Sunday, 30 June 2013

Greenland Arrival

Our nine day sail from Iceland to Greenland lasted less than 20% of the duration of our longest voyage to date but has to rank as the most challenging. It was completed mostly under much reduced sail with the wind almost always from ahead as we sailed Traversay III as close into the wind and waves as was possible. As the crossing progressed, sea and air temperatures in the gusty winds and flying spray dropped from 9C [48F] leaving Iceland to a bone numbing 3C [37F] as we sailed in behind Kap Farvel. Sailors know, of course, that you can't hoist sails and tuck in reefs with gloves on!

Having sneaked past storm force winds near Kap Farvel to deal with a mere gale, we were initially presented with a benign forecast that promised to waft us on toward Nuuk with, if not following winds, at least gentle ones.

Iceberg in the fog
But it was not to be!  As  we crossed the longitude of the Cape, whisperings started of Gale warnings around Kap Farvel before we would be able to clear the area.  A perusal of the Greenland ice maps followed by a phone consultation with the Danish Met organization's "Ice Central" suggested we could make an end run around the pack ice coursing around Kap Farvel and tuck in behind it for a safe arrival in southern Greenland ahead of the gale.  It is vastly more pleasant to wait for fair winds in port rather than at sea!

We chose to make for Narsaq rather than Qaqortoq for no other reason than that our onboard information suggested the harbor was less crowded - or perhaps we thought pronounciation would be easier when we told the authorities our new destination!!

What followed was a bit more work than we expected. With about 70 miles left to sail, 50 of it in open water, fog thickened, the water temperature dropped radically and little black dots marking icebergs began to appear on the radar.  Icebergs are not a major problem precisely because they DO appear on the radar.  But where there are icebergs, there are often "smaller" caterpillar-tractor sized pieces of ice that are invisible to radar.

Thus, for our last night at sea, rather than spell each other off to provide four hour sleep periods as we usually do, we took short turns outside in the cold dodging growlers and bergy-bits while the other watched the radar screen to plan the best route through the larger bergs toward our destination fjord. During all this the wind kept increasing with the forecasted gale so we had to maintain the watch and course alterations while shortening sail.

Narsaq Harbor
A few miles from the coast, the fog finally cleared to reveal the horizon ahead studded with mountains.  The icebergs that had hitherto been black electronic dots and occasional ghostly apparitions in the mist revealed themselves in the foreground as emerald hued apartment-block sized floating islands. All this grandeur was brilliantly lit by a golden sun reluctantly declining in the northwest.

Dinner ashore!
The wind died as we entered the fjord with 20 miles left to Narsaq. Under power we continued our bergy-bit dodging in the midnight twilight, the task immeasurably eased by the ice being hidden in ripples rather than waves. Sure we were passing the night without any sleep but after our windward slog out in the ocean, it was a joy to be drifting up a placid fjord surrounded by majestic dawn-lit mountains.

Then ... tie to a fishboat ... walk in the town ... dine out with someone else doing the cooking and dishes.


At 29/06/2013 07:50 (utc) our position was 60°54.46'N 046°02.63'W

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