Saturday, 30 August 2008

K: On the road again

The sun-goods have been kind to us today, and when we waved goodbye to Nuuk this morning it was set against a backdrop of perfect blue sky. Berri is pootling down the fjords south of Nuuk towards the open sea. Amazing scenery all around. It reminds me very much of Southwest Tassie - some of these massive quartzite outcrops could almost be the Arthur Range with the crooked thumb of Federation Peak sticking out. Actually, not meaning to be disloyal to Tassie, but I think it's a lot sunnier and clearer over here today than the average bushwalking trip back home!

And so we begin the next leg of the trip. This lovely weather isn't forecast to last too much longer. Looks like we're due for some nasty headwinds in the next day or so, so we might yet end up tucking-up somewhere further south to wait it out. The comes the real commitment when we poke our noses out around the southern corner of Greenland and into the Atlantic. Guess we'll wait and see what happens!

Cheers all,


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Here we go again

Planning to leave lovely Nuuk early(ish) tomoz and head south. Weather not looking too good – ok for day 1 then progressively pearshaped so might head for Paamiut and hole up for a couple of days. Then Kap Farvel and the N Atlantic – dirty big low there now but should be ok when we eventually get there.


Gustav looking malevolent – all crossed for you guys in Louisiana. Carla, send us a message whenever you can from wherever. Tenterhooks happening here.

Friday, 29 August 2008

T shirts and Avoca Beach

Noigel - good to know we're not boring you silly. Do you still have the jpeg of Pascal's map? If so, perhaps we might talk about a limited run of T's for the masses. Or perhaps you could download it from th website...  If we ever get to Falmouth, I'll give you a call.

A bit of perspective.

Carla, Leroy and all y'all in the south, I hope you are all ok and that Gustav fizzles. My appendages are firmly crossed for you guys this time.


I've just caught up with the website and especially Pat's blogs.  Thanks mate for putting them up and adding some perspective to what we did and thanks especially for those kind words. I have to say that the respect is mutual – lovely to be given a rosette by someone with your knowledge and experience. Steffannson's bite on adventure too! Yay! The photo is Pat, Megan and the biologist who we met who was counting salmon.


And to add a bit more perspective – I have already said that we were astoundingly lucky but it's important to add that we also had a lot of help – Pat, Peter Semotiuk and Gary in particular. And we are in the leading division of boats that have had real-time information about the ice – exactly where it is and its consistency and coverage. Amazing stuff and we were able to take full advantage of it. All the people who have gone before in years past have had it much harder and have not known where to go or how to get out. Gary was in CB for 3 years – Amundsen spent 2 years in Gjoa Havn and almost no one has done it in a single season before satellite information became available. And then there is global warming – clear, obvious from the meteorology and the visible indications as the glaciers recede. We have indeed been lucky and, as Pat says, it would be a boring book without the people and the scenery..


But still an achievement and to be savoured. Now for the hard bit – the last 6 k of the marathon. If we ever  get to Falmouth, there may be a series of firsts we can claim – still need to do the research


Just had the most expensive beer in my life - AUD$17.50 for about ¾ of a pint – really nice beer but then it would have to be wouldn't it?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

more pics

More scenery from the CB to Nuuk leg.

Carol - thanks - sitting in the hotel bar with a glass of  truly liquid gold at hand. Intend to take some Carlserg Elephant for daily small Con for the Atlantic. Will drink your health.

Random pics from CB to Nuuk

Just a few random photos. I don't know how they will load and may be in batches but you should get Amundsen's Maud wreck at CB, an inukshuk, Gary Ramos leaving CB and stuck in Requisite Channel, a set of Icy dawn in the M'Clintock choker, Limestone Island and blue ice, Dawn over Devon, a berg in silhouette and Bylot Island & Navy Board inlet at dawn.


Nuuk fascinating – but very expensive – 3 schooners yesterday cost me AUD$40…doesn't pay to be thirsty.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

6410 05225 Approaching Nuuk

Sitting plonking at this thing as the others get some sleep and we motor slowly into yet more current about 8 miles from the channel entrance, then 15 miles to the harbour.

Some acknowledgements:
Pat Hahn - whose advice was critical to our getting through the M'Clintock choker and beyond, and to Sue and Megan and Anna for their friendship and hospitality while we were in Nome.

Peter Semotiuk - huge and grateful thanks for his voluntary and absolutely essential weather and ice service skeds for boats transiting the NWP. Peter works in Cambridge Bay and completed his own NWP in (I think) 1988 with John Bockstoce and Bonnie Hahn (Pat's mum - what a family!)in Belvedere, so he knows of what he speaks. I'll be in touch soon, Peter.

Corey Dimitruk in CB for his hospitality and a very noice sleeping bag that's kept me toasty for the hard bits.

Gary Ramos - wow! - for his unstinting and generous help and advice, while at the same time getting Arctic Wanderer back out into the NWP after 3 years in CB. Whenever I think we're doing it hard, I think of Gary, not, I hope, asleep in Navy Board Inlet with the worst behind him. Onya Gary - and as you say, never, ever give up. Arctic Circle for you too soon, I am confident - but still need to touch wood. Stupid superstitious sailor that I am.

The Amodinos - for their friendship, advice, waterfalls of coffee and mountains of all day breakfast and for diving on Berri's prop in Tuk.

Peter in Tyhina, for his advice and radio relay.

And to all of you at home - friends, relations and just interested punters - for your support, good wishes and company on a long slog.

Thanks all y'all.

Horrible uncomfortable day yesterday - but capped by my first stars (it actually gets really dark here - groan!) since before Amchitka and - and - my very first aurora - glorious swirls of cascading diaphanous iridescence way up above the dark dank cylinder of cloud and murk that was my home at the time. Only a pale version, seen through misty cloud, but wonderful.

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McQ: The Bet #2

I wasn't gloating over winning the last bet!!! I just like to win, that's all!!
And I've challenged K to a new bet... What is the highest temperature that the sea will reach between here and our Nuuk fjord entrance, where we hang a left to go up to the harbour, tomorrow... 60ish miles and I've gone for an extravagant 12.4 degrees, and she has gone for a much more conservative 8.5 degrees... watch this space!!! (we are at 7.8 at the moment!!!)
All good, storming along still with a wee touch of headsail poled out and 26 to 28 knots wind behind us, still gusting 30 at times, and chomping away at the miles, Kevvo mostly got it under control!!!
The bear, the walrus, the giant mosquito, the arctic lemmings et al, waved us a fond farewell and best wishes for a safe onward passage, from their slightly rollicking Fox's Glacier Mint (a definite precarious perch in these humungous seas) last night at 0250 UTC as we crossed the Arctic Circle- and certainly, I still can't quite believe it!!!

Lots of love

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Tuesday, 26 August 2008

6519 05420 The optimist's gamble

Sounds like Ludlum.

We ought to be in Nuuk tomorrow morning local time - say around 1500UTC. If we can get a reasonable berth at the Boat Club we will sort all the fixes, do the shopping and get ready for the Atlantic over the next day or so. I've done the great circle numbers and - here's the optimist - it should be possible to get to Falmouth from Nuuk in 15 days sailing 3 to Kap Farvel and 12 for the Atlantic)if we crack a good weather pattern. So - more optimism (something you almost never get from me!) if we leave Nuuk at sparrow fart on Aug 30 we could be in Falmouth by Sept 15, so any time from then is a reasonable bet.

Hilary, if you're out there, it's just possible.

However, the normal me now jumps in to remind myself and everyone else that we haven't heard from the Examiner for a long time and I'm sure there's a question or two yet to be asked.

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K: Land-Ho!

It's 0100 and I've just come off watch. Out to the east a long, purple, raggedy chain of mountain tops is coming into view through the sunrise (ok - so our boat-time's a bit out of synch with the rest of the world). Greenland! 40-odd miles away off the beam. We've got 150 miles to go before we turn up the fjord into Nuuk - so lunchtime tomorrow's my guess.

Currently rollicking along con gusto. Running downwind in 25-30 kts, poled out heady and just dropped the mainsail. Sea state: frisky.

Night all, K.

