Amundsen gulf (Go west young man)

The Arctic must of read my last blog entry because it got a lot colder. The wind picked up out of the east which is great but it brought the fog, rain and colder weather with it. After Rae strait the navigation became much more technical. Simpson strait (south of King William island) is a challenging stretch. The current comes ripping through the strait and bounces off the many islands. At times the current was in my favor, at other times the current pushing me sideways toward a lee shore. At one point I was going backward with my engine at full speed. I made it through and I saw a medium size Canadian coast guard ship sitting on anchor. The last time I saw a ship someone handed me a watermaker and a bottle of screech. The guy I talked to was very nice and gave me some good ice info for Queen Maud gulf.
From this point on I was able to sail with 20-30kt easterlies. I’m not sure what this boat’s hull speed is but I’m sure I was over it. There were a few tricky places on the east side of Queen Maud gulf and there was some 2/10s to 3/10s pack ice running east to west on the far west side (I think it came out of Icebreaker bay, go figure). I sailed south of most of the ice and cut through the pack without even having to jibe. After Queen Maud the winds picked up to around 30kts and I flew through some areas of difficult navigation at top speeds, at times sailing through narrow passages between two islands(what fun!) I had three great days of sailing but all things come to an end.
I started sailing up Dolphin and Union straits and about half way through the wind changed to Northwest and stayed 25-30kts with higher gusts, my progress came to a screeching halt. The wind alone wasn’t terrible but there was a strong outgoing tide and when it mixed with the strong incoming wind and waves it created surprisingly sharp and steep waves. St. Brendan is far to small to power through the waves like a 50 footer as she only displaces 5,070lbs. Instead the waves pick the boat up and toss it around like flotsam. I had two meals get lifted right out of the pot and splatter all over the cabin. That was soooooo frustrating! I can deal with the cold and the wet, but don’t mess with my food. Last night I when to bed in a very wet boat with little pieces of corn and chicken all over the place. This morning the wind died briefly so I cleaned my cabin and fixed a few things that broke over the last few days.
One thing that is beyond fixing is my auto pilot (its really a tiller pilot). Its been getting worse over the last month and finally completely died today. It was at least 15 years old so I’m not too surprised. I only need the auto pilot when I motor and theres no wind so its not a huge deal. Although, I recently finished a singlehanded trip where I sailed from Annapolis MD to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and back with only a windvane and I hated spending long hours at the helm when there was no wind. I still have around 45 gallons of diesel left, which is great, but that also means I’m going to be spending countless hours sitting in my cockpit starting at my compass, motoring along. Oh well.
I would like to take a moment to thank Peter Semotiuk. He has been giving me ice reports since Baffin Bay. Having good ice info is crucial, since I can’t get online to look things up for myself. Peter was always friendly and since he’s actually lived in the Northwest Passage he’s one of the few real experts on the area. I’ll send him a bottle of Scotch when I get back.

16 thoughts on “Amundsen gulf (Go west young man)”

  1. Hiya Matt!

    WELL DONE!!!
    Your position shows you entering the Beaufort Sea so you have traversed the NWP!

    I understand you are the first boat through the NWP this year – CONGRATS!

    Annapolis, MD

  2. Hiya Matt,

    For us that don’t know any better, I would be interested to know when you consider the NWP completed – when you enter the Beaufort Sea or the Bering Strait?

    Let us know so we can celebrate with you!

    In the meantime, anyone know someone in Alaska or Canada who could rendeavous another tiller pilot?

    Annapolis, MD

  3. WOW!! I have to admit that I am not checking in as often as I had hoped. Your progress is totally blowing my mind considering the various waterways you are navigating. Keep going Matt you are doing us at CRAB very proud. As far as your auto-pilot have you considered jerry-rigging an old fashioned tiller tamer? It is by no means the same as an auto-pilot but it will allow your arms to get some rest.

