Exactly one year ago, on 15 August 2014, I was forced to take the painful decision to abandon my attempt to complete a transit of the Northwest Passage, and turn around. The central section of the Northwest Passage is accessible by one of two gateways: Peel Sound and Bellot Strait.
This time last year both were still blocked by ice and although one or the other may have opened later in the season, the prospect of being forced to spend the winter in the Arctic convinced me to give up… and hope that I would be luckier next time.
As anyone attempting to navigate this challenging waterway will admit, there are three crucial elements that define the Northwest Passage: perseverance, patience and luck. They all bore fruit yesterday when Aventura passed successfully through Bellot Strait and thus reached the Eastern Arctic, and no more serious obstacles on her way to Greenland and the Atlantic.
Bellot Strait can only be negotiated on a favourable tide, so we timed our arrival at its western end to coincide with low water at the start of the ebb.
The 17 miles long strait is renowned for its fierce tidal currents that can attain 9 knots, as we found out when we reached its narrowest part. Helped by a favorable wind and 3 knot current, we were soon sailing at 9 knots.
There was still much ice in the strait, but we had no difficulty in weaving our way through it.
Halfway through the strait we passed Zenith Point. At 72 degrees north this marks the northern extremity of continental America.
Having sailed my former Aventura past Cape Horn, at the continent’s southern extremity, I had now reached its northernmost point.
As we approached the eastern entrance of the strait, the current peaked at close to 8 knots, and we completed the transit of the entire strait in only 90 minutes.
We soon dropped anchor in a bay on the east side of Prince Regent Inlet, the entrance as well as some of the sheltered bay being dotted with stranded bergs.
Too huts of the Hudson Bay Company are still standing ashore, from the days when this was a thriving trading station.
We toasted our success with a bottle of champagne that had been kept for this special occasion since Aventura had left Cherbourg in May last year.
Our plan is to continue north through Prince Regent Inlet into Lancaster Sound, where Aventura will cross her last year’s outward track.