Along the trail to the North West Passage, passage-makers or locals, both told us that North of Bylot Island lays a lovely anchorage : Tay Bay. Not all who wander are lost. Why not spend one day or two there?
For the last three years, my dream focused on the North West Passage.
In Pond Inlet, I shared this dream with other travellers.
At the same time, I always wanted to combine this ultimate sailing challenge with enjoying Arctic treasures.
I am not here to break some speed record. I sail so far north to enjoy this “once in a lifetime” opportunity. Why not indulge also into two of my lifetime passions : hunting and fishing? Curious visitors often enquire about this strange trap lashed on the stern of “Breskell”.
Crabbing in Tay Bay .
Have you ever tasted fresh Arctic crabs roasted or steamed with creamy butter? Paradise! My catching tool seats right there: a huge crab pot… Is it allowed here ? Not sure! When the survival of the crew is at risk, the captain is required to take some risks. Anyway, only a few seals swim around. They share this solitary and mountainous landscape capped with snow with polar bears. No much more around in term of competition or surveillance.
This early in the morning , we enjoy again a majestic display of Arctic colors. Compassionate sailors, we wish to share this treasure with our landlocked friends. Are you trapped in traffic jam during your morning commute ? Each one his burden. Your traffic piles up, my water is ice packed. In fact for now, I don’t complain. The trail in front is clear. A little colder than usual with head wind and currents against “Breskell”. Who cares. We sail slowly taking it easy. We navigate in a polar environment not in Caribbean waters. Many glaciers are now melting quickly.
They recede fast and their front don’t reach the water anymore. Some landscapes look even more like a Sahara desert than an Arctic frozen ground.
Tay Bay anchorage.
At midday, the entrance of Tay Bay opens in front of my horse/dragoon boat.
Strange landscape! Inserted around a coppery colored mountain range, stands what look like a natural wharf.
This flat rock guards the pass on our starboard side and greets the occasional visitor. Centuries of ice shaping forged this natural wonder. Behind the entrance, the bay itself looks deep and well protected. Naturally, no navigational maps give us any reliable sounding inside. Slowly, we engage“Breskell” bow in. Not even in the middle of the bay and my depth sounder climbs from 70 feet to less than 20 in a wink. I thought I may have still enough water to slow the boat. Too late, 2 feet now under the keel with the alarm buzzing frantically … My center board already kisses the bottom. And “Breskell” is now stuck in the mud. Good safety feature this centerboard. It’s my ultimate sounder. When it scratches the bottom, I am close to beach the boat! Quickly, we lift the board up. We turn “Breskell” around just in time to get stuck once more. More lifting, more pivoting and we float quietly again. In uncharted waters, this swing keel is a life saving device. I choose to anchor farther out in flat and calm water in around 50 feet of depth.
A brief encounter with another team preparing The Passage.
We share the anchorage with another french looking boat on our port-side. Nobody on deck. Well, it’s midnight with a midday light… They follow probably a more regular sleep pattern than “Breskell” crew. Doing so, they miss also the delicious soup cooked by Leila under a midnight sun! Bunk time now for everyone in the eery silence of this remote bay.
In the early morning, I climb on deck just in time to see « Opale » our aluminum neighbor, retrieves its anchor. Without much noise, they rise the main sail and slide slowly along “Breskell”. We greet each other, trade our destinations in a brief exchange and they are out. With only one precarious road ahead And a narrowing entrance gate, we know we are probably going to meet again.
Exploring the land around.
The anchorage is just for us now.
Land is just a quick dinghy ride away. After breakfast, I take my gun. Geese and ducks play around. Lucky birds, Bylot is a natural sanctuary. I intend to respect this refuge. So why the gun ? Just in case. Polar bears roam also the place. Apparently, they don’t get the same restrictive information about protecting their human encounters. A few hours later, regenerated by my solitary wandering, I return to the boat. It’s now Joshua turn. With Leila, they jump in the dinghy and disappear quickly in the vastness.
A couple of hours later, I return with Eric. We find three swamps close by: a perfect location for bird’s observations. Some polar bear footprints can be seen as well. For now, they don’t wander around. We all enjoyed this isolated Tay Bay stop and its Arctic surroundings.
The drive to the West calls us again. Tomorrow we will resume our North West Passage quest.
Science and climate changes.
Now for those living south, you need to understand that Arctic glaciers are the most susceptible to be impacted by climate changes. On “Breskell” deck, we saw it with our own eyes. From Greenland to Tay Bay again and again. Just tell me the contrary if you want to encounter a mad sailor.
Scientists are more serene. They have not seen this Arctic desertification. Most of them don’t have friends up there. Still, they “coldly” calculate that in Greenland the temperature increase during the last century is already around 3 degrees Celsius! Two time more that what most experts consider acceptable south….
Just in the last 10 years, ice melting increased by a factor of 4! Each year almost 300 billions of ice are lost since 2002. Have you ever heard of a “non return point” when you cannot reverse the process?
Michael Bevis, main researcher in this study, warns that Greenland it’s already there.
PNAS February 5, 2019 116 (6) 1934-1939; first published January 22, 2019
I am just a sailor, all I can predict is that in Nunavut they are also close to it.