Watercolors by France Pinczon du Sel
Saint-Quay-Portrieux, 19th October 2003,
Vagabond arrived at Saint-Quay-Portrieux on Monday 13th October. We were given a fantastic welcome by Mickie Demai (Vagabond's christener) on board her sailing boat Nuage, also by about 15 other boats. Many thanks to all for being there, and for all your enthusiastic messages !
A very large high had the nice idea to protect us from usual storms at this time of the year, and from South Greenland, Vagabond was able to sail straight to Brittany : 17 days to cross the Atlantic, including 4 hours stop into St Mary's Harbour in the Isles of Scilly for a last toast with our friends from Norwegian Blue. In all, a 17 months expedition, including 5 months at sea, 20 000 nautical miles (37 000 km), and 75 stops.
At the Adventure Film Festival of Dijon, we just received the Peter Bird / SPB Trophy, rewarding tenacity in adventure !
To send us email from now, please use only eric[a]vagabond.fr or france[a]vagabond.fr.
Nuuk, capital of Greenland, 23rd September 2003,
Vagabond achieved the first polar circumnavigation.
While crossing the Davis Strait on 20th of September, Vagabond reached the Labrador Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Her crew is proud and happy today of her success through the North-West Passage, following her success through the North-East Passage, the 2 arctic routes that link the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Sailing these 2 famous passages one after the other, each one without wintering and without any ice-breaker assistance, is a first in the sailing history. Our emotions were worthy of the adventure !
Heavy ice conditions this year in the Arctic. Polar Bound and Dagmar Aaen seem to be trapped for the whole winter in the dangerous Franklin Strait, where we waited for 8 days before being able to force our way further, we were then only 50 nautical miles ahead of them. The Canadian ice-breaker Pierre Radisson could not help them last week, the ice pressure was already too strong. In Russia, the Chelyuskin Cape remained surrounded with a lot of ice over the summer, the sail boat Campina will spend the winter in Tiksi and will try to complete the North-East Passage next year.
Tonight, the crew was very warmly welcomed by Olga and Yvon. We met Olga last year in Anadyr, she is Chukchi. Her husband Yvon, from Switzerland, is teaching Inuit culture to Greenlanders. Our meeting was fascinating and symbolic after our trip around the Arctic, and we enjoyed some reindeer and muskox meat with delicious French wine.
We hope to reach Saint-Quay-Portrieux, our home port, before 15th October.
A bientôt !
Pond Inlet, Nunavut, 14th September 2003,
Despite very pessimistics forecast from the Inuit and from the Coast Guards, Vagabond went accross the ice of the North-West Passage and reached today Pond Inlet, North of Baffin Island. We have been sharing the adventure for 2 weeks with the incredible English trio of Norwegian Blue, and it was great to celebrate together our success last night, riding at anchor in front of a glacier of Bylot Island. About the others sailboats, 3 abandonned this year because too much ice, and Dagmar Aaen is still trying, trapped in the heavy pack ice of Franklin Strait. Polar Bound is there also, the 2 captains are waiting for better winds, they know pretty well the North-West Passage as they both sailed accross few years ago, from East to West.
On 9th of September, after 8 days waiting for ice to open up, a strong gale (50 knots) moved the floes away from the coast for few hours, allowing us to reach Bellot Strait, the Northest point of America. A polar bear and her cub were surprised to see us there, while quickly dodging in and out the ice and pushed by a strong and dangerous current. We finally reached Fort Ross on 10th of September, exactly one year after the sailboats Nuage and Apostol Andrey. Then the wind changed and helped us sailing to Lancaster Sound, while the ice charts were showing that the ice was closing up again behind us...
Still a long way to go, the crew is getting ready to sail to Greenland, and then to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Brittany, determined to overcome not anymore the ice but the autumnal storms !
Larsen Sound, Nunavut, 31st August 2003,
Vagabond and her crew left Gjoa Haven yesterday, hoping to go through the heavy pack ice ahead and to reach Lancaster Sound. Ice experts are not all very optimistic, conditions are difficult this year. The sailing boat Jotun Arctic (Norwegian), expected in Gjoa Haven to commemorate Amundsen's arrival 100 years ago, decided to turn back while attempting the North-West Passage from Greenland. Another sailing boat, Captain Hatteras, left France last month and is now heading for Arctic Bay, still hoping to sail the Passage before the winter. Going from West to East like we are, Dagmar Aaen (German sailing boat) and Polar Bound (English motorboat) are now in Cambridge Bay, and should meet with us pretty soon. As for Minke 1 (Canadian sailing boat), she decided to stop in Tuktoyaktuk for this year...
