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Sun Aug 21 12:44:02 EDT 2011, Victoria Strait

We often sail in the fog. I guess this is really a rainbow obscured by fog.

Sun Aug 21 13:37:06 EDT 2011 | george ray
The conditions are very challenging. Can you imagine navigating these places without benefit of GPS? Sextant, compass, ded reckoning, pelorus, sun-stone, tide and current tables, etc? Oh bye the way, have you been using a sunstone?
Sun Aug 21 14:02:46 EDT 2011 | Richard Hudson
George, yes, navigation is so much easier with GPS and radar and depthsounders.

Knowing the compass would not work for much of the time, I wanted to inscribe a kind of pelorus on the doghouse top for taking bearings for fixes, but never got around to it. The other requirement for taking bearings for fixes is a three-arm protractor (or at least it makes plotting them much easier, though I suppose one could use a protractor and cut a sheet of paper at the right angle for a two-point fix), which I don't think anyone sells anymore and is another thing I didn't get around to making beforehand.

I have not been using a sunstone (as long as the GPSes work, nothing compares to them for accuracy :) ).
Sun Aug 21 19:53:58 EDT 2011 | Amos
If you have a gyro compass, you can lock your relative bearing at a verbal signal while someone marks the heading, and transfer the bearing plus the heading. But you need a non-mag way to determine your heading int he first place!!
Tue Aug 23 12:12:51 EDT 2011 | brian
The sv Andante and Hannah are at dock in Nain. Heading south after summer in Labrador waters as far north as Nachvak Fjord. Folks on Andante said they ran across you in Cartwright earlier this year.
On The Radar
Sat Aug 20 10:01:00 EDT 2011, Franklin Strait

A few days ago, sailing down Franklin Strait, we overheard a call from Canadian Patrol Aircraft 102 to two vessels by name. From the name, I knew one vessel was a sailboat, its name was on the transom, which was vertical, and the letters weren't all that big, so I thought it would be difficult to read that name from an airplane. I also knew that sailboat had an AIS transmitter (this transmits vessel name, course, speed and position automatically, for collision avoidance), so figured the plane was decoding the AIS transmission--otherwise, they would have called the vessel by position, not by name.

About twenty minutes later, I heard a plane. There were enough clouds in the sky that I did not think a plane would see a boat, but within a few seconds, a low-flying plane that looked to be a military Hercules flew by about 100m away (too fast to get a good blog pic). Clearly they had picked us up on radar (we have no AIS transmitter, and the steel deck would make a good radar target). About 30 seconds later, Canadian Patrol Aircraft 102 called us on the VHF by name. I thought they had impressive cameras to be able to take pictures of the boat that were clear enough--at the speed they were going--to be able to read the name on the side of the hull. They said they were on a routine patrol, and wanted to know Vessel Name, Country, Home Port, # of people aboard, Last Port, Next Port and Owners Name. I gave them all the information and they continued on their way.

Today, in Victoria Strait (the blog is a bit behind), in somewhat foggy conditions, the same plane announced it was conduting a routine patrol and flew over us. They were farther away this time (a good idea in fog!), and took a few minutes before calling us by our position. We replied, same information as before, and they continued on their way.

We have heard nothing else on the VHF since leaving Greenland.

Sun Aug 21 15:31:15 EDT 2011 | Timothy
Apparently there is a big military exercise in nearby Resolute for the past few days and an anticipated visit by the Canadian Prime Minister, which is likely cancelled after the tragic plane crash of a flight from Yellowknife to Resolute which, last I heard, had 3 surviving passengers from the 12 aboard. Probably mote activity than the area has had for a ling while. Maybe everyone was coming for a glimpse of the historic voyage of Issuma.
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!

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