Finally ready to leave for the North



The news from here is that we are finally ready to leave for the north. We are at present in Campbell River which is just above 50 degrees North and the last piece of serious civilization until we come out on the East side of North America. Campbell River is about the same size as our home port of Bundaberg. The weather here is continuing to get warmer and the temperature has climbed above 20 degrees nearly every day for the past three weeks. An early summer we are told. From here, where we have taken on the last of our major stores, we will head straight up to Sitka in Alaska and from there, weather dependant, out to Dutch Harbour via Kodiak Island. We should arrive in Dutch Harbour during the first part of June. The ice report will then dictate when we head north from there. We plan to do everything in our power to make the crossing in one season. If we fail we will just have to accept the situation and seek shelter in the form of a safe bay to possible to get out from various places up there. The original plan was that if we got iced in we would leave Fine Tolerance in a safe haven and fly out but since further talks to the only two people that have been up there in small boats and to others that have lived up north our view is changing. They have all said that if you leave the boat there will be nothing left when we get back. Not from the weather but from the local Inuit. If we leave the boat it will be considered abandoned by the local native peoples and will be stripped. There has been no malice in there tone regarding the Inuit people, actually rather the opposite, they have all said that they are a wonderful people but that anything found abandoned is considered fair game. Resources are few and far between in the area. The German crew person that we talked to from a German boat that got iced in, in a place called Cambridge Bay, last year has kept at least one crew man on board the entire time. Cambridge Bay is one of the communities that has flights in and out throughout the entire year which is why when they got caught by the ice and were subsequently broken out by a Canadian Icebreaker they backtracked to this village. We are now prepared, if we do get caught, to spend the year trapped in ice. To this end we have stocked up on a year's supply of food. We also have two 44 gal drums of diesel in the cockpit as heater fuel. What is the back up plan? This we will have to play out as the circumstances arise. It is not possible to have any escape route in place as the weather is the ultimate decider and there is no way without massively big bucks we can make any plans in advance. I am pretty certain that our lives, barring an accident which can just as easily happen crossing a city street, will not be in danger. There is no way that we will be taking a gun along with us as everybody, bar none, has advised, but we have bought some bear spray. This is a capsicum spray in a pressure can which is sold in camping stores as a last line of defence. The polar bears are the largest hunter's on earth and they have been known to stalk man which are there only enemy. There is a possibility that we could lose Fine Tolerance but we do believe that this would also be an unlikely scenario. The window of opportunity to make this passage alters every year but nearly always has been only a day or two. The trick appears to be being in the right place when these hours or days appear. And finding them is where the luck part comes in. Henry Ford once said to a competitor that had made the remark that he had just been lucky in his business endeavours that he found that the harder he worked the luckier he got. This, we are sure, will really apply here. If it's possible to move ahead, even in it takes 4 hours to make a mile, it needs to be taken. That way, when a break comes we will be in a position to take it. With 24 hours of sunlight for most of the trip and with the extra navigation involved it's going to be hard with only two of us but we do work well together. We are not expecting this to be much of a sailing trip. This is just an adventure trip as there is not much wind up in the Artic in the summer and even less rain. In fact, it is technically a desert and we expect to do more motoring than sailing. We hope to be out and into the Atlantic by the end of September/early October. From there Bermuda is sounding pretty good as a place to thaw.

So that's about it in a nutshell. We have done a lot to Fine Tolerance to make it more comfortable and safer. More insulation, a diesel fired heater, a fully installed backup GPS as compasses are useless so close to the magnetic North Pole, a radar, a couple of 44 gallon drums in the cockpit full of fuel, provisions for a year in case we get caught, a more powerful prop to help push the ice aside and many other small things. Warm clothing, a bimini over the helm, the list goes on but I'm sure by now you've got the picture. Hence the reason for no emails for quite awhile, just too busy working or chasing our tail around and round in circles trying to get things organized and executed.

Have included a few photos of the 'St Roch' which Liz and I visited at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. The 'St Roch' belonged to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and is reported to be the first boat to transverse the North West Passage from west to east (in 1942/3), the first to do the passage in one season (1948) and the first to circumnavigate North America in the early fifties.


Liz on St Roch

Phil & Liz

Deck on St Roch