torstai 14. lokakuuta 2010

October 14th 2010

Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron, Halifax

44º 37.277’ N, 63º 34.835’ W

We arrived in Halifax yesterday afternoon after a pleasant 28-hour crossing from Cape Breton, and are now tied up alongside a wharf at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. After all the ice, fog, and winds, it is really great to be here, and the fact that we are going to stay put for at least a fortnight for a change, feels absolutely wonderful!

Our odyssey from Seward, Alaska, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, amounted to a total of 7,143 nautical miles (13.229 kilometres), and it took us exactly four months, eight days, eleven hours and fifteen minutes to complete it. But, I have to confess that the last 1,600 nautical miles with almost continuous headwinds and oncoming seas were a bit too much for us. It would have been so much nicer if, after crossing the Arctic Circle for the second time, the voyage had ended there and then. In order to make it a little easier for those who come after us, I therefore propose that the city of Halifax be moved closer to the Arctic Circle. I would think that all those who have already sailed the Northwest Passage from west to east and know what I am talking about, are more than willing to second this motion.

At the moment, we have rather mixed emotions about our voyage, especially the Northwest Passage as part of it. Even for us, it is difficult to comprehend the enormity of crossing the Passage, and although we are extremely happy that we made it and that it is now finally over, underneath, there persists a deep longing for the Arctic and its mysteries, of which we only saw a glimpse. And we sorely miss Alaska and Kodiak, their beautiful, empty anchorages, pristine nature and abundant wildlife. Hopefully, someday, we'll be back!

We wish to thank all those who helped us along the way either in person or through email: those who provided us with vital ice and weather information; with ice poles to force our way through a field of ice when necessary; with a dozen jerry cans to store extra fuel for our long journey; with a dry suit to go underwater and cut a rope off the propeller if need be; with goggles to see our way even in rough weather; with musk ox wool to keep our hands warm; with fish, crab and moose meat to nourish us; and those who invited us into their homes; who did our dirty laundry for us; who took us sightseeing; who entertained us in various ways; who encouraged us to continue even when the passage seemed impassable and, last but not least, our family who despite their worry and anxiety, allowed us to do what we wanted to. We thank you!

P.S. After a few weeks, we will leave Halifax and set sail for the Caribbean where we'll spend the winter months and restore our good boat Sarema to her pre-Arctic glory. Eventually, we'll go through the Panama Canal once again, and then... but, that's already another story.

keskiviikko 13. lokakuuta 2010

October 13th 2010

At Sea

44º 51.83’ N, 61º 57.00’ W

I should never give a precise date of departure as more often than not we have to change our plans because of the weather. This meaning that we didn't leave on the 9th after all but ended up staying in Campbells Cove for two more days. The reason was that the three separate lows that were originally forecast to move east to the Atlantic joined together forming a single major low that persisted over the area for several days. To be quite honest, we did leave Campbells Cove already on the 9th but, after proceeding only for about two miles, we made a cowardly U-turn and returned to our safe anchorage. When you are in a hurricane hole, it is sometimes difficult to know what is happening outside your little haven, and what we saw, we didn't like: winds gusting to 35 knots and waves speckled with white foam.
We dropped anchor in the very same spot as before and were determined not to leave the cove until the conditions outside had improved significantly. After all the headwinds and oncoming seas we have experienced during the past few months, we have clearly developed an allergy to rough weather, and want to avoid it when ever possible.

On the 11th, we weighed anchor for the last time and headed for St. Peter's Canal. Although it was still very windy, there were no more violent squalls and the sun was shining making our day passage through the lake area quite enjoyable. We arrived in St. Peter's late in the afternoon and spent the night tied up alongside the wharf leading to the canal. The next morning, we woke up to a beautiful day; the sun was shining through the clouds, and there was a veil of mist lingering on the lake. There was only a gentle breeze left of the gusty winds as we walked to the village centre to buy groceries for the hopefully final leg of our ongoing voyage. After returning to the boat, we called the Lock Master via VHF and asked him to open the swing bridge and the lock for us. About an hour later, we were finally on our way to Halifax.

perjantai 8. lokakuuta 2010

October 8th 2010

Finally in Nova Scotia

46º05.98´ N, 60º44.83´ W

The morning we left Port Saunders, the sun was already up and the seas were finally down, and we were so happy to be on the move again. After all that miserable weather, it was an unbelievably beautiful day with gorgeous sunshine and moderate winds, and we were soon sailing on smooth seas in the exact direction we wanted to go. You can only comprehend the true significance of this if you have ever sailed on the Labrador Sea in the autumn against the winds, the oncoming seas and the Labrador Current, for days on end. In the evening, when the sun descented and the darkness settled in, we continued our voyage in a wonder world; from behind the horizon, the crescent moon rose lighting a path for us to follow, with billion stars of the Milky Way shining around us. In the midst of such beauty, it was easy to forget all the downsides of sailing in these wretched waters.

In the morning of the 5th of October, after two sunny days and two starry nights at sea, we arrived at the entrance of the about twenty mile long, narrow passage of Great Bras d'Or leading to the Bras d'Or Lakes in Cape Breton. We arrived there either too early or too late, depending on how we look at things, and the tidal currents were strong and against us. But, as there was no wind to make matters worse, we decided to give it a try. At some point, our speed was no more than 1.8 knots as we were beating against the current but slowly and surely we managed to make progress, and eventually arrived in the beautiful town of Baddeck. Our arrival there marked the end of our circumnavigation around Central and North Americas. It had taken us five years, one month and seven days to complete the 25,572 mile long voyage, and after tying our good boat Sarema to the community wharf, we went to the BYC (Baddeck Yacht Club) to celebrate the occasion. There, we met Barbara and Clarke from Philadelphia who invited us for lunch the next day and entertained us until it was time for us to leave for Campbells Cove, a hurricane hole located only about six miles south-west off Baddeck.