At the ice edge, Vagabond is sharing the adventure with Norwegian Blue, a beautiful green English sailing boat. If 2003 is showing a record with so many sailing boats attempting the Passage, today's ice conditions are reminding us that a wintering is always possible.
Christine and Christophe took over from Catherine and Matthieu, we are still 7 on board Vagabond.
This morning, we celebrate the first anniversary of our success through the North-East Passage. One year ago, we were crossing Bering Strait.
Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, 20th August 2003,
We left Tuktoyaktuk on a sunny 12th August, then we sailed accross Liverpool Bay and around Cape Bathurst the following day. We were then entering the Amundsen Gulf, and the ice pack was there, according to the ice charts. We had to go around the floes further south, in Franklin Bay, where we saw the amazing Smoking Hills, and then we reached quite easily the Cape Parry. From there, without knowing it, Vagabond went into an end and got suddenly surrounded by heavy pack ice. With the information we had on board, we decided to try further north. We turned back, and for hours, we followed the ice edge...
From the crow's nest, at least, France found a tiny passage that might be the one that Peter from Cambridge Bay just described to me by radio. Despite the fog, we went through and reached the Coronation Gulf, via Dolphin and Union Strait. Premonitory sign ? Our long hesitating track just drew the silhouette of a bear. And among the last floes on our way to Cambridge Bay, here is one, looking at us from the water. Even another one, lying on the ice. We've been dreaming about it for long, we were really expecting such a moment, but not with Catherine, Jacques and Pierre on the ice ! Not far from one of the two bears, they didn't see it and they kept looking at us through their cameras and video... The crew was quickly gathered on board, then more calmly, we got close to it and watched it swimming, diving, walking or lying on the ice... It was a big female, she was slowly getting used to our strange boat, and we left her with a beautiful sunset.
After 4 days sailing against the winds, which had cancelled our stop in Coppermine (a pity, Gérard and me wanted to see again this village, he went there few years ago by dog team, and I did with a raft in 1992), we were very glad to get south-west winds pushing us at a good speed accross Dease Strait.
Our arrival in Cambridge Bay, where Michèle Demai, christener of Vagabond, left her sailing boat Nuage for the winter (2001-2002), came to be in the same time than the arrival of Nuage in Saint-Quay-Portrieux, or home port in Brittany !
We just welcomed on board Matthieu, photographer, who is joining us for few days, up to Gjoa Haven. Before sailing again, I need to dive on the Maud's wreck, not far from the village, this ship was used by Amundsen to cross the North-East Passage (1917-1921).
Amazing meeting with the 140 passengers of the luxurious polar cruising ship, we made an impromptu talk for them on board. The captain and his crew, including our friend sailor Henrik that we met here by chance, welcomed us and supply us very well with fresh food. But the difficult ice conditions described north of King William Island are little worrying...
A bientôt !
Tuktoyaktuk, North-West Territories, Canada, 12th August 2003,
Our adventure went further than what we were expected...
Vagabond escaped from Barrow on 26th July in between 2 storms. The 2 previous days were spent with Mike Horn, half-way on his expedition around the Arctic, a great meeting that we didn't want to miss (read more news from him here). Then we had to leave our friends Kristin and Wendy, who welcomed us in their homes as the weather was too bad for us to go back on board, and Henry, who told us a lot about whaling.
Pushed by the strong West winds, we were sailing fast without taking too much into account the ice floes slowly showing up. Pack ice went closer and closer to the coast, we had to play with the sandbanks to keep away from it, and we were enjoying more and more our shallow draft. In about less than 1,5m deep, we went around drifting ice at Kaktovik, and we reached Demarcation Bay where ice just closed the entrance after we dropped the anchor inside. Vagabond was first driven ashore on a sandbank unknown on our charts, after that we managed to sail a few milles before getting trapped by ice, then in canadian waters. 4 days of patience, observation, very long detours, impacts against ice... were needed to reach at least Herschel Island. But what a great scenery ! Being part of the drifting floes is a great privilege.
Herschel was an important whaling site from 1890 to 1907, Amundsen became one of the last witness of these slaughters that were only for baleens, for ladies corsets. Whalers were wintering at Herschel to be on the spot when ice was breaking up, so came problems like alcohol, drug, suicides, epidemics... In the past, up to 2000 Inuvialuit were living here all year long, nowadays, only 2 Territorial Park Rangers and some visitors are coming to Herschel Island in summer. From the top of the island, we went looking at the ice pack as far as the eye can see, surprised to be out of it. A new storm blew off the Mackenzie Delta, our route was open, and on 7th of August, we were little sorry to leave Richard - the chief Park Ranger - and his guitar.
5 milles away from King Point, where Amundsen's Gjoa spent her third wintering, a strong North wind suddenly packed the ice. Stuck again. Compression was high, so much so that Vagabond was pushed up, thanks to her hull's shape (photo). Our position was not very comfortable, and during 2 days, we tried to get used to live in a 15° tilted environment. This time the pack ice was silent, no breathing, no moving, everything stuck with the powerful ice pressure. Propellers are well protected, but I was afraid for the rudder. And yet, when the wind changed, we went quickly back to the water, without any damage. In permanent contact with the canadian coast-guards, regularly checking if all was fine on board, we finally officially entered Canada when we arrived in Tuktoyaktuk on 10th of August, after having crossed the Mackenzie Delta.
Adventure is not yet finished, drifting ice are on our way again, only one sailing day ahead...
Barrow, North-West of Alaska, 23rd July 2003,
Here are 12 days that France, Gérard and me left Russia...
From Anadyr, Chukotka, Vagabond sailed to Nome, Alaska, crossing the Bering Sea from West to East. As for training our knowledge in navigation, not much needed usually thanks to GPS and electronic charts, Vagabond crossed several times the 180° longitude meridian, route set by the drifting ice in Anadyr Gulf. Then came the date line and and the border (curiously separated with few milles), giving us a Bastille Day (14th July) in the Russian waters, then another one in the American waters. Suddenly, we were one day before, 21 hours exactly, we were changing continent, and, without forgetting our spring in Japan, this was the end of our one year journey in Russia.
The gold diggers in Nome, dragging the sea bottom with their amazing machines, were fascinating. But not enough to change our plans. Our fortune is probably on the other side of the Bering Strait ! On our way, we stopped in Teller, where Amundsen ended his flight with the Norge balloon above North Pole in 1926. In Wales, at Prince of Galles Cape, we went to the monument built for friendship with Russia. Then in the middle of the strait, on the Little Diomede Island (USA), we discovered a little village attached to the cliff, facing the Big Diomede Isand (Russia) at about 3 milles. A young american eskimo, having heard about our long journey in Russia, wanted to know if we were in jail... The only land he can see from his village is mysterious, though some of his relatives have been living there for thousand years.
We entered the Chukchi Sea, where we saw many whales. In Point Hope, Steve, chief of Search and Rescue, told us passionately about spring whaling, still like it was 2000 years ago. The skin boats are brought to the ice edge, then 8 people are paddling to move each boat. Meat is then brought back to the village with dog sledges. Not far from the new village, Steve showed us the old village, still inhabited 30 years ago. He took us inside his ant's house, whom he was bringing wood and water daily when he was a young boy. The house is in good shape, built with whale bones and jaws, and mud, half underground. Steve looked at us leaving, sitting on a sand hill, we will never forget his witness.
We are now far above the Arctic Circle, and we are glad to meet again with the midnight sun. From the Bering Strait, we started sailing the North-West Passage; 6 or 7 sailing boats should attempt this route this year (2 others are there with Vagabond here in Barrow), 100 years after Amundsen who was the first to sail the Passage in 1903-1906. On the other side, in the North-East Passage, Henk de Velde is trying again, we were happy to meet him in Provideniya. He might be passed by the 19 feet open motor boat that we saw in Teller: the expedition Polar Passage started in 1999 and is about to achieve his trip around the Arctic. We are going to meet soon Mike Horn and his sea kayak, going west along the North coast of Alaska, he is also heading to siberian coast. The strait is not attracting only boats, Steve Brooks created the Ice Challenger, this amphibian machine is able to cross drifting ice pack, we saw it on the pier in Nome during our stop. His first attempt failed at the Russian border because of permissions...
In Barrow, we were very well welcomed on board the Canadian Coast Guards ice breaker, Sir Wilfrid Laurier; this was the opportunity to learn everything about ice conditions, ice is only few milles away from us. Catherine (artist and cook), Jacques and Pierre (cameramen) just joined the crew, and we are heading East !
