Friday, 31 August 2012

Greenland Pt1

I'm writing this from the anchorage of Innarssuatsaaaq Island, part of the Gronne Islands; 68 49.8 N 051 52.63 W  . A well sheltered cove that is also, unusually for here, shallow. The entrance lies to the north and beyond that are a dozen or so 'bergs with attendent growlers and bergy bits. The 'bergs are perhaps aground, the growlers and bergy bits aren't and last night saw a small procession of them slowly work their way into the anchorage until the tide turned and we had a little peace. The two sounds that dominate are the Arctic Terns who seem to occupy these green bits of land to the exclusion of everything else and the dull "crump" sound of icebergs breaking up somewhere off in the bay. We heard it frequently yesterday as we came across from Aasiaat and it goes on today. Hardly surprising when we're less than 30 miles from the huge Jacobshavns Isfjord which spawns monsters throughout the summer, which then begin their slow drift across Disko Bay across the Davis Strait to join others coming from Baffin Island and so work their way down the Labrador coast.

In Mahone Bay

Much has happened since we last up-dated so this will be a brief recap over the earlier bits before concentrating on the bit we've traveled long and hard for.

We followed the usual route from Maine to Lunenburg and then onwards via the Lakes and into the Belle Isle Strait. Nothing exceptional happened, bit of fog, some wind, lot of calms but we were slowly catching up on our "schedule". We stopped in the Bay of Islands for a few days as winds conspired against us but then onwards to St Barbe, then Cooks Harbour where we had a much needed shower, did some washing and fueled up. Pottered east across to Quirpon the following day and left 24 hours later, July 4th, for Greenland. A mixed journey with a single days run of 137 but mostly well under 100 miles a day with a large number of nights spent drifting. Cooler now as we made slow progress north. We'd hoped to reach Aasiaat in 12 days but not a chance as the winds became ever lighter.

Maniitsoq - more impressive after days at sea!!
Opted not to go into Nuuk but we gazed in wonder at the rocky peaks we could see above the fog before we eventually made landfall at Maniitsoq when we were faced with a gradually escalating headwind. This is a spectacular setting made more so by the  presence of thick fog until we closed the land and then the town began to reveal itself, perched high above the water. We crept in, tied up for the night ahead of a powerful French motor-sailer and slept!

We were about 200 mile south of our destination so left early the following day to motor up the inside route to a small anchorage at Appamiut, surrounded by mountains still with snow and ice visible.
 The following day we crossed, without ceremony, the Arctic Circle. Onwards with little hope for favourable winds. Like Labrador, travel in Greenland requires enormous patience and a good engine and as the day wore on we opted to try an inside anchorage, worked our way through a narrow channel and into what we thought might be a suitable bay. It wasn't and we motored north across "greyed out" areas on the chart indicating it was poorly surveyed and into ever deeper water. Visiblity was poor and the radar helped us work our way into a sheltered cove out of the strong currents. As we anchored we happened to glance up and were shocked to see a huge mountain towering above us. The fog lifted a few hours later to reveal mountains everywhere. By morning it had returned and we had a neighbour.

 He left for the south as the fog lifted and we decided to try our luck at getting through the Kangerlussuaq Fjord entrance to the north of us. Getting the tides right would mean a fast passage, wrong and we might be swept backwards as they can, apparently, run at 7 knots. Well we had a semi success in that it was only 2+knots against us so we emerged happy and on our way. As we approached the Sisimiut area the wind picked up and still from the north and we headed in for a bit of shelter. The run in was fast with us desperately looking for, as Tilman had all those years previously, Jacobs Skien - a small, difficult to spot rock that lies to one side of the approach. What wasn't difficult to spot were the 3 masts that were in the anchorage! We joined two others in a small, deep bay. It was 11.30 at night and daylight.

A couple of days later we moved on, spending the day beating for 39 miles to cover 22 and into Sydbay, before motoring/sailing the following day up to Faeringe Nordhavn for the night. We'd spoken to a couple (Phillip and Helen on Grendel) we'd met in Sisimiut on the radio but they were much further ahead and never in sight. Wed 25th July was hot, sunny and almost windless. We motored. And motored.... At one point we considered (or I did) stopping in a small village for the night but Bee felt it better to go on. The miles slipped by, the engine seems to be working so much better this year and as the day came to an end we were within a few miles of Aasiaat.
11:30 at night as we approached Aasiaat

The sun was still up as we turned into the last bay at 11.45, still daylight and we anchored at 12.30 in a deep pool. On a small dock we could see Grendel, the boat we'd spoken to previously and the following day we joined them. The dock is on a small island where the abandoned fish plant is so we had fewer concerns about Toots going ashore.

A few asides. It's not possible to wander into this part of the world without being aware of Bill Tilman and his legacy. see website He came here in the 60's in Mischief and wrote wonderfully about the trips he made. I mention him as Bee made a bread and butter pudding that deserved, as Tilman would say, to be in a glass case, and was immediately christened by me as a "Tilman" Moist, sweet and a real "rib-sticker" 

We have carried around with us for the last 5 years a trysail that we've never used. Partly the effort involved and partly because it seemed as though it should be a last resort.
The joys of a trys'l
 For some reason a few weeks back when the wind picked up and the double reefed main was touching the water as we rolled (we hadn't peaked it enough) I thought we might set the trys'l to get a feel for how it all came together.....what a revelation! In the 30 knots we had it was straight forward to use but the real joy was in the handling of Hannah. We tried various combinations and romped along at 6knots+ without any stress of strain on nerves.

Back to the update. We've sampled a couple of anchorages in Disko Bay. Yesterdays is described as Hebridean; narrow, rocky and little vegetation. Open at both ends so we would be susceptible to currents.....and bergs. For a couple of hours all went well. The tide was coming in, the wind in our favour. As High Water approached the wind switched and began blowing 'bergs toward the entrance we'd come through. Not too much concern as it was well protected by small islands and the tide had begun to ebb. But a large growler which had previously past by us hadn't gone far enough to escape the ebb and began its slow journey back through the anchorage. We were anchored in such a way that growlers and bergy bits were naturally swept either side of us as the water separated to flow around the rocks that lay astern. The returning growler was well off to our starboard side and evidently on its way safely through. I went below and about 20 minutes later Bee went up on deck to  check to find this monster right by us, almost under the bowsprit and intent on sweeping us with it. Using oars we struggled to move the thing - it was around 25' long and 10' wide and DEEP. We could see the underwater section creeping close to the hull as desperately tried to move the thing. Gradually we slid it along the hull all the time willing it to stay far enough away from the self-steerer whilst taking the far more practical step of starting the engine once we knew it was clear of the prop. As soon as we had clearance we drove forward using the wash to increase the gap. Bee frantically raised the anchor as we headed out. The neighbouring anchorage is a couple of miles to the north but that too had a succession of ice lumps and the thought of another sleepless night spurred us onto making the 20 mile trip to Godhavn on Disko Island.

Thurs Aug 2nd 67 39.2 N 053 38. 4 W Faeringe Nordhaven
Godhaven is a tiny gem of a place with a population of less than a thousand, a busy, landlocked harbour and a backdrop of steep mountains. A tourist destination for hikers apparently. We stayed a couple of nights before moving onto a nearby anchorage in Fortune Harbour. Or not in this case, as both entrances were heavily populated by 'bergs, growlers and bergy bits...the 'bergs were creaking ominously as we crept by them searching for a way in but it wasn't to be and this became the furthest north we would get - 69 20N.

The weather forecast had promised a rare northerly wind and so we decided we'd take advantage of it and head south in preparation for the crossing, But the wind failed to arrive until late evening and we spent a frustrating time motoring. However by 9pm the wind filled in and with main and genny set we self steered down past Aasiaat and south. A cold night of course with the sun setting around 12.30, rewarding us of a glimpse of the famed "green flash" and the dawn making its presence known minutes later it seemed. By 6 or so the wind had begun to ease and despite cramming all sail on and steering ourselves we were not going to make our intended anchorage. Aasiaat Radio informed us that the winds would switch to the S or SE and up to 25 knots so not what we wanted to hear. We began a slow beat, current against us of course but slowly made our way south, deciding to pull into Faeringe Nordhaven, an anchorage we'd used on the journey north. As we approached we saw Wanderbird -see website leaving the fjord on their way north. A quick gam on the radio and both vessels crossed paths the crew and guests on one lining the rail to see us pass. The tradition of crossing into the Arctic Circle is alive and well on Wanderbird as Rick and Karen ensure that all crew members who have never crossed have their heads shaved..... 

We spent a couple of days in FN, checking different parts of the fjord for anchorages and rowing ashore to a small, fast running stream/waterfall to replenish our water supply. If it hadn't been for the mozzies we would probably washed our hair too.

8 Aug. Anchored in Sisimuit, Hannah ready and snugged down for the journey south. Grendel are here too but in the harbour and hopefully our paths will cross further south soemwhere in Labrador. We're hoping to touch briefly in Exeter Sound on Baffin before heading south proper and giving ourselves 'til the end of the month to reach Ship Harbour. We'll see; last August had us dodging one hurricane and September a further two so this can be a nervous time of the year for us. We'll let you know!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

In the Arctic Circle - will update sometime soon....................