sunnuntai 22. elokuuta 2010

August 20th 2010

Cambridge Bay

69º06.83´ N, 105º03.62´ W

Due to favourable currents and lack of headwinds, we arrived in Cambridge Bay already on Wednesday, almost half a day earlier than predicted. We had enjoyed the most glorious weather for the past two days, and it felt as if this too had speeded up our journey, although we are not quite sure if sunshine has ever actually helped increase a boat's speed though it definitely raises the crew's spirits. Our plan was to stay in Cambridge Bay only for two nights, in other words, long enough to get fuel, buy some vegetables, and upload a few pictures on the blogs.

Among sailors, the remote hamlet of Cambridge Bay is known for three things. Firstly, it is the final resting place of Roald Amundsen's vessel the Maud which was launched in 1917 and became an ice-locked research vessel drifting in the polar pack ice. The ship served Amundsen on two voyages crossing both the Northeast Passage and most of the Northwest Passage. In 1926, the ship was purchased by the Hudson Bay Company and used as a supply vessel and finally, a floating warehouse and a wireless station until she sank here in 1930. Secondly, it is the summer home port of Peter Semotiuk who is the guardian angel of most of the crews that try to navigate the Northwest Passage, providing them with up-to-date weather and ice information and taking care of their needs in numerous ways. Thirdly, it is the only place where children are known to throw stones on visiting boats.

Nobody knows the reason for this odd behaviour which has continued for years. We were aware of the nuisance since most of the boats that had visited Cambridge Bay had complained about it on their blogs. Therefore, we were very surprised when nothing happened the night after our arrival. We even naively thought that this nasty tradition no longer existed. We could not have been more wrong. The next morning, the crew of RX2, the Norwegian boat that we had already seen in Nome, told us that their deck was full of stones every morning, and the reason why nothing had happened the night before was that the big tugboat that was moored next to us, had placed a guard on the jetty for the night. Both the tugboat and RX2 left the next day leaving us the only remaining target for the stones. So, in order to guard our precious sleep, Riitta stopped the first mounted policeman she saw on the street and requested Police Protection! The policeman who was very sympathetic, told that they were aware of the problem, but there was very little they could do about it. However, he promised to see to it that their patrol car would stop by the jetty a few times during the night. We will never know whether it was the police patrol or the miserable weather with a heavy drizzle that kept the children away but, for the second night running, not one stone landed on our deck! As we didn't want to push our luck, we decided to stick to our original plan and leave for Gjoa Haven in the morning.

We left Cambridge Bay early next morning or so we thought. While still inside the bay, our autopilot refused to keep proper heading and as it was blowing 35+ knots, we decided to turn back. However, we didn't want to go to the village dock in fear of being stoned so instead we sailed into the bay where Amundsen's Maud had sunk. We dropped anchor on the opposite side of the bay not only to pay homage to Amundsen and his Maud, but also because small aircraft use the other side of the bay as their runway. While anchoring, we saw a floatplane reversing from the end of the bay. Its captain was clearly curious about us, maybe the only sailing boat he had ever seen anchored in the bay, as we could see him peeking out of the cockpit's open window. Just as I was saying to Pekka that it looked as if the aircraft was going to hit the small rocky island behind us, it did exactly that! We could see pieces of the plane's floats fly in the air and the surprised or even shocked expression on the pilot's face when he realized what had happened. It took just a few seconds for the pilot to make up his mind. He then accelerated and took off with the damaged floats. We do hope we are not to blame for the loss of an aircraft!

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