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Kendall Forced Back From N'th West Passage Attempt

28 August, 2005

Kendall Forced Back From North West Passage Attempt

Graeme Kendall


New Zealand yachtsman and adventurer Graeme Kendall has been forced to abandon his attempt to become the first person to sail solo non stop around the world via the Arctic Northwest Passage, in his yacht the Astral Express.

Kendall is currently in Baffin Bay close to Lancaster Sound, the entrance to the North West Passage. On advice from the Canadian Coast Guard, ice experts, and other vessels in the area, Graeme made the decision yesterday that it would be too dangerous to proceed with his journey, as ice continues to block the entrance to the famous passage.

Although there is a chance that part of the passage will open up, there is only a remote chance that the route through the Arctic Circle would be clear for the whole passage. There is also a high probability, due to the current conditions, that the sea will freeze over again, blocking any escape route.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have made the decision not to proceed further towards the North West Passage, “said Kendall from on board the Astral Express. “The conditions are now too dangerous and I can't go against Mother Nature and commonsense, it would be foolish to proceed at this stage. The advice I have received from the Canadian Coast guard and the ice experts in the Arctic, and from fellow sailor Skip Novak on Pelagic is that the conditions in the passage are not favourable for this season. The passage is not expected to open and a retreat would be dangerous.

“My plan is now to head south out of the ice-bergs and make for Nuuk, the capital of Greenland which is also known as Godthab meaning Good Hope. The last land I saw had the same name some 8250 nautical miles ago. After 4 months at sea and over 18000nm under the boat it is disappointing to have to change direction but there is an old fisherman’s saying that - a decision made early is better than one made too late.”

Kendall Abandons North West Passage Attempt

When the wind fades away and the fish stay at bay,
When the rain you need never comes.
And the clouds obscure the sun and the sea turns grey.
You wished you’d sailed around the world on another day.

After experiencing all the North Atlantic could throw at him Kendall and the Astral Express were in good shape to make the attempt at The North West Passage. After sailing through the eye of Tropical Storm Harvey, dodging Hurricane Irene and being flattened by a rogue wave, Kendall was looking good to make Lancaster Sound in time for the Summer passage season.

While Kendall was sailing through the North Atlantic, he experienced wind speeds which were “off the gauge” and towering seas during Tropical Storm Harvey. With Hurricane Irene next in line, and chasing him, Graeme headed due West towards the coast of Canada, keen to avoid another roller coaster ride. It was a rouge wave from nowhere, however, that came closest to capsizing the Astral Express.

“I was in the cabin, and had just made a cup of coffee. I looked out the porthole and there was a wall of water right in front me,” recounted Kendall. “I had no time to do anything. Within seconds the wave hit. The boat was flattened on the water and I thought she was going to roll.”

“Luckily the boat righted straight away and all I was left with was a cabin coated in coffee, which took me hours to clean,” said Kendall. “It was a timely reminder that things can change very quickly out here and you have to be on guard at all times.”

Despite the drama of the North Atlantic, Graeme was in good spirits as he entered Baffin Bay on 24 August, all his gear and the boat had survived the severe weather conditions intact.

“I have just sailed through Davis Strait, sometimes escorted by pilot and beluga whales, and am now in Baffin Bay inside the Arctic Circle. I am enjoying good sailing conditions now, if a little cold at 3-8 C, and am on constant iceberg watch.

Birds are ever present now, Glaucous gulls and Arctic skuas mainly. There is a large ice pack in the centre of Baffin Bay and looks like Lancaster Sound will be my first sighting of land since Cape Town. Reports of the North West Passage clearing of ice are not overly optimistic, but there is still time. Boat and skipper are in good heart.”


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