Monday, August 31, 2009

Cambridge Bay

We are in Cambridge Bay. We bypassed Gjoa Haven because the weather forecast showed N winds up to 30kts for the area, leaving the possibility of ice coming down from Victoria Straight. It took six days to get to Cambridge Bay from Resolute. We had some ice problems in Peel Sound resulting in some hull damage, but it is mostly cosmetic meaning that it damaged us more than the boat. We will do the usual here. Showers, fuel, water, laundry, rest and then go. All is well.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ode to a Bowsprit - By Brian (and I suspect Julie's sidways humor also)

“Ode to a bowsprit”

The gears were greased, the engine fine,
our vessel, Precipice, ready on time;

We plotted course and gave a heave,
we liked the stop but had to leave;

We gave her power, heading out,
then the lookout gave a shout;

“Reverse” is what we need right now,
I see a wall close by the bow;

It was no use, her gears had failed,
the bell now rung before we sailed;

The bowsprit struck the wall with force,
the captain said, “it’s fine”, of course;

And what became of this sad mess?
the Precipice is one inch less.

-- alt ending - replace last verse --
The awful truth that brought a tear,
the bowsprit now stands in the rear.

(Posted as a comment to the "How to shorten your boat post" it was to good to leave as a comment)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We Have Landed on the Moon

Resolute is about as lunar as landscapes can be. We are pretty sure that this area is about as far as we are going to ever get to leaving the planet. Today we are taking on fuel and water, doing wash, getting a shower. We have already checked into the country, and have gotten approval for our polar bear gun from the RCMP. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) This is as far north as we go. Tonight we head south, Lord willing, to warmer climes. The pond next to our boat froze over last night, in August. They had snow here this last weekend.

Deb visited the local nurse for a sore spot on her face that we thought was windburn and found out it is cellulitus, an infection. We got a 14 day supply of antibiotics. We are glad we stopped and got it checked out.

Last night we slept in a completely still harbor. It felt strange after the rough waters we have had the last few days. The forecast is for light winds for the next week. Which is good for ice forecast, but bad for the fuel budget.

All is well,

Rolland for the Trowbridges

Saturday, August 22, 2009


We are south of Devon Island and the landscape looks like something you would expect out of a picture from the Mars Lunar Landers. There is no vegetation and the angle of the sun through the rain drizzle and fog give it a otherworldly tint. We just need that cool background noise that all the planets on Star Trek TOS seemed to make and the effect would be complete. We are just over a day away from Godforsaken Resolute. We hope to check into the Canada there, and get fuel and water. Hope Canada lets us in, again.

Friday, August 21, 2009

We see land

We can see Canada. It is good to see land. All is well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Heaving to.

Last night we spent about two hours getting ready for a wind shift and heavier winds. We lashed things down, double reefed our mainsail and cleaned up on deck. An hour later the wind shifted to the Northwest with a vengeance the very direction we wanted to keep going. Initially the wave train kept going with the old wind direction and even though we had to tack away from the onslaught of the wind we still were making good time. As the night wore on and the wind strength howled higher the waves started coming right at us. These were long legged waves though, with a period of nine seconds that would let us sail up them and down them. Still the wind kept picking up. The waves went from Chevy Suburban to school bus size that we would claw up and then slide down the other side like an evil water ride. Then the house size waves started sneaking in, but they also had that nice long period that you never get in the Great Lakes and it was just a matter of getting used to being in seas this large. These were the 4-6 meter waves that were forecast, and the wind had reached its peak of 26kts. This was now a gale. Precipice labored under the gusts, but the sail combination coupled with the type of waves meant that we were still able to make way against the storm. This morning the waves changed. The period started getting shorter, mostly four to six seconds and then worst of all the waves started breaking. A six meter wave (24ft) is never something to be trifled with, but as long as it isn't breaking at the top they generally wont do damage. When the top becomes unstable the wave can slam you with considerable force. Enough to break things. We had just changed watches, Deb going to bed exhausted and me coming up not much more rested. As soon as I was up I could tell the wave strength was at least double of what I had left four hours ago. A half hour later, a breaking wave buried the entire front of Precipice up to the mast and swept down the rest of the boat like a giant hand. Two diesel cans broke lose and started thumping against the side of the hull. Bianca popped up, my decision timer of the family, and told me something was thumping against the hull. It was time to heave to. I turned the boat and backwinded the staysail, sheeted the double reefed mainsail tight and tied the tiller against them. In effect, as soon as the sails tried to sail the rudder would fight against them and stall the boat. In this position Precipice drifts sideways downwind at about 2kts, creating what is called a slick downstream from her keel. Giant breaking waves come up to us, hit the slick, and just crumble into nothing right before our eyes. If you have never seen it, it is hard to believe that it is possible. Right now, seven hours later, the wind has picked up even higher and the waves are consistently house sized but our deck is dry and we are all inside dry and warm. We have a ten minute timer that signals the person on watch to check the radar for ships and ice, makes sure we are still hiding behind our slick and none of our lines are chafing. Inside we are comfortable and warm. We are essentially parked. We will stay this way until we feel it is safe to continue. The winds are supposed to die down tomorrow morning. In the meantime we are going to get some rest. We strongly feel that if you do not know how to heave to in your own vessel then you shouldn't be at sea. It would be like owning a car and not knowing how to use the brakes.

