August 4th. The beautiful cruise ship “Marco Polo” is delivering boat loads of tourists to the village. A long day of shuttling for the crew, a long day of shopping for their guests.
For us, it’s time to challenge Baffin Bay, the first real physical gate to my dreams. I warm the engine and, with everyone on deck, order the removal of all lines. I back up and get free from the dock. Then, I turn around, slide slowly to the center of the channel and with the navigational help of alignments, we sail out safely to sea.
Going west across Baffin Bay.
Passing the “Marco Polo”, we are now on our way West for a demanding crossing. Just a few more icebergs and, as soon as we clear them, we aim directly for Lancaster sound.
Our final destination is not determined. Lancaster or Pond Inlet ? Our decision will depend on the ice charts. We have time. It’s a huge bay and a long crossing.
For sailors, the weather forecast is not overly optimistic. No more than 5 to 10 knots of north wind for the next 24 hours. In French that mean “Pétole”; flat calm!
My old faithful Perkins is going to churn some cold water along the way. West of “Disko”, as expected, we encounter some icebergs. The show of the magnificent cathedrals drifting around is always appreciated.
As a sailor, I appreciate more wind. On the other side, we won’t get pasted by storms like the last year. Even better, we all wear light and comfortable outdoors jackets. We feel more like sailing in the south seas than in the Arctic.
We enjoy the ride.
Our principal occupation, believe it or not, is watching movies, reading or chatting together exactly like during a quiet Sunday at home watching a game and chewing on chips and peanuts.
Time also for some good nap!
I am still preoccupied by my diesel leak, even if my engine catheter is working fine with no smelly liquid sloshing around in the bilge. I email to my long time partners, Jacques and Eric from Secodi in France. The same guys who, years ago, were helping a “green” young sailor to start an amazing sailing life.
They need more details about my oozing fuel . Not an easy task when you are in the middle of Arctic Bay motoring even farther away. After a while, Jacques told me he understood from where the leak was coming from. And yes, I can keep motoring without worrying. Jacques, like my West Coast friend Walt, belongs to an exclusive club. Their members speak an unique dialect: the inner mechanical language of diesel engine . They listen to them, understand them, share their difficulties and know how to make them running again happily. Figuring out the symptoms, with a distant diagnostic, they restored my trust in my engine.
I feel better. Farther west, in the middle of “Belot strait” or in other hazardous places, my Perkins is a life saving device. In many other locations, sails are a better alternative; and the farther from the land the better. When you need to challenge ice or simply to run away from it, an engine failure can be catastrophic. A deadly sentence for all of us, my crew, my boat and myself.
An engine failure.
It’s why, at the end of the next day when my motor suddenly quits, I was immediately up and worrying again. No more noise. We derive slowly in the middle of Arctic Bay in no immediate danger with plenty of water around.
A long term trouble if the problem persists. My first thought is about the heart of the engine and the main part of the fuel system: the injection pump. A delicate piece of machinery needing a highly qualified surgeon. Jacques pronounced my motor healthy. It has to be something else. A quick check into the engine room. No fuel in the bowl filter! Just a plugged artery, not the heart and nothing a good plumber can’t take care of. Opening the water separator, I still manage to break the aged plastic bottom drain bolt. The main body of the bolt is used adding a bolt inside and a washer seal to make a temporary repair. We fill up the bowl and hurrah. No leak.
On the road to engine recovery, step one is done.
Why not take advantage of the situation to change the diesel filter? I am not happy with it. The water separator was very dirty and it had probably clogged the fuel line. With the help of the motor hand pump we fill up the bowl.
Step two is done.
The last step is a classical one for diesel engine, one done multiple times before.
Step three is a classical.
Prime the engine taking out any troublesome air bubbles. I open the first injector, Eric cranks the engine, I get diesel in. The second injector : open, Eric cranks, diesel in. And we keep going. A minute later, the motor is running like a new one. Good old Perkins machine. What a relief for the captain and Jacques was right. The leak has nothing to do with the fuel pump. All is needed is picking up one liter of fuel each day and return it back to the main tank. We can wait until Cambridge Bay in three weeks to receive the needed parts for a more definite repair. The next port of call could also be Port Townsend, many thousand of miles away.
A display of Arctic colors.
For now, let’s enjoy our crossing. It’s ice-free and on top of that, it’s warm. The ice charts confirm it. An iceberg once in a while but not much more. A huge difference from our previous crossing when we make “Breskell” learn to “walk the ice” clogging the bay. I ask my crew to keep a good look-out to avoid hitting a vicious growler hidden at sea level and waiting to bite “Breskell”. This year, it’s open waters all the way during our Baffin crossing… Global warming as a “fake news”? If you want to see a really furious sailor, tell me this lie once again ! I know people up there that I like very much. These changes are already affecting their lives.
At one o’clock in the morning , when I take my watch, a gorgeous midnight sun welcomes me on deck. Red, orange, yellow and blue, all these colors play, for me alone, a symphony of unbelievable harmony. The sea is dead calm. If you know a better word than “like a mirror”, use it. It’s the word I try unsuccessfully to figure out! The ripple following my “yellow baby” is the only disturbance for miles around, like the light respiratory pulse of a newborn sleeping soundly.
Far away behind “Breskell”, this ruffle allows us to appreciate the steady work of my small autopilot. So far north, so close to the magnetic pole and this little electronic marvel is still steering a fine and steadily line.
Even if it’s only 45 Fahrenheit (7 degree Celsius) outside, better let this boring chore to our indefatigable mechanical slave.
Again, this morning a free spectacular display of all sort of paintings. I just sat on deck and relish in my good fortune in front of this improvised art gallery. What a fascinating and extraordinary journey west we are doing. All long distance sailors are artists deeply connected with their environment.
When nature offers such a dispassionate and personalized show, they become emotional. How to share these feelings with city landlubbers well protected in their cozy little boxes? I don’t know. With long distance kayakers, mountaineers or other outdoor enthusiasts challenging nature , it’s easier. They understand how beautiful but also how powerful and deadly this world could be. And who is talented enough to create such an emotional pictorial frame? I have a simple answer: the heart of the spectator.
For now, alone and speechless , I enjoy the midnight sun spraying all kinds of colors in a perfectly blue sky.
We are less than one hundred miles from the entrance of Pond Inlet. We drop the anchor in front of the village the next day at around 2 PM.
And finally a good new about climates changes.
Some critics would rightly argue:
“Olivier, look at your almost idyllic Caribbean cruise across Baffin Bay this year… And you always complain about bad news about climates changes, you damn spoiler and naysayer.”
You are right. You want better news my friend? Enjoy the end of the crossing with an hardcore sailor wearing now pink glasses.
First, partner, works as usual to kick the system even better into action. It’s not really hard!
Pollution, deforestation, increase in CO2, your choice, my pleasure.
And you are right. That’s going to help us, sailors, to navigate better and farther away.
Second. My crazy dream of the North West Passage with my yellow wooden boat?
Let’s be delighted together. In 2019, my safe passage will later demonstrate that the system is already working in the right direction. A new open seaway for a fragile boat in a sailing journey unknown to my ancestors… That’s happy news.
Even a better new for my grand kids.
They will sail directly from Port Townsend to Brittany and kneel on the tombs of my ancestors riding an Arctic easy west warm wind. That’s happy news.
And don’t forget your Amazon speedy delivery from great manufacturing countries in Asia to suburban cities in the East Coast or in Europe.
No need to circle the mythical Horn, right through the Arctic. That’s happy news. And why not share all those opportunities with my joyous sailor partners on the US East Coast.
New opportunities of sailing over Florida and anchoring right downtown Orlando.
That’s happy news.
And I have even better good news from sailors. It from James Hansen. He was betting on a 5 meters rise. A sailor delight.
What about the inhabitants of coastal areas; they are much more numerous than you, hardcore sailors ? Thinking about that, you have also a good point there my friends. Why not buy a sailboat or thanks to NASA new mission, take a ticket to climb into their life-rafts…
For now, my first preoccupation is taking care of the clearance in Canada.
I don’t want to finish in jail in Pond Inlet like this French sailor with Monique. His wife ? No, his hen. Crazy sailors! That my next post.