Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Leaving Patreksfjordur

A great day to say goodbye to Iceland

Shimshal all loaded up in expedition mode

Entrance to Patreksfjordur 

The southern shore of Patreksfjordur 

Above is S/V Spellbound in front of Shimshal 2 days ago

Time to move on

We have fine weather and an excellent forecast for crossing the Denmark Strait. My best guess is that we have an 80% chance of being able to get into Prins Christian Sund. So it's time to leave for Greenland.

Sunday, 23 July 2017


Our ice vigil continues in the West Fjord. With no real prospect of setting sail for south east Greenland as that coast is still ice bound. Instead of being on the high seas we are  relaxing along side. 

Breakfast was interrupted by a VHF call from S/V Spellbound, an American OCC boat, who had spent the night anchored on the opposite side of the fjord. An hour later we took their lines as they docked ahead of us.

Gary and Leslie, from Spellbound, joined us for morning coffee and stayed for lunch and the conversation flowed easily. 

Meanwhile Tim was back in his greying overalls applying the valve service kits to both heads. They were both working OK but in need of a service so now we have ticked 2 tasks that weren't even on the list. I'm pleased to report the bilges went unchallenged by the disconnection of the two sewage pipes and the overalls didn't acquire any additional organic stains.

There followed a visit to the best swimming pool yet. A lovely outdoor, infinity pool looking down at the fjord and the town. Some of us spent up at the cafe and got back to Shimshal just in time to be invited for drinks on Spellbound to be 

followed by a Heather supper.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

White overalls scale the mast

A week into our trip and Tim's overalls are now decidedly off white but, as a consequence, the blocks are running like silk. It's odd to be scratching around looking for outstanding boat jobs to do during our enforced wait in on the eastern side of the Denmark Strait.

Today I got around to modifying a GoPro to run off a 12 volt external battery as, to date, it's usefulness has been limited by a feeble battery life. Lots of satisfying drilling, filing and epixying. Has anyone else had this battery problem? Anyway it appears to have worked so I'm hoping we can now reliably capture some time lapse , action and marine wildlife shots. Watch this space!

Boogie with Muggi

We spent the evening in Patreksfjordur reminiscing about the  friendly folk of Isafjordur. Our accompaniment was the rich, crooning voice of Isafjordur's fantastic harbour master Muggi who presented us with his cd as we cast off the lines. Great stuff Captain Muggi and thanks for making us so welcome.

We may be some time in Patreksfjordur

Everything is ready to go and the weather is benign but the ice isn't playing ball. The situation has worsened significantly so we maybe in Patreksfjordur for a while yet. Time to explore the town I think!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Bottom scrub and prop polish

The geothermally heated outdoor pool at Sudereryi is magnificent so we wallowed there sipping fresh coffee (actually only I tested the free coffee) and staring up, once again, at the misty mountains. A perfect way to ponder our next move. By the second coffee a plan had emerged.

We clambered down the dirty tyres and rusty chains of the dock to get back on board and sprung ourselves out from amongst the fleet of Bobby fishing boats. We motored out through the shallow channel and, once in the bay took a right to escape the approach route of local fishing boats, and dropped the anchor in 7m. We dug the anchor in hard to test the new throttle in reverse which appears to restrict us to 3,700 rpm astern.

The tender was soon in the water and a circumferential waterline scrub dislodged a bit of marine growth. I stuck my head under the water to try and inspect the prop for barnacles but I couldn't see well enough from the surface so an underwater inspection was required.

Tim seems to thrive on such adventures and, quick as a flash he was into his dry suit and snorkelling down to inspect. Many barnacles reported which explained the lacklustre motoring speeds of yesterday. What a shame we had turned off my ultrasound device before we left in May. Previously it had kept the barnacles at bay.

The job couldn't be done without air so on went the cylinder and Tim was once again in the water manicuring SHIMSHAL's nether regions. Although I haven't seen it for myself I'm quite sure her bottom now gleams. Certainly we can now cruise at normal speed. What a difference a few Crustacea make.

Meanwhile, for reasons best known to herself, Sally dropped an onion overboard and it went bobbing off towards a flock of hungry fulmars. I was alerted to this latest crisis by Sally's plaintiff cry and asserting that she could have rescued it should she still have had her fishing net. No need for a net - Tim took on the flock of Fulmars who by now were pecking warily at the floating onion. They gave in without so much as a squark as they must have been as perplexed by Tim's seal like splashing as the were by feeding on a freshly salted onion.

With Tim, the dingy and the onion safely back on board we weighed the anchor, hoisted the sails and motor sailed the 49 miles to Patreksfjordur. Cleared of Crustacea the prop gripped the water and the newly buffed underbelly of Shimshal slid south west. At least we are now going in the right direction for Greenland.

