REPORT NO. 1
Paddy Barry, April 2001
“Why don’t you forget about your Hudson Bay”,
said Jarlath Cunnane to me, “and do the North West
Why not indeed: For lots of reasons!
A round trip to Hudson Bay from Dublin could be done in
one 3 month Summer.
I had a boat, the old
working Galway Hooker ‘Saint Patrick’, well proven on
previous arctic trips to Spitsbergen in 1990 and north-west
Greenland in 1993; that would be fine for Hudson Bay.
That 3-month formula had worked well previously.
Identify an area-of-interest-, or better still a
circle-of-interest do-able in one Summer, without the expense
of laying-up or flights.
On our first big trip in 1985, across the Atlantic, we
had laid up for the winter in Tenerife, before continuing west
in 1986. That lay-up had given us a very pleasant cruise south
from Ireland, allowing call-ins to Portugal, Madeira and The
Salvage Islands. But then came the hassle and cost of boat
haul-out, storage, and on our return a complete re-caulking
job where the planks of ‘Saint Patrick’ had shrunk. No a
round-trip was the way to go.
However, Hudson Bay had very little going for it, other
than that it was there. Singularly dull, foggy and bordered by
flat lands, there was none of the vitality of Greenland or the
Antarctic about it.
In 1997 we had followed Shackleton’s route, by small
boat and then mountains, of his escape after ice crushed his
expedition vessel ‘Endurance’ in 1915. He described that
in his book ‘South’. We called our trip ‘South Arís’
– pronounced ‘areesh’, this being the Gaelic for
‘again’. The seas that Shackleton sailed were anything but
dull and the mountains of South Georgia rise majestically,
straight out of the sea.
Some weeks after Jarlaths suggestion, I ran into Frank
Nugent at the Irish Film Centre and in the drinking of pints
and talking that followed, agreement was made that we should
go on a worthwhile trip again. Frank is a climber and
expedition-man. From the Wicklows, to the Alps and Himalayas
his boots have ever taken him to the high ground, including
Frank had been
joint-leader with myself on South-Aris, and Climbing Leader.
I must presume that the North-West Passage was
prominent in our conversation.
Frank works with the
Irish Government training board, Fas, and lives in
Palmerstown, Dublin with Carol and their younger son.
A week of two later, in ‘The Cobblestone’ in
Smithfield, Dublin, I said to Jarlath that I would do the
Passage with him, going the full navigation season in the
first year, and giving it my full 6 weeks annual job-holidays
each year thereafter until we got through.
When and in what and with-who, all remained a clean
Jarlath and myself had been good friends since about
1986. We had met after my Atlantic trip. Co-incidentally he
too had sailed the Atlantic that year, though in more fraught
conditions, his passage being in the northern sector and in
As a construction manager for a Dublin firm, we shared
job interests, I’m civil engineer in the same line. We were
never short of things to talk about. Jarlath is a doer. He was
on ‘South Arís’. He had built the Shackleton small-boat,
we called ‘Tom Crean’. He had built in steel his own Van
De Stadt 34 ‘Lir; and
many a smaller boat before that.
A year or two after we met, he felt he had to say to me
‘I’m a carpenter you know’. Such was his general
technical knowledge, that I’d assumed some far higher formal
learning. He was from, and lived in, Knock in County Mayo,
with his wife and two grown daughters. But the Irish economy
and construction scene was such that rarely did he get to
work west of the river Shannon.
Myself in 1970, as a junior construction engineer had
asked my boss where I should base myself. He advised that you
could draw a line between Cork and Dublin and the work would
never be that far from it. I bought a house in Baile-na-Manach
(Monkstown) Dublin and there Mary and I brought up our 4 there
and there we still live.
Three-days before Christmas of 1999, Jarlath, Frank and
I met, and decided that we would investigate all aspects of
doing the NWP and two months hence, by March 1st
2000, decide whether to go for it or forget it.
Choice of boat was the major matter. Jarlaths
‘Lir’, at 34 foot, we considered too small to carry the
quantity of rations that would be needed; though being built
of steel it would otherwise have been suitable. ‘Saint
Patrick’ would have carried the load, but with an unwieldy
gaff rig is most unsuitable
for ocean sailing. In any event I didn’t fancy her being
left on the eastern Pacific when the project was over. We
looked at a semi state-owned steel yacht which might, with
modification have been OK, but considered the practicalities
and timing of her return too uncertain.
With our friend Terry Irvine, who had been to Greenland
on ‘Saint Patrick’ and is a keen Polar-Man and connossier
of polar boats we discussed options as between buying and
For 20 years the French ‘Damien’ class boats have
been the vessels of choice for the expedition sailor. Built of
steel for strength and ease of repair, they have an easily
handled ketch rig.They have retractable center-board and
rudder, allowing entry into shoal and uncharted waters, and
have a rounded hull form to prevent being pinched by
ice-pressure. But where would one be found, and at what cost?
In 1993 we had been aboard one in Nuuk, Greenland,
owned by a French family on a three-year tour.
‘Northanger’ had been in Tierra Del Fuego when we were
there, and was now busy doing an over-wintering in south
Ellesmere, a 100 year following of Otto Sverdrup. Jerome and
Sally Poncet had Damien II, the best known of them all, based
in the Falklands and summering yearly in the Antarctic.
We had been aboard ‘Damien II’ in South Georgia. At
a Cruising Club of America dinner in Annapolis the following
May I had asked Sally whether Jerome was here. “Not a
chance” she said. No these are special boats owned by
special people, not likely to be found in marinas, or bought
through ‘Yachting Monthly’.
‘Pelagic’, which we had employed in 1997 as our
expedition support boat might be for sale and would be
suitable, but with the dollar so strong against the Euro,
would be out of our price range. We dismissed the notion of
re-engining a fishing boat. We like to sail and decided to
build. But what?
In the first week of January 2000 Terry, Jarlath, Frank
and I met in the North Star Hotel, handy for Terry’s train
from Belfast. We decided to buy plans for a French ‘Nadja
15’ from her designer Gilbert Carroff.
The ‘Nadja’ can be built without curved plates in
either steel or aluminium. Our first cut at the cost of
materials and fittings was £60,000.
Jarlath was going to
finish up his Dublin-based employment and begin the rest of
his life, starting with building this boat. His knees had been
giving him trouble, preventing him from doing his
site-supervision which required constant jumping down into
trenches, climbing of scaffold and walking of sites. With the
heavy work being done with local help and ourselves on
week-ends, Jarlath would do the building.
Where would it be done? Jarlath had a workshop in Knock
of adequate size, but he was moving to Castlebar and this was
going to be sold with his house in Knock.
We could buy and set up a polythene tunnel shed or there was
an empty factory by the sea in Clew Bay which might be rented.
As regards Project Title and Publicity our thinking was
influenced by our ‘South-Aris’ experience, happy and
satisfactory, though much more public than we wished for this
one. We now desired a balance between unnecessary publicity
and that required for sponsorhip of individual elements.
Finance was unclear as yet. In this context we were
mindful that for ‘South Aris’ the initial cost forecast
was £ 50,000 and it eventually cost about £ 110,000!
The boat would become Jarlaths.
The Team, so far were Frank, Paddy & Jarlath. Terry
was most interested, but time and job restraints might be
unsurmountable. We’d like a musician as well, particularly
if he could sail. Mike Brogan was to be consulted.
Paddy proposed that Jarlath be Skipper.
The four of us agreed to put up £ 350 each, for
Jarlath to visit the Designer, buy the plans and if possible
to see a built ‘Nadja 15’.
I was to talk to Mike Brogan, and I was hardly off the
phone when his cheque came
in. I also was to pursue information on logistics and contacts
and to source a ‘Building Polytheme Tunnel’.
Frank was to prepare a brochure for potential sponsors,
to identify ‘land-objectives’ and to research the Irish
Connection, McClintock, McClure, Crozier and such.
We’d meet in about 2 weeks.
