Friday, July 31, 2009

Saving 14 Gallons

Fiona was sailing at 4:00AM.  By 6:00PM the winds died again so we start to motor once more.  But, we did get an ice chart for Resolute which is looking good ... and the sail did save us fourteen gallons of diesel.  That is fourteen hours more motoring range.

I am finding little, or perhaps "no" is more accurate, desire to write or read.  I think my whole focus is on "the mission;" successfully geting this boat through the Northwest Passage.  This reminds me of flying single engine airplanes across the Atlantic, or the attention one might devote to a new lover.  There are no brain cells left for anything else.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is There Enough Fuel?

It's the midnight watch.  We are becalmed at 74N/6430W.  Time to think.  I'm thinking we don't have enough fuel on board for this trip.  Right now we'd need 140 gallons to motor to Gjoa Haven.  I am thinking this because Resolute is virtually closed and may be completely closed [due to ice] before we could arrive under power.  The good news is that we talked to Debs [my sister who has kept the blog updated and provided us with ice and weather information en route, becoming in the process, an expert yachtsman's Northwest Passage advisor ... there aren't too many of them in the world!] on the Iridium telephone.  She tells us the "ice strip" with which we've been concerned at the entry to Lancaster Sound is gone.  So, we can go direct to the entry point with no deviations.  This will save some fuel.

Joe and I are up tonight discussing the "equal time point" [an aviation term that is the point at which it takes the same time to continue to a destination or return to a point of departure (or, in fact, any two chosen points)].  This would give us, at the "ETP" which is five hours beyond the Lancaster Sound entry point, five gallons remaining in the tank, at the present rate of burn, upon arrival at either Gjoa Haven or a return to Upernavik.  This ETP calculation figures that Resolute will not be an open destination for us.

8:00AM - My emotions are at a low ebb this morning.  Eric is electing to motor to 75N71W in hope of finding wind.  I believe we are close to "bingo" fuel.  Eric and I talked this morning.  He says, "That depends on how you define 'bingo.'"  One thing I believe, is that the definition cannot contain the work "luck."

5:00PM - Not as many fulmars.  We have perhaps two following the boat.  It is as if they want to give up.  Do they pick up my own pessimism?  We do, however, have a lot more little auks.  We see a few dozen.  The temperature is 46F.  The sea temperature is 51F.

-entry from Russ Roberts' journal

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Motoring Sailing - Again

The sails aren't a lot of help today.  The wind is very light.

We tried to get some ice charts today via the Iridium telephone.  No joy.  I sent an e-mail via SSB to Ocens, the vendor, to see what the problem might be.  [They never did repond to our e-mail directed to their customer support department. RR 9/18/09]

It is 46 degrees!  Summer!  I see a lot of little auks on my watch this evening.

-entry from Russ Roberts' journal

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cure for a Squeeky Belt

We changed a squeeky, rattling engine belt this morning.  It powered the alternator and refrigerator compressor.  My job was to hold a wrench.  There is not much room for more active helping in Fiona's little engine room.  The belt changing job took just a little more than an hour.

This morning I recall drinking last night's rum, a special concoction Geraldine Danon gave us aboard Fleur Australe.  That visit was quite noisy.  So much for the silence of the arctic.  Not with an attention craving three year old!  But on Fiona some peace reigned on a cold, foggy morning.  Overnight the freighter Sea Bird berthed just feet in front of our boat.  He left and sailed into the brash filled harbor just as we did a few hours later at 10:00AM.

6:43PM:  We are well underway.  I wonder whether Fleur got away today.  We are sailing, finally, in light wind.  Today I worked my second celestial navigation problem.

-entry from Russ Roberts' journal

Fiona Crossing Baffin Bay

Fiona departed Upernavik on 28 July bound for the entrance to Lancaster Sound with an August 1 ETA. Winds have been light resulting in more motoring than sailing. Air temperatures are in the 40'sF and water temperature is 55F. ~DH~

Monday, July 27, 2009

Meeting Fleur Australe

Today we put on 300 liters of diesel (about 79 gallons).  The tanks are now topped off.

