The wind is too strong. We spend most of the day in the sleeping bag drifting SSE until 4.30pm. I take advantage of that break to repair my dry suit. The idea to continue in this environment with a big hole on the trousers would definitely affect my mood. Then our sailing opportunity starts! 2 reefs in the main, the small foc. We are on the way! Still, we zig zag quite a lot and even trek some big patches of ice. And we get to meet a young polar bear!!
Our plan is to keep on sailing the whole night if we manage to find water free of ice. It isn’t the case so we push it as much as we can. We stop when it becomes hard to see. It’s 10.15pm.
Guys! We are 19,5nm from Sachs Harbor.
Plan is to wake up at 3pm and try to make to the village. Before the wind gets too much in our face…
The alarm rings, Jack Johnson is playing. It’s 4.30am. Listening to his music makes me happy. However I don’t find happiness waking up at 4.30 though surrounded by moisture . If we would have had a device to measure the moisture for the past 2 weeks, it would have exploded .
After putting on our cold dry suit, we hit the water. It’s 6.30am. There is in front of us two options: 1- going straight towards Sachs Harbor which means hitting the ice again soon before finding some water in the end. 2- going towards the SE/S in order to go around the major ice but longer route. The idea is to be in Sachs before the lo pressure of the 8th. We go South.
By mid day, we find ourselves locked into the ice. Again!! Seb goes « I am sorry guys..». I have the feeling that our chances to reach land are really decreasing. We are now heading NE and spent the rest of the afternoon battling mainly on the ice chasing dark grey clouds. It’s tough! I even get to tear my dry suit when I jump in the back of the boat. The hole is on the left leg and it’s about 4inches long. « Dam it! » I will have to repair it as soon as I can…
« Polar bear! ». A polar bear is on the distance. We get ready but he runs away from us, maybe scared since the sails are up in the air. We finally find some open water that allows us to sail. Bearing: 60 degrees. It’s already late and dark. We are still far away from the warm water of a shower. We will have to camp on a good patch of ice. It’s 9pm. In between two stretches of water, we are back on the ice. It’s becoming even darker. Suddenly we pass by a dead young polar bear lying on the ground, covered with snow and blood. Around him, there are tracks of a much bigger bear who might have killed the youngster. The atmosphere is heavy. That place is freaking wild!!
9.45pm, we find a patch of ice to camp. We’ve been going for more than 15hours non stop. What a wild day! 10.30pm, it’s now pitch black. We are 30nm from Sachs Harbor.
The winter is approaching…
Today, 7nm mostly on the ice chasing dark grey clouds on the horizon and hoping to find open water under them. We are in a pretty good position now as we can clearly see some water ahead of us. Still some ice though!
We are 45nm away to the West from Sachs Harbor. The low pressure is forecasted for the 8th, day after tomorrow. Our plan is to give our best tomorrow with an early alarm and try to reach the village. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.
The adventure continues…
Today we start and then stop by mid day since the wind is against us. We set camp and chill waiting for a turn. We start again in the end of the afternoon. It’s grey, foggy and wet. It looks like the Arctic Ocean will tease us all the way to the soil of Banks island. We do 5nm, only. At least in the right direction and 0,2knots of drift with us. The terrain is now more challenging. The ice is being compressed and we are surrounded by various ridges where big blocks are pushed against each other. The three of us fall through the ice and bath, at least to the hip. Eric establishes a new record, water nearly to the top of the chest zip.
10.26pm, the « Chili con Carne » is served while we hear the noise of the rain on the carbon fiber above our head. Clic, clic, clic, clic, clic…
Good news is: we are 37nm from land and 50 from Sachs.
Bonne nuit from « moisture hotel »!
There is a low pressure coming in few days so we’ll try to make to land before September 8th. It’s been 78 days that we are out and I feel slightly sad about not experiencing a great polar bear moment during daylight. These animals fascinates me!
So I tell the guys « On my side guys, I don’t mind staying a little longer on the ice so we can expand our chances to see some polar bears ». I am also aware that we have to progress as the low pressure is building up on the forecast. Off we go. The day starts on the ice trekking on the side of the boat.