On our way and in our wake

We left Isafjordur as we found her with the hill sides swathed in mist and bathed by a calm, cold and grey sea. Away from land the temperature dived and on came the beanies and the parkas to fend off the evening chill. But the cold and the monochrome did not dim our spirits as we chugged along the coast a dozen miles or so to slip into the fishing port of Sudereryi. We were warmed along the way by a hot meal  of Heather's magnificent chicken fajitas created from scratch in the now gently rolling galley.

Time I think to reflect, before the memory dims, on the technicolor characters we had met and had now left behind. 

In previous posts I have waxed lyrically about Dori, Muggi, Heime, Petur and others whose names I have never known and I will never pronounce. Most of those locals came to the quay to wave, say their farewells and render assistance with our slightest needs. Muggi brought as a parting gift two cd's. One made by him for his sixtieth and one by his son, Mugison, whose fame has spread to distant shores. What a shame we didn't think to have those tunes blaring from our deck speakers as cast off our last line!

Isafjordur has a tiny cruising community housed in those rugged, go anywhere yachts. Some were the Range Rovers of the sea and others more Jeep like in their finish. There was of course the Germans but I'm not going to mention them for fear of libel!

First up for eccentricity was the extraordinary floating menagerie on board S/V Pachamama. Dario and Sabine with their five children have spent the last 18 years floating around most of the world's oceans and climbing the world's highest mountains along the way. A continuous, unending expedition they call TopToTop. In each continent they acquired baby and are soon to add an Icelandic born one to their collection. A delightfully engaging family of Swiss meandering with no boundaries. Just happy to share their message of hope for the future of our planet and humanity and their passion for adventure and self reliance.

Pierre was down in the mouth this trip. He had had an epic last year whilst single handing in Scoresby Sound and was reticent about putting to sea this year on his own. He had found a lovely Spanish student from the University but she had  been drawn away by work, studies and filming projects. If there is anyone out there who is looking for a ship and a high latitude adventure then Pierre is your man.

Not so sure I would make the same recommendation for Nina 2. Rumour has it that Mika the Finnish skipper feeds only what he catches to the crew. I'm sure he is an excellent fisherman but the crew that had found him on the internet didn't it like fish! Not sure how that is going to work out. Nevertheless, on the day we left, Nelson flew in from Seattle to join Nina 2 and meet, for the first time, the boat, her skipper and the starving first mate from Florida. 

Michael on Troll had chosen Greenland's most icebound coast for this summer 's adventure. His tiny boat, S/V Troll, had bags of off road potential as her steel, rounded hull was built to a naval training specification. That is built to withstand the bruises inflicted by naval ratings. Quietly spoken and considered this geneticist was happiest on a mooring surrounded with by the mist that kept the world at arms length. I could see why he has yearning to be frozen into the remotest Greenlandic fjord.

On the Range Rover, aka S/V Destiny, there was Andy and Janice. It had taken them 8 years to build their floating home designed for the high latitudes. Urbane charter hosts they exuded competence and confidence. I am in awe of anyone who can turn raw ingredients into a thing of beauty that functions as it was designed to. Andy and Janice have done this in spades. They started with a pile of aluminium sheets and transformed them into a glistening work of art where every detail has been considered, designed and constructed by them. They too will be heading westwards to overwinter in Nuuk with planned adventures ashore on skis through the cold, dark months.

Then there was us on Shimshal. Dipping a toe in maritime adventure whilst preserving a more conventional life ashore of work. Amateurs but not outcasts in this region of rugged cruisers. On second thoughts, maybe we are now cast out by the crew of a certain German racing yacht  thrashing it's way south to Scotland? C'est la vie.

Three happy sailors have escaped harbour

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The starting gun has gone off

Last night was target practice time. Gumi, who took us shooting on the mountain top range in 2016, fixed us a repeat visit. So this time 8 of us piled into Heime's 4x4 and climbed up the mountain road to the gun range in the mist. There were a few sheep around but they seemed undaunted by a truckload of high velocity weapons arriving in their domain. 

Andrew and Janice from S/V Destiny brought their guide's gun - a short barrelled gun of massive calibre. Michael, from S/V Troll brought his CZ Magnum 375 which was identical to ours. He had bought it from a Greenlander who had dropped it in the sea after shooting a whale. Sweet revenge I think! Anyway it seemed to work fine. For good measure Andy had with him a phenomenal flare pistol which effectively fired the starting gun on our adventures and drew a line under the boat maintenance days served to date.

The guns boomed away and the target gradually got peppered by massively lethal rounds. A loud thud sent the huge whiz bang flare on its way kicking up a crater in the moorland as it met the earth. More mortar that flare pistol!

Most of us were diffident with the guns as we were intimidated by the loud bangs and tongues of flame and smoke. Tim got clobbered by the sights during the recoil and ended up with a blooded nose. Heather was hesitant but easily won the chocolate bar award for marksmanship. Sally was unnerved by show of noise and smoke but still managed to kill a target at 25 metres. I just about managed to do likewise.

When the mountaintop shootout ended all crews were a little more confident that we could defend ourselves agains a rampaging polar bear if we had to.

With mast blocks greased, sail sliders siliconed, engine oil levels checked and floorboards screwed down we were now nearing the end of the jobs list. When it became apparent that the freezer was being feeble the obvious choice was to call on the good folk of Isafjordur for assistance. As ever they came up trumps. Dori took the contents of the freezer to the hospital and lodged it in one of their freezers set to -22. He didn't tell us which freezer he used but we like to think it was either the mortuary or the pathology one. A few refrigerator contractors were summonsed  but most were out of town. Just after lunchtime Alaenka arrived from Bolungarvik who duly did the business with his re-gassing device. It was time to go.

We can only fuel at Isafjordur a couple of hours either side of high tide so we duly went along side the fuel berth and started the tedious task of taking on a summer's worth of fuel. As some of our tanks have been modified they are not designed to cope with high volume pumps so we tricked 870 litres of fuel in over the best part of 2 hours. A process made all the more painful by a large and vulgar German racing boat who insisted on butting in and helping themselves without so much as a please or a thank you. Disgraceful and menacing behaviour so out of keeping in a land of welcome, hospitality and universal friendliness. They were heading to Scotland so I hope they improve their manners before they arrive.

With 1200 litres of fuel and 600 litres of water on board we let go the lines, waved farewell to Isafjordur and it's delightful cast of characters and chugged ponderously out to sea. My only regret that we didn't dive and clean the prop and hull before we left - a job for tomorrow I think!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Springs and brushes

We have yet to move off the dock but much has been accomplished. This morning Tim  descended into the sail locker and soon emerged lugging a huge and heavy electric motor that he had extracted from the bow thruster. Coated with flaking paint and rust he then set about dissecting it in the cockpit. The springs  that push the brushes onto  the armature had succumbed to corrosion and lost their boing. Some brushes were firmly jammed in by salt crystals. We had bought ludicrously expensive replacements out from the UK but fitting the springs required cunning and ingenuity. 

Much scratching of heads and helpful hints from passers by at first did not meet with success. But then a foolproof method emerged. First coil the spring tight with the fine nosed pliers then hold it tightly wound in place with some stainless mousing wire with a few twists. Then ease them on to the peg and nip the mousing wire. Finally retrieve the wire debris from the innards of the motor. Some of the brushes had to be drilled out and the salt chipped off with a screwdriver.

Eventually the motor was restored to 8 working, mobile brushes all firmly held in place by 8 perfectly tensioned springs It was time for Tim to lug his project back to the sail locker and re-attach it to the thruster leg before the latter fell to the sea bed potentially leaving a gaping hole in the bottom of the boat and a water fountain. 

It was with some trepidation that we fired it up. But the suspense was rewarded by a brisk bow thrust from port to starboard and then back again with no sparks, no smoke and no drama. 

I think there is something very reassuring about a man in overalls as it exudes competence, professionalism  and confidence. Thanks a million Tim - I never doubted you for a minute!

Meanwhile Sally and Heather have competed the provisioning and cooked up half a dozen “passage” meals for those rough days at sea. All is stowed, catalogued and spread sheeted.

The wind and the rain sprung up in the afternoon so we retreated to the warm embrace of the saloon to watch the comings and goings and comb the web for ice and weather data. The ice now extends well south of Cape Farvell but boats are now beginning to to reach Greenland’s east coast. Arktika has bulldozed her way into Tasilaq and a British boat will soon be leaving for Kangerlussak. We will bide our time as, for us, there’s still too much ice. Tomorrow we will get the sails on and finish our jobs.

Rugged Ships

There are some rugged ships mustering in Isafjordur waiting for Greenland's ice to retreat. Most are built specifically for high latitudes out of steel or aluminium and come complete with equally rugged skippers.

A good boat job day on board SHIMSHAL yesterday with a new throttle systems installed and most provisioning done. Many thanks to Heime who loaned Sally his 4x4 for her big shop. 

