Bagan then slammed as she had done in the monstrous seas we’d been dealing with for the past month. It made no sense. We were in the most se- cure of anchorages that was all but sealed off from large seas. Another slam. And once more a sharp and deep rumble told me that we were dragging our anchor—with a rock-faced shoreline not twenty feet behind us. Somehow the demonic winds outside had found us. We were being buffeted by seas large enough to lift and drop all sixty tons of our boat. For waves to grow substantial enough to have this power, they need an uninterrupted “fetch” of at least several thousand yards to build up in height.
We had been no more than fifty yards from any of the sheer granite walls that the winds were now pushing Bagandown onto at a great rate of speed. As the deep rumblings told us, the anchor was no longer holding, and despite the zero visibility in the blackness of the gale-filled night, I knew contact with the jagged and strong rocks to be imminent. All I had to saywas, “We’ve got to get out of here and now.” Everyone fell into the respective roles they’ve been performing for the past 8,000 miles. I made sure Sefton didn’t mind my jumping in over his command (he didn’t) and started Bagan. Even though the radars and GPS were all active and working, the half-second lag that each one gave was a deadly half-second. Equally, I couldn’t rely on the lag in the compass to show us our way out. We couldn’t see a thing. Bagan could be facing west and the radar would show the distant exit as north. I’d turn her to the north, and by the time the radar showed north, the powerful wind would have pushed us well past our mark and we’d now be facing east.
Checking the instruments, the wind-driven over-correction would take no longer than two seconds. But in that short amount of time, we would go from facing the exit shown on the radar to seeing with our spotlight a steep granite-faced wall no more than ten feet away being pummeled by four-foot wind-driven waves. From the foredeck, Chauncey would call out: “Rocks, back her down!” I’d gently push her in reverse then pour on the coals. Dominique from the stern would then holler: “STOP!! Rocks …!” I’d take a look at the radar, try to anticipate its next swing, putBagan in forward, crank the wheel all the way to port or starboard, and give her a large shot of power to try to swing her stern away from the rocks. Before he’d get a chance to say it, I’d see the rocks lit up by the rain-slashed beam from the searchlight in Chauncey’s hand. “STOP … rocks!” Back and forth we went, each maneu- ver taking perhaps three seconds. We were driving blind and at any moment a broadside blast of gale force wind would push all fifty-seven feet of Bagan violently sideways, something I could only tell by the new way in which she was leaning and taking the confused seas.
By this point, our collective goal was to keep Bagan moving. Getting out was beside the point. With visibility impossible, this futile maneuvering was all done by feel and it was only when we were seconds away from certain destruction on the rocks that I’d know the outcome of the attempt. We were in a very small and prison-like washtub of confused and large seas driven by winds that were cascading down the sheer-faced mountains—winds thatcame from all directions on the compass at once. The scenario was the same one that we faced a month earlier as we left the Aleutians into the Gulf of Alaska. But there we had room to maneuver, time to try and figure out the beating we were taking. Here we had none.
( TO WATCH THE OFFICIAL HD TEASER FOR “The Other Side of The Ice” [book and documentary] PLEASE GO TO: VIMEO.COM/45526226)
A sailor and his family’s harrowing and inspiring story of their attempt to sail the treacherous Northwest Passage.
Sprague Theobald, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and expert sailor with over 40,000 offshore miles under his belt, always considered the Northwest Passage–the sea route connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific–the ultimate uncharted territory. Since Roald Amundsen completed the first successful crossing of the fabled Northwest Passage in 1906, only twenty-four pleasure craft have followed in his wake. Many more people have gone into space than have traversed the Passage, and a staggering number have died trying. From his home port of Newport, Rhode Island, through the Passage and around Alaska to Seattle, it would be an 8,500-mile trek filled with constant danger from ice, polar bears, and severe weather.
What Theobald couldn’t have known was just how life-changing his journey through the Passage would be. Reuniting his children and stepchildren after a bad divorce more than fifteen years earlier, the family embarks with unanswered questions, untold hurts, and unspoken mistrusts hanging over their heads. Unrelenting cold, hungry polar bears, and a haunting landscape littered with sobering artifacts from the tragic Franklin Expedition of 1845, as well as personality clashes that threaten to tear the crew apart, make The Other Side of the Ice a harrowing story of survival, adventure, and, ultimately, redemption.
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Genre – Memoir, adventure, family, climate
Rating – PG
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