Cape Dorset

  • Avec Tim dessinateur a Cape Dorset

After the flat West coast of Foxe Basin, it is a pleasure to see again mountainous South Baffin. And to discover Cape Dorset, the nicest town I saw in Nunavut.

Looking for a shower, we are invited at the school. The high school burned one year ago, so the elementary school is open to the youngest every morning and to the teenagers in the afternoons. The principal, an enthusiastic Kenyan, takes us to every class for an informal exchange with all the students. Then, from his office he plays a piano composition he wrote specially for this school. Good musician, he plays 7 instruments, and sometimes let everybody listen to him through the speakers in the entire school! But about the showers, they are broken.

Ooloosie Ashevak, the school secretary, invites us at home... And there we can't stop speaking about our good friends from Grise Fiord, Larry and Annie, her uncle and aunt, and about their daughters Laisa and Arna. Arna was also Leonie's teacher! The following day we are all invited to her daughter's birthday party. I bake a cake, to share after the feast made of beluga maktak, frozen caribou, fish soup and fresh bannok. Such a warm and simple welcoming!

Adamie, Ooloosie's husband, is a carver, as most men here. Because Cape Dorset is the artistic capital of Nunavut! We are lucky to have a good tour of the lithographic and silkscreen printing workshop. The artists are only from here, coming from artist families most of the time. All their production are sold in Toronto. There are also drawers and painters. We meet Tim, and the boss of the workshop who just came back from holidays discovers his last draws with us. I admire his sense of lines and volume... He shares his time between art and hunting. It is on the land that he observes, gets inspiration, finds his subjects and defines his ideas. Then, without any draft and with a sure hand he achieves the piece which had to be born.

There is also a carving gallery. The soap stone comes from a place at one day by speed boat from Cape Dorset. The gallery doesn't have the capacity to welcome all the carvings from town, so people are also selling in the street. Then we ballast Vagabond with some emerald-green polar bears coming strait from Baffin hillside!

Alicia is leaving us here. She brings back most of the coralline samples to Jochen laboratory in Toronto. The last point to check was not so good, but we hope to get better collection for the last dives of the season.

Foxe Basin

  • Jeune oie chassee par Yves

Yesterday around 6am, after twenty hours of sailing, we hardly managed to enter the very little bay inside Owlitteeweek Island, near the Arctic Circle. Then the wind started to pick up, and we could not go ashore until this afternoon.

There is an abandoned sleigh on the beach, probably left by a hunter from Hall Beach or from Repulse Bay. Many geese are gathering here, before migrating south.

At last, wind dies down and sky clears up, the dinghy is launched and here we are all on land, happy to walk a bit. But a polar bear has chosen the same island, so to be safe we must cancel our excursion, reluctantly. Yves manage to quickly hunt a goose, absolutely delicious for the entire crew before weighing anchor.

Search didn't show anything, no need to dive here, so Vagabond is sailing again, heading to Cape Dorset. We will need about thirty hours to cross Foxe Basin, very shallow, very much unsurveyed. And currents are strong and unpredictable!

Hall Beach

  • Retrouvailles avec Jaypootie a Hall Beach

Anchorage is not very well protected in front of Hall Beach. Nevertheless, we spent the night facing the big ears of the North System Warning radars (DEW Line). When going ashore for a short while, we got a lift to the other end of the town. What a surprise to meet with our friend Jaypootie! He came from Qikiqtarjuaq to work with an inspection team on several DEW Line stations. Time to cross the town together, to share news enthusiastically, and we must weigh anchor before bad weather.

Meeting people in Igloolik

  • Vagabond a Igloolik

"Hi Eric!": what a surprise to meet again with Matt at the Northern store, he was working at Qikiqtarjuaq's before. On the beach, it is Martin who comes to greet us, he is starting a big construction job here. We have been sharing the same building in Qikiqtarjuaq during the GreenEdge project.

On the beach again, a couple on his quad is offering us the DVD of Atanarjuat (2001). This film written and played by Inuits, was made by Isuma, first Inuit owned film production company, based in Igloolik!

A few days ago, there was a great show from ArtCirq, local circus created by Guillaume Saladin (a cousin!), and Kalabante, musicians from Guinea! I wish I was there, a chance to share with La Batook stories...

Simon, the hunter who came to welcome us at anchor, is telling us how he drove back Mike Horn to the spot where he had his tent burnt, once he was ready to carry on his expedition around the Arctic. Mike told us about it when we met in Barrow, Alaska, a few months later, in August 2003.


  • Simon gonfle peau de phoque a Igloolik

To our surprise, there is a scientific station in Igloolik since 1974. We are warmly welcomed and can attest that it is a good example of cooperation between white people and Inuit people, they carry out together studies on local wildlife.

At the moment the community suffers from some problems with it's drinking water tank... This is not the perfect stop over for showers and landry, however, the Economic Development Officer of Igloolik, who has lived on a sail boat before, opens kindly her door and bathroom for us!

In the evening we meet again Simon, who came the day before on his motorboat to welcome our red sail boat: at the community center, he is showing how to make a floating sealskin balloon: this one, attached to the end of the harpoon, won't let sink the hunted animal, whether a seal, a narwhal or a beluga... Exciting evening, organised in order to transmit the tradition to the young Inuit of the village.

The cargo ship who supplies the village once a year is here, her tug boat goes back and forth pushing her barge loaded with seacans. She gives us copies of sea charts for Foxe Basin, which is especially unknown.

After she left, we fill up our diesel tanks, Vagabond almost grounded on the beach; front wind, we use a rope attached to a seacan on shore. For once, this operation is amazingly simple!

Fury and Hecla

  • Escale banquise Fury et Hecla

Beautiful day, glassy sea and whales when crossing the Gulf of Boothia. The crew is lucky! Alicia and France can sort out the coralline samples, while the girls are playing on the front deck.

It's getting dark when Vagabond reaches Baffin Island again, threading her way through drifting ice. First ice floes since we left Qikiqtarjuaq, end of July! Magical night watch. A shooting star, very bright, green, is showing me the way. Radar, sonar, and search light are helping me to find a safe anchorage, in 4 meters deep water, waiting for the sun to rise to sail again.

Ice charts are clear: mainly open water, only the next 50 miles will have drifting ice. Early in the afternoon, despite the wind picking up, we choose a big ice floe to moor to. France is guiding me from the crow's nest, then she takes over steering to keep the bow against the ice, while I set up an ice-piton and tighten the rope. We are right at the entrance of Fury and Hecla Strait and we are drifting at one knot to the East with the current, in the right direction!

Aurore already slipped on her wet suit. Here she is paddling in the melt ponds, where France and Alicia are collecting fresh water. Celine and Yves are diving to explore our ice floe. Leonie is also very excited to run, jump and dive. Then time to take pictures and videos for our partners. We were all missing ice!

After all, we spend the short night moored to the ice floe. At 3 am, we enter the long strait (80 nautical miles). Goodbye pack ice, three cheers for the good wind and current, our speed reaches more than 9 knots at times. whether the tide is coming in or going out, it seems that the current remains favourable. Electronic charts are not yet existing for this region, neither for the entire Foxe Basin. So we are using a copy of the paper chart given by the captain of the Amundsen, on which is drawn the route of the ice-breaker. Even if there is no sounding, the land charts are quite precise and useful too. As well as the satellite pictures we downloaded before from GoogleEarth. At the narrowest (Labrador Narrows), the strait is still about 2km wide. Quickly and without a hitch, we enter Foxe Basin.

Getting to Igloolik is more tiring. Yves tries to find a pass between shallows from the crow's nest, being shaken a lot. Usually, we can see much better the seabed from the top of the mast than from the wheelhouse. In vain, we have to go back and sail all around a little island before entering the nicely protected bay of this large Nunavut community.

According to the sailing instructions, "it is not possible for other boats than icebreakers to try to go through Fury and Hecla Strait". This year with no ice is exceptional. We learn that our friend David Cowper, on board Polar Bound, went through last week, going West. Vagabond might be the first sailboat to go through the Strait. A cruise ship is suppose to pass in two days. Our friends on board the sailboat Pachamama are planning to go through in a few days.

So now, it seems that sailing in this region is difficult due to the lack of sea charts, not any more because of drifting ice. For the local hunters and their small boats, less ice means more waves, which is much more dangerous.

Bears and search

  • Ours pres du detroit de Bellot

If you look for Coralline, you may find... bears! At the end of a chain of islands, south of Bellot Strait, where search isn't giving much, we discern an white rock; but is goes into the water. Right at the location we are about to search, so the bear who tried to go south is now going back to the island. This time three of us are in the dinghy, instead of two, to keep an eye at the bear while dropping down the video.

Prince Regent Inlet is not giving us much coralline. After a few days and nights of sailing without going ashore, and a lot of disappointing search, we drop anchor late in the afternoon at the last site before crossing the Gulf of Boothia to Fury and Hecla Strait. We first all go for a needed trip on land. Girls are soaking their feet as much in ponds as in mud or in sand. Back on board, Celine and Alicia are searching for coralline, while Yves is setting up the search light for night sailing, others are busy in the engine room or in the kitchen, the young ones are watching a cartoon. The search is promising. Early the next morning, I bring Eric and Yves by dinghy to the site, and while I'm going up the nearby hill in the morning light, they are doing a great harvest at last.

About polar bears, another one could be called "the gybe bear". Peaceful bear, on a beach on Prince Leopold Island, north of Prince Regent Inlet. To watch him better, we went strait to him, main sail out following wind. But it became gusty by the coast and we gibed just on time to avoid giving him a kiss!

Bellot Strait

  • France ouvre la cabane de Fort Ross

Jochen suggested us five sites near Bellot Strait. Every time, it is now a routine, we first look for a good anchorage for Vagabond, we launch the dinghy, and two people are exploring the sea floor using an echo sounder, to make sure we remain between 10 and 20 meters deep, and with the underwater video, which is dropped drown to the seabed. Then, having our eyes riveted on the little screen, it is all about finding the much talked-about pink crust on the rocks, and trying to guess if it is thick enough and worth diving for sampling...

Leonie takes part in one of these search, a windy day. She comes back frozen but happy after a good breath of fresh air!

It is quite moving for France and me to be back to Bellot Strait. 13 years ago, we stopped here, happy to be almost out of the Northwest Passage. This morning, we are visiting again Fort Ross cabins, where most sailors are leaving a message or signature. Aurore and Leonie are already dreaming about spending the winter here, in the nice cabin maintained by the Coast Guards!

A few miles away, the video is giving some hope. Luckily, the sea is calm. We drop anchor, we put on our dry suits, and here we are in the dinghy, heavily rigged out (about 50kg equipment each!). France drops us at the chosen site, and watches over from the nearby island waiting for us to be back. Beautiful dive: Yves and I are following a steep slope, going with the current, staying around 15 meters deep. The cliff is full of life, the rock is covered with pink coralline, but too thin. Disappointed again.


  • Diner a bord de l'Austral

Wind is gusting up to 40 knots in Prince Regent Inlet, Vagabond is going at 9 knots before sheltering in a corner of Sommerset Island. L'Austral is there later in the afternoon, and our friend Patrick Marchesseau, the master, is giving us a warm welcome on board, with all his crew. Showers, delicious diner, supplies, talk and meeting a lot of nice people on board the beautiful cruise ship. Two different worlds met at the tend of the world!