July 21, 2019/Day 249
Miles since departure: 32,744
Leg Newfoundland to Nuuk/Day: 6
Briefly today the sun came out and warmed my back as I stood in the cockpit admiring my domain, which was otherwise gray and flat as a pancake. Fulmars bombed around the boat in threes and fives; occasionally a skua passed by at mast top; once we cut through a school of dolphins spread out over a quarter mile. Otherwise it’s been nothing but slate gray sky and a gray mirror for water.
At noon I pointed Mo NE toward Nuuk. We’ve climbed as much as we need and can ride the coming northerly in toward the coast on a close reach, should it develop. Our goal is the Narssaq Lob or the southern pass E of Saatut Island. At current speeds we should arrive at the opening just before midnight, and though we now have light all night, I’ll likely heave to a ways offshore and nap until morning. The distance from Saatut to Nuuk is 30 miles. All thing being equal, we should arrive before noon.
Bob Shepton notes in his book, ADDICTED TO ADVENTURE, a dity that came to mind while readying his yacht, DODO’S DELIGHT, for another northern summer.
It goes like this…
“Sailing in Greenland
Without an engine
Is not nice
Because of ice.”
I would add only … “and no wind.”
Mo has been chugging along under engine for the last 30 hours, and though it’s a dull enterprise compared to sailing, it is also a good test, as between here and Nome, Alaska, the likelihood of sailing much is low.
In the Arctic, the waymaking requirements for a yacht are simple, “Plan to motor all the time,” says Andrew Wilkes in his Sailing Directions for small boats, ARCTIC AND NORTHERN WATERS. And later, “One should aim to carry enough fuel to reach the fuel stop after next and then refuel at the next one if possible.”
I’ve done Mo’s fuel math a number of times, but yesterday I organized the statistics around those two principles to see how she stacked up.
Mo carries 200 gallons of fuel in two large tanks either side of the engine and another 50 gallons in the ten Jerry cans I have aboard. At a modest cruising rate of 2400 rpms, she burns .8 gallons of fuel per hour and can make 5.5 to 6 knots in neutral conditions. Building a buffer into the calculation and witholding some fuel for the heater gives Mo a nominal range of over 1,400 miles between complete fuel resupplies. That’s some range for a 45 foot sailboat.
For distances between ports, I’ve used the most likely stops on the most likely route. This route starts in Lancaster Sound, proceeds through Prince Regent Inlet, through Bellot Strait, around the backside of King William Island, then through Queen Maud, Dolphin and Union, Amundsen, out over Cape Bathurst and on to Alaska. This is the longest of the possible routes and the one utilized by Roald Amundsen in 1903 during his “first transit of the Northwest Passage by water.” (Wilkes).
To be fair, there are other places along the route to put in for fuel, but they are either out of the way (e.g. Resolute) or present exposed anchorages and difficult landings, especially for a singlehander (e.g. Pond Inlet and Point Barrow).
I’ve tried to capture the unknowable, the actual distance we will travel between ports due to ice, weather, and the like, with the Extra Distance Factor (EDF), pegged here at 20%, a guess.
The result, tallied in the sheet below, suggests that with some luck and intelligent pilotage, Mo should be in good shape on the fuel front. Possible exceptions in the “Every Other Port” summary include the first leg form Upernavik, Greenland to Gjoa Haven (1,068 miles), and the last, Cambridge Bay to Nome (2,070 miles), which is a non-starter. For that leap, either a stop in Tuk or Point Barrow is a must, with Tuk being much preferred. And hopefully by then we can get some sailing in.
This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage