July 22nd. A great sleep that night… Our protected bay is quiet and peaceful with our boat safely hooked on a good holding ground. After drifting alone on the Arctic Ocean or nesting in the ice-field during the earlier days, an appreciated change from our constant “night” watches.
We could have stayed right here for the next week, exploring the land or fishing around.
We wake up leisurely and have our breakfast serenely savoring our surroundings with our coffee .
Yes, but what about your guests boarding your ship in Upernavik?
Oh yes, I remember now!
We need to pick them up north. That was the first plan and don’t let me forget them! At 1:15 pm, we wake-up our good old engine. As beautiful as it is around, we have to reach Upernavik before our crew. And then our advertised North West Passage is waiting for us.
Leaving the sheltered bay and its protective shores, we navigate now on open waters with few icebergs and almost no growlers. No more « walking on the ice » for Breskell and an easy ride for her crew. The sky is grey.
As always in this case, the wind, light and variable, cooperates also without being on the nose. « Pétole » as they said in Brittany. Time to run under our « iron » sail and move swiftly north. Seven hours later, really delighted by our non stop progress, I decide to park the boat. She drifts around without obstacle.
This evening , I play again the « culinary chef « and decide to concoct another gastronomic meal. Not in the same frantic and creative mood than after our spectacular icebergs show, I plan today to cook inside the more classical frame of French “grande cuisine”. Well remembered, my skilfully boiled « arctic soup » was a huge gustatory success. Tonight, it’s « tenderloin in mustard special sauce ». I don’t plan to cook some local delicacies like walrus, whales or seals. Just the classic, plain, juicy, grass-feed beef . The mustard special sauce? A well-kept Brittany generational secret. I inherited it from my wife after more than 15 years of marriage. Don’t expect to secure it today. Like with all the traditional Brittany recipes, I need another mandatory ingredient. Let me share with you this indispensable part of any “grande cuisine”: butter.
Real butter. And lot of it. Salted please. Not this bland, tasteless American butter. I need also small potatoes… with more butter.
Yellow onions with a soft touch of this butter. And much more of it on my green onions
A serious heap of butter in the middle of the table, for spreading generously on your bread during the meal, it’s also for the better! The result surprises Eric. Not to mention myself.
It melts in your mouth. Another delicious culinary achievement for another official entry in my log book.
Not exactly calorie free you insinuate ! Maybe, but close to the original Innu alimentary guide for their daily intake recommendations of fatty seal or whale blubber. The prescribed regimen for a successful Arctic cruise, not necessarily approved for a simple walk in Central Park for an anorexic desk-bound New-Yorker.
Almost 9 pm. We crank again the engine.
And for the first time, we hook the wheel of the boat to the autopilot. We have finally succeeded in calibrating it. When I take my first watch, around midnight, I engage it ! For the next 2 hours, the autopilot does the steering while I digest peacefully under a stary sky my buttery tenderloin like a walrus on its ice-floes. From time to time, I take command for some needed corrections when growlers emerge in front. For the most part, the autopilot works alone and perfectly well. It relieves us from the boredom of long hours at the wheel when the wind is light and the sea smooth. We are perfectly aware that, with more than 15 knots of wind, it will be easily overpowered. For now, let’s enjoy the free ride.
Later on, when Eric takes his watch, he leaves also the repetitive job of steering Breskell on this water free of ice to the electronic brain and electrical motors of the pilot.
Tenderloin and autopilot: a nice and easy life. For now!
Next day, the 23rd, the morning fog starts with 3 hours of blind navigation. For us, it’s a close watch glued in front of our radar screen. After the fog had lifted, and now under a clear sky, we keep switching back and forth during our watch. Not much to do except, from time to time, to steer away from an occasional growler or some lone iceberg. A good surprise. I was convinced that more “North” meant more icebergs. I was wrong. Icebergs are the sons and daughters of tidal glaciers. From their calving day, their start drifting around at different speeds. Few people understand that the word arctic refers to an ocean not to a continent like Antarctica. Here, in the north, those icy islands ride the underlying currents of the ocean. They circulate clockwise up there, some for several years. Then, they drift off into the Atlantic where they become a serious hazard for the commercial navigation. With planes, the Coast Guard of different nations cooperate to monitor closely the location of those moving icebergs. They give precious notices to mariners about their track.
With the light wind of the night, our autopilot kept easily its bearing. Later and with the lifting of the fog, the morning wind picks up. Our pilot is quickly « loosing his North ». Overpowered by the small waves and the reactions of Breskell, it can’t respond fast enough. Can I increase its reactivity? I have to check that later in the user manual. I confess I should have read this one more carefully. I am not overly optimistic about its capacity. Naturally, you can buy a powerful autopilot when you have an unlimited budget and ride on the back of the bottomless pockets of some big corporations. Then, you need to increase your battery size and your weight. To replenish them, you buy a more powerful alternator and so on. I stay for now with my modest wheel-pilot and my trusted wind-vane. But the fragile rudder of the wind-vane cannot work in these ice filled waters. For now, back to the drudgery of the wheel. We appreciated the take-over by our electric companion. It was a relief, a momentary maritime luxury . We enjoyed it. It’s so easy to get spoiled by all that modern gadgetry and forget to sail just for the pleasure to be there and not to slave for reimbursing all these devices to the bank. Back to the real life and hands on the wheel please. We cannot keep consuming each day more and more and pretending ignoring the link between our way of life and the warming of the planet. Please let’s make the planet great again…
8:00 pm now, evening in the lower 48 states. For the last four hours it’s raining, it’s damp and it’s foggy. We start the radar for some visual help.
Good news: almost no iceberg around, only one every 5 to 10 miles. Nothing to compare with the icy maelström of the last few days…
Our last waypoint, 72 degrees 33 N and 56 degrees 14 W is closing by. Entering the maze of islands around Upernavik, we need to return to some meticulous navigation. It’s so easy to get all mix up between those multiple canals, rocks and alignments.
Only 15 miles to go before our last Greenland destination.