As reported earlier, Mike Johnson and a crew of two men are currently attempting to complete a transit of the Northwest Passage that was halted last season by the heaviest concentration of sea ice seen along that route in well over a decade — a true anomaly in this era of generally diminishing polar ice pack.
Having left his 44-ft fiberglass schooner Gitana to endure winter temperatures of minus 50° while hauled out at remote Cambridge Bay, Canada, Mike and his crew spent a couple of weeks in July preparing her for sea, then had her refloated via a giant construction crane. According to MIke, Cambridge is the only possible haulout site along the route. He barely made it there last season before pack ice set in. Had he not, he would have had to winter-over aboard, hoping the surrounding ice didn’t crush Gitana‘s extremely thick, yet vulnerable hull.
The latest report from Mike’s shore liaison, Connie Schaekel, tells us that Gitana has left the remote village of ‘Tuk’ (Tuktoyaktuk) in Canada’s Northwest Territories, headed for Hershel Island, Canada, where they hope to top off fuel. From there, they will head for Demarcation Bay, just over the border of Alaska. This leg is the longest leg of this year’s voyage," says Connie, "but all systems are working and the crew is in good spirits." Updates come via Mike’s Spot device.
As Mike explained to us earlier this year, the general definition of a Northwest Passage transit is from Arctic Circle to Arctic Circle, in either direction. So, Gitana will have completed hers when she reaches Nome, Alaska. We wish Mike and his crew the best of luck.
Meanwhile, we’re following the progress of another bold adventurer: Russian-born Rimas Meleshyus who departed Sausalito recently in his vintage San Juan 24 daysailer, Pier Pressure. Although Rimas is a smart fellow who speaks six languages, he simply would not be dissuaded from attempting to sail around the world — via Cape Horn — on this tiny vessel.
During his four-month stint in Sausalito’s Richardson Bay anchorage, Rimas made many friends who admire his spunk while being generally concerned for his safety on the open ocean. And this morning, some are gravely worried about his fate, as his DeLorme tracker plot shows him heading toward Hawaii at roughly 3.5 knots, directly toward the assumed path of Tropical Storm Lowell unless — according a weather analyst who is trying to assist Rimas — he does an about-face and heads ESE into more stable conditions. But that’s not the only threat. According to the same source, "An area of low pressure is deepening very rapidly and will almost certainly form into a cyclone within the next two days." If so, it would be named Hurricane Maria, and it, too, could overrun Pier Pressure. Hopefully, Rimas will take the advice and radically alter course.
If you’re planning a trip up to Port Townsend for the 38th annual Wooden Boat Festival at the Northwest Maritime Center, September 5-7, be sure to get there a day early for an extraordinary special event you won’t want to miss. Cruising legends Lin and Larry Pardey have teamed up with shipwreck survivor Steve Callahan, author of Adrift, for a full day of classes on September 4.
The morning session starts with Callahan’s presentation ‘Aquatic Caveman’ and ends with the Pardeys’ ‘Storm Tactics’. In the afternoon session, the intrepid trio will share ‘The Adventures That Shaped Our Lives’, as well as hold a Q&A session afterward. This is a unique opportunity to see your sailing heroes in the flesh and hear their stories firsthand — as well as ask the questions you’ve always wanted answers to!
The event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and costs $95 for the whole day, $50 for the morning session, and $60 for the afternoon session. For more info, click here.