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6645 05610 AC just over the horizon

We should be back on the Arctic Circle going south in about 4 hours, 31 days after crossing it going north in the Bering Sea. At the other end, I did not dare even think about this moment. I can't give you exact distances because of the idiosyncrasies of the GPS but my guess would be about 3400 miles. For me they have been 3400 miles of extraordinary intensity – I wrote in the previous Berri round the world blog that I lived in a plastic tube with its own language, grammar and syntax and that the boat talks to me. That blog became part of a BBC programme. This time, the language has been there – Berri and I have subliminal conversations – but the intensity of the experience has been about symbiosis and heartbeat. Every creak, every wave slap against the hull, every crash of a pole against the forestay, every change in the engine note and my heart has thumped with Berri's. I stand in the cockpit on watch feeling her as a living thing through my feet and every sense – I can absorb the vibrations in the shaft bearing, the flexing of the mast, the slight change in the feel as the boat goes through a wave, the burr of a shroud harmonic. I think that since we were rolled off Gabo, I have been far more conscious of the possibilities and am living a bit more scared.

Then there was the intensity of the experience – the history, Franklin's ghosts, the scenery, the sheer splendour and indifference of ice and the Central Arctic – Pat Hahn said it much better than I can.

And the tension has got to me occasionally. I've been moody and snappy and once, inexcusably, I was far too liberal with the gin and was clearly incapable. I was acutely horrified next morning and decided immediately never again. Consultations since have been juniper flavoured tonic only. I guess I'm no Pope – fallibility is definitely my gig but I think the trick is to understand it and manage within its limitations. That, after all, is how we got this far.

And we're getting closer to Falmouth - the last sailmail I sent went via the Belgium sailmail station. Yeeehaaa!

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Monday, 25 August 2008

K: Hitch-hiker

We've just had a visitor! A juvenile Arctic Tern has been parked on Berri's boom for the last 20 minutes (we're motoring and the mainsail's flaked on the boom to stop it flogging in the light winds).

Before settling on the boom, our birdling first had a good go at trying to land on the anemometer, the remains of the windex, whizzie Lizzie (thankfully not spinning), the forestay (ambitious!) and each of the spreaders in turn. I thought it was going to try and land on me in the cockpit for a while! Anyway, after landing mini-tern settled in for a good squawk, a bit of a preen and then tucked it's head under a wing for a nap. All of which is quite some feat while balancing on a slippery dacron sail.

All this time, mum (or dad) was circling in some agitation overhead trying to get young birdling back in the air and on the way. Birdling was having none of it - and told mum so repeatedly and quite loudly. Mum then tried some fishing - unsuccessfully - maybe to bribe birdling back into action. Then she just plain gave up and flew off. At this point birdling worked out that he wasn't going to win this one and took off after mum. Hope they caught up with each other!

It's absolutely amazing to watch all of this going on, and the interaction between the two birds, from less than an arm's length. Birdling was completely unfazed by my presence, something you just don't see that much back in civilisation. Mum looked to be a bit more people-savvy and kept her distance.

Wonder how long before they start their winter migration south like us?

Scrambled pancakes for breakfast this morning - you know the sort, all going fabulously until it comes time to turn them over. Grr.

Corrie has been gloating non-stop about winning our water temperature bet. It's just not fair - the temp has now rocketed up to 8 deg C! Way above average according to NOAA, and we're still 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Oh well, warmer water makes washing up the scrambled-pancake pan that much easier.


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L@@k Nuuk!

This what Nuuk looks like. Copyright Kaare Sorenson.

6750 05805 Lizzie hasn't whizzed

I've been having unusual problems with all the electronic stuff - loong story but it all seems to have been due to very low battery power. Been running the engine all day and now fully charged @ 14 volts. Not sure what happened, but might be something to do with the whizzer.

Have finally found a phone number that works for officialdom in Greenland. It is for their equivalent of the coastguard. Called in to report possible arrival in Nuuk wednesday and was told to report 4 times per day from now on - 'for my own protection' - and that I had 30 minutes to make the call each time or they would initiate SAR. I told them where we have come from and that this seemed a bit excessive especially given the difficulty in communicating. We compromised on once a day which I can live with. Today's little bit of irony!

Will keep trying to send these...

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Sunday, 24 August 2008

6929 05913 Don't paaniiic!

There may be no more blogs between here and Nuuk - comms v flaky and too dificult. Am in touch with Greenpos search and rescue people. Extraordinarily efficient.

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K: The Bet

I have to concede, I think I'm about to lose a bet with Corrie. A few days ago, when we turned out of Lancaster Sound into the Baffin, we had a bet on how long it would take for the water temperature to be consistently higher than 5 deg C. Just one of those things you do at 5 am to break an imponderably long journey up into comprehensible chunks. At the time the water was an icy 2 deg C.

For a while it looked like I was in with a chance. As we headed down the coast of Baffin Island, the water reached a balmy 5.6 deg C on occasions. But now we've left the coast and headed out into the depths the temp has plummeted again. It's hovering around 4 deg C and my time limit's up at midnight tonight, so it's not looking good for me.

If I had done my homework before making the bet (or checked the homework that I did before leaving home), I would have seen that the mean sea temp for August doesn't reach 5 deg C until about lat 63 N, or even further south still around the coast of Greenland. As we're just crossing 70N now, there's a while to go yet! On the positive side, there are no icebergs visible up ahead at the mo, so maybe the water will get warm again really fast.

There's a word for people who are obsessed by the wind. I can't remember what it it, but it has a lot more syllables than "sailor". I wonder if there's a similar word for people who are obsessed by sea surface temperature, apart from maybe "nerd" or "those with very cold toes"???


PS: C saw another 3 polar bears swimming a couple of hours ago. These ones were about 50 miles offshore - looked like a mother and two 2nd year cubs perhaps. Good luck bears - hope you make it home safely.

PPS: Amadino also made it through the NWP safely. They're now nearing the coast of Greenland, a lot further north than us.

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McQ: Goldilocks (thats me!!! ha!!) and the three (Polar) bears

I was on watch earlier today, standing in the cockpit of Wee Berri, scanning the horizon for bergs ahead of us, Kevvo driving, storming along at about 8 (ok, maybe 7) knots, poled out, 20 knots wind, full main and big headsail, flattish sea, no ice but then we did a wee roll across a wave and the bit of sea under the pole came into view on the starboard side and there, probably about 7 or 8 metres from where I was standing were three bears swimming along to our right- amazing!! they would swim a bit and then stop, tread water and look at me inquisitively, as if to say, 'what on earth are you, bonkers shaped thing zooming across my ocean??' the mummy bear would check on her two baby bears and then they would continue... I was a bit transfixed and glued to the spot, told Big A and K down below and then sort of went, 'camera!!' to myself- by the time I'd got that organised they were a bit away on our starboard quarter, but I got a photo that if you zoom right in you can tell they are bears- just!!!
It would have been just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears if I hadn't replaced the Hair Management Programme with a hat last week and if K had given me porridge not pocket warmers for breakfast!!!And of course the bears would have had to have come on board and eaten the porridge, actually, I think it was the other way round??? Did I eat their porridge?? Or was there a wolf that ate the porridge? or was that a different story altogether???

Lots of love
Goldi-matted-messy-locks McQueen
NB: I haven't been driving in squiggly lines on watch towards bergs in order to try and lower the water temp- honest!!
ps: these three bears looked pretty strong and healthy and quite content in the ocean swell, so am now fully convinced at their resilience in the water and that they will navigate their way safely to the coast- and, hopefully, some lunch.

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6947 06257 About lunch!

Note all the sixes in our position! We are really going south - about 180 to the AC and for the first time since Peel sound, no ice in sight anywhere.

And as for lunch - I think we are rather lucky that we saw our bears in 2008 from good solid Berri and not 1808 from a skin boat. Humans have always been part of the food chain for hungry bears and we might just have become lunch and sustained them for the next 100 miles. There's a grim description of a bear killing an Inuit man in Brower's book.

Nowt to report and an anti scorbutic is due.

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Saturday, 23 August 2008

7019 06520 and some messages

Still downwind but very light. Rolling and slatting a bit. Thanks to all for good wishes.

H - tks for msg and will call mjc from Nuuk via pingo

Matt - how do they know which way to swim?

Izz - tks also - will call u from Nuuk

Carol - u might be able to get to the Izzery by train and cadge a lift from there if you really are silly enough to want to come down. And you'd love Djilis (my phoneticisation!)

Pat in Nome - tks for 1400 phone calls - will desist for the mo but wd be interested in N Atlantic trends - will call from Nuuk.

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7034 06614 and past Cape Horn way down there

Thanks to everyone who sent us congratulations and for Wollaston details. He sounds like an interesting guy and thoroughly deserves all his islands. Unusual for an inventor to get a guernsey though - usually rich sponsors and politicians and ships officers.