Anadyr, 10th July 2003
Hello from Anadyr,
Vagabond is finishing his Russian journey in Chukotka, and is slowly sailing to the Bering Strait, tha gate of the North-West Passage.
In order to develop cruises for yachts in the Far-East of Russia, Vagabond welcomed on board the Russian team of guide books Petit Futé, the advisor to the Governor of Chukotka, and the president of Red Cross in Chukotka. With the director of the museum of Provideniya, we went to see some of the great places of the region (governed by the new owner of the football team of Chelsey !). Pictures of the Whale Alley, the old village of Avan, Novo-Chaplino, a large walrus colony... are online.
"Les Portes Glacées du Pacifique", film of the expedition of Vagabond by the North-East Passage, will be broadcast again on French TV channel France 5 on Friday 11th July at 15:35.
We just received all our emails you have sent since 14th of June, we will reply to you as soon as possible. To contact us more quickly, please check our web site.
Bering Island, 21st June 2003,
Vagabond and her crew are now anchoring not far from Vitus Bering's
grave, at Bering Island, south west of Bering Sea. This is the opportunity
for them to pay tribute to the navigator who leaded some of the main
maritime explorations of Siberia, and who gave also his name to the
famous strait separating Asia from America. In few days, Vagabond will
pass again the Bering Strait and then will sail into the North-West
Passage, second part of her expedition around the Arctic. The film of
the first part, "Les Portes Glacées du Pacifique",
52 minutes, will be broadcast on french TV channel France 5:
Kushiro, 1st June 2003,
Vagabond is leaving Japan today, after a short stop at Kushiro (Hokkaido), and is about to sail again along the Kuril Islands, up to Kamchatka. Everything on board is ready for the next arctic adventures, thanks to the warm welcome and the very efficient support given by the sailors of Ise Bay. Besides a nice return to Nagoya, my birthplace, it was 3 weeks of technical and logistical work to prepare the second part of Vagabond's journey around the Arctic. The day beofre our departure, we were glad to escort the 150 yachts of the Erika Cup, named after our special guest Erika, and after the yacht she sailed during almost 5 years around the world with her parents, in the 80's. Pictures and articles are on our web site Vagabond.
We wish to give our special thanks to Yanmar Japan, Onizaki Yacht Club, Onizaki Pleasure Boat Club, Tokai Marine, City of Tokoname, Accastillage Bernard, Chez Toto, Blanc Pain, Unidos de Urbana.
NB: this email address is not checked regularly during the expedition.
To join me quickly, see here.
Seabornia, 25th April 2003
Vagabond and her crew are the guests of the prestigious Seabornia Yacht Club for few days, at the entrance of Tokyo Bay. Surrounded with great yachts and palmtrees, our faithful red hull is slowly getting used to warm water (15 degrees) and is admiring the Mount Fuji, while tee-shirt is replacing winter clothes.
Since 1st April, date of our departure from Kamchatka where we spent winter, our south trip is offering us great contrasts.
While sailing along the Kuril Islands covered with snow, we had to go around, and sometimes to cross, some wide areas of floating ice, coming from Okhotsk Sea. It was a real pleasure for us to get back to ice navigation. Our route has been worrying some coast-guards, one of their ships one day came to stop us, using a green flare. After the short radio contact that followed, we received a 'bon voyage' from the reassured authorities. Several groups of killer whales crossed our route, wonderful.
On 8th April, we were very warmly welcomed in Japan. Hot baths, sushis and sake were contrasting with the snow storm and ice floes in Kushiro harbour. After few hours, japanese high technology was on board, as we were given a fast and cable less internet connexion (harbours only !), and a mobile phone. Later, we received a mobile phone with a GPS included, a new equipment to test for the manufacturer. Our new friends are glad to see that our cameras, computers and watches are from Japan, without forgetting the engines of Vagabond !
Already 1750 nautical miles and very nice stops behind us : Kushiro, Hakodate, Miyako, Kesenuuma, Shiogama, Iwaki, Katsuura, Seabornia, meeting the fishing people, their beautiful gardens, and famous cherry trees. Many fishing boats and innumerable nets that we have to take care of while sailing along the coast, but no sailing boats, excepts few dinghies in a protected bay.
While the second part of the great journey around the Arctic is taking shape, you will soon find some pictures of our japanese coasting online Vagabond's website.
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