A review of the NWP from Liverpool

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See the Global News report from Alexa Mclean!

Monday night we did a presentation at the Theater in Liverpool, Nova Scotia organized by our friend Tim Woodfort. Thanks to that event we are Tuesday and Wednesday busy in the schools in Liverpool (see at the end of this blog).

Victor send me his report about our NWP success as a birthday present:

Opening a shorter Route through the Northwest Passage


Dario family of 7 & 3 friends of TOPtoTOP-Expedition sailboat Pachamama at Northwest Passage 2016.

by Victor Wejer, 13 October 2016


 It has been a difficult passage for Pachamama starting in Nome, Alaska, beginning of August 2016. Actually, Pachamama started in California in April, crossing the Pacific from Mexico at the beginning of May towards Hawaii, in order to use wind currents most efficiently to sail north.

In Hawaii, marine Biologist, Meret Jucker joined the sailboat to collect ocean and climate related data for the IPRC and ACS. They were making its trek toward Dutch Harbor, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, with not so favorable winds.  Conditions worsened, with the crew arriving to Dutch Harbor with the last puff of the good winds.

There they celebrated in full swing and reconnected with previous acquaintances. Their passage from Hawaii guidance was not so easy, mainly due to their lack of having tracking device informing of actual position in the ocean and winds affecting. Winds were inconsistent for about the three weeks crossing and the crew experienced seasickness along the way.

As anyone may know Bering Sea is always a challenge due to its shallow depth. It was again a struggle to achieve experiencing variable winds next way point to Nome. In Nome, baby Mia turned 7 months and Christina joined the boat with an InReach tracker device. After few days there, and meeting two more contenders of NWP, Agar II (ISR) & Eagle Quest II (HKK), the deadline of re-start was raised. They were all supposed to leave at the very end of July and ice concentration at Point Barrow dictated otherwise. Agar II hired a professional ice pilot to guide them and she also was very apprehensive for re-start. Days were passing and intensity arising. Eventually taking consideration of weather & ice, a decision was made to leave on 4th August 2016. Kind of late in face of a few previous  years. Immediately, concerns of finishing transit date emerged making it difficult to predict anything.  Sailing was mixed with many tacking into the wind along the way of Alaska west coast to Point Barrow. Bering Str. and Arctic Circle were achieved on 5th August whoever wants to recognize starting point of Northwest Passage. Very few know that at least Northwest Passage actually starts at the travers of Sachs Harbor NWT Canada and ends at the travers of entry to Baffin Bay Nunavut. That’s what international mariners recognize. Anything else is just artificially invented in the recent years by some and not by late Capt. Thomas Pullen and Charles Swithinbank who invented listing in 1991 and first published in Polar Records.

Continuing Pachamama crossing at Point Barrow and beyond they had to keep close to shore of Alaska to avoid concentration of ice and as they progressed the minimum of ice was developing with maximum of opposite winds sailing toward east. Plans to visit Barter Island had to be abandoned due to very shallow approach to the island. From there they experienced foggy conditions, light winds and sporadic ice floes.

Eventually as recommended Pachamama landed on Herschel Island on 11th August, in a very quaint, Pauline Cove. It is the historical place of whalers wintering there since XIX century. Now managed by Park Ranger who welcomes everyone to visit. Amundsen landed there to announce his closing Northwest Passage in 1906. Their arrival coincided with presence of team of biological scientists that gave crew of Pachamama good view of Herschel Is. ecological situation.

After two days they sailed further east with no immediate ice floes ahead. Going through rest of Beaufort Sea into Amundsen Gulf, Dolphin & Union Str. to Coronation Gulf and Dease Str. arriving to Cambridge Bay on 19th August non-stop.

After 4 days in Cambridge Bay and trying in vain to fix their autopilot they were pushed to continue to Gjoa Haven. Initial plans to use Victoria Str. crossing was not used due to extensive ice coverage there.  Also possibility of visiting Gjoa Haven where Amundsen wintered couldn’t be taken away.

Winds prognosis upon leaving Cambridge Bay were not so good and eventually plans to stop at Jane Lind Is. were taken into consideration. Fortunately Pachamama reached Requisite Channel & Storis Passage intact following this dangerous passage with no problem. Careful selection and timing of tides in Simpson Str. allowed them to cross in between precisely staked range beacons to avoid under water rocks located near fairway with added skill of helmsman with Swiss Precision. Thanks to failed autopilot. At the approach to Simpson Strait the second ship of Sir John Franklin, the HMS Terror was discovered in Terror Bay some days later on the 3rd of September.

At that time I sent them SMS “You have just reached the most dangerous point of Simpson, Eta Is. and on time during slack tide. Precision timing”.

On 24 August at 18:14 MDT they reached Rasmussen Basin, getting to Gjoa Haven on 25 August at 02:18 MDT  with the SMS received from Christina Hartmann who had an InReach tracker device “Wuuhuu..we re here.thank you for guiding us!we have 38kt wind and drinking a ankertrunk! Everyone happy”.

At Gjoa Haven Pachamama crew performed many presentations as usual for the schools and students and organized a clean up in their village. It drew respectful views from elders and students them self. They did environmental education with a total of 1200 Inuit students in the Arctic.

In the meantime despite plans to continue to Regent Inlet through Bellot Str. and further Lancaster Sd. and Baffin Bay to Greenland the new opportunity emerged.

Gulf of Boothia packed for years with heavy ice this time was showing dramatic relief giving opportunity of crossing Fury and Hecla Str. into general Hudson’s Bay area and to shorten cruise into Davis Str. Until 2016 only 3 icebreakers made it.

Also, as it turned out around the corner in Resolute Vagabond yacht with Eric Brossier showed up with desire to make short-cut to Labrador through Fury and Hecla eastbound. A little sooner David Cowper of Polar Bound left England expressed to concur Fury and Hecla as his desire was mounting for many years.

In view of all that, I have managed to persuade Dario & crew of Pachamama to take this route with many warnings and discomfort upcoming.

The action was taken place while the major and usual problem of preparation emerged. Who attempting NWP would be prepared to take so unusual route of NWP ? None is the answer. So was Pachamama.

Do you have enough information about this place? Sailing Direction, Currents & Tides and mostly the nautical charts? None of it had Pachamama. Eric Brossier was not fully prepared as well while having enormous polar experience. He can sail from point to point using sonar & radar while making valid notes of newly found way points. His skill is enormous after wintering many years in Arctic ice with his boat. Charts of Fury and Hecla are very sketchy and he was able to pick right places safely to anchor for the night and continue after to full success.

So, Dario had to acquire nautical charts for the area and with help from Navionics managed to download in Gjoa Haven. Some officers on RRS Shackleton provided Sailing Directions while anchored in Hollman. The rest information was depending on me. Difficult.

In the mean time Pachamama left Gjoa Haven on 27th August heading for Bellot. Upon common advise from Hetarios (GBR) and myself they sailed to Coningham Bay to observe Beluga Whales & Polar Bears which was spectacular. After it Pachamama rushed to Bellot despite timing set for entry. They were late and consequence was visible toward ending minutes of crossing Bellot when they made to with difficulties and fortunately good winds to Fort Ross. At least the goal was achieved by the hair length on 30th August in the morning hours.

Unfortunately their old friend Eric Brossier and family left Fort Ross sooner without waiting and they met David Cowper of Polar Bound who only on 26th August made transit of Fury & Hecla at 06:47 PDT westbound. Eric Brossier made it on 31st August.

It was somehow friendly meeting between both Pachamama and Polar Bound crew, but the request for already used nautical charts lending to Pachamama was denied by Polar Bound. Not so very sail way conduct of helping each other. To add statements of Polar Bound upon crossing Labrador Narrows of Fury and Hecla when they hardly entered Northwest Passage Mr. Cowper wrote: “Closing NW Passage Route 7 westbound DSC”. At that time they were about 28 days away from closing Route 7 westbound in Chukchi Sea! Their cruise along Gulf of Boothia was rather uneventful seeing only few icebergs. Only about two days before Labrador Narrows they have experienced some 2/10 ice that was easy to bypass.

To get back to details of Pachamama crossing Fury and Hecla, it was the total and singular success of Dario.

I gave him the timing to cross Labrador Narrows safely and misreading of messages was interpreted otherwise. In the end Pachamama got into Labrador Narrows at not so good timing with thanks to Dario’s rafting experience. They got into opposite currents where counter currents existed at the shores of Narrow. His skill went beyond any imagination to save boat and crew and thanks for short  length of stretch it was over in few minutes until they reached Foxe Basin. They were reaching speeds momentary over 18kt at times unimaginable for this type of boat. All that happened on 4th September 2016.

Shortly after they landed in Igloolik on 4th September giving local Inuit the show of their life time to school students and their environment to maintain.

Their further cruise through Foxe and into Hudson Str. was monotonous and enhanced by head winds until Hudson Strait.

On 7th September 2016 Pachamama had the opportunity to celebrate again crossing Arctic Circle thus becoming first sail boat to make, never before achieved, full transit of route 7 of Northwest Passage through Fury&Hecla.

