Saturday, 13 July 2013

An Unexpected Gale and a Sheltered Passage

After a number of days of motoring up the Greenland coast in light winds, a forecast 20 knot southeasterly promised to reduce our incessant usage of diesel fuel. Because our radio communications in the wilderness are best in the evening, we are usually using one-day-old forecasts, but they generally hold true.

As Friday dawned, the open sea outside Iserquk presented us with the same rippled water and light winds as had graced our previous passages in this country. We resolved to have a short day by stopping at Anders Olsens Sund, some 30 miles "down the road".

On approach to this anchorage, it seemed there might just be enough wind to carry us along the coast under sail. But would the wind hold?

We decided to try it out, knowing it might lead to a fairly long day. Little did we know!

As we shaped our course toward 80 mile distant Faeringe Nordhavn, the wind built and built. So did the waves. As the winds passed 35 knots and the waves passed 4 meter height, the autopilot suggested by its actions - or lack of them - that it had no further interest in steering. I leapt outside, not really dressed to be out in the elements, and began steering. It was VERY cold but with the wind well aft, there was fortunately little spray as yet. Claude dressed for the weather and relieved me so I could in turn get on my heavy sailing gear and do my hour at the wheel.

In time, with crew relieving each other at steering duties, the wind grew to 45 knots and the sea to 5 meters. We were certainly sailing and saving fuel, but this was not the day of sailing we had envisaged. As the wind built, the sun eventually came out and brilliantly lit the foam topped rollers dumping their crests into the cockpit. An optimist would note that the cockpit, awash in ocean water, was cleaner than it had been in ages.

As day wore into evening, the winds crested and began to reduce leaving a very lumpy sea behind. At this juncture, the autopilot graciously offered to resume its shirked steering duties. Then evening wore into -- well, more evening [there is no night here] --- and the wind died completely. We were left motoring the last few miles to Faeringe Nordhavn.

We all agreed that we had never seen such a SHORT serious gale; and the day ended as it had begun - with our motoring in light winds.
And of course, when we retrieved the NEW forecasts, our 20 knot southeasterly had been replaced by a genuine 40 knot gale.

On Saturday morning, we decided to continue our route north along the Ikerasarssuk, an inside route leading from the Faeringe Nordhavn anchorage toward Disko Bay. This inside route through narrow channels gave a wonderful opportunity for us to get a close-up view of the rocky moss-covered Greenland landscape. A side benefit was the avoidance of the still sizeable waves left over from yesterday's gale. In stark contrast to the previous day, the water in the passage was only rippled and the deck was as steady as a parking lot.

At 13/07/2013 19:19 (utc) our position was 67°57.60'N 053°40.21'W

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