Northwest Passage

I’m very excited to be here. Today is also my 50th day alone at sea. I haven’t been this close to land in a while. Your probably wondering why I’m drifting around in some fjord. I’m in Croker Bay, it looks like a fjord to me, its got mountains, a glacier running down a mountain valley and it’s 900 feet deep. My words give it’s beauty no justice.

I got here a bit early and the middle of the NW passage is still frozen, but its melting fast so it shouldn’t be to long….. I hope. I’m sitting on my parachute sea anchor which is holding me well considering there is no wind right now. When I came into Lancaster sound I had nice easterly winds pushing me right along. By the time I turned into Croker Bay I was down to my third reef point and taking some waves in the cockpit. Nothing dangerous, just those annoying waves that break just right and wind up all over you. Strangely the winds died as soon as I entered into Croker Bay, but its still blowing good out in Lancaster sound. I’m going to drift around in Croker bay for a couple days on my parachute sea anchor, get some much needed rest and catch up on some repairs. From here I’ll head to Maxwell Bay 115 miles west of here and hang out around there for a day or two. Hopefully by then the ice will have broken up in the middle and I can make my push to Alaska.

On my way here from 75 North I had another 3 days of on and off heavy fog. Sailing through the fog with no radar surrounded by ice can be pretty frightening. I have a strategy – I stand in the cockpit with one hand on the tiller, eyes staring straight ahead. Ready at any moment to dodge anything that comes out of the fog – forget about going the the bathroom or cooking a meal. You stand there until the fog leaves or the wind dies, surprised how the time flies. When the fog lifts and I jump inside, I realize that I’ve been standing out there for 10 hours or more. With a little help from sleep depravation time becomes a blur. Just because the fog is gone doesn’t mean my watch is over, it just means that I can see how far the next group of icebergs are and if I have the time I’ll jump in the cabin to get out of the wind and warm up. If I really want to spoil myself I’ll make a cup of coffee. Then its back outside…

Sleep depravation can be a dangerous thing when alone on a boat, but I have a plan. I do everything at half the speed I normaly would. The logic behind this is – when you’re truly sleep depraved your mind only works at 50% capacity. Things become dangerous when your mind can no longer keep up with your body. So I make slow and controlled movements and my mind and body get in a rhythm. I have good fun when I’m in Matt’s wacky world of sleep depravation. I feel like I’ve had a few strong drinks and I get pretty silly. I’ll start laughing at things that I normally wouldn’t think is funny. I’ll stand in the cockpit and sing for hours. I usally start off with some Wu-Tang but its not long until I’m singing Christmas carols. That probably sounds strange considering its the middle of the summer, but you couldn’t tell me that – I’m surrounded by ice. Plus, Santa only lives two blocks down the road. I’ll sing so loud I’ll lose my voice. What do I need my voice for, I got no one to talk to? It was brutal but I had a great time in Baffin Bay.

There’s a article about this trip in this months Yachting World Magazine. My friend Andy Shell wrote it so I’m sure its good. There might be something in Sailing World also but I’m not 100% sure.

Since Apsley the man ill give him the last few word:
“Such weather in such a place comes nearer to satisfying my ideal of perfection then any other condition I have ever experienced. The warm glow of the sun with the keen invigorating cold of the air forms a combination which is inexpressibly health-giving and satisfying to me, whilst the golden light on this wonderful scene of mountain and ice satisfies every claim of scenic magnificence. No words of mine can convey the impressiveness of the wonderful panorama displayed to my eyes”
–Apsley Cherry-Garrard


12 thoughts on “Northwest Passage”

  1. Douglas’ referenced site shows the passage is partially clear but the Canadian Ice Service site shows that it is unclear as of 8/4.

    I’m praying for you Matt.

  2. After a quick search I learned Devon Island ( Matts’ current location) is the largest uninhabited island in the world. Well, for a couple days it will have a population of one.



  4. Hey, Matt,

    From Doug’s report it looks like you’ll soon be able to get through all the way to Nome! Keep your eyes peeled for those dangerous rogue icebergs! Sounds like your idea of how to handle sleep deprivation is reasonable, but hope you’ll still take some time to catch up a little when you get to Maxwell Bay, even if you would be able to continue on to Nome without stopping!!

    Hope you know that there are a heck of a lot of people following you, and pulling for you to succeed, Matt, so sail safe and Godspeed!

    Carol Florida U.S.A.

  5. Well Matt this is amazing. What an adventure and yet a privlige to be in a place so few have gone. You have an unbelievable tancaity to even take on is voyage. To be able see glaciers that have been around long than man…wow. I’m also very impressed with your troubleshooting skills and positive attitude…lots to learn from. You keep the faith and keep the course. You’ll be back before you know it.

    Behind you every wave of the way

    Scott, Betsy, and kids

  6. Matt your updates read like a true explorer’s log and I am very impressed with how methodical you are given your extreme sleep deprivation. You are so in tune with your surroundings and you convey their magnificence so well. I had to laugh at your comment re Santa only being two blocks down the road and I could just imagine your Christmas Chorals bouncing off icebergs and disappearing into the fog. You paint such great word pictures!

    This quote reminded me of you and your abilities Matt –

    “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.” Lord Tennyson.

    Sail on Matt.

  7. Hi Matt,
    I’m glad that you can handle sleep deprivation, without it getting to you too nuch. I looked into how people went through fog and icebergs before radar. It is claimed that if you make a sharp sound, it should echo of the berg. Maybe two boards slapping together? A horn? Just an idea. You have tremendous courage sailing into the fog with all the bergs around!


    1. I just knew that was YOU, Richard . . . always ready with helpful suggestions . . . this time, the great ideas you’ve given Matt to help him navigate through the dangerous fog in the iceberg-filled Northwest Passage!!

  8. Hiya Matt,

    I see you are making a good run of it! Keeping you in my thoughts.


    Annapolis, MD

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