August 9, 2019
Days at Sea: 257
Days Since Departure: 313
Noon Position: 72 46N 77 26W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): W 6.6
Wind(t/tws): S 7
Sky/10ths Cover: Fog and clear sky 4
On-deck Temp(f): 58
Cabin Temp(f): 64
Water Temp(f): 45
Relative Humidity(%): 53
Magnetic Variation: -35.1
Sail: Under power.
Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 155
Miles since departure: 33,633
Miles to Pond Inlet: 10
Near midnight the fog dropped its guard, allowing a view of the ranges of Baffin and Bylot Islands on a distant, sun-drenched horizon. Soon we were on the verge of sailing into the clear ourselves when the wind came up lightly from the S and brought that infernal gray blanket with it. This covered us completely and until the customary hour off shore.
Then the mountains came out for real and for good.
Bylot Island, snow capped and ribboned with glaciers, was the focus of H. W. Tillman’s summer adventure of 1963. It was chosen due to its being “difficult to reach, little known, uninhabited and mountainous,” favorite traits it appears to have retained. His trek across Bylot from N to S–now referred to as the Tillman Traverse–has, to my knowledge, only been repeated once and that by Bob Shepton.
Though separated by water from Baffin, Bylot is “a geological extension” of its southern neighbor and is a sight to behold–icy peaks right out of the sea on all sides. To the south and across Pond Inlet is a small settlement by the same name, and off its open roadstead is where Mo dropped anchor at 1400 hours on Aug 9th. The 409 mile crossing from Sondre Upernavik took just under three days.
On the first of August, 2014, Les and Ali Parson’s Arctic Tern, aboard which I crewed, had been refused Pond Inlet. It was still iced in. A week and five years later, there was but one berg visible from the town and the temperature was a sweltering 75 degrees. To all appearances, we had been transported to a fishing village on the Sea of Cortez rather than the high north.
Ahead of Mo by half a day was Vincent of Belgian yacht Alioth, both of whom I met in Halifax. Alioth is a 55 foot aluminum expedition sloop that carries two crew besides Vincent, his brother Olivier and a friend, John. My timing was perfect. They had been ashore and arranged for the fuel truck but hadn’t the requisite number of Jerry cans. Mo had the cans, but I had to clear customs before arranging for fuel. So we swapped–they used my cans to fill Alioth while I entertained the RCMPs with the tales of the Figure 8 Voyage.
Convenient as it was, this arrangement did not keep beach fueling from being a dirty and wet exercise. The most careful sailor will bring loads of sand and pebbles back to the boat, and the best of dinghies will fill with water if the surf’s up. But by late afternoon both Alioth and Mo had been topped off.
Too tired to cook, I asked Vincent if he knew of a restaurant in town, to which he laughed and said, “Right over there,” pointing to Alioth. “The dining room opens and 8pm and you won’t want to be late.”
I was not. Baked chicken in broth, roasted cauliflower, rice with carrots and scallions and entertaining conversations in English, some French and a smattering of Flemish.
Next day Mo and Alioth weighed anchor at noon for a cove near Cape Hatt, some 40 miles to the east.