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Just made it through Bellot Strait!

23 August 2013 | W Bellot Strait, Peel Sound
2nd attempt to cross the Bellot Strait this morning: we left Brands Island at 04:00 and reached the western end of Bellot Strait at 06:30, pushed by the heavy currents, jointly with sailboats Acalephe and Traversey III. We saw a polar bear on the ice, not too far away from us, and woke up the kids (as promised to them last night). There were only 500m of ice left, and the current was still flowing out but slacking. We went up to the mast to look beyond the ice, big ice free patches clearly visible to the north west. The current continued pushing the ice out until there was nothing but a mere 100m of very dense ice left !! But too dense to cross. Then we saw Canadian coast guard icebreaker Henry Larsen appear as AIS icon on our GPS plotter, followed by Russian expedition cruise ship Akademik Ioffe and motoryacht Lady M II. They arrived at our end about 30 min later and radioed us that they would slow down to 10 kn to allow us to follow in their path. However, when they broke the ice, it was closing very quickly behind them again, so we three sailboats all stayed behind as it looked too dangerous to follow. But then, to our big joy,icebreaker Henry Larsen came back to make another passage for us a little bit more north. We rushed through the fresh passage at full speed, touching some BIG ice floes along the way. It was very scary. But Libellule made it through (not the least thanks to the Kevlar enforced crash boxes in the front). We got a major adrenaline rush. Actually, we still haven’t recovered, and are cooling down only slowly despite cold temperatures…

Now we are safely in Peel Sound and just received some more ice information from Henry Larsen’s helicopter. There is another 40 mn icefield (5/10 to 9/10 density) blocking our passage south. We will try to circumvent it on the west side, and if that doesn’t work out, wait for the announced 40 kn westerly winds to arrive tomorrow night to push the ice away from the coast. After that, hardly any ice until Gjoa Haven and Cambridge.

Vessel Name: Libellule
Hailing Port: Switzerland
Crew: The Cottier family on s/v Libellule
Extra: Caribbean - Greenland/Iceland - NW Passage - South Pacific - Antarctic Peninsula - Svalbard
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