North West Passage: the human side behind our odyssey.

« Olivier, wake up, wake up! ». Sailing strait from the coast of Siberia, your « yellow patched boat » is now suspect!   Some U.S Coast Guard undercover navy seals need to board her…

“Breskell” a spying boat?

“Breskell” a spying boat!  I jump on deck. Don’t remember who proposed this joke… Leila probably !😂

An escort boat with my good friend Walt on board.

No U.S navy seals there.  With some crew members, it’s my good friend Walt, a local Diesel engine genius.  Walt was also the creative builder of “Breskell” Arctic crow’s nest.  A safe ice observation station high on her mast.  They came offshore today to escort “Breskell” back home.  Nice!

Josh back in his home water.

And Josh also is back in home water. Smiling, he takes the wheel.  No need for maps. He knows this place like his own pockets.  Three summers to « challenge the ice », up north, in the Arctic. Now, all we have to do is follow our beautiful « pilot boat » to port…  On “Breskell” emotions are slowly building up.

No wonder sailors fall in love with boat…

Except for flying birds, sailboats combine metaphorical grace, mechanical efficiency, pure beauty and fuel frugality that no other human transportation devise ever matched. No wonder that sailors, women or men, fall deeply in love with « SHE », being a traditional design or a modern racer.

Draw me a ship, not a sheep…

In the « Little Prince », for his friend , Antoine de SaintExupéry draw a sheep. Damn artists!  An horse, yes; a dragoon why not?  But you can’t even ride a sheep…  I was luckier.  Instead of a stupid brainless gregarious beast, my father draw me a ship! A big beautiful pelagic sea-bird named “Breskell”.  Yesterday, we squeezed my horse/dragoon through the North West Passage.  Today, we sail her home.

Sailing home, “Breskell” is all smile.

Like a consummate politician during a presidential campaign , “Breskell” is all smiles. With wind filled sails, she presents her best side for an ultimate « Instagram » picture. The big “ugly” patch on her hull?  In the shadow off her starboard side.  The « duck-taped » dodger?  Hidden also!  All ingredients of a concealed game when you built either a political career or a boat legend!  Who knows?  Even down below, the engine could be churning for an added lift.😂

Last sail up, last buoy out.

Last sail up, last buoy out, last rounding cape. The red on your right when you return from sea.  RRR, just the contrary in Europe…

Let me check Eric shoes for our «15 minutes of fame»…

Sails out, pilot-boat in, emotions up.  Ready for our «15 minutes of fame». Let me just be sure that Eric doesn’t come out with his slippers in front of the camera this time.

I told you Bob, that I will not miss the US land!

Happy to be back home Bob?  I told you that I never lost a crew member overboard.  Except once…  My beloved little cat during a rock and roll night in the middle of the Atlantic.  This cat even learned to fish from my transom!  Damn it, I still grieve it today. 😢

My wife landed first. I had to follow.

Here, my wife and daughter landed first to start our new life. No choice. I had to follow!  Anyway, one had to convoy the luggages and take care of the cat.  I single-handled “Breskell” from Brittany to the Chesapeake.  I deplaned later in Port Townsend with a bag, a few sea stories, no boat and no more cat😢.  Dave at Townsend Bay Marine and the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Boatbuilding gave me a job…  That’s all I needed to start again.  American way!  Many thanks to you.

If some gave me a chance, other were more dubious…

Rightly , others were more dubious about this strange looking fellow coming from so far away with his craggy face and his hard to believe foreign sea narratives.   Built its own fifty feet wooden sailboat? Atlantic crossing with his wife?  Solo?  

Come on Olivier!

Running a marina in the Caribbean? Making “optical business” along the Amazon River? Shipwrecking his first boat on a coral reef in the far-away Bahama during a moonless night?  Sure, this guy is a famous story teller with an unlimited imagination!  Why not driving also a team of husky dogs in the Arctic *?

*Sub Arctic, Quebec… (Abitibi the place😂)!

Come on Olivier…

Listen folks: today, this lunatic tells another incredible story!  Falling and disappearing engulfed under the sea surface.  Yes, the whole of the 50 feet of “Breskell”… with his wife… and a cat… Where?  In a “gaz bubble” around the « Bermuda Triangle » during an Atlantic crossing*.

Come on Olivier… come on!

*Methane bubble from the sea floor? Some researchers explain mysterious boat disappearances this way. For us?  Falling inside a soft cloud into a crevasse… before emerging like a cork!😱 Thanks “Breskell”!

