To Tay Bay

Aug 11, 2019
From Tay Bay
Bylot Island
73 29 6N  80 45 5W

Departed Hatt Trick Harbor at 9am after a few more surveys of depths in the arms. I wanted to explore the mountains, the back country, to sit on the bluff and watch the snowy peaks on Bylot change colors as the sun circled. But that’s for another adventure. 

Next stop, Tay Bay, sixty miles up Navy Board Inlet.

For a time we sailed on E winds. And then we motor-sailed on W winds. But mostly Mo bashed into headwinds that increased and then were joined by fog. The last ten miles took three hours as I tacked up the channel under power. A few bergs. No pack ice. But I thought I could sense ice in Lancaster as the day darkened and went cold.  

Anchor down in Tay behind the W bluff an hour before midnight. From a fuel perspective, it was an expensive sixty miles of hard driving. 


Aug 12, 2019
From Tay Bay

The fine, long days have monkeyed with my sleep schedule as much as the travel. Back at Hatt Trick Harbor, my evening hike lasted until 1am, when the sun at last dipped behind the ranges to the N. At Tay, dinner was served at midnight, and I relaxed in the cockpit until the chill and the fog had crawled into bones. Now I never rise before eight o’clock. 

The forecast calls for a gale in Lancaster today and tonight. Mo has seen plenty of gales and fears them not, but her skipper is wary. We would encounter nearly no pack ice (emphasis, nearly) as eastern Lancaster has been clear for some time. But searching for the rare bit of ice in eight foot seas hour after hour is all well and good when there is no choice, but today there is a choice. So here we have remained.

These are the decisions one frets over. To go or to stay. To risk a bashing in Lancaster or being one day too late at Point Barrow. All afternoon I’ve done chores and said I’ll depart next hour, after the next forecast, or the next. Only at 5pm, and after a note from Victor Wejer suggesting there was no profit in an advance now, have I put my foot down: the anchor shall remain dug in. 

Having done that, I sat back to take the measure of this place. 

The water here is the color of clay. When the fog obscured the mountains, this color was a mystery. But now we can see the mountains to the S; they are old, eroded giants, and they are fawn gray. Sharp, rust red peaks jut up from the water to the N, and at the head of the bay sits an inactive glacier. 

Noticeably different is the wildlife. In Hatt Trick Harbor, there was none save two harassing gulls and one passerine I couldn’t identify. Here a gaggle of snow geese on the beach ran away in a panic as Mo’s chain rattled down. I’ve seen ducks and grebes in the air, a colony of glaucous gulls on the far bluff, and two seals patrolling the murky waters.

I have yet to see Alvah Simon’s raven, however. Simon (and, for a time, his wife) overwintered just yards from where Mo swings gently, a saga he chronicled in the thrilling book, NORTH TO THE NIGHT. One of his companions was a kitten named Halifax; the other was a raven that remained in the bay through the dark months, no doubt hoping Simon would err fatally and become carrion, which is to say, dinner.

It is difficult to imagine the change that will be required for this placid scene to become a blizzard-wracked deep freeze or how it would look in perpetual night. Only if I err myself will I find that out this year. Better get back to chores…

4 Comments on “To Tay Bay

  1. Best of luck Randall. According to the Northern Sea Route Information Office, the path is clear down Peel Sound or through Bellot Strait and you have slightly less than two weeks to make it past Franklin Strait off the Southeast side of Prince of Wales Island before the ice concentration starts increasing again at that spot.

    • Hi Mike, and others, can you lead me to a good map online of the Northern Passage and some of the detail that Randall describes as he goes? I’m having a hard time following all the names of these little places. Aloha, Mary

  2. Wow, quite a spot to anchor where Alvah Simon spent the winter. Much easier to be there when you can sail away at least! Good luck with the ice, the Canadian Ice Service maps and forecast look pretty good at the moment. The recent transit of the cruise ship MS Bremen through the 3/10ths ice in Peel Sound looked pretty good on their live webcam. Nice entries, gives a good account of your experience. Fair winds!

  3. Randall, I loved Alvah’s book, and I loved, even more, his presentations! And I cannot wait to read your book and be in the front row of your presentations!

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