A welcome of the Captain!

Welcome onboard our virtual attempt on he North West Passage. With the world around us changing fast under these new conditions we thought it might be nice to redirect our attentions elsewhere. Sadly enough some people are not able to travel this year, and are forced to stay at home. We feel that adventuring into unknown parts of the world lifts the spirit! For myself they are a must. That is why we have set up this voyage of elusions. By no means do we hope this is the future! Normally our new voyage crew would board at 1800 local time. We would kick off with a cup of coffee or thee and an introduction of the crew and ship. I would like to follow this procedure just to get into the feel of things, so here we go! 

I would first like to introduce the ship. She makes it all possible and has an impressive live span. Tecla was built in 1915 as a herring drifter. She plundered the North Sea in search of Herring, the silver from the seas. In the 1920’s she and many of her sister ships where laid up because the diesel engine was finally catching up with the age of sail. She was sold to Denmark where she was used as a general cargo ship, linking many of the small Islands in the Baltic with the mainland. Finally in 1976 her trading days where done. 10 years later she was back in the Netherlands ready to be restored and to start sailing a gain. 1990 was her first season out with holiday makers! 2006 Was our first season with the ship. We have sailed many miles and I hope to sail many more. My name is Gijs Sluik and I have been skippering the Tecla since 2006. We are a small family owned business. My parrents, Jan and Jannette started in the early 1980’s with a Dutch flat-bottomed ship and probably had no idea where it would all lead to… Nowadays my sister Jet and I run the ship side of the Tecla, with our mother Jannette (whom you might know from email contact) on the shore side of things. We have sailed the Tecla all over the world from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Taking all sorts of people on our expedition like adventures. On a normal trip we would carry 4 permanent crew, a skipper a mate and two deck hands. On this special trip Jet and I will be your skippers.

 What would follow is an explanation on how to use the toilets and to make sure not to leave the lights in the cabin burning. Also the water from the tap is drinking water. Please do not use to much when having a shower… we do have a water maker but don’t like to run the generator to often… Mind the tick list when you take a drink and please get familiarized with the safety plan in the corridor, the big safety briefing will be tomorrow before we leave. Here we will explain a Man Over Board, a Fire, and a Abandoning Ship situation. Verry important so we will take our time to get everyone up to speed. We don’t want to overload your brain with info it can’t process… That summons up the “boat rules”.

 Now we get into the more interesting part of our trip. For me personally it has been a dream come true to attempt and pass through the North West Passage in 2019. A trip like this takes quite some planning and assessing. Normally a trip of 49 days is a challenge on its own. This trip is not just 49 days, it is 49 days in an environment where only a handful of ships go every year. This is because of the challenges the ice forms. In no way is it predictable. One thing is for sure there will be plenty of it! Before we start with an explanation of the latest ice chart lets have a look at who went before us. 

The Diskobaai or Qeqertarsuup area has been inhabited since 2500 bc. It has always been a place of plenty. Although early climate change has forced many of these civilizations to retreat they have always returned. From the early Dorset culture right through to the Danish and Dutch whalers. Jacopshavn or Ilulissat as it is known now has been its center. Nowadays it brings people from all over the world to see the biggest glacier on the Northern Hemispire, Sermeq Kujalleq. It is fed by the Greenland Icecap and filles the baai with huge Ice bergs. It used to be the place for Whalers together before setting of in to the Baffin Baai to hunt for blubber. So it is not by chance that the ill-fated Franklin expedition started of from here. The ships Erebus and Terror where filled to the rim with stores taken from the Barretto Junior who faithfully followed the two ships across the Atlantic and made sure they were not over loaded with stores. The search parties that came a decade later also departed from here. Throughout our North West Passage trip of 2019 many explorers like John Rae, Sir James Clark Ross, Sir John Franklin, Thomas Simpson, Sir W E Parry etc have served as inspiration. However the real people of the North West Passage, are the Inuit. They and their predecessors have made the fabled place their home. They have not only survived the rugged climate but have thrived and become the worlds most wide spread people. From the west coast of Alaska to the east coast of Greenland. They have taught the early western explores how to survive in this part of the world and made it possible to find the last link in this icy puzzle. Their history lives on in the stories told from generation to generation. 

Inspired by all these stories we set of on the 2nd of August 2019. Not knowing where the wind and ice would lead us. Little did we know what the trip had in store for us. It turned out to be the most special adventure ever! Part of the success was due to the modern Canadian ice charts. And at the start of the trip it would be nice for all on board to have a little understanding of the colors, numbers and figures on them. Here follows a small explanation on the current icechart issued by the Canadian Coastguard. 

Lets start with the purpose of these charts. The charts are drawn up by the coast guard using satellite images but also from siting’s by plane. The oval windows with the figures and numbers give these charts their name. We refer to them as the “Egg” code. They are vital for shipping in the ice covert areas! A captain can make a risk assessment by following a formula suited for his ships ice class. 

Tecla does not have ice class and will always avoid contact with ice. This means we use the ice charts on a very basic level. For us the colors are most important. The figurs given in the different “eggs” will give a general idea of the age of the ice and its concentration. This is important for certain icebreakers but less so for us. For us the general concentration should not be a lot more then 3 to 4/10 or roughly color green. If we would start to enter yellow it will be hard work. Then color red 9/10 of ice mean really no way through! 

In those cases ice pressure also becomes a problem. If you would get stuck and a strong wind would start to pick up, the ice concentration will get denser with the ship in the middle. This situation should at all times be avoided! There are instances where a large area of green can become a small area of red because of ice pressure. 

When planning the days progress this is always a situation to recon with! This makes these charts and the wind and current vital! The arrows shown on the charts with the number in them gives us the direction and speed of the ice drift per 24! 2 being little , 10 being moderate to a lot. The color scheme is made for ice of sea origin. Meaning that ice bergs have a different symbol! They are drawn in with a little symbol representing a berg. Ice bergs will be found in the egg with their concentration. They are of different importance for the shipping because no ship is strong enough to make contact with ice of land origin. They are made of compressed fresh water and are  many times harder than sea ice! 

If we look at the chart for this week we see we have no reason to linger around and should make for the Canadian coast. 

By the time we reach Pond Inlet the ice concentration there is likely to have shifted or have disappeared altogether. As you look close enough you see that Baffin bay has some triangles drawn in. They represent the ice bergs. This is not strange if you know we are leaving from the moth of the biggest calving glacier in the nothern hemisphere! The color is light blue not white! This means there is also if only little sea ice around! Ice watch will soon be part of the daily routine! Normally the ice from the Canadian coast will drift south. You can see this on the latest chart by the concentration on the Baffin Island coast. There for a more northerly course would be wise to avoid the ice coming from Lancaster Sound.  Checking the weather forecast we see variable winds in direction and strength. Not a force to recon with. So staying another day in the Disko area might be nice with the view on history! 

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