Frank waiting in cabin for current to die (1)
One of the challenges travelling the Northwest Passage is anticipating the play of currents on our movement. The difference between a current with us and against us is the difference between easy rowing and none at all.

We are told that the general background current in this section of the Northwest Passage is from west to east but we’ve come to learn that site specific factors of tide and wind play are far more important in its prediction.

Before heading out on this expedition I had a discussion with oceanographer Bill Williams – Bill is the man behind our CTD testing operation – and he cautioned me about the currents that form around Cape Bathurst on the Beaufort Sea. “When the wind blows from the west you’ll have a 4KN current moving with you”, he advised, “but an easterly wind will do the opposite.”

We’ve found that wind and tide have a profound influence on current throughout the passage, it’s not only limited to Cape Bathurst. The ebb and flow of tidal movement mixed with the push from wind makes the predictability of current something more akin to sooth-saying than it is to critical analysis. We find ourselves continually fooled by what we think should be the correct direction but isn’t.

Under a light wind today we struggled to maintain a speed of 2-kmph. Each oar stroke had the heaviness of the boat in the pull and we knew we were fighting a current. We anchored, rested for a couple hours and tried again. This time we maintained a speed of 3.8-kmph as the tide switched from an ebb to a flow and made our movement easier. It’s easy to see that patience is one of the most important qualities in an arctic traveller: Quinuituq