Our departure for the focus of our summer adventures, the North West Passage, is imminent.
Our professional filmmakers, Dom and Joe are already on board playing with their cameras and a glass of good wine…
Shannon, our women crew member, is scheduled for the end of July .
We plan to leave in no more than a few days, around August the second. In the morning, in the evening or during the “night” , in fact as soon as we are ready and the sooner the better.
Joe and Dom take care of the last part of the provisioning. Not an easy chore.
Even if we have already most of the basic staples, we need to store six weeks of provisioning for five hungry seafarers. The farther north we go, the harder to find groceries and the more expansive they become. In Nunavut, the northern part of Canada, most of the food is flown in by plane from the main distribution centers thousands of miles away, as far as Montreal or Toronto for the eastern part of the Canadian Arctic.
And I have another preoccupation. An all American preoccupation.
I need to protect myself against the devil forces at work against us the world over. I need guns.
Well, in the Arctic, people are not much of a problem. Greenlanders, Innu, Canadians are few and far between. They are friendly and so naïve. Do you know that most of them leave their doors open to all the dangers lurking in the shadows. The Russians? There are still many miles away, on the other side of the Bering sea. Let’s keep these enemies for later. Our present and clear danger now is the polar bear.
Do you remember this famous picture in National Geography showing a famished polar bear stalking the ice in search of food? Social media shared this photo billions of time . What about us if we meet it? Well, this one is dead now. And the case was probably overblown with this animal, been old, sick, blind and unable to stand up in any kind of wind. A side effect of climate change? I prefer to let that very specific link with this very particular animal at the hands of experts. But I truly believe the polar bear is at high risk as a specie when facing the terrible consequences of the present warming of the Arctic. Remember my boat’s logo?
Still, this hungry beast made a strong impression on me. Protecting his crew is the number one responsibility of any ship captain. Naturally, I carry already a gun on my boat. Some of my friends, down south in Canada, are going to tease me about driving back, with my shot-gun, a massive frontal attack by a family of famished polar bears. Let those uninformed fellows sneer at me. My captain orders from now on are:
“no way, during our North West Passage, to go ashore without a gun.”
After many local serious consultations, that looks like a very reasonable safety measure for people exploring on foot the arctic ice-sheet.
So why a second gun? Whoever stays on board needs a gun too. Private property protection as always and it’s in our constitution anyway. Suppose Shannon stays on board, taking care alone of Breskell during a “men only safari” on ice to bring back “ice-meat” with my shot-gun. Our polar bear, the brother of the one of National Geographic fame, very hungry also and in the same bad shape and mood, is searching around for some walrus. He climbs onboard looking for its favorite food. Even if Shannon has nothing in common with walrus, how can she protects herself in case of a misjudgment by our animal ? That’s were a good machine-gun is really useful.
Sadly, not being at home, we cannot go shopping for it in our favorite drugstore. And unfortunately, here, we are not allowed to buy even an ineffective small hand-gun. We are not resident of Greenland. As an alternative, we have been told that Shannon can use the extinguishers. Any other solutions? Some sailors suggested safety flares.
Not a bad idea if you think about it. Looks like a gun, lot of noise and heat, dense smoke and frightening colors. And infinitely less dangerous, for my boat I mean, than Shannon spreading machine gun bullets all over my beloved Breskell hull. What about the fog horn? No powder mess all over the deck like with extinguishers, no holes with splinters all around like with the machine gun, no fire dangers like with flares. I plan to show Shannon where is the switch activating the horn. Naturally, in the case of our National Geographic famished bear, it’s useless. The poor animal was not only blind but also deaf.
Some locals, and I suspect also some Canadians , with a sardonic smile, suggest a more radical but totally non-American solution. A coward retreat down the companionway closing the hatches. Just the time to brew one nice cup of coffee, waiting for the beast to return to some more productive grounds.
No more chit-chat. Some boat are already taking off. After a week there, « Jooly », a Belgian boat met in Sisimiut is leaving today for Lancaster sound, one of the base camp for the next crossing of the North West Passage.
With us, stays also Balthazar, a beautiful 17 meters long aluminum boat, owned By JP D’AllES, the architect of the French Ariane Space Program.
Also in port remains “Cristal” a polish fiberglass boat and “KiwiRoa” from New Zealand another aluminum boat.
As a matter of fact, after accounting for all the boats we met along the road , no less than eleven vessels attempt the famed passage this year.
How many will succeed ? I sincerely hope every one of them, including myself! Coming already so far North, we all deserve this reward.
Guess what ? We are the only hand-made boat done by her actual captain, the “crazy French guy” skipping his “hardened wood boat”.
The new word in town for what is, in my traditional school of boat building, just a time-honored cold molded epoxy sailboat.
After 9 days in Upernavik, our old Perkins shows us the way. It starts without hesitation, happy to run again over the arctic water. It’s also 9 pm this evening, still daylight in the hight latitudes. We pick up our lines. A last salute to all our friends here. A “see you soon” to all those waiting for us on the other side in Port Townsend or elsewhere.
Now starts our real adventure. The one, I have dreamed about for so long. The adventure of a lifetime: the Himalaya of the sailors. Gee, we are starting now our North West Passage.