This was all serious stuff, but I have to say that none
of it was entirely new. For years past Pat Colleran, Paul
Cooper and I, in the glowing aftermath of Irish Cruising Club
Lunches, would set verbal sail for the Passage, usually around
mid-night. With their memories of east and south Greenland
with John Gore-Grimes on ‘Shardana’ re-kindling their
enthusiasm, whipped to a blaze by more recent Hebredian
sailing on ‘Saint Patrick, we would sail the North West
overwintering was a ‘must’. No flitting home when the ice
froze for him. No sir! The full experience required living and
working through the Arctic winter!
would have been first-choice shipmates on this, or any other,
expedition. But Paul is busy with young family and work. Pat
lost a battle with cancer in July 2000.
May God rest him.
By February 20th, matters had moved along.
We now had a Plan, no longer a vision, a mission or any of
that warm and fuzzy stuff. Our internal Bulletin No 3 set it
The Objective, we
defined as to sail the North West Passage (NWP), from the
Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, in the track of Irishmen who
first explored these regions.
The Plan was:
To build a Polar
Ice-Strengthened Sailing Boat, a Nadja 15 metre (49 Feet),
starting in April 2000, launching in February 2001.
sail in late June 2001, departing Westport. Calling to West
Greenland three to four weeks later.
(Crew changes possible).
Thence to go as far as
possible that season, as far as we can get before the sea-ice
stops us, in September.
Once round Point
Barrow in Alaska we would continue to Vancouver, leave the
boat there and fly home.
will be determined by sea-ice; about 5 small (less than 60
feet) boats have been through. At
that time Willie De Roos is the only one to have got through
in one season, two or three seasons
being the norm. The seasons vary greatly as to ice conditions;
5 week period beginning in late July being best.
closed in by ice we’ll haul up the boat on shore and fly
home. There are settlements
with summer air
service every two to three hundred miles along the route.
The following July a
Crew will fly out to continue.
Frank and Paddy,
so far, with invitations sent to Mike Brogan, Adrian Spence
and Terry Irvine.
We need also a further
team member who would be Commercial Manager.
We want to get our
team finalized in the coming weeks so that:
Our Brochure will include ‘Mug-shots’ & CV’s.
We can get our ‘seed’ capital contributions.
is our preferred material, over steel:
It is much easier to work.
Woodwork machinery with tungsten tipped blades can be used.
Jarlath has the machinery.
It does not rust.
It does not need external
topside and deck painting.
It holds its value.
Aluminium is however
Steel materials would
cost 7 tons @ £600 / ton plus paint £3,000 = £7,200.
Aluminium will be
circa 5 tons @ £3,000 / ton plus paint @ £1,500 = £16,500.
Hull Building time in
Aluminium would be about 3 months.
Hull Building time in
steel would be about 5 months, with added machining costs by
Lofting of the plans
to make framing templates is starting on Monday Feb 21st.
these, preparatory work on framing 75 mm x 60 mm angles, can
go on, once we have the material. We’d like it in a
The ideal would be an
existing shore-side shed near Rosmoney, Westport. We’re
talking to the owners.
Alternately the less
attractive option of building a Polythene Tunnel Shed. We have
a location for this in Castlebar.
We would hope that Fãs
may be able to help with individual engineered elements.
Finance / Costs
Preliminary Boat Build
and Fit Out, costs were detailed.
Rations and Fuel. We would
hope to get significant contributions in this area; though a
certain amount will have to be purchased, en route.
Clothing. Each arranges his
own. Mostly we have.
Flights. Each pays his own.
These we expect to be about £1,000 a go, whether from Ireland
to Greenland, or from Arctic Canada to Ireland.
Insurance. Ditto. We do not
expect the boat to be insured.
We (Frank , Jarlath ,
Paddy) decided that we need funds in order to get this project
going, and pay for the hull materials; we also need some funds
in hand to purchase other items ahead by opportunity.
We therefore decided
that the team-members subscription for the first year of the
expedition would be IR £3,350 i.e. £3,000 on top of the £350
if already paid, and that this should be paid in the coming 3
weeks, partly because we need the funds and partly to focus
This places no
obligation to participate beyond the first year.
We will get out a
Brochure, to be used in approaching specific companies for
support. Frank is preparing this.
We will confine our
approaches for support / funding to corporate groups.
We were not going to
do a pre-expedition lectures, flogging of Tee-Shirts or the
Northabout, dreamed up
by Mary Barry, looked good.
The last week of
February brought Terry, Mike Brogan, Kevin Cronin and John
Coyle aboard as paid up team members. We now had a full team
and funds to get boat-building. There was no formal
consideration and decision to go.
The project had its
For the first, and probably only time in the project,
we were ahead of schedule!
We did a who-does-what list.
John and Kevin were
the money-men organizing commercial support and banking.
Frank would get out a
Brochure and organize rations, with Mike Brogan also in on the
Stores. Paddy would Co-ordinate delivery of Boat Materials and
Equipment, liase with Authorities and deal with Navigation and
Jarlath would only
have to build the boat!
Mike Brogan, apart
from owning the Galway Hooker MacDuach, is a fiddle-player,
medical doctor, good sea-cook and is all round good company.
He was on ‘Saint Patrick’ to Spitzbergen and has sailed
his own boat to Norway, backwards and forwards to Brittany and
you could run in to him anywhere on the Irish west coast. In
his other life he sings madrigals with his wife and about 20
others in the choral group ‘Cois Gladaigh’ He lives in
Ballyhaunis, County Mayo with Laura, and his youngsters now in
accountant and long-time friend of mine as we lived nearby in
Mount Merrion / Booterstown. Dublin. Our families grew up
taking holidays together in France and Spain. The Mammy’s
and kids would car and ferry it. Kevin, the lads and myself
would sail out in the Hooker. And Kevin has been on and around
all the trips since, except Spitzbergen, which I think he has
regretted ever since and determined to miss no more of what
God gives. It is however as convenor and pacifier that Kevin
shines, with his quiet humour you’d hardly know it was
happening. He lives in Foxrock, Dublin with Suzanne and his
youngest girl still under the family roof.
John Coyle, Economist
and Man of Business in Galway was Mikes friend particularly.
None other of us has sailed with him and in that respect is
the unknown in the team. Indeed it’s not John who I’d be
concerned about. He’s rock solid. It’s the likes of
ourselves that he’ll have to put up with! He lives, with
Sally and 6 youngsters, overlooking the River Corrib where it
flows into Galway bay.
Terry Irvine, briefly
introduced earlier, is a farmer by back-ground. He sails his
own boat out of Carrickfergus on Belfast Lough. He has been
ocean-sailing by opportunity including ‘Saint Patrick’s’
Greenland outing. As might be expected of any good Ulsterman,
he is reliable and knowledgeable. He’s married to Yvonne
with one four-year old.
That’s us, and
although Gearoid O Riain did not join the team until a few
months later, we’ll introduce him here.
Gearoid is a free-man.
If he doesn’t like his boss, he leaves. If he wants to work
he works. But on a boat he is the most agreeable ship-mate and
is first out of his bunk when action calls. He is a friend
from youngest school-days, of my son Cathal and was on
‘Saint Patrick’ to Spitzbergen and Greenland. He’s a
school-boy no more, working (mostly) now in Computers.
Work started on Good
We had decided on
Aluminium, lofted the frames at night in March in a Dublin
engineering site office.
Jarlath had rigged his
mig-welding gear for aluminium, and got his own aluminium
welding technique up to specification.
Aluminium is clean to
work with and can be cut and machined with woodwork tools and
machinery. This was all about, as the building was being done
in his joinery workshop.
Jarlath may get round
to writing a technical Appendix to this. In the meantime
I’ll describe it as I saw and helped on it.
The workshop floor was
marked out accurately with center-line and frame spacing at 1
Each frame is made of
angle 75 mm by 50 mm to take a bottom plate of 12 mm
thickness, a lower plate of 6 mm and top plate of 5 mm.
The frames were
prefabricated and incorporated extension pieces calculated to
allow of upside down construction. Standing the frames in
position, the hull shape was evident in full scale. These were
accurately plumbed and braced.
The stringers, or
lisses, as the drawings described them were next. All the
boat-building terms were in French obviously and we needed
some help in translation. These are set into slots in the
frames and faired up and welded in position only after the
plates are put on.
These plates were
fabricated in lengths half that of the boat. The bottom plate
which rests directly on the frames, was lifted into position
by the Knock football team one evening after training.
While this was going
on the rudder and center-board and casing were fabricated
off-site in Dublin and Galway on a commercial basis.
A Perkins engine was
ordered and a Dickenson Stove from Canada.
and Quotations were prepared and got for the many items.
I would estimate that
I spent 12 hours a week on this alone, throughout the project
and another 4 hours a week on logistics. That would be apart
altogether from reading NWP exploration history.
‘milestone’ was turning over the boat. To do this it had
to be stiffened up with temporary bracing and hauled out of
the shed so that a crane could get at it.
This was done on
Saturday September 9th, the engine and center board
casing being put in before hauling it back into the workshop.
The rudder had been put into position before turning –
otherwise a very big hole would be needed from which it could
be pushed up!
At the Southampton
Boat Show, the following weekend we placed orders for Spars
and Rigging – the single biggest equipment order.
The strength of
sterling against the Irish Punt was hurting our budget, but
little could be done other than to get on with it.
Oddly, despite out
best efforts to buy in France, these came to nothing; other
than Goiot Headsail Furling Gear and Deck Hatches, both
through UK. agencies. The mast extrusion also came from
France, with finishing work done in the UK.
Our sail order we
happily placed with our friend Phillip Watson of Howth. He
used a Hood cloth manufactured in Clonakilty, County Cork and
had the sail built in Essex, England.
The deck went on in 4
mm sheets, with plenty of tricky cutting and fitting around
the cockpit and wheel-house in particular.
5.7 ton of scrap lead
had been delivered and in 5 or 6 long-day sessions was cast
These would later be
placed in the ballast-box, located on either side of the
The center-board was
lifted by block and tackle and dropped into position on
October 21st. Building of fuel tanks (5) and water
tank now started in Dublin. And here we were most fortunate to
have the active help of our friend Peter Gargan, who not only
gave us the run of his precision sheet-metal works, but put
his best men at our disposal. And indeed long after the tanks
were installed, in early January 2001, continued to help with
fabrication of fittings, in stainless steel and aluminium
At a team meeting in
Knock on November 18th, a schedule review indicated
the necessity for paid help in carpentry. Happily an
ex-Beneteau Frenchman now married into Mayo was available. He
has done virtually all the woodwork.
The next milestone was
the application of 75 mm of sprayed insulation to the inside
of the hull above the floorboards. Before doing this, all
welding of fittings to the deck had to be completed, of which
there are many, the hatches and surrounds and internal wiring
also had to be completed.
Our March 12th
Internal Bulletin No 6 showed Boat Status as being:
the name of both the boat and the project
welding is completed, including deck fittings.
is insulated, 75 mm.
and Water tanks installed.
and Bulkheads are in, by Joiner Francois.
Fix Joinery is in progress. Forward 3 berths and Forepeak are
Rigging, Dingy, Outboard and all Equipment and Fittings
are delivered, except as below noted.
will do the engine exaust system. (needed in 3 weeks). Its
insulation will follow.
to completion – 4-5 weeks.
reckons that he’ll have ready for a May launching
plans full time presence from about June 1st.
Boat Equipment Action
Gearoid to organize JRC 1500 EX USA $ 1,000
Chain Jarlath / Paddy
The above gives little
indication of the content and complexity of work done, and yet
to be done.
Frank and Terry would
not be joining until Illulisat, west Greenland. Happily Pat
Redmond and Harry Connolly would take their berths.
They are old friends
from way back and friends of ours too. Both are
climber/sailors. Pat was a man to be reckoned with in
championship dingy sailing and makes any boat he’s on go
that little bit faster – not always in total silence mind
you! He’s been on all the ‘Saint Patrick’ Scottish and
Irish cruises over the last ten years. He’s married to Phil
in Rathfarnam and have four lively young lads.
