PROGRESS REPORT NO. 1
Paddy Barry, April 2001
Why dont you forget about your Hudson Bay,
said Jarlath Cunnane to me, and do the North West Passage?
Why not indeed: For lots of reasons!
A round trip to Hudson Bay from Dublin could be done in one 3 month
I had a boat, the old working Galway Hooker Saint Patrick,
well proven on previous arctic trips to Spitsbergen in 1990 and north-west
Greenland in 1993; that would be fine for Hudson Bay.
That 3-month formula had worked well previously. Identify an area-of-interest-,
or better still a circle-of-interest do-able in one Summer, without
the expense of laying-up or flights.
On our first big trip in 1985, across the Atlantic, we had laid up
for the winter in Tenerife, before continuing west in 1986. That lay-up
had given us a very pleasant cruise south from Ireland, allowing call-ins
to Portugal, Madeira and The Salvage Islands. But then came the hassle
and cost of boat haul-out, storage, and on our return a complete re-caulking
job where the planks of Saint Patrick had shrunk. No a round-trip
was the way to go.
However, Hudson Bay had very little going for it, other than that
it was there. Singularly dull, foggy and bordered by flat lands, there
was none of the vitality of Greenland or the Antarctic about it.
In 1997 we had followed Shackletons route, by small boat and
then mountains, of his escape after ice crushed his expedition vessel
Endurance in 1915. He described that in his book South.
We called our trip South Arís pronounced areesh,
this being the Gaelic for again. The seas that Shackleton
sailed were anything but dull and the mountains of South Georgia rise
majestically, straight out of the sea.
Some weeks after Jarlaths suggestion, I ran into Frank Nugent at the
Irish Film Centre and in the drinking of pints and talking that followed,
agreement was made that we should go on a worthwhile trip again. Frank
is a climber and expedition-man. From the Wicklows, to the Alps and
Himalayas his boots have ever taken him to the high ground, including
Frank had been joint-leader with myself on South-Aris, and Climbing
I must presume that the North-West Passage was prominent in our conversation.
Frank works with the Irish Government training board, Fas, and lives
in Palmerstown, Dublin with Carol and their younger son.
A week of two later, in The Cobblestone in Smithfield,
Dublin, I said to Jarlath that I would do the Passage with him, going
the full navigation season in the first year, and giving it my full
6 weeks annual job-holidays each year thereafter until we got through.
When and in what and with-who, all remained a clean blank sheet.
Jarlath and myself had been good friends since about 1986. We had
met after my Atlantic trip. Co-incidentally he too had sailed the Atlantic
that year, though in more fraught conditions, his passage being in the
northern sector and in Autumn.
As a construction manager for a Dublin firm, we shared job interests,
Im civil engineer in the same line. We were never short of things
to talk about. Jarlath is a doer. He was on South Arís.
He had built the Shackleton small-boat, we called Tom Crean.
He had built in steel his own Van De Stadt 34 Lir; and many a
smaller boat before that.
A year or two after we met, he felt he had to say to me Im
a carpenter you know. Such was his general technical knowledge,
that Id assumed some far higher formal learning. He was from,
and lived in, Knock in County Mayo, with his wife and two grown daughters.
But the Irish economy and construction scene was such that rarely did
he get to work west of the river Shannon.
Myself in 1970, as a junior construction engineer had asked my boss
where I should base myself. He advised that you could draw a line between
Cork and Dublin and the work would never be that far from it. I bought
a house in Baile-na-Manach (Monkstown) Dublin and there Mary and I brought
up our 4 there and there we still live.
Three-days before Christmas of 1999, Jarlath, Frank and I met, and
decided that we would investigate all aspects of doing the NWP and two
months hence, by March 1st 2000, decide whether to go for it or forget
Choice of boat was the major matter. Jarlaths Lir, at
34 foot, we considered too small to carry the quantity of rations that
would be needed; though being built of steel it would otherwise have
been suitable. Saint Patrick would have carried the load,
but with an unwieldy gaff rig is most unsuitable for ocean sailing.