Kees - get yourself to Nome with bottle of Chivas and share it with Pat Hahn - he won it for you! His advice was the critical factor in the two or three really good calls we were lucky enough to make.

I hope that we will be in Nuuk by about Wednesday - aiming to stay two nights and fix a few things and get moving again. MJC, might be a good opportunity for your PR person to get in touch?

Hooning downwind at the mo - huge icebergs all around, but the water temp is gradually rising - was up to 5 deg yesterday, now back to 3. Berri damp and a bit dank inside - getting into Pond was a wet experience - but getting lighter and a bit more lively as the days pass. And do they ever pass slowly - for those that know the course, this is the bit that goes from Sandringham into St Kilda in the Melbourne marathon - getting close but goes for EVER and you desperately want to stop running...Should be about 2 days to the Arctic Circle - the longest definition of the NWP is AC to AC. Mine would be more like Beaufort Sea to Lancaster Sound, or perhaps Point Barrow to Bylot Island.

Falmouth predictions will be a bit awry if we do stoop in Nuuk - take mine out by 4 days to midnight on the 21st - happys to K!

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McQ: Polar Bear Ahoy!

So Hilary thank you for putting Lucy in the sky with diamonds in my head as my after dinner song of choice on watch and no we haven't found any more cabbage and no I am not testing the hallucinogenic properties of any of our other foodstuffs but yes we HAVE just seen a polar bear swimming along behind us... Kimbra saw him and called to let us know and I went on deck and saw him too... so it was definitely real!!
At 25 miles offshore Big A thinks he's probably lost and dying but I have faith in that bear- he'll just be hungry- lets just hope he finds a nice generous welcoming family to offer him some nice hot irish stew to warm him up when he gets ashore somewhere... we'd have offered him a lift but we are stonking along and well past before we had a chance to ask him if he needed a ride.
Unbelievable though- totally unbelievable!!!
I don't think I'll ever be able to contemplate this world in the same way ever again after this adventure!!!
Lots of love

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7055 06752

Sad about the bear. We were probably the only humans it will ever see and its last chance of a meal and a point in the right direction. We are 25 miles offshore and the bear was probably out on the pack ice when it melted.

We passed the latitude of Point Barrow - Alaska - this afternoon at about 1300 central time. Sadly, the GPS seems to have gone on strike and dumped all its trip data so can't give you distance. That's the problem with low budget extravaganzas. Don't know why.

We have decided to head for Nuuq - no jokes please, Dr Price! - to break the journey, fix a few things and find some Carlsberg.

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Friday, 22 August 2008

Berri on Baffin

Alex called by sat phone yesterday. I had to chair a local emergence response committee meeting so Megan took the call. All is well. (that means the boat is fine, the crew is healthy)

Alex is receiving current weather reports so our daily calls are no longer critical. We will cut back. (Satellite phone time is very expensive)

The ice bergs on the ice maps are just the really big ones. These monsters leave a flotsam trail of smaller ice bergs that are still impressive. For every triangle on the map, I can only guess to the number of smaller ones. Its a lot.

Few will realize what the Berri just did. The NW passage has been crossed by only a small hand full of small boats. 25 according to Gary Ramos of the Arctic Wonderer. It includes Amundson's Gjoa  and the RCMP schooner St. Roch. Bockstoce, my brother and I went through in an umiak (32' open skin boat) in the late 70s and later my mother went through in style in Bockstoce's Belvedere. (She was the first woman to go W to E)
(During the umiak passage 3 of our crew were killed in unrelated off trip accidents and one went insane). Most boats survive whither they make the passage or not, though they do get beat up really badly, or left behind? The coast guard does patrol for supple ships and frequently make rescues. Berri got through without a scratch...not out of the woods yet- knock on wood, cross fingers.

 I have gotten many calls from different adventures wanting to make the NW crossing or the Bering Strait crossing. For most I strongly advise them to stay away. We have to risk our lives to save theirs and we don't like it. One has to have the correct mind set. This is not an adventure, it's a dangerous trip to the unprepared glorie seeker, oh- trust me... some are so unprepared. A perfect crossing will have no story to tell at the end. No problems. No issues. No disasters. All ice openings are taken advantage of. The weather is not an issue. It makes a really boring book. The exciting stories are about what they see and who they meet. Arctic explorer, Vilhjalmur Stefansson used to say "adventure is a sign of incompetence".

Alex is one of the most unassuming and competent I have ever seen. It was a privilege to be a part of his effort.

I am off the Germany for a week, with no email. I can't wait to see the blog on my return.
 Good luck and Gods speed.


PS. This is my second attempt to post. I hope it does not post twice.

K: Sea Monsters

Was on deck pondering a couple of triangular shaped bergs in the not-too-distant, when suddenly...they turned black and smooth, grew to twice their original size and sprouted a third mate! Ye gads! Sea monsters - giant Baffin Sea sharks heading straight towards us. Eeek!. No, no, no - they're Orcas!

Three beautiful, glossy black and white orcas cruising straight up to Berri. A nonchalant breath and duck of head and under the boat they go. Cruising straight on towards the murky sunset as if we were just another piece of flotsam on the ocean surface. Makes you feel kinda small and out of place really.

Glad to hear that it's as cold in Tassie as it is up here. Looking forward to a lazy morning with a latte at Cottesloe Beach in the sun when I get back!


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McQ: Amendments to the Bollinger ETA Crystal Ball/Calculator

Hmmm... so I've done some slightly more accurate distance measuring to Falmouth and looked into the crystal ball and going on the assumption that we aren't planning to stop in Greenland at the moment, would like to amend my ETA to 1400 UTC 20th September... hopefully, mum, you will be back from your hols by then cause it would be very sad if you weren't!!
No more amendements from me, thats my final guess!!!
Its a beautiful morning here in Baffin Bay- can see Baffin Island to Starboard, all the bergs are almost glowing blue in the bright morning sunshine-just yesterday I was wondering if I'd ever get to wear sunnies again and here we are today with the sun out!!
Fantastic and all rather spectacular!!
Lots of love

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7234 07512

Slarty was obviously proud of Pond Inlet - I could see his signature clearly on both sides. Couldn't quite read the date - looked like about 400 million years ago - about when Marvin started parking space vehicles at the other end of the universe.

I pulled in the grib this morning, had a look at it and unrolled the headsail and squeezed out past the nearest big berg, which promptly dropped half of itself into the ogg with a snap like a gunshot and a big splash. Missed it be a nanosecond with the Nik, but not enough light anyway unfortunately, even with ISO on auto. We're now 40 miles into Baffin Bay, I hope on the way to the AC and Cape Farvel and Falmouth. A bit over 2000 miles to Falmouth - time for prediction guesses if anyone's interested - mine is midnight UTC on September 17th just to set a baseline.

Still cold, misty rain, but N wind forecast for next three days. Cross 'em again please. Speedy has been on holiday - gone sailing - so no messages except some congratulations and good wishes. Thanks y'all. Of the other boats going east that I know of, Amodino is doing the tourist gig behind us, Gary Ramos Arctic Wanderer went through Bellot Strait last night ans is now in Prince Regent. I really have my assorted appendages crossed for him - he's been stuck in Cambridge Bay for the last 3 winters. I think. Westbound, Tyhina and Geraldine in CB, I think, and a couple of French boats approaching CB.

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McQ: Ailsa Craig

This blog is dedicated to my friend Mark Dence- if someone could let him know that would be great.
A long time ago we were sailing to Largs, I think, and there is a big rock in the way called Ailsa Craig However hard we tried we just could not get past it, we would almost get past and then it would be Mark's watch's go and for watch after watch would come on deck and Mark would be driving still with Ailsa Craig to one side or the other of us!!! I imagine he was as frustrated as the rest of us!!! But it was very funny at the time to blame him for our incapability of sailing past Ailsa Craig. I guess you had to be there but it kept us entertained for a bit!!
Yesterday in Baffin Bay was a bit like this: tacking past Ailsa Craig sized and shaped icebergs and despite our chart telling us we were making progress it felt that we were going back and forth past the same iceberg in the gloom!!!

After our evening interlude into barely the entrance of Pond's Inlet against the tide (kinda painful!!) we are now stonking south poled out with 25 ish knots of wind behind us!!!
Lots of bergs about though and vis rubbish, Kevvo coping well with driving which makes it easier to focus on finding bergs emerging out the gloom!!!
This considered, I am reluctant to ETA but I am going for 1400UTC 24th September (tied up, alongside, Falmouth), so no need to worry mum- you should definitely still go on your hols!!!

