About 1am, the wind had picked up significantly and was definitely the strongest its been so far on the trip – my best guess is that this was at least a 40 knot wind (which is about 70km an hour) gusting even higher. We now had a problem – all 3 of our anchors (2 ground and one sea anchor) were deployed but despite this we were still been pushed out to sea towards Banks Island about 200km away. If we did nothing there was no immediate danger for us but if this weather persisted (as it was forecasted to for another 24 hours), we would potentially loose a lot of ground and be pushed backwards by the extremely strong wind. Given how hard we have had to work to make progress, the last thing we want is to be forced backwards.

So we decided on a plan of action – wait for a lull in the wind, take in all 3 anchors and row as hard as we physically can to get to shore. Denis and I got ready to row and Frank and Kevin positioned themselves to take in the anchors. When we were all ready, the lads quickly pulled in all 3 anchors and Denis and I started rowing. I don’t think I’ve ever rowed as hard in my whole life; as we would say in Ireland “we gave it welly” for the next 30 minutes. At one point I did wonder if an oar would snap. I’m not saying this to sound all macho but we were putting so much pressure on the oars and the wind was so strong, I did wonder if an oar(s) would succumb to the pressure. Fortunately the oars were fine and as we got closer to land, Kevin maned the steering wheel and kept us going with some great words of encouragement and we made land.

With the adrenaline roaring through our veins, we set about securing the boat. We decided to set up the tent for the night instead of sleeping on the boat as the boat would be more secure without our weight in it. However Mother Nature had other ideas and the wind strengthened even more. This was nuts, one tent pole bent and another snapped such was the force of the wind so we had no choice but to stay on the boat. Just to make matters a little more interesting, the wind was now whipping up a mini sand storm on the beach.

For the next few hours, we mixed our time between further winching up the boat onto the beach and sleeping – we were all exhausted. Originally all four of us were in the cabin. After a few hours Kevin and Frank slept on the beach and kept a watch on the winch gradually tightening it as the tide came in. Our main concern with being beached is the very real risk of damaging our centre board. Our centre board is like a retractable fin underneath the boat that greatly helps us with our steering and manoeuvrability of the boat. Although it is retractable, the banging on the gravel beach can still damage or jam it. If the centre board was damaged it would be virtually impossible to hold a straight line amidst the strong arctic winds.

Shortly after 8am, things had calmed sufficiently and we pushed off the beach to continue on our way. Kevin and Frank rowed for about 2 hours before the wind whipped up again and stopped us in our tracks.

When we embarked on this trip, our intention was to rotate in pairs and row 24 hours a day weather permitting. At this point, we are fortunate if we can row for only 12 hours each day so we’ve had to change our daily expectations to the reality of what we are likely to get, which unfortunately are not conditions that right now enable us to row 24 hours a day. This has definitely proved to be a challenging “mind shift” to make for all of us. Hopefully we’ll get some good days of 24 hour rowing soon.

So right now, it’s 11am and we’re on anchor again but at least we’re now holding our current position and are not going backwards.

The last 12 hours have been very challenging but I do feel like we’ve had a little victory here (for now at least) as we avoided going backwards and actually managed to gain some ground over this windy period of tine,. There’s no doubt this is a tough expedition but we’re due a change of fortune with the weather so hopefully we’ll catch a lucky break soon – after all there’s a few of us Irish folk on this boat, aren’t we supposed to be lucky !!!

~Paul