A Chukchi Blow and Crossing the Arctic Circle

14 Sep

September 12, 2019

Days at Sea: 283
Days Since Departure: 348

Noon Position: 66 54N 167 71W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxW 7
Wind(t/tws): E 25+
Sea(t/ft): E10+, steep and breaking
Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast 10 
Bar(mb): 995 and falling
On-deck Temp(f): 51
Cabin Temp(f): 57 (no heater today)
Water Temp(f): 48
Relative Humidity(%): 60
Magnetic Variation: 8.3 

Sail: Triple reefed main and working jib, reach. 

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 141
Miles since departure: 36,020

We had a fine sailing breeze after rounding Point Hope last night–full sail, wind abeam. But by 2am I was reefing and by dawn I had three reefs in everything and was all out of reefs. Mo flew, but it was hard work. 

The real story during this blow–the seas. The wind has been strong, but at 30 knots it’s been nothing to write home about, except for what it’s done to the water. The Coast Pilot reports that current here flows N at 1 – 2.5 knots over an uneven bottom that is shallow throughout the entire Chukchi. The wind overnight was mostly E but had a N component to it. Result: by mid-morning we were wrestling with vertical and crashing 10 – 12 foot seas on the beam. 

With water flying everywhere, I was glad I’d buttoned Mo up tight over these last two days. 

We’ve had plenty of practice with riding the edge of seas like these in the southern ocean. Sometimes down there the approaching low and our course were out of sync, and we’d have to ride the first phase of a 30 to 40 knot blaster with seas abeam, much bigger seas than these. You get used to judging what the boat can take; where her “tipping point” might be. Bottom line: as long as she’s moving fast, Mo is rock-solid, even when fully broadsided.

That’s the rational brain talking by the way. The brain I live in isn’t so sanguine when Mo is T-boned by a Mac truck that puts her windows in the water. I’ve been biting my nails all day.

Wind is easing now, but the current against has done us no such kindness.

156 miles to Nome. Still 30 hours further on at this pace. 

At 4:30pm local, Mo and Randall passed south of 66 34N at 168 06W and in so doing crossed the Arctic Circle. We are now officially out of the high north. What’s more, we have completed a Northwest Passage, which is defined by some as a route over Canada and Alaska from Arctic Circle to Arctic Circle.

We entered the Arctic on July 27 and exited on September 12 for a passage length of 47 days and a sailing distance of 3,035 miles. 

This is Mo’s third Northwest Passage. Her first was as Asma with Clark Stede and Michelle Poncini in 1990, and her second was as Gjoa with Glenn and Ann Bainbridge in 2014/15. But this is her first solo run. Mine too.

(September 13 note: In hindsight, I’m not sure where I got the idea that an Arctic Circle to Arctic Circle route is a Northwest Passage. More on that tomorrow.)

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage

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