North West Passage Expedition

Progress Reports


  Thursday July 5th.   



We would like to take this space to thank amateur radio, in particular the amateurs who run the winlink 2000 system  for their fantastic technical support, without whom these progress reports and emails would neither be possible or affordable. See website www.

03.30 hours. We've been sailing downwind at over 6 knots for days, with the Yankee out to starboard on the Pole. The Auto-Pilot does all the work and we have only ourselves to look after; the boat sails herself. We're on a double-reef in the main and a well-furled yankee. The glass dropped as we sail past a low pressure system to the south of us, which is giving us these easterly winds. Latterly it is swinging to the north-east ,forcing us to sail about 15 degrees south of our course. As it swings further south we'll take down the pole and beam-reach for Cape Farewell, which is now about 384 miles away, bearing 302 degrees magnetic ( but about 275 degrees true, variation now being about 27 degrees, a little navigational matter  not to be overlooked )

Yesterday we lit the Dickenson Stove and life in the cabin was transformed; it's too hot, I'm in shorts and Tee shirt. However this heat is disinclined to spread through the rest of the boat, either forward or aft, which would be hard for it through the wooden doors to the two aft 'cabins'.Humour all round is good and why wouldn't it be? We've got in a good weather chart and a clear ice-chart, so there is no sense of unease. The boat feels good, engine run in neutral twice a day to charge the batteries. Pat baked today.

Friday continued easy sailing. The wind fell light in the afternoon, giving us watch distances of only 14 miles as compared with our good ones of 35 to 30 miles.

At mid-night Pat wrote

'This evening, after dinner, we had a magnificent western sun. The boat sailed down a silver road set out by the evening suns rays'

I don't remember that, must have been in the bunk.



Uneventful until 08.00. Then 'surf-up'. Reefed mainsil,  rolled yankee. The day went greyer, blowing Force 6 off the starboard beam from the north. 

In the afternoon, 6 ¾ days out, we went onto our first Greenland chart. About overwintering, Pat remarked that 'he might as well go into my attic".

In the late afternoon we pulled in a 2nd reef, rolled the yankee and put out 2/3 of the smaller stronger foresail-a snugger rig for the rising wind. Seas were now breaking occasionally over the deck and coach roof.  We pulled down a 3rd reef and snug, we sailed on in a F 7/8 off the beam.

'The odd white top crashes into the side of the boat with a great bang, bringing water on to the chart table, from a leak in the overhead window. Mostly the seas slide harmlessly  beneath us.'.


SUNDAY July 1st.

04.00 Boat snug and moving well.

06.00 Tightened the turnbuckle on the aft lower shroud, up to my knees in water, cold in the cabin too, the stove having run out of fuel.

15.10 Brightening somewhat in spots to the north.

P. sighted land!

An hour later, as visibility continued to clear, the mountains of south Greenland opened to view.,30 miles off, magnificent and harsh, black rock and white ice and snow.  Shook out the reefs and steered towards the shore.

Potatoes and steak preparing.

23.0      In light (1/10 ) sea ice-no bother. Was it like this all the way in?

24.0            Qaqortoq Radio said no, and gave us the co-ordinates of the ice-edge, way outside us. It thickened to 3or4/10,we worked, banged occasionally, went astern, poled floes and got back to the edge of this 'storis' ice, which comes down the east coast of Greenland and swings round Cape Farewell and up the south-west coast.

25.0      How far up?

We'll see tomorrow.


Monday July2nd.

06.00 Motoring in a calm dawn outside ( most ) of the ice.

The wind swung to the north west, from directly ahead and rose to Force 5.No big deal, just making for a lumpy sea. Met and were  into, some old multi-year ice, before we knew it. This is different from the nice white flat soft 1-year ice. The multi-year ice is glassy, hard, several metres high and jagged.

All notions of a 'nipped' vessel rising in the likes of this stuff are nonsense. 'Mangled' would  be the effect of being pressured in this.

We got out as fast as we could and continued under engine all day, slowly enough. The boat, with her high freeboard, will make only 3 or 4  knots, in a lumpy sea. We could have sailed, taking a long tack to the west, but we didn't. I suppose we were still hoping to get a break through the ice to get in to Qaqortaq.

In the event the ice report that night gave us no joy. In addition there came a forecast of a rapidly deepening low-pressure system at Cape Farewell giving an east to south-east gale on Tuesday.


Tuesday July 3rd.

01.0      Engine stopped. Fuel starvation. Bled the system of air and restarted.

02.0      03.15  Wind up from the south. Set foresail. sailing at 8 knots.

03.0      Another hour and we should be past the outer edge of the ice and alter course for the shore.

04.0      04.00-06.00. Into multiyear ice again. Foggy, working to the west to get around it.

05.0      Set course for Arsuk Fjord to try and get shelter from the gale, now rising.

06.0            06.00_13.00 Wind rose to 40 knots from ahead.

Motored flat out and got to the mouth of Arsuk Fjord, making 1 knot. The seas and wind were such ,in the relatively shallow waters, as to allow headway only directly into wind and waves. The slightest ( 10 degree ) offset would bring her head around, almost abeam, before we could get back to her heading. All steering was now by hand at   the wheel.

The plan was to get to an anchorage in the shallow sheltered  area shown on the chart at the head of the fjord. However even this if achieved would probably have been dodgy with probable williwaws and wind funnelling. We turned and put back to sea , downwind. She needed some headsail to  keep her from broaching Her high freeboard aft was driving her round into the wind. The big thing now was too avoid the ice bergs. Even though these were spaced at 21 to 3 miles, at our speed of 6 to 9 knots they came up all too frequently

We came all too close to hitting one.

Running downwind, it lay directly ahead. However which way the wheel was turned, or the engine revved, our head would not turn. The grace of God ,and we reckon some kind of backwind off the berg carried us clear with ,according to Harry who was on deck, about 2 metres of clearance. I was below wrestling with the wheel.

Shortly  afterwards we hove-to lashing the steering down and carrying a corner of foresail, on  the port tack.

This was comfortable.

The beam seas didn't bother us. She pointed just slightly upwind SW. ,made 2 ½ knots to the NW. We tracked the bergs on  radar-and no further avoiding action was necessary.

All Tuesday we lay thus, expecting the wind to drop that evening.

20.0            'Forecast is for easing this evening, 20 knots from the north-west and a fine day tomorrow'

21.0      22.00  Steak and kidney pie from the oven. Force 8 continues.

22.0      Arsuk is now 30 miles to the south-east, Paamuit is 40 miles to the north-east.

23.0      2333.00     Forecast now gave 30 knots tomorrow from the north-east, not good for getting into Paamuit.

24.0      We set foresail and laid off to try and get there ahead of the change in wind direction.


WEDNESDAY July 4TH  Cathal's Birthday.

02.30    Royal Artic Line vessel passed heading southward.

02.31    05.30  Alongside in Paamuit, in good order. 

Beers and to bed. Happy boys 

It's now Thursday morning ass I write this in the Paamuit Café. Yes, I am writing it out and will have to type it out on the laptop later. 

Yesterday the ship rose in the late morning-too late to catch the bakery, but the

Brugsen supermarket was still all go. Long breakfast aboard was followed by essential fix-ups.

The steering cables had loosened. I set to retightening these. To get at them I had to dismantle most of our coldstore.  

Eoin and I rowed across the harbour in the 12 foot dingy that Mike Burke had made a present to the boat of. We hacked ice off a lump floating there and   repacked our 'Bainne Úr as Oranmore' and Mike Brogans vacuum packed meat in it.

Pat and Gearóid solved the problem of the fuel feed to the stove by relocating the header tank lower and re-piping to it so that the lift pump would now deliver to it. 

The rain cleared and we walked about in the chilly day and tried to get the 'sus' on the place. Cathal took our passports to the Police Station and cleared all of us without any problem

"Where could you get a beer he asked?" the Ban- Garda

"How about my place" she said.   More seriously she also said "Nuuk".

Wrong  on both counts, we had all the beer we wanted in Petersons 'Restaurant'. From my change this morning I think I know how many I had, or at least paid for. I have all these 2-Kroner coins. A bottle of Tuborg costs 38  Kroner. So the arithmetic is easy!

I'm tired of writing. The day is passing_ So I'll just jot down a few headings for possible later elaboration. 

Minic-Tourist Manager-a most unbusy man. 

Peter-the increasing contact with Newfoundland and less dependence on Denmark. 

Big infrastructure in Paamuit, schools and gym/hall-for a future that never came, with the decline of the codfishing. 

Danish hiking group-going onto the ice cap for a 3 week tour, following the track of his great grandfather, after whom the   are named some nunataks ..this was pre -Nansen's crossing. 

Humpback whale, seen just outside the harbour. 

Jarlath. I'e-mail some  technical notes to you in a few days. 

Mary.  Cathal enjoyed his birthday.

We've got an email from Muireann from Syracuse.

Enjoy Glandore.I'll email via Caoimhe. 

Love and Regards 

Paddy and all aboard Northabout. 

Gearoid Adds our email address on board is

Picture of Northabout in Clew Bay        


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