Monday 28th July 2008

Well I don't know I must be lacking dairy, fat or something in my diet because when I saw the iceberg below as I entered Disko Bay all I could think about was rocky road, coffee soufflé and cream covered desserts!

Dessert Berg

Where's my dessert spoon.

After leaving Sissimiut on Saturday afternoon, I motored and motor-sailed in light winds overnight and arrived in at Godhavn on Sunday 20th at about 8pm. The plan was to spend the night and rest up as I would be dodging many more icebergs the following day as I crossed Disko to Ilulissat. As it was there were lots of icebergs and bergy bits to avoid as I sailed the final 8 miles into the harbour.

Disko Island is a relative new comer to Greenland – being of volcanic origin and a very young 60 million years old – the rest of Greenland is roughly 3000 million years old. So the basalt mountains of Disko Island are a striking contrast.

Approaching Godhavn

Approaching Godhavn, Disco Island.

The sail across Disko on Monday kept me on my toes as the wind swung from south to south east to east to north east. Not an issue normally but as icebergs float along bits drop off and become bergy bits, these range in size from football to refrigerator size to the size of a car. It is the refrigerator and coffee table size bits that are a worry. They are hard to see and can make a fair dent or hole in the boat. Bergy bits normally drift off down wind of the iceberg, but as the wind had changed through the day, they were just all over the place and in 20 knots of breeze and a few white caps, difficult to see. All turned out fine though and I made it into Ilulissat dent free.

I then managed a piece of extreme navigation and boat manoeuvring – finding a place to park Tyhina in Ilulissat Harbour! I ended up tie-ing up on the starboard side of a fishing trawler that was swinging on a mooring with 3 runabouts tied off on its port side. Ilulissat Harbour is tiny and jam packed with everything from medium size fishing boats of about 40 feet to small runabouts and inflatables. But we made it with not even a touch on another boat – quite surprising really.

Ilulissat Harbour

Alongside fisherman - Ilulissat Harbour

Disko Bay is a magical place a must see if you come to Greenland – it is where the first of the large isfjords are found – Ilulissat Isfjord is one of the most prolific glaciers in Greenland dumping 40 million tonnes of ice into the sea each day. These icebergs fill the bay then start a long journey north around Baffin Bay and then south along the Labrador coast before melting off the coast of Newfoundland.

The Ilulissat Isfjord is walking distance from the town of Ilulissat and once the icebergs exit the fjord they float out past the town around either side of Disko Island and up the coast. It is a most fantastic place.


Ilulissat - ice at your door step
Ilulissat Isfjord
Moi - Ilulissat Isfjord

More Ice.

With my rest day complete though there was no time to dilly dally around – my beautiful wife was arriving in Upernavik at the weekend and I had 190 miles to cover. The forecast was for a gale on the night of the 23rd so Tyhina and I sailed that morning for an anchorage in The Vaigat (the strait between Disko Is and the mainland).  After a glassy calm day of motoring through hundreds of icebergs we were at anchor just as the wind picked up to over 25kts. I slept soundly that night with my little diesel heater warming the cabin as the gale passed by outside and Tyhina tugged at the anchor chain.

Late Thursday morning we set sail again in a fresh following breeze of about 20 kts. This stayed with us together with some rain, fog and generally cold overcast conditions all the way to Upernavik which we reached at 1am on Saturday morning, where some of the local kids greeted me, caught my lines and helped me tie up at the dock.  Formalities were kept short however as I was very much in need of some sleep.

Alongside Upernavik

Tyhina alongside - Upernavik

Maeva arrived that afternoon laden with Carman's Museli at the most amazing airport I have ever seen – it is the highest point on Upernavik. Maeva thought she was landing on the USS Nimitz as the runway has been constructed along the top a ridge above the town.

Maeva Arrives - Upernavik

Maeva Arrives

Essential Supplies

Essential supplies - Thank you Carmans!

From here it's north and west. We wait for good weather and a good ice report to cross Baffin Bay and then we'll be into the Northwest Passage proper. Hopefully when we next report in we will be in Resolute or fingers crossed Gjoa Haven.

Saturday July 19, 2008
Sisimiut, Greenland.

Tyhina and I are now in Sisimiut, 75km north of the Arctic Circle and Greenland’s second largest town. It’s the last year round ice free port on the West Greenland coast. We crossed the Arctic Circle at 0830 on Friday morning and I celebrated with a short ceremony honoring Neptune, offering him a beer and helping myself to what he didn’t drink.