Rolland for the Trowbridges

UPDATE: We spent twelve hours hove to, and then the waves died down enough that they were no longer breaking. We have continued toward Lancaster Sound and expect to be there in the next 2-4 days.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How to shorten your boat.

Is your boat too long? Follow these simple steps:
1. Change your engine oil and then grease everything very well because you are going to be using it a lot in the next few days.
2. Don't shift your transmission into forward and reverse a couple of times to make sure that it is working.
3. Maneuver your boat to the water dock in front of your new friends and the weird German tour guide guy.
4. While your entire family yells "put it in reverse" you yell back "it is in reverse"
5. Very neatly hit a cement wharf square on with your bowsprit at the same speed you would walk across a kitchen.
6. The impact will ring your boat bell once, very loudly and clearly like a cheap amusement park game, so the whole town can see the stupid American boat bounce back off of a cement wall.
7. Simultaneously on impact shift from reverse to forward to reverse and give it full power so that after it bounces it keeps going backward.
8. Inspect your bowsprit, and notice it is now one inch (24mm) further back on the boat. Say loudly and unconvincingly "Its OK".
9. Later as you slink out of the harbor adjust your dolphin striker and whisker cables to fit your newly adjusted bowsprit. Pronounce it to your family as OK.
10. Thank God in heaven that it was a cement wall and not the community police boat that you tried to skewer.
11. Proclaim the guy who built your boat a genius because he built it to handle just such an impact without sinking the boat.
12. The next time you change your oil and pack the variable prop with grease, shift from forward to reverse a few times before maneuvering in tight quarters.
13. Smile at your daughter when she excitedly tells you about the chunk of cement missing from the wharf wall.

We are somewhere in the nebulous halfway point across Baffin Bay. Nebulous because a change in weather can make the first half take twice as long as the second half making them no longer halves time wise.

All is well, even the sprit.

Rolland for the Trowbridges

Monday, August 17, 2009

Baffin Bay

We are crossing Baffin Bay. Yesterday and last night we had some rough weather right from the direction we were trying to go. We tacked and went a little off our course so we weren't bashing right into the waves. We are all tired and glad the waves died down today giving us a little break. This passage can take anywhere from 8-14 days depending on the wind and waves. It looks like we are going to have another couple of rough days ahead but hopefully the wind and waves will be from the south making it a little more bearable. We miss Greenland right now. When we see an Iceberg, we think of the people we were privileged to meet in Greenland and the things we learned from them. We have been trying to plot ways of staying in Greenland, but none of them are realistic. The sailing life isn't as free as many have made it sound. We are always at the mercy of the weather and immigration officials, but the things we get to do in exchange for these new difficulties make it worth it. We look forward to the Canadian Arctic and seeing the legendary country with our own eyes.

Rolland for the Trowbridges

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chapter II: The Arctic

Last night Precipice crossed the Arctic Circle, making her one of the handful of sailboats that have. There are plenty of other boats here though. Just about every family owns a boat in Greenland, it seems, and they get used often, as the only way to get from town to town is by boat. People here think nothing of piling the whole family into an open boat, infants and all, and going a hundred miles away. We have had almost no wind on this trip until we turned east and then the wind picked up from the east. Because of the wind against us we are making 2.5kts under power when we usually make 5. There have been no icebergs from Nuuk to the entrance of Disco bay, but Disco bay is full of them as here is the birthplace of most of the icebergs that make it to Newfoundland.

Jannelle celebrated her birthday on the first day of this trip and enjoyed opening up all the cards and gifts collected before we left, plus several given her in Nuuk. She is twelve, her second birthday living on the boat.

Email is getting tricky. I suspect that from here on out it will be sporadic for me to be able to make a connection.

All is well.

Rolland for the Trowbridges

Monday, August 10, 2009


We are getting ready to depart Nuuk for Disco bay. The main site has been updated.

We will continue en rout postings here as long as radio propagation allows.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Good Sailing

We have been moving along comfortably all day in beautiful sunshine and a gentle swell. This is the kind of day they put in sailing magazines. It is beautiful here. We would rather be here than sweating to death down south somewhere. We had dinner in the cockpit as the boat sailed itself along and felt blessed. We hope to be in Nuuk tomorrow if the weather holds out. A day like this makes all the work worth it.

Rolland for the Trowbridges

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Bad breath.

Last night we were completely becalmed, again. The ocean was like a great big vat of oil. We still keep watches when we aren't moving, meaning you get to sit outside in complete silence. Last night was foggy with a mist that kept falling like eternal dew. The whales were out during my watch. Several pairs swam by. One pair circled the boat two times and then seemed to hang out just out of view but I could hear them breathing loud and clear. Then it was quiet for about an hour. I pulled out our laptop and was writing a letter when a whale surface RIGHT NEXT to me. I just about dropped the computer I was so startled. I watched him dive and surface as he slowly swam away. I went back to my computer and the screen was covered in little spots of whale spit. It was kind of gross, and kind of cool at the same time.
At the end of my watch the frigate birds came out and visited. Deb was greeted by them when she got up for her turn at watch.