As a matter of fact, today this crackpot also casually relates that he almost lost “Breskell” during an hurricane. Where?  Cruising with his wife in the Grenada island.  Serious educated boaters know for a fact that there is no hurricane emerging so close to the equator *.

(* Ivan, September 2004😱.  Emily, July 2005).

Imagine, the famed North West Passage in a wooden boat! Come on, Olivier… Come on.

During his most delirious moments, this dreamer wants to make “our planet great again”!  Now, listen to his last epileptic seizure.  He  claims that he will transit his home-made yellow WOODEN boat throughout the ice into the infamous North West Passage!  Family disease?  Wife and daughter even painted a Chinese dragoon on the bow. A Chinese dragoon!  This fellow dreams his life…  Sadly, it confirms also our previous diagnosis:  this star-gazer shelters a « little bicycle » inside his head…

A « little bicycle » in my head? Sisters and brothers , to live this kind of dream you need more than a « little bicycle »!  You need a big mountain bike.  And with strong studded tires!

3 years and the conclusion  of a fantastic odyssey.

North West Passage: DONE!  Three years, one failure, 90% of very careful preparation, 10% luck and a lot of pedaling with an hardened and motivated crew.  Then it’s easy!  Just solving endless series of interesting problems for the journey of a lifetime to the top of the sailing world. With a working escape road for a safe return. It’s a long ride from the magnificent Arctic.  A ride worth every single minute of it.

From Paris to Port Townsend by the North West passage: what a ride!

And speaking of hardened and motivated crew, look at this wonderful women:  sorry, the dream is now over Leila.  But what a damn ride we have done all together! One more step on land before I start crying also…

Back home.

Beloved gypsy women.  Lucky me the day she finally decided to marry and offered me a family.  Together we chased many dreams, together we sailed many places, together we faced many challenges…

Beloved gypsy women. Breadwinner for our family, dream-maker for her husband:  ultimate love!

“Mountain biking” around ice cubes was never Corrine first choice.  “Bicycling” quietly around warm oceans with ice cubes in her glass?  Yes! During three long summers, she worked on our small creperie business, one « crêpe de Quimper» at a time.  Breadwinner for our family, dream-maker for her husband:  ultimate love!  With “Breskell” home, let me cry in your arms gypsy women.

Always told you that Eric will bring back safely “Breskell”…

Remember Vanessa, I always told you that Eric will sail “Breskell” home and bring me back. Even flat on my back! 😂

Always told you I will bring back Eric alive and smiling…

Remember Vanessa, I promise also to bring back Eric, alive and SMILING !

Never lost any crew member Vanessa, except…

Never lost any crew member Vanessa! Except my little cat…😢

And now our top of the line computer engineer is all smile:

Eric is all smile.

Could be the top of the line Arctic ride?
Could be the top of the line trendy sailboat?
Could be the top…  girl🥰?

The serene smile of a boat geek.

The serene smile of a “boat geek”, home again around Port Townsend and soon aboard his Flicka Pacific Seacraft sailboat. With a 50-Ton Master and a 100-Ton Near-Coastal OUPV License,  Joshua Wheeler was our expert in seamanship.

Why a darkened picture?

Why a darkened picture?  Another of too many feminicides, the murder of Pinar Gültekin, a young Turkish women, sparked this “black and white” outcry on “Instagram”.  Another international request for the long overdue gender equality.  This prejudice, a twisted cultural heritage resulting in some sort of psychological male brain cancer, appears as another summits to conquer for women. After crossing big oceans or challenging the Arctic ice-field, who knows today the secret dream cherished by those two determined sailors?  Could be as well skinning, always with a smile, the balls of anyone contesting this gender equality😱  just before letting those two little things darken in the sun in loving memory of murdered Pinar Gültekin…🥰

A “long way north”?  What a dream, what a ride!

Port Townsend, KPTZ  radio.  Our 15 minutes of fame.  “Leila, from the movie industry in Paris to the Arctic Ocean on “Breskell”… 🤔?”  A French movie, started it all in 2017: « Long Way North”.  Why not live this artistic dream for real, not just in my head by hanging an iceberg picture on my wall?  I love adventure, sea and wooden boats.  Just to convince Olivier that I was the missing  crew member needed to achieve his own dream.  Not easy, never being on a sailboat!  It worked for us dreamers.  Look, we all are here, crying like babies because it’s over… But man, what a ride!