In any event I didnt fancy her being left on the eastern Pacific
when the project was over. We looked at a semi state-owned steel yacht
which might, with modification have been OK, but considered the practicalities
and timing of her return too uncertain.
With our friend Terry Irvine, who had been to Greenland on Saint
Patrick and is a keen Polar-Man and connossier of polar boats
we discussed options as between buying and building.
For 20 years the French Damien class boats have been the
vessels of choice for the expedition sailor. Built of steel for strength
and ease of repair, they have an easily handled ketch rig.They have
retractable center-board and rudder, allowing entry into shoal and uncharted
waters, and have a rounded hull form to prevent being pinched by ice-pressure.
But where would one be found, and at what cost?
In 1993 we had been aboard one in Nuuk, Greenland, owned by a French
family on a three-year tour. Northanger had been in Tierra
Del Fuego when we were there, and was now busy doing an over-wintering
in south Ellesmere, a 100 year following of Otto Sverdrup. Jerome and
Sally Poncet had Damien II, the best known of them all, based in the
Falklands and summering yearly in the Antarctic.
We had been aboard Damien II in South Georgia. At a Cruising
Club of America dinner in Annapolis the following May I had asked Sally
whether Jerome was here. Not a chance she said. No these
are special boats owned by special people, not likely to be found in
marinas, or bought through Yachting Monthly.
Pelagic, which we had employed in 1997 as our expedition
support boat might be for sale and would be suitable, but with the dollar
so strong against the Euro, would be out of our price range. We dismissed
the notion of re-engining a fishing boat. We like to sail and decided
to build. But what?
In the first week of January 2000 Terry, Jarlath, Frank and I met
in the North Star Hotel, handy for Terrys train from Belfast.
We decided to buy plans for a French Nadja 15 from her designer
The Nadja can be built without curved plates in either
steel or aluminium. Our first cut at the cost of materials and fittings
Jarlath was going to finish up his Dublin-based employment and begin
the rest of his life, starting with building this boat. His knees had
been giving him trouble, preventing him from doing his site-supervision
which required constant jumping down into trenches, climbing of scaffold
and walking of sites. With the heavy work being done with local help
and ourselves on week-ends, Jarlath would do the building.
Where would it be done? Jarlath had a workshop in Knock of adequate
size, but he was moving to Castlebar and this was going to be sold with
his house in Knock.
We could buy and set up a polythene tunnel shed or there was an empty
factory by the sea in Clew Bay which might be rented.
As regards Project Title and Publicity our thinking was influenced
by our South-Aris experience, happy and satisfactory, though
much more public than we wished for this one. We now desired a balance
between unnecessary publicity and that required for sponsorhip of individual
Finance was unclear as yet. In this context we were mindful that for
South Aris the initial cost forecast was £ 50,000
and it eventually cost about £ 110,000! The boat would become
The Team, so far were Frank, Paddy & Jarlath. Terry was most interested,
but time and job restraints might be unsurmountable. Wed like
a musician as well, particularly if he could sail. Mike Brogan was to
Paddy proposed that Jarlath be Skipper.
The four of us agreed to put up £ 350 each, for Jarlath to visit
the Designer, buy the plans and if possible to see a built Nadja
I was to talk to Mike Brogan, and I was hardly off the phone when
his cheque came in. I also was to pursue information on logistics and
contacts and to source a Building Polytheme Tunnel.
Frank was to prepare a brochure for potential sponsors, to identify
land-objectives and to research the Irish Connection, McClintock,
McClure, Crozier and such.
Wed meet in about 2 weeks.
This was all serious stuff, but I have to say that none of it was
entirely new. For years past Pat Colleran, Paul Cooper and I, in the
glowing aftermath of Irish Cruising Club Lunches, would set verbal sail
for the Passage, usually around mid-night. With their memories of east
and south Greenland with John Gore-Grimes on Shardana re-kindling
their enthusiasm, whipped to a blaze by more recent Hebredian sailing
on Saint Patrick, we would sail the North West Passage.
