Pack Ice

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Fri 13 Aug 2010 13:58
68:57.700N 65:37.485W Friday morning

We're sailing along with the southern edge of the pack ice to starboard, about half a mile away. The mountains of Baffin Island, Canada are ahead and on the port bow. The water temperature is 1.5 degrees so I don't think we'll be swimming any time soon. We should be in Canada later today.

The pack ice looks like a jagged white line between the sea and the sky. It's not smooth, like I was expecting, but it doesn't have the mountainous look of bergs either. I suppose the stuff that hasn't melted is the thicker bits which at least means that it shows up on the radar - just as well as the first bit that Andrea and I had to avoid was shrouded in fog.

When we came on watch at 0400, Magnus had seen some bergy bits but no ice floes. He looked frozen after standing watch in the mist for 4 hours. We hadn't slept very well so it took us a while to get woken up properly. Saxon Blue was barrelling along with one reef in the genoa and most of the main set. We passed one iceberg family - a huge berg and all it's bits and pieces, off to cause mayhem in the shipping lanes further south. Then we saw a speckled area on the radar and realised that it was pack ice, just visible on the horizon. We ended up passing 2 miles from that bit and then it was clear for a while.

About 0700, the temperature really plummeted and we entered a bank of thick fog. When we checked the water temperature, it had dropped to 1.4 degrees from a relatively warm 5 degrees earlier - that explained the fog but it made us think there must be ice around. Sure enough, we saw the same speckles on the radar ahead and to starboard. I didn't want to risk hitting the pack so we furled the genoa away and put the engine on so we could motor south away from it. When Kali got up for her watch, Andrea and I were frozen, motoring though the fog. Then the fog cleared, instantly. We could see the pack that we'd been avoiding about a mile away on the starboard side. The sun came out and the air temperature rose.

Part of me didn't want to hand over the watch to Kali but I was completely knackered. It had to be the most exciting watch that I've ever done but also one of the most tiring and definitely the coldest. Andrea had been below and prepared the best bed ever for me. She'd rigged all the lee-cloths and then made a duvet sandwich with a hot-water bottle each. It was bliss. I crawled in there and fell asleep for 3 hours.

We got up at 1100 to see the pack still lit up with brilliant sunshine and the mountains of Canada in the distance. It's totally different to Greenland - or at least the Greenland that we've seen this summer. I can't wait to see how the land compares.


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