Dundas Harbor to Graham Harbor

August 15, 2019

Days at Sea: 261
Days Since Departure: 319

Noon Position: 74 27N  85 02W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): W 6.5
Wind(t/tws): 0
Sea(t/ft): 0
Sky/10ths Cover: Clear/0 
Bar(mb): 1014, steady
On-deck Temp(f): 60
Cabin Temp(f): 63
Water Temp(f): 38
Relative Humidity(%): 43
Magnetic Variation: -34.4

Sail: Motoring under double reefed main

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 42 since departing Dundas
Miles since departure: 33,850

Anchor down Dundas Harbor by 9:30pm after a brisk, glorious beam reach across Lancaster. What joy, to sail! Mo makes a frothy eight knots while passing alabaster mountains, great bergs pushing their way up the sound. When the wind eases, I raise more sail and the boat makes a frothy seven knots. Her movement is sure and purposeful. Magically now she is a flying horse instead of a plodding motorhome, and it is as though I am experiencing this thrill for the first time. 

The only hiccup is the chart plotter’s loss of compass heading mid channel. Compass heading, not course over the ground, is what gives the autopilot its sense of direction and is a thing the system must have to operate. On Mo, this information is gathered from a GPS compass mounted on the radar arch. When heading fails, alarms sound, the autopilot shuts down, and Mo goes wildly off course. 

In a flash, Monte takes over pilotage, and I spend the remainder of the passage sorting things out. 

For a time in the Southern Ocean, heading loss was sporadic, and I then (inconclusively) linked the issue to use of the radar. But both radar and, now, autopilot have been in constant employ since Halifax without a hitch. A panic begins to uncoil in my gut. No heading sense, no autopilot; immediately I’m down to hand steering when under engine power. This sail across Lancaster under the deft hand of Monte is a fluke–up here it’s all engine.

I run some tests, reboot everything, do the unplug-replug dance. Problem repeats. 

After a time, I realize that if I turn the radar off, heading comes right back, but how can that be? The electronics gear has been too reliable for too long for this to be gear failure. This has to be connection, charge related…and suddenly it clicks. The problem only happens when the engine is off (i.e. not charging) and when electronics load on the batteries has been high for a period of time; thus, something in the heading sense system is susceptible to low voltage. (Note: two days later and we’ve motored 20 hours. Heading loss occurrences: zero).

Alioth, who departed Tay half an hour after Mo, arrives Dundas half an hour before. Much of the crossing she was well in view, a beautiful, fast ship. Her crew are already hiking to the abandoned RCMP shack by the time I am secured and the stove lit. I make a quick dinner and am asleep before 11pm. 

Alarm set for 6am. Awake at 4am and too nervous to continue sleeping. Underway by 5am for Graham Harbor, 95 miles down Devon Island. 

Save for Mo, Dundas is empty when I take my bearings. Alioth has departed at some unknown hour. A slight feeling of emptiness. Isolation. Cruising in company is fun. But the fact is that each boat up here is alone, must make its own way, make its own decisions, solve its own problems. Alioth’s unannounced departure is like an admission of truth. A surprise break up everyone saw coming. 

The leg to Graham is, again, uneventful. All motoring on a glassy sea. By 8pm, Mo is anchor down in 50 feet on a rock, mud and kelp bottom. The cliffs are high and close-in and have reversed the light easterly outside to a sharp SW wind inside. The bay is small, the bottom steep and holding unsure. Here and there a derelict bergy bit roams the place looking for trouble. I am at Graham for a quick sleep, and it is hard won. Pack ice is close now, a mere 200 miles E and S in Peel Sound. I can feel its churn and grind. Things are coming to a head. This next week will tell…

9 Comments on “Dundas Harbor to Graham Harbor

  1. Randall, you are NOT alone!!! You have so many there right with you!!! We cannot lend a hand, but we can boost you up. We all are encouraging you and Mo and MON-Tay’s courageous voyage!!!

  2. Right on Pam, you are so correct!
    Randall, we’re with you every NM, cheering you on by sharing in your adventure and soaking it all in. Recently I was blissfully night sailing, listening to the froth of the water and thinking of you, Mo and MON-Tay and the figure 8…. Stay real!!

  3. I am also religiously following you day by day Randall. Picture are amazing. I had the chance to sail the caribbean many times but now you and Mo make me want to head north next time I exit the St-Laurence gulf. Wishing you the best !

  4. Randall
    Most of your photos show land with no snow coverage.
    Is that usual? And if so, what time of year does the snow melt/evaporate?

  5. “Here and there a derelict bergy bit roams the place looking for trouble.” Captures it perfectly.
    Best wishes for the next week and your entire fantastic voyage.
    Writing and photos are really appreciated. <|||-<

  6. You have us sitting on the edges of our settee wishing for the ice opening you need. Speed on….and give Monte a wee dram of scotch

  7. If you’d like a map to assist you in following Randall, here’s one with at least a few place names:
    On that same site, you can also delve into all manner of ice observations, forecasts, glossaries, etc…courtesy of Canada. Randall’s current location is in the “Queen Maud” sector of observations, I believe…
    Go Randall!

  8. We are with you, Randall! I can only imagine the thrill and nervous anxiety of waiting for the pack ice to open for you. Fingers crossed, prayers, said, energy sent your way!

  9. Electronics troubleshooting and repair, sailor, fabulous writer, mechanic, star site navigator, and the list goes on… where did you COME FROM? Yuo are super duper man!!

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