PCCM's First Luncheon of 2008 A Success
- Ahoy,Once again we had a fine turnout - 28 - of members and guests at our Pacific Merchant Marine Council luncheon aboard the National Liberty Ship Memorial S.S. JEREMIAH O'BRIEN Monday, 10 March. We welcomed three new members to our growing crew: Jeff Wiener, Edward Dangler, and James Kelly.Social time started at 1130 and at noon Phelps called the luncheon meeting to order with twelve bells on the council's shiny new brass bell. The Reverend Jim Wade led us in prayer and Ken Blue, American Merchant Marine Veteran from Grass Valley, led us in the pledge of allegiance.Phelps and his wife Teddy prepared the Irish themed feast: corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes, green salads, cheese, assorted breads, dessert, and coffee. Some wonderful Zinfandel wine was uncorked and enjoyed.A portion of the luncheon proceeds and additional donations - a total of $234 - were presented to Liz Anderson, the ship's shoreside office manager for the maintenance and upkeep of our beloved ship. In addition the drawing conducted by Sally Raanes raise $75; these funds are designated to go toward NLUS memberships accompanying PMMC certificates of recognition to two top California Maritime Academy graduates heading toward a merchant marine career. We thank all who contributed one way or the other.A number of members spoke briefly on upcoming bay area events and activities. Then it was time for our guest of honor and speaker, Capt. Doug Finley, the O'BRIEN's First Mate. He showed photographs and charts of his sailboat adventure through the Northwest Passage. Actually it was his second passage so there were photos of both trips. Land seemed to be mainly desert like tundra - low level and brown with few landmarks. You can read a bit about Doug, the crew, and the transit in the recent Marin Independent Journal article below.All in all a fine event that seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed. As a council we will be gathering off the ship until Monday, December 8th. You are urged to visit the O'BRIEN on your own and book her day cruises.Anchors Aweigh,Phelps HobartPresidentPacific Merchant Marine Council, NLUS____________________________________________Marin Independent Journal
Sailing in Marin: San Rafael sailors capture the Arctic GrailArticle Launched: 03/05/2008 05:12:35 PM PSTDoug FinleyFORTUNATELY for true explorers in search of solitude, at least one great adventure, sometimes called the Arctic Grail, remains - transiting the Northwest Passage, the sea route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans along the northern coast of North America.
Last summer, two San Rafael residents - Doug Finley and Chris Parkman - successfully transited the passage as part of the six-person crew of Cloud Nine, a 57-foot Bowman ketch owned and skippered by Roger Swanson and his wife, Gaynelle Templin, of Minnesota.
Seeking a trade route, early explorers from the time of the Vikings searched for an open, ice-free passage through Canada's far northern islands. Henry Hudson and Captain James Cook failed to find it. The first to succeed was Roald Amundsen in 1906.
"Some people who were looking for it have never been found again," Finley said. "It is sobering. The biggest danger is to be frozen in and crushed by pack ice."
On July 19, Finley, Parkman, and the rest of the Cloud Nine crew began their attempt on the Arctic Grail from Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Heading north, they ran before gales. Motor-sailing through pea-soup fog, they passed the west coast of Greenland. The fog kept them on constant ice alert because they couldn't see the icebergs until almost upon them. Many bergs did not show on the ship's radar.
Crossing the Arctic Circle, they continued north and west, monitoring daily ice and weather reports. Would the narrow passage be ice free, allowing them to pass through to the open waters of the Arctic Ocean?
Luck (and possibly global warming?) favored them. There was less ice in 2007 than in 2005, when the Cloud Nine adventurers, including Finley and Parkman, unsuccessfully attempted the Northwest Passage only to turn back after getting trapped in frozen pack ice and freed by a Canadian icebreaker.
This time, they found success. They were able to pick their way through the narrows. Cloud Nine continued west along the northern coast of Alaska, then turned south, re-crossing the Arctic Circle. With winter fast approaching, they encountered the worst weather of their trip. After sailing in storm conditions for 36 hours with winds gusting to 70 mph and seas reaching 25 feet, they arrived at Kodiak, Alaska, on Sept. 29 - 6,640 miles from Halifax.
So why would anyone, no matter how courageous, want to put themselves through this experience? Why not just watch "Survivor" on television?
"I'm just always interested in new places and getting away from it all," said Parkman, a San Rafael property manager.
"When I got this opportunity, I jumped on it," said the 66-year-old Finley, a lifelong Marin resident and sailor. Since his retirement as a Panama Canal pilot, Finley and his wife Anne have had time to cruise their own boat, the Passport 40 TUCK-A-ROO. Unlike most cruising couples, who prefer the warm waters of Mexico or the South Pacific, The Finleys like to head north - to British Columbia in 2003, and to Alaska in 2004.
Tiburon resident Bob Van Blairicom was not onboard Cloud Nine in 2007, but was on the 2005 trip that was stopped by solid ice.
"For me, the main thing was that it was such a different topography," Blairicom said. "The narrow part of the passage above Canada is a low, bare, forbidding place, almost frightening in its hostility. Most of it just rock, with ice on the water. We saw fresh ice on the water and snow on top of it and we knew we were too late. At this point we were trapped. There is a certain aura of danger about this uninhabited, cold area."