FC: Journey Through the Northwest Passage Summer 2008
1: title page: blog descrip
4: The Northwest Passage
5: The Northwest Passage is a sea route through the Arctic Ocean connecting Atlantic and Pacific. It was first traversed in a three-year voyage by Roald Amundsen from 1903-1906 after centuries attempts. The route picks its way through the shallow water hugging the islands in the farthest northern reaches of Canada. While the original voyage involved months of drifting locked in ice, today the waters warm just enough in August & September to sneak through open water without an ice breaker. Geraldine will follow one of two routes. The traditional route travels between Baffin Island and Greenland. There is a shorter route, but more vulnerable to ice, that crosses the top of Hudson bay and snakes along the west coast of Baffin Island. This second route is dicey as it could be a costly dead-end mistake. On the upside it saves a potential 800 miles. We are not aware of anyone going this way on a east to west passage.
6: Possible Routes There are three possible routes that Geraldine may take through the Northwest Passage. | Alternative Route # 1 This is the shortest route, but also the least likely to be navigable due to ice conditions. This route takes us through the 105 mile long Fury & Hecla Strait which has, historically, always been ice covered. If recent warming trends continue, and with a little bit of luck, we’re hoping that there might be a chance for us to sneak through this more desirable route. The Strait has opened up in recent years. The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker AMUNDSEN transited the Strait in October 2006 — very late in the season — yet to everyone’s surprise, they found open water. We will probably be coming too early in the season…but strange things have been happening in the Arctic lately. The problem is that we’re going to have to make a call prior to turning west out of the Labrador Sea into Hudson Strait. If we do attempt this route, then we discover that we can’t negotiate Fury & Hecla, this will cost us well over 1000 miles of extra travel to go back out to the Labrador Sea and take one of the other alternative routes via Greenland. Note that after Fury & Hecla, this route also takes us through the very narrow Bellot Strait between Somerset Island and the mainland (the northernmost mainland point in North America). Bellot is another very treacherous strait with a very strong current, however if we find that strait to be too dangerous to attempt, it would only cost us a few hundred miles to run up and around Somerset Island and come down into Peel Sound.
8: Alternative Route # 2 This is more the “traditional” route of the Northwest Passage. It is also (with the exception of Gjoa Haven) the route taken by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen in the first successful transit of the Passage in 1903-1906. If time allows, we will add Gjoa Haven to our route as well. This is the longest route that we are considering, but also one that has a certain “comfort level” (if that’s possible) since we know that others have been successful taking this route. It would also bring us to places where we have already established local contacts such as Resolute and Cambridge Bay. We would leave Cambridge Bay and head westward through Coronation Gulf, Amundsen Gulf and into the Beaufort Sea, refueling in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, then continuing westward across the southern Arctic Ocean to Prudhoe Bay and Barrow, Alaska.
9: At the beginning, this route would take us eastward across Davis Strait to Disko Bay and Ilulissat, Greenland where fuel will be available. There, we would also get to view one of the largest (and fastest moving) glaciers on earth, the Jakobshavn Glacier. Although it seems out of the way, this crossing will enable us to avoid the dangerous “iceberg alley” along the east coast of Baffin Island. From Disko Bay, we will follow the west coast of Greenland northward, refuel again in Upernavik, then head back west across Baffin Bay and enter the Passage via Lancaster Sound. This route will also take us by Beechey Island where British explorer Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 1843 expedition spent their first winter…and where the first three members of his crew died and were buried. Their headstones can still be seen there today. The rest of the 129 crew members died over the two subsequent winters after their two ships, EREBUS and TERROR, were eventually crushed by the ice and sank.
10: Alternative Route # 3 This route is another one that we are considering because of the recent warming trend in the Arctic and the somewhat surprising receding of the ice cover in both M’Clure and Prince of Wales Straits in the Northwest Territories. The first part of this route is the same as Route # 2, but instead of going south from Resolute into Peel Sound, this route would take us further westward from Resolute through Barrow Strait, Viscount Melville Sound and toward M’Clure Strait where we would turn southwest into the narrow Prince of Wales Strait between Victoria Island and Banks Island. We would exit the southwest end of Prince of Wales Strait into the Amundsen Gulf at which point we are basically through the Northwest Passage.
11: We would have to make a stop in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories to refuel, then head west across the Arctic Ocean toward Prudhoe Bay and Barrow, Alaska..This is somewhat of a slam dunk route through the Passage, bypassing many of the local hamlets that we might like to see but, nevertheless, getting the job done. The call on Route # 2 vs. Route # 3 will be made before we leave Resolute, based on ice intelligence that we receive from the Canadian Coast Guard, the Canadian Ice Service and the daily satellite images that we receive. Even as early as mid-June 2008, there were indications that the ice in Prince of Wales Strait was beginning to soften. European Space Agency satellite photos from August 2007 show both M’Clure and Prince of Wales Straits wide open with only a few traces of brash ice here and there.
12: Observations from Last Year This is a satellite image of the ice cover in the Northwest Passage taken on August 22, 2007. For reference, the black dot in the upper right hand corner is the North Pole. This is as open as the Passage has ever been on this date.
13: Bearing in mind that this 2007 image was taken 3-4 weeks after we will be transiting the Passage in 2008, nonetheless, we should make some observations from this image relative to our three proposed alternative routes: Alternative Route #1: Foxe Basin is completely ice free as is Fury & Hecla Strait, however, Fury & Hecla may not be the real issue here — it will more likely be the east coast of the Gulf of Boothia which, as we have already been warned, may be clogged with drift ice. This image shows that even on August 22nd, the west end of Fury & Hecla was still clogged at the Gulf of Boothia. Favorable winds would probably alleviate this problem (temporarily). Alternative Route #2: This “traditional” Northwest Passage route via Victoria Strait was completely ice free on August 22nd, as was reported by two other expeditions that got through last year (the American CLOUD NINE and the British LUCK DRAGON). This is very encouraging! Alternative Route #3: Note that on August 22nd M’Clure Strait was open but the south side of Viscount Melville Sound still had a lot of fast ice with a little on the north side as well. Note too that Prince of Wales Strait appears to be blocked at the northeast end. We’ll have to watch these two areas closely before we decide to deviate from Route #2 for Route #3.
14: Ice Forecasting This website, http://www.iup.uni-bremen.de:8084/amsr/amsre.html, has fantastic images and movies of the current ice situation in the Arctic (and the Antarctic). They have a sattelite image of the current ice concentrations in the Northwest Passage that are updated every day. They also maintain a video (below) which shows the last twenty days, and how the ice has been changing in the Northwest Passage. The darker sections are those where the ice is beginning to melt.
16: Cruise Planning Skip Boselli, our co-captain and navigator, has developed a cruise plan to reflect the various distances, days and fueling options between ports, should we end up taking our Alternative Route # 3 (Greenland and Prince of Wales Strait). This will create a good baseline and a good real-time reference to let us know if we are on schedule or behind schedule. The only potentially “ugly” refueling stop would be in Resolute…but we might be able to get a fuel truck to come down to a calm beach somewhere and we can drag the hose out to GERALDINE. All the other places should have some kind of docking facilities.
17: StopCumulative Miles*Distance for this legFuel at destination?Miles* traveled since refuelingProjected date to arrive at destination** Corner Brook, NFLD St. Anthony, NFLD245245YES245Thursday, July 17, 2008 Resolution Island, NU940695NO Thursday, July 24, 2008 Cape Dyer (Easternmost point of Baffin Island)1275335NO Saturday, July 26, 2008 Ilulissat (Disko Bay), Greenland1550275YES1305Monday, July 28, 2008 Upernavik, Greenland1805255YES255Wednesday, July 30, 2008 Resolute, NU2470665YES665Tuesday, August 05, 2008 Entrance to Prince of Wales Strait2815345NO Thursday, August 07, 2008 End of Prince of Wales Strait2965150NO Friday, August 08, 2008 Tuktoyaktuk, NWT3280315YES810Monday, August 11, 2008 Prudhoe Bay, AK3605325NO Wednesday, August 13, 2008 Point Barrow, AK3785180NO Friday, August 15, 2008 Nome, AK4345560YES1065Tuesday, August 19, 2008 (5000 statute miles) * Nautical miles ** At 130 nautical miles per day (14 hours/day at 9.3 knots)
18: The Boat
19: Geraldine is a 46 Maine Lobster boat built by Wilbur Yachts in 1985 on a Jarvis Newman solid glass hull and then rebuilt again by Wilbur in 2008. She was originally constructed as a research vessel for Walter Paine of Enfield, N.H. He had the boat built ruggedly but handsome to study environmental aspects of the ocean floor and mollusks in particular. She had a laboratory and hydraulic gantry/dredge aboard for obtaining and processing samples. Captain Paine ventured from Newfoundland to the Dry Tortugas in the boat named Mitra for 20 years. The hull is a built-down variety which gives an enhanced load carrying capacity, sea-kindly ride in almost any weather situation.
20: We purchased her in the fall of 2006 knowing she needed a face lift and some repairs to delaminated sections of the house. This turned out to be a bigger can of worms than we anticipated akin to the house remodel/money pit. Never-the-less after 21 months, Geraldine as she is now renamed emerged from a complete rebuild to a nearly new state and completely new in many ways.
21: The vessel is a 2 stateroom, 2 head, 3 shower boat with galley located down. We have converted the lab into a “service porch” with a freezer and washer/dryer. Systems added include a 400 gallon/day water maker, a 14 HP bow thruster, a 50K BTU furnace and defrost system and all new electronics. There are three driving stations (main helm, fly bridge and cockpit.) She carries 1000 gallons of fuel, has a range of 2000 miles and carries 200 gallons of fresh water.
22: Geraldine Single 4/1/1926 - 7/7/2003
23: Flags and Burgees | You may notice in some of the photos of GERALDINE, some unfamiliar flags and burgees. | In addition to the US flag which she always flies from the stern, as a courtesy to our host country (for most of our trip)....
24: As a further courtesy to the province that will host most of our Canadian visit, we will also be flying the brightly colored flag of the province of Nunavut just below the Canadian flag on the starboard yardarm. | For those who are unaware, Nunavut is Canada’s “newest” province, having been formed in April 1999 with the splitting of the original Northwest Territories. Nunavut is by far the largest of all the Canadian provinces and by far the least populated. It is three times the size of Texas and one third larger than Alaska. Their 28,000 residents live in 26 communities and hamlets with 60% of them being under 25 years of age. Most of the population is Inuit (no, not “Eskimo”) and unlike the other Canadian provinces, Nunavut is self-governed by the Inuit with their own Premier and Cabinet. The capital is Iqaluit where, by the way, the Canadian Coast Guard maintains their Arctic Marine Communications Traffic Services Centre (these are the nice people at the other end of our marine radio transmissions).
25: The red section in the center of the Nunavut flag is an “inukshuk”…a traditional landmark used by the Inuit to help find their way, both on land and on water. The inukshuk is the cultural symbol of Nunavut. Roughly translated, inukshuk means “artificial person” and you can see the resemblance (”Inuk” is the singular form of Inuit). Below is an example of a real inukshuk.
26: In addition, you may notice a red, white and blue burgee flying from the bow of GERALDINE. | Created as a triangular adaptation of the international signal flag “W”, it is the burgee of the Winnipesaukee Yacht Club in Gilford, New Hampshire where Jim Boselli has been a member for over 30 years.
28: The Crew
29: Walt Jones Captain Skipper Walt Jones brings a wealth of passagemaking experience to the helm of Geraldine. His nautical journeys have seen him traverse the east coast, the south (gulf) coast, the west coast, and so he figured it was high time he saw the north coast. Traditionally a sailor, Walt fell in love with the graceful wooden pilot house steamers of the 1920’s. It was a surprise then, when he announced the purchase of a research vessel in Maine, built on a solid lobster boat hull. The far-flung purchase provided just the excuse he needed to become only the 34th private vessel under 60 to traverse the Northwest Passage, and bring Geraldine home to the west.
30: Kip Jones Galley Master Affectionately known as “The Kipper,” Geraldine’s galley master turns the notion of hard tack and grog on it’s head. Salty Alaskan fishermen have been known to trade their catch when they smell hot-out-of-the-oven cranberry scones wafting over the water. Whether conducting a blind taste test of local butters, or whipping up fillet of halibut in salmonberry beurre blanc, the crew of the Geraldine will not go hungry (or lose weight).
31: Skip Boselli Co-Captain & Navigator Skip adds a wealth of experience to the crew. He is a long time friend of Walt’s & husband of Kip’s college roommate. He brings a long history of distance cruising in small boats (23 to 27) from Newfoundland to the Dry Tortugas, the Great Lakes and inland waterways of America including the Great Loop. Skip taught the U.S. Power Squadron Safe Boating Course for 13 years. Currently, he teaches the State of New Hampshire Boating Education Course. He has been communicating with the various authorities about our proposed voyage and is laying the groundwork with key contacts that can assist with making the passage both safe and enjoyable.
32: Pat Robertson Mechanic & Polar Bear Repellent Pat is Walt’s boss at CityTeam Ministries. The only way to take a three month leave of absence was to get the big cheese on board, literally. He is also a crack diesel mechanic which will come in handy should Geraldine’s Detroit Diesel 8V92 poop out off Baffin Island. He also is the only man aboard with a gun big enough to stop a polar bear boarding party.
33: Shane Robertson Greenhorn, Diver, Mechanic Shane makes his cruising debut on this voyage. He comes with an abundance of mechanical systems expertise, a enthusiastic attitude and a strong back.
35: Navonics Electronic Charts Thanks to Navionics for graciously supplying us with the use of all the charts for the west coast of Greenland (Gold Charts). See http://www.navionics.com for more information. | Peet’s Coffee Peet’s coffee has graciously supplied us with all the coffee we can drink and some extra to share with new friends we meet along the way. This is our favorite coffee and we are thankful for the fuel to keep our engines running! http://www.peets.com (800) 999-2132
36: Aquatoad Design Graphic Design Thanks to Randy at Aquatoad Design for his work on this website and the lettering on Geraldine’s transom. See http://www.aquatoad.com for more information. Aquatoad Design 1270 Lafayette Street Santa Clara, CA 95050 Phone: (408) 916-1230 Email: info *a_t* aquatoad *d_o_t* com
37: West Marine Store #1 Skip Wangbickler, Store Manager Skip has been a big help as we’ve been getting prepared for our trip! West Marine Store #1 850 San Antonio Rd Palo Alto, CA 94306 Phone: (650) 494-6660 Fax: (650) 858-0485 www.westmarine.com
38: Follow Our Journey
40: Launch! Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 Look what just happened!!!
41: Posted in General | No Comments
42: The Geraldine! Saturday, May 24th, 2008 | We made it to the Geraldine at about 1:00 am Thursday night, came aboard and slept like babies!!! We took her out yesterday and didn’t crash the dock into pieces, but instead Walt did a great job bringing us in. We are busy provisioning, stowing, and figuring out how she will work for us. So far we are really pleased with the work that’s been done and just using her though there is still lots to learn. Skip Boselli will join us Tuesday and we will go out until Thursday to check her out. Olive, the dingy, shows up some time today as she is also finished. The dingy is a clam shell design; 11 overall and she hinges and folds in half and is stored that way. We had her built for us to save space and the pictures we have seen look so great. We think we are getting what we asked for. We are on wireless internet the marina supplies and it’s fun because we both brought our lap tops and any questions or need for directions can be done on line without yellow pages; it’s a new world! Food prices are so much cheaper in Maine we are stunned. Gas is about the same which was also surprising. One system we are excited about on the boat is an emergency motor or get home motor. It runs off the generator and uses less than half the diesel of the main engine. It goes at 5.5 knots instead of 10 but the fuel savings may just slow us down! The cost up in the NW Passage can be well over $10 a gallon, so we are talking a REAL savings. The microwave we had installed is perfect and the new mattresses are very comfy. I’m really pleased with how much I can fit in the galley so far and that was a concern I had. | Posted in General | No Comments
43: Moving In! Monday, May 26th, 2008 | We had a visit from Mark Kunz who is building Olive and he brought the dinghy though she is not yet finished. He needs to put the rub rail material on and paint the inside. He came Sunday afternoon and we saw how cool the clam shell folding design Walt picked out really is. Our dinghy will be just right to carry four adults and maybe a bambino or two! He had dinner with us and spent the night, reporting in that at 6 10 he could spread out and was very comfortable in the V berth!! Best night he ever spent on a boat, he said, so we think the money spent on fancy mattresses has paid off! | The heater is an advantage! It has been in the 40’s at night and we have been toasty. We have been busy emptying all the boxes we sent (and Pat sent) and have been finding a place to store things and then moving them to a better spot! We have had workers aboard helping us with lots of details and have not been out but once. That will change Tuesday when Skip Boselli shows up. I plan to make bread while he is here and check out the oven! I spent much of the day doing laundry, getting the new towels and sheets washed and ready for you! :-)
45: Our Memorial Day bas been memorial to us as we are so excited that we could even own a boat like this free and clear and be planning such an exciting trip. Thanks be to God. I went to a local small grocer today and he will order wheels of cheese, beans, rice etc. for me and deliver it to Geraldine! This little shop is neat and is one Martha S. and even Julia Childs frequents! I made sure we weren’t getting the Martha price! All the interior ultra suede remains under plastic so we haven’t gotten the view of the main saloon yet, but she looks great. We are so excited and grateful! The galley works! Love the way it is put together and the stove is cool (or Hot really!) | Posted in General | 1 Comment