles short of Cambridge Bay at Eclipse Time so will definitely miss it. Have spoken to Pascal and we've all got our appendages crossed for clear wx for them. Eleanor is in Resolute - I think - so clear there too please!

A floating lumber yard out here - huge trees every hundred metres or so and little lines of smaller stuff everywhere. At Cape Nome, I found two bits of silver birch on the beach that had been cut by beavers - somewhere up the Yukon.

And imagine if you will crusty old whaler 100 years ago in one of the hundreds of ships there would have been around here. He's 150 feet up in the crows nest, cold, in what then passed for wet weather gear - if he was lucky he would have had Eskimo gear - 'Thar she bloooows! Two points on the larboard bow, Captain, about 2 miles...' and the ship jumps to life. Transfer said whaler to Berri's foredeck in yesterday's ice, sit him on a milk crate and give him my Mustang suit to keep warm and dry and a little mobile phone sized gadget with buttons on it and show him how to press the buttons and the boat alters course. 'Now steer me through the ice and no more of this 'two points stuff'!

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K: The hokey pokey

..We put the third reef in, we shake the second reef out, we do the hokey pokey then we gybe it all about...

Well, last night's rolling, roiling, bouncy bits have eased up and we're now pootling along in lightish winds with the headsail poled out on the other gybe. Heading towards Canada - 160 NM away - and still dodging the odd well-travelled tree. Sea still a bit sloppy, but when I think back on the last 24 hours - fog, rain, sun (woo hoo), motoring-calm, a 30 kt stonker, ice and trees - I'm not even going to try and guess what the next 24 are going to bring! Never a dull moment, it's been busy.

Tired but happy - I'm going to bed for an afternoon nanna nap.

Night all! K.

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Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Can't see the ice for the trees! 7116 15145

We've just hit a huge tree trunk at 7 knots. I was adjusting the genoa sheet and did not see the tree, just felt a big impact and a series of bumps with no obvious cause and then a 20 ft maybe 2 ft diameter log appeared astern. It will have blue antifoul all over it and I most fervently hope it missed the prop. We'll find out soon enough. Fortunately, Berri's hull could have been designed to minimise just such an impact. The waters around Alaska are full of driftwood of all sorts - Norton Sound with trees coming down the Yukon and up here there are several big rivers flowing north.

Good progress and I think there will be no more ice between here and Tuk - for a start, the water is now @ nearly 7 degrees - almost a warm bath for overworked freckles. Stunningly beautiful though brilliant blue translucent house sized lumps of old ice may be, they are best and most beautiful at a distance!

The Chukchi Sea turned from deep grey green jade to light pearly grey green at Point Barrow, then dirtyish grey over the shoals and now in the Beaufort we're back to deep green.

Still no HF radio. Don't know why - all seems ok.

H & K thanks for message - was feeling a bit like ET.

Later 1433UTC 7107 15041 now we're in 30 kts from the west - no main, tiny heady, big short rolling sea. Again, good progess and 200 miles to Canada. Makes it hard to see the wood for the waves. Yuk. Life's never dull out here.

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McQ: Lots more ice, mist (fog) still no snow, phew!!

We've seen lots of ice now, big chunks, little chunks, bergy bits, bear shaped, whale shaped, old blue ice, gritty brown ice, snap, crackle and pop, melting ice, big thundering lumps calving from bigger lumps of ice... and all the while having to dodge them!!! As big A said, when the fog lifted it was almost as if it appeared to be a long strip of an ice wall ahead!! (It wasn't, we discovered as we got closer, just the mind playing tricks and the low cloud creating a mirage of sorts) and you just need to go slow and carefully pick a route through- quite exciting really and when the fog lifted, the blue sky came out and highlighted the bright dazzling blue of the older lumps dotted about- pretty spectacular and quite something special really and as Kimbra said, we feel like we are properly in the Arctic now!!!
Woo hoo!!!!
Oh and we apparently saw a real, flying Arctic Loon in the sky (making a noise like a fog horn- wise bird, as it was indeed foggy!!)
Lots of seals too but no walri yet though...
Hope everyone had an exciting day too!!
Lots of love,
McQ
xxx

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So this is what they meant...7128 15534

And just around the corner - lucky break - a clear patch and ice all around the horizon. Not a lot, but big, thick floes - the charts would call it open water - easy to navigate until - enter the Examiner, stage left - really thick fog, vis less than 50 metres and big lumps of ice all around. Trickling along under motor, Kimbra on the bow, McQ steering. According to the ice chart, we should gradually get past this stuff but it certainly concentrates the mind a bit. We are pointing directly at Tuk - or might be! there's a big discrepancy between the boat GPS and the computer which gets its NMEA feed from the GPS. In theory, they should agree - seems they both have the same variation, WGS 84 datum so a mystery.

Much later, freckle well exercised - this fog and ice stuff is seriously scary. We were in about 2 tenths ice - easy - then without warning, about 5 tenths of big bergy floes with very narrow leads between them in vis of about 50 metres. No wind, luckily, else things might have been different, but we wormed our way out into some clearer water - them more big stuff and so it goes. And it's almost worse when the fog clears for a brief moment and all you can see is apparently unbroken ice. One huge floe was breaking up as we passed - booming crashes as massive ledges of ice fell off into the water. A new noise for me - hope I don't ever get to hear it without being abloe to see where it comes from. From the ice chart, we may have 100 miles of this. Quite tense but we'll work our way through - one difficulty is that you don't know where it is coming from so there's no obvious way out.

Now at 7123 15432 after much snaky meandering at idle revs. Hope we're through it before the westerly builds in a couple of days.

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K: We're around the top!

Wooo hooooo! Just passed north of Pt Barrow. 71deg 25min 33sec N and 156deg 28min 22sec W at 0748 Alaksa Daylight Time 28/7. The sun is even shining through the fog to celebrate with us.

The plan is now to head on to Tuk, 470 NM away to the east, where we will wait and see what happens with the ice further ahead towards Cambridge Bay. Fingers crossed, next stop Canada!

K.

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K: Fog

I hate fog, hate fog, hate fog, hate fog, hate fog, hate fog, hate fog.

Guess what? It's foggy!!

We're currently nearly almost rounding the top of Pt Barrow. "Nearly" because Ray the autopilot decided to tack the boat while Alex was putting a reef in the mainsail, so we're currently headed straight for the shoals. Ta Ray. Another couple of short tucks should do it.

Yesterday when we were cruising along with blue skies, glassy seas and wildlife all around, I had this lovely vision of rounding the top in similar conditions and being able to watch the point go by. Not quite like that today. There's a short choppy wind-against-current sea and a pea souper sky!! I did briefly glimpse land about an hour ago in a clearer patch. It looked surprisingly like Carnac Island and the Straglers back home. Only foggier.

K.

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Monday, 28 July 2008

Still on the nose 7116 15737

Approaching Point Barrow - fog - was pink as sun dipped below the horizon. No ice in sight but now need for constant lookout. GPS trip log from Sydney reads 7635 miles - probably a bit low as it has not been on continuously. Expecting to turn the corner about 1700 UTC but no doubt the Examiner has cut her chains and is lurking.

Speeds - nothing heard from you or anyone else - I assume these are getting through.

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McQ: Ice

And now came both mist and snow
And it grew wondrous cold
And ice, mast high, came floating by
As green as emerald

A somewhat appropriate verse to have reached last night I think!!! Except there's no mist, or snow, yet, thankfully!!!

How exciting!!!! I so, so, so hope we can get round the corner!!!
Lots of love,
McQ
xxx

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ICE! 7059 15944

There are BIG ice floes all around the NW horizon. Brilliant in bright sunshine. WOOOOOHOOO! Seems we're here. May not be good news, of course but we'll see. And we're sailing again. Expecting Barrow tomorrow morning. Have just spoken to Pascal on Devon - they think the weather will be too bad for them to see the eclipse - sad. And we will certainly miss them but I have arranged to leave some beer at Beechey if we get there - carefully hidden! Now for a Consultation.

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HF radio - SSB if you live in Alaska 7058 15949

It seems that our HF may not be transmitting - it's an ICOM M802 with an ATF130 tuner and a pactor 11pro controller. It receives weather faxes ok and I heard Taupo a couple of days ago but it won't connect to sailmail and I have not been able to talk to Amodino, only about 300 miles away, or Cambridge Bay, about 1100 miles or hear either of them. I've checked the external connections to the backstay and all seem ok - the microphone appears to be working and the set indicates that it is transmitting. I will look at the internal connections from backstay to tuner next. Anyone got any ideas as to where to go after that? Please keep it short if you have - I'll have to pull it in by iridium. Thanks.

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...of breaching whales and strings...7054 16014

..of mucous? I remember reading in Sydney that biologists follow whales off the coast and collect bits of skin and other material the whales leave behind every time they surface. For about an hour during my last watch, there were whales breaching all around the horizon - looked like humpbacks but I don't know enough about other species to discriminate. We sailed through a spot where a very big one had been and sure enough, lots of frothy, rather greasy looking bubbles, flakes - more like little mats of perhaps skin and long strings and skeins of mucous like substance. I was not expecting it else would have tried to retrieve some.

And a whale spout in silhouette is just a grey column - hangs around for much longer that I would expect - but a spout with the sunlight reflecting from it is something special - stark white to begin with, then as it spreads and dissipates, a shower of diamonds falling through silver mist. Lovely - and out here, a century ago, deadly for the whale. Charlie Brower's descriptions of the whalers and the hundreds of ships are cause for admiration of the men and mostly Eskimo women who hunted the whales along the edges of the ice - and deep sadness that the whales are now so scarce. A bowhead was worth a fortune to the catcher - think corsets - and I wonder whether any of the women who wore them and the men who expected them to do so - had any idea of the hardship and awfulness that killing whales for the baleen that made the whalebone for the corset actually involved. The bowhead was saved by the invention of plastics (I think).

There's a deep grey green blue Chinese jade - not very common - that's the Chukchi sea today. I've never seen the sea as flat and glassy as it was this morning even in the tropics. We have a bit of breeze now, on the nose again, but useful to help the motor along. AGW, a lift this arve if the GRIB is right and Point Barrow tomorrow morning. Pete, we drank one of yours for the Arctic Circle, Steve, one of yours for the whales. Nooice!

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Sunday, 27 July 2008

Of Cook and sun and sealing wax 7033 16143

I'm not sure of the exact latitude, but I think that for the first time in my life and certainly in Berri's, we are both beyond the limits of the globe reached by Cook. A moment for pause and contemplation. Or Consultation. On his way back from here to Hawaii and history, he called in somewhere on the Russian coastline, perhaps at C Dezhneva, where he met a party of Russians and he gave them a package of his charts and despatches for the Admiralty and asked them to do what they could to forward them. The package reached London many months later, possibly after Cook himself was dead. Those papers still exist, probably at Greenwich - I wish they had the (almost certainly canvas and oilskin)wrapping and seals as well. What a story they could tell! Don't assume, Whitters - find out when we actually get somewhere. One for MJC, perhaps?

107 miles from Barrow - this time tomorrow AGW. Then the real business will begin - this rather large pedestal we have constructed since April has been designed to get us up to here and launch us eastwards. We'll miss the eclipse and probably any chance of a rendezvous with the HMP people but I intend to call them when we get around the corner to find out when they will be leaving. I reckon we are about a month away from Beechey if everything goes perfectly and the Examiner is still chained to that lamp post. We have used about 40 litres of diesel so far - about 10% of our load, with another day of certain motoring to Barrow. A bit of a punt, but so far it's looking like a good one.

Again for the first time in my life that hasn't been grey and overcast, the sun almost didn't set - it was actually just below the northern horizon last night but reflecting off the low cloud and fogbanks and giving the cloud and rolling fog a deep red inner glow, like the inside of a furnace. It was so vivid that I broke out the Nik and recorded it - would love to send it to you to share the moment, but think wonder and quiet pleasure and Berri happily tooling along poled out (we actually sailed for about 3 hours!)and you'll get the idea.

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McQ: Deranged but the birds are real!!

Hello everyone!!
It's 0330 am but it could equally be 1530!!
We have just passed our Icy Point waypoint and I am pleased to report there is no ice here to hinder progress. Just inside us to the east is the Blossom Shoal- so named, Big A thinks, after the ship 'Blossom' that 'discovered' them!!! I am not so pleased to report that there is no wind here either... and it looks like that for another 12 hours, then light southerlies inshore (BIG southerlies further offshore- good news for blowing ice out of the way!!!) then lightish westerlies forecast at the moment for a few days time... we have 123nm to Barrow so hopefully we can get there and round the corner, with a bit of iron sail assistance at the moment, before any westerlies blow ice back in... never before has turning a corner been so fraught and nerve-wracking, I don't think!!!
There are lots of crazy birds circling about overhead, squawking away. Its quite weird. They are not LFP's or puffins or dodos or emus or pelicans or indeed any other bird I recognise but I am, however, adamant that they are real!!
I had forgotten how deranged 24 hour daylight can make you feel sometimes!!
Hope everyone well.
Lots of love,
McQueen
xxx

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And then I had this nasty thought 7002 16345

If the wind does come around to the west it will blow all the ice back inshore. No choice really - we're burning diesel - westerly due in a bit over two days and we gotta be up there. Would be massively disappointing to get stuck, even for a short time, on the wrong side of the point. Does mean that we will have to refuel at least once before Cambridge unless the Examiner goes on holiday. Anyone care to take her to the south of France for a couple of weeks? And chain her to a lamp post.

I'm reading a book Pat gave me about a man who lived in Barrow in the late 1800s and early 1900s and spent a lot of time out with the Eskimos. Quite fascinating to be passing Cape Lisburne and reading about his trip around it in skin boats and sledge and the cliffs alive with birds. The book is called Fifty Years Below Zero by Charles Brower, NY Dodd, Mead & Co, 1942 and probably long out of print but worth looking for if you are interested in what it was like to live here before it was taken over by the gold miners, the whalers and the missionaries. Thanks Pat!

Much later 0045 Nome time, 0845 UTC at 7018 16257 - another try to connect with sailmail. Still burning diesel...still no sailmail...back to iridium...

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K: Another day in paradise

2300: Came on watch and made a hot drink.
2305: Burnt tongue on hot drink.
2310: Walked to the pointy end. It's still there. Practised Titanic pose and counted jelly fish.
2315: Decided sea is more inky green coloured than inky blue.
2320: Walked back to the other end.
2325: Clouds not too threatening, so got bird book out. Think we've been seeing lots of Northern Fulmars.
2330: Wind dropped out altogether. Adjusted course and furled headsail.
2335: Checked chart and wrote blog...

I wonder what will happen in the next 90 minutes?

K.

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Another of those decisions 6950 16420

We're trickling along in the foggy foggy dew at about 3.5 kts, so Barrow in 2 days AGW. The latest GRIB predicts a nice westerly around about then. Do we burn some precious diesel to make sure we get there in case the GRIB is right? Or do we trickle along, save fuel and take a punt that we really will get there in 2 days? Instinct says burn, baby, burn - will cost us a lot more fuel if we miss the westerly.

So - if we're going to burn, when? Best when going slowest to get max miles per litre. Now poled out and still trickling but a smidge faster.

Noice to see the lat/long co-ordinates changing in the right direction as last. 164 degrees of longitude does seem to be a large number.

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K: A user-friendly watch!

Just finished a nice watch. Firstly, it's stopped raining so stuff can stop getting wetter. Then, the wind shifted in our favour so we lifted back up onto course and are sailing nicely towards Pt Barrow 200 NM away. Got a glimpse of land through the murk, and a satphone call from our friends on Amadino up ahead - they've made it around Pt Barrow with no problems from the ice! Fingers crossed for us. Alex managed to get the iridium modem talking again (bonus!), and just as good, pulled in a grib showing favourable winds will continue for us. Touch wood, all looking smiley for the next day or so.

To round things off, I've been doing some water management: squeezed some Chukchi Sea to drink, mopped down the condensation that's starting to collect on the un-insulated bits of the cabin and sponged the bilges (lots of water in there, not so good).

A good morning's work, so now to bed. Night!

K.

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Saturday, 26 July 2008

Iridium back 6934 16453

May be only temporary - reconfigured whole shebang from first principles ans seems to work. Amodino around Barrow - no ice - 20 knot headwind and 1 knot adverse current. So that's what the Examiner is preparing - I have been concerned all along about that easterly and it's not going to be easy. Seems to blow continuously.

Otherwise, all ok - cold and damp, foggy, misty but more or less on course @ 5 kts.

Love yez all.

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Those whom the Examiner...6813 16802

It's been an uncomfortable but dream run so far. We're abeam Point Hope, nearly half way to Barrow in a bit over 2 days. The centre of the low went right over us - a blue sunny patch with cloud swirling around in a huge arc forming the perimeter of the patch. I think we are now in the lower right quadrant with SSW wind about 10 kts and poled out again heading for a waypoint off Cape Lisburne. Still 180 miles before we get to Icy Point, where Cook turned back from 'a wall of ice' in early August.

Sea temp was down to 4 deg earlier - now at 5. Vis about 2 miles in light mist - the up-sun cloud looks black and sinister but it isn't really and anyway, it's gone past us. Nothing to report otherwise - comms still flaky and not able to send through saimail. Was strange hearing Kiwi voices from Taupo loud and clear giving the forecast for Chatham Island at the other end of the earth - probably the same people Pete and I were talking to 3 years ago.

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McQ: Arctic Circle!!

So we crossed the Arctic Circle yesterday afternoon- I was off watch and chilling in my toasty warm bunk and it was pouring with rain outside so I stayed put, spared a thought for Neptune for helping us this far and glanced out the window to see if it was as I remembered. And indeed it was, not dissimilar to the equator infact- just different creatures!!! Balancing precariously atop a giant floating Fox's Glacier Mint was a big fluffy white bear, an even bigger mosquito with extra long skinny limbs, a huge spike for a nose and a big red belly, full to bursting, resting against the bear, and various other arctic animals playing around them: Walri, foxes, reindeer and huskies, all trying to topple the mint!!! There was a long thick pole sticking out one side and a big circular wooden board attached to the top and into that an arctic lemming was chiselling- "You are now crossing the arctic circle! Welcome to the Arctic!!!" As we passed they all waved and we waved back and carried on. Not quite as flashy as the equator and certainly no neon lights but a friendly welcome nonetheless!!!
What's more, Kimbra is now officially calling me an Arctic Loon, as opposed to the common variety found further south!!

Its good to be back at sea!!! Chilly but great to be making progress north!!
Hope everyone well,
Lot of love
McQueen
xxx

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Examiner:again
Position: 69,3.80N , 166,30.21W
Unable transmit sailmail or iridium. This via SatC. Will send regular position reports, too expensive for blogs. sorry. May get sailmail back, if propagation improves, iridium I think is dead hardware linkage between handset and pc. Poo!

The strait story - by Pat Hahn from Nome

The sailors do not line up to go through the Bering Strait. Not many have been through to tell its tail of icing, harrowing seas, converging currents and screaming winds. Generally when a few are caught in a violent storm with a pitch pole or two, we don't see another for several years as word does get around. Willie pitch poled lengthwise 3 times in the late 80's or early 90's and it was years before we saw another sailboat.

The narrow passage between continents is one of the most special places on earth. There are two oceans, two continents, two days, two islands, two super powers, and as if to follow the political correctiveness, two colors of ocean streaming through to the north. There is a spot I have stood on, that put me into all these 'twos' at the same time. (It was winter, out in the middle on the ice. I wanted to do it Dec 31, 1999/Jan1, 2000 to add two years, two centuries and two millennium, but Alas, it is two dark and two mid winter in the worst weather and ice on earth) It makes your hair stand on end to even think about it.

To understand the summer Bering Strait weather one needs to look at a map and think to oneself, what will happen if the wind changes a few degrees? There is very high heat in the interiors of both the US and Russia. There is almost always ice in the arctic ocean and there is always a heavy blanket of cold moisture in the Pacific. All these within a couple hundred miles. Add a pressure system or two... or three, stir it all up with a big stick and it becomes impossible to predict, extremely volatile, and violent. I once crossed the strait from the Russian side in full blue skies and dead calm seas. In a total of two hours we first had huge swills, a small cloud appeared over Diomede(s), It grew fast enough it looked like a really bad sickening horror movie, and then we bounced ashore at little Diomede in a gale.(I don't speak 'sailor'- I hope 'gale' doesn't mean anything more than a storm).