Fewer jobs to do today so after that it's down to the weather and the ice.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Tea and toilet paper

So how many tea bags and toilet rolls do we need for a 7 week cruise. Only on SHIMSHAL could we know this number to the nearest decimal place! 

Our crew spent the night pondering these various calculations and I can report that 543 tea bags is judged to be an adequate number based on 5 cups of tea from one tea bag! I have yet to hear the basis tor the toilet paper calculation.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The ice is back and the whole coast is closed to plastic boats

How do taxi drivers get away with it?

We had booked to fly from Birmingham but Iceland Air cancelled the flight and re-booked us from Heathrow with a complimentary taxi collection in the centre of Shrewsbury to compensate for the 5 am start. 

The taxi arrived 10 minutes early and shot off down the motorways of middle England at the speed of a comet in deepest space. Apparently without prosecution, we arrived, courtesy of Comet Cars, at Heathrow's Terminal 2 in record time and 5 hours before the flight. Plenty of time to get a rucksack full of assorted electronics through security.

Any normal driver would have had enough points on their license at the end of that journey to keep them off the road for a year. But the nice guys at Comet are invisible to the cameras and let us snooze our way south soothed by the melodies of Smooth FM. Thanks Comet for a painless and prompt start to a hazardous and arduous trip. Speed cameras will not be amongst our hazards for the rest of the trip!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Video of our OCC BBQ at Traighuaine

Traighuaine wild flowers from Simon Currin on Vimeo.

Just a few days to go

With just a few days to go we are watching the ice charts with renewed intensity. There remains much more ice around than last year so we are pondering our choices.

Tasilaq looks like it is going to be out of bounds for some time so our current plan is mapped out on the Google Erath images above and below (the proposed route being in yellow).

After a couple of days of boat maintenance and provisioning we plan a shortish voyage south along the Iceland coast to Patricksfjordur. This will allow us to retrieve our sea legs and bide our time in a remote Icelandic Fjord awaiting a weather window to sail south west across the Denmark Strait to make a landfall in Greenland at the southerly limit of the sea ice - curently 61 degrees north (see ice chart below). Then we can potter south before entering Prins Christian Sund which now appears reliably navigable. Once on the west coast of Greenland we will hug the coast and head north to Assiaat on the southern shores of Disko Bay where we are booked to haul out for the winter. and Fly home on 1st September.

All up this s a voyage of around 650 nautical miles. I have posted a detailed image of our planned rout through Prins Christians Sund (PCS). and the most recent Greenland ice chart The passage through PSC is 79 nautical miles.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Tasilaq still in the deep freeze

The ice in east Greenland continues to thin but it is no where near as clear as last year. In fact it's about half way between what it was in 2015 ( an exceptionally bad year) and 2016 (an exceptionally good year).  I guess that makes it average!

Prins Christian Sund is marginal at the moment but this lovely Sentinal satellite photo shows Tasilaq still well frozen in.  To my inexpert eye I doubt that we will be sailing into Tasilaq as scheduled in the early part of this summer's cruise.


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Traighuaine looking good in the summer sun




The Gorgeous Garvellachs

When the weather comes good then the place to be is the Scottish Islands and Highlands. We had a perfect 36 hour weather window on Monday and Tuesday. 

Tim, our team motivator, made sure that we ignored the morning mists and had our boats in the water ready for the afternoon sunshine. The sun came out on queue and we pointed our kayaks at the delicious Garvellach Islands - the little known jewels of the Hebridean Sea.


A light wind ruffled the water and the tide pushed us towards the green and lovely Garvellachs. We camped where St Columba had landed and where he buried his mother. Wild flowers, otters, seals, fine views and solitude were reward for our efforts. Fantastic.


The place was perfect as was the paddle home to Traighuaine through the Grey Dogs, the Sound of Luing with a couple of sea eagles along the way.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Kayaking Traighuaine and the Garvellachs

Sea Kayak trip with Tim, heather and Denzil from Seil Island to the Garvellachs and back to Traighuaine. A perfect mid-summer outing.

Below is a light hearted slide show of the kayak trip.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Watering down plans - the weather decides!


The planned epic kayak expedition from Barra to Harris gradually got whittled away by strong wind forecasts. No matter which weather app we used they all spelled out the same message. Blustery winds from the south and south west were forecast for at least a week or two.


Plans evolved and ambitions got curtailed. It looked like Lochmaddy afforded plenty of shelter for day trips and we found, on the internet,  a cheap and cheerful outdoor centre there which meant we could base ourselves in a midge free, dry and comfortable bunkhouse to avoid the worst of the unsettled weather.

