Expedition Around North America
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Leg 6 :
Gjoa Haven - Tuktoyaktuk
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Leg 6
Gjoa haven - Tuktoyaktuk (Canada)
(August 21 - 28, 2008 )

August 28, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 6)
Tuktoyaktuk, North West Territories, Canada
69°27’N – 133°02’W
23h55 local time

The visibility is good and we can see the lights of Tuktoyaktuk in a distance. The bottom does not exceed four meters and part of beacons are not lighted. We decide to wait for the daylight before entering the harbour. We cast anchor at 4 AM in three meters of water sheltered behind a reef who protect us from the north.
After couple of hours of sleep, we keep going toward the net of sandy islands who constitutes the harbour. Barges delivering goods to northern communities are docked there. They sail up the MacKenzie river before to call here and start their sea trip. Tuk is centre of this commercial activity. We’re sailing at very low speed outside the channel to approach an isolated tiny dock. The area is very shallow and we send the dinghy to make sure there is enough water for docking. It should be OK for our 2,2 draft. It’s 12h30 when we achieve the sixth leg of the expedition.
Tuktoyaktuk will be our last port of call before Alaska. We have sailed 5674 nautical miles since Tromsø.

11 crew members have participated to this leg.

On top, from left to right : Daniel Desage (France), Philippe Moreau (France), Dominique Damour (France), Thierry Deakin (France), Laurent Ceresoli (France), Tino Schuman (Allemagne), Yannick Rouillé (France).

Down, from left to right : Olivier Pitras (France), Gabriel Pitras (France), Philippe Rouillé (France), Emilie Guegan (France).

Crew members Gjoa Haven - Tuktoyaktuk    - Gabriel Pitras

Crew members
Gjoa Haven - Tuktoyaktuk
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 27, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 6)
Beaufort sea, 69°47’N – 132°38’W
22h50 local time

Once in the west of Cape Bathurst, the swell calms down, the wind comes back, still favourable and we sail comfortable. We watch for three whales at short range, probably bow whales. Soon, we’re sailing in shallow waters and it will stay that way till our arrival.
Slowly, every one gets out of his or her berth after 36 hours for some of us. For lunch everybody is around the table and the meal is more than welcome. We’re 90 miles from arrival, discussions are about our next stop over. After this rough weather, the crew enjoy and relax in the saloon. We should arrive to night at Tuktoyaktuk.

Relaxation on bord   - Gabriel Pitras

Relaxation on bord
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 26, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 6)
Amundsen gulf, 70°45’N – 126°34’W
23h55 local time

Our average is better but this sea is rough and some of us got seasick. We’re organizing the watches a bit different to let them in their berths. We spent our day that way. We’re sailing fast to cape Bathurst who will mark our entrance in Beaufort sea.
North of Tuktoyaktuk, the pack ice is at 71°N. Our route is further South. In the beginning of the afternoon, the wind calms down a bit, we’re still fast but more comfortable. Unfortunately, it disappears completely around 11 PM and let us with flapping and banging sails with this swell which is still big . The sky is clear, the moon is on watch.

Down wind   - Gabriel Pitras

Down wind
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 25, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 6)
Amundsen gulf, 69°40’N – 119°07’W
22h00 local time

At midnight, we’re entering the Dolphin and Union strait. The wind is violent but favourable. Only a small patch of sail in front give us a good speed. The sky stays clear. In the south starts a beautiful northern light. Our first one since the night came back. In the morning we are in a real gale who permits us to reach the Amundsen gulf at noon.
The see is big. The swell short and steep. Steering requires a huge concentration to keep the boat in line. Rotations are frequent. Same conditions prevail for the rest of the day and our average is getting much more better.

Northern light   - Gabriel Pitras

Northern light
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 24, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 6)
Coronation gulf, 68°25’N – 112°44’W
22h35 local time

The day starts with nothing special to notice. It’s a sunny day with no wind. We’re getting impatient. In the afternoon, we reach the Edinburgh channel who marks our entrance in Coronation gulf. A landscape is not so flat here. We’re entering a large igneous region from the time there was only one continent. The cliffs are conspicuous with typical basaltic patterns.
Between Edinburgh Island and Murray Island, while we’re close to the land, we can see a musk ox. He is alone, strange for an animal which is in group generally ! Slowly the wind comes and increases gently hour after hour to become a strong breeze. We’re sailing downwind in flat waters. The sun sets with a strong refraction and give us an original sunset.

Refraction phenomeon when the sun sets  - Gabriel Pitras

Refraction phenomeon when the sun sets
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 23, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 6)
Dease strait, 68°49’N – 107°33’W
23h55 local time

Since the departure from Gjoa Haven, the wind is not established. We’re sailing again in a light contrary wind. At noon, we’re entering the Dease strait. Couple of islands break the monotony of the landscape. We have the pleasure to open the sail a bit before the wind falls again. Our average is weak and Tuktoyaktuk is still far away. We’re looking forward to have the strong easterly wind which is predicted for tomorrow.
In between we’re collecting “copepods” (zooplankton) which needs low speed. At the end of the day, we’re eighty nautical miles away from Edinburgh channel who marks the entrance of Coronation gulf.

Collecting zooplancton    - Gabriel Pitras

Collecting zooplancton
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 22, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 6)
Queen Maud Gulf, 68°28’N – 102°37’W
22h40 local time

The night is dark now and becomes every day almost half an hour longer. We’re heading south-west to clear Amundsen’s island in our north. While approaching Hat island, reefs are numerous. Every island and islets drawn a single line on to the horizon. Up here, everything is terribly flat. In the south of Nordenskjöld archipelago, we meet the coast guard ship “Amundsen” which is running an health survey during the navigation season all over the Canadian Arctic communities.
When the big reef is clear, we can point to the Dease strait in the west of the gulf. In the evening, the get rid of the contrary wind, we can take a direct route to our next destination.

Manoeuvring   - Gabriel Pitras

Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 21, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 6)
Simpson strait, 68°38’N – 098°12’W
22h30 local time

9h30, the chain of the anchor who turns in the windlass marks the departure of our sixth leg. The wind is west, moderated. The village is calm like every morning. We’re heading south of king William island while Gjoa Haven disappears quickly behind. We’re sailing in shallow waters. The coast is extremely flat but we can see isolated islands floating on the horizon. We have to study very carefully the map because reefs and shoals are numerous in the Simpson strait between the island and the continent.
In the end of the afternoon, we meet the coast guard ship “Wilfrid Laurier”. Our curiosity is big and we do not resist to give them a call to the radio to know if they found tracks of Franklin’s expedition. Nothing as yet, the mystery is still full. The sun sets at the exit of the strait.
The moon is accompanying us for our first miles in the gulf of queen Maud.

Interviewing the conservation officier   - Gabriel Pitras

Studying the Simpson strait's map
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
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