It’s still morning when… we sail on a small stretch of water. I am in the back steering, Eric is in the front and Seb near by the mast scouting the route. The magic happens. Suddenly Seb shouts « A mother and two cubs!! » « Let’s get ready! ». The flares are ready and the riffle is loaded. However, our intentions aren’t to use any of them. Just our cameras.
We hope to sail close enough from them and take few shots before leaving them in peace. We are getting closer. Seb is now steering, Eric and I are busy with the cameras. The mother is approaching to the ice edge while the two cubs are safely in the back. The cubs are fatty! The mother is skinny though. The stretch of water is closing out in front of us so we have to upwind and then down again to enjoy watching them again. We do this circle, 3-4 times. The scene is incredible.
Light is perfect and we get at about 50 feet from the mother. What a charismatic animal! She’s looking straight at us. We can hear her breathing. Then, we tack again back to a small channel of water going SE and away from them. We surely keep an eye on our back just in case the mother told the cubs that she was going to get them 3 « French Croissant » for breakfast .
What a day! Stocked! And my hip is feeling better.
We are now 43nm from land. Yeeewwwww!
Ps: when I see beautiful animals like this in their natural habitat, I feel very fortunate. One question remains in my head though. Why aren’t we seriously taking actions to reduce our carbon footprint and better control the warming temperatures of this beautiful planet
Guys! We are 55nm from Canadian soil. We do 10nm today. The “Arctic Donkeys” are back to the routine of “push & pull” a boat on the frozen ocean.
The highlight of the day? Tonight, the three of us are inside our sleeping bags eating dinner when Seb suddenly sees something right of the back of the boat.
“Polar bear!!” He jumps in the cockpit with the pepper spray in hand. The bear is 10 feet away. I prepare an extra flare and give it to Eric. Seb sprays straight at him. Off he goes, running in the distance and rolling in the ground. Pepper spray in the nose isn’t the best perfume you get.
For the past three days, we cover 50nm, 90% of the time sailing and pulling « Babouch-Ty » on the ice. Couple of 20nm days are long and tiring, about 11 hours. We are much safer here on good ice rather than on the ice edge or at sea! A gale is on its way for the 5th…
The previous low pressure has brought some snow which is covering lots of melted ponds. These ponds are like a big smoothies. Many times per day while walking, we go through them. You feel good walking on the side of the boat and suddenly you are straight sinking into that thick « flush soup ». Delicious. Arctic Ocean, what would we become without you?
We are now 69nm from the solid ground of Banks Island! I think we « might » deserve a fresh beer when we get to Sachs Harbor? And if we were to go for a liquor/cocktail, that will be without ice! Let’s not sell the skin before having the bear shot though…
Today is basically the opposite of yesterday and last night. The weather is friendly and we manage to cover 49nm in the right direction.
We are aware that the season is changing fast and the jaws of the winter are approaching. Low pressures are bound to be more and more frequent. So we better hurry up!
By midnight, we’ll reach the 50nm mark as the drift is taking us right where we need to.
We are 130nm from Sachs Harbor!
The wind is too strong to progress so we stay on our small patch of ice. No sailing today. We still drift, crazy!
At least in the good direction towards Banks Island. The swell is growing. In the middle of the afternoon, we hear the sound of a big crack. Our patch is now in two pieces!
Few hours later, another crack splits our base. And the swell goes on. It’s grey, dark and wet. How is our night gonna be? We decide to take turns and stay awake.
From 1.15am until 2.15am, I am reading one of Frederic Lenoir’s book. It is about happiness and helps me to stay positive in that raw and wild moment. Fortunately, it looks that the patch is stable, still going up and down. We sleep until 8am.
The weather is actually good in the morning… We discover a chaos of ice around us. Our patch got even broken one more time. It is now 40 by 60 feet. Better leave this place.
.On days like this, I really feel that the Arctic Ocean is playing with us like if we were 3 fragile rag-dolls.