We had been in Campbells Cove back in 2005 and knew that there were oysters in the area. So, as the light was gradually fading and 40 knot winds were forecast for the following day, after dropping anchor, we quickly took our dinghy down and went oyster picking. As always when something is happening, Latte was there jumping around and, in her own way, trying to be of assistance. As the keenest oyster spotter, Latte positioned herself at the bow hanging her head down in order to see better and, suddenly, she slipped overboard. Riitta managed to grab her just before she slid under the dinghy, and Pekka lifted the poor dog back out of the water. After she had shaken most of the water off her coat, there was one wet dog and two semi-wet people aboard but we didn't let this minor incident spoil our oyster hunting trip.

Speaking of Latte, we are not quite sure whether she is just an exceptionally slow learner or if there is a psychological or some other reason for her behaviour. She is now almost eight years old (we don't know the exact date of her birth because she is a street dog whom our daughters rescued when she was only about three or four months old), and it is still extremely difficult and, at times, absolutely impossible for her to remember what such simple words as Sit, Down, and Stay mean. If there are autistic dogs, our guess would be that Latte is one of them. But, her Latin temperament could also be the reason for her behaviour, after all, she is from Andalusia, Spain. This does not imply that because she is from Spain, she is a slow learner, on the contrary! Because she is Spanish, she is full of energy and has very little patience to listen to what we are saying, let alone to obey our orders. So, this may be a simple conflict between the South and the North, us being from Finland as you know. But, what ever the reason, we love Latte very, very much and couldn't imagine a life without her!

Our journey will continue tomorrow to St. Peter's and from there the following morning through St. Peter's Canal which is a man-made passage into and out of the Bras d'Or Lakes. Because of differences in the water level of up to 4' in the lakes, the Canal has a lock with double doors. We have to time our arrival correctly so that, at first, we can go through the swing bridge located before the Canal and then through the Canal itself. And once out of the Bras d'Or Lakes, we have only about 140 nautical miles to Halifax. So, it seems that this is not a never-ending voyage, after all!

sunnuntai 3. lokakuuta 2010

October 2nd 2010

Leaving Safe Haven

During our stay in Port Saunders, the weather has varied from bad to worse. For the past two days, it has definitely been worse; the wind has been 35 knots with gusts to 55, and in between a few sunny patches, it has been raining cats and dogs.
There is another sail boat here in the fishing harbour, from Nova Scotia. Her single hander skipper has already lost all hope of getting his boat back home before winter. Fortunately, Port Saunders is a good place to be in a situation like this as there are all the necessary facilities for lifting the boat on the hard and storing her for the winter. But as for us, we are more than determined to get to Halifax eventually, come rain or shine.

According to the latest weather forecast, the wind should drop by tomorrow morning for a period of about two days before it starts picking up again. We have decided to use this gap to continue our journey, and hopefully reach Cape Breton before the next low moves in. So, we'll cast off our lines, all fifteen of them, early tomorrow morning and head finally for Nova Scotia. Keep your fingers crossed that we'll make it!

keskiviikko 29. syyskuuta 2010

September 29th 2010

Port Saunders

50º38.74' N, 57º16.45' W

We left Red Bay in the evening of the 26th and started off for Port Saunders on tranquil, moonlit seas. As the night wore on, the wind started picking up and soon, we were once more beating against 35 knot headwinds, gusting to 50, and oncoming seas, eventually building up to three to five metres. We arrived at the Port Saunders fishing harbour the next day dripping wet and tired. Part of the small harbour is under construction but fortunately they managed to fit us in. We were given a place alongside a fishing vessel which is alongside another fishing vessel which is alongside a wharf.

Again, taking Latte for a walk is a little problematic. The very first time Pekka and Latte went ashore, Latte miscalculated the distance between the second fishing vessel and the wharf and, as a result, she fell into the water. Pekka managed to lift her up quickly but, understandably, the poor thing was a little shaken afterwards. The good thing about this incident is that she is now more careful and has a little more patience when climbing over the railings.

Today is the 29th of September but, to be quite honest, neither the weather nor the venue is quite what we had hoped for. Although the gale-force winds have died down for the time being, the skies are overcast and it has been pouring for the past two days. But, if we look at the bright side, there are showers, a washing machine and a dryer in the harbour master's building next door, and three grocery stores, a library, a liquor store, a bank, a post office, and a hairdresser's, all within walking distance from the harbour. The last time we had all these luxuries close by was in Nome, about two months ago. So, all things considered, now it's time to do the laundry, install a new hydraulic pump, and go to the hairdresser's. But, as for the birthday party, that has been postponed until further notice.

September 26th 2010

Nearly Visiting Cook's Harbour

We made our next landfall neither in Cook's Harbour nor in Newfoundland for that matter. As we approached the entrance of Cook's Harbour, C-map showed us heading straight in the direction of a nearby island which meant an error of more than half a nautical mile. This time correcting the datum error made no difference, there was something seriously amiss. Ahead of us was a narrow passage unknown to us, heavily breaking waters, and we had no electronic chart to guide us through. The buoys marking the passage into the harbour were covered with welter of foam and the wind was picking up. It was clearly too risky to try to find our way into the harbour. This time, Pekka had enough common sense to agree with me, and we continued our passage to the next conceivable port which was, unfortunately, on Labrador's side of the Strait of the Belle Island. It was called Red Bay, and it was a place to remember!

Our Friend The Beluga

51º42.82' N, 56º26.62' W

What should you do when a beluga wants to be friends with you? This was the problem we were faced with while anchored in Red Bay, Labrador. We arrived in the little bay late Saturday evening in total darkness and did not discover until the following morning that we shared it with a lone beluga. We felt a little apprehensive it being alone as we knew that belugas are sociable creatures who are usually in parties of five to ten individuals.

The beluga had, on his back, well healed but distinctive marks made by a propeller which could be the reason why the pod had been forced to leave him behind. As far as we could judge, he was a young beluga but not a calf, and we thought he seemed healthy and active enough although we are no beluga experts. He kept diving close to Sarema for the better part of the morning feeding on something he found at the sea bottom.

After a while, he seemed to acknowledge our presence and circled the boat every once and a while. But it was not until Pekka lowered our light grey dinghy from the davits that the beluga knew that he had found a true friend. After that, the beluga and we were inseparable. When we went ashore, the beluga came along swimming directly underneath the outboard propeller so that we eventually had to turn it off as we were afraid that he would hurt himself. Now, the only way to proceed was rowing but that too was difficult as the friendly beluga was constantly in the way of the oars. Finally, we had to resort to cunning. As the beluga was swimming around the dinghy, we kept our eye on him and when he was at a distance of about ten metres from us, Pekka quickly turned on the outboard motor, and off we went. We could see the beluga raise his head in astonishment and dash after us but we were too fast for him. He didn't reach us until we had to slow down near the shore due to possible rocks, and again we had to start rowing as he came so close to the outboard motor. When the water became too shallow for the beluga, he finally turned around and swam away.

When heading back to the boat, we carefully monitored the bay in order to spot the beluga, and when we saw where he was, we started off in the opposite direction in order to avoid him, and made a large circle to reach the boat. But, in about fifteen seconds, the beluga appeared by the side of the dinghy, and seemed to be more than happy to be reunited with us.

When it was time to continue our journey, the beluga came to help us weigh the anchor, after which he escorted us to the mouth of the bay. We were a little anxious about the possibility that he would follow us out to the sea but, after a while, we couldn't see him anymore. This was a relief although, at the same time, we felt bad about leaving this friendly and curious whale behind. He is undoubtedly a very exceptional beluga, and we feel honoured to have made his acquaintance.

sunnuntai 26. syyskuuta 2010

September 24th 2010

In the Wake of Igor

After Hurricane Igor, it has taken far longer than we would have thought for even the weather to get back to normal. In our protected Fox Harbour, twenty to forty knot winds have persisted for the best part of the week, and the seas outside are steep and breaking. In Newfoundland, numerous communities are still isolated as roads and bridges were washed out, and tens of thousands of households are without electricity and water. According to statistics, this was the worst natural disaster to hit Newfoundland in modern times.

For us personally, the only thing that Igor managed to ruin was our schedule. We had hoped to be in Halifax by the end of September, actually before the 29th so as to be able to celebrate Riitta's 60th birthday ashore in a manner appropriate for an elderly lady. But as things stand at the moment, we'll just have to make do with the second best alternative which is to find a spectacular (and safe) anchorage somewhere on the coast of Newfoundland, and to enjoy a festive meal of snow-crab, courtesy of a St. Lewis fisherman, accompanied by champagne, naturally. As the worst-case scenario was that we would still be somewhere in Baffin Bay amidst icebergs, that doesn't sound too bad, does it?

keskiviikko 22. syyskuuta 2010

September 22nd 2010

St. Lewis

As the day grew older, the wind continued rising and, later in the afternoon, it started to rain. The barometer reading dropped to 980 mbars, and the wind speed varied between 35 to 55 knots throughout the night. In our little bay, the waves soon developed a foam crown and began beating against Sarema's side. Eventually, the wind and the waves formed a united front constantly tilting the boat so that it was impossible to keep anything on the tables. Our night was restless with very little sleep as we listened to the sounds of the storm and were every now and again awoken by a violent movement of the boat.

As we woke up this morning, we saw that Igor had swept the sky absolutely clean leaving not a single cloud on its surface. It is a beautiful, sunny day, and although the wind is still blowing, it is clear that Igor has gone its way, and that the weather will soon be back to normal.
We will stay in St. Lewis for a few more days waiting for the seas to smooth down a bit before continuing to Newfoundland where we should make our first landfall in Cook's Harbour.

September 21st 2010

Escaping Hurricane Igor

52º21,89' N, 55º40,85' W

There is a limit to what you can write in real time on a blog that your family members are also reading. With this we are, of course, referring to Hurricane Igor!
We were sailing near the coast of Labrador when we got the news about the approaching hurricane. We didn't have a lot of time, more or less 24 hours in fact, to seek refuge and get out of its way. Luckily, at the time, we were close enough to Fox Harbour alias St. Lewis, located at the south-east corner of Labrador, to find shelter in its fishing harbour.
We arrived here yesterday afternoon and had plenty of time to prepare Sarema for the possible hurricane force winds before nightfall. This was not the first time we had prepared our boat for a hurricane, so we were familiar with the procedure and knew exactly what to do. We tied Sarema properly to the wharf, wrapped up her sails, and removed all loose items from the deck. When everything was done, we went inside, enjoyed a scrumptious supper and went to sleep.
At the moment, we are having breakfast and listening to St. Johns' radio station describing how Hurricane Igor is devastating most of Newfoundland, just around the corner from us, with heavy rain and winds exceeding 160 km/h, causing flooding, destroying buildings, and washing out roads and bridges.

In a way, we have been exceptionally lucky with the weather. Although we have had more than our fair share of headwinds, so far, we have managed to avoid extreme weather conditions. The first time was in St. Paul, the Pribilof Islands, when almost a week-long gale started the same evening we arrived there; after that, in Nome, Alaska, a storm broke out on the Bering Sea a day after our arrival; and now, Hurricane Igor. So, you can imagine how extremely happy we are to be here, in the protected harbour of St. Lewis, all safe and sound.
But, apparently, this is not yet the end of the story as we can hear and feel the wind picking up. And, according to the latest news, Hurricane Igor is leaving the devastated island of Newfoundland behind it, and is heading for east Labrador!

maanantai 20. syyskuuta 2010

September 19th 2010

Labrador Sea

53º49' N, 55º47' W

We are happy to report that all is well aboard Sarema. Our progress has been slower than expected and hoped for, but it is something we have come to accept by now. The winds, swell, and the Labrador Current just seem to be incapable of co-operating with each other which is quite a nuisance but the circumstances could be far worse. We haven't had a single storm yet! and, the other day, we managed to escape a gale by coming closer to the Labrador coast. So, although our current life at sea is by no means a breeze, we have every reason to be content.
Manual steering has not presented a problem as we soon discovered that the best system for us is two-hour shifts at the helm night and day, as necessary. The time may sound a bit short but with her long keel and four and a half metre beam, Sarema is not the easiest of boats to steer, especially in these troubled waters. When at the helm, our daily routine is thus two hours of steering and two hours of sleeping plus eating, times six. Actually, it is exactly as monotonous and tiring as it sounds but the main thing is that it works. But, thank god, there are also days when the winds are steady and the sails are trimmed just right, and Sarema flies across the seas by herself without a helmsman!

