With a boat the size of the Arctic Joule wind can be a terrible enemy. The prevailing winds through this section of the Northwest Passage are northwesterlies but to date have been nothing but easterlies and northeasterlies. It makes for tough going at the best of times and no going at the worst.
As we move to the end of the Tuktoyaktuk peninsula and Cape Dalhousie we begin to shift into a more easterly exposure. Our hope is that this will allow us to take advantage of the traditional Northwesterly helping us along somewhat.
But we have a stiff easterly bearing down upon us at the moment and it’s really hampering our progress. On one occasion Frank and I elect to push out to deeper water hoping to find the elusive east moving current that’s supposed to be out there. We’re exposed to the full brunt of a 20km headwind and a negative tidal current as well and are literally pushed backwards, like tissue in the wind.
It’s a frustrating and humbling experience but one that reinforces the limitations of our craft. There’s no question that a smaller vessel like a kayak would fare far better in such wind with less weight and less windage hindering movement but with a smaller vessel comes the disadvantages of limited carrying capacity and sea worthiness. The Arctic Joule tips is close to 1200kgs fully loaded and for the power output – two rowers – exposes lots of surface to the wind. Into a strong blow she simply comes to a stop.
We struggled with this balance in her design and even contemplated building a smaller, non self-righting vessel but decided to build a robust boat up to the task in these waters. We could have made the hull out of a lighter, less robust material, we could have left our 135lb safety raft behind but we decided that to do this adventure right we needed to do it safely.
Approaching an expedition like this in a devil-may-care approach not only exposes the participants to undo risk but also to would-be rescuers who would invariably be called in if something went wrong. The participants have a choice, the rescuers don’t. We aren’t taking this approach.
The Arctic Joule is a strong, sea-worthy vessel that performs excellently under certain conditions and not so well under others. We’ve understood this all along and need to bear with it now when she’s under strain. Tough going now but we keep going.