For Paul, overwintering was a must. No flitting home when
the ice froze for him. No sir! The full experience required living and
working through the Arctic winter!
Both would have been first-choice shipmates on this, or any other,
expedition. But Paul is busy with young family and work. Pat lost a
battle with cancer in July 2000.
May God rest him.
By February 20th, matters had moved along. We now had a Plan, no longer
a vision, a mission or any of that warm and fuzzy stuff. Our internal
Bulletin No 3 set it out.
The Objective, we defined as to sail the North West Passage (NWP),
from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, in the track of Irishmen who
first explored these regions.
The Plan was:
To build a Polar Ice-Strengthened Sailing Boat, a Nadja 15 metre (49
Feet), starting in April 2000, launching in February 2001.
To sail in late June 2001, departing Westport. Calling to West Greenland
three to four weeks later. (Crew changes possible).
Thence to go as far as possible that season, as far as we can get before
the sea-ice stops us, in September.
Once round Point Barrow in Alaska we would continue to Vancouver, leave
the boat there and fly home.
Progress will be determined by sea-ice; about 5 small (less than 60
feet) boats have been through. At that time Willie De Roos is the only
one to have got through in one season, two or three seasons being the
norm. The seasons vary greatly as to ice conditions;
a 5 week period beginning in late July being best.
If closed in by ice well haul up the boat on shore and fly home.
There are settlements
with summer air service every two to three hundred miles along the
The following July a Crew will fly out to continue.
Jarlath, Frank and Paddy, so far, with invitations sent to Mike Brogan,
Adrian Spence and Terry Irvine.
We need also a further team member who would be Commercial Manager.
We want to get our team finalized in the coming weeks so that:
(a) Our Brochure will include Mug-shots & CVs.
(b) We can get our seed capital contributions.
Aluminium is our preferred material, over steel:
· It is much easier to work. Woodwork machinery with tungsten
tipped blades can be used. Jarlath has the machinery.
· It does not rust.
· It does not need external topside and deck painting.
· It holds its value.
Aluminium is however more expensive.
Steel materials would cost 7 tons @ £600 / ton plus paint £3,000
Aluminium will be circa 5 tons @ £3,000 / ton plus paint @ £1,500
Hull Building time in Aluminium would be about 3 months.
Hull Building time in steel would be about 5 months, with added machining
costs by others.
Lofting of the plans to make framing templates is starting on Monday
Feb 21st. in Dublin.
From these, preparatory work on framing 75 mm x 60 mm angles, can go
on, once we have the material. Wed like it in a fortnight.
Boat Building Location.
The ideal would be an existing shore-side shed near Rosmoney, Westport.
Were talking to the owners.
Alternately Jarlath's Knock workshop.
Alternately the less attractive option of building a Polythene Tunnel
Shed. We have a location for this in Castlebar.
We would hope that Fãs may be able to help with individual engineered
Finance / Costs
Preliminary Boat Build and Fit Out, costs were detailed.
Other Significant Costs are:
· Rations and Fuel. We would hope to get significant contributions
in this area; though a certain amount will have to be purchased, en
· Clothing. Each arranges his own. Mostly we have.
· Flights. Each pays his own. These we expect to be about £1,000
a go, whether from Ireland to Greenland, or from Arctic Canada to Ireland.
· Insurance. Ditto. We do not expect the boat to be insured.
We (Frank , Jarlath , Paddy) decided that we need funds in order to
get this project going, and pay for the hull materials; we also need
some funds in hand to purchase other items ahead by opportunity.
We therefore decided that the team-members subscription for the first
year of the expedition would be IR £3,350 i.e. £3,000 on
top of the £350 if already paid, and that this should be paid
in the coming 3 weeks, partly because we need the funds and partly to
This places no obligation to participate beyond the first year.
We will get out a Brochure, to be used in approaching specific companies
for support. Frank is preparing this.
We will confine our approaches for support / funding to corporate groups.
We were not going to do a pre-expedition lectures, flogging of Tee-Shirts
or the like.
