This summer we plan on attempting the Northwest Passage, this is the sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Arctic. It will be a tough few months for us but extremely rewarding. Anything worthwhile in life will warrant crazy emotions and maybe some tears. We plan on sailing around the world, the Northwest Passage is our first adventure of many.
We expect the trip up through Nova Scotia to be not too nail biting, maybe a little foggy and cooler weather. We will be cutting through the Bras d’Or Lakes in Nova Scotia, this offers us a bit of a short cut and gets us off the swell of the ocean to the calm waters of the lake. But you never really know what’s going to happen, we hit the lake at the same time last year and found ourselves tucked up in a small cove away from any towns waiting for a hurricane to pass over, who would have thought a hurricane could find us all the way up there.
The Bras d’Or Lake is gorgeous, wonderful wildlife and luscious foliage.
Dingwall will be the last port we hit in Nova Scotia, here we’ll be waiting for a good weather window to make the jump over to Newfoundland. Coming from the Lake I’m sure our bodies will get a little down and out with seasickness after being on calm waters for so long. Last year we had a smooth passage to Newfoundland but we know from experience that no two passages are the same. We’ll be skipping the south coast and heading straight up the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the wind howls up here. Last year the winds averaged 25 knots, some days we will sailing downwind with 40 knot winds.
There will be a few stops up the coast but not many, the west side of Newfoundland has very few ports but does offer breath taking scenery of rugged cliffs and whales galore. Last year on our way up to Little Port we came across a pod a Orcas. AMAZING! We’ll have to keep a keen lookout for the more north we get the chance of running into some icebergs gets more common. Before we round the tip to St. Anthony we are bound to spot a few traveling south.
In St. Anthony we’ll hang out for a few days fueling up and re-provisioning. St. Anthony is pretty much the “big city” of the west coast, but still it’s quite small. They have all the amenities and even a few restaurants. The town is pretty big on tourism in the summer for Whale and iceberg watching.
From St. Anthony and north is untouched territory for us. We’ve planned out a few ports but we’ll be sailing on word of mouth, if a local recommends visiting other locations up in Labrador we’ll be sure to follow their suggestions. There’s aren’t many guide books out there helping us discover the best areas of Labrador.
We’re going to try and sail as far north as we can get up Labrador, this won’t be very far. The ice tends to remain up north and break up late into the season. It will get dangerous for us to venture too far up the coast of Labrador. But before we leave we hope to meet some of the Inuit locals and maybe even find some kids for our young-ins to play with. We’d like to show our kids what other cultures eat, how they teach their kids and stay warm in such harsh climates. It will be exciting for both us and the kids.
From Labrador we’ll sail across the Sea of Labrador to Nuuk in Greenland. We’ve never made this passage before and we’ll have to pick pretty good weather for the crossing. It will be only 4-5 days to cross if we get favorable weather. From what we’ve read it can get pretty hairy with large seas, thick fog, strong winds and stray icebergs making their way south.
Night time sailing with icebergs in the area is going to be quite nerve-racking, if there’s no moon up we’ll be sailing blind with only our radar keeping us safe. If at any time it proves to be too dangerous we’ll have to hove to overnight – this is the process of slowing the boat down, making no forward progress. Many solo sailors do this on ocean crossings in order to get a break but we’ll be doing it to avoid hitting icebergs.
Greenland, we’ve heard such wonderful things about Greenland. For one, it’s not green. From one of the ports we are hoping to visit the famous Greeland Ice Sheet – ice covering 80% of Greenland, it’s the second largest body of ice in the world.
We’ve listed the main ports we’d visit in Greenland but we’re hoping to make a few extra stops along the way, exploring their landscape and meeting the locals. We are all about the people and country side, no so much long distance sailing.
Upernavik will be our final port in Greenland before we cross over Baffin Bay which will be thick with ice floe to Pond Inlet, northern Baffin Island in Candada’s Nunavut. From here on it will be slow going. The ice will begin to break up the start of August but may not be passable all the way into the first week of September. It’s pretty much a waiting game with the crew on watch 24 hours a day making sure none of the ice floe hit us.