Cheers Neptune

Crossing the Arctic Circle - Cheers Neptune

I departed Nuuk on Tuesday morning at about 5 am and motor sailed about 40 miles north to the abandoned fishing village of Tovqussaq, its small land locked bay made for a very calm anchorage, however the surrounds turned out to be quite barren. As the afternoon breeze was freshening from the north, I dropped anchor, had dinner and went ashore briefly with the hand held VHF to get a weather forecast – no reception in the bay. The breeze had slackened by the time I made it to the top one of the hills on the seaward side of the bay and so, on my return to the boat I decided weigh anchor and continued north.

Tovqussaq for dinner.

Sailing through the night saw me passing Maniitsoq at about 0500, Arctic Tern was tied up at the wharf so I dropped in to see if they were up – they weren’t and so I left them note, did a quick reccy of the town and continued into Hamborgersund, but not before meeting some of the local lads in their wetsuits at 6am?? “Diving / Spearfishing?” I asked, they shrugged and looked at each other not understanding English. It turns out they were going water-skiing – can you believe it!!

The Lads
6am Maniitsoq? What are you guys doing?
Waterskiing Greenland
Waterskiing! Note - icecap in background.

Hamborgersund was the first fair-dinkum fjord that I had entered – mountains, icecap and glaciers and just to make sure it was memorable we’ll through in a few humpback whales. It was a perfect morning glassy calm, not a sound except the splash of water on Tyhina’s bow and the blows of whales as they surfaced between dives – magical.

Humpback Whale - Hamborgersund
Humpback Diving - Hamborgersund

From Hamborgersund I took what is known as the inside route to Evigshedfjord, this saw me in some rapidly shallowing areas and although all marked on the chart I did have a few heart in mouth moments. By late afternoon however, I was clear of the inner route and motoring up Evigshedfjord which runs 35 miles inland - again very spectacular and sporting some calving glaciers and mountains to 1900 metres shear out of the water. My plan had been to go right to the head of the fjord, however this was going to take all night and I had only had a few hours sleep in the two days since departing Nuuk, so I changed my planned anchorage to a bay named Tasiussaq about 10 miles into the fjord. Bill Tilman had anchored his boat Mischief here in 1962 and climbed some of the surrounding peaks. (Tilman is quite well known in Europe for his sailing / mountaineering expeditions in the 50’s and 60’s and his books give very good accounts of sailing in remote areas such as Greenland, Baffin Is, South Shetlands and South America).

Anchored and tied off to shore at midnight Wednesday, my plan was to climb Nugssuaq (1500 feet) the on Thursday after catching up on some sleep.

Up early – 10 am!! I needed the sleep. Called in my daily radio sched with the Mississauga Maritime Net – a group of amateur radio enthusiasts who keep tabs on yachts sailing in Canada and the odd one sailing in Greenland. I give my position co-ordinates to them daily and they email my brother in Australian who updates the position map so that you can keep an eye on Tyhina’s progress.

Anchored Tasiussaq
Tyhina anchored in Tasiussaq - (the dot between the two small islands).

After a big day of hiking to the top of Nugssuaq I decided to move the boat briefly so that I could take some pictures with Tilman’s 6000 foot peak in the background. This resulted in an arctic swim! Thinking I would only be ashore for 5 minutes I did not tie the dinghy off, rather just pulling it up the beach some way – later while lining up a shot of the boat I noticed a yellow shape moving to my right – dinghy on the move!!!

What runs through your mind when your only means of transport back to home is leaving you – well here’s a taste:

What are my options – few!
Should I swim – what’s the other option
Walk to dinghy when it gets to other side of bay – 3-4 hours walk – swim looks better.
Water temp – cold
Will I get hyperthermia – not if you swim fast
Undies – On or Off? – too late they’re off!
Mmmm – coarse sandy bottom – that’s a surprise!
Okay private parts are in – start swimming and get your head wet
Life saver freestyle is better? Yes!
Am I going to intercept that little yellow bastard! - Yes
Climb in from the stern

…And before you know it your on board and rowing back to a mess of clothes and camera gear on shore – possibly a PB over 25 metres.

Dinghy captured
Dinghy back on land after an attempted escape - while I dry off behind the camera.

So having freshened up and air dried on shore I headed back to Tyhina, weighed anchor and departed Evigshedfjord – an truly fantastic spot.
The wind was westerly at about 10 kts so this allowed a bit of sailing until just before sunset at 2350 when the wind died. Not long to wait now and it reappears a 45 degrees along the horizon. The moon is the same, it rose just as the sun set and skimmed the southern horizon behind me for about 2 ½ hours before setting. The night turned into one of the calmest that I have had – no wind at all and surprisingly not that cold, I found it hard to believe that I would cross the Arctic Circle in a little over 6 hours time.

30miles from AC
1am - 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle

Sailing into Sisimiut I saw a familiar mast – Arctic Tern was anchored in the bay, I had afternoon tea with Andrew, Moira, Jim and Shapelle later in the afternoon and then a dinner that evening. Moira and Jim provided entertainment with some duets while Andrew prepared a delicious spaghetti carbonara – a great night. Thanks guys for your hospitality.

Arctic Tern
Artic Tern (Top), Andrew preparing dinner (Middle) and Shapelle, Jim and Moira (L to R) above.
Tyhina will return in - Dancing with Icebergs at Disko!!
Saturday July 12, 2008
Alongside - Vestre Vig, Nuuk, Greenland.
Nuuk Harbour
Tyhina outboard of Arctic Tern at the Vestre Vig in Nuuk Harbour

As usual the blog is a little behind schedule, I (Pete) have arrived in Greenland after an uneventful solo trip across the Labrador sea. Maeva is still in Australia finishing a work contract and will join the boat later this month. So I will quickly fill you in on the trip across - remember I'm the photographer not the writer!!

Before I go on however, there is a new map showing Tyhina's current position (left hand navigation menu) and more importantly I have a few thankyous for two couples in St Johns who were a great help and went out of their way to make sure that I was fully prepared before leaving and to some very special friends in Southern Harbour - Mike and Trish.

Firstly to Mike and Trish, I met Mike last year when we brought the boat to Southern Harbour for the winter. He introduced Maeva and I to his wife and family and opened his house to us. Over the winter Mike kept an eye on Tyhina, lashing the tarp and netting back down after a storm had caused a corner to come loose. On my return Mike and Trish treated me as one of their family, let me do my laundry, shower and Trish made sure that I had at least couple of wholesome (non bachelor) meals each week. Mike took me bear spotting and also out on his boat for a morning of cod fishing. When I departed Trish's sister baked two loaves of bread for me and the most fabulous apricot cake - which only just made it to the second day of sailing on the way to St Johns - thanks Bie! And thanks to Mike and Trish for all their help and hospitality.

Mike Southern Harbour
Fishing with Mike - Southern Harbour in the background


Thanks to Pat Collins and his partner Karin who arranged my berth at Quidi Vidi - a very calm and safe anchorage a couple of miles north of St Johns Harbour and a world apart - clean, quiet and it has it's own brewery - who's wharf incidentally is where one ties up!! Pat has his own boat here and is preparing to head south to warmer waters next July. He ran me around town and made sure that I was able to get what I needed - on my departure morning he stayed on his boat overnight and was up at 4:30 am to help with my lines and see me off - a top bloke - who I can't thank enough.

Quidi Vidi
Tyhina (left) in Quidi Vidi Harbour (Pat's boat The Artful Dodger centre)

The other thankyou goes to Frank O'Conner and his wife Claudia, who we met in Florida last year and were a great help when we arrived in St Johns in 2007. Again on my return they had me to dinner a number of times, let me shower and do my washing at their home. However a particular thankyou to Frank who fixed my broken heater and devised a cold start procedure for Tyhina's little Yanmar engine that will be needed for the cold Arctic - mornings, middays and fact any time I need to start the engine north of 60 º north. Frank has a wealth of sailing experience and openly shared his knowledge with me and ran through an endless checklist of things to make sure that I and Tyhina were prepared for the northward journey.

I departed St Johns on Monday 30th June at 6 am, as I said before; the sail from St Johns to Greenland was uneventful, for the most part the winds and seas were following. I set a course of 045 from St Johns to take Tyhina across Iceberg Alley as quickly as possible and in a direction with the least icebergs reported. By midnight Monday I had reached my waypoint and was ready to turn north. The seas and breeze had build through the day and were running at about 3-4 metres and 25-30 knots by this time - although I was making great progress there was no moon and I could not see a thing - the risk of striking a bergy bit or growler was still present so I hove to until the following morning.

