27th of August, Meret reports:
The day After we arrived in Gjoa Haven, it was Dario and Sabine’s wedding anniversary. We congratulate them to their 15 years together and wish them many more filled with love and happiness. He managed to find probably one of the most Northern dandelions for her. It even feels like a day in November or December back in Switzerland and it’s summer here. This not only because of the cold but also the dry climate up here. Gjoa Haven, as already Cambridge Bay, is predominantly sandy rather then vegetated.
In the foggy bay the Sabine saw a huge elegant sailboat, it looked vaguely familiar but she didn’t think anything of it. Then we met one of the crew outside the heritage center and quickly realized the boat in front of us was the SY Hetairos. Nothing too spectacular for most but for us it was unbelievable. The family and Meret has met this boat three years ago in Cocos Island, a remote Costa Rican island about 500km offshore. Not many boats pass through there, even less then end up in the NW Passage anchored off Gjoa Haven. It was the first boat we meet in an anchorage after Hawaii! The chances we’d see them here were so slim, if we’d planned it it wouldn’t have worked. Though all but one of the crew were new, the owners remembered us and immediately invited us onboard their impressive 66 m green carbon boat for a delicious dinner. The kids quickly felt at home on the huge boat and entertained the whole crew by making it their playground. They also invited us along for cultur al performances the next day.
We also got to listen to throat singing and see some drum dancing. It ended in a cultural exchange, when Dario performed the Swiss Alpsegen. After the performance we even got to try ourselves. One of the dances was to ensure a good journey to the spirit world. Then we played an Inuit game, where you have to poke a stick into a hole in a spinning pendent. We also got to try snack bannock, a kind of fried bread. This was apparently a recipe derived from one whalers had brought to the region. When we asked how often these traditional dances and singing were done they said only in summer when the ships come in.
This reflected the general impression we got, of much of the cultural heritage being lost. Though the children in the schools and the skins lying around showed that many people still hunt a lot. A lot of the cloths, at least the warm ones, were still the more traditional ones partly made of fur.
We all agreed that the written Inuktitut looks beautiful. For thousand of years Inuktitut was only a spoken language, there was no need to write it down. In the 1800s James Evans, a missionary, developed a syllabic writing system for the Cree and Ojibwa, these symbols were adopted by the Nattilik in the 1920s. We were surprised to see a strong emphasis on bilingual schooling in the elementary school. It was one of their top goals and posters with Inuktitut writing on them covered the walls of the halls. It seemed like the language was doing well. But a conversation with the Inuktitut teacher paints a very different picture. She says the language is dying even with the schools effort because most children still speak English with each other and even at home. She said her grandchildren don’t understand her anymore if she speaks Inuktitut with them, so even she switches to English.
The Hetairos crew came onboard Pachamama and Captain Graham gave us good advice on anchorages and routes sailing on to Greenland. Tyron, their engineer, spent at least hour in the locker looking at our autopilot and finally managed to find and fix the problem, to the joy of the whole Pachamama crew!
After a day filled with performances and downloading charts we needed for our further journey, we set off out of Gjoa Haven with a last goodbye loop around Hetairos. Thanks to Hetairos, we can use their paper charts to make our way out of the passage and to Greenland. We appreciate you allowing us to use them for the time being.
Correction from Victor:
“In the Report from Gjoa Haven there is a mistake. In the second paragraph last sentence says “Only two years ago the HMS Erebus was found close to Beechey Island.” It was not at Beechey Island, it was near Hut Island. At Beechey Island in 1851 were found first graves of 3 crew of Franklin Expedition.”
Our window of opportunity to finish the NW Passage is closing soon, see the note below: “Dario, please remember that Arctic sailing window is only about a month long. In about a week you may expect the first frost and new ice. Cheers, Victor”