While in the Pisifik grocery store today I met the captain and crew of Fleur Australe, a French boat which is also attempting the Northwest Passage this year.  They are Phillippe Poupon and his wife and crewmate, Geraldine Danon.  The had several of their kids in tow.

Tonight Phillippe motored his dingy over to Fiona, picked us up and took us to Fleur for drinks.  There we met the rest of the family (the Poupons are sailing the Northwest Passage with a Jack Russell Terrier and four children, ages 1 to 13 years).  Geraldine's old make-up artist, Georges, completes the crew.  Make-up artist?  Geraldine is an actor in France.  On this trip she's Fleur documentary filmmaker.  Cameras are mounted around the nine month old steel ketch.  She is often seen with a camera on her shoulder.  It makes my effort with a little Canon seems paltry.

Phillippe, also known as "Phillou,"  is a veteran sailor.  While on board he showed us a book filled with his accomplishments, included winning two single handed transatlantic O-Star races more than twenty years ago.

Will we leave Upernavik tomorrow to begin crossing Baffin Bay.

-entry from Russ Roberts' journal

Fiona Reaches Upernavik

Fiona left Sisimiut on 24 July, sailing and motoring north toward Upernavik ("Springtime Place" in Greenlandic). The settlement is so small that everything is within walking distance for the 1,144 residents. Current temp is 44F , with 13 mph winds making the temps feel like 37F. Fiona's blog posted a 29 July ETA for Upernavik so it appears they are a little ahead of schedule. Fuel will be taken on here in order to make the Baffin Bay crossing to Lancaster Sound. Russ reports seeing fulmers, occasional seals, icebergs and again sends "greetings to all" ~DH~

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Motor Sailing Toward Upernavik

It is midnight.  The sun does not set tonight.  Fiona is at 70 degrees north [latitude].  More than twenty icebergs are in sight.  More keep popping up on the horizon.  CAVU, though, so we are blessed.  I do not like motoring through the icebergs with only the radar as a lookout.

It is 40F (again).  The seawater temperature is down to 48F.

2:00AM:  'Bergs and growlers in sight all watch.

7:07AM:  A smoke alarm goes off.  I wake up Eric.  It's odd that both Joe and Eric sleep through, not only the smoke, but the loud smoke alarm bell.  A hose clamp on the diesel's exhaust has disintegrated.  With the engine shut down we drift an hour while the clamp is replaced.

6:00PM:  Today I started feeling better.  A combination of no sea legs and the lousy feeling of insipid seasickness made for some rough going.  But, this afternoon, even though the chop kicked up a bit, I feel fine.  With Eric as instructor, I worked on learning celestial navigation today.  I took my first sun shot yesterday and the second today.  I cleaned up a bit, too, today.  Being a bit cleaner does wonders for my morale.

-entry from Russ Roberts' journal

Friday, July 24, 2009

Underway for Upernavik, Greenland

Fiona is off Disko Island.  This is the birthplace of many of Greenland's largest, most spectacular icebergs due to the many glaciers tucked into the fjords.

I got to feeling a bit seasick yesterday.  The funky feeling continues today even though the sea is relatively calm.  The boat is always moving.  Then there is the less than stellar housekeeping standards on board.  Both the motion and the "atmosphere" are exacerbated by the green feeling.  Everything today, even trips to the head, are chores for me.  While not puking, I do feel lethargic; as if I am moving through glue.

There is no wind.  We motor.  So far Fiona has only sailed eighteen hours since leaving Nuuk.

Fulmars, a petral that looks like a compact gull and which were hunted for their oil, yielding about a pint per bird, continue to be our constant companions.  Rarely is there a time, in fog or otherwise, when one or more fulmars cannot be be spotted.

-entry from Russ Roberts' journal

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sisimuit, Greenland

We are in Sisimuit, Greenland.  Fiona pulled in here to avoid continued beating into north winds and to top off the fuel (we need approximately 30 gals).  I am in the library now to check the Internet and get new ice charts.  It felt good to sleep ten solid hours last night in port.

I get the latest Disko Island weather forecast:  "Winds northwest at 15 knots.  For Saturday through Monday, same."

It will be hard to sail unless the winds back to west or veer to northeast ...