The Inuit life in Canada is still based around hunting even though the Canadian government has made settlements with modern day conveniences such as schools, grocery stores and police. Sled dogs are still a common sight (so I’ve read), maybe we’ll even get a chance to see some of these wonderful animals. We hope to experience some of the traditional music, dancing and clothing. This far north the landscape is mostly Arctic tundra, no trees. The ground is so harsh that burial and landfill is impossible. Most of the burials are done with stone above ground.
There’s a rather famous grave at Erebus and Terror Bay. These are the graves of 5 gentleman apart of the Franklin expedition. In 1981 the graves were exhumed and an autopsy revealed high levels of lead in the bodies. This may have been the cause of their deaths when they wintered over in 1845-46. Lead coming from the cans of food that they ate.
There’s a lot of neat history to the area.
This is going to be a big year for the Franklin expedition recovery. Ice divers are in training already in Canada and making preparations to recover the ship, just imagine if we could be up there and see parts of the Franklin and speak to these amazing divers risking there lives for history. More can be found here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/franklin-expedition-search-ice-dive-team-ready-to-discover-more-secrets-of-hms-erebus-1.3020860
The wildlife in this area is bound to be spectacular, we hope to see everything from polar bears, to whales, seals, walrus, Orca, Beluga, Arctic hare, Ground squirrel, Caribou to Arctic fox.
What a classroom for our kids!
A rifle will have to carried with us at all times due to the polar bears and the kids will never be allowed to wonder off, even in the small communities where the sledding dogs can be quite aggressive.
If all goes as planned (which nothing ever does) we hoped to be at Cambridge Bay by early to middle of September. Here hopefully we can provision up a little before making the 2 week sail around to Anchorage Alaska through the Bearing Sea. Due to the climate this passage will probably be on the rough side but by now our bodies should be well accustomed and being on a high of making it through the passage which will make this final leg less of a chore.
So there it is, that’s our summer. There will be no beaches, no hot squeaky sand and no slimy sweaty bodies aboard SV Salty.
We’re on the hunt for a different kind of summer, one that includes adventure, wildlife that you only read about in books and the thrill of the unknown. We will face challenging situations but no hasty decisions will be made. We are a young family and the safety of our kids is our main priority. Come follow us as we push the ice floe away from our boat, navigate through fog so thick we can’t see the bow, be on watch for polar bears looking for their next meal and listening to the haunting sounds of whales expelling air into the darkness of night.
Below you will find some of our intended ports and little bit about them.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Population: 390,096 (2011)
Average high temp May: 13C / 57F
Daylight hours May: 14 hours
Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia. This will be our last stop if we need any extra parts for the boat, this is also a great port for any extra crew to fly into.
Baddeck, Nova Scotia
Population: 769 (2011)
Average High Temp May: 14C / 57F
Daylight hours May: 15.6 hours
This is a great little community with a bustling main street. Cute little stores, great food and a grocery store. Across the anchorage is a little beach and a hiking trail. People swim at this beach but it’s a little chilly for us. Capri went swimming there last year, she had to take the lifeguard in the water because there was no way we were getting in!
St. Anthony, Newfoundland
Population: 2,418 (2011)
Average High Temp June: 11C / 53F
Daylight June: 16.3 hours
St. Anthony is a great place to provision, the main road is paved but in pretty poor condition and the rest a dirt. There’s a great welcome center with the history of the area. There’s a headland that you can hike up for amazing pictures of passing icebergs.
Battle Harbour, Labrador
Average high temp June: 6C / 42F
Daylight hours June: 17.5 hours
Battle Harbour has been declared a National Historic Site of Canada, it is now a summer fishing community. This used to be the capital of Labrador back in 1770. In the 1960’s the cod fishing declined and the town shut down. There are a lot of restored houses to view.
Average high temp June: 11C / 51F
Daylight hours June: 18.2 hours
Small coastal community in Labrador established in 1735. There is no road access to the community but the locals use snowmobiles to get around. 5% of the population are non Inuits and it is known as the most southern Inuit community. The landscape changes drastically here into more of an Arctic tundra.