Now that we have come further south, there are more and more seabirds entertaining us; black-legged kittywakes, storm-petrels, northern fulmars, skuas, auklets, puffins, etc. We have also seen whales almost on a daily basis. And, yesterday, it was Open House all day; first came the whales, then the porpoises and, later in the afternoon, the dolphins. It was absolutely wonderful! Of course, being stuck with the helm, you can't rush to the bow to see them play, and there is no way you can take photographs which is a real pity (the one above was taken in Baffin Bay). But, as always, you can't have it all!

torstai 16. syyskuuta 2010

September 16th 2010

At the Helm

58º 46' N, 55º 43' W

It appears that s/y Sarema is the very first Finnish vessel to navigate the Northwest Passage and consequently, our odyssey has got some media coverage back in Finland. There was a minor mistake in the piece of news published by STT (Finnish News Agency) that we would very much like to be true. It said that it had taken us about four months to sail the 11,000 kilometres from Alaska to Canada (Halifax) which, in fact, gives the impression that we are already in Halifax. Oh, if only we were!
Instead, we are still at sea beating against winds, swell, and oncoming seas. We hove to again the other day as the about three-meter seas and the more than 30 knot headwinds seemed to be a bit too much for our little hydraulic pump that controls the steering. The next morning when the seas had smoothed down a bit, we continued our journey in the only direction the winds allowed us to proceed without difficulty, i.e. towards Ireland which undoubtedly is an attractive destination but....

After about 24 hours, however, we were able to lay a somewhat better course to Belle Strait after which we eventually hope to find a little less troubled seas. Since the heaving to, we have had no problems caused by the hydraulic pump but, what we are left with are the problems caused by not having a hydraulic pump at all, which again has resulted in that we don't have a functioning autopilot anymore, either. So, here we are, two tired sailors in the middle of the Labrador Sea with more or less 1,000 miles to go, and the only means to get out of here seems to be manual steering. We are sure we'll have a good laugh about all this someday, maybe around the year 2050!

keskiviikko 15. syyskuuta 2010

September 16th 2010

Making Waves
(Excerpts from two articles in the Nunavut News/North)

Marine Wildlife and Inuit Culture Versus Exploration of Oil and Gas
Resources in the High Arctic

Despite the outcry over the granting of a licence for seismic testing to map potential oil and gas resources in Lancaster Sound, Jones Sound and northern Baffin Bay, few believed anything could be done to stop it. It was even speculated that the only way to stop the testing – a type of testing Inuit said had disrupted whale calving and migration routes in the past – would be to go out in a boat and engage in some sort of Greenpeace guerrilla-style protest.
The ship with the seismic testing equipment on board had already reached the High Arctic and with the following Monday morning being the start day, the case was brought in front of Justice Sue Cooper, Nunavut Court of Justice, by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association on Thursday and Friday.
Sue Cooper handed down her decision Sunday afternoon. Despite the conclusion of the project's environmental impact statement that the seismic testing would have little or no effect on marine mammals, the report itself contained protocols on how to minimize the effects on wildlife. The fact that such protocols exist, Sue Cooper dryly pointed out, imply seismic tests do indeed have effects on marine mammals.
Hunting whales, seal and other marine mammals is part of Inuit livelihood, and an integral part of their culture which Cooper recognized and stated that should the seismic testing disrupt the animals' habits, Inuit would lose a source of food and part of their culture and thus suffer irreparable harm. On the other hand, she concluded the loss suffered by the seismic testing project's proponents... would only be financial.
With Justice Sue Cooper's small 13-page document as a slingshot, Inuit have taken down the Goliath of the Government (Natural Resources Canada).
This means that the Eastern Canadian Arctic Seismic Experiment scheduled to start in the High Arctic is now on hold indefinitely.

We thank you for your wise decision, Sue Cooper!

P.S. The ship RV Polarstern is doing seismic testing now in Greenlandic waters.

tiistai 14. syyskuuta 2010

September 13th 2010

Endless Days

The pump is finally working!!! The malfunction had something to do with carbon brushes, but it has now been fixed. Although the pump is repaired only temporarily, Pekka is so confident that it will take us all the way to Halifax (I do hope he's right!) that he has given up wearing the headlight, thank god!

In order to make the overall distance to Halifax seem shorter, about a week ago, I started practising a special kind of self-deception by dividing the remaining 1,600 nautical miles into parts: Only 190 miles to Nuuk!, No more than 250 miles to Iqaluit!, Just over 600 miles left to Saint Anthony!, etc. Even though we have no intention of visiting any of these places, the mere knowledge that they are within easy reach (relatively speaking, of course) has helped me cope with the seemingly endless days of this last leg. But, actually, it is a real pity that I feel this way as I know from past experience that after only a few days amidst the hustle and bustle of a city, I'll again long for the simplicity and solitude of our life at sea.

maanantai 13. syyskuuta 2010

September 12th 2010

Hammering Ahead

63º03' N, 58º28' W

At the moment, Sarema is limping towards Nova Scotia due to the combination of 25 knot winds, approximately two meter swell and the Labrador Current, all coming from different directions. It is as if we were in a bowl of soup which somebody is constantly stirring. And the fact that our hydraulic pump is now in a continuous on-off mode does not help the situation any!
As I told you before, we have had major problems with the hydraulic pump that controls our autopilot. Our main pump broke before Cambridge Bay and we had to install a spare pump that is not working properly either. Pekka has tried to fix it but so far with little success. The best method to revive the pump we have come up with is, believe it or not, to hit it with a hammer! Every time the pump stops, which is almost every half an hour or so, Pekka dives into the aft cabin, opens the hatch and hits the pump with a hammer. He has to be extremely quick about it because Sarema starts to turn in the wrong direction immediately when there is no steering. In order to see the pump in the dark, Pekka is nowadays wearing a headlight night and day, and the hammer is also nearby at all times. Poor Pekka, besides looking absolutely ridiculous with the headlight on, in the present state of affairs, his good looks are also beginning to suffer from lack of sleep!

Except for the continuous pump revival episodes, the past several days have been rather dull. But, fortunately, the nights have not! We are sailing so far out at sea that during the day, the only things we see are the sky, the sea and an occasional seabird. But as the light of the day fades and night begins to fall, it is as if we entered another world altogether with billion stars twinkling above us, and Aurora Borealis glowing in the northern sky. It just takes your breath away!
Despite the magic of the star-lit nights, we are anxiously waiting for our arrival in Halifax. The other day when we were talking about it, we realized that we are actually returning to Halifax as we visited the city already in 2005. This again means that we have sailed around the Americas, i.e. North and Central Americas. The circumnavigation has taken a total of five years due to the three unforgettable summers spent in Alaska. So it has been quite a long tour but we have been in no hurry, until now!

sunnuntai 12. syyskuuta 2010

September 11th 2010

Davis Strait

Now that we have done it, I have to tell you how impressed I am with the way Pekka had prepared Sarema and her crew to meet the various challenges presented by the Northwest Passage. Sarema sailed through the Passage with flying colours, her crew were warm and comfortable most of the time, had plenty of good food, and all the necessary materials and spare parts required along the way.

The only thing that has caused us major problems (in addition to ice, fog, and wind, of course!) is the hydraulic pump controlling the autopilot. We began the voyage with two pumps; the one that we had already been using for the last couple of years and was still supposed to be in excellent working condition, and an older, smaller pump as a spare. The bigger pump broke in the middle of the Passage, and we have ended up struggling with the spare pump that took us all the way to Baffin Bay but, thenceforth, has functioned with great difficulty. Maybe this is just bad luck but, you never know, maybe it too suffers from post-passage disorder!

perjantai 10. syyskuuta 2010

September 10th 2010

We Made It!

66º 30.00’ N, 60º 16.48’ W

Today, S/Y Sarema crossed the Arctic Circle for the second time during her voyage from Seward to Halifax. This means that we have finally put the fabled Northwest Passage behind us. The distance between the two crossings amounted to 3,547.9 nautical miles, and it took us a total of 44.5 sometimes endless days to navigate it. Although we still have about 1,600 nautical miles to go before we arrive in Halifax, this calls for a celebration. Pekka, the Master of Ceremonies, is about to open the bottle of champagne now so...

Cheers, everybody!

September 9th 2010

Davis Strait

68º11' N, 61º53' W

We spent the night safely tucked aboard Sarema while the wind was howling around us and the sharp waves kept banging against the boat. Since we were drifting, we were a little concerned about the possibility of hitting an iceberg and, therefore, one of us was on watch all through the night. By early morning, the wind had dropped enough so that, even though the seas were still high, we could continue our interrupted journey.

At the moment, we are making good progress and will reach the latitude of 66 degrees 33 minutes north, i.e. the Arctic Circle, sometime tomorrow. This will mark the end of the Northwest Passage for us. Pekka, who is in charge of the festivities, has already put a bottle of champagne to cool!

keskiviikko 8. syyskuuta 2010

September 8th 2010

It's Blowing!

68º 44' N, 62º 40' W

The day started with 15 knot winds from the west. Soon, the wind began to shift more to the north as predicted and gradually, also gain more speed. By noon, it blew exactly from the direction forecast, namely from the north-west. But, this time, it was the speed that was wrong!
We enjoyed sailing and made excellent progress with 20 - 25 knot winds, started reducing sails with 30 knot winds, reduced even more with 40 knot winds, but when the anemometer showed 51.4 knots, we didn't think it was fun any more. We have now been heaving to for the past seven hours, and it is still blowing 35 knots outside. It seems that we'll spend the night here and continue tomorrow, hopefully under better circumstances.

September 8th 2010

Post-passage Disorder
69º59' N, 64º56' W

After analysing our present state of mind, we have come to the conclusion that we are suffering from post-passage disorder! Post-passage in the sense that, although, technically speaking, we are still in the Northwest Passage, in reality, the Passage with all its challenges begins or ends, depending which way your are going, at Lancaster Sound.
After all the excitement, anxiety, stress, and frustration we have experienced, since Lancaster Sound, it has been, I wouldn't like to use the word but here it is, BORING!

It may be that this state of boredom is about to end soon as the weather forecast for today is 35 knots from the north-west. This would give us a real boost south provided, of course, that the direction of the wind is forecast correctly. It has frequently happened that the wind speed is correct but its direction is not. But we are mentally prepared also for the worst-case scenario, which is 35 knots on the nose. After all, we are sailing aboard the Sarema alias the Headwind!

September 7th 2010

C´e nebbia e il vento ha cambiato direzione.