There are not many places outside a few long fjords at a full moon that it is possible for a standing wave in the ocean. Diomede has standing waves. To stand on the tiny island and stare at the enormity of the ocean going by at the speed of a river with standing waves... I wonder how the tiny Eskimo umiaks ever made it. I did it once and I still wonder.

Today the tiny ship Berrimilla is in a storm, heading north in the middle of the Bering Strait. My prayers are with them and my hat is off.

Pat from Nome

Friday, 25 July 2008

The shadow over the fence - 6556 16813 around midday.

We rounded C. Prince of Wales a couple of hours ago and are now running just east of North - yeeehaaa! - poled out in a 15 kt southerly. Those whom the Examiner wishes to test, she first makes happy and complacent! We are running more or less parallel with the Russian border, north of the Diomedes and about 18 miles to the east. Interesting that there is a vessel about 10 miles the other side of the border keeping pace with us. I have his AIS signal with his position, but he's not sending any ID, so perhaps the border guards are watching us! The Diomedes are wreathed in fog - I think relatively warm moist air being lifted, condensing water vapour and then the fog being blown down and around the islands over a cold sea. Fascinating to observe - pity I can't send you the photos. Our friend over there is too far away to see even with binoculars, but I can see C. Dezhneva clearly.

If all goes well, we should be in position to offer Neptune an Arctic Circle beer from Sydney in about 5 hours or 35 miles.

Later - 6621 16814 - our shadow has gone but we were passed by a merchant ship heading south, the Ocean Baron, 225 metres long, bound for Balboa, Panama. Didn't expect one of those up here - it draws 12 metres, so I wonder where it has come from. It is on the US side of the border. Did not see it, so don't know what sort of ship.

8 miles to the Arctic Circle - misty, cold rain, doing about 7 knots still poled out in a freshening southerly, due to go north tomoz.

And so it came to pass - we crossed the AC in cold misty rain at 1849 Nome time at 16818W. Pete, we gave Neptune a drop of your April brew and he pronounced it good, so we drank the rest. If anyone is seeing Potter, please tell him we have consulted deeply with Dr Gordon on his behalf before and after the AC.

Later still 6706 16821 and 0021 Nome time southerly still blowing - cold, wet and dismal but moving north. Comms very flaky will try this via iridium. Just heard Taupo radio NZ on 6224 - famiiar voices!

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Thursday, 24 July 2008

A lifetime special half hour 6503 16747

It's about 0100 Nome time. We're NE of King Island and I've just watched the sun set to the NW right in the middle of the Bering Strait. It's almost cloudless and I can just see the Russian coast, the Diomedes, Cape Wales silhouetted in the orange glow and the Kigluaik mountains softly grey against the horizon to the east. And - specially magical, the moon has just risen over Teller - big, white and glowing behind wispy clouds. Half an hour of pure joy and almost worth missing the eclipse for. And I bet it doesn't happen very often and when it does, there's no one here to enjoy it. So share it with me - a small patch of sea that, for a few moments seemed to be at the centre of the world.

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On the nose as usual. 6443 16737

Left Nome at 0910. Heading out towards King Island in a 15 - 20 knot nwerly. Big lumpy sea, but the sun is out which makes up for a lot! About 60 miles from C Wales, the westernmost point on the US mainland. About 90 miles from Russia. All new territory from here - scary and don't know what to expect, but we'll goo and have a look. King Island has/had amazingly resilient Eskimo population. Difficult to imagine how they survived out here.

Big thank you to Pat and Sue, and Megan and Anna and Clark and Chris for their kindness and help. I'll miss those morning runs, Megan! Longish comfortable stops and I tend to forget how to sail and how to get by in this tiny little plastic box.

On laptop no 2 already. The other one will not connect to Iridium - don't know why. Frustrating. Don't know whether this will work either so will keep it short.

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Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Coffee and GRIB files

Perhaps for the last time at Pat's. 0630, just up from the boat and looks like today's the day. Conditions far from perfect but the best we are likely to get - north today, strong southerly late tomoz, rain and fog and then round to the west and back to the north again by the weekend. Barrow won't be easy to reach! From here on, messages from the boat so as and when we can connect. Thanks for all your good wishes - Carol, I hope the knife does the job and Fi - enjoy the endorphins! Pete - got your message, tried calling, can't find your skype address.

Love yez all.

Under the barn door...

Looks like tomorrow's the day. I'll confirm in the morning before we go. If all goes well, about a week to Barrow, then the infinite improbability factor takes over. Amodino crossed the arctic circle today and will be  somewhere out ahead unless they get stuck somewhere.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The edges of the decision.

Rather too much Consultation last night and I've just wimped out of a run this morning. The big low pressure system is still parked west of Barrow giving us a N or NW gradient with up to 25 knots and 10ft seas further north. Amodino had only got as far as Cape Wales by last night - about 150 miles in nearly 4 days. There is a tiny break forecast for tomorrow and the next couple of days and we might get going and have a look but it's not promising. Barrow appears to be sufficiently open to get through. The ice in Queen Maud has started to melt but there's still a lot of fast ice there and the Canadian Environment Service graphs show 10% more ice in the NW Passage than last year. It's beginning to look as if we might have picked the wrong year, but there's still time to get through safely if we can get to Barrow and Maud melts enough to give us a reasonable probability once we do. Pat, who has been there and been caught for a year, says that if the break up in Maud and Peel Strait is late, the ice tends to be blown south and packs in from White Bear Point north to Jenny Lind, blocking the passage.  If that happens this year and we are not through, we would have to leave the boat in Cambridge Bay or go back 600 miles to Tuktoyaktuk or even further west if is still open. The later we get to Barrow, assuming we do, the more we should know about what is happening to the east, but the decision will not be easy unless things change significantly in the next week or so. Today, I am going to try again to contact a friend of Pat'swho lives in Cambridge Bay - someone who has also sailed the passage and knows the conditions - to try to get a feel for what might happen there over the next month. He hasn't been answering his phone, but maybe today.

If you are not already bored silly by all this inactivity, watch this space.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Sunday part 2

Wind has turned north - Berri blowing hard against the wall. Glad we're not in Bering Strait.

Sunday in Nome.

Fascinating day. Cold bleak morning - just a greyish brightening of the twilight as the sun dips for a few hours - and Megan took me for a run out to Dredge No 6. This one's more or less intact - still has it's corrugated iron outer facade, most of the works still in place including the massive driving gear and the bucket chain - it has 9 cu ft buckets. Was going to go out on the bike to look for No 5 - the one that put Pat through college, but instead, we went up the Snake looking for salmon. McQ and K sleeping off a late night of monopoly and medicinal compound. As I don't have a State of Alaska fishing licence, I just operated the Nik but Pat and Megan caught several big salmon all of which they put back - too far gone was the diagnosis, meaning that the spawning effort and the physiological changes that it induces make them not worth cooking and eating. They looked ok to me, but I'm an iggorant Oz. The hump on the male fish in the photo is all fat and there's almost no muscle left. We went up as far as the weir set up to count the fish that cross it as part of a big survey of the salmon population of Alaska - there are 35,000+ fish above it so far and, it seemed to me, a lot more below. The fish are allowed through the barrier into a live trap, counted and released up river.

On the way back, we hooned around a bend to find a moose calf mid river and its mother on the bank. The calf crossed, mum backed off into the willows and we went between them - something you never ever do on foot but can get away with in a boat. You can see the mother in the last photo - huge animal. And when we got home, we had moose burritos for late lunch - moose mex.

As for the reason we are really here, there seems to be a promising break in the weather on Wednesday. But I never predict.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Surf's up in Nome

Early on a cold, foggy drizzly day in lovely downtown Nome. There's a good surf today coming in to the beach and the breakwater. Forecast still pearshaped further north but the ice is definitelt clearing art Barrow. There's a small boat advisory in force until tomorrow for the Bering Strait. I've been trying to contact Amodino to see how they are going, but so far no luck. I hope they are not too uncomfortable.

This is an interesting website:
http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/subsets/?subset=AERONET_Barrow
mostly cloud in the latest pics but if you change the vector to 'coast only' at the top you get the outline.

Anyone care to guess what the photo shows?

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Wild iris from the almost frozen north

For Steve - Nik pik by Megan.

Worser and worser...and then?

Really nasty wind and sea between here and Barrow for at least a couple more days according to NOAA. Patience and perseverence...the ice is definitely breaking up at Barrow.

Yesterday, Pat and Anna went swimming in 4 degree water. Megan and I bought our way out by agreeing to go for an early run today, hence post run coffee and warm fire. The fireplace is the only one I will ever see that has a vertebra from a bowhead whale that was probably killed a century ago built into it.

Chris P - the Brolga is likely to be Django, belong Becketts.

Berri alone at the wharf

Sunshine in Nome! South wall of the inner harbour. Amodino gone, dredges out in the Bering sea dredging for gold, big barge being loaded in the middle distance under the crane on the far side of the harbour, Snake River coming in from the NW on the right, inner harbour exit just behind the small motor boat, trusty bike on the wharf. Salmon jumping in the harbour...

Frogstar cruisers measured by the bucket

Pat Hahn worked his way through college on big dredges (almost calls for a burst of Marvinspeak - btsoap and here I am dredging gravel. Who needs gold?) - he says that they are classified by their bucket size. Yesterday's pic of the burned out pile of metal was actually quite a small one, with 5 ft buckets, all driven by a belt from the engine to the gearbox - you can see part of the drive train in the pic. There are to others out in the boonies a bit further with 9 ft buckets. Real monsters - I'll go and try and find one if we are here for long enough. Pat, as a volunteer fireman, attended the dredge fire - nothing they could do except stop it spreading.

Our Spanish friends on Amodino left yesterday. Ambitious, in my humble opinion, but a 75 ft, 60 ton steel boat with huge engines, so a very different equation. I will call them in the morning to see how they are going. We are here for at at least a couple more days, I think. Weather up north not encouraging, but signs the ice is beginning to break up in Queen Maud. If you have google earth, you cal zoom in on Cambridge bay, look NE of the houses, across the bay, and you will find the remains of Amundsen's boat Maud. Sad end.




Friday, 18 July 2008

Fossilised warp drive

A dead Frogstar battlecruiser - this one is huge, but there are hundreds of smaller ones around the place. I've never seen one actually operating.

Graveyard

Went looking for dead aircraft today - here are some rather sad photos - 2, possibly 3 Beech 18's and a couple of indeterminate high wing mono, resting in an old gravel pit near the original town dump.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Nugget article

The Nugget is on line here
http://www.nomenugget.net

Pages 8 & 9 of the July 17 edition - not yet on line but will be soon.

'and, y'know, it's heading north...'

There's a cruise ship alongside the outer wall in the murk - small one called Sea Odyssey/sea with about 200 pax at a guess. They are all over town in the mud and rain - easy to spot because they are all cringing a bit at the conditions and are mostly inappropriately dressed - some in wet looking sneakers and some women even in raised heel slip-on shoes tippying through the puddles - you'd think that the ship would have warned them. Reminds me of Port Stanley - perhaps a shade bigger than Nome but very similar and a huge cruise box anchored in the outer sound and ferried about 2500 people ashore in big lighters. They milled around town, avoiding anything remotely wet or dirty, bought postcards and got lightered back aboard 6 hours later. Woe betide if you missed your lighter. Like this ship in Nome, the more organised went off in buses to look at the local sights, so there have been yellow school buses everywhere as well. The shape of the future for here and points north.

We were sitting in the Caff this morning and couldn't help listening to one of the visitors talking with hushed amazement about this little sailing boat 'and y'know, it's heading north...' Didn't want to spoil the illusion by breaking in with a 'maybe'! The Nugget just hit the streets and Anna's article has the centre fold.

My next project is to come back here with the Nikon and a couple of weeks to spare and borrow the mighty bike again from Pat and tour the local backyards and the bush taking arty farties of abandoned equipment for a coffee table book. There's at least one Beech 18 out there, plus endless snowmobiles, four wheeler bikes, various tracked and rather untracked crawlers, lots of machinery of dubious purpose and dredges everywhere - there isn't much of the local countryside that hasn't been mined at some time. Then there are trucks, old cars, some wonderful junkyards, one of which has a bent aircraft propeller. And - wonder of wonders, I think I saw and heard a DC6 flying in through the murk a day or so ago. Not, after all, abandoned.

Pics - Pat Hahn demonstrating why I like to be around him - he's got even less hair than I have - plus cruise box and crab boat.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Just a headbaangin' in the rain..

Or turning the pear in gritty Nome…0800 and just back from a run around the edge of metropolitan Nome on the dirt track with Megan – hard gravel, potholed, wet, muddy, in thick misty rain – we squished past some dog team kennels set back from the track on a low rise almost invisible in the cloudbase – howling dogs and eerie shivers – perfect Dartmoor and The Hound for anyone who has read the book.

Yesterday, I went to talk to the Met people at the airport - a mile or so out of town, downwind outbound to get there, sandy, gritty muddy puddles followed by sandy gritty muddy road followed by ... and then seriously upwind inbound with the extra attraction of windblown sludge from the passing trucks (they mostly are trucks and big pickups here) so my eyelids still feel like sandpaper. Pat's bike works, so at least I had some gears to play with but the derailleur gets choked with grot and misbehaves and so do the changers on the handlebars. The Scottish wildlands indeed! And, as it turned out, all for nothing. They had no more information out there that we can get ourselves. Strong southerlies with heavy rain till about Saturday then a chance of a short change then back to the same. Still looks like northerlies beyond the Strait by the weekend and easterlies along the north coast. Uggly.

Today's ice report shows Barrow with about 3 tenths ice with offshore drift. It moves back in when the wind drops so still a bit too early for Berri – I think we will be in Nome for a few more days and then it will be time to go and have a look. The ice is still fast in the narrow Straits to the east and past Cambridge. If it still shows no sign of breakup when we eventually do get to Barrow, I think it will be a potential showstopper. The wind here has dropped, so the water level in the harbour will also drop and I must go and check Berri's mooring lines.

