For us, leaving Dutch Harbor marked the actual beginning of our voyage. Up to Unalaska, we had followed our old, once or twice beaten tracks and, although enjoying ourselves, we could not help feeling that it was time for us to move on.
The seas were calm as we motored towards St. Paul of the Pribilof Islands, which was fine by Latte and Riitta as the time spent in Dutch Harbor had made their sea legs a little wobbly. And, anyway, it is always better to have a smooth start weather-wise, even though this normally means motoring. Mind you, the Skipper who is a keen sailor, does not necessarily agree with the aforementioned. On the whole, the passage was uneventful except for the entertainment provided by the numerous sea birds circling our boat, and the crashing of our computer system. Fortunately, in about an hour, after closing all the programs, the computer itself, and then figuring out by trial and error what had gone wrong and why, we were back in business!
We had now ample time to familiarise ourselves with by far the most important data relating to the Northwest Passage, namely ice prediction charts, their symbols and terminology.
According to the outlook prepared by the North American Ice Service, of concern for the region for this summer is the amount of old ice in southern M’Clintock Channel which could easily drift into Larsen Sound. Similarly, the unusual old ice concentrations in the eastern portion of Viscount-Melville Sound and Western Barrow Strait will most certainly affect the clearing of Peel Sound this summer. Moreover, the lack of old ice in the northern portions of M’Clure Strait and Viscount Melville Sound coupled with the thinner than normal first-year ice measured in the Western Arctic will allow for the thicker multi-year ice to leave the Archipelago area and move southward into the Northwest Passage.
The summer temperature outlook for June through August continues to promote above normal temperatures over the entire region. Seasonal air temperatures in the last half of July are forecast to be above normal over the southern half of the Western and Central Arctic. By the end of the period, the southern extent of the pack ice will be near normal in the Beaufort Sea, although concentrations within the main pack may be less than normal. Consolidated ice conditions in the Central Arctic will resemble conditions normally found in mid-August and ice concentrations in M'Clure Strait will continue to be less than normal.
According to the outlook, the possible flow of old ice and thicker multi-year ice into the Passage could cause a problem. We have to remember, however, that this is only a prediction. Whatever the case, the outlook is far better for us sailors than it is for the Environment!