The Arctic must of read my last blog entry because it got a lot colder. The wind picked up out of the east which is great but it brought the fog, rain and colder weather with it. After Rae strait the navigation became much more technical. Simpson strait (south of King William island) is a challenging stretch. The current comes ripping through the strait and bounces off the many islands. At times the current was in my favor, at other times the current pushing me sideways toward a lee shore. At one point I was going backward with my engine at full speed. I made it through and I saw a medium size Canadian coast guard ship sitting on anchor. The last time I saw a ship someone handed me a watermaker and a bottle of screech. The guy I talked to was very nice and gave me some good ice info for Queen Maud gulf.
From this point on I was able to sail with 20-30kt easterlies. I’m not sure what this boat’s hull speed is but I’m sure I was over it. There were a few tricky places on the east side of Queen Maud gulf and there was some 2/10s to 3/10s pack ice running east to west on the far west side (I think it came out of Icebreaker bay, go figure). I sailed south of most of the ice and cut through the pack without even having to jibe. After Queen Maud the winds picked up to around 30kts and I flew through some areas of difficult navigation at top speeds, at times sailing through narrow passages between two islands(what fun!) I had three great days of sailing but all things come to an end.
I started sailing up Dolphin and Union straits and about half way through the wind changed to Northwest and stayed 25-30kts with higher gusts, my progress came to a screeching halt. The wind alone wasn’t terrible but there was a strong outgoing tide and when it mixed with the strong incoming wind and waves it created surprisingly sharp and steep waves. St. Brendan is far to small to power through the waves like a 50 footer as she only displaces 5,070lbs. Instead the waves pick the boat up and toss it around like flotsam. I had two meals get lifted right out of the pot and splatter all over the cabin. That was soooooo frustrating! I can deal with the cold and the wet, but don’t mess with my food. Last night I when to bed in a very wet boat with little pieces of corn and chicken all over the place. This morning the wind died briefly so I cleaned my cabin and fixed a few things that broke over the last few days.
One thing that is beyond fixing is my auto pilot (its really a tiller pilot). Its been getting worse over the last month and finally completely died today. It was at least 15 years old so I’m not too surprised. I only need the auto pilot when I motor and theres no wind so its not a huge deal. Although, I recently finished a singlehanded trip where I sailed from Annapolis MD to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and back with only a windvane and I hated spending long hours at the helm when there was no wind. I still have around 45 gallons of diesel left, which is great, but that also means I’m going to be spending countless hours sitting in my cockpit starting at my compass, motoring along. Oh well.
I would like to take a moment to thank Peter Semotiuk. He has been giving me ice reports since Baffin Bay. Having good ice info is crucial, since I can’t get online to look things up for myself. Peter was always friendly and since he’s actually lived in the Northwest Passage he’s one of the few real experts on the area. I’ll send him a bottle of Scotch when I get back.
Matt's motivation for the trip is to show people, particularly those with disabilities, that there are no limits to what can be accomplished in life; and to raise money for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB), a nonprofit sailing program for people with disabilities, based in Annapolis, Md. Click here to learn more about CRAB.