We dined with the bears in view. They watched us and we watched them. When the galley extraction system sent the aroma of broiled chicken skyward, I thought I saw the mama bear put her nose in the air and take a few deep drafts. How fortunate were we to be sitting in the cockpit and whenever we felt like it, glance over to see what these bears were doing? Sometimes they crouched on all fours, other times they lay on their sides. I dozed off at midnight; the bears were still awake. I came on deck at 6. Both bears were lying in a small hammock of grass, fast asleep. There was no movement on board; it was a pleasure to simply watch them rest. About 0700, the young bear rolled on his back and proceeded to execute an enormous stretch, forepaws extended and hind legs as well, the way Finn, our black lab on board might do. The mother stirred but did not rise. Ice started coming in around the point of the island and sweeping towards the boat. Time to prep poles once again urge the floes passed.
Around mid-day the bears made their way from their hammock down to the water. They roamed along the beach, consuming a bit more seaweed. A light, misty rain fell. The clouds descended to the water; tails of mist curled off the edges. The bears walked out of view, leaving the island empty. We would miss them.
As it would be another 4 to 6 hours before the next ice chart was scheduled to be published, Hutch decided to send the twin-engine rib to the entrance of Maxwell Bay so the crew’s report on ice, wind and sea could be compared to the forecast conditions. Markus, Richie and our ice pilot Germain prepared the boat and themselves for the 20 mile round trip voyage. Extra precautions were put in play – multiple means of communications, AIS tracker on the tender, and our state of the art insulated “Mustang suits”, and ski goggles for the team. A thermos of hot coffee with chocolate and milk was added for good measure.
The reconnaissance team delivered a favourable report – wind in the 20s, 1/10 to 2/10 ice, seas less than 1,5 meters. “We’ll wait for the ice chart, and assuming the sat radar and chart agree with Germain’s observations, we’ll heave up anchor and head east.”
With a few hours to burn before departure, Richard set up a small fleet of remote control yachts and we enjoyed some jousting and rendezvous sailing near Rosehearty. Yacht racing in the high Arctic!