PMcQ – Eric the Red and his offsiders leapfrogged all the way up the west coast of Greenland, I suppose in open boats – there's hope for us yet! The Eskimo were there first in their open boats – interesting to know whether they were able to co-exist.

Steve – still wish we'd seen Okmok blow. The vis was so bad when we sailed past that we didn't see the island at all.

The photos are looking SW from Pat's window. The Port of Nome has been remodelled over the last few years – the Snake River mouth used to be just outside the window, but now filled in and the river diverted to the west. Two new breakwaters forming an outer harbour have been built to the west with the river flowing out between them. The crane is finishing part of the breakwater and there is an inner harbour along part of the old river course which is mostly a construction site.

Message from the radio room....

I'll be off the air for about a week.
Cheers, Speedy.

McQ: The rain in (Nome) falls mainly on the (loam (& foam))!!!!

The wind gods, those darn wind gods, continue to conspire against us!!!! Now it appears that the northerlies are set to stay for another few days, which means the wind gods are probably in cahoots with the ice gods and I imagine they are all chuckling away together as the northerlies might blow ice southwards!!!! So, fingers crossed that we get a weather window soon and also, hopefully that the big winds just break the ice up and melt it enough for us to get a safe passage up and round the corner and onwards to the East!!! 

Meanwhile we have time to peruse the weather here in Nome too!!! Looking out the window I have decided that Nome Alaska's weather is not dissimilar to Scotland!!! Now, some people will know that Scotland's weather depends on where in the country you are but often the consistent thing is rain!!! Here in Nome we have days where it is like Edinburgh, cold wet misty drizzly rain and other days where it's like Glasgow, big wet blobbety downpours!! Its a bit like going back and forth along the M8 but not sure which end you are at each morning when you wake up!!! 

Its kinda muddy too, as a precaution i have re-gunked the outside of my boots with sealant and they are  getting a good workout in the muddy puddles, for sure. I am pleased to report that they are still working!!!! 

It would be great to get back to sea and get going again soon!!! But as Big A says its all to easy just to wait and soon enough we will have to bite the bullet and give it a shot- all we can do is hope that our judgement call to go is the right one when we do and if we end up in the North Atlantic a bit later than hoped, well I guess, we cross that hurdle when (if) we get there!!! I have the utmost faith in wee Berri that she will be cope with whatever is thrown at her!!! I can tell you though that my bank manager will be delighted for me to get back to sea and I imagine he believes the longer I stay at sea the better!!!!!!

I have bought us some dice so we can play Perudo (my favourite game: similar to liar dice, but a bit simpler and without the need for poker dice) and think I may have got Kimbra hooked, though I keep losing (grrr, I HATE losing!!!!) and soon I won't be able to blame it on beginners luck!!! With that and good old ruk-shuk I'm managing to keep my competitive edge at bay!!!!

I'm still struggling to upload phots to the blog but I will keep trying!!!

Not a lot else happening here to report, but hope everyone is great at home, (and the summer is still summery for those in the UK!!!)

Oh, I also have a new favourite song, which I keep wanting to put on repeat on the juke box in the Polar Bar (!!!).... all together now, 'No-orth, to Alaska...'!!!!!

Lots and lots of love
McQueen
xxx



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McQ: The rain in (Nome) falls mainly on the (loam (& foam))!!!!

The wind gods, those darn wind gods, continue to conspire against us!!!! Now it appears that the northerlies are set to stay for another few days, which means the wind gods are probably in cahoots with the ice gods and I imagine they are all chuckling away together as the northerlies might blow ice southwards!!!! So, fingers crossed that we get a weather window soon and also, hopefully that the big winds just break the ice up and melt it enough for us to get a safe passage up and round the corner and onwards to the East!!! 

Meanwhile we have time to peruse the weather here in Nome too!!! Looking out the window I have decided that Nome Alaska's weather is not dissimilar to Scotland!!! Now, some people will know that Scotland's weather depends on where in the country you are but often the consistent thing is rain!!! Here in Nome we have days where it is like Edinburgh, cold wet misty drizzly rain and other days where it's like Glasgow, big wet blobbety downpours!! Its a bit like going back and forth along the M8 but not sure which end you are at each morning when you wake up!!! 

Its kinda muddy too, as a precaution i have re-gunked the outside of my boots with sealant and they are  getting a good workout in the muddy puddles, for sure. I am pleased to report that they are still working!!!! 

It would be great to get back to sea and get going again soon!!! But as Big A says its all to easy just to wait and soon enough we will have to bite the bullet and give it a shot- all we can do is hope that our judgement call to go is the right one when we do and if we end up in the North Atlantic a bit later than hoped, well I guess, we cross that hurdle when (if) we get there!!! I have the utmost faith in wee Berri that she will be cope with whatever is thrown at her!!! I can tell you though that my bank manager will be delighted for me to get back to sea and I imagine he believes the longer I stay at sea the better!!!!!!

I have bought us some dice so we can play Perudo (my favourite game: similar to liar dice, but a bit simpler and without the need for poker dice) and think I may have got Kimbra hooked, though I keep losing (grrr, I HATE losing!!!!) and soon I won't be able to blame it on beginners luck!!! With that and good old ruk-shuk I'm managing to keep my competitive edge at bay!!!!

I'm still struggling to upload phots to the blog but I will keep trying!!!

Not a lot else happening here to report, but hope everyone is great at home, (and the summer is still summery for those in the UK!!!)

Oh, I also have a new favourite song, which I keep wanting to put on repeat on the juke box in the Polar Bar (!!!).... all together now, 'No-orth, to Alaska...'!!!!!

Lots and lots of love
McQueen
xxx



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Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Damp and dismold in Nome

Not much to add really. It's still bleak, raining and cold in Nome – so bleak that Megan and I wimped out of our run this morning. Shame on us.

 And it's still blowing from the north east up north of the Bering Strait in the Chukchi Sea and along the north coast with no obvious sign that it's going to change any time soon. The ice is loosening and Point Barrow will probably be clear in a few days, so we are in difficult decision mode. It is very easy - too easy - to sit here and wait for the perfect moment – if it comes - but a couple more days seems sensible. Our friend in Barrow agrees - it's great to be able to talk to someone up there with real and long term experience of the conditions.

The focus for me has now shifted towards the other end. It's at least 4500 miles to the Atlantic, so 50+ days if we are lucky. We must be there by mid September at the very latest and I've just spent a difficult hour on the computer and the phone buying the digital chart for the Greenland coasts in case it is pearshaped when we do get there and we need a bolt hole somewhere. Not an easy coastline and with typical fjord wind conditions, so I hope we don't. Slarty didn't design it for sailing boats! Anyway, to get over there in time, I think we must leave here for Point Barrow in the next 10 days or look at the alternatives.

