Fine Tolerance and the North West Passage. Newsletter No 9



Fine Tolerance and the North West Passage.
> Newsletter No 9.
> 03.00 Zulu Friday 10th September
> Position: 68 deg 38 mins North.   95 deg 53 mins West
> We are still anchored at Gjoa Haven, the same small harbour that Roald Amundsen called "the finest little harbour in the world", and lucky for us that it is. A few days ago we experienced our first gale in these latitudes and came through without any huge worries.

Unfortunately the ice is still blocking our forward path and although the gale has broken some of it up it may be too late in the navigatable season to make it through. We did have some warning that a gale was coming but were not quite prepared as well as we should have been. The two major things were that we left the dinghy in the water and that we have discovered that when the wind is over 30 knots our heating stove gets blown out. With the temperature well below zero and the wind chill factor below -30 degrees having the heater out of commission was, to say the least, not very comfortable. We have made some changes to the flue of the chimney which we hope will fix this problem but we will not be able to test this alteration until the next blow. As for the dinghy the attached photo shows what happened here in a matter of a few hours. With the wind making small wavelets the dinghy, which was tied up behind the boat, became covered with sea spray which instantly froze on everything that it could stick for more than a few moments to. The photo shows the result. To all the mariners it should be pointed out that with the denser air of the arctic regions a 35kt wind here can in no way be compared with a 35 kt wind in the tropics which at best could only be described as a stiff breeze in comparison. Next time we hope to be more prepared and have the outboard, if not the whole dinghy, out of the water.

With every new experience that challenges us our study turns into reality and not always what our preconceived notions tell us it will be like.Still with every experience we grow a little bit wiser, or at least we hope we do.

There is one further vessel here in the Arctic. It is called 'Joton Arctic' and is from Norway attempting an East to West transit, unlike us which are attempting a west-east transit. It is a sailing vessel similar to 'Fine Tolerance' although it has a pilot house where they can keep out of the weather when steering. There are five people on board and they left Norway last year to retrace Amundson's footsteps. This came to a halt last year when they were halted by the ice in Peel Sound, the Sound that is also blocking our path this year. They retreated and spent the winter in Greenland. This year they made it to Fort Ross, a settlement abandoned by the Hudson Bay Trading Company forty years ago. All that now remains are a few buildings. On Monday, after spending six weeks at Fort Ross they attempted to break through the ice but were turned back by thick unpenetratable ice. On Tuesday the German boat, the 'Dagmar Aaen' attempted to attack the ice blockage from this side but with the gale sending spray which was freezing instantly on their decks and rigging, they to retreated. The area between these two vessels was barely 150 nm (300km). 'Minke 1' has  returned back to Cambridge Bay where it will winter over in its harbour. Soon we must make our decision what to do. Polar Bound, of which we have attached two photos, one of before the gale and one during the two days it has taken to pass, is here with us still waiting for the right opportunity to make a break for it. After this gale passes over we will see if there has been any major diminishing of the ice and decide on our course of action. This gale with its temperatures has been a wake up call.

We did get some emails after our last newsletter with many people saying that they could not find Gjoa Haven in their Atlases. It is at the lower right hand corner (southeast section) of King William Island. The people here have been most hospitable and all have tales to tell of how they ended up in Gjoa Haven.

If wishing to send us a return email please use this link , and not the reply button on your screen which will send your email to our server instead. Our satellite email system does not allow us to receive attachments (photos, word documents, etc) although they will all be stored in our mailbox until we can get to a land line (internet cafe or someone's home connection) where we will be able to download and receive them. Previous newsletters can be found at

Yours   Phil and Liz
'Fine Tolerance'