You know when your girl is really mad at you, angry looking and yelling. Even though she’s mad I can’t help but think, man you look sexy. I could never say this because it would just make things worse. The ocean is like a woman, its beautiful when its angry. Although it can also destroy you when its angry, like a woman. A few hours after I wrote my last entry the winds picked up out of the southeast and in 12 hours became a gale. It was blowing 40kts with higher gusts and was the most wind iv had this trip. St Brendan held up well and could have taken more. The waves in Amundsen Gulf are erratic, I think because it has an odd shape that causes a lot of wave reflection. Several times I had a green wall of water come crashing down into my cockpit filling it up and leaving me pooped. The cockpit doesn’t drain terribly quick but on the other hand my boat didn’t seem to care. A couple times when the water drained some fish would be left flopping around in my cockpit, unfortunately they were too small to eat. There is something particularly nasty about an Arctic gale. The water up here is so cold that when I stick my hand in it I feel a burning sensation instead of a cold sensation. I deployed 450 feet of 1/2 inch warp in a loop from port stern cleat to starboard stern cleat. It was the first step of two for slowing the boat down. In a true gale, or more importantly a storm, instead of going fast you want to slow the boat down to keep her from going out of control. The second step would have been to attach a drouge to one end of the warp and attach the other end of the wrap to a bridle. It never got bad enough to have to resort to full depolyment. Its a good sign – the Albin Vega 27 is much more capable than she looks – but she’s not comfortable. Sailing this little boat in big seas is like driving an old Alfa Romeo spider, you’re only doing 40 but it feels like your going 65.
Again I lost another meal. The gimbal on my stove is no longer gimbaling right and in heavy weather it spills my meal everywhere. So I don’t eat. After the gale the wind started to die down quickly so I raised my big asymmetrical sail. I was bringing in half my warp, hand over hand, when a strong gust of wind came from a different direction and detached my big sail from the whisker pole. The wind changed direction again and my whisker pole punched a hole right through the sail. The sail was impaled and was threatening to rip in half so I quickly ran forward and released the pole. I was able to prevent any further damage to the sail but in the confusion I forgot about the warp and it pulled itself overboard. It was a stupid mistake. I’ve been hard on myself about it. A stupid mistake in the Arctic can kill you. I still have a 250 foot 1/2 warp and a 200 foot 1/2 warp so its not the end of the world. Ill be able to fix my sail as soon as I get a sunny day so I can dry the sail out first. Its been foggy and raining for over a week now so who know when that will be.
The moisture gets in everything. This boat has been wet inside for so long that the wood is starting to turn black in some places (the first sign of wood rot). It has killed two out of four inverters, my multimeter, one pair of headphones (if I lose my last pair I’ll have no more music) and I have black mold in all of my books and cloths. I’m looking forward to the warm dry weather of the open Pacific. I’ve got a long way to go before I get there so I try not to fantasize about it to much.
Shortly after I lost my warp the wind died completely but there was still a heavy swell. I spent the next 11 hours sitting in the cold rain staring at my compass, motoring along. My compass is still about 80 degrees off and it drifts around a lot never really stopping on one heading. Trying to steer by it is a joke. So I used the direction of the wave swell and steered by that. My fuel gauge, engine temperature gauge and my engine stop lever all stoped working at the same time. I don’t really need my temp gauge because I know my engines temperature by feeling the engine. I don’t have a heater on this boat so my engine has become a giant hand and foot warmer. Most older sail boats don’t have a fuel gauge so I don’t really need one. As far as the engine shut off lever goes, I can always just turn the engine off from the engine itself.
I will not be done traversing the Northwest Passage until I pass Barrow Point Alaska which is still 300+ miles away. After Barrow Point I can finally head south!
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.