North West Passage – Day 34 – 35 – Tuktoyaktuk and the voyage to Herschel Island

6th September 2023 – Day 34


We arrived in Tuktoyaktoy (Population 900) in the early hours. Entering the harbour in the dark required carefully attention to the various leading lights. We couldn’t make out any alongside options so we dropped the anchor in 11 m in the centre of the harbour and rigged up an anchor light. Looking at the shore in the dark we are sure we saw bushes! Sadly no photographic evidence to back it up.  The alarm was set for 06:30 as we were keen to get away as fast as possible so we could arrive at Herschel Island in the light. After breakfast, I went off in the dinghy to sound the depths off the “town quay”. Sadly there was only 2.7 m and about 200 mm of tide to drop. It was a tag to tight for our 7’ 6” draft. So we all bundled into the dinghy and went ashore in search of fuel, FFV and laundry options.

Fuel could be delivered by tanker to the eastern part of the harbour so Will and I took the boat there to fuel up while Dan and Arthur did the shopping and explored washing options.

Moored alongside an old barge ready to take on fuel
The fuel truck arrives

The fuel cost $2.76 per litre and we took on about 700 L. Once Dan and Arthur had walked around from the hamlet to the fuel jetty we set off back to sea at about 13:00. It was a flying visit but at least we saw some pingos! While we were there we also saw SeaBelle, a New Zealand flagged boat, the butch aluminium Polish boat called Magnus Z…? and, later on, a large Estonian boat called Admiral Bellinghouse? anchored behind us.

The first watch out to sea was rather wonderful with sunshine and a wind on the beam. It wasn’t to last, as we turned towards Herschel Island we were headed and the donker roared to life. The sea is shallow in these parts often only 4 m even miles out to sea. Occasionally even 3 m would flash up on the depth sounders (yes, there are two) which adds a frisson of excitement. There are many abandoned oil drilling operations off the coast which consist of man-made shingle islands that are left to slowly erode away. It is important to have up to date charts. The water has the colour of the Thames Estuary which made me feel at home. My evening watch (2 hours) took us past Pullen Island and on course for Herschel. It was a very pleasant 5°C.

7th September 2023 – Day 35


We are still motoring towards Herschel Island but only about 15 nm to go (17:20). The sea has taken on its old colour now that we have passed the Mackenzie Delta. I’ve found gloves are not really needed when the temperature is over 4°C, maybe in a strong headwind I’ll change my mind. Other than Grit and Tilman, my thoughts are turning to Marmite and bacon sandwiches! This is strange as I normally long for a curry and a pint. Arthur is in the galley baking bread while shelling chic peas to make humus and brewing up a hearty lentil and carrot soup, all at the same time as making everyone a hot drink- incredible! I have just had a big washing session in the heads, clothes and body. I feel as fresh as a daisy, ready to explore Herschel before nightfall.

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