Arctic Voyage Milestones

JHH5II-10885Here are a few milestones that we have experienced in the last month:

First Tree

Trees are for me, like most of us I suspect, something I just take for granted. That is until I have not seen one for over two months. We saw our first stunted spruce just north of Nain on the Labrador coast a month ago and they looked just wonderful. And the smell of spruce on the wind…divine.

JHH5II-12146But the really cool thing about trees is how they break the wind. Something you don’t really realize until you have been anchored in the lee of a barren rock mountain as gusts howl down on you unimpeded by trees.

Out Of Bergy Water

We were sailing in water with ice in it for three months, and the strain of staring at the sea for hours on end looking for that growler that could sink us, hiding in the white-caps, was beginning to wear. I can’t tell you how great it is to be able to go below while on watch to make a cup of tea without having to worry.

JHH5II-12512That’s Hannah Gray in the photo, our crew from Greenland to Labrador, who did all of her share of ice watches plus much of mine (as did Phyllis) while I contrived to have some pressing “skipper duty”. Oh, and the way Hannah is dressed indicates a warm day.

Crossed Our Outbound Track

voyage_mapAbout two weeks ago we completed our circumnavigation of Davis Strait by crossing our outbound track in the Straits of Belle Isle. It feels great to have accomplished what we set out to do without any major drama.

A Door Into Summer

After spending the entire summer wearing long underwear (not the same pair, I’m glad to say) as the first of many clothing layers topped off by full foul weather gear, or even an anti-exposure suit, stripping it all off (OK, not quite all) as we entered the warm micro-climate of the Bras d’Or Lakes, was heaven.


“Morgan’s Cloud” locking back out of “tee-shirt country” at the southern end of the Bras d’Or Lakes

Back At Base Camp


Yesterday we arrived back at our “Base Camp” in Nova Scotia, 110 days, 7000 nautical miles, and 60 degrees of latitude (30 up and 30 back) after leaving it.

And if you are wondering what the first photograph signifies, it is to remind us of why we go north, despite the challenges.

Like what you just read? Get lots more:

Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

17 comments… add one
  • Lou Oct 1, 2011, 8:10 am

    John and Phyllis (and Hannah), Well done on your extremely interesting and challenging voyage. It’s been a real pleasure to read and see your expedition unfolding. The wonderful photographs of seas, mountains and people certainly make us wish we’d been there too, but as your experiences testify, not a voyage to be taken without good planning, good crew and a well-tended boat.
    So welcome back, and now I hope you’ll get to put your feet up for a few days to let it all sink in, and catch up with one and all who will no doubt be very pleased to see you back!

  • Dick T M/V Julia Bryant Oct 1, 2011, 8:34 am

    On trees as a windbreak, conventional wisdom says that the windshadow extends around 7 times their height.
    Transiting South along Labrador did you visit Red Bay and the Basque Museum ? We visited there on a motorcycle trip a few years ago as the Museum was just getting established after finding and raising the vessel in the Bay.

    • John Oct 2, 2011, 8:32 am

      Hi Dick,

      I had not heard the 7 times height rule before—interesting. Although I have to say that the wind amelioration affect of trees, particularly on gusting, seems to me to extend a lot further than that.

      Yes, we stopped in Red Bay but did not have time to visit the museum (went for a great walk instead).

  • Victor Raymond Oct 1, 2011, 10:12 am

    John, Phyllis and Hannah,

    Extremely well done. I hope someday to follow in your footsteps coming, though, from the west coast of North America. For sure it will be hard to imitate your seamanship but reading and re-reading your most excellent website will certainly help.

  • David Nutt Oct 1, 2011, 10:54 am

    Sounds like a fantastic trip. Hope we can get together when you are here in Maine.

  • conny Harlin Oct 1, 2011, 3:40 pm

    Fantastic to follow your cruise in Northern Latitudes. Do you consider the climate, I mean daily temperatures like North Norway?? Lofoten, Narvik or what would you compare it with over here in Scandinavia?

    • John Oct 2, 2011, 8:35 am

      Hi Conny,

      Generally I would say that the temperatures are more like Svalbard than Norway. The exception would be Baffin Island, which is substantially colder than both.

  • John Oct 2, 2011, 8:36 am

    Thanks to all for the kind comments and for following along on our cruise. We will be publishing more photographs and maybe an eBook over the fall and winter.

  • tassio Oct 2, 2011, 2:32 pm

    That first shot is awesome!!! Congratulations John!!!

    • John Oct 5, 2011, 8:18 am

      Thank you, Tassio. That is high praise indeed coming from you. (I checked out your great photography on your web site.) That shot is one of my favourites from the summer.

      • tassio Oct 14, 2011, 10:53 am

        Hi John! Thank you very much for your visit to our website and the kind words about our photos! I want to say thank you as well for all the great articles written here about aluminum boats . It really helped us on the process to buy our boat! Not to mention all the high latitude “stuff”, which is of great interest to us, as we aspire to sail thru these areas some day! Great, keep up the great work.

        • John Oct 14, 2011, 4:28 pm

          Hi Tassio, once again, thanks for the kind words.

  • Nick Kats Oct 5, 2011, 7:00 am

    John & Phyllis
    This is a very impressive & memorable post.
    Great pictures, including the track.

    • John Oct 5, 2011, 8:07 am

      Hi Nick,
      Thanks very much for the kind words.

  • Hans Oct 7, 2011, 5:09 am

    Congratulations on your fantastic trip and safe return !
    It’s funny to read the part about the trees: I felt exactly the same when I put into St. Lunaire on NFL, shouting out loud (here is an advantage with singlehanding) out of pure joy about the sight and the smell. And I was only about 5 weeks in treeless areas.
    All the best,

  • Nea Willits Dec 24, 2011, 7:43 pm

    Hi John and Phyllis, Well done, great photos, and Have a Happy Christmas wherever you are. We had a beautiful day the 70s until 5.3o when the temp, dropped into the 60s with wind and rain. Supposed to be a nice day tomorrow. If you ever sail back to Bermuda be sure to let me know.
    With love and best wishes to you both.


  • Richard Elder Jul 4, 2019, 2:49 pm

    Hi John
    The Blue Ocean—- tomorrows’ Arctic

    And if someone wants to understand where the most threatening time bomb in the Arctic lies, look at the methane hydrate deposits lying in the shallow seas off the coast of Siberia. We tend to think of climate change as something that will threaten our grandchildren who might have to wear hip boots in the streets of New York, but in reality the pace of climate change in the Arctic is so rapid that it may trigger events that could completely change the face of the planet in a few decades.

Only logged in members may comment: