North West Passage – Day 40 and 41 – Barrow Point to Cape Lisburne

12th September 2023 – Day 40 and 41


It’s 05:00 and I’ve just come off my watch. There were fog banks turning to drizzle and it was very dark. Temperature is 2°C. You forget about darkness when thinking of high latitude sailing because generally it takes place in summer with 24 hours of light. We are now into mid-September and getting about half light and half dark. The lovely super friendly locals at Barrow Point told us we were lucky not to be there in a few weeks time as the weather really changes. The general advice is to try to reach Nome by mid September before the storms arrive. It is the 12th today and we have probably got about 6 whole days sailing to go but we will probably get held up waiting for some bad weather to pass through.

14:00 now and I am just off watch and attempting to make Bombay Aloo even though I have no idea what I am doing! The scenery here is 40% blue-grey sea, 1% brown gravel streak and 59% grey sky.

The scenery along this stretch was not great!

To put it another way, we are looking forward to some snowy mountains or even a little hill. Our course is set towards Point Hope and we will carry on until the weather piles in. Then we will try to find some kind of shelter although protection from all directions would be well nigh impossible. We have now passed through the Beaufort Sea and are in the Chukchi Sea. There are quite a few birds flying by. Lots of them look like black fulmars with rapid wing flapping and a long low glide, but I could be wrong. We saw one seal and later Will saw two whales.

21:00 hrs and Icy Cape is now 18 nm away. Will has received a very positive weather forecast which, if it holds true, could see us sailing direct to Nome with no more stops. It seems a shame to sail by all these weird and wonderful places but it would be foolish not to take the weather opportunities when they arrive. It would be all too easy to get badly caught out by a storm just short of our final destination. Err, maybe I shouldn’t have said that!

13th September 2023  – Day 41


Photo by Will Stirling, mine were hopeless!

The Northern Lights were out in force this morning. I tried taking a photo but to no avail. In any case, a video would be more appropriate as they seewere constantly morphing into new shapes. Just as a fine display would fade seeaway on the starboard, another would start on the port. My very cold watch passed by quickly but we are making slow progress of about 3.5 kn into a headwind With the donkey on 1,800 rpm, not great for fuel consumption. There have been a few reports of orcas attacking fishing boats in the Bering Straights. There are numerous methods to try to scare them off but none seem totally successful. Slowly reversing is one tactic. Throwing sand in the water is another. I think pumping chilli flakes through the heads might be worth a try. In any case, I think it would be very unlucky to be attacked, so no point in worrying too much about it.

It is a lovely day in the Chukchi Sea with a full blue sky. Interestingly, the sea has changed colour to a very deep greeny brown, almost peaty. The temperature is a balmy 4.5°C. We saw a couple of forward slanting blows in the distance and lots of walrus sightings near the boat. Arthur is making an apple pie while Dan is cooking a chili con carne. Yes “con carne” because Dan managed to buy some minced beef during the flying visit to Barrow. We have lots of kidney beans on board, which Will hates, so the excuse for bringing meat on board was to eat up the red kidney beans. Dan will create a vegetarian sauce for Will. I’m getting hungry!

21:45. The sun is setting and we can now see Cape Lisburne only about 50 nm away. Talk is now revolving around our final arrival in Nome. It is only 359 nm away and the weather looks fair as far as we can tell. Of course anything can happen, we are not there yet.

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