Monday, 10 September 2012

Greenland Pt 2

Our departure from Sisimiut on 8th August was delayed when we found the anchor firmly caught on something some 17 metres below us. We tried all the usual to no avail until I finally called Grendel on the radio and asked them to motor out and help. We made a couple of loops in a 3 metre length of chain, attached one end to a long line, fastened the other loop around the anchor chain and let it drop. We needed a large shackle to get it to run all the way down to the anchor but it finally came to rest securely around the shank. Grendel attached the long line to their stern and motored away. Seconds later Hannah began to move forward as they had successfully pulled the anchor clear of whatever was fouling us. They headed back into harbour and we made for the open sea....
Sunset approaching Sisimiut

The seas outside were lumpy and confused  and we struggled to make progress under engine as the wind seemed reluctant to play its part. But eventually we broke free,spent a few hours drifting and then the wind came and we were off. Racing toward Baffin Island at well over 7 knots on a glorious night. It couldn't get any better and we were looking forward to getting there in record time. But. 108 miles from the coast we came across our first berg and by Friday we were enveloped in fog and speed was down to 2 or 3 knots, no bad thing when fog and 'bergs are your companions. For several days as the wind shifted into the SE we'd been beating slowly; toward Baffin in the day and away at night. We'd given up any hope of reaching Exeter sound but still had hopes we might get somewhere further south but after a week even that seemed unlikely, although we came close to the islands off the southern end of Cumberland Bay and so we opted to keep going. However by trying to reach Baffin we were now firmly east and the constant SE winds had us at a disadvantage. Added to this were currents that seemed to be getting stronger and I began to feel a tad desperate. Last years experience on the Labrador coast had shown us how long it can take to get south and we were rapidly approaching last years turnaround date but were 200 miles north of that position. The log is filled with "grey"  "lumpy" "tacked" "bergs" as we struggled to stay warm in the cold, dripping fog. Progress was made however and we crept nearer to Labrador. At one point with 30 miles to go to the northern tip we were beating south at 3 knots. The compass showed we were heading 210 whilst our true course was about 170 but our track across the ground was between 240 and 265 and I had visions of being swept into Ungava Bay. So fierce currents ebb and flood into the Hudson Strait and we reluctantly tacked NE to try and make more easting to clear. The other problem we had here came from the flow of water across banks causing great square lumpy seas to bear down on us from various directions and we needed to motor frequently in order to make progress through this mess we were in. No doubt some of the turbulence came from current direction changes as well. A thoroughly uncomfortable and unhappy time aboard Hannah. Once we were finally through we began heading for land and a chance for a full nights sleep. Williams Harbour with at least 3 possible anchorages was 30 mile west of us and we opted to heave to until the morning and then sail in during daylight. And so we did despite serious misgivings about approaching an area so close to the Mclelan Strait and its currents. Stoneman Hbr (60 16.57N 64 30.31W) is a small cove in Tunnungsuajuak Inlet that we were hoping would live up to its write up. It did.
 Well sheltered and shallow enough to lay out a good scope it also gave us a welcome sighting of a huge polar bear who was ambling around the other end of the cove before wandering away over the hill after an hour or so. We lit the stove, cracked open a bottle and relaxed. 11 days after leaving Sisimiut, a journey that we would normally expect to have taken 4 or 5 days.

The following day we pushed on, passing the bear lying a an outcrop surveying its territory. We couldn't get weather forecasts so would await a passing ship and call them for info. One such was the Annie Desganges who gave us the info we needed and then called back later to find out what we were up to. They fell about learning of our slow progress as they steamed up from Montreal in a week and yes they responded they did have the heating on, hot water was plentiful but sadly pizza delivery was not included in their job description so they couldn't oblige Bee's request....We drifted or tacked our way slowly south. Fuel was not plentiful on Hannah and, for us, motoring though the night is a non starter we it would mean steering and, as I've all ready indicated it was cold. So we drift or make whatever progress we can with whatever sail set up works. Slowly we worked south and around 57N we picked up Labrador Coast Guard radio and a welcome forecast warning us of a SW25 heading our way and we happily made our way to our second anchorage at Perry's Gulch. Not perfect but good enough for what we needed. We'd had clear conditions for ..... Luckily we'd been into Perry's a couple of times last year so knew how it lay but even so..... It is the "problem" with this stuff, radar, gps etc in that when it goes awol you're suddenly confronted with your fears about being able to continue. Sometimes it seems as though all this safety stuff actually makes us less safe....anyway we crept on but thought we may as well try the radar again just in case. Well it was a "just in case" cos there was the island ahead and the mainland beyond it and in we went and dropped anchor 6 days after leaving Stoneman.

On our second night at anchor we both leapt out of bed at the loudest, sharpest thunderclap we'd ever heard! It sounded so close we couldn't imagine what the hell was going on...well nothing was 'cos the storm was way out to sea and all was calm around us except that the wind was starting to fill in from the NW, it was just what we needed and at 02:30 we upped anchor and headed out. Over the next few days we made soso progress but we moved steadily south still dealing with fog and light winds but moving south and then with the wind shifting to the north we made excellent progress. The last few hours became a tad tense as the seas built up rapidly  and we hurtled on under a double-reefed main. The entrance looked lumpy and the following seas were breaking just about deck level as we roared toward our destination. Once inside the shelter of land the seas eased then smoothed and at 7am on the 1 Sept we pulled into Ship Harbour to find Phillip and Helen quietly tied up to the dock. They'd crossed to Stoneman in 4 days going direct and using the motor when needed and then hopped down the coast.  We were chuffed to see them and happy to be in one of our favourite spots in Labrador. Happiness on Hannah.

And now we're in Cow Head Harbour where we'll be for a few days to let these southerlies blow through. We'd had fast exilerating run down the Belle Isle in a stiff NE. P&H opted to pull ino Port a Choix whilst we headed on as the wind was still strong. Of course it died once we'd got past Port Saunders and we drifted around throughout the night. With fuel getting low we pulled into here, met a friendly local guy called George who ran me and 6 jerry cans to get fuel and then decided to stay here for a few days. Internet access has revealed the threat of two hurricanes on their way north and the sad news of the death of Ned Cabot from drowning a hundred miles or so south of here

So there it is. Greenland is very different to Labrador, settlements exist much further north, tourism seems to be firmly established and cruise ships regularly visit Disko Bay. Internet access is readily available in towns (albeit at a price) via the Seaman's Mission and for the sailor weather forecasts are broadcast regularly for the entire Greenland coast. Unfortunately they're broadcast in Greenlandic or Danish only although gale warnings are also given in English. However a call to the coastguard will produce an English version of what you've just heard. For what its worth we heard,on approaching Greenland, gale warning number 591 and the last one we heard was number 657.....thats a lot of gales in 3 weeks. Luckily, for us, almost all occur around the Cape Farvel area.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing Mick, Bea and Toots, you guys certainly sound as if you had a cool (cold) trip. Polar bears, Bergs and bergy bits, you sound like you had a trip straight out of the log of joshua slocome, thanks again for sharing. A much looked forward to narrative of your travels.

    Rob (the paint claimer :o)) )

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