  4. WOW!! What excitement you have experienced! You must have very alert reflexes and skills to navigate the NW passage with all the surrounding obstacles you’ve faced. Other than food all over your cabin, sounds like you really did well. I laughed when you said “don’t mess with my food”. Hope you can still complete your circle around the America’s without your auto-pilot. Sounds as though you’ve sailed without it successfully before, so all should still go well. May the good Lord keep you safe…
    Karol Harlan

  5. Hello Matt,

    My hat off to you young man. You are one of a few to traverse the NWP – and you did it alone. Even if it stopped today it would be an incredible journey.

    Dave Sterling

  6. Congratulations on getting through the NWP.

    There are quite a few people I know following your progress from here in Aus, and I am not a sailor, but hell it must be cold! We have no idea what sea ice is. We have just had a bloke named Bruce Arms break the record for circumnavigating Aus, solo in a big Cat, and encountered some interesting times as well.

    Keep up the good work and I’ll be glad to see you heading South in the Pacific.

    Good luck and fair winds mate.

  7. Matt–visited ERS last week–got your addr and just spent the last hour laughing, tearing up, shaking my head in wonder and pride and thinking how far this all is from weekend breakfasts, work crews, motorcycle oil changes, and the Field of Dreams.
    a) you remind me of the ERS bears…the nite you had the chicken/corn “catch it if you can” adventure in your cabin…with the bears as they were raiding a dumpster… “don’t mess with my meals.”
    b) in my “mid 70’s ness”…doing things purposely at half speed to accommodate age related brain fatigue with your purposely working at half speed fatigued after a 50 hour watch.

    Nice going (which isn’t a strong enough descriptive for what I’m feeling for your accomplishments). Carol and I look forward to following your adventure.


  8. Matt,
    Keep up the good work! Hard to believe you went through the place where Amundsen was frozen in for the winter, as he completed the first transit of the NW passage in recorded history. Keep safe as you get past Alaska and out into the Pacific.

    Severna Park, Maryland

  9. Been tracking your progress and amazing that you have kept moving so well through such headwinds and opposing seas. Wish we could air-drop you a new auto pilot, but maybe the jerry-rig as suggested might help avoid such long hours at the helm. You’re not missing much here, although we did have a 5.9 earthquake yesterday located in central Virginia. They felt it all the way up to CT. Strange. Be well and we’ll watch for you to round down to the Pacific hopefully soon!
    Tom W.
    Alexandria, VA

  10. I’m so glad ! you made it through the sliabh oighirs, the ice mountains. Congratulations.

    You have left your name in the inlets and bays of the far north.


  11. Congratulations Matt!
    I was in Newport, RI last week ogling the fancy yachts and sail-boats thinking of you and wondering about your progress through Queen Maud Gulf and points West and was thrilled to see that you made it through.
    P.S. – You might want to leave those bits of corn and chicken on the walls and ceiling of your cabin just in case you run short of food later on. Just an idea.
    Dave Hoskins

  12. Wow Matt, congratulations! It’s been a few weeks since I looked at your progress – you’re an animal! Ha! I think about you very often and am happy to know you made this part of your journey.

    Eli just came back from his 14 day Outward Bound Maine Coastal Sailing trip. He was definitely challenged, as there were 14 folks aboard a 30 ft ketch rigged pulling boat! He is a sailor at heart, I think!

    School starts for us on Monday, and I have been busy as hell getting ready for staff and students. One more year – at least! I’m ready to get the hell out of here and live on the sea!

    Lots of love to you and fair winds dear,

  13. Gee Gosh Matt , your website was introduced to me by a sailor that wanted to do your voyage in reverse of the NW passage .

    It seems soooo v spectacular of your progress to the west ,,,,, I am glad that you can sacrifice yourself and your boat on this first part of your journey ,,,,,

    Water , Water , Everywhere ,,,,, You are in It !!! L O L Douglas in Singapore

  14. Matt and others; St. Brendan nee Mamie when LeeD wieland and I donated her/him to C.R.A.B. must be enjoying real sailing-unlike getting only as far as Bay Bridge during our five years of ownership. Gordon Hempten who donated Mamie to C.R.A.B. before we bought her from C.R.A.B. must be watching you from above, looking after you, and wishing he had been with you in person instead of in spirit only!

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