Lots of love from a very tired

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Thursday, 21 August 2008

72 47 19.8 - 076 31 12.4 Pond Life

Here I sit, in full party gear, glasses all fogged up, red headlight putting pink glow on keyboard. hove to spong in the middle of the entrance to Pond Inlet, 4 huge icebergs bearing down on us - and do they ever bear down! Each has massive bow wave and wash. Long story but we decided to try to get into Pond to find shelter and anchor for a bit but having headbanged big seas, nasty winds, freezing (almost) rain we found we couldn't get in against the tide and wind without redlining the engine - not my game, especially as we now have significant stern gland leak and new vibration that I don't like. So we're parked in this huge entrance.

Utterly gobsmacking scenery - too knackered to do it justice but imagine massive rounded mountains and valleys in deep black twilight silhouette just visible below the grey rolling cloudbase - but clear the other side with stark white backlight reflecting off the high glaciers so intensely that it seemed to be solid like the whitest icing - and each rounded top has a dusting of snow just like on a chocco sacher torte. Great slab sided glacial moraines instead of beaches. A hell of a night - desperately need sleep but worth every minute for this. Other 2 sleeping, my turn next.

Must go check the icebergs - may have to do a bit of bare poling to get out of the way of the biggest one. Need a grib so will try to send this.

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Last chance for Davis Strait

This may be my last chance to post the ice map for Davis, so here it is early.

Thank you Environmental Canada and Canadian Ice Service


Wednesday, 20 August 2008

7310 7513 Beastly Bergy Baffinade

The Examiner is back. 25 on the nose from the SE, due to increase to 35. 'Orrible lumpy sea, 3 reefs, eye patch of a headsail. And the wind is blowing all the big bergs in from the middle to right here. Not having fun! Just making headway, but towards Baffin Island about 40 miles away. Won't go away till tomoz. Poo!

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7340 7626 Reflections....

from an Old Fart on an Old Barge out in the Baffin Boonies:
The NW Passage knows neither victory nor defeat - it just exists, grimly and sometimes terrifyingly indifferent to our presence, just like the Southern Ocean was. We have been profoundly, astonishingly lucky and the best we can say is that we have negotiated out way through. We made some really good calls on the way - but each could have been disastrous had we been wrong. We could not have got through a day earlier and now we have a bit of time to get down to Cape Farvel and across the Atlantic to Falmouth. Still a very difficult ask and there are already gale warnings here and storm warnings further south. If we stay lucky, then about 4 weeks and I'm going to sweat every minute of each day.

Icebergs - blue, black in silhouette, square ones, shapes you can Rorschach into anything you like, little treelike ones, huge rockpile ones, slabby ones and all dangerous. We do not need fog....

Wonderful sunrises, sometimes with huge bergs in glorious orange silhouette. I can just see the moon through the misty cloud - a bit like The Knight, alone and palely loitering.

Talking of oranges, we now have 2 dry suited Bananas in the crew. B1 and B2. I've put away - for the moment - the orange survival suit, so I'm Polly-chrome. P1.

What Kimbra didn't say - glaciers - from the remains, all of them once must once have reached the sea. Now most of them end a long way back up the slope, some several miles back. Bad news for the world.

These will be short from here - must go back on deck. Not very pleasant out here in the B Boonies just now. Arctic circle here we come - I hope. Keep em crossed.

PS who was Wollaston? Cape Horn is on the southernmost of the Wollaston Islands and there are three tiny Wollaston Islands at the N entrance to Navy Board Inlet west of Bylot. S/he's got territory at opposite ends of the continent.

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McQ: Bananas and mojitos and icebergs and bays, not in that order

We're in Baffin Bay!!! Woo-hoo!!! Successfully out of Lancaster Sound, and for me the North West Passage... now for the next leg: Baffin Bay is slightly misleading, most unlike Bay ever really, icebergs: huge things the size of office blocks scattered across the horizon. Huge mountains and glaciers to the west of us, 35 knotters of easterlies/ south easterlies forecast- thats a bit breezy and on the nose too... all most un bay like. Bays conjure images of sunshine, bikinis, swimming and mojitos... here in Baffin Bay we are not swimming, even though the water temperature has leapt up to a balmy 3.2 degrees C!!! and we are continuing to layer up not down!!!- I donned my drysuit for the first time today. It fantastic- I love it and don't want to take it off ever!!! bright yellow too, so Big A is very envious and I look like a giant banana!!! And best of all it has goretex feet, so the ziploc-boot liners have been packed away for the moment too!!!
All really very satisfactory out here at the moment...all we need are the mojoitos!!
Now, just those icebergs to contend with as it gets dark, some chilly breeze on the nose, a very long mountainous rocky and glacial lee shore and then probably a few North Atlantic Storms and we'll be home in no time!!!
Hope everyone well and yellow- in a happy way- too.
Lots of love
ps the icebergs are unbelievable- I am totally dumbstruck (and lost for words!!!) to describe just how incredible it is to be sailing past these gigantic and amazing lumps of ancient blue and grey stripey ice. Its the maddest thing!!! And very, very beautiful, if potentially a fraction perilous!!!!

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Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Bye Bylot Island and Pond Inlet

Just talked to Alex by sat phone.

The Berri skipped Eclipse bay and they skipped Pond Inlet. Right now they are about to round the NE corner of Bylot to head south down Baffin. They "will be taking it right on the nose". The influence is still the stationary low centered at Resolute. Its fast arms are sucking the cold out of the north pole and reapplying it to north Baffin in the form of westerlies and than southerlies and I am sure a few less favorable names. There are high wind warnings at Igloolik 200 miles south caused by that pacific 'arch'. I think the two systems are doing a stare down. Jack frost vs. Pacific Pappa. I think pappa is going southeast. looser.

Corrie and Kimbra sound like they are boardering insanity. Lovely ladies. We don't have to worry about Alex, he's already there.You have to be crazy to do this stuff. I remember many times sitting in the cold rain muttering, swearing never to do it again...A month after the trip, you can't wait until the next one.


K: Bare bones of the land

For the last day we've been sailing along the southern edge of Lancaster Sound, quite close to the top of Somerset Island, Brodeur Peninsula, Baffin Island and now Bylot Island. We've seen some textbook-perfect geological features along the cliffs as we've gone past: U-shaped glacial valleys, some with small active glaciers; deeply etched V-shape notches cut by meltwater; crumbling talus cones; sea cliffs undercut by water and ice; and stripes of horizontal sedimentary layers with the odd fault line and inclined bed. All raw and uncluttered by vegetation - just a gentle dusting of snow to bring out the grain. Stoic fingers of land cradling deep, icy runs of water. Absolutely perfect.

The dark-layered cliffs on the north of Somerset looked a lot like a layered chocolate mocha cake, with a light dusting of sugar. Moving further east, the mountains increased in height and the icing-sugar dusting deepened into a thick, rich layer of carrot cake frosting. Mmmm...maybe that self imposed chocolate-free 24 hours wasn't such a good thing, I'm starting to hallucinate about rocks and dirt! But to continue the theme, it was snowing again when I went off watch - nice, dry, eyelash-tickling flakes, so the frosting on the land is getting thicker.

We also saw our first proper iceberg yesterday, north of Somerset Island. I reckoned it was about 300 m across and 15 m high. Alex's estimate was slightly bigger at a bit less than 1/2 a mile across and 20 m high. Corrie won't tell us her guess - it's "the one that got away" size, so it sounds impressive in her diary! Anyway, it was the first berg any of us have ever seen, so it's probably one of the most photographed bits of ice in history! We've seen a dozen or so of various sizes cruising though Lancaster Sound since. Their size is deceptively hard to judge as there's not much to use to get a sense of perspective or scale.

All in all, it was a fine old day.

50 odd miles to go before we can turn the corner, wave goodbye to Lancaster and enter the Baffin Sea. We've got fickle, light-ish headwinds in the lee of Bylot, with a lumpish sea. Forecast is for rather stronger E winds in a day, so hopefully we'll get far enough around the corner to reach off and avoid headbanging into it (which is frankly a rather chilly and uninviting prospect up here).

Love to all,

K (Arctic Onion 1).

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Amendments to the Bollinger viciousness scale.