In Hudson Strait for 2 days they stopped at Cape Dorset, again learning from the Inuit and teaching how to maintain own local environment properly.

Hudson Str. is known for its easterly opposite winds and mixed tidal currents and this time was a repeat.

When they reached Button Islands the currents were reaching well over 12kt either way. Getting into east Labrador Shore safely was not an easy task.

The labyrinth of thousands of small islands and underwater rocks is unimaginable and yet sailors like Eric Brossier gave positive example to Pachamama and addition of another sail boat Caledonia (GER)  who sailed NWP through Pond Inlet down Baffin Is. east coast south.

My own after it involvement with their boat was merely conducting follow up to provide weather reports daily. They stopped at good few places in Labrador discovering its past. After Labrador they sailed to St. Anthony to pick up from Post Office, the replacement auto pilot and using Strait of Belle Isle, headed into Gulf of St. Lawrence. Stopped in Baddeck, Nova Scotia to visit Celtic Festival.


Here a sequence of their blog when they closed the new route 7 on the 7th of September:

Global warming allows new Northwest Passage Route and demonstrates the alarming lost of sea ice in the Arctic:…We are the first sailing boat to sail the Northwest Passage going through Fury and Hecla Strait into Foxe Basin opening a shorter NWP route, covering 3076nm in 34 days. Technically the distance would be shorter, but we had to tack against the wind from time to time. We used all kinds of sails: from the genaker sail in light winds to the storm sail in a steady 50 knots blow. Our autopilot stopped working in Nome Alaska, so we had to helm through the NWP exposed to the weather and cold. We were challenged by sea ice only at Cape Barrow and the Fury&Hecla Strait. It is a totally different environment than to Sir Franklin’s time. We used 700l of fresh water since we were able to get water last time in Nome, Alaska. 34 days with 10 people on board, that makes 2.0l of water per person per day for drinking, cooking and washing up. We also used one liter of diesel per day and person mainly for heating and maneuvers in anchorages. This was possible, because we used mainly sea water for all the washing up and put extra layers of clothing on to keep warm. We did most of our food provisioning in Hawaii, 2.5 months ago. Here a little overview of the fresh food we still have on board: 1 basil plant (with us since San Diego & alive due to its prime spot in the crew’s heads), 4 lemons, 10 limes, 1 orange (these fruits all survived due to being wrapped in aluminum), 2 apples, 2 cabbages (kept in the dark so they keep long), 1 coconut. We met 1200 students in the Arctic with our TOPtoTOP program to inspire young people for sport and the environment. On the way we collected impacts of climate change, good climate solutions and data for the IPRC and the ASC. We have now many new friends in the Arctic, who adopted us in their families. 8 month old Mia might be the youngest sailor to transit the Northwest Passage?! We saw a total of 12 polar bears. The closest was 10 m from the boat. We saw a lot of wildlife, manly belugas, gray whales, bowhead whales and different seals, such as ring seals and birds from guillemots to Arctic terns to fulmars to jaegers to name but a select few. We crossed the Arctic Circle in the Chukchi Sea at N066.33 W168.21 going North on the 5th of August 2016 and crossed it again going South on the 7th of September 2016 at N66.33 W079.28. Since our last major stop in Hawaii, we did 6376nm, which took us 80 days, 61 of those days were at sea. The other 19 days we spent on land, mainly to visit schools in remote villages in the Arctic. Our most southerly point so far this year was 18S on the crossing from Mexico to Hawaii. Our most Northerly point was at Fort Ross at 72N. Till the 7th of September 2016, we covered 10’000nm in the last 5 months. A big thank you to all family, friends and supporters. Special thanks to Victor, Jan, Rob, Steven, Peter, Gabi and our main supporter Victorinox.”

Now, that is 13 October 2016  about to conclude their crossing in Halifax at Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron in the hands of Wayne Blundell, dockmaster, my own friend.

Next they sail to the Collage of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, USA to deliver their water samples from the Northwest Passage to analyze micro plastic. In November they are in Boston.

Many thanks Victor for providing weather and ice information while we were in the Arctic and summarizing our time in this interesting report.


Liverpool from the 16-19.10.2016:

We had a great time in Liverpool thanks to the hospitality of Dr. Tim Woodford and Sharon Getson. They organized the talk at the Theatre:


Many thanks also to Natalie McMaster from Green School Nova Scotia for being a green ambassador and example for the students and to help organizing our school events.

Here some pictures from the elementary school on the 18th of October:

Here some pictures from the high school on the 19th of October:


It is Wednesday the 19th. In one hour we sail to Bar Harbor, Maine where we do a lecture at the College of the Atlantic on Friday afternoon.

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