Tuesday morning: a fair sea was still running although the wind had dropped back to 20 kts - I hand steered for most of the morning as I was feeling a little queasy, this normally happens for the first 24hrs I spend at sea - anyway concentrating on steering normally fixes it and it did this time as well. Crossed paths with a fishing trawler out of St Anthony on the Funk Island Bank and spoke on the VHF - he confirmed the previous nights winds as 25 - 30 knots "Bit of wind last night, hey boy!" was how he put.

Not much to report through the next few days - fog, sun, more fog, whales, dolphins and the winds continued to blow from the south and west - so I sailed, ate, slept and kept tabs on the weather!!

Storm conditions ahead were forecast by Herb Hillengen who runs an HF radio weather net called Southbound 2. Herb gives weather routing advise to yachties up and down the eastern seaboard as well as those crossing the Atlantic to Europe and vice versa. His advised to me was to slow down and not to go further north than 56 degrees before Saturday - no argument from me.

The result of Herbs advise was that a gale system moved east in front of me leaving good sailing winds to its south. On Saturday morning at 0600 Tyhina's position was of 56 degrees 01 minutes north after heaving to briefly on Friday night. It was then all speed for Greenland as two more low pressure systems were forecast to deepen and give gale conditions in the East Labrador sea.

All speed for Nuuk - a frontal system passed through on Sunday giving stronger winds from the ESE of about 20 - 25 knots which made for good sailing. This also lead to an altercation with the autopilot (Jim) who was not steering consistently. After some swearing and a generally abusive conversation with Jim it occurred to me that reducing sail might be a good idea...10 minutes later Jim was holding course magnificently. I humbly apologised to Jim - he gave me the silent treatment - who could blame him.

After checking in with Greenland Radio, I was advised that the waters were free of pack ice - all the way to Disco Bay. This was a surprise, as when I left St Johns there was storis all the way to 63d north. Storis is polar pack ice which travels south along Greenland’s east coast and curls around Kap Farvel (Greenland's southern tip) then is pushed north by the current up the west coast sometimes as far as Nuuk. My options were thus open to make landfall at a more southern port in Greenland - so I set course for Paamiut a small fishing village of 1000 people and very protected at 62d north - allowing a good margin to get in ahead of the coming weather.

Monday July 7 at 2100 local was tied up at the wharf in Paamiut - 7 days 15 hours and 960 miles after leaving St Johns.

I spent two days in Paamiut while gale and storm conditions passed by outside. I cleared immigration at the local police station after an extended search for the immigration stamp - they don't see to many yachties 'clearing in' in Paamiut. Eve the station commander let me use the facilities at the police station to shower and clean up - "All part of the service" he told me.

Awake - 3am on my first night in Paamiut to the groans of Tyhina's lines as she literally hung off the wharf as the tide dropped. On deck in socks and thermals releasing lines - an arctic fox watched me curiously from the opposite bank of the harbour. The tide in Greenland ranges through to about 3.5 metres, I moved Tyhina outboard of a whaler where I could sleep more easily knowing I would not have to worry about her slipping under the wharf ahead of the rising tide.

Pete and Greenland

Thursday 10th July on a slackening breeze departed Paamiut and set course for Nuuk. Motor sailed most of the way as the breeze dropped out to nothing. This overnight passage (it doesn’t get dark any more) gave me a good chance to really experience the scenery of Greenland its mountains and glaciers and the ice cap in the distance. It is truly and awe inspiring coastline and the real mountainous glacier filled parts are still to come!

Greenland Coast
Greenland coast near Nuuk

So here I am in Nuuk - the bustling capital of Greenland. I am tied up outboard of an ex British Steel Round the World yacht - the 67 foot Arctic Tern, who is outboard of two other vessels and outboard of me is a Swedish yacht - wharf space is at a premium - but Greenlanders are pretty easy going so thats the way it is all the way down the dock - rafted 5 deep.

The Swedish yacht Issete Saro outboard of Tyhina arrived during the night it had not been able to take shelter when the weather of a few days ago was in full swing - she was knocked down a few times and has suffered as a result - broken boom, wind vane broken when it was dipped in the water (ie top of mast in water), auto steering gear broken and nothing dry inside. This happened just off the south Greenland coast while I was in Paamiut.

Swedish Yacht
Issete Saro with broken boom

Skipper Mike

Mike at the helm of his fishing boat Contrary
Southern Harbour
Tyhina and Mikes boat (blue foreground) in Southern Harbour, NF.





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