Officially in Canada

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Wed 18 Aug 2010 15:24
70:27.822N 68:36.116W Wednesday morning

We're anchored up just off the settlement of Clyde River in Patricia Bay, Canada. We arrived last night after a long day at sea covering over 100 miles.

Kali and Magnus got us underway yesterday morning at 0400 in the rain. After being woken by the engine starting, Andrea and I both went straight back to sleep so we were well on our way by the time we woke up again at about 0800. The visibility was poor at sea level and non-existent above about 50 meters. It was raining and bitterly cold and, to make matters even more tricky, the sea was full of random bits of pack ice. Magnus had rigged himself up with a tiller so he could stand outside the cockpit, looking forward and steering around the ice. He'd zip-tied the boat hook to the steering wheel which worked very well but, as it felt like a tiller rather than a wheel he (and I when I used it later) kept steering the wrong way.

We kept taking it in turns to steer, lookout and warm up for the rest of the day. The weather gradually improved so it was only spitting with rain but it stayed cold. Luckily the pack ice was only around in patches so most of the time there wasn't any need to use the impromptu tiller. All day, we could hear a rescue operation on the VHF. It was further North and we could only hear the rescue aeroplane but it was clear they were looking for a person in the water with precious little success. The low cloud was hindering them and it was sobering to think of somebody else up here in such peril. We saw no other signs of people all day and only two distant whales later on.

As we entered Clyde Inlet at around 1500, we got a better angle on the wind and had a glorious sail across the bay between the rocky islands. We were getting close to the settlement but still saw no sign of people. In Greenland, we'd have seen half a dozen boats by now. It was only a couple of miles outside Clyde that we saw a few families camped on the shoreline. When the settlement came into view I was amazed at how different it looked from the ones we'd got used to seeing in Greenland. It's spread along the low shoreline and looks much less colourful. There's no proper harbour, even for the smaller craft. It has the usual large oil tanks on the beach but, beyond that, it looks much more like an industrial park than a town.

We motored around for a while finding a good anchor spot and then dropped the hook. We dragged for a minute or so and then held in a fairly sheltered spot. By the time we'd finished that, a local boat was coming alongside and thankfully Kali and Magnus had the presence of mind to get some fenders into the gap quickly. The two Inuit guys whose boat it was were bringing out one of the local Royal Canadian Mounted Policemen to check us in. They knew we were coming but they still wanted to get all the formalities done straight away. He is from Quebec so had a strong accent - a mix of American, French and Scottish - so it was harder for us all to understand each other than you might expect!

Once we'd all got together downstairs, things calmed down. He wanted to see our passports and gun and then told us that we all had to go ashore straight away and get cleared in. Luckily, I'd had some soup and toast earlier. It took two trips in the tender to get us all ashore along with Martin the Mountie and our shotgun in its large case. By the time I'd arrived in the office, Kali had already been given three boxes of the rifled slug shotgun cartridges that we'd struggled so hard to find in Greenland. Martin and his colleague Craig couldn't have been more helpful, even when I expressed my disappointment that they weren't wearing their red tunics and large-brimmed hats. Apparently, that's just dress uniform for parades and the like. They'd even given Kali a jar of baking yeast which is a controlled substance here and only available from the RCMP. All the ingredients to make home-brew are controlled along with anything with alcohol in it like hand sanitiser and afer-shave. We have to keep our alcohol onboard Saxon Blue and there is none available in the settlement atall.

I had to fill in a form to get a temporary licence for the shotgun and then talk to an immigration guy on the phone to get us admitted. Everyone was very helpful and chatty and we learned a lot about Canada while we were sorting out the formalities. Apparently, this is a fairly quiet town whereas some of the others in Nunavut are truly wild west with a 50% pa arrest rate! Our two Mounties have been here for years and seem to really like it although they only get 2 months off per year and spend the whole rest of the time in the town itself on-call 24/7. The main Narwhal hunt took place in this fjord two weeks ago but, apparently, we're lucky to miss it as everyone is rushing about in their boats shooting wildly. Hopefully, there are still some whales left that we can find in the next few days. We also learned that the rescue we'd been listening to on the VHF was a downed helicopter that had probably flown into some massive sea cliffs in the fog. It didn't sound hopeful for the pilot. So, we got our passports stamped and that's it, we're officially in Canada.

Then it was back to our tender - which we'd left in the tender care of the local kids who were described by the Mounties as a "nightmare" but seemed like pretty standard kids to me. The kids, along with all the local men we've seen, have much darker complexions than the Greenlanders and look a bit more Siberian. I read that most Greenlanders now have some Danish ancestry and I think this must be true. The other difference was the boats. All the boats here look like giant Canadian canoes with the back chopped off so they can take an outboard. They plane very well with the bow right up out of the water and many have a tiny windscreen and covered cuddy at the bow. They're all aluminium and have massive engines. It's funny that all the boats in Iceland are adapted Viking longships and all the ones here are adapted canoes - there's something about boat design that's enduringly traditional, even if the materials change.

We had a late dinner and were about to watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica when a large tanker vessel arrived and anchored close astern of us. They soon shot over in their aluminium tender for a good look at Saxon Blue and then proceeded to float a hose over to the town and fill up the fuel tanks while still anchored up themselves in the middle of the bay. They left early this morning.

We're off now to sort out getting diesel and stores and have a look around the settlement.


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