19-21st August 2023: Passage to the Fort Ross: we hit ice!

The alarm goes off at 4am and peeling myself out the cosy bed is bed is hard. Catching the end of the storm, we face strong headwinds and tack our way up Admiralty. It is about 50 miles on a straight line to the corner with Lancaster Sound and it will take us the whole day to get there. There is still a lot of residual sea after the storm. With 2m swell and winds in the face, Seabelle is rock and rolling and not before long, I find my head in the bucket. To make things worse, I picked up the bout of flu that little Dean (SY Sentijn) and Jossiah (SY Caprivi) had battled in Arctic Bay, leaving me with no energy and the wish to crawl below and die. Luckily, Calin thrives in those upwind conditions and allows me to remain in bed while he’s having fun racing Caprivi and Sentijn who have caught up with us. Every now and then, he come below to give me an excited update.

When I finally find the energy to get up and relieve Calin, the winds are very confused and the night is a battle of the mind. One moment, it’s blowing 15-17knots from our stern and I unfurl the genoa. 10 mins later, the wind drops to 5 knots and all the sail flaps. I lift the daggerboard, furl in and motor. 15mins later, we heal with 17 knots and again, so I stop the engine, drop the daggerboard and unfurl. Only for another 10mins. Daggerboard, furl, start motor. And again and again. Eventually I give up trying and with much frustration, we motorsail throughout most of the night. As the light wind is dead behind, I struggle to keep the main sail from flapping. As I focus on adjusting the traveller to find the best angle for the sail, I suddenly hear a big bang following but a loud crunch under the keel. The boat vibrates as if we were experiencing an earthquake and I know straightaway I’ve hit ice. My heart sinks and I feel powerless. The couple of seconds it takes for the berg to pop out aft feel like an eternity. The berg is the size of a Harley, big enough for major damage to our centerboard, left locked half way, shaft and rudder. Calin jumps out through the hatch, wide awake in the middle of his sleep. With the sinking feeling that irreversible  damage was made, we check everything. The bilges are dry and there is no water coming in. Steering hard to port then starboard is still smooth and functional so the rudder is fine. There is no vibration or unusual sound to the engine so the shaft and prop are fine. With ultimate relief, we bring the centerboard all the way up so it has not been bent. The only damage sustained is the outer sleeve of the line preventing the centerboard to come up has been shredded through the clutch leaving exposed the thin dyneema core, an easy fix luckily. We suspect that we rode over the the berg with the centerboard, deflecting its trajectory and thus saving our prop and rudder. Shaky but tremendously relieved, I continue my watch standing high on the aft lockers and not taking my eyes off from the sea ahead for even one second. What are the odds that I hit the only piece of ice I’ve seen in my entire watch.

The air temperature has dropped to 1.4 degree and the sea temp to 0.4. The water pump has been sounding a bit weird and when we check our water tank through the clear inspection hatch, we notice it has partly frozen! Large ice bits are floating about so we crank the heater to max in the hope of warming up the floor. It doesn’t really work but at least, we have a super warm and cozy interior for a few hours!

Coming from Pond Inlet, Thindra has now reunited with us and so together with Caprivi and Sentijn, we continue our way through Lancaster Sound and into Prince Regent Inlet. Along the way, under a cotton-like textured sky, we come across a large pod of whale. We sail amongst them watching their blow from afar. They are all around us and we sail amids their blow and flicking tails. They have no dorsal fin and we suspect they are bowhead whales.

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