Daylight hours July: 20.6 hours
Nuuk is the capital of Greenland, it has the lowest population of any capital city in the world. The town looks charming with it’s colourful houses and only 2 hotels. Nuuk offers great hiking and scenery. This may be a good option for us if we can’t get through the ice and need to winter somewhere.
Disko Bay, Greenland
Population: (Qasigiannguit) 1,171
Average high temp July: 11C / 52F
Daylight hours July:
Disko Bay’s main attraction is its many glaciers that calve icebergs into the bay.
Average high temp July: 7C / 45F
Daylight hours July: 24 hours
When we reach Upernavik we will be getting 24 hours of sunlight. The picture posted was taken at midnight. This is a small community on an island and everything is in walking distance.
Pond Inlet/ Dundas Harbour, Canada Nunavut
Average high temp August: 7C / 44F
Daylight hours August: 22 hours
Pond Inlet is considered one of Canada’s “jewels of the North”. It is one of the most picturesque communities with mountain ranges viewable from all directions. Icebergs are most often accessible from the community within walking distance or a short snowmobile ride in winter. Pond Inlet boasts a nearby floe edge, several dozen glaciers, explorable ice caves, and many grand and picturesque inlets.
Dundas Harbour is an abandoned settlement and boasts the most northern cemetery.
Resolute Bay, Nunavut
Population: 229 (2006)
Average high temp September: -2C / 28F
Daylight hours September: 15 hours
Resolute is one of Canada’s northernmost communities. It is also one of the coldest inhabited places in the world. Like in most other northern communities, the roads and most of the terrain are all gravel.
Cambridge Bay, Nunavut
Population: 1,477 (2006)
Average high temp September: 2.5C / 36F
Daylight hours September: 14 hours
Cambridge Bay is the largest community along the Northwest Passage. There will be grocery store for provisioning and maybe internet! This will be the last big stop before Alaska.
Average high temp October: 5C / 41F
Daylight hours October: 10.7
Depending if we have brought crew with us, this will be our final (but not so final) destination. We can provision the boat, drop off crew, fuel up and get some rest. We plan on cruising Alaska and wintering.
Everything that I’ve written is what we want, but do we expect it? Not really. We know we’ll hit rough weather, frigid conditions and challenging ice floe. We will do everything in our power not to get stuck.
|May 15 – 19||Providence Town MA to Halifax NS||350nm||2.5 days|
|May 22 – 23||Halifax NS to St. Peter’s NS||160nm||1.1 days|
|May 24 – 27||St. Peter’s NS to Baddeck NS||30nm||5 hours|
|May 29 – 30||Baddeck NS to Dingwall NS||60nm||10 hours|
|May 31 – June 2||Dingwall NS to Little Port NL||160nm||1.1 days|
|June 3 – 5||Little Port NL to St. Anthony NL||250nm||1.8 days|
|June 9 – 10||St. Anthony NL to Battle Harbour NL||70nm||11.5 hours|
|June 12 – 13||Battle Harbour NL to Black Tickle NL||70nm||11.5 hours|
|June 15 – 17||Black Tickle NL to Rigolet NL||130nm||22 hours|
|June 19 – 22||Rigolet NL to Nain NL||300nm||2 days|
|June 25 – 30||Rigolet NL to Nuuk Greenland (GL)||560nm||4 days|
|July 8 – 11||Nuuk GL to Disko Bay GL||350nm||2.5 days|
|July 15 – 17||Disko Bay GL to Upernavik GL||280nm||2 days|
|August 1 – 4||Upernavik GL to Pond Inlet||400nm||3 days|
|September 1 – 15||Pond Inlet to Cambridge Bay via communities||900nm||6.5 days|
|September 18 – 23||Cambridge Bay to Tuktoyaktuk||700nm||5 days|
|September 30 – October 8||Tuktoyaktuk to Nome AK||1100nm||8 days|
|October 12 – 17||Nome AK to Dutch Harbor AK||700nm||5 days|
|October 20 – 25||Dutch Harbor AK to Kodiak AK||600nm||4 days|
|October 28 – 31||Kodiak AK to Anchorage AK||250nm||2 days|