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Bellot Strait
Fri Aug 19 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Bellot Strait

Bellot Strait is an 18 mile long passage between Prince Regent Inlet and Peel Sound. It was named after Lieutenant Bellot of the French Navy who came across it in 1852. It has a difficult reputation due to its fast tidal currents and a rock that is awash (so hard to see) near the eastern end of it. While there was no ice when we passed, Bellot Strait has a reputation for quickly jamming with ice. The Sailing Directions note: "The tidal streams run with great strength through Bellot Strait...In the vicinity of Magpie Rock, the currents are highly variable; localised 7-8 knot westerly currents have been reported on the north side of the channel at the same time that equally strong easterly currents were flowing on the south side. Mariners should exercise extreme caution in this area."

There is a range (two markers on shore, if you keep the boat in line with the two markers, you know what course you are on, despite not knowing how the currents are pushing you around) which the Sailing Directions mention as in need of paint in 1977 (no updates since then--this is not a frequently-travelled route). The ranges were visible enough (we had good visibility), and we entered the strait, intending to pass Magpie Rock (the real danger) just before the current turned and started going in our direction (so we would pass slowly, with more control). The chart notes that the current turns there about two hours before High Water at nearby Fort Ross.

To figure out when the current would turn (ie, when was High Water at Fort Ross), we had three methods of getting tide information, the Canadian Tide & Current Tables for the Arctic, NOAA's Tide Tables for East Coast of North & South America, and wxtide32, the free tidal calculation software program. The three methods of determining the tide resulted in three answers, differing by as much as two hours :). We left in time to be early, so no matter which source of tidal information was correct, by slowing down as necessary, we could arrive on time. Of the three methods we used to figure the tides, the free software program came up with what seemed the closest result.


Thanks all for the comments and greetings. I've not heard of the Mars on Earth Project (when we get to a town where we can get internet access, I'll look into it).

Sat Aug 20 2:12:30 EDT 2011 | yann
Hello Richard, your "current position " is wrong, you were in Bellot strait, when in Barrow strait on the chart! As long as you know where you are, everything is OK
Sun Aug 21 14:04:32 EDT 2011 | Richard Hudson
The coordinates look correct to me, but yes, the position on the map is wrong. Oh, well, no time to investigate further.
Magnetic North Pole
Fri Aug 19 10:01:00 EDT 2011, Magnetic North Pole

As a followup to the post about Magnetic Compass Useless, here is the location of the Magnetic North Pole, so you should be able to click on the blog map to see where it is.

Latitude:N 82° 17' 60" Longitude:W 113° 24' 0"

Magnetic North Pole position supplied by Douglas Pohl of

Magnetic Compass Useless
Thu Aug 18 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Franklin Strait

Being close to the magnetic north pole means that magnetic compasses don't work. The needles try to point down. I'm not sure where the magnetic north pole is now (the magnetic poles move), but it is within several hundred miles of us. Issuma's compass stopped working in NW Baffin Bay.

Nautical charts have compass roses on them, where a compass dial in relation to True North and inside it, a smaller compass dial in relation to Magnetic North. The picture is from a Canadian arctic chart.

Thu Aug 18 6:16:39 EDT 2011 | george ray
This exciting !!!! where in the world is Issuma heading ??? ..... tune in tomorrow for the next exciting episode of "Issuma' in the NW Passage".
A Well-rounded Berg
Wed Aug 17 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Baffin Bay

The well-rounded iceberg in the picture looks like it has been floating around for a while, and has turned at least partially over before, based on how rounded it is. Possibly this is a bergy bit, not an iceberg, the difference being a bergy bit (piece of ice broken off an iceberg) shows less than 5m/15' above the surface of the water.

Amos, that is a great poem (in the comments to an earlier post). Thanks for sharing it.

Thu Aug 18 8:42:39 EDT 2011 | Amos
Thanks, Richard; it is not mine, though, but an excerpt from "Northwest Passage", a song by Stan Rogers. You can hear him sing it here:
Devon Island
Tue Aug 16 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Lancaster Sound

The stark and striking coastline of Devon Island.

The blog is a bit behind, we are now in Bellot Strait.

To answer George's questions: We left Upernavik with 1400 litres of fuel, which gives a theoretical range under power (at 4.5 to 5 knots) of 1400 miles. A lot less if in ice. Things are much different now than in Amundsen's time. Besides having GPS, radar and better charts, there is much less ice now. Getting trapped in the ice is still a great danger, as there is still ice, and even in areas where the new ice has melted, winds can take older ice breaking up in other areas and bring it into areas that would otherwise be clear, but on the whole, the arctic ice is melting. As for seal and bear hunting, we have enough ammo for protection against polar bears, but not really enough for subsistence hunting.

Tue Aug 16 19:33:36 EDT 2011 | George Conk
Did you see any sign of the the Mars on Earth project?
Wed Aug 17 9:56:32 EDT 2011 | Amos
Is/was Bellot Strait clear across the distance? It looks frozen over in Google Maps. Looks like you're actually going for it. Mazeltov and good luck!
Wed Aug 17 19:05:41 EDT 2011 | Ron Ouwehand
Great to see you are making progress across the NWP! Hello to you and Jordan and the other crew member! A trip of a lifetime! Fair winds and calm seas! I hope you do well and I'm checking regularly. Ron O.
A Pleasant Sail
Mon Aug 15 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Baffin Bay

While much of the crossing of Baffin Bay involved motoring in calm, foggy conditions, sometimes there was beautiful sailing across enticing, misty, sunlit seas.

The Iceberg and the Sailboat
Sun Aug 14 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Baffin Bay

In the middle of Baffin Bay, after a few days of seeing nothing but sky, water, ice and fog, Jordan saw a sailboat in the distance. I called on the VHF radio for sailboat at our approximate position, and Jeffrey Allison of Essamy answered. We had met in Upernavik, as we were both on the same dock. They left a little later than us and followed a different course--going north of the ice in the middle of Baffin Bay (on yesterdays image) instead of south of it like we did. We had a chat and took some pictures, then continued on our separate ways.

Thanks all for the comments on the blog. The airtime on the satellite phone has been extended, thanks Timothy. Victor and Peter, thanks for the ice reports. Blair, thanks for the Arctic Bay info.

Yvonne, thanks for thinking of us. The sailboat you saw was probably either Matt Rutherford singlehanding a 27 foot sloop, or an Austrian family's boat. If you're going to be staying in the Lancaster Sound and Barrow Strait area, we'll probably miss you, as we have a fair wind and are heading towards Prince Regent Inlet (I'm behind on the blog).

Mon Aug 15 11:09:55 EDT 2011 | Amos
Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea;
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.
Baffin Bay
Sat Aug 13 10:02:00 EDT 2011, Baffin Bay

William Baffin was the pilot for Robert Bylot's 1616 voyage from England, around Kap Farvel (south tip of Greenland), into Davis Strait, up the west coast of Greenland to Melville Bay, then to Smith Sound and Lancaster Sound, then south along the coast of Baffin Island. This was a great achievement for the time (no European had gotten so far beyond Davis Strait), and many doubted that the accounts of the voyage were true. For two centuries afterwards, instead of showing Baffin Bay, charts showed a dotted bulge north of Davis Strait noting the legend of Baffin Bay.

The picture is from an Ice Chart, used because it was handy, and already in digital form. I'll come back to Ice Charts another time. The Ice Chart was received as a weatherfax transmission, hence the grainness and noise in the image. Issuma's track is roughly shown on the map--we intentionally went south of the ice in the middle of Baffin Bay, and then did some tacking later, as required by the wind at the time. Much time was spent motoring in no wind and dense fog.

The arrows on the map roughly show the currents in Baffin Bay (I drew them in, they are not part of the ice chart).

If the blog posts stop after this entry, it is due to a problem getting my Iridium satellite phone airtime refilled, complicated by a technical problem with the satellite phone vendor's telephone system.

Sat Aug 13 12:06:07 EDT 2011 | Yann
if you don't want to try the northwest passage, you are in a wrong direction :)
congratulations, have a great time
Sun Aug 14 23:42:22 EDT 2011 | George Conk
How much fuel do you have? And ammunition for seal and bear hunting?
Remember - it took Amundsen 3 years to complete the northwest passage!
Thu Aug 11 11:02:00 EDT 2011, Upernavik, Greenland

The tidy little community of Upernavik (it means The Spring Place). With a population of about 1100, Upernavik is the largest settlement in the area. The harbor is very open to the NW, but there are other places to anchor around the island of Upernavik to get shelter.

We made a very quick food and fuel stop here, we arrived after midnight, tied up to a fishery research boat on the dock, and were gone early in the afternoon. The blog is now a few days behind.

Thanks for the comments on the blog. Yes, Iceland is just around the corner from Greenland and it would certainly be a nice place to visit again.

Fri Aug 12 5:46:09 EDT 2011 | Yvonne
hey Richard and crew, we are here at Resolute, Nunavut, we were near Gascroyne Bay, few day's ago, not sure if I got the last name right, but couple days before we left there, we seen a sail boat, I was wondering if that was you guy's, anyway's we will be up around north during this month and September. Hope you have a great smooth sailing, from aboard the Coast Guard Ship " Henry Larsen", Quartermaster, Yvonne Nochasak, your Inuit friend from Nain Labrador.
Sanderson's Hope
Tue Aug 9 11:02:00 EDT 2011, near Upernavik, Greenland

In 1587, John Davis made his third and last voyage to Davis Strait and what is now called Baffin Bay. Davis named this 300m/1000' cliff Sanderson's Hope, after his main financial backer, William Sanderson of London. Davis wrote 'no ice towards the north but a great sea, free, large, very salt and blue, and of an unsearchable depth'.

A northerly gale prevented Davis from getting any further north than Sandersons Hope, and he sailed back to England.

Thanks for the comments to recent posts.

I'm not able to reply directly to comments while at sea, but I do receive them. It was interesting to read how hot it is in more temperate climates. It is certainly not hot here :). As to the question of where are we going next....stay tuned :)

Thu Aug 11 5:51:35 EDT 2011 | Sif
Well as the answer to where to go next, Iceland is around the corner from Greenland.
Thu Aug 11 17:01:28 EDT 2011 | Brian Lumley
Good to see you are progressing north.
Thu Aug 11 17:01:51 EDT 2011 | Brian Lumley
Good to see you are progressing north.

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