The wind picked up this morning, and from the right direction. We are now sailing downwind at a nice comfortable 3-4 knots, the wind we have been waiting for the last couple of days. Hopefully it holds out for awhile.

Rolland for the Trowbridges

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Time together

One of the things we get asked by people is how we survive being stuck within 30 feet of each other for weeks at a time. The reality on passage is that we hardly see each other. If I am on watch Deb is either sleeping or cooking and if Deb is on watch I am either sleeping or fixing something. We actually start to miss each other on passage. Jannelle and Bianca tend to spend the first three days sleeping and then all of a sudden they play together non stop for hours and hours. Today Jannelle made a wedding dress out of socks (I have pictures). We also read an amazing amount of books. I think Bianca has finished five in the last three days alone. I just got done reading "The Perfect Storm" which probably isn't the best thing to read while sailing in the North Atlantic. I think this book forms what most people's entire knowledge of the sea. On passage we all do our different chores and it is like together time when we get somewhere, making landfall even more magical.

The last two days of working back and forth against the wind are hopefully over, the wind has shifted and we are barely sailing in very light wind that will gradually build up over the next few days, but if the forecast holds we should be able to sail more comfortably.

Rolland for the Trowbridges

Monday, August 03, 2009

Calling all dreamers . . .

We have been sailing against the wind and this requires that we tack or shift our sails from side to side and zigzag. For every three miles we sail we make one mile in the direction we want. We could wait in harbor just waiting for the wind to shift in our favor, but then we would likely miss the best winds getting out here, and the weather report shows a possibility of a gale in S. Greenland that we will miss by clawing our way north. So we give up a lot of comfort for a the possibility of later gain. Kind of like life . . . .

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sailing is Work

When you sail you earn every mile you make. I guess with a motor vessel you already have earned the mileage and you spend it as you go. Sailing requires you to work as you go. This morning we woke up and had breakfast in our beautiful anchorage surrounded on three sides by mountains. It was completely calm, completely silent, and warm. Because there was no wind we started our motor, an almost blasphemy. We then left the protection of our anchorage for the ocean. The cold wind is from the NW (the direction we want to go) and the warm current is from the SE. When wind is against current you get short steep waves, especially near shore. So we left a perfect paradise to go out into the open ocean to bash against the wind away from the direction we really wanted to go, leaving the sun and warmth and silence behind. Soon we were reefing sails and tying everything down.

It was quite a contrast.

We expect to be at sea the next 6-10 days. Hopefully the wind backs to the west as forecast and we can have a nice broad reach of a sail for awhile.

Rolland for the Trowbridges

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Lifelong goals

It has been one of my lifelong goals to see a glacier in action, and I got to do just that today. That I got to witness a glacier from the deck of Precipice is a bonus.

Last night I had Deb call the Danish Naval base and ask if we could use their dock. They not only let us use the dock, but they also gave me a weather briefing, and ice report, and to top it off they let us use a shower! We went for a walk near the housing by the base and got invited in for a drink. The people who live near the base should be in a movie. One of them, John, used to be in the Navy thirty years ago but he married a local gal and never left. He is apparently famous for his rock collecting ability. He is also most certainly a little crazy. He spent about an hour showing the girls rocks by having them smash them apart to see what is inside. We enjoyed getting to know another group of very friendly people who don't get many visitors. The Danish base here was originally built by the Americans during WWII to protect the nearby chrysolite mine. Chrysolite is a mineral that is used in the production of aluminum. During the war it was the sole source of chrysolite for the allies without which anything aluminum (mostly airplanes) could not be built. The US stationed 4000 troops here. After the war the base was given to the Danes who turned it into their central naval station. The mine continued to be used until 1987 when it was mined out and closed down.

Today we sailed to the end of the fjord and spent about an hour watching chunks of ice fall off the face of the glacier and explode from the force of the compressed bubbles inside. While we were watching a semi trailer size piece of ice popped up from underneath the glacier. We were a little surprised, but half the glacier is under the water.

On our way back down the fjord, a pair of research scientists studying the nearby river and glacier invited us over for coffee. Their small hut was on the shore of the fjord. We would have loved to, but there was no place to anchor or tie up our boat near them because the walls of the fjord were nearly vertical, and the water 30 meters (90ft) deep. We had to turn down the offer. We did learn though that the glacier used to be several miles further down the fjord 20 years ago. I am sure Al Gore has this in his notebook already.

For the afternoon, we went and tied up at the old mining town and went snooping around the old buildings that are still in pretty good shape. When I was a kid, my dad took me to an abandoned mining town on our way to Alaska. It was good to take my girls on a little exploring adventure into old mining buildings with old equipment rusting away in silence. We walked about 10k around the town. We then sailed a couple of hours to a little anchorage in the next fjord over where we plan to spend the night before making the next jump north.

Rolland for the Trowbridge Family