Northabout, dreamed up by Mary Barry, looked good.
The last week of February brought Terry, Mike Brogan, Kevin Cronin and
John Coyle aboard as paid up team members. We now had a full team and
funds to get boat-building. There was no formal consideration and decision
The project had its own momentum.
For the first, and probably only time in the project, we were ahead
We did a who-does-what list.
John and Kevin were the money-men organizing commercial support and
Frank would get out a Brochure and organize rations, with Mike Brogan
also in on the Stores. Paddy would Co-ordinate delivery of Boat Materials
and Equipment, liase with Authorities and deal with Navigation and Logistics.
Jarlath would only have to build the boat!
Mike Brogan, apart from owning the Galway Hooker MacDuach, is a fiddle-player,
medical doctor, good sea-cook and is all round good company. He was
on Saint Patrick to Spitzbergen and has sailed his own boat
to Norway, backwards and forwards to Brittany and you could run in to
him anywhere on the Irish west coast. In his other life he sings madrigals
with his wife and about 20 others in the choral group Cois Gladaigh
He lives in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo with Laura, and his youngsters
now in College.
Kevin Cronin, accountant and long-time friend of mine as we lived nearby
in Mount Merrion / Booterstown. Dublin. Our families grew up taking
holidays together in France and Spain. The Mammys and kids would
car and ferry it. Kevin, the lads and myself would sail out in the Hooker.
And Kevin has been on and around all the trips since, except Spitzbergen,
which I think he has regretted ever since and determined to miss no
more of what God gives. It is however as convenor and pacifier that
Kevin shines, with his quiet humour youd hardly know it was happening.
He lives in Foxrock, Dublin with Suzanne and his youngest girl still
under the family roof.
John Coyle, Economist and Man of Business in Galway was Mikes friend
particularly. None other of us has sailed with him and in that respect
is the unknown in the team. Indeed its not John who Id be
concerned about. Hes rock solid. Its the likes of ourselves
that hell have to put up with! He lives, with Sally and 6 youngsters,
overlooking the River Corrib where it flows into Galway bay.
Terry Irvine, briefly introduced earlier, is a farmer by back-ground.
He sails his own boat out of Carrickfergus on Belfast Lough. He has
been ocean-sailing by opportunity including Saint Patricks
Greenland outing. As might be expected of any good Ulsterman, he is
reliable and knowledgeable. Hes married to Yvonne with one four-year
Thats us, and although Gearoid O Riain did not join the team
until a few months later, well introduce him here.
Gearoid is a free-man. If he doesnt like his boss, he leaves.
If he wants to work he works. But on a boat he is the most agreeable
ship-mate and is first out of his bunk when action calls. He is a friend
from youngest school-days, of my son Cathal and was on Saint Patrick
to Spitzbergen and Greenland. Hes a school-boy no more, working
(mostly) now in Computers.
Work started on Good Friday 2000.
We had decided on Aluminium, lofted the frames at night in March in
a Dublin engineering site office.
Jarlath had rigged his mig-welding gear for aluminium, and got his
own aluminium welding technique up to specification.
Aluminium is clean to work with and can be cut and machined with woodwork
tools and machinery. This was all about, as the building was being done
in his joinery workshop.
Jarlath may get round to writing a technical Appendix to this. In the
meantime Ill describe it as I saw and helped on it.
The workshop floor was marked out accurately with center-line and frame
spacing at 1 metre centers.
Each frame is made of angle 75 mm by 50 mm to take a bottom plate of
12 mm thickness, a lower plate of 6 mm and top plate of 5 mm.
The frames were prefabricated and incorporated extension pieces calculated
to allow of upside down construction. Standing the frames in position,
the hull shape was evident in full scale. These were accurately plumbed
The stringers, or lisses, as the drawings described them were next.
All the boat-building terms were in French obviously and we needed some
help in translation. These are set into slots in the frames and faired
up and welded in position only after the plates are put on.
These plates were fabricated in lengths half that of the boat. The
bottom plate which rests directly on the frames, was lifted into position
by the Knock football team one evening after training.
While this was going on the rudder and center-board and casing were
fabricated off-site in Dublin and Galway on a commercial basis.
A Perkins engine was ordered and a Dickenson Stove from Canada.
Lists, Specifications and Quotations were prepared and got for the
I would estimate that I spent 12 hours a week on this alone, throughout
the project and another 4 hours a week on logistics. That would be apart
altogether from reading NWP exploration history.
The next milestone was turning over the boat. To do this
it had to be stiffened up with temporary bracing and hauled out of the
shed so that a crane could get at it.
This was done on Saturday September 9th, the engine and center board
casing being put in before hauling it back into the workshop. The rudder
had been put into position before turning otherwise a very big
hole would be needed from which it could be pushed up!
At the Southampton Boat Show, the following weekend we placed orders
for Spars and Rigging the single biggest equipment order.
The strength of sterling against the Irish Punt was hurting our budget,
but little could be done other than to get on with it.
Oddly, despite out best efforts to buy in France, these came to nothing;
other than Goiot Headsail Furling Gear and Deck Hatches, both through
UK. agencies. The mast extrusion also came from France, with finishing
work done in the UK.
Our sail order we happily placed with our friend Phillip Watson of
Howth. He used a Hood cloth manufactured in Clonakilty, County Cork
and had the sail built in Essex, England.
The deck went on in 4 mm sheets, with plenty of tricky cutting and
fitting around the cockpit and wheel-house in particular.
5.7 ton of scrap lead had been delivered and in 5 or 6 long-day sessions
was cast into ingots.
These would later be placed in the ballast-box, located on either side
of the center-board case.
The center-board was lifted by block and tackle and dropped into position
on October 21st. Building of fuel tanks (5) and water tank now started
in Dublin. And here we were most fortunate to have the active help of
our friend Peter Gargan, who not only gave us the run of his precision
sheet-metal works, but put his best men at our disposal. And indeed
long after the tanks were installed, in early January 2001, continued
to help with fabrication of fittings, in stainless steel and aluminium
At a team meeting in Knock on November 18th, a schedule review indicated
the necessity for paid help in carpentry. Happily an ex-Beneteau Frenchman
now married into Mayo was available. He has done virtually all the woodwork.
The next milestone was the application of 75 mm of sprayed insulation
to the inside of the hull above the floorboards. Before doing this,
all welding of fittings to the deck had to be completed, of which there
are many, the hatches and surrounds and internal wiring also had to
Our March 12th Internal Bulletin No 6 showed Boat Status as being:
Northabout is the name of both the boat and the project
All welding is completed, including deck fittings.
Hull is insulated, 75 mm.
Fuel and Water tanks installed.
Floors and Bulkheads are in, by Joiner Francois.
2nd Fix Joinery is in progress. Forward 3 berths and Forepeak are done.
Spars, Rigging, Dingy, Outboard and all Equipment and Fittings are
delivered, except as below noted.
Terry will do the engine exaust system. (needed in 3 weeks). Its insulation
Joinery to completion 4-5 weeks.
Jarlath reckons that hell have ready for a May launching (J.I.T)
Gearoid plans full time presence from about June 1st.
Boat Equipment Action Required (A/R)
Radar Gearoid to organize JRC 1500 EX USA $ 1,000
EPIRB A/R Paddy
3rd Anchor Chain Jarlath / Paddy
The above gives little indication of the content and complexity of
work done, and yet to be done.
CREW, AGAIN and PREPERATIONS
Frank and Terry would not be joining until Illulisat, west Greenland.
Happily Pat Redmond and Harry Connolly would take their berths.
They are old friends from way back and friends of ours too. Both are
climber/sailors. Pat was a man to be reckoned with in championship dingy
sailing and makes any boat hes on go that little bit faster
not always in total silence mind you! Hes been on all the Saint
Patrick Scottish and Irish cruises over the last ten years. Hes
married to Phil in Rathfarnam and have four lively young lads.
Harry, from Walkinstown, Dublin, lives in Luxemburg now with Miriam.
