North West Passage – Days 42 and 43 – Cape Lisburne to the Bering Straight

14th September 2023 – Day 42


In theory, according to the original plan, we should have arrived in Nome today, so we are a little bit late but not too bad especially considering our long weather-bound period in a bay near Resolute. When the long trick is over we may have been the first vessel to transit the NWP from east to west by sailing west to east. That is because we use reciprocal bearings. I had better try to explain. Integrity’s traditional binnacle type compass can’t be mounted on a binnacle without blocking the companionway so it is mounted on the cockpit floor. That means that when you sit on the cockpit combings to helm, the forward part of the compass is shielded by the brass housing. To get around this, we tend to use the back of the compass card to steer.

Luckily Integrity prefers to “box the compass” rather than using degrees. That makes reciprocal courses easier to calculate without any mathematical error. So if, after deviation, variation, leeway etc have been taken into account, we need to head SW by quarter W, then it is simply NE by quarter E on the back of the compass card. At night, under red lights, I can hardly see the small pin to align the course, so I make a further adjustment to steer by aligning the card to bright slotted screw on the bezel. You can see the screws in the photo. So I kneel down to check the course against the pin and then read off where the card is against the bright, needless to say, slotted screw. Easy, but if someone asks me “What course are you steering?” there may be a slight pause!

It is 06:00 and we are just rounding Cape Lisburne. So now we head south towards the Bering Straight. 14:00 and we have arrived at Cape Hope. There are some lovely hills to rest our eyes on. It is getting warmer at a baking 8°C and we are lounging on the sun deck scoffing flap jacks and slurping mugs of tea. It’s a tough life.

15th September 2023 – Day 43


The square sail!

The square sail was rigged yesterday evening. It is a safer sail when going downwind, avoiding the chance of an accidental gybe. With the engine on too, we are making about 5.5 knots which is saving us a bit of fuel. We have 170 L left in the tanks and 160 nm to go. However, we still have two 20 L Jerry Can stashed away so we shouldn’t need to refuel in Port Clarence. In 4 hours we may be able to see the Diomede Islands in the centre of the Bering Straight and maybe Prince of Wales Peninsular on our port now.

Will enjoying the ride from the bowsprit!

It is getting warmer, the butter is spreading rather than being cut like slices of hard cheese. It is my turn to poison the crew. I think sweet potato and chilli fishcakes followed by apple and marmalade crumble. I believe there is a good hospital in Nome just in case.

21:10. The Diomede Islands are just in sight. They lie in the centre of the Bering Straight. Big Diomede belongs to Siberia and Little Diomede belongs to Alaska. There is passage between them but after the excitement of Workboat Passage it was deemed wise to avoid risky routes when we are so near to Nome. The sea is quite lumpy right now and it is fun sailing downwind with the square sail. Occasionally a wave slaps against the boat and you get soaked, but it is rather refreshing. Our current ETA is around 21:00 Saturday but who knows what might happen between then and now.

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