With the entrance to Arctic bay, our first choice, closed by an impromptu ice pile-up, we carefully study our other alternatives. A little bay, on the north side of this peninsula, appears as a suitable substitute : Victor bay.
A quick check on the chart confirms that its entrance is free of ice today.
A good choice to spend the “night” and with luck, even to sleep undisturbed there. As predicted, the entrance is open except for the ever-present growler here and there.
As we approach slowly, a crowd gathers on shore and watches with circumspection this yellow boat with its big American flag emerging out of the bank and approaching cautiously their isolated outpost . Their first guess? A yellow submarine emerging from the depth of the Canadian Arctic waters to reaffirm our American presence and our right to navigate freely in these « international waters ». They expected a nuclear submarine. They got a wooden boat. With that, they quickly lost interest and returned to their former activities.
We have to rework the details of our previous anchor plan. I need first to detect an acceptable depth. Less than 30 feet away from shore, I almost beach Breskell to get a return on my depth sounder. Then, if I try to figure in how much water my anchor is going to fall if I back up a little, this anchorage seem bottomless.
I send Eric, my “navy seal in training”, to gather strategic informations on land. I suggest taking a swim. He chooses taking my dinghy. His mission carried out successfully , he returns with unbelievable information.
Before being temporarily disturbed by the yellow boat, imagine what these natives where playing at?
Butchering a walrus?
Organizing a whale hunting expedition?
Gathering for a traditional dancing ?
Wrong. They were playing golf! In the Arctic, in an outpost not even identified on most maps, they where in the middle of a golf tournament when we reached their settlement. I have all my crew as witnesses if you think that my disruptive sleep pattern is affecting my judgment . Bad news for the planet but good news for our president with new business opportunities opening along the ice-sheet. Make the Arctic « green » land again with a Trump tower near a golf course in the trendy new Victor Bay’s resort.
Eric returns also with another precious advice from local knowledge. A beach, on the opposite side of the bay, provides a convenient anchorage. We can drop the hook there. Still a deep anchorage. The depth-sounder indicates at least 30 feet under the keel. If we use the strict minimum ratio depth /chain, that means to let out at least 100 feet of chain. I like to use at least 150 feet and more. With our mal-functioning windlass, pulling all that heavy chain back on board is going to become a real chore. Fortunately, the bottom is sand, one of the best possible holding ground. Breskell is safe and steady here. Other good news: the perfect working order of my windlass, a miracle cure easy to explain. This powerful electric motor needs a lot of energy. It’s the most hungry of all the electric motors on a sailboat. For feeding it, you need a very thick electrical cable going from the rear house batteries close to the motor, to the bow close to the windlass. On a fifty feet sailboat, we use a simple trick: a supplementary battery in the bow. A kind of windlass booster. For a very short time, you can use just this front battery to run the windlass. In a blow, like our last one, when you need a lot of energy for a long time, the forefront battery is quickly depleted. The sluggish working of the windlass parallels the depleted state of your battery. An easy solution: open the windlass electrical switch connecting together the bow battery with all the boat batteries and with the engine alternator. When the engine is running, you benefit from an unlimited energy supply. This important detail was forgotten during our hasty retreat.
With the good new of a windlass operating again, started a long and quiet night for the crew. And a sound sleep for the captain even if, from time to time, one big growler surreptitiously comes patting the hull. Into the one always open ear of the captain, they whisper not to forget that, tomorrow on the trail, there are going to resume the fight again…
Next morning starts like another of these days when the perfect weather induces cautiousness in the always skeptical mind of the arctic sailor. What this awesome country keeps in store for us today? Starting amazingly with this : most of the yesterday’s on-shore ice disappeared mysteriously during the night.
The anchor chain easily back on board, we point the bow west toward the exit and the outside of the bay.
What is this? In one night, and moving fast with the current, here stands vigil yesterday’s on-shore ice, partially shutting down our exit. No to worry. We return to our honed skills of slaloming around it. At the beginning of the afternoon, out of this pack, we turn around Victor point with Arctic bay as our next destination.
We sail along the shore, going south, when one of our onlookers signals “Wolf, wolf!” I prefer not to divulge for now the name of this fine eyewitness . With the size of a horse, this wolf is all white. In the Arctic, when a wolf is sized like an all white horse, it is simply because it’s a polar bear!
A mommy polar bear and its cub. Camera on, drone flying, eyes wide open. Let me slow down the boat and get closer. So close in fact that I run aground! Not a big deal. We lift the swinging keel, back up “et voilà “, Breskell floating again on the Arctic Ocean. Our first meeting with this master of the Arctic is a dream in perfect weather. Mother walking baby on the side of the ice-sheet during a sunshine and serene afternoon stroll . A splendid specimen at that, the exact opposite of the dying walking mummy of National Geographic fame. By this paradisiacal image, don’t let me lure you into believing that polar bears are just doing fine in the Arctic. Images are just that, images.
And the sad creature of the dying polar bear in National Geographic is much closer to the reality of the long-term polar bear fate that my gorgeous young mother parading its baby on a pebble beach.
Scientists describe the sorry state of the Arctic with statistics and facts. Images are for political use of some. Science is for universal use of all.
To make “our planet great again”, better not to forget this and wait too long. “Political people, they are not concerned about it, and that really piss me off,” I said to some journalists in Newfoundland . “I would really like political people (to be) much more concerned about it, especially Mr. Trump. I would like him to understand that global warming is here. Itʼs not a joke.”
Just look at this abstract resuming years of research done with satellite coverage about the ice cover. And try to deny that you fool..
Our mommy bear needs ice to teach its cub to hunt seal. Not a pebble beach to take a sun-bath or a “green” to golf on…
One hour later, we are back on track toward Arctic bay.
Running along the shore, we spot a huge waterfall about 600 feet high cascading from the vertical cliffs above.
When was the last time you showered your boat under a cascade? Again, I bring Breskell less than 60 feet from shore without shoaling her this time.
A strange and breathtaking opportunity as we cruise right underneath the waterfall…. Drone flying again with all the cameras on board hard at work recording more lifetime memories.
Polar bears, waterfalls, with all these touristic opportunities, we almost forget our destination: Arctic Bay. The entrance of the bay is still free of ice, the neighborhood pleasant and tranquil . Over board goes our anchor. We plan to meet here other boats like “Balthazar “or “Crystal” .
That’s for another story. For now, we just learn that the first movie about our last year experience gets an award this year in Maine. Cheers to our movies makers…