- entry from Russ Roberts' journal

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fiona Crosses Arctic Circle

Russ met the Fiona in Nuuk, Greenland on July 17. After spending a few days in harbor Fiona left Nuuk on Monday, July 20. She was under motor power for at least 2 days because of light winds. The latest SPOT Tracking co-ordinates show the Fiona has crossed the Arctic Circle and is in Sisimiut, Greenland, the 2nd largest municipality in Greenland with a population of 5965. It is the northernmost town in Greenland to have an ice free harbor in the winter. Sisimiut boasts having the world's largest shrimp processing plant. Current weather there is forcasted to be sunny and highs in the mid to upper 50s. Russ' last communication extended a "Hello to All".


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First Iceberg

10AM:  This morning it is 40F with the sea temperature at 52F.  1st visual (non-radar) iceberg sighted just before noon.  After a course change to the north it will pass off the port side.

10PM: we set sail and shut the engine down for the first time since leaving Nuuk.  Now close hauled on the port tack.  Wx CAVU ["Weather:  Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited"].  No fog.  Temperature outside is now 36F and not too much warmer inside.  Without the engine running the little diesel furnace doesn't quite keep up.  Damp and cold!

-This entry from Russ Roberts' journal

Monday, July 20, 2009

Leaving Nuuk

Fiona is watered and underway at 2PM local (GMT-2). Before departure, a fiasco at the water dock. A big red, commercial fishing boat decided we were in his place and almost literally pushed us out of the way after we were tied up. Rather than risk being hit, we moved and cast off lines as he continued to motor in, at one point getting as close as ten feet from our stern.

The temperature was 70F leaving Nuuk. It is 42F now @ 5:53PM at Kooken Islands light. We turned to a 304 [degree] heading. We are proceeding out to 55 30 W Long. We see the M/V Irena Arctica on the AIS at 1750 Lcl. Turned 40 deg starboard to pass. At 6:15 Lcl (2115GMT) turned to the waypoint (WPT) we have set at 65N55/30W. Present position (PPOS) is 64:04.7N 52:22.7W. 98nm miles to go to WPT.

My first watch on Fiona: 8-10PM. PPOS 64:09.675N 52:28.473W. OAT 40F. Sea temp 55F. ¼ sm in fog. Motoring. Eric wants to save the 20 year old radar's bearings. He only wants to sweep for icebergs every 15 minutes. At 5 knots and with the fog, we "outrun" our visibility in 3 minutes. The eyes on deck, peering into fog, become very important.

-entry from Russ Roberts' journal

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Welcome to Nuuk

About an hour after boarding Fiona, Eric and Joey having gone to shore, I was in the aft cabin stowing my gear; Mustang suit, clothes, peanuts, jerky, books and whatever I thought I'd need and found room for in my sea bag. It takes a while to learn the boat and, suffering from "new environment tunnel vision," I kept hitting my head on the passages.

Ed (who left the boat to return home a day or so later) called down, "Hey, Russ, you'd better get up here!" Hitting my head again on the way to the deck I saw that Fiona was adrift. The big, red, steel Inuit school boat of about 80 feet which we had been rafted was getting underway. An inflatable boat with a tiny outboard was nosing around us. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on.

The red boat (pictured above tucked in behind the blue tug against the quay in the left of the photo) crew had cast us off and, after figuring the one line attached to us they had been holding wasn't doing any good, threw that on our deck. I think their intention had been to "tug boat" us, holding us in position until the "mother ship" had gotten clear. Their plan having failed, I think they just said, "Screw it. Let's do nothing."

"Jesus," I said. "You'd better start the engine."

"Eric isn't here," said Ed.

"Well ... so?"

"I don't want these guys to think that anyone but Eric can start the engine."

I don't think it made any difference to them whether the skipper was on board or not. After all, they had already cast us adrift in a crowded harbor. I would have started the engine, but I didn't yet know where anything was on the boat much less the key.

So, with hand signals and a lot of pointing, we eventually got the Inuit boat crew to grab a line and keep our stern pointed in a direction that would avoid bumping into other boats. With the tide we drifted back into a position where we could raft up with another set of boats.