As you can see, we have taken up Italian! The reason for this is that we needed something to take our minds off the approximately 1,800 nautical miles we still have ahead of us, and every sailor's favourite subject, the weather.
We have spent the last few days hoping for the fog to lift and the wind to blow from the right direction but, alas, both in vain. For the third consecutive day, dense fog keeps hanging over the coast of Baffin Island, and we have now lost all hope of seeing another polar bear. But the more important aspect of the weather is, of course, the wind.
Instead of coming from the north as forecast, it is presently blowing from the south-east, making our lives miserable. At the moment, it feels that we are making such slow progress that we'll probably be speaking fluent Italian by the time we reach Halifax. Ciao!

maanantai 6. syyskuuta 2010

September 5th 2010

Baffin Bay

72º024.89´ N, 73º34.62´ W

Since the refuelling on the day of our arrival did not leave much time for anything else, we ended up staying in Pond Inlet for two days and two nights. On our second day, Pekka changed the engine oil and filters, and Riitta walked up to the Inns North Hotel and spent several hours uploading photos. At these latitudes, the signal strength is normally so weak that it takes ages to upload a single photo. And, for some unknown reason, there are always photos that simply refuse to be uploaded.
In the afternoon, we walked around the hamlet which didn't take very long. By far the most interesting place in Pond Inlet was the Rebecca P. Idlout Library. In addition to the library itself, it houses a permanent exhibition of Inuit history, artefacts, clothing, etc. As in so many libraries before, we made great discoveries also here in their Books for Sale Section (1 dollar each); five novels plus Doonesbury Deluxe and Madame Benoit's World of Food that includes some interesting Finnish dishes. Although, one of her recipes begins with “Like so many of the Finnish dishes this one may sound odd but,... “, we decided to forgive Madame Benoit and, someday, try at least the extremely exotic sounding Finnish Jellied Beef Tongue. However, the jewel of our findings was, without a doubt, a photo book titled Florence; History, Art, Folklore, with the city map tucked between its pages, and that too only for one dollar!

The librarian told us that the natives in Pond Inlet speak Inuktitut but a different dialect from Inuktitut spoken, for example, in Gjoa Haven or Cambridge Bay. Which reminded us of your homework! The blue sign, photographed in Gjoa Haven, is indeed in Inuktitut, and it says 'Nunavut Ladies' Group'. To give you a few more words, this time in Iñupiaq, that may come in handy on your future travels in the Arctic, to those who got it right, we say “Aarigaa!”, which expresses our satisfaction, and to the rest of you, “Arii!”, which means the exact opposite.
We weighed anchor early Sunday morning and headed for Baffin Bay. Due to the fog that seemed to have engulfed the whole Baffin Island, combined with the at least two dozen icebergs and numerous growlers that lined its shores, we decided to go further off the coast and stay at a distance of about five miles from it. We also decided to reduce our speed during the darkest hours of the night so as to diminish the impact of a possible collision with ice. Naturally, this slows down our progress a little but, as always, safety comes first.
If the fog has lifted by tomorrow morning, we'll sail closer to the
shore and continue our favourite pastime, namely Polar Bear Spotting!

lauantai 4. syyskuuta 2010

September 3rd 2010

Pond Inlet

72º41.77' N, 77º59.29' W

We left Port Leopold in the evening motoring in a dense fog that persisted till early morning. When the curtain of fog finally lifted, it revealed the majestic cliffs of the Borden Peninsula, the different geological layers exposed by erosion. Between the cliffs were deep valleys as brown as the rest of the landscape, with only occasional, sad remains of the once existed glaciers.

We continued motor-sailing for the next one and a half days. It was a thoroughly enjoyable leg with gorgeous views and icebergs, the sun shining and the much disliked fog keeping its distance. We could see it lurking behind Sarema but, this time, it never caught us. We also had fair winds and following seas, which we had not had since … we couldn't even remember when.

As we turned from Lancaster Sound into Navy Board Inlet, we passed Tay Bay where Alvah Simon, his wife Diana and their cat Halifax wintered ice-locked aboard their 36-foot yacht Roger Henry. Alvah tells the story in his book North to the Night, which we think is a book worth reading.

The following afternoon, we dropped anchor in front of the tiny hamlet of Pond Inlet. Our only reason for coming here was to get fuel, and that was what we did. Since Pond Inlet does not have a jetty, we had to order a fuel truck to the beach. There, we filled our jerry cans, seven at a time, dinghied the cans to the boat, emptied them into the fuel tank, then dinghied back to the beach with the empty jerry cans and so on. It took us four rounds to get a total of 607,1 litres of diesel, and we are now ready to leave tomorrow for perhaps the final leg of our ongoing voyage.

torstai 2. syyskuuta 2010

September 1st 2010

Port Leopold

73º51.994' N, 90º18.303' W

As you can see from the previous blog entry, we were absolutely exhausted and extremely frustrated after several days of tacking through foggy Peel Sound and negotiating the ice in Barrow Strait. But, after a good night's sleep in Port Leopold, things are now back to normal. So much so that, one day, we may even sail to the Antarctic!

Instead of going to Erebus Bay as originally planned, we came to Port Leopold, on the north-eastern corner of Somerset Island, because of the ice in Barrow Strait. Here, Riitta (the weaker negotiator!) had a unique opportunity to admire the view from the mast top as she went up to fetch down the top lift with a broken shackle. Our next, compulsory stop will be Pond Inlet where we will get fuel and hopefully fresh vegetables before continuing our voyage towards Baffin Bay.

August 31st 2010

Barrow Strait

74º03' N, 91º00' W

As we turned around the corner of Somerset Island and arrived in Barrow Strait, there was more and more ice floating around us. For some reason, we had thought that we had seen the last of it coming through Peel Sound. You can therefore imagine how dismayed we were to see ahead of us, a narrow but continuous belt of ice that seemed to stretch from the shore straight across the Strait. It was a nightmarish feeling as if the ice that we thought we had left behind, had come to haunt us.
At first, we just could not see a way through it. We then carefully motored closer to the shore and finally found an opening through the ice belt. Henceforth, the sea was practically ice-free until we saw a second ice belt rising from behind the horizon! There were three ice barriers like this one after another after which the ice seemed to vanish. So, if it is true as it now seems that the pack ice is behind us, the floe ice is behind us, and most of the bergy bits are behind us, all we can say is, “GOOD RIDDANCE!!”

We now know that, despite its unquestionable beauty, ice is a truly frightening element and, unlike the polar regions, it is something we can definitely do without. So, for future reference, if we ever again come up with one of those great ideas like “Hey, why don't we sail to the Antarctic!”, we hereby authorise our children to lock us up!

tiistai 31. elokuuta 2010

August 31st 2010

The Summer Wear of An Arctic Sailor

When it is my turn to be on watch, I put on my underwear, thermal underwear, Bermuda length woollen pants, full length woollen pants, wind-stopper trousers, offshore overalls, woollen sweater, thicker woollen sweater, fleece vest with wind-stopper lining, offshore jacket, thick down vest, two pairs of woollen socks, Alaska boots, gore-tex mittens, fur hat, and, in rough weather, the goggles.
And, voilà, I am all dressed up for the Arctic Summer!

August 30th 2010

Barrow Strait

74º14' N, 94º08' W

For the rest of the day and the following night, we continued tacking towards Barrow Strait. In the early hours of the morning, we were engulfed in fog, you know, the 'when you stretch your arm, you can't see your fingers' kind of fog. And the fog kept us in its grip for the next 36 hours. So, it was grey, damp and headwind all over again!

As we reached the end of Peel Sound, the skies cleared, the wind died, and the sea was smooth as silk. We motored near the rugged coastline of Somerset Island for the sole purpose of spotting a polar bear. Mathieu had told us that often when he took Tico ashore, sooner or later a polar bear would appear. So, if we didn't see a polar bear, we had contemplated taking Latte ashore as decoy. For your information, that won't be necessary as we soon saw a lone bear on the shore. Unfortunately, the bear was too far away for any decent photos but through the binoculars, we could see him descend the slope and as he came to a snowy patch, we watched him roll and slide on its icy surface.

We are now heading for Erebus and Terror Bay on the other side of Barrow Strait. The main reason for this is that during one of the continuous tacking manoeuvres, our jib came tumbling down. We are now negotiating who will be the lucky one to be hoisted to the top of the mast.

August 29th 2010

Rendezvous with A Rower

70º59' N, 96º44' W

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of meeting Mathieu Bonnier, a French veterinarian who explores the Arctic in the company of his dog Tico, by rowing ( We heard from Peter that Mathieu was somewhere near Tasmania Island coming south and, therefore, we kept a sharp lookout. Before we spotted him, however, Mathieu who was also aware of our presence in the area, contacted us via VHF. We arranged a rendezvous and invited Mathieu on board. We spent the next couple of hours exchanging information about the Passage and listening to his fascinating stories about rowing, skiing and dog-sled racing. All the while, we were towing his rowing boat and dog, and about ten miles further south, we dropped him off in a bay where he took Tico for his daily walk, before continuing his laborious journey towards Cambridge Bay.

sunnuntai 29. elokuuta 2010

August 28th 2010

Bergy Bits!

Oh yes, we have seen quite a few bergy bits during the past 24 hours. They did not come as a surprise as Peter had warned us about these blocks of ice that are like miniature icebergs, made of thick, old ice. And, mind you, they are small only in relation to the proper icebergs! The bits were exactly where they were supposed to be, starting from Larsen Sound and continuing to Franklin Strait.

We had headwind (surprisingly!) and when tacking off the coast of Boothia Peninsula, we soon saw a lot of ice ahead of us, both bergy bits and smaller floe ice. We immediately changed our course and headed back towards the coast. Henceforth, we continued hugging the shoreline until dawn. The two good things about bergy bits are that they like to float alone without the company of other bergy bits, and that because of their size, they can be easily spotted except at night, of course. You may already have guessed when we were in the worst bergy bit area: in the middle of the night, during its darkest hours, naturally! This meant that we were both awake all night trying to see the bits that showed on the radar and the possible other bits that did not. Again, many of the bits became visible only after we had passed them but here the reason was obvious. As we were heading north, the bits in front of us were backlit and, hence, disappeared in the dark seas.

For this particular leg, we have adopted a daily routine that is quite different from what we normally have: because of the ice, both crew members stay awake from dusk till dawn. At the crack of dawn when the visibility has improved sufficiently, the more tired crew member goes to sleep, after which we have breakfast together. Then, the other crew member goes to sleep, after which we have lunch. Thereafter, we take turns in resting but the main thing is that one of us is always on watch. This continues till dinner time which is around nine, after which both of us must stay awake and keep a sharp lookout for ice. We have learned from bitter experience that when there is nobody on watch, the ice will find us. For this reason, we are determined to stick to the above routine until we are absolutely clear of these ice-infested waters!

Today, we had also another good reason for keeping a sharp lookout, but we'll tell you more about that tomorrow.

perjantai 27. elokuuta 2010

August 27th 2010

Leaving Gjoa Haven

69º37.72' N, 95º26.09' W

All good is worth waiting for! At the moment, the ice situation looks good, the weather looks good, and the lunch looks good! We are presently motoring the ice-free waters of James Ross Strait in warm sunshine, enjoying delicious pizza in the cockpit, and listening to a young tenor singing Italian music (Thank you, Kathy!). In other words, everything is absolutely fabulous!

Just as I was writing that, our little autopilot suddenly decided to change our course turning Sarema back towards Gjoa Haven, and refused to be switched off. It now seems that we cannot use the Navigation mode at all, but fortunately the Heading mode is still functioning. We cannot think of any reason for this malfunction, maybe there was just too much asparagus on top of the pizza!
We left Gjoa Haven yesterday evening and, during our first night at sea, we had 15 knots headwind, almost a full moon, and beautiful starlit skies. We couldn't remember when we had last seen the stars. Until now, even at night, there has been a glow of light coming from behind the horizon that has faded the light from the stars and made them invisible to us. But with the approach of autumn, the days are becoming shorter and the nights longer and darker.

keskiviikko 25. elokuuta 2010

August 25th 2010

Patience is the Word!

Yesterday's ice chart looked so GOOD! The ice had moved once more further west, and the waters between the denser ice and Boothia Peninsula were marked blue, i.e. merely 1/10 ice coverage. But after listening to the weather report; 25 knots north wind for the next two to three days, we decided to prolong our visit in Gjoa Haven. It is the combination of ice and wind that dictates what we'll do, whether we go or stay. We now know that ice can move with astonishing speed, and we definitely want to stay well out of its way. As we read on the blog of Ocean Watch, a vessel sailing around the Americas, “More than one would-be explorer of days gone by, who watched their boat be crushed by the ice, discovered it the hard way: Ice is serious stuff!”

To prevent this becoming too serious, and as we seem to have ample time, let's continue our language studies. Inuinnaqtun and Inuktitut are the official native languages in Nunavut. In the Northwest Territories, the official native languages are Cree, Chipewyan, Inuvialuktun, Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, Dogrib, North Slavey, South Slavey, and Gwich'in. Your homework is to find out what language the above sign is in and translate it into English. Just take your time!

tiistai 24. elokuuta 2010

August 24th 2010

In Gjoa Haven

68º37.68´ N, 95º52.88´ W

We dropped anchor in the protected harbour of Gjoa Haven on Sunday evening at ten to eight. Young Larry, the British sail boat that we knew from Peter's radio net was already there, but there was no sign of RX2. The following morning, we received an email from the Norwegian sailors explaining that they had continued past Gjoa Haven as the waters ahead were practically ice-free. They are in a hurry because they want to get across the North Atlantic before the autumn storms, on their way back to Norway. It was a pity as there was a memorial to be held in honour of Roald Amundsen later that day, and there were no Norwegian boats present.

At four o'clock in the afternoon, all the locals plus the crews of Young Larry and Sarema were gathered on the hill facing the hamlet. Speeches were given by both the Mayor of Gjoa Haven and the Norwegian Ambassador, the flags of both countries were raised on brand-new flagpoles, and a thousand photos were taken. As it was all about Roald Amundsen and Norway, and since we had promised RX2 to represent them during the festivities, we tried to look as Norwegian as possible. We think we did pretty well!

Later the same evening, on receiving the daily ice chart, we came face to face with the sombre reality. For some unforeseeable reason, the ice further north had shifted and blocked Franklin Strait. And in Larsen Sound, it had also moved eastward and was now less than fifteen miles off the shore. This will keep us in Gjoa Haven for a little longer but hopefully not for too long!

sunnuntai 22. elokuuta 2010

August 22nd 2010

Ice Ahead!?

It is icy cold and foggy as we negotiate the narrows leading to Gjoa Haven, a place named after Roald Amundsen's ship Gjöa, the first vessel ever to navigate the Northwest Passage. For Amundsen, the voyage took a total of three years (1903-1906). We hope that our crossing will be considerably shorter!
From Gjoa Haven, we will begin probably the most crucial leg of our voyage and, henceforth, it is going to be all about ice! The ice will dictate all our movements; when we can go, which way we should go and how far we are able to go. This means that we have to continuously follow the movements of the ice that can sometimes be unbelievably rapid and unpredictable. We have two sources that provide us with information, our support person back in Finland, Esko Pettay, who sends us ice charts by email and Peter Semotiuk in Cambridge Bay who reads us the daily weather report on the radio and emails ice charts as necessary. On the charts (by Canadian Ice Service), the ice concentration is marked in different colours; white means open or ice-free water (our favourite!), blue means less that 1/10 ice, i.e. 10 % ice coverage, green areas have 1/10 – 3/10 ice, yellow areas are covered by 4/10 – 6/10 ice, orange areas by 7/10 – 8/10, and red areas by 9/10 – 10/10, i.e. solid ice. Besides the ice concentration, also the size, type and thickness of the ice are of significance when planning our ongoing voyage. In reality, all coloured areas except blue and perhaps green are impassable for Sarema. And we will do everything in our power to avoid going into areas coloured yellow, orange or red!

So, understandably, we are studying the ice charts with ever increasing interest. At the moment, the east end of Bellot Strait is still blocked by ice, and if the situation does not improve by the time we have to proceed through preferably ice-free Peel Sound, the only option left is to continue north and sail around Somerset Island. This would mean one extra day's sailing. Since the ice is melting at an increasing rate, the blockage could disappear within the next few days or with luck, the winds will sweep the ice south down the Gulf of Boothia and clear the passage for us. For now, there is nothing else for us to do but wait and hope for the best!
While waiting for the ice to melt, we decided to give you a crash course in two native languages. But first, a few words about the natives themselves. In Alaska, Eskimo is a commonly used word that refers collectively to both the Yupik and the Inupiat tribes, whereas in Canada, and in Nunavut in particular, you should never use the word Eskimo as it is considered to be pejorative by the natives. They call themselves Inuit, and so should we. Now, back to the languages. There are several native languages and dialects, some on the verge of extinction, some still in everyday use especially amongst the old. Here, we have chosen two of the most widely spoken languages, namely Iñupiaq used by the Alaskan Eskimo and Inuinnaqtun spokenby the Inuit.

English - Iñupiaq - Inuinnaqtun

cold, to get cold - alappaa - alappaa
hurry - qilamik - qilamik
caribou - tuttu - tuktu
knife (woman's) - ulu - ulu
grandmother - aana - anaanaga
grandfather - taata - ataataga
good morning - uvlaalluataq - ublaami
thank you - taikuu - quana

As you can see, many of the words are the same in both languages and then again, some words are completely different. From personal experience, we can say that if you ever contemplate visiting the Polar Region, the word to memorize is ALAPPAA!

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!