Chris Bray: Arctic sailing expedition

By Chris Bray 8 November 2013
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Aussie adventurers Chris Bray and Jess Taunton are making the final adjustments for their Arctic sailing trip.

WELL, WE’RE ALMOST READY to start. It does rather seem sometimes like this whole getting-everything-ready process is the hard part, and sailing away into the midnight-sun is our light at the end of the tunnel. We hope to leave this weekend – providing no more problems surface in the meantime.

In summary, we’ve built a cool shelf and hanging cupboard for our clothes in the heads, compartmentalised our ice-box pit into a hinging, multi-level cool-storage extravaganza, added another large lead-acid battery to our battery bank (which required building a whole new battery housing box), and poured Spartite in around the mast – sealing it at long last while simultaneously removing the need for mast-wedges or the rubber packing that so scarily fell out last year.

Our little solar-fan in the forepeak no longer leaks either, and we made a spice-rack holder for the galley and a log-book and pencil holder for the navigation area. We spray-painted our life-ring fluoro rescue orange to make it more visible (no idea why they’re all white around here?) and Jess painted a kangaroo on our windvane self-steering.

Jess has been up the mast a few times epoxy-painting some chafe-points, and we’ve both been up various friends’ masts helping ready them for the Canadian summer after storage – if summer ever gets here – it’s still windy, rainy and cold just about every day here. Even the locals are astounded.

Inflatable boat

‘Get Dingy’ – TICK! We’ve been looking for a small Rigid hulled Inflatable Boat (RIB) for Teleport for some time now, basically as a dingy to get to and from shore and explore around, and also in theory to be able to tow Teleport or even act as a lifeboat if necessary. It needed to be small, no longer than eight feet so that it would fit (inflated and ready to go) on deck behind the mast, and a rigid hull (rather than the more common inflated or slatted floor inflatables) to make it a bit more durable when dragging up onto rocks, ice, etc.

We looked everywhere but there was nothing exactly what we wanted, until we bumped into our old friend Bill from Amphibian Inflatables – the fiberglass expert who helped us repair that delaminated section of the keel last year – and he offered to custom-build one for us within two weeks, extra-robust with extra handles, keel-guards and rub-strips, complete with Teleport-Green trim! We know the quality of his work from last year, and considering as Bill makes the highest quality inflatables for the military, for National Geographic, Coast Guard etc – we couldn’t be happier!

After much anticipation and popping by his shed watching our little RIB take shape, he finally delivered it to us last week, and it is AWESOME!

Fuel consumption

Another exciting development has been the arrival of three amazing Turtle-Pac flexible fuel tanks – two x 50L and one x 100L – designed for either water or diesel. We already have a 200L flexi tank for our drinking water, and will use one of these 50L as a drinking reserve, but the main thing is that our engine fuel tank holds only 42L, and up in the Arctic it can be a long way between fuel stops and reports are that there can be an awful lot of motoring to get places when you need to, and so we’re filling the 100L tank with diesel and strapping it on deck, as well as the other 50L filled with diesel stashed in part of our cavernous bilge, and a 20L jerry-can, giving us a total capacity of 212L, which gives us about 175hr of continual motoring, and a motoring range of about 700 miles.

After an hour-or so motor up and down the ‘Northwest Arm’ / inlet here (as you can see from our live tracking map), we determined our fuel consumption to be about 1.5L/hr with an average speed of 4kn, which can be cranked up to a blinding 5.3kn now that I’ve taken up a little slack in the throttle cable and taken apart the injector nozzle and cleaned that.

In an all-too-real sign of our immanent departure, Jess just went on the largest shopping spree of her life, and bought a full four-months of supplies the other day from a bulk wholesale place – filling Terry’s van – including 168 chocolate bars and 9kg of porridge/oats! Impossibly, she’s managed to organize, document and stash it all away somewhere on-board in various water-tight containers.

Windy ambitions

The final major To Do – something that Teleport’s been desperately needing – is a fancy stainless steel arch/frame up over the back of the cockpit to mount various critical pieces of gear on, namely our radar, solar panel, GPS and AIS antennas and *drum roll* our ‘Air Breeze’ wind turbine.

When we finally got it finished and installed such that it could never come off the other day – the last major job – and I triumphantly wired everything up including our new ‘WatchMate’ AIS transceiver mounted our wind turbine on top we were finally feeling like everything had come together at last, and went out for a test sail, only to discover that – devastatingly – the way the sheet ropes fan out impossibly far aft from our junk-rig sail that on one particular angle of sail the blades of the turbine would actually be able to strike the sheet ropes!

NOOO!!! You can’t begin to imagine our despair.

At the very least I was sure we’d have to rip the whole arch off the boat somehow, and even then I had no idea how we’d be able to re-mount the turbine further back without basically re-making it…Anyway, I placed a dejected phone call to Derek, who promptly saw it as just another (unfortunate) opportunity for a good decision, and despite having to fly interstate the next day for a family crisis, devised a solution, welded up some new parts, and came down last night in the pouring, freezing rain and stood there cutting and grinding and drilling and shivering for hours on our stern to re-mount the wind turbine for us while I tried to hold an umbrella vaguely above him so that we wouldn’t be forced to delay our departure.

I bought a lovely little second-hand acoustic guitar from another yachtie around here – thanks Mark – and Jess got a harmonica from down town, and we’ve been enjoying a bleary-eyed couple of minutes of incorrectly strummed chords and piercing missed notes every evening or so before we fall asleep, longing for those peaceful hours sailing just around the corner.

Just a few last minute things – buying a larger, stronger anchor today and 90 feet of new chain, a few extra charts etc, and on Friday evening we’re having a little farewell party here on/beside Teleport.

Cheers, and keep an eye on that tracker page on Saturday (weather permitting) as the green line draws itself out and away from Halifax into the wide blue yonder!

Read the full version of Chris’ blog on his website: