31st August 2016, by Meret:
I noticed two things as I woke up. Firstly, I could here the sound of the anchor chain being taken in or let out, you can’t really tell just from the sound. We’re we re-anchoring or leaving? Had I been woken up and fallen asleep again. Second, by the way the boat was moving on anchor I could tell it was windy. If you couldn’t feel it, you could hear it. The wind was whizzing through our rigging.
This second realization answered my initial confusion and my question of what was going on. Dario and Sabine were letting out more chain to make sure we were safe on our anchorage in such strong winds. You don’t want to drag in such windy conditions and especially not when the other side of the bay is very shallow. and the anchor definitely held rather than dragged. Polar Bound next to us had dragged considerably and were a lot closer to the shore on the other side of the bay.
When we all got up hours later, it was cold. It’s been getting progressively colder and having a lot of wind doesn’t help the matter. All wrapped up we huddled in the cockpit and were grateful to Sabine for making a hot yummy breakfast of milk rice and porridge. The wind was gusting 44 knots, almost 90km/h, too much wind to leave and far too much to paddle ashore, especially because that’s the precise direction the wind was coming from.
You can tell the stormy season is coming. The windy days are getting more frequent and passing less quickly. The days with less wind are dwindling. It,seems there’s only the two extremes up here at the moment, no or not enough wind, or too much wind. That being said, we have been pretty lucky with the winds we’ve had so far.
Stuck on our anchorage the children started school. They were writing and drawing about Coningham Bay and their experiences there, all in German of course. Since the sun was shining, sitting in the cockpit became like being in a little conservatory. The suns rays quickly heated it up. Inside the boat it was far colder and less pleasant. School, which is usually down stairs here in colder climates, was moved upstairs. A spot prone to distractions, that sure enough arrived within no time.
“Helicopter, helicopter! Look quick a helicopter!” Andri and Noé had spotted one circling the bay. We wondered why it was here. Then we remembered that we had been told there would be two accompanying the cruise ship. They were for taking the guests on excursions. The cruise ship was scheduled to pass us any day now. But to be sure we decided to radio them. “Helicopter circling Fort Ross, helicopter circling Fort Ross, this is SY Pachamama, Pachamama. Over.”- Though helicopter didn’t answer, we did get a response. “Pachamama, err.. TOPtoTOP this is Shackleton, Shackleton. Over.” In that moment Salina shouted, “Another boat is coming!” There, just visible behind a hill blocking our full view of the mouth of the Bellot Strait, was the ice breaker Ernest Shackleton, that had anchored with us briefly in Cambridge Bay. It’s always nice to hear familiar voices. What followed was general chitchat about going through the Bellot Strait, other parts of the journey, weather and ice conditions and what the plan was going on.
As the helicopters swooped down to drop people on shore, all the kids were on deck waving frantically. Andri wants to become a helicopter pilot so he was over the moon, to see two landing so close.
Soon after we spotted the cruise ship. It was huge! We knew, that it had 1700 people onboard and that it would be big. But actually seeing it was different a story. It looked so out of place. It will be the first ever cruise ship to ever make it through the NW Passage. Even though we obviously don’t begrudge the guests their trip, we all agreed we were a bit worried what the passage of this ship would mean and bring to the Northwest Passage. Will it merely become a commercial deal along with all the other cruise ship destinations? Obviously, we can’t say too much because we are sailing up here too and are part of a growing number of sail yacht going through the passage because it’s more and more possible. – 4 sailboats this year going West to East with a total of 20 people, us 10 included. But we still worry the place will lose some of its specialty and beauty. What would it mean for the places, we have been in if tourism became a big thing? It may bring a new source of income but on the other hand what consequences would this have? Most of all we hope it won’t affect the environment and the fauna and flora too much!
Later, another much smaller passenger ship came into the bay and anchored further out. It was Sea Adventure, a Russian icebreaker, a boat we had passed in the Queen Maud Gulf. Dario promptly radioed them and asked if they could give us some ice and weather information. They were happy to and said they’d print it out and bring it by when they dropped the guests onshore. They even agreed to give us a lift ashore once they had finished shuttling all their guests ashore. It was still blowing over 35 knots. We wouldn’t be using our dinghy any time soon.
Everyone apart from me went ashore. We had prepared a little something to add to the flags and things left in the hut. A big Victorinox Swiss Army knife sticker, with the expedition, our names and the fact that all the kid’s umbilical cords had been cut with such a Swiss Army knife. It’s a nice feeling to see your contribution up on the wall next to so many other great sailors and people.
On the way back Sea Adventure had a big surprise for us. Next to the ice charts, we got a 4.5kg bag of pasta. Just earlier that day, Sabine had said if we had to overwinter pasta would be the first staple of ours to run out. Thank you so much Sea Adventure for replenishing our stock a little! On top of the pasta, we got 4 boxes with left over desserts: coffee cake, biscuits and bread pudding. Yum, once again we are being spoilt with a luxuries we don’t often have onboard Pachamama. The Arctic and its visitors are treating us extremely well.