I know Olivier for so long…  was his English teacher, his associate partner…

Port Townsend, KPTZ  radio, our 15 minutes of fame.  “Bob, you know Olivier for how long 🤔?”  Was his English teacher when they arrived in 1991 on the Chesapeake!  He named me “ZI BOB”.  Ancestral French problem with our beloved “THE”! We worked together building homes in the area. For a marine carpenter, not a single beam is straight, all walls or ceilings are curved.  Residences building is just a boring job better left to unskilled country farmers. Real wood lovers build boats! He got his green card and then we managed a marina. Do you know this guy was commissioned to work for one of our president?  James Madison, architect of our Bill of Rights.  He restored an old staircase in his family house in Montpellier.  They just make him swear never to use his beloved epoxy on centuries old houses!   Olivier became an American citizen and stayed my friend!  When he offered me the opportunity to finish their memorable journey, I jumped  on the wagon in Nome. I hold on for my dear life on his galloping “horse/dragoon” during a few good storms.  I just imagine what their North West Passage was.  Not for the faint of heart.

Today I was promoted official “Breskell” photographer.

 “Never saw you crying with the others…🤔”  You cannot take pictures and figure on them crying except for ugly Instagram selfies. Just get promoted today “official “Breskell” photographer”. I am very proud of my landing pictures.  Lots of emotions on them. I started at the bottom of “Breskell” strict sailing hierarchy: dishwasher then watchman before climbing the ladder to associate cook😂.  I was working at “Patagonia” when I met Olivier… over a cradle!  He was practicing his english  “THE” with  “ZI” hilarious baby!  Later, over some “crêpes de Quimper”, I introduced Eric, my working “Patagonia” partner.  Two years later, Eric was associate “Breskell” captain.  For me, it’s too late!  At least, I participated to the last leg of their unique odyssey.  Direct from the Aleutians islands to Port Townsend!  Let’s said it was a lively sail…

Hard to pull a computer engineer out of  his screen…

“Jealous about Eric spectacular sailor sun glasses, I wanted to enquire about the brand ?  Never found this guy.  It’s hard to remove a computer geek from his screen.  Olivier told me that his dream was sailing to the top of the world🤔…”  Exactly.  That happened twice.  And naturally, Eric wanted to sail on a top of the art, fully computerized machine.  “Breskell” fits perfectly this bill.  Wind powered elegant sea-bird with solar panel, water and wind generators: unlimited renewable energy.  Inside? The charm of traditional wood. Outside?  The latest in an exotic futurist material easy to patch “on the go”.  On board, Eric found also the best technological devises at his finger tips*. Sailing today on “Breskell” is already enjoying the boating of tomorrow. He managed so well that he finished captaining “Breskell”while I rested my poor back on my bunk.  Total confidence in my yesterday computer engineer.  A North West Passage-maker, a real U.S navy seal, even an overboard marine carpenter!

*his smartphone (without any possible connexion 😂)

Good to be here again Chris after our Arctic sea talk during our North West Passage.

Port Townsend, KPTZ  radio, our 15 minutes of fame.   “Together , we were doing a fine weekly radio broadcast in the Arctic direct from “Breskell”.  Today, our captain shares his time between pictures on one side and interview on the other…🤔  Happy to be home Chris.   Yes, we deserve our “15 minutes of fame”.  With our family and friends, it’s fun!  We are not the first to do a North West Passage.  But we are among the very few doing it with their own handmade WOODEN boat…  except for the Inuit naturally! With my wife around, I will not brag too much about our fearless and boldness, about strong winds and huge waves. She is a sailor also. She had been “out there” before.  Not easily impress.  Don’t complain, she will reply.  No one obliged you fools to slalom around growlers so far north in the Arctic.

From an individual adventure to some more universal message:  human induce climate changes.

The North West Passage was our personal and human challenge. Behind our individual adventure, we have a more universal message:  climate changes and its impacts on the Arctic.  That make me really angry when I listen to deniers saying that they don’t exist or that we are not part of it.  We have being there.  We saw its effects.

At least they listen to you adventurers…

Port Townsend, our ULTIMATE minute of fame. After presenting “Breskell” documentary in La Rochelle (France) a scientist told me: lucky you!   At least, people listens:  sailboat, adventure, beautiful movies, exceptional pictures. In science, we have only boring numbers and tedious statistics to present.  No one cares…  With “Breskell” we have seen their numbers and statistics in action in the Arctic.  It’s alarming for us, it’s frightening for the locals, it’s deadly for our planet.

Done in Port Hadlock  on september the 30th 2020