Our first night was with Pete and Irene Smith in Uig who tolerated our invasion without raising an eyebrow. Their luxury motor home proved the perfect start to our less epic adventure but the rattle of rain on the roof light in the morning confirmed the accuracy of the forecast. 

The Minch was at peace despite the forecast and within an hour of docking in Lochmaddy we had our kayaks in the water and were paddling north against the last of the ebb to our base camp - the Lochmaddy Outdoor Centre.

We launched the next morning with the wind hard behind us. The tide was flooding against us and we inched our way north under the foot bridge. 


Beyond the entrance to our channel there was an angry tidal chop whipped up by the wind that now had some easterly in it. Gingerly we hooked around the corner and instantly started to worry what conditions would be like when the tide changed to oppose the wind. Anyway it was all too much for Sally and me who were missing the all terrain capabilities of our trusty K2 Feathercraft! Instead we drifted around the very sheltered passages before retiring to Lochmaddy for coffee and internet.

The wind forecast remained resolute but with a narrow, more settled, weather window opening up on Thursday. Our outdoor centre sadly is in it's death throws and it was the surveyor that woke us up at 7am as the place is soon to go on the market. His early visit meant that the boats were in the water by 8am and this time the wind was several knots lighter and the easterly component had gone back to west of south. The sea was less agitated and we shot off hugging the coast to stay out of the worst of the wind and the chop.


I am assured  that we whizzed past 20 seals and an otter before the rain came but neither Sally nor me caught any sight of them. The tide  and the wind were behind us as we nosed through narrow, seaweed choked passes guarded by herons and oyster catchers. 

A strengthening tide met a strong opposing breeze at a narrow pass and once again Sally and I bottled it and, instead of pushing through, we hauled out on a narrow isthmus to admire the view. Lunch was spiced with sunshine and a vista of glittering sea strewn with green islands and distant mountains lurking under threatening clouds.

The wind shoved us north and the chop increased but after a few minutes we ducked behind the lea of yet more islands. Using them we dodged our way to windward resting occasionally in the dense gardens of seaweed that offered secure  'parking' at regular intervals.

At last we abandoned the islands and paddled directly into the wind which, thankfully, had now lightened a little. It looked a long way but it wasn't and we were soon close into the shore below the village of Lochmaddy threading the last island pass before hooking right to haul out and stash the boats in the tiny marina next to the ferry terminal.

As soon as we had tied down the boats for the night the rain arrived and we slipped effortlessly into cafe life all be it a little tousled by salty spray and lashings of Hebridean rain.


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Prins Christian Sund - 2 months to go.

The passage through Prins Christian Sund will be a key part of our summer cruise and we are watching the ice conditions carefully. In two months we leave Ideland for the last time and sail down Greenland's east coast to enter PCS. In this beautifully satellite photo published today the entrance is clearly seen - still choked by sea ice. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Glittering Fjords and wonderful wilderness

Glittering Fjords and wonderful wilderness.

Overnight the fog melted away and we were awakened by a shaft of brilliant sunshine in our cabin. Bed tea followed soon afterward by a lazy Sunday breakfast. It's a hard life in the wilderness.

It was a perfect day so we pulled on our walking boots and set off across the bogs and followed streams gushing with meltwater towards Geldingafell via the col to it's east. Bog quickly gave way to boulders strewn with exuberant growths of lichens, mosses and squelchy mud. We climbed up onto the snow patches and watched a plume of fog temporarily engulf the boat a couple of hundred metres below us. Mostly though the air was clear and views spectacular.

The last three hundred metres to the col were a trudge up softening snow until we regained the ridge where the wind had blasted away all but the rocks and lichens. The summit itself was another one hundred and fifty metres of rock, mud and snow. To the north below us was a snow filled valley and a rescue hut on the shoreline then the blue Arctic Ocean stretching away to the fog belts lurking offshore. To the south fjords and snowy mountains, their tops scraped soft by ancient ice, marched inland to the Drangajokull Icecap. A fantastic place to be.

We descended quickly down the now soft snowfields and some of us were soon back at the shore washing away the sweat in the frigid meltwater streams. Afternoon tea back on the boat ended a perfect expedition.

We pulled in a forecast which mentioned mid week southerly gales so we have decided upon an early Monday departure for Isafjordur 25 miles away. That should give us plenty of time to settle the boat onto her mooring and prepare her for the next phase of her summer adventures.

On 15th July we will fly back to Isafjordur and set about an ambitious cruise to Tasilaq on the East Coast of Greenland then south and through Prins Christian Sund and then north up Greenland's West Coast to Aasiaat in the Arctic. That is if luck, the weather, the ice conditions or the boat maintenance trolls don't decide otherwise!