Sadly, therefore, not our year as far as the original objectives are concerned. We will certainly miss the eclipse and probably also any chance of a rendezvous with Pascal and the HMP team. They expect to leave Resolute on August 19. Slim chance indeed but I still have a beer delivery to make. Maybe a cache under a cairn at Beechey, just like old times! Pat Hahn says that this year seems to be more like the years when he was up there himself – everything is later than it has been for the last few years. It will almost certainly clear sufficiently to allow us through, but timing at the other end becomes critical. The Atlantic in October is not a good place to be.

So there it is. The main objective, the NW Passage is still definitely feasible but the fun bits are a bit more remote. Watch this space, if you have the patience!

For anyone planning to follow us – a word of warning. The digital charts that I own and some of the others that I have seen are far less detailed than the paper versions. By no means worthless, but certainly not what I have become used to further south. Check very carefully before you buy – I suspect a copyright battle somewhere in the background.

Monday, 14 July 2008

more pics

You can see Berri's and Amodino's masts if you look carefully.

Not today after all

I got up early to look at the forecast – Nome bleak and cold in heavy rain and the wind due to go north 20+ kts on Wednesday, just when we would be most exposed if we were to leave today. (If you go here  http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/ice.php and click on Marine and then the areas, you will get the forecast wind and see what I was looking at. You can check the ice too). Enter Prudence, stage left, carrying Proclamation. So I climbed on Pat's trusty bike and sloshed up the main street to wake Kimbra and McQ and suggest we wait at least another day. And so it shall be.

 I've never been a proper cruising sailor and I find these periods of more or less enforced waiting quite difficult – we have this rather daunting job to do and it tends to look more and more difficult the longer one has to contemplate. And today, I had my bag carefully packed with all the stuff I thought I wouldn't need for a week or two at the bottom, so the whole lot is now spread all over my bed again. Eeyore – That's just what would happen.

 The pics are from my window and over the breakwater. Bleeah!

Now for the difficult bit

The entrails are in conformity with the planets and the oracles have spoke - here, in Barrow and in Prudhoe and it seems to be time to go. We intend to leave Nome tomorrow morning when all necessary formalities have been completed and I've paid the Harbourmaster. 30 kts from the south forecast and then who knows. At this stage I'm less concerned about ice around Barrow than about the steady 20 kt easterly that's been blowing along the north coast. The ice will go away eventually but the wind may not and that could make life very difficult. About 3000 miles to Lancaster Sound...Berri fat and heavy with fuel and food - appendages please!

There was a brown bear - grizzly - walking the streets of Nome this morning - apparently sick or it wouldn't have been here, and probably now shot. And Megan and I ran Anvil Peak - can't believe the aged legs held out but they did and are now seriously in need of Medicinal Compound, which is being administered orally. Anna is writing her article, so if it makes the paper, it should be in the Nugget on Thursday.

Bags packed and checked out of the Polaris, but experience says the hovering Examiner may queer the pitch. It's been a wonderful stay - great people, fascinating history and I hope as Pat says, friends for life, Pity we missed the volcano in the Aleutians.

Matt - I'll be in touch, but I can't go south of (I think ) 34 degrees N until after the hurricane season so November sometime, if memory serves.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Idle musing as I sit in bed and watch the rain fall

Pity about the eclipse, but it was only ever going to be possible if we got an early pass though Point Barrow.  I've squeezed as much fuel (in plastic jerries, or jugs as they call them here) as I think we can manage into poor, fat Berri so that once we do get through, if we decide to go for the Passage, we can perhaps bypass at least one of the planned refueling stops (Kaktovik, Tuktoyaktuk, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven and Resolute) and increase our chances of better weather in the Atlantic. We have about 450 litres on board, which should give us 800+ miles of motoring in ideal conditions. Unlikely, of course, but we'll configure the boat for range rather than endurance – most aviators would understand the difference. Resolute would be the most likely candidate to miss as it requires a big diversion to the west and is iffy to get into, but that would mean getting from Cambridge or Gjoa all the way past Greenland to wherever on the final refuel and the wind. Not without some risk. There are ports in western Greenland if we get into trouble, but not easy to navigate.

  AGW, I would really like to call in at Beechey Island but last resort pragmatism may also dictate some corner cutting when (if!) we get to Lancaster Sound. If we get there towards the end of August, Pascal and the NASA crew at HMP will be leaving HMP as well, so there would be one less reason for going to Beechey. We might be able to wave as they fly past on their way out!

Today, we will be interviewed by Anna Hahn, who works for The Nome Nugget on her way to High School in Sitka. The Nugget is on line – google it if you want to know all about Nome.

 I would love to joke about getting into trouble with Authority, but I think that would be unwise. Very serious people and to be taken very seriously. A pity – I can see an interesting dissertation on dysfunctionality hovering somewhere out there but I'd prefer not to be in Cuba when I write it.

 Lifelong friends indeed Pat – if any of y'all out there are interested in a real adventure, put 'Pat Hahn umiak' into google – fascinating stuff and an amazing family.

 And – if any of you are visiting Potter at Royal North Shore, please tell him I'm thinking of him and sending get well vibes.

 Enough already – the pic is an Arctic Tern over the salmon filled Sinuk River – we were told that the Tern migrates between the Polar ends of the earth. Stunningly beautiful bird.

 

 

 

 

Mea Culpa

Pics - it's musk ox hair - soft, warm and valuable and you can find it all over the tundra.

If you are planning to sail into the US, you must

  • have a visa. You cannot enter via the Visa waiver scheme
  • apply for a cruising permit which authorizes you to enter US ports and harbours without paying taxes and dues
  • report your arrival and departure to US Customs and Border Protection immediately you enter and leave each port.

I got the first two right but took a rather too casual approach to the third when we got to Nome, thinking that we could report at our convenience. Not so, and I got into trouble for failing to report on arrival.

The equation develops: we are still in Nome. Barrow icebound and the wind and sea are not the best for sailing north for the next few days. We are looking at Monday as the first possibility – that should get us to Barrow in 4 or 5 days if there is no intervening ice. Last year, Barrow opened on July 20th, (I had been told it was completely open by the 14th) so it's getting tight. If we can get past Point Barrow, we need a southerly wind to keep the ice offshore and allow us to get across to Canada. Point Barrow to Devon Island is about 2000 miles, so an absolute minimum of 20 days.  Perhaps 14 days to Cambridge Bay on the way, so we will definitely miss the eclipse. A pity, but patience and wisdom are the way to go – we'll take things as they come.

Devon Island to the Atlantic is about another 1500 miles – so some time in September, all going well. Then we will decide which way to go – across to the UK or south to the east coast of the US.

Pat and Sue's daughter Megan is a runner - first marathon a couple of weeks ago - and I've been running with her for the last couple of mornings. Talk about contrast - decrepitude versus lithe athleticism. Megan wants to qualify for Boston next year - go Megan!

That's about it - cold and rainy, and tonight is pizza night - we hope to return some hospitality at the Airport Pizza Bar which is actually in downtown Nome.


