Ice blocking the start of the North West Passage

We are still sitting in Pond Inlet waiting for the ice to clear.

A number of sources are available that let us know what the ice conditions are. These include internet based updates from the Canadian Ice Service, updates from other yachts attempting the passage, and local knowledge such as that provided by Peter Semotiuk.

Here is a sample ice report.

These conditions change daily, and sometimes you will see a noticeable difference over a matter of hours. Or, in our case, days go by with no usable change.

We have two options available. Head west from Pond Inlet and then northwards through Navy Board Inlet to reach Lancaster Sound, or head east back towards Greenland, and then northwards to gain the entrance to Lancaster Sound. Either way, we then head west through Lancaster Sound before turning southwards to pass through Peel Sound. In ideal conditions, we would take a week to sail the stretch shown.

You may ask why we did not sail directly into Lancaster Sound from Greenland, instead of allowing ourselves to be ‘trapped’ as we now are. This is because we all wanted to go climbing on Baffin Island, at a spot a few miles west of Pond Inlet.

Our yacht, Dodo’s Delight is GRP (i.e. fibreglass, not aluminium or steel). It has no adaptations to protect the rudder or propeller from ice for either forwards or reverse motion. Nor is the bow strengthened in any way. So, we cannot sensibly consider breaking through ice, and are dependent on finding open channels of water through the ice. As such, we are mainly interested in the ice coverage, indicated as a fraction between 0/10th (no ice) and 10/10th(solid ice).

This ice would not even register on the charts.

Navigating through lots of ice depends on visibility, wind, currents, and the braveness (or stupidity) of the crew. Generally though, a “suitably equipped yacht in good conditions” can sail through ice up to 3/10th’s with caution, and through very short stretches of up 5/10th’s, although at a high risk of becoming trapped in the ice.

Going back to the ice chart, it is obvious why we are waiting. Both of our options have ice too dense for us to pass through safely. This sign sums it up really well.

Posted by Andrew

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2 comments
  1. xhabbo9054 said:

    I’m Huffing & Puffing hot air your way, despite cold and snow in the Western Cape! John R

  2. KUDOS!!! Job well done. Keep looking up!
    Looking forward to your next posting…
    Doug

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