After the quick turnaround at Falmouth, we made a relatively fast passage to the Thames Estuary where we caught the favourable tide for the remaining 40 miles to London.
Shortly after we had passed the Thames tidal barrier, we reached the former Royal Albert Docks. It was from here that I had left in 1974 on the first Aventura with Gwenda, Doina and Ivan on our six year long round the world voyage.
As we turned at a wide river bend, the sight of Greenwich came into view.
Up on the hill above the Royal Naval College is the Greenwich Observatory that marks the zero meridian.
In 1576 Martin Frobisher was seen off from here by Queen Elizabeth I as he set off on the first voyage of exploration of the Northwest Passage.
As we approached Tower Bridge, we were called on the radio by the bridge operator to inform us that he was stopping the traffic to open the bridge and let us pass into the Pool of London.
As we passed through the bridge, I saw Ivan and Gwenda waving from the south bank, where they had positioned themselves to take photos as we passed through the bridge.
Could I have ever dreamt way back in 1969, when I had just arrived in England and saw for the first time this symbol of London, that one day I would arrive here on my own yacht to a hero’s welcome?
The Pool of London stretches between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, at the very heart of historic London, and close to the ancient wall of Roman Londinium from the time of Julius Caesar.
The fortified Tower of London dates back to the 11th century at the time of the Norman conqueror William I.
Moored on opposite bank and marking another one thousand year leap in the eventful history of this great city is the destroyer HMS Belfast of Second World War vintage.
After half an hour in the Pool of London we turned around, and passed through the Tower Bridge that was opened for us once again
I have been very fortunate in having Dunbar Lewis as my crew for the last ten months since we left Annapolis on the east coast of the United States in December last year.
The long passage from Greenland has been a tough experience for both of us, much tougher than either of us had expected.
Dunbar is not only an outstanding sailor but also a very pleasant person to get on with, and I am grateful for his loyal support. Tough and strong, he was the best person to have along in the kind of conditions we encountered.
My old friend Erick Bouteleux is an enthusiastic high latitude sailor, who sailed with me to Antarctica on the previous Aventura and I sailed with him to Spitsbergen on his aptly called Igloo. He gave me much valuable advice when I conceived and fitted out this Aventura.
When we were hit by yet another storm and I commented in an email to him about the forecasts being wrong, this was his response:
“In French we call a forecast “prevision”. And “prévision” ends in “vision”, which is something like a dream. If you want my advice, in sailing forget any kind of dream. Just keep going and enjoy it, if you can.”
Thank you, Erick. Point taken.
And now I would like to thank those who have provided ground support throughout my voyage.
Canadians Peter Semotiuk and Victor Wejer have both spent much of their lives in the Arctic and for many years have been advising sailors embarking on a transit of the Northwest Passage. For a long time Peter was based at Cambridge Bay and from there provided information and advice on weather and ice conditions over the radio or by email. He is doing that now from Southern Canada. Victor has been involved in various projects in Arctic Canada and has a great practical knowledge about the area. I wish to thank Peter and Victor, both in my name and on behalf of all sailors who have greatly benefitted from their generous help of over the years.
While I was away in the Northwest Passage, Doina, who normally manages our events office, was sailing in the South Pacific with the Blue Planet Odyssey on the yacht Drina. During our absence, Jane and Kate had to manage the day-to-day running of our office. They did an excellent job and my grateful thanks go to both of them.
For Doina, sailing with her son Dan to Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu took precedence over the Northwest Passage, which she attempted with daughter Nera last year.
On last year’s voyage I was also accompanied by my niece Marianne, who works in television, and produced a video that you may have seen. She agreed to update it with the material filmed during this year’s successful transit.
As you may have noticed, my family is always closely involved with my various projects and, on a technical level, no one more so than Ivan.
Last year he sailed on Aventura from London to Greenland and did wonders in streamlining all onboard systems. He also set up the tracking system for all our sailing events as well as that of Aventura.
Unfortunately he could not take time off work to join me in the Northwest Passage but continued giving me valuable technical support from afar.
When Ivan went to France to take part in the Paris-Brest-Paris cycling endurance event, Gwenda took over in sending me daily ice reports, dealing with my overflowing inbox, or my many requests for information that I could not access myself. Thank you, GC (ground control)!
Aventura is now safely docked in London with no sailing plans until next spring, and nothing decided beyond that.
During winter I’ll be giving talks or holding seminars at various boat shows, yacht clubs and cruising associations. The venues and dates will be posted on this website and I would be delighted to meet any of you who have been following my reports.
Captain Jim to Ground Control: Mission accomplished! I am coming home.