Wednesday, 24 August 2016
Saturday, 13 August 2016
It's been a great trip that nobody wants to come to an end.
Friday, 12 August 2016
Thursday, 11 August 2016
After supper a couple of sport fisherman motored over to us in their RIB and, complete with whisky, came aboard. Heimi (the chief fire officer from Isafjordur) and his friend Caterin (a retired Icelandic GP from Angelsey) had recognised Shimshal and, it turned out, had been tracking Shimshal's lonely voyage to the far north. It turns out that few of the rugged boats that muster in Isafjordur for the brief Arctic summer manage to penetrate so deeply into Scoresby Sound. Such is the miracle of the Internet they knew exactly where we had been and what we had done.
We had a great evening swapping stories of Greenland, learning lots about Iceland, hunting and fishing. Rod had caught a flounder for supper which he generously divided into three! Our visitors checked out his bait and decreed it too conservative for these waters and gave him a parting gift of a massive lump of pink lead sprouting all manner of treble hooks and brightly coloured plastic. So Rod the pressure is on!
Tuesday, 9 August 2016
70 46N 25 27W
Charcot Havn is a large glacier bay situated on the east side of Milne Land. The glacier has receded a mile or more up the valley leaving extensive mud banks and a heavy burden of silt in the bay. The beach appears to shelve steeply. We anchored 104m off the shore in 15 metres and found excellent holding. Ashore there are a lot of geese.
70 27N 21 46W
Sheltered bay between Kap Tobin and Ittoqqortoormitt. A rock marked on the chart lies off the north side of the entrance and there are shallows near the south. However we found a channel just north of the centre with not less than 6m. Excellent holding in mud. We went ashore and walked towards Kap Tobin and heard the next day that polar bears had been encountered there recently.
70 28N 21 57W
We anchored in 15 metres and found good holding but others found kelp and had 6 goes at re-anchoring after they dragged. As the anchorage is subject to swell some choose nearby Aumdrup Bay instead. On our last night we anchored in Aumbrup and dragged in strong catabatic winds to 50 knots from the north. We found a lot of difficulty re-anchoring at the height of the wind storm caused by kelp.
Water and fuel are available but not alongside. There is a supermarket with a wide range of goods but is only re-supplied form Denmark in August and September. Prices appear subsidised. We informed the police of our arrival but formalities appear not to be enforced. On the hill at the met station a weather balloon is launched at 11am and 11pm and Erik the weather man is happy to share forecasts. I understand that wifi is available there too but I didn't try this. There are showers but not at weekends and meals ashore are said to be extremely expensive. Hunter meat is sold at the Tourist Office (Nanu Travel) but we didn't buy any. They allegedly sell meat from Musk Ox, Polar Bear, Seal, Arctic Char and Geese.
There is usually a resident doctor from Denmark on a 2 weekly rotation.
There is an expensive helicopter transfer to the Twin Otter air strip at Constable Point.
There are a few local open boats with outboards but a return trip to Milne Land is said to cost £6,000. They travel in pairs in case of breakdown.
Guns and ammunition can be bought at the supermarket but are expensive and .375 bullets were not a available when we visited. Guns can be hired from Nanu Travel but pre-booking is advised. Everyone assures us that guns must be carried once outside the the town.
71 03.16N 25 37.3W
This is the most stunning anchorage. Despite the warnings of the pilot we found good holding in 13m about 100m west of a large rock and 80m from the shore. Astonishing views of the Cathedral Ranges and large grounded bergs just 200m from the anchorage. The approach is from the north taking the most easterly inlets as various skerries guard the entrance. The electronic charts are useless but 71 05.046N 25 39.152W proved a safe waypoint for us with an approach depth of not less than 20m.
70 57.462N 28 3.865W
We had difficulty in finding a good place to anchor here but it is a beautiful place surrounded by red mountains and ice bergs galore. A walk ashore to the hill overlooking the calving glacier at the head of the fjord gives a perfect panorama. Plenty of Musk Ox around and a Great Northern Diver.
We entered a narrow creek trying to find shelter from ice bergs but found it too deep to anchor until the bottom came up suddenly to rocks which we hit at 2.3m. We eventually anchored further east and found good holding but a lot of rocks reducing swinging room. We had to scout around with the dinghy and sounder to find the best spot but it was still precarious.
71 18.076N 24 54.96W
We were advised to anchor inside the island but we found poor holding there and insufficient swinging room so anchored off the low shore to the east which, unfortunately for us, became a lea shore in the early morning so we had to leave quickly. We tried too to anchor off the huts at Sydkap itself but found the bottom shelved far too steeply to allow for swinging
Roumer fjord south of Turner Island
68 43.704N 23 41.267W
Anchor off the hot beach at the entrance of Roumerfjord south of Turner Island. We found reasonable holding 140 metres off the beach with the steaming fumaroles and two excellent hot bathing pools. There was a tidal current and we had to be prepare to fend off bergs. There is a hunter's hut with "Qualaativaaje Ittua" written on the roof. Obviously a lot of hunting goes on here with whale and seal bones ashore as well as spent ammunition. Wonderful flora (flowering sedum) around the hot pools and elsewhere. Arid volcanic mountains with a basalt headland protecting the inner fjord from swells.
Sadly we will never check out Barclay's bottom as, when I opened my email, we were greeted by the news that storm clouds were brewing over Iceland and that we should depart sooner rather than later if we're to avoid a stiff passage south. Faces dropped. Surely we could squeeze just one more hop along the coast and maybe find that polar bear that we had all wanted so much to see?
A flurry of forecasts followed which did indeed suggests winds to gale force if we stayed another day. The decision was made and we dialled in a new heading leaving in our wake the jagged mountainous coast of Greenland. Almost totally free from snow those brown mountains were sandwiched between a cloudless sky and a blue sea broken only by an occasional, lonesome iceberg drifting on the polar current.
With our farewells to Greenland said we hope to have a comfortable crossing of the Denmark Strait followed by yet more adventures on Iceland's rugged west coast. A coast that is becoming familiar to Sally and me as this will be our third time along it.
Monday, 8 August 2016
All Greenland needs to make it perfect is a few trillion tons of lovely estuarine mud poured over those slippery, untrustworthy, polished rocks that it has chosen for its most delectable anchorages. Then I could sleep easier rather fretting and fidgeting at every turn and rise of the wind.
Let's hope Mr Barclay was right about his bottom and that our anchor slips in and stays in to give us a restful, less fretful, night before our passage back to Iceland.
We went ashore after mid-day brunch and found the hot pools simmering away gently surrounded by exotic green mosses. This was obviously a spot frequented by hunters who had built a rock pool at just the right temperature. What an amazing place to take a bath! Seated in the silty, near scalding water looking out over the boat at anchor in the dark fjord hemmed in by brown mountains rising steeply to 1,500 metres. A solitary iceberg as a reminder of our latitude. Just another extraordinary experience to add to the many on this trip.
Also ashore was the tiny hut frequented by hunters with its door nailed closed. For some strange reason they had gone to the trouble of building a narrow gravel track to their mooring strops on the basalt crags that formed the shore. They were obviously very successful as everywhere there were the stark bones of their prey. Whales and seals presumably? We combed the hillsides for polar bears and took the gun with us everywhere and saw none. Every now and then the harsh landscape was softened by wild flowers flourishing in the more sheltered spots.
We had fetched up in another delightful anchorage so completely different to all that had gone before. We decided to stay another night and leave in the small hours of tomorrow morning for Kap Barclay 40 miles south west.
Sunday, 7 August 2016
Rarely can anyone sail so close to this coast as it is usually beset by ice. Wild and remote it is untouched by humans and is the domain of the Polar Bear. We would love to see one of these noble creatures but are in no doubt of their danger. Any bears here will have been robbed of their hunting ground which is the ice and will be ravenously hungry. We venture cautiously into their realm.
As I write this blog we are yet again motoring but this time heading south. We are half way between Kaps Tobin and Brewster passing only the occasional iceberg and cluster of growlers. The sad survivors of the legions of gleaming icy soldiers that have marched their way 180 miles down this massive fjord system. A sad procession that inevitably ends in decay and dissolution as they drift away from their glacier origins nearer towards the Denmark Strait.
Behind, lit up by the afternoon sun under blue sky, lie the mountains of Liverpool Land. These mountains still carry some of their snow from summit to sea even at the height of the Arctic Summer. Ahead lies the brooding, black Kap Brewster still guarded by 3 big bergs whose position has not change since we passed them 9 days ago. Patchy sunlight picks out the glaciers of the ranges that form the southern edge of the Sound and stretch out sixty miles to the horizon.
Time then to reflect on Scoresby Sound as we head south to the Blosseville Coast with a plan to cross back to Iceland in a few days time. What an adventure this has been. Moments of acute anxiety and adrenaline will punctuate our memories of towering peaks, sparkling fjords choked with ice, mighty walls and glaciers and the wonderful Arctic tundra. The grounding at Harefjord, the early morning escape from the lee shore at Sydkap and the ferocious catabatic winds at our last anchorage. The memory I will carry home is of a perfect sunny evening, sitting at anchor, under the red mountains with rivers of ice drifting seawards. I will remember the call of the Great Northern Diver when he visited us at that perfect anchorage and I will remember his purposeful flight, fish in bill, homeward.
It has been an adventure that has challenged us and has, in many ways, surpassed our expectations. But all is not over yet. Though heading south we still have sixty miles of Greenland's remotest coast to explore followed by another crossing of the Denmark Strait and a cruise down Iceland's rugged west coast. I am sure there will be many more adventures before this trip is done.
After supper a northerly breeze filled in and we stowed the Kayak ready for an 06:00 deprture. We had a fine forecast to cruise south visiting anchorages along the Blosseville Coast and spirits were high. Indeed we even toasted our adventure with our one and only bottle of wine on board.
But sometimes things don't go according to plan. The wind became increasingly gusty and white caps started appearing around the boat. We headed to bed but I was too nervous about the rising wind to sleep so went on deck to monitor conditions. Fierce gusts were now ripping through our anchorage but we had taken time and trouble to dig in our huge 45kg Manson anchor and had set a 10 metre snubber to reduce the shock loading on the anchor. So I remained confident. Then the wind started shrieking and spray was been blown off the waves. At deck level our anemometer clocked 45 knots and the boat sheered off violently snubbing the anchor. I checked the distance form cockpit to shore and it had dropped from 268 metres to 208 metres confirming that we were dragging.
I started the engine and motored ahead to ease the pressure on the chain and, within seconds, my crew were dressed and on deck. Rod took up position in the sail locker to operate the windlass and Denzil clipped himself to the pulpit to man the snubber and the boat hook ( for clearing the raised anchor of weed before re-anchoring). They took a VHF handheld to communicate with me at the helm and Sally ran messages and acted as my eyes on the foredeck.
The wind generator had been howling louder than the huskies ashore but then there was a thwack as one of the blades broke off and blew off with the now ferocious wind.
The anchor came up with a huge ball of mud and kelp but obviously the mud had not been firm enough to hold the massive forces imposed by winds probably up to 50 knots. We used a lot of engine power to turn the boat to windward and spent the next 3 hours motoring too and fro close into the windward shore trying to find depths between 5 and 20 meters in which to re-anchor. Four or five times we sent the anchor down and four or five time we cranked it back in bringing with it a rich harvest of kelp and other detritus from the nearby village.
At last it went down and snatched tight and the transits ashore did not budge. As soon as we were again secure the gust became less violent and less frequent. Almost as if the Arctic winds had been playing with us and reminding us that sailing at these latitudes is not for the faint hearted.
I kept an anchor watch for the next hour or two but fell asleep when the sea around was once again mirror calm.
Throughout all this my crew were magnificent. Everyone knew exactly what to do and how to do it. They kept their calm despite the obvious seriousness of our situation. Great job.
Saturday, 6 August 2016
The water was clear and cold and only the odd bit of ice drifted over me as I scrubbed and poked away barnacles. First up was the propeller which was still significantly encrusted despite the good works of the 2 boys in Isafjordur whose arms Rod twisted into doing a quick scrub before departure 2 weeks ago. Then I attacked the rudder which was also growing barnacles in some of the hard to get to places. Whilst doing this I discovered the bolts on two plates limiting the movement of the rugger stock were loose so a quick dash to the surface for spanners and a scrubbing brush appeared to fix that problem. Next I checked out the rudder and found no damage from our grounding. The keel too was unscathed - phew! Finally I did the rounds of all the water intakes and drains and de-vegetated them.
Back on board Denzil connected up the toilet and it flushed. Hooray!
I didn't change the anodes so we will need to dive again in September and I also noted that the starboard ground plate was missing. So another problem to resolve.
So a note for my dive log. Depth 3m, duration 59 minutes latitude 70 29N 21 59W.
Friday, 5 August 2016
The anchorage, sadly, turned out to be our worst to date. Where we had hoped to find shelter we found none and where we had yearned for good holding for our anchor we found only rock and steeply shelving sea bed making it impossible to anchor in a manageable depth and avoid swinging into boulders. When we we did find a precarious perch we left the next morning when the wind veered and rose to 25 knots putting us on a dangerous lea shore.
Motoring off in a rising wind we scrambled around filling the main fuel tank from cans which was a job we had intended to do that day in the peace and quiet of a safe anchorage.
So where now? We have received reports that the Forbidden Coast is open for visitors this year. Richard has sent us stunning satellite images of the coast to the south of Kap Brester showing it to be completely free of sea ice. There are, of course, lots of icebergs around calved off glaciers but we have now grown desensitised to them. This state of affairs has never before existed since the Danes started producing ice charts 60 years ago.
We are, therefore, bound for the Forbidden Coast where the waters are uncharted and where the Polar Bear reigns supreme. We will take a rest day in Amdrup's Havn tomorrow and, if the weather forecast remains favourable, will begin heading south on Sunday.
The picture is of sunset at 23:15. It will be up again in an hour or two.
Thursday, 4 August 2016
We always knew that today was going to be the crux as ice, visible from space, fanned out from 2 massive calving glaciers apparently blocking the narrowest part of the sound. We motored tentatively up to it with mounting anxiety. Gradually the ice became denser with an increasing number of growlers between the bigger bergs. These growlers seemed our worst enemy as they are harder to spot and could inflict significant damage on us especially to the prop.
We were now dodging ice every few seconds but the way ahead was disappearing. As we got closer it became apparent that the jumbled mass of bergs , large and small, were floating in a soup of brash ice. The wind freshened and cooled as it plunged down the massive glacier to our west and I knew it was time for a decision.
Sally, on the foredeck, was looking anxious and I was certainly feeling nervous. We were all unanimous that what lay ahead was not suitable for a plastic boat with an unprotected prop. So we turned down wind and away from the pack knowing that we would enjoy the retreat.
Wednesday, 3 August 2016
So Rod, no excuses now. There are fish down there.
We retreated and put out the dinghy and sounder to avoid a repeat but still managed to find some alarming shallows. Thin mud didn't give us the holding we needed but, at the third attempt, the anchor dug in hard. We then had to shorten the chain as we found yet more underwater granite within swinging range.
That drama is now over and we are enjoying a splendid sunny evening on the boat whilst Rod and Denzil wander around ashore. Mirror calm with red mountains in the evening sun and with the, now familiar, glistening icebergs casually littering the fjord around us. A seal kept a respectful distance as he swam around the bow of the boat and earlier we saw musk ox high on the hills as we approached. Every now and again an explosive crack punctuates the tranquil evening as an iceberg splits off another chunk of ice.
We are now about as remote as we can be tucked in Harefjord to the north west of Milneland a very long way (140 miles) from the open sea. Not the place to go aground!
This trip is definitely not for the faint hearted but the spectacle and the adventure will leave enduring memories.
Tuesday, 2 August 2016
Great day with varied activities. First up we put together the kayak and went off on its maiden paddle around a couple of ice bergs. Then came a spot of drone flying giving a very different photographic perspective on the place. After lunch a walk ashore to a rocky summit strewn with exquisite lichens, mosses and alpine flowering plants. Then back to the boat for a gourmet Thai red curry cooked up by Rod. Shame his fishing ventures haven't been so successful!
Dodging ice bergs and growlers as we went we headed north towards the sound between Milne Land and Bear Island. A great calving glacier swept down to the west of us but, most entrancing of all, were the the noble spires and towers of the Cathedral Ranges glowing in the evening sun ahead and to the north.
Through the sound we continued north, past our planned anchorage, to enjoy the full majesty of our surroundings. At 71 06N 25 39W, our most northerly terminus on this cruise, we were able to see down the the sun soaked northern ramparts of Milne Land separated by the narrow fjord from the even more magnificent cliffs and spires of Ren Land. A mighty corridor of blue fjord littered with bergs of every conceivable shape and size.
Turning south we crept into Jyttes Havn passing the rock skerries at the entrance and then hooked east to get shelter from the bergs and sea behind a rocky spit. We anchored in 13m and dug the hook well in as we plan to stay here for a while exploring this wonderland.