He has been on Saint Patrick north to Melville Bay in Greenland, and
led me up some pretty airy mountain-sides while we were
at it. We, ski-climbed last year around Chamonaix and the Haute
Route He has two teenagers.
All charts and Pilot Books covering Canadian waters had been to hand
since Christmas, largely courtesy of Tony and Coryn Gooch. We had first
met in Ushuia, Tierra Del Fuego and subsequently in home waters (Ours,
theirs are Victoria, B.C.)
As a result I had spent happy days over Christmas preparing a detailed
Passage Plan. Full well I know that all plans for Arctic travel are
aspirational. At least it was our starting scheme and as U.S.A. employers
I once had would describe it, a Plan-of-Record.
Most of the Greenland charts I already have.
An article some months ago, by Lorna Siggins, included our email address.
From this we got some interesting mail, but none more useful than that
from Mal Walsh, an Irish-Canadian with extensive experience of and contacts
in the Canadian Arctic Work-boat Fleet. He has put us in touch with
just about every Skipper going into the Arctic this Summer. In the coming
month they will have their Schedules and well be able to establish
Brendan Minish of Castlebar is setting up our Communications System.
Were going HF Radio without Satellite Communication.
Im a registered HAM EI 6GH, but not particularly familiar or
interested in it. I just want to bop the on-button, the frequency and
What Brendan has organized for us in addition to Lap-top reception
of weather-fax and ice-reports is an Email facility; Pactor! This originates
as a H.F. signal from the boat, but is picked up by Land Stations on
an automatic basis, and forwarded onward on the conventional land-line
system, and vice-versa.
Im a doubter!
Were getting 406 Epirb for when or if real trouble should strike.
Also for this reason were setting up a walk-out package,
for use in the event of shipwreck through ice-crushing. This will be
a tented base-camp type set up while we go for or await
help. We have no intention of pushing ourselves into such, but much
of the same gear can be used for climbing or trekking on Greenlands
west-coast, and later by opportunity.
Insurance on the boat cannot be had. Various underwriters convey their
best wishes and willingness to provide cover once in the Pacific Ocean.
Personal Insurances that cover both sailing and climbing are provided
by BMC, British Mountaineering Club. These are being availed of on an
individual basis, much encouraged, as a problem for one becomes a problem
for all, if not properly prepared for.
The making of Power of Attorney and Will, while not having any direct
impact on the Project, are encouraged.
STORES and RATIONS
Bill Tilman once disparaged, eating out of boxes does not make
an expedition of it.
But the right gear and food is essential. Our lists, born of our previous
ones, are elsewhere on this web-site.
Mike is looking after procuring and packing of Meat and Fish, mostly
to be tinned.
Frank is looking after the rest of the grub.
With our Dickenson Stove, were hoping to eat well. We will have
a propane-burning 2 ring stove as well for the quick brew-up.
Kevin has charge of galley crockery, pots and pans and Terry has organized
the finest frying-pan you ever did see, a heavy rectangular stainless-steel
job measured and made to fit the Dickenson, with close fitting lid.
I hope it never goes flying!.
At Easter, on a round call of whos starting when and where, Frank,
Kevin and Terry opted for joining ship 4 weeks after our Westport start.
Two of these berths are being taken, as I wrote, by Pat and Harry and
now the last one is being taken by Gearoids old school pol, and
my son, Cathal.
Cathal uses, as do his sisters, the Irish form of his name, De Barra.
Hes a big-firm lawyer, who moved his not insubstantial, and very
international, Coke Bottle collection out of home to his office. At
31, he has traveled the gringo-trail world, or as much of
it as taking a full year-out and optimizing holidays allows.
Hes a canoeist and general adventure all-rounder. As last to
join, hows he going to like the bunk in the bow?
Thus ends our Progress Report No1. Ive written it on a week break
in Tunisia. Future ones are unlikely to be as lengthy.
Im looking forward to getting back to expedition preparations
and particularly to our first day in Clew Bay under sail with Northabout.
April 28th, 2001