Meanwhile, the Inuits cut another boat loose, this one I believe was Perithia we would see over the next few weeks on the Passage. Swinging on a single line, it took some doing to bring her back into some degree of control and get her safely tied and rafted up again.

Tonight we visited the Internet cafe, Barrista, downloaded some ice charts and returned to Fiona to watch Roger Swanson's video of his unsuccessful 2005 attempt of the Northwest Passage aboard Cloud 9.

The ice charts show a lot of ice on the Canadian coast but a clear route along the coast of Greenland to about 75 degrees north latitude and, from there, an open route to Lancaster Sound. In fact, it looks too good. We think we must be missing something ...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fiona in Greenland, Russ Roberts in Iceland

Fiona made very good time completeting the passage from St. Johns to Nuuk in just under nine and a half days. I, meanwhile, am in the middle of my trip to join Fiona, spending several hours overnight in the Keflavik, Iceland airport. KEF is the international airport serving Reykjavik. The flight to Nuuk is scheduled for the morning.

There have been no SPOT positions recorded thus far. It hasn´t been for lack of trying. But it seems each time I make an attempt I am surrounded by metal, either in terminals or airplanes. I will try a couple more times tonight to find a clear view of the sky away from beams and rafters of steel.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fiona Closing In

Capt. Forsyth reports tonight S/V Fiona 250 southwest of Nuuk. He says he may arrive after the customs office closes, but should be clear by the time I arrive at noon Friday.

Here is a link to my SPOT Satellite Tracking device:

Click on the link to go to my Google Maps page that will show at least a daily position of Fiona once I am on board.

I found this link on TrawlerNet. The page below will take you the websites of the six other small boats (news to me ... I'd heard there were fifteen) attempting the Passage this summer.

Fiona 3 Days From Greenland

This morning Capt. Eric reported that Fiona was 350 miles southwest of Nuuk, Greenland in the Labrador Sea. The weather is fine but the winds are light. He e-mails via single side band radio, "All well on board."

averages 100 miles per day over the course of a trip, typical for a sailboat of her size. Using that reckoning she should arrive in Nuuk (formerly Godthab) on Thursday PM. All going well, I will arrive Friday around noon and go down the quay to greet her.

Today I'm wrapping up my packing operation. Like another northern traveler, "I'm making a list and checking it twice."


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Packing & Thinking About Ham Radio Net

Preparations continue for my departure this week to join Fiona and crew in Nuuk. Gear must be kept to a minimum. I'm keeping it down to one sea bag and a collapsable carry-on.

These bags have to hold a Mustang survival suit, boots, an extra pair of shoes, foul weather gear, a sleeping bag, a satellite beacon, a few books (including Roald Amundsen's two volume Northwest Passage: Being the Record of Exploration of the Ship "Gjoa") a bunch of camera gear, a laptop and extra hard drive and, finally, with what room is left, clothes for two months. With no washer I'm afraid the few articles I'll be taking won't be fit for salvage when I return.

Thank goodness the liquor is already onboard the boat.

Once I am underway next week, I invite my ham radio friends to listen on the daily Maritime Mobile Ham Network on 14.3 MHz (operates 1900-0300 UTC). I'll be joining on at least some evenings during the two month trip. My callsign is KJ4ITA.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fiona Heads for Greenland

S/V Fiona departed St. Johns, Newfoundland yesterday morning. After breaking a steering chain the vessel returned to port for quick repairs. She departed once again and was well underway yesterday evening.

The captain estimates a ten day trip to Nuuk, Greenland where the fourth and final member of the crew, Russ Roberts, will join the vessel.

Meanwhile, the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, reports that the rate of sea ice melt in the Arctic is increasing and is ahead of the historic average. The rate is, however, slightly below that of 2007.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Latest Satellite Photo

In this satellite photo received this afternoon from Environment Canada, the Meteorological Service of Canada, we see that the sea ice continues to retreat. It looks as if the waters are navigable all the way to Resolute. To the west, the north coast of Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories has an apparent passage east to the Nunavut border.

To help you interpret the image, clouds are the swirling, lighter colored features. The ice tends to look more uniform in texture and gray in the photo. Ice free water shows up darkest. Click here for a larger version of this photo.