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Sunday, 7 August 2016

A Farewell to Scoresby Sound

We spent a lovely sunny day at anchor in Aumdrup Havn doing various jobs and enjoying our last hours in Scoresby Sound. We refilled our 200 litre flexible water tank in a meltwater stream and ferried it back to the boat by tender. We then hoisