Before clearing customs in Pond Inlet, let me underline one important cultural difference between North America and Europe, specifically in Europe with countries of Latin traditions .
Lying to officials belongs there to some national sport. Both in Canada or in the US, it’s just not part of the local heritage. This high risk behavior, they name it “perjury”. It can cost you a lot!
The fascinating story of a French sailor from Brittany.
I was reading the fascinating story of a young French navigator. His sailing journey was incredible. I was envious. Now, he was, like me, in Pond Inlet ready to make his clearance. This guy crossed, in 2016, two years before my first attempt, the famed North West Passage. Monique was helping as crew member. A nice, courageous and adventurous woman like many others like Leila?
No: a chicken, one hell of an hen! Crazy French sailors… And this one was also from Brittany… Yes, from my own native place! Don’t start speculating. The Pond Inlet custom officer, when clearing from Greenland where he spends the entire winter locked in ice, asked him the same old traditional questions:
Nationality ? French.
Are you alone on board? Yes.
Plants on board? No.
Animal ? No.
In this isolated outpost, clearing so few individual boats, normally they don’t even bother to come onboard. Generally, they believe what told. Except this day. He was French, they were suspicious may be! They took a dingy ride back to the boat with him. The hen, enjoying the sun, was walking and pecking on deck. Already bad!
Down below, they found a gun with enough munitions to sustain a terrorist attack or at least to please the heart of any American gun lover. Very bad!
They handcuffed the sailor before throwing him in jail without lace on his shoes. A big fine in any case, they told him. You lied. If lucky, you will get your boat back and had to turn away to another country. Worst case scenario? We will ship you by plane directly to France. His social media well deserved popularity saved his journey. Investigating the case before a final decision, they consulted his “Facebook” account. They were flabbergasted by pictures of his “hibernation” locked in the ice field of Greenland, alone with his chicken. An incredible story!
Hard to believe the good fortune of this sailor. Several times, he escaped untouched by the crushing force of the floe inside his badly protected bay by a providential late minute wind change saving his boat, himself and his damn chicken.
Like him, many dreamers plan to sail into the sunset after building their own boat. Boatyards around the world are full of broken dreams, of half-finished hulls or poorly designed vessels. Others discover later that a good boat builder in not necessarily a good sailor. Two very different worlds. Among all these dreamers, this guy took at least a reasonable short-cut. He bought a boat. A metal sailboat. A rusted piece of junk full of holes nicely painted and powered by a worn-out engine. Being like me, from Brittany, he enjoyed the sea, lived on an island and relished being on the water. That’s helps. This doesn’t qualify you for an around the world sailing trip when you don’t know how to sail a real boat or when you lack any navigational knowledge .
How much to luck and to preparation?
Still, with his 10% preparation and 90% luck, he went around nicely. Sailing the trade winds to the Caribbean islands is the easy part. You have time to learn the ropes. Adventurers have done this passage in all sort of strange vessels. The last one, “Diogenes”, a grandfather, crossed in a barrel in 2018! Another one from Brittany you guessed ? Please, check before speculating!
In any case, winds and currents work for you. Most of the time, they push the raft in the right direction. All you need is patience and luck. High latitude sailing is different: no wind or too much, unpredictable currents, growlers all around… huge icebergs…
Most sailors, when preparing their North West Passage, obey also to some level of luck: never more than 10%. You need it when confronting the sea anyway.
And most stick with their 90% preparation. The others candidates to this “Himalaya of sailing” are dead, or sank their boat or returned to some more forgiving sailing waters. Not this young sailor. And he made it! Not my personal recommendation for undertaking this challenging journey, still an outstanding achievement. Then, hanging on his incredible luck and his newly acquired skills, after being refused clearance in French Polynesia ( Avian flu), he sailed to Antarctica where the authorities mostly refused his landing because of the feathered nature of his crew member. After saluting Napoleon’s memories in St Helena, he sailed back, naturally during the high of the hurricane season, to Brittany. He received there a well-deserved “hero welcome”. Damn lucky sailor!
I need just my 10% luck…
For now, my 90% preparation is done. I need only a 10% luck! Me and my yellow wooden baby, we deserve it. I spend one year learning to sail in the Arctic water.
Another one to teach “Breskell” “to walk the ice”. In the summer of 2018, I waited patiently in front of the gates. The passage never opened for me or anyone else. This year, to coax in our favors the local northern deities, we painted for good luck some mythical horse-dragoon on the hull. Not taking any chance, we reinforced also the bow!
It’s why today, I don’t plan to be delayed by spending any time in some Pond Inlet’s jail. I will declare my gun. They know it anyway: I am an American! And no, I don’t hide any pigs or chickens in the hold of my boat for fresh meat or eggs during our long journey toward Siberia.
Just a brief stop over.
During my formal visit to the custom office, Eric and Joshua went on land to get diesel. Leila took a walk around and visited the library for some overdue emails. A good diner and to our bunk. This anchorage is wide open and rolls on any kind of sea. We don’t care much and are quickly asleep.
Next morning, I want to take some pictures of Breskell in front of Pond inlet from my dinghy. During our “night”, another beautiful rig from the Netherlands anchored near “Breskell”. A powerful steel boat with an enormous bowsprit. Returning from my pictures hunt, we exchange some news. I tell them I don’t plan to linger there much longer .
After breakfast, we rise anchor and motor to Tay Bay. They said it’s a really nice place. And we are also here to enjoy the beauty of the Arctic.