Walkinstown, Dublin, lives in Luxemburg now with Miriam. He
has been on Saint Patrick north to Melville Bay in Greenland,
and led me up some pretty ‘airy’ mountain-sides while we
were at it. We, ski-climbed last year around Chamonaix and the
‘Haute Route’ He has two teenagers.
All charts and Pilot
Books covering Canadian waters had been to hand since
Christmas, largely courtesy of Tony and Coryn Gooch. We had
first met in Ushuia, Tierra Del Fuego and subsequently in home
waters (Ours, theirs are Victoria, B.C.)
As a result I had
spent happy days over Christmas preparing a detailed Passage
Plan. Full well I know that all plans for Arctic travel are
aspirational. At least it was our starting scheme and as
U.S.A. employers I once had would describe it, a
Most of the Greenland
charts I already have.
An article some months
ago, by Lorna Siggins, included our email address. From this
we got some interesting mail, but none more useful than that
from Mal Walsh, an Irish-Canadian with extensive experience of
and contacts in the Canadian Arctic Work-boat Fleet. He has
put us in touch with just about every Skipper going into the
Arctic this Summer. In the coming month they will have their
Schedules and we’ll be able to establish radio contact.
Brendan Minish of
Castlebar is setting up our Communications System. We’re
going HF Radio without Satellite Communication.
I’m a registered HAM
EI 6GH, but not particularly familiar or interested in it. I
just want to bop the on-button, the frequency and
What Brendan has
organized for us in addition to Lap-top reception of
weather-fax and ice-reports is an Email facility; Pactor! This
originates as a H.F. signal from the boat, but is picked up by
Land Stations on an automatic basis, and forwarded onward on
the conventional land-line system, and vice-versa.
I’m a doubter!
We’re getting 406
Epirb for when or if real trouble should strike.
Also for this reason
we’re setting up a ‘walk-out’ package, for use in the
event of shipwreck through ice-crushing. This will be a tented
‘base-camp’ type set up while we go for or await help. We
have no intention of pushing ourselves into such, but much of
the same gear can be used for climbing or trekking on
Greenlands west-coast, and later by opportunity.
Insurance on the boat
cannot be had. Various underwriters convey their best wishes
and willingness to provide cover once in the Pacific Ocean.
that cover both sailing and climbing are provided by BMC,
British Mountaineering Club. These are being availed of on an
individual basis, much encouraged, as a problem for one
becomes a problem for all, if not properly prepared for.
The making of Power of
Attorney and Will, while not having any direct impact on the
Project, are encouraged.
Bill Tilman once
disparaged, “eating out of boxes does not make an
‘expedition’ of it”.
But the right gear and
food is essential. Our lists, born of our previous ones, are
elsewhere on this web-site.
Mike is looking after
procuring and packing of Meat and Fish, mostly to be tinned.
Frank is looking after
the rest of the grub.
With our Dickenson
Stove, we’re hoping to eat well. We will have a
2 ring stove as well for the quick brew-up.
Kevin has charge of
galley crockery, pots and pans and Terry has organized the
finest frying-pan you ever did see, a heavy rectangular
stainless-steel job measured and made to fit the Dickenson,
with close fitting lid. I hope it never goes flying!.
At Easter, on a round
call of who’s starting when and where, Frank, Kevin and
Terry opted for joining ship 4 weeks after our Westport start.
Two of these berths are being taken, as I wrote, by Pat and
Harry and now the last one is being taken by Gearoid’s old
school pol, and my son, Cathal.
Cathal uses, as do his
sisters, the Irish form of his name, De Barra. He’s a
big-firm lawyer, who moved his not insubstantial, and very
international, Coke Bottle collection out of home to his
office. At 31, he has traveled the ‘gringo-trail’ world,
or as much of it as taking a full year-out and optimizing
He’s a canoeist and
general adventure all-rounder. As last to join, how’s he
going to like the bunk in the bow?
Thus ends our Progress
Report No1. I’ve written it on a week ‘break’ in
Tunisia. Future ones are unlikely to be as lengthy.
looking forward to getting back to expedition preparations and
particularly to our first day in Clew Bay under sail with