Friday, 11 July 2008

McQ: The July Amendments to the Bollinger Viciousness Scale

Velveteyes the reindeer: Noted to be eating lettuce, thus, not vicious. However, slightly more vicious on attempt to get closer (some foot stamping went on!!!)
Gigantic Arctic Mosquito: could be considered the most vicious of all, due to amount of attacks against humans, who make delightful prey as we don't have really thick skin and coats of fur for them to bite through!!
Herd of muskosk: not vicious really, kinda cute, but protective of their baby muskoxes and then apparently they do some pretend-vicious snorting and more foot stamping
Drying Salmon: red but not vicious
Swimming salmon: rather un-vicious really
Bees: HUGE, noisy, but so far not vicious and pointless as they don't make honey
Moose: too far away to make an educated viciousness rating
Nomeites: All very friendly so far and not vicious at all
Blueberry Beer: Delicious not vicious!!!!

More vicious will no doubt follow!!!

Hope everyone is well and Gill and Simmo, you had a great day!!! Please let me know the website for photos soon!!!
Also, congratulations and apologies for forgetting the parents of: Jake Griffiths, Tabitha Mackenzie, Cameron MacGregor and Lola Sakura HH!!!!! (no more babies for a bit, folks, please!!!)

All is well here in Nome as we wait patiently (still!!) for the ice to melt a bit more before we attempt to head north. I think it is good to have a few enforced days: it gives us time to ensure that Berri is properly stowed and organised and all the little bits and bobs can get some attention and means it is a whole lot easier to stay on top of things when we get going. Unfortunately (certainly for my bank manager!!) land also equals spending too much money!!!! 

We have been welcomed again and again into the home of Pat and Sue and their family and we are hugely appreciative of their continuing generous hospitality- thank you very, very much guys!!!

Thats all for now, really. Am trying to upload some photos as we speak, but it is quite slow and may or may not work.

Lots of love to everyone
Cor
xxx









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K: Some more photos en route to Teller

We sure picked the best day for the road trip - the sun hasn't been back since. The play of the light across the tundra and
mountains was something to behold.

Look closely at the pic of the river. All of those dark shadows are salmon! Lots of them. Yum.

K.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Some photos en route to Teller

The flowers ars known as Kamchatka Rose - the seeds  blow across the Bering strait from Russia and they are only found on the west and south sides of the Seward Peninsula slopes. They are members of the rhododendron family - tiny examples of what I remember as huge bushes in England.

Under the wings of the raven.

If I understood Richard, our guide on the trip out to Teller, the local Native Americans believed that the Raven had special significance in their relationship with the land, the animals and eachother. Symbolically, everything came together 'under the wings of the Raven'. Lovely concept, and I'd like to think that Berrimilla and her crew will be able to relate to the places we go to from here as if we too are under the wings of the Raven, but I think that might be a cultural hijack and so I'm just going to try to respect the Raven and hope that it looks after us too.

Raining and muddy here this morning, and cold, just like Dutch Harbour. Great contrast to the last few days of heat and sunshine – the sea now a  rolling, surging brown and the southerly wind pushing it up the beach and raising the water level in the harbour by at least half a metre.

We had an absorbing trip out to Teller, the little village where Amundsen, Nobile and Ellsworth landed the airship Norge in 1926 in a storm. They were trying to reach Nome. The airship was destroyed and I assume that the crew eventually followed more or less our route to and from Nome by dogsled. But the imagination quivers a bit at the thought of what the local natives must have thought when a 70 metre airship arrived above them…

I have sent Speedy photos from the trip – lovely delicate tundra wildflowers, melting permafrost, musk ox, arctic terns, a bit of scenery. We met Norbert, a local friend of Richard's, who has been blind for 40+ years since getting measles as a child. If you can find "Burdens greater than mine" by Hank Williams Snr, Norbert is the blind man and the other two were his friends.

 I feel as if I have just seen the tip of the lure – this is an amazing place and there's so much that is fascinating and related in so many ways to Australia and things that happened and still happen there – and Cook – I intend to re-read his journals when we eventually get home to try to observe again what we have seen ourselves but through his eyes.

 And from the philosophical to the totally ridiculous – there's a tv in my room and I was idly watching last night and doing other things and I saw scenes shot in Manly (a Sydney suburb close to the entrance to the Harbour) – it was an episode of, I think, Jag or JAG – a bunch of US naval people hunking around in stereotypical Oz. Not my gig but stirred the homesickness strings just a bit. The Supreme Court of NSW was set in St Patrick's Seminary on the hillside to the south of the beach. Hollywood license. Some of the rest of it was cringemaking – are we really seen like that?

 Mjc, the microvave towers long disused – were part of the communications system for the DEW line.

K: More random things happening in Nome

As I was working away on a Sudoku puzzle in our room yesterday evening, Corrie called up through the window "You've got

to come down here...there's a reindeer!" Okaaaay... (visions of reindeer disappearing down main street into the proverbial
sunset).

This is not what I expected to see.

Meet Velvet Eyes. We found out the story a bit later from Pat in the pub. Velvet was orphaned when very young and taken in
by one of the locals. She has a bit of a personality crisis and thinks that she's a dog. Could have something to do with being
brought up with a cocker spaniel and a black lab. Anyway, Velvet's apparently in the middle of the family pecking order -
after the spaniel but ahead of the lab.

I found this website with lots more great pics of random Nome happening: http://www.tomsnome.com/nomephot.html


Check it out if you've got some time, and thank you Tom whoever you may be. I particularly like the rubber duckie race!

We used up the rest of our sunshine quota yesterday and it's cool and cloudy again over here today.

Cheers to all, K.

Monday, 7 July 2008

K: Sunny, sunny Nome!!

The climatological data in the US Coastal Pilot says that, on average, there are only 5 sunny days between the start of July and the end of August in Nome (nearly as bad as Manchester). I guess we've been lucky. We've had 3 stunners so far and today is shaping up to be another beauty. Off to explore Teller and make our fortunes panning for gold like good little tourists today.

Our friends from the Amadino are due in from Dutch Harbour today as well. Will be good to catch up with them this evening and see how their trip went they had a lot more headwinds than our run from Dutch. So now there wil  be another mast peeking above the harbour wall in Nome until the ice clears (winds and sun starting to look favourable to start opening the pass at Barrow...)

K.

Microwaves

MJC - the large buildings are the frames for the collecting surface - with a big waveguide on a tower in front. Each building has a doorway and appears to be set up to be lived in - except that the smoke stacks for the stoves that stick out from each have all been shot up and are full of bullet holes...

Doug M - I seem to remember a story of survival following the 'Italia' crash and poor Nobile getting the blame for something out of his control.

Gonzales - last year they tested a tracked Humvee at HMP on Devon Island - looked a bit like the old snowmobile.

Nome Backyard Pics

Hmm...something happened to the pics that I just tried to send through with that last blog. Let's try again...

K.