AuthorTopic: Sea Gypsy Ray Jason Goes on an Epic Adventure  (Read 1391 times)

Offline RE

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Sea Gypsy Ray Jason Goes on an Epic Adventure
« on: September 19, 2017, 01:45:17 AM »
I had a falling out with Ray a while back, which caused me to stop cross posting him or even reading his blog, Sea Gypsy Philosopher.  However, I went over there to see what he might have to say about the Hurricanes hitting his hunting grounds of the Carribean, and also probably taking out the yachts of a few Sea Gypsy friends who happened to be moored in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What I found though surprised me.  I'm not sure RJ even knows about the Hurricanes.  He has gone on a TRUE Adventure, attempting to negotiate the Northwest Passage with some sailing friends.  They are trying to make it from Greenland to Alaska via Sail.  That is Ernest Shackleford or Roald Amundsen territory of Adventure.

Gotta admire Ray.  He is around 70 now, still in great shape, still can Juggle and be a valuable asset to a crew of intrepid sailors trying to make a crossing like this.  Hat's Off to Ray Jason, an amazing Sea Gypsy.



by Ray Jason

Monique and Jack - 2 young sea

The waters of the Archipelago of Bliss have been a wondrous reservoir of inspiration for me as I meander through my Middle Years.  My secluded life amidst these tranquil islands has blessed me with a perspective and clarity that is difficult to attain by those chained to the cacophony of the Real World. 
But since my earliest conscious dawning in my teen years, I have been attracted not only to a life of thought, but also to the call to action.  Jack London, Joseph Conrad and Richard Burton were the type of literary figures who appealed to me because they combined both words and deeds.
Lately, I have been questioning whether the comfort of these peaceful lagoons has seduced me away from that combination of adventurer and philosopher which so exhilarates me?  Have deeds succumbed to words?  Peering into my heart of hearts, I have to answer, YES.
So it was time for a change.  Fortunately, the gods of adventure smiled upon me with an exciting possibility.  Some highly-skilled sailors, who are also very dear friends, invited me to join them in an attempt this summer to sail across the legendary Northwest Passage.  When they offered me this opportunity, I immediately thought of Alan Shepherd’s line in the movie THE RIGHT STUFF when they were recruiting him to become an astronaut: “Sounds dangerous … count me in!”       

In about a month I will tuck AVENTURA in for a long rest, and then fly to Newfoundland to join my friends Jay and Danica aboard their splendid sailboat ALKAHEST.  We will then sail north to Greenland dodging the icebergs drifting south from the Labrador coast.  While visiting settlements along the west coast of Greenland we will be monitoring the breakup of ice in the Canadian Arctic.  Hopefully, it will be significant enough to allow us a chance to sail all the way across the northern edge of Canada to Alaska’s north shore and then around into the stormy Bering Strait.
Although conditions have been warmer and more favorable the last few years, as recently as 2013 it was almost completely impassable.  We have to be prepared for a situation where we cannot go forward and cannot retreat.  This means having to “winter over” for about 8 months of almost total darkness in polar bear paradise.  Playing for such dire stakes reminds me of a superb quotation from more than two thousand years ago by the great Greek playwright Aeschylus:

“Life for him was a perilous adventure, but men are not made for safe havens.”


And yet when I look from afar at the evolution of society in my birth country, I am saddened to see that so many young people, who should be clamoring for challenges and danger, are instead demanding “safe spaces.”    Not only are they repelled by the notion of physical jeopardy, they are so soft that they don’t even want their feelings hurt.  In many cases this neurosis is so severe that they become outraged not by any specific verbal criticism, but from the fear that someone’s opinion might “trigger” their sensitive emotions.
Aside from the almost comic-operatic absurdity of such conduct, it is also symptomatic of the American Empire in its death throes.  But there are serious consequences to not developing a realistic and hardened understanding of the world -a world that may swiftly become much more TRULY REAL than their dreamland of instagram and twitter and siri.


I believe that the crucial task of the philosopher is to ignore the clamor of the moment and instead attempt to see the long trends.  My observations in this regard are not encouraging.  I’ll focus here on the USA, but much of this applies globally.   
Let’s follow the long trend-line back to 19th century America when most of the nation was comprised of farmers.  They were extremely self-reliant and could provide for all of their basic needs such as food, water, housing and clothing.  Shift to the 20th century and the agrarian majority is rapidly declining as the factories are built and the cities swell.  These folks were significantly less self-sufficient, but the labor unions and industrial base allowed for a successful and secure middle class.
The late 20th century saw major changes that were less obvious, but extremely impactful.  The making of real things was replaced by the making of … virtual … stuff.  It was heralded as the Information Age, but the most important information – the fact that all of the good jobs were being secretly shipped overseas where Asians were pulled from their farms to work in factories at slave wages – was not revealed.
By the 21st century the U.S. had morphed into the Consumer Economy.  About 70% of economic activity was people buying crap they did not need with money they did not have.  It was like the fairy tale town where everybody makes a living doing everyone else’s laundry.  Like a circle in a circle – like a wheel within a wheel.   
But as the high-paying union jobs disappeared, a pseudo-backstop was  provided in the form of unemployment checks and food stamps or EBT cards.  This means that nearly half the population is completely dependent on the government for survival.  On top of this, millions of young people are drowning in student debt.  Toss in the government’s ability to conduct 24/7 surveillance of almost everything a person does.  And then add the militarization of the police so that they look like Galactic Storm-troopers.
Does this not look like a scenario where the average citizen is exceedingly vulnerable and where the government is enormously powerful?  And let me not forget to mention the electronic addiction that has seduced and weakened the will of the people.  As long as they have their iDistractors they will overlook the steady deterioration of every other aspect of their lives.  They will ignore the trajectory that is leading them to a future of cyber-serfdom.


It is for these reasons that we need a younger generation that seeks UNSAFE SPACES, instead of coddled protection zones.  And as unlikely as the prospects for this are in my birth country, at least out here in the waters filled with world citizens, I am seeing an encouraging movement.  There are more and more young people from all lats and longs, who understand in their core being the folly and tragedy of “that life back there.”
So, instead, they are adopting the Sea Gypsy path.  They are buying tired old sailing boats that are a bit raggedy, but that can be restored.  These provide them a home with independence and mobility.  They are learning the venerable sailors’ skills of how to flow with the winds and the currents.  They are rejecting a life of comfort - and embracing a life of adventure.
I salute them.  And that’s because even though they may not realize it, they embody my elemental belief that:  The Road to the Future leads to the Past.   
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Offline RE

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Re: Sea Gypsy Ray Jason Goes on an Epic Adventure
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2017, 02:11:24 AM »
Apparently they made the crossing in one piece.  They arrived in Nome 2 days ago.  :icon_sunny:


Nome, Alaska

17 September 2017
All of our boat projects are completed and we're waiting for the next weather window to leave Nome and head to Kodiak, which looks like Thursday 9/21.
We've posted some pictures in the NW Passage photo album. Internet is VERY slow here and it's taken over a week to get these uploaded!
All is well on Alkahest.
North West Passage Completed
12 September 2017 | Nome, Alaska
Where to start? Internet & cell phone coverage has been non-existent and so much has been experienced since the last blog. I'll try to keep to the highlights and will fill in any details over a bottle of wine when we see each of you again. Which by the way, sounds absolutely fabulous right now as Nunavut (Canada's newest territory) and the Northwest Territory are dry territories where NO alcoholic beverages are available.
Thank you Dana for posting our daily position and short updates!
We left Greenland and headed to Arctic Bay, Nunavut. Our crossing of the Baffin Sea from Greenland to the north tip of Baffin Island was incredibly smooth with no major weather conditions.
We had some icebergs, bergie bits and growlers (basically small, medium and large icebergs) throughout out travels but we were feeling more and more comfortable with them as they became a part of our everyday travels. We were also given a quick lesson on how to maneuver through ice when we were leaving Greenland. We were traveling through an ice fjord and came upon a section with very heavy ice forcing us to zig zag around trying to find an opening. With Michael on the boom (for a better view), Jay driving and the rest of us fending off ice with our ice poles, we found ourselves surrounded with ice and at one point ran aground. Please remember, that these locations are not charted like the more popular travel spots and therefore we were often 'feeling' our way through.
We were excited to arrive in Arctic Bay as it was another milestone in our travels, but as we entered the Bay our excitement was soon deflated. Our plans for a nice, calm, and uneventful anchorage was soon shattered as the bay was filled with various sizes of bergs. We circled several times to try to find a place that was somewhat ice free but also had an acceptable depth for us to anchor. We have 300+ feet of 5/16th" anchor chain and in order to maintain a 5:1 ratio we need to anchor in 60 feet or less. In Arctic Bay you practically have to anchor next to the shore for that depth. As well, we were all anxious to have cell coverage, internet, a shower and get our laundry done - but the little town we approached didn't show signs that these items would be available.
As Arctic Bay doesn't have any customs or immigration, we checked in with the R.C.M.P. and were able to get our passports stamped. Although small, the town did offer most everything we wanted (except for cell and reliable internet) - but man is it expensive!! Just to give you an idea, one can of Canada Dry Ginger ale is $6.00. But if you buy a case of 12, you get it for a bargain of $59.99. A small and basic room at the only hotel was $350/night but you had to purchase your meals separately ($40 per person for breakfast, $65 for lunch and $85 for dinner), and a package of cigarettes was $24.00! Fortunately none of us smoke and the hotel manager allowed us to take showers for $10 each, do our laundry for $15 a load and allow us to try to connect to the internet for $5. However, with all of that said, the people of Arctic Bay were incredibly friendly, curious about us and willing to help in any way.
We were waiting in the Arctic Bay area for a new transmission to arrive (that in itself is a long story) as we were worried that the new transmission we installed before leaving on this trip was going to fail and we tried to have another one shipped to Arctic Bay. I say 'tried' because that transmission has gone from Seattle to Ottawa (from where it was supposed to be shipped to Arctic Bay but never was), back to Seattle and now on its way to Alaska. It has more stamps on its 'passport' than most people! So while waiting for the transmission and the ice to break up to allow us to proceed we decided to go on a narwhal and polar bear safari. We found a couple of beautiful anchorages which were calm and somewhat ice-free (and by now our tolerance for ice is pretty high, so 'ice-free' is a relative term)! We were able to get off the boat and go for hikes (yes, we had our shotgun with us at all times) and although we did see polar bear prints, we thankfully didn't come face to face with one.
In the wee hours of the morning we were awaken by a loud crunch, which we all jumped up to address as we assumed it was an iceberg hitting the boat (not the first time). Greg was out the hatch first and as we were all getting dressed, the boat was being turned and heeled over as if we were in a serious whirlpool. By the time we were on deck everything was calm and not a ripple in the water, and no iceberg near the boat. What the heck happened?? As we were checking the boat for damage, Jay saw that our snubber (a support line for our anchor chain) was off the chain and when he went to adjust it he couldn't get the snubber line off of the cleats because it had been pulled so tight. The 1/2" thick stainless steel hook, with 2,200 lbs of working strength was twisted and bent. Again, what the heck happened?? Was it a polar bear trying to get on the boat? Was it a whale that hit the boat? The mystery was somewhat solved when we pulled the anchor up to find whale skin tightly embedded in the anchor chain links. The locals tell us it was probably a Bowhead whale and we're assuming it swam by and either got tangled between the boat and anchor chain or the Mom was protecting its baby from us. We won't ever know, but we do know it was a whale. It's amazing that the cleats weren't torn out of the bow of the boat and the bow pulpit along with them. When we think of what could have happened, we're very grateful for a bent hook and some whale skin!
Ice reports were starting to look favorable, so we left Arctic Bay without the new transmission (thanks Del for picking it up on Ottawa and redirecting it) and headed to Fort Ross where we would wait for ice and conditions to allow us to transit Bellot Strait. On our way we saw our first walrus, a Mom feeding her baby on floating ice, along with many, many seals. The only thing at Fort Ross is 2 old Hudson Bay Company buildings which were eventually used by the R.C.M.P. as a wilderness outpost. Although not actively used, the one cabin is available for use and mainly visited by sailors traveling the North West Passage or those on wilderness treks. The cabin is outfitted with 6 bunks, a kitchenette and a diesel heater. Log books are available to sign as well as markers to sign the wood around the bunks.
Three other boats were waiting at Fort Ross and a couple of those (whom we had met previously in our travels) had more sophisticated communication systems than we had and they readily shared their ice reports with us on a daily basis. The weather and ice conditions change DAILY and on our 3rd day of waiting, 3 of the 4 boats decided conditions were good enough to go. The 2 other boats that left with us, Morning Haze and Nauta D, are larger and faster but the advantage of that is they would be ahead and provide us with weather and ice reports based on real time. While transiting Bellot Strait we saw our first polar bear!! A mom and cub on a large piece of ice hunting a seal. The poor seal was between us and the bears, but made the right choice to stick by Alkahest! The bears were approximately 300 feet away from us and mom was watching us closely as we eagerly took pictures, leaving Jay to maneuver through the ice and currents.
Bellot Strait is only 18 miles long and we made it through without incident. Now, onto Cambridge Bay (still in Nunavut) which would allow us to be ice-free. There was no lack of ice and at times when we were looking ahead with the binoculars it looked like a wall of solid ice that we wouldn't be able to penetrate. But from all of our experience (yes, we feel like we can now challenge Nanook of the North) we learned that it can 'appear' to be a solid wall of ice, but as you approach - and at times you have to be very near - you will find an opening and lead to work your way through. However, at other times it truly was a solid wall and we would have to travel along for several miles until we could find an opening.
Jay and I were on watch one morning and it was one of those foggy/hazy mornings where visibility wasn't great. As we looked ahead we thought the weather was clearing only to find a 30 foot high, 1,000 foot wide and miles long wall of ice immediately appear out of the fog! It was just amazing and because the only incident was a minor inconvenience of not being able to move forward, we were truly in awe of this spectacle.
The next major hurdle, and the one that really made us feel like we WERE transiting the North West Passage was at Tasmania Islands where the ice was so thick we didn't know if we could get through or would have to turn around in defeat. Again Michael was positioned on the boom for a higher, better view, Jay was driving and Greg, Ray and Danica were ready with ice poles. At times the water was so thick with ice, that it was like breaking through a big slushy machine at your local 7/11 and when we had to turn around to try to find another lead we could follow our trail where the ice was broken. An incredible experience that left us feeling successful, jubilant and damned pleased with ourselves once we made it through.
As we continued south the ice became less and less of an issue although at times it was like playing a video game where we were 'slaloming' around icebergs and at times even sailing around them. My oh my how our tolerance and acceptance level had changed since we saw our first iceberg and bergie bits while traveling from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland!
As of August 17th we were ice free!
We spent 3 days in Cambridge Bay, one of the nicest towns in the arctic. We wished we had more time there but time is now of the essence as we have a couple of big hurdles still ahead of us (the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska).
On our way to Tuktoyaktuk (Northwest Territories) we had a bad vibration when running the engine and our initial thought was the prop or strut were damaged by ice. As a result, we couldn't run the engine in gear but were still able to run in neutral to heat the cabin and charge the batteries.
When we arrived in Tuktoyaktuk we immediately put the GoPro camera in the water to try to determine what our issue was but the most amazing thing that happened was a research vessel (named WHY) arrived in Tuktoyaktuk minutes after we did with a group of folks who were diving under the north pole! They willingly donned their gear and dove on the boat and confirmed what the GoPro showed us … the prop and strut were fine but the cutlass bearing had slid in the strut. Sylvan worked for approximately an hour and had the cutlass bearing temporarily fixed until we could get to Nome and haul out to replace it. We had 1,050 miles to go and had to try to minimize using the engine in gear. Fortunately, we had good wind (and at times too much wind) and successfully arrived in Nome, Alaska early in the morning of Sat 9/9th.
We've left the land of 24 hours of daylight and have had to start to get used to night time again but we were blessed to have a full moon and to enjoy the dancing northern lights!
We were all thrilled to arrive in Nome as it was a huge milestone for us and officially closed out our journey across the North West Passage. And since we haven't seen a restaurant since Greenland, Danica (who did the majority of the cooking) was VERY eager to find a restaurant (and a drink)!
With Michael having left us in Cambridge Bay and Ray and Greg in Nome, Jay and I find ourselves alone on the boat after 3+ months of sharing our home. Not only was it a small environment to have 4-5 people onboard at all times, but our varied personalities and needs added to the 'adventure'. Amazingly we all left with our friendships intact and we can't thank them enough for their contribution to our dream and the incredible memories that we made together!
We are attempting to haul the boat out tonight (9/12th) at high tide to replace the cutlass bearing and based on weather forecasts right now we won't be leaving Nome before Sunday.
Pictures will be added to the gallery as soon as a better internet connection is found!
Excited to be in Alaska …
Danica & Jay
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Offline Eddie

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Re: Sea Gypsy Ray Jason Goes on an Epic Adventure
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2017, 12:21:20 PM »
Amazing. Even with climate change, that's one tough sail. Imho they were lucky to get through it smoothly.

Good sailing, and definitely some luck involved.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.


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