Barrow Straits

South of me lies the pack ice. Historically the early explorers had few problems making it this far into the passage – but south or west of here is when it went wrong. I entered Lancaster sound on the same day Parry did in 1819 and have had very similar winds. It seems that most explorers reported easterly wind in Lancaster sound and Barrow Strait. All I’ve had are easterlies. Lancaster sound had some ice, enough to keep me on edge, but Barrow strait is virtually ice free. I went nearly 50 miles without seeing any ice – that hasn’t happened since 65 north. Its the calm before the storm, not far to the south I will begin a game of cat and mouse with the pack ice. I’m a small mouse and its an awfully big cat. I have been waiting here off the north coast of Somerset island for a patch of thick ice to melt so I can begin my passage through Peel Sound. I should be able to leave by tonight or tomorrow morning. Then I will go down Peel Sound, Franklin Strait along Boothia Peninsula, James Ross Strait, around the south end of King William Island, into Queen Maud Gulf and on to the west. This is the same way Amundsen went in 1905. The next 600 miles will be the most technical part of the Northwest passage with drifting pack ice, submerged rocks and countless little islands. After Queen Maud Gulf I will be past the worst of the ice and it will just be a matter of sailing to Barrow point Alaska, then south. The Northwest passage is no place to rush around in a hurry. St Brendan is far from a ice breaker and patients is crucial. Soon I head south into the ice, but for now I rest.

5 thoughts on “Barrow Straits”

  1. Matt:
    I can only speak for myself of course,
    but, I am pretty sure,
    because of your individual expertise,
    you are making all us Albin-Vega owners
    feel a little taller, & sail with a bigger smile
    as of late!

    Thank’s for sharing this with us !!!
    You’re an amazing fellow!

    Hope the wind stays at your back!

  2. Hiya Matt,

    Being an Albin Vega 27, I am presuming Spirit of St. Brendan is fibreglass. I think yours is the first production sailboat, possibly the smallest, and second FG sailboat to ever sail the NW passage. I understand last year a very heavily homebuilt westsail 32 made it through. Every other sailboat that I have read about has been specifically built for this journey and almost all steel.

    Just pointing out how audacious your attempt really is.

    Fair winds and melting ice,

    Annapolis, MD

  3. Hi ya Matt,

    Julian here. Wow what incredible photos of the burgs. Remember what I said keep the film rolling and write down any thoughts and experiences no matter how mundane it seems. If you have a tape recorder to speak into that would be good too.
    We here at Annapolis West Marine are cheering you on and our thoughts and preys are with you.

  4. looks like you’ve made it around the bottom of Bothia island in the james ross straight… that was the only place the canadian ice website showed that there was ice. Looks like it’s all clear sailing from here on out!!!!

  5. Matt,

    Three boats headed East from the Alaska side. As of 8/12/11 they were approaching
    Gjoa Haven. Their position is posted on YOTREPS… Believe lead S/V is Kotuku using YOTREPS ID of ZL4HJ. Hope you can meet up and visit.


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