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Muskox Hides
Wed Aug 24 10:01:00 EDT 2011, Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada

Jordan and Lin standing on a sledge, surrounded by drying muskox hides. We asked around, but didn't really ever find out what the hides are used for after they are dried.

Cambridge Bay is a large hamlet in Arctic Canada, population about 1800. It was named after the Duke of Cambridge by Warren Dease and Thomas Simpson of the Hudson's bay Company in 1839. The area had been an important Inuit camp-site for many years because it had plentiful caribou, seal, fish and birds. The permanent settlement was established in 1955 when a DEW (Distant Early Warning--a line of radar stations setup in northern Canada during the Cold War) line station was put there. It is now an Arctic adminstration, transportation, tourism and supply center.

We cleared into Canada in Cambridge Bay with the assistance of the RCMP (police), who were extremely helpful and hospitable. In fact, everyone in Cambridge Bay was pleasant and helpful.

We arrived too late in the year to buy any musxkox or caribou meat (next harvest starts soon) at the store, but did try the muskox burgers in the hotel, which were very good.

Thu Aug 25 4:24:13 EDT 2011 | george ray
On google earth the passage heading west looks to be full of ice ?? I don't suppose that google earth is a good way to see the current sea ice conditions.
Thu Aug 25 8:56:49 EDT 2011 | Amos
George is quite right!

Richard, how far west do you intend to go? All the way to the gulf of Alaska? Down the West Coast? It's exciting watching your progress (from an armchair) :D!
Thu Aug 25 11:10:48 EDT 2011 | Tony Gooch
Well doe to the tree of you. To reach Cambridge is very exciting. Half way there.
I'm in Oban, SCotland laying Taonui up for the winterr. I'll be back in Victoria in a week. Looking forward to welcoming you to Victoria.
Fair winds
Fri Aug 26 21:01:53 EDT 2011 | Richard Hudson
Thanks for the comments, gentlemen.

I think Google Earth tends to be several weeks or months behind, so yes, they are not a good way to look at ice concentrations. When i'm on the internet, I look at Environment Canada's website to see their ice charts.

The areas of the NW Passage that I have so far been through have been shockingly free of ice. I paid a lot of attention to the seasonal and 30-day ice forecasts and they did not indicate this little ice.

Tony, thanks, I understand you had a quick and windy trip from Labrador to Scotland. Glad to hear it went well and look forward to meeting up with you later.
Where to Stop
Mon Aug 22 10:01:00 EDT 2011, Nunavut

George asked a while back about how we were deciding where to stop. At the time, I was pushing hard to get up the Greenland coast so that if ice forecasts for Canada were good, we would have the opportunity to head towards northern Canada from northern Greenland (there is a warm ocean current going up the west side of Greenland, and a cold current going down the NE side of Canada, so if you want to get to the north of Canada by sailboat, it is best to go there via the west coast of Greenland). So my priorities were to make as few stops as possible in the interests of keeping moving during the short time we had. It was extremely tempting to go into Disko Bay, which is full of icebergs, just to see the spectacle, but we sailed by without stopping because we didn't have time.

When deciding where to stop, we look at things like the expected weather, to see if there will be shelter from it, the possible weather, to see under what conditions we'd need to leave, how complicated the navigation is, can we sail in or do we have to motor, is there likely space to anchor or tie up, if there is a settlement there, what facilities (ie water, fuel, groceries) are there, and what interesting things are there. How complicated the navigation is means things like how many shallow areas/rocks need to be avoided and how difficult are they to identify and avoid and how well are the charts likely to agree with the GPS positions--always something to consider in places not frequently travelled.

To give an example of choosing a stop, I really wanted to visit Gjoa Haven. This settlement is named after Roald Amundsen's Gjoa (the first vessel to go thru the Northwest Passage), which spent two winters in what one of the crew called "the finest little harbor in the world", so there is a lot of historical interest in going there. There is a community in Gjoa Haven to visit, and we could clear customs, buy fuel (via jerrycans) and food, and have a safe place to leave the boat while we were ashore. Gjoa Haven is also along the best-travelled route through the Northwest Passage, as the shallow waters stop the icebergs, so the waters that need to be sailed to get to Gjoa Haven tend to be free of ice earlier.

As we sailed towards Gjoa Haven, a problem became apparant about 100 miles away. The wind was shifting, and it was now dead to windward that we would have to sail for about 50 miles to get through James Ross Strait. The picture shows a portion of the chart for that area. Depths are marked in fathoms (a fathom is six feet), and there are only depths marked in a small area--the rest--white space--has not been surveyed, and is full of unmarked shallow areas. So we were looking at beating dead to windward through a relatively narrow channel. While that alone is not a big problem, the furler for the (yankee) jib had failed, so sailing to windward was more difficult than usual.

So we reluctantly bypassed James Ross Strait and our planned stop at Gjoa Haven, and sailed via Victoria Strait instead.

Wed Aug 24 6:02:49 EDT 2011 | george ray
How are the roller furling systems holding up? Seems you have had one or two mechanical problems along with the inner stay failure. Are they all the new ProFurls or do you still have some of the original french design furriers that were difficult to get parts for. Congratulations one getting by with what you have and making it work !!!!
Fri Aug 26 20:53:29 EDT 2011 | Richard Hudson
I replaced one of the old Sarma furlers with a Facnor furler. It is holding up ok, my only problem with it was when I needed to take it off to shorten the stay last year (after shortening the mast) in Labrador, and I could not get one of the Allen head bolts holding it together off. I ended up drilling out the aluminum drum and replaced the allen head bolt with a bolt I made from threaded rod and nuts.

The yankee jib uses the old Sarma furler. The drum was modified to take carbon-steel DIN bearings and seals. They work ok for a while (couple of years), then fail and need to be replaced. I now have two spare drums, it was just a matter of getting somewhere out of the wind where I could disconnect the jibstay and remove the old drum. It was complicated by the fact that I'd used grease on the threads of that furler instead of lanolin (I couldn't find any lanolin in Argentina, where I last put it together), so it took some soaking with PB Blaster to get the bolts out. After replacing the drum, and waiting for light winds to put the sail back on, it is working well again.
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.

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