Amendments to the BVS for your BVS reference notes:
Cold: more vicious than Nome mosquitos and all other really vicious things put together
Snow: snowflakes are pretty, not vicious!! Unless its collecting on the winches etc, in which case it could be quite evil!! mwahhhahahahaha...
Ice: deceptively vicious- infact, so much so that it even gets its own viciousness rating- one tenth, unvicious to ten tenths, very vicious!!! Generally though, for BVS purpose, the larger, more blue and more beautiful and awesome to look at, the more likely it is to be vicious
Magnetic North Pole: I don't find this vicious personally, but I know Ray sure does!!
Belugas: totally unvicious- I believe this is consistent with the last the entry of 'Beluga' in the BVS... these are actually very sociable and hang out in big groups with their buddies singing songs together, which is probably the least vicious passtime I can think of.
Never-ending cabbage: Fortunately, by eating cabbage everyday, we managed to eventually finish it and so I think, we avoided it becoming vicious.
Oreo monster: I'd like to say vicious, but the way he looks at me, I can't- I think he just wants to be friends!!!
Freezing fog: oooh very vicious, unless the rose-tinted ski goggles are on in which case it is just rosy and kinda hypnotic!!
Icebergs: amazingly impressive, just phenomenal and not vicious to look at but not sure I'd want to be under one of those overhangs- now that could be vicious
Hot-hand warmers: even less vicious than belugas- infact they would be top of the Bollinger Delightfulness Scale, if such a thing existed.

Lots of love on this frosty but stunning morning!!
ps J'nie- thanks for letting me know your address, we've just passed the last mid-ocean-post-box for some time so your postcard will have to wait for a while now...

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Monday, 18 August 2008

Baffin Bay

Todays ice map greatly improved over yesterdays. The two little ice islands were connected and much bigger.
Pond inlet midmap, far left.
Thank you Environment Canada and Canadian Ice Service.


Pond inlet

Talked to Alex an hour ago.

The Berri is over the top of Borden Island. They plan to duck into Eclipse sound, under Bylot Island, in line with Pond Inlet. All this is, of course, the top of Baffin.
Alex thinks it wisest to come down the Baffin coast. Good move, considering there is still a bit of ice floating around in the middle of Baffin bay.

The weather system coming in behind the Berri is bringing a lot of cold with it. Forecasts are as low as 6 below C. It has got to feel good to be out of Passage!! I'm not quite sure where the start and finish lines are, But I would say the Berrimilla and fine crew are on the "I did it" list.

There are two rounds of toasts to be made. One for the Northwest Passage now and the other we will save for a safe return to Australia in the near future (via UK).

The Berrimilla is the first boat to complete the NW passage in 2008, beating the Amodino by one day. (YAAA!!!) (I guess the Amodino got out of the ice OK back in Peel)

I believe the Berrimilla is the first Australian boat to complete the NW Passage! (YAAAAA!!! CHEERS! homemade Coopers in the air please!!!)

I believe the Berrimilla is the only boat to circumnavagate the world by the Horn and sail the NW passage. (YAAA!! CHEERS! Guinness if you ran out of Coopers)

Congratulations to Alex, Corry, and Kimbra!!

Not too much coopers please as there is still a long way home.



They got out just in time. Resolute is freezing in behind them.(M) Its shortlived, thin new ice. The worst kind to a small boat.
The system centered above Ellesmere has swung down around to the behind the Berri. Winds should be W and SW. Storm warning to the south. Lancaster and Baffin should be OK. Ice in the center of Baffin is down to two small holdouts. (And lots of big bergs)

Credits to Environment Canada, Canadian Ice Service

McQ: I wish the oreo cookie monster would leave me alone, or turn into a heater.

oh how I wish the oreo cookie monster would leave me alone!!! he hangs out shivering at the end of my bunk while I am off watch, desperately trying to ignore him, though its hard as he looks so blue and fluffy and unmonsterlike and pathetic, then when I come on watch he sort of attaches himself to me and won't leave me alone, till I relent and eat cookies, despite my constant protesting!!!

To jump on the clothing bandwagon too, which i think I just win, I have on:
1 pair thermal socks
1 pair thick fluffy socks
1 pair ziploc bags (yes these count, they might be the most important items infact!!)
1 pair leaky boots
1 set of underwear, actually bikini top and bottoms\
1 pair thermal legs
1 thermal top
1 midlayer salopettes
1 fleece top
2 midlayer jackets
1 oilie bottoms
1 oilie smock top
1 pair fluffy gloves
1 pair sealskinz gloves
1 pair waterproof outer shell gloves
1 neck warmer
1 thermal balaclava
1 hobart beanie
1 windstopper balaclava
1 fleece hat with ear warmer bits
1 pair ski goggles
so thats 29 individual items...yes, 2 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves and four hats... its making me cold thinking about it!!!

Oh how I sometimes wish the oreo cookie monster was a heater instead, then he could hang on to me all day and night long, and I wouldn't mind at all!!

Hope everyone well and warm
Lots of love

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North of nearly everything

Kimbra's watch and we are almost as far north as we need to go to round the northernmost point of Somerset Island, just east of Cunningham Bay. So - in an hour or so we should be able to head east, then south east. No more ice visible, Cornwallis just there on the N. horizon and a lighter patch of cloud where Beechey should be, about 45 miles away. Worth just a tiny wooohooo! Pascal's dotted line is ok so far - we can't test the Beechey bit but we'll pick it up again soon.

As for clothing I thought a detailed list might be interesting. On deck, I wear my brown fisherman's super tough wellies, aka Sitka Slippers, with sock liners and fleece socks. Glove liners and insulated industrial rubber gloves. From the skin out, a thermal vest with long sleeves, T shirt, no knickers or thermals over the nethers (because they promote the most agonising gunwale bum) so a fleece mid layer known as salopettes, with a fleece hoodie on top. Sometimes a balaclava and neck tube. On top of all that, a Mustang survival suit or a float coat and Henri pants if it's not too cold. Goggles if it's snowing or windy.

And it has come to pass - at 1750 UTC Sunday August 17 we turned east, then south east at Half way Consultation is occurring. Slightly bigger Wooohooo!

And keep 'em crossed please. Looong way to go yet.

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Sunday, 17 August 2008

Lancaster Map Again

Just off the sat phone with Alex,

The Berri is center over the top of Summerset, hugging the coast heading ESE at the moment. They are out of the ice for now. Snow was a bit of a problem when it started to freeze on the deck. They are past that now.
They expect a bad easterly in a day or two, so they will tuck in for shelter when its closer and wait it out.

There is a large weather system sitting on top of Ellesmere Island spinning counter clockwise pulling cold arctic air down in its arms. There should be good westerlies on Lancaster for as long as that system continues. The Atlantic is a mess from the Saint Lawrence seaway to France. It never ends.

You can check out these maps on; Canadian Ice Service or Environment Canada.
Sorry the last one did not work out (different computer). Purple is new ice. 'E','L' &'G' also has new ice
(Second line of the 'egg')



Hopefully we won't see to much of Lancaster. 

Last reported location is to the right of the red/ green combo. Rounding the corner into Lancaster.
The Berri beat the ice moving across the north mouth of Peel. 
Now it's ice berg watch. Big nasties all the way to greenland and beyond.
Flat ice moves to the 'will' of the wind, bergs move to the 'will' of the current. It makes for an interesting tail of flotsam. Like a comet.

The prince Regent squeeze would have been interesting. The ice looks like a little yellow Pac Man about to bit anything coming through. 

If the map isn't all there, I think you can drag it to the desk top for a full view.


K: Abominable snowmen

The three arctic onions have morphed overnight into abominable snowmen. The layers and layers of clothing (I'm wearing 28 individual pieces of clothing on deck at the mo') have been covered with a fine layer of slushy snow. And we were joined in the wee hours by a new crew member - Doris, the world's smallest, slushiest snowperson. Sadly, she decided not to hang around and disappeared off to wherever snowpeople go when they melt.

I seem to have lucked-in on the on-watch visibility. When I came on deck at 0500 it was to the view of towering limestone and ice cliffs at the northern end of Somerset Island. Wow - pretty spectacular stuff. Don't think a camera will ever do it justice.

Still quite a few bergy bits around the place - nothing too serious. And I have a new definition of a following wind: a headwind that follows you around every bear-away on the route so that it continues to be a headwind. Grr...

It's currently stopped snowing. Alex's somewhat more accurate watch-thermometer is reading an air temperature of 1 deg C, so let's hope those grey clouds don't catch us and dump too much more snow on wee Berri.

On a somewhat more serious note, it's very sobering to remember that in the last 3 days we have travelled the same route (in reverse) that the men of the Franklin expedition spent their entire last summer alive traversing. By comparison we have it easy: someone has already charted the waters (who knows how many dead ends they followed before getting to King William Is), we have electronic navigation systems, grib files and marine weather forecasts, satellite produced ice charts, diesel engines, good food, polar fleece & gortex clothing and, I suspect, a lot less sea ice to deal with (global warming or mere good luck?).


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7355 09542 and a serious point at the end

And now we have ice - not too serious but a lot of it all around us. Blue, old ice in big lumps. Heading direct for Limestone Island - just visible 9 miles away in the murk.

Later - a warm coffee inside me and 10 miles or so closer to Falmouth - we have the entire north west coast of Somerset in sight and it's breathtaking, if you'll excuse the cliche. Gravel beaches, glaciers, shore ice Brownish white, bergy ice around us brilliant Pacific Ocean blue, hills in the background smooth snow. The cliffs and slopes behind the beaches are all ice and water eroded just like google earth showed me all those months ago. How ever did they fined a clear day for the google earth images?

As for clothing I thought a detailed list might be informative. On deck, I wear my brown fisherman's super tough wellies, aka Sitka Slippers, with sock liners and fleece socks. Glove liners and insulated industrial rubber gloves. From the skin out, a thermal vest with long sleeves, T shirt, no knickers or thermals over the nethers (because they promote the most agonising gunwale bum) so a fleece mid layer known as salopettes, with a fleece hoodie on top. Sometimes a balaclava and neck tube. On top of all that, a Mustang survival suit or a float coat and Henri pants if it's not too cold. Goggles if it's snowing or windy.

We are about 50 miles from Beechey, where Franklin spent 2 winters (I think) and where Torrington, Brayne and Hartnell are still. Sadly, there's no chance we will be going there - all the signs say get out of here as fast as possible.

More on this later, but we have been astoundingly lucky so far and I don't think we could have got through a day earlier. If all the six or seven boats that we know about get through this year, there will be a hundred trying next year. For their benefit, I think I should say loud and clear that it isn't as easy as it might look. It has been the most difficult thing I have ever done - makes Cape Horn look like a jolly by comparison - and we have done it in an easy year. If just a couple of things had gone the other way, we could have been in very serious trouble - and we're by no means on our way home yet.

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7352 09544 and it's not over yet

As Pat said, it certainly isn't. I take a very much dimmer view of snow than the other two - it is potentially lethal out here if the temperature drops a couple of degrees and it starts to freeze on to the boat so I want it to go away. Now! Not much chance, I'm afraid - the forecast is for 3 days of it. And we're headbanging into a nasty northerly with wind waves that just about stop us so very slow progress all motoring. I hope the engine keeps behaving. I've just sucked about 10cc of brown sludge from the fuel tank so that at least won't get to the filters.

Keep em crossed. It's still hairy.

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McQ: Peel Sound...Just like the Alps!!!

Snow, snow, snowety, snow!!! woo-hoo!!!
You know you go on a skiing holiday and you have those total whiteout blizzard days where you can't see where you are going as you swoosh down the slopes, but totally exhilarating!!! Then you go back to your chalet or apartment and put your boots in the Boot Room to dry off and your socks and gloves over the radiator to dry out and warm up for the next day and you sit by the fire to dry yourself- fingers nose and toes in particula- out, with a large glass of hot spicy mulled wine in hand to assist warming matters... well its kinda like that here, except for the warming, drying, hot booze and swooshy slopey bits and the 'next day' is only ever a mere four hours away!!
So the snowing blizzard bit is the same!!! Even had to get the ski goggles out for the last watch, and boy did they work a treat!! And just to make my skiing holiday dream world complete out here I have looked out my retro 80's purple fluffy ski socks with little yellow and green skiiers on them to warm my toes whilst I sleep...
See you on the slopes tomorrow!!
Lots of love
ps 52 miles till we turn to head just south of east (and homeward bound, then, perhaps??!!)...and only a couple of icebergs in-between to dodge before that point!!!!
pps we had Irish Stew without cabbage for dinner.

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K: Belugas in the snow...

You've heard of gorillas in the mist, but today we've had belugas and snow! I've never seen a beluga whale before, but I have to say it was love at first sight. To me, these small whales are superficially more like oversize, white, friendly dolphins. As Alex said, we saw a small, loose pod of about 6 belugas around brekkie-o'clock this morning. One appeared to be stalking us, so maybe word has got around the whale-world about Corrie's close encounter off Barrow and they're out for revenge? Anyway, most cool!

The weather is also (still) most cool. So far, it's snowed on 3 separate occasions today. My Alaska keychain thermometer is still telling me it's 10 deg C, but I'm rapidly losing faith in it. My cold-toe-ometer is telling me that it's probably a little less than that. Cold enough to break out the hot porridge with dried apricots and maple syrup for breakfast. Yum.

While I hate fog, I'm really kinda fond of snow. There's not enough of it (yet!) for it to settle, and we're definitely not talking snowmen either, but it's very peaceful. And makes a nice change from the rain. It's starting to settle on the hills bordering Peel Sound, and dusting parts of them a light grey against the dark blue-brown rock.

Nearly around the top of Peel Sound. Another 50 NM until we hang right and turn east along Barrow Strait and Lancaster Sound towards Greenland. So 50 NM to go to my mental halfway point, where we stop heading away from the edge of the world and start heading back to civilisation.

Anyway, my fingers are too cold to hit the right keys on this miniature keyboard, so I'm heading for my bunk. Wake me for dinner in bed in an hour or so...wonder what Corrie's cooking tonight?

Night all! K.

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Saturday, 16 August 2008

7235 09606 Belugas, seals, porridge and a porpophin

Breakfast entertainment in Peel Sound. There were about 6 belugas around the boat one came right alongside and lots of seals - brown heads, greyish mottled bodies, quite small. The porpophin was small, grey green brown - hard to tell - with a small fin. Fulmars and tiny petrels. And Kimbra had porridge.

We decided not to go through Bellot last night - the depth sounder dropped out of the instrument system and it was windy and murky to boot - so we went north.

Later - 7303 09553 0- headbutting a light northerly to try to get out of Peel sound and turn east at last. For the very first time, I'm starting to think that Pascal might have got his map right.

Sorry these so short and dull. Hand steering and sleeping at the mo and doing all the other necessary stuff and a bit ragged.

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Ice free and Peel

Short call from Alex,

They have decided "to use Peel Sound over Bellot/Prince Regent Inlet for a variety of reasons" to be discussed someplace other than the expensive sat phone.
Alex gave his position in relation to some island. My tiny brain and poor reception lost it. I think he said "Bear Island" but I only see Barth Island which is consistent to the Berri's speed. About half way up the west coast of Summerset Island.
Snowing, NW and cold about covers it. 

Cold NW winds expected all the way up. New ice still forming around Banks island to the west. A little old ice expected at the top end of Peel... nothing like they have been through.
The plan now is to get the hell out as fast as they can. 
This type of cold chills to the bone and I considered worse then -40. I used to wear my best winter gear to stay warm.


McQ: cold as ice

Kimbra's right- It is soooo cold!!! Though it looks delightfully inviting, sparkling in the sunlight, the water is hovering around 3-4 degrees, not swimming temperature really!!! The air definitely has that arctic feel about it, even my breath has breath, its that cold!! A couple of hours on deck is just about bearable but then it takes most of the next off watch to warm hands, fingers, nose and toes!!! Even Big A had to relent in CB and borrow a huge thick down sleeping bag from Corey to help warm his toes and just last night I broke out the last layer of bedding, and am now encapsulated in my bunk in cat's meow, various blankets, thermal liners and an Irn-Bru coloured Sea Rug (which makes me happy!!!)

The GRIB's are looking promising, if they are right, we are in for a couple of days of lightish westerlies, which may make it possible to get through the next icy bit and the sun is out in full force this afternoon hopefully warming up and melting the ice a little from above!!! Pat's monitoring things for us from (his home, in) Nome and has advised that there is an opening through, so we are on the way, just passing Matty Island now and planning to stick close to the eastern shore of the Sound as we go north, heading iceward!!! Its almost too exciting now!!!!

Hope everyone well and warm at home,
Lots of love,
Ps anyone any ideas with what to do with half a cabbage for dinner??? - have exhausted all cabbage possibilities from my brain!!!

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6947 09602

This will be a very long 36 hours or so for me. Wish I was more like Marvin - or even Eeyore.

Tyhina is 78 miles north of us, I think in 2 tenths ice and we should see him in the next 15 hours or so. The sun is shining, there's fog on the horizon and these days it gets dark as well so we will need to be careful if we are in ice.

Later 6956 09618 thick fog and we have seen our first bit of ice - all by itself in 5 deg water. An arctic tern somewhere above.

Later still 7029 09641 Scary night - complete whiteout - no horizon, no sky, no water - just grey white with chunks of ice and sheets of ice and little bits of ice in the fog. 2 kts and weaving around to get though. Tyhina now past going south. Amodino ahead to starboard and 90 to Bellot Strait. The most spectacularly beautiful dawn I have ever seen. Photos sometime - wonderful.

later still - at Tas Island - still lots of ice - Amodino went inshore further south - haven't seen them come out yet.

These queuing up - will try to send

Later still -7137 096 14 I think we're through the ice - Bellot late tonight agw -

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K: Arctic Onions

After a night of headwind sailing in short choppy seas, we're now just entering the southern end of James Ross Strait in near calm conditions. But it's getting cold! The water temperature has gone down from 9 deg C to 3 deg C overnight, and my (oh so accurate) Alaska key-chain thermometer moved down from 16 deg C (where it's been since I bought it in the gift shop in Nome) to 10 deg C.

Hence the Arctic onions - the three of us are all dressed up in layer after layer of clothing to keep the chilly air at bay. Thinking of adding an extra layer, but not sure I'll be able to move around deck if I do!

No sign of ice yet, but it's likely to show up later today or early tomorrow. Probably in the middle of the night just to be difficult (it's starting to get dark again now). The yacht Tyhina has come down from Resolute to the Tasmania Islands without encountering too much ice, which is good news for us. So fingers crossed for the next 24-48 hours for the good conditions to hold so we can get north past the "tricky bit" where McClintock Strait dumps ice from the NW into Larsen & Tyhina can get safely south to James Ross St.

Hilary - thanks for your kind thoughts. No rosebuds to gather, but certainly an atmosphere of remote and solemn tranquility to absorb. At the moment the clouds are reflecting a rose-pinky-grey above the tundra, so that can be today's shade of grey.

Love to all, K.

(PS- Mum & Dad - after telling you on the phone the other night that it drizzled more than rained up here, we had some real proper Tasmanian bushwalking rain the other night. After getting soaked by it for an hour or so I decided to make us of it and catch some fresh water off the boom, which was quite a successful way of making it stop raining!!)

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Kimbra's ice identification hints...

If it's white or Colgate blue it's probably ice. Often looks like a solid line on the horizon, but often has gaps on closer inspection. Dodge.

If it's very small, pointed and dirty grey it could be a Northern Fulmar (ie: bird). These can fly, so no need to dodge.

If it's very small, triangular shaped, splashing and dark grey it's probably a seal. Wave exctaticly.

Been going in and out of icy patches all day. Very foggy & spooky last night - perfectly calm, no horizon and no sense of perspective. Alex likened it to being suspended in a glass of milk, which was pretty close! Spectacular National Geo cover beautiful stuff at sunrise this morning. Add some penguins and it would be per-wer-fect!

Passed Tyhina going south about 0500, and another French vessel (Peregrine?) also heading south slightly later. Amadino overtook us in the wee hours and we were in sight of them for several hours. Positively crowded in Franklin Strait today.

Just gone through a thick bit of ice, in fog. Ice has thinned out now for a bit, so hopefully fog will do the same. I still hate fog. Water temp has plummeted to a new low and the gauge is hovering between 1.8 & 2.0 deg C. Brrr. Toes officially cold & nose runny.

Will be abeam of Tasmania Islands in about 15 miles. Home sweet home!


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Friday, 15 August 2008

I have to post it!

It's too much fun watching these maps. Note the ice at the top right corner of peel. Sneaking in. There's more behind it.

The Berri is to the right of the "M" in Franklin St.,trying to sneak out.

The blog will cut off the credit so thank you to;

Canadian Ice Service
Environmental Canada
15 Aug 2008


Almost out.

Alex just called by sat phone

The Berri is just below the tip of the Tasmania Islands. Ice all around, "it's a wall" but they can see one small opening to the NW. That is consistent with the ice charts and so that is where he will be heading.
Last night, Alex steered to"what seemed sensible" and is still underway.The Amodino is not so lucky.
The Berri crew has all been up all night dodging/fighting ice. They have not had time to do anything but handle the boat. (And I would hope to think- a quick bite) The call was short as Alex had to return to deck at once. He sounded tired and stressed. A long, long few miles and they will be out of it.

Fingers still crossed, just knocked on wood. If I thought throwing salt over my shoulder would help, I would go home and do it.

The Amodino is stuck in the ice. They are much larger and can hopefully push their way around. Good luck to them. The Berri is too small and under powered to help, if there was a prayer to get close enough to help.  I saw a small oil tanker with a bent propeller and shaft from the ice. The shaft was designed for the arctic and was several feet (1Meter) diameter. This is scary stuff.

Ice this dense,1/10 to 2/10,  doesn't just float around, it plays bumper penguin. One moving piece bumps into the next stopping but causes the next piece to take off, and so on. Openings close quickly and new opening happen just as fast. It's hard enough in the daylight, just try it in the dark. The unlucky boat gets caught. The really unlucky boat gets damaged. You really have to stay on your toes. Add land and the ice stacks up with a continuous buildup. Extreme buildup causes pressure ridges and kills ships.

Today's ice map similar to yesterdays so will not post.


PS Alex can correct my over dramatization when he has a chance.

The world awaits the exit from the ice.


I hope you are making it through the ice gut.

I'm afraid the lows at the north pole will cause you some NW wind. Bummer for going up Peel, but should be a help in Lancaster. Snowing at Resolute and expected to continue for a few days. No ice warnings yet today, but still early. Some loose ice blowing in at the western top of peel, best to keep right up there.
The first ice bergs to start in a day or two in Parry-Lancaster. The fun is not over yet!!
Res, Tol, and GH have NW.  CB in 'arch'.


Yesterdays new ice

Thank you to the Canadian weather service.

The purple is the new ice from the evening 13th and morning 14th, and the first I've seen this year.
The second line of the 'egg' indicates new ice.
Some computers can drag this map to the desktop for a refined view.
The blog has been cutting off the right hand side of the maps.
The Berri will be in the bottom right corner nearing Franklin strait.


Message relay via Hilary in Australia

Alex called at 7 am our time (9pm UTC, I think) to say that they are in the narrows north of Matty Island. It is flat calm, water temperature 3 degrees and they are motoring. In the next 24 hours or so they will have come to probably the worst of the ice and know whether they have got through that part. The not so good news is that the previous night, new ice formed, but I'm not sure where.



I've just looked at the past year of ice charts. Freeze ups in maud not until Oct last year. serious freeze in mid Oct. 

New Ice has two unexpected dangers. The first you know, we have all seen it on fishing boats as the ocean spray freezes to the deck, lines and everything. Call out the tough guys with sledge hammers in each hand.
The second real danger is young ice formed on still water can be reasonable fresh (no salt).It freezes hard and thin and acts like a knife to a tinder boat, cutting at the water line. We used to carry tarps to hang over the front to protect our walrus skins. You may see freezing as you move north...

Todays map, one year ago, looks surprisingly like today. As the fall weather deteriorates, so goes the ice. Then in Oct. it freezes overnight. The Berri has a couple weeks grace if you don't mind autumn misery!

The ice continues to look passable. The Berri is above the pacific weather 'arch' and below the arctic lows. I would expect confused wind.


Thursday, 14 August 2008

Credit missing off ice map

Ice map courtesy of the
Canadian Ice Service
14 Aug 2008

An ice warning is in effect.
1 800 767 2885 Can
1 301 938 6541 US

Hot off the press.

Just talked to Alex,

The Berri is just above Matty Island in the middle. 
They talked to another boat coming south at the other end of this ice gut and the report is open ice.
Ice continues to dissipate. Green is still good. The Berri strikes out. We turn blue holding our breath. Fingers crossed. Knocked on wood.

Newest ice map

Holding my breath!


The big picture; the pacific 'arch' is back in classic form. Gulf of AK up to Coronation/Maud and back down mid west and East coast. These are the same conditions you know and have come to love. More heat and moisture. You may loose the westerlies as you move north above the King. Larsen appears to be above the 'arch' so local conditions will prevail.

The bad news is new ice is forming in the northern areas above Resolute and way above Barrow. One can play 'chicken' with new ice at this time of year, but sooner or later the new ice will win.I don't expect any new ice to stay.

All that ice in Larsen is spreading out. That means it is about to self destruct. I think your position and timing is about perfect.

CB 10Degrees,ESE 17 kmh
T 5D, WNW17
Res 1D, W33

Is it possible to send you an ice map by sailmail? Will it crash your mail? It would be very helpful navigating Ross Larsen Franklin.


Request from the Radio Room

If Peter Semotiuk, reads this could he please contact me through the contact tab on the website. I have had a request from someone for his contact email. Thanks, Speedy.
Gripping isn't it?

Ice map

Green is good. You can see where the Berri can slip up the right side. Not without risk, and not for the light hearted. This is where Franklin was caught in the ice and died.


Wednesday, 13 August 2008

6835 09540

Seems there may be a die to be carped so we'll go carp. Fallback will be Taloyoak or back to GH. Wish us luck and cross 'em!

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The Berri is going for it!

I just talked to Alex on the sat phone.

He just received my "It's open" message. First my apologies; I write from memory as I have no names on my maps. Starvation cove is the south end of King william, not the north point as I thought. 

Alex was very excited about the ice report. The full length of western coast Boothia is open or very thin (East side of Ross- Larsen- Franklin). The Berri is going to skip Gjoa Haven and move up into Ross for the attempt.

Gods speed.


The Plan

If such it could be said to be - we should be in Gjoa Havn this afternoon. The ice and weather are not looking at all good in the short term so we will wait in GH and see what happens. Options are to go back and look around the western and northern sides of King William and see whether we can get through to the west, or to nose out into James Ross Strait and feel the ice, or just to sit and wait for an easterly storm to open up a lead for us. If none of these, then we will have to park Berri somewhere for a possibly 50(F) below winter. I don't know what facilities there are in GH, but I think that we might be able to get her out of the water in Cambridge Bay so contingency plans are hatching for any or all of the above. Appendages please - it's early yet but not looking too rosy. If it all goes pearshaped, we will aim to be back in Cambridge Bay or GH by the end of September at the very latest.

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6825 09628 Starvation Cove

We are 11 miles north of Starvation Cove where the final group of the Franklin people are believed to have died. In the last half hour, we must have crossed their paths over the ice to get there. No-one knows how many were left or who they were - a few, emaciated, ragged, frostbitten men carrying the desperate hope that they could find help or get to a settlement on the mainland. There is evidence that they made camp at Starvation Cove and got no further. They have been given the credit for actually discovering the North West Passage by crossing this stretch of water, although they did not know that they had. Some 50 years later, Amundsen proved it. I feel almost ashamed that it has been so easy for us to get here and deep sadness, respect and a sense of the heroic futility of it all for the Franklin people. Expectations, imperial politics, mistakes at all levels and a failure to learn from them and ultimately disaster. May they rest in peace and may the cruise ships never ever come here to disturb them.

And, perhaps, this is our first real link with the other side - a crossing of ways and a small achievement even if nothing else works from here.

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It's open!!!

Alex and all

This morning's ice report shows 2/10 or better the entire Ross to Franklin bit. Mostly 1/10 or open! Major upgrade!!

Skip long stay at Gjoa Haven and go on to starvation point. (I really hate that name)  Around the west side of King William. The front door, up the middle of Maud is still closed, back door is open as you planed.

A large Gulf of Alaska front just over the Rockies into the Yukon, 2-3 days to hit you as it goes past it will first blow west, than turn to southerlies. (my prediction, so take it lightly) You are in for a couple warm clear days until the front hits. This thing should blow you right up Peel and out Lancaster.

I would try to get through the ice before this front hits.

I love armchair sailing! Take care.


6830 09712 Simpson Strait

We passed 9000 miles since Sydney, crossed 100 deg W and are now in Franklin territory. EErie.

And, as McQ says -soooo near and sooooo far to go - about 25 miles of ice...

We will probably stop in Gjoa Haven for a day or so to do a couple of fixes and watch the ice.

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McQ: Never Ending Cabbage

Its all getting terribly exciting... the distances from here are now quite small (in terms of taking the journey in small manageable chunks of legs, so I mean for the rest of the NWP bit!!!), as we are so far north- we are only 12 miles south of the western tip of King William Island... 20 miles to the start of the Simpson Strait, which is only about 30 miles long for, less than 100 to Gjoa HAven, less than 200 round to the northern tip of King William Island, barely another 100 miles to Bellot Strait after that and 400ish to Resolute... oh but, yeah, a lot of that is, er, ice... really unhelpful!!! Its weird that there is effectively a 'wall' of solid matter stopping us... you don't normally go sailing somewhere not anticipating that you might not actually get there- unless I guess you are trying to sail to Switzerland!!! (incidentally and totally irrelevant, I got asked by a random in Nome if we had sailed from Switzerland and he meant it earnestly) And its entirely in the hands of the wind and ice gods now... we must be nice to them, so they change their minds about the norwesterlies forecast for the rest of the week!!!!
Never has the phrase,'so near, yet so far' been so applicable!!!
Its like the cabbage, sort of. Nina gave us a cabbage in Tuk and we have eaten cabbage every night for dinner since then and still it won't end. Its wasn't particularly big, but it just doesn't seem to get any smaller!!! Actually, its nothing like the cabbage but the never ending cabbage is truly baffling me!!!
Less ice and less cabbage, that's what we would like...
Hope everyone well at home,
Lots of love

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Tuesday, 12 August 2008

6821 10115

Out in the middle of Maud, where, 2 weeks ago, there was ice. Water milky rather sludgy emerald and a balmy 8 degrees. Kevvo0 back in charge - his stainless brain the size of a planet is not fussed by magnetic anomalies.

We've been astonishingly lucky so far with both wind and ice but that may be about to change. If it does, the level of risk increases daily that we will not be able to cross the 25 mile stretch of ice in Franklin that may be all that is stopping us from getting through. And if that happens, we have to get back to somewhere safe before the sea starts to freeze again and the temperature to plummet. In that case we would try to get back to CB with Gjoa Haven as a last resort. Lots of factors - for instance, we can possibly lift Berri out of the water in CB.

We're not short of advice - I am talking on the radio twice daily with Peter Semotiuk in CB - legendary sailor and helper of yachts in the NWP - and with Amodino, Arctic Wanderer and Tyhina, who is in Resolute and heading west. Also talking once a day with Pat Hahn in Nome on the satphone to get his take on things.

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Monday, 11 August 2008

We're on the way 6847 10430

Departed CB 1030 - about 3.5 days to Taloyoak if we get lucky and then we have to eyeball it. May be a longish wait - at anchor too, so possibly uncomfortable. There's still a lot of ice in Franklin and these westerlies will tend to keep it there, although they should also apply some heat and perhaps accelerate the melt. Tricky passage through Simpson Strait south of King William Island and towards the end of it we will cross the path of the last Franklin expedition survivors, on their way over the ice to Starvation Point, where it is believed they all died after eating the bodies of their dead colleagues and being unable to catch bears or seals and anyway not understanding that that way - perhaps - lay survival.

Thanks to Corey for his hospitality and help while we were in CB, and to the RCMP for being cool about our unorthodox arrival. And to Matt for playing around with google earth.

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Tonight it isn't

The easterly has really set in and we have decided that an all night headbang to gain perhaps 20 miles is not sensible when the wind is due to go westerly tomorrow. Pic shows co-ordinates of one of the little hazards on the way...

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Tonight it is.

We will almost certainly leave tonight, when all the bits and pieces have been done, phone calls made, ice reports collected...

There is a 20 kt easterly forecast for Queen Maud overnight then to NW - not the best and may further block Franklin but I think we have to be there to take any opportunity that opens. AGW, about 3 days to Taloyoak (used to be Spence Bay) where we can wait in reasonable comfort  for a week or two if necessary. Won't be easy but necessity dictates.

Photos - Wreck of Amundsen's Maud and an inuksuk (or perhaps an inunnguaq).

The loneliness of the long distance sailor...

This will be a photo of Gary Ramos leaving CB in Arctic Wanderer after 3 years. Godspeed, Gary!

Time for us to go too - ice not looking too hopeful in Franklin but we need to be over there to catch any tiny opening. Huge crossings of appendages please - from here it gets very iffy indeed. We will leave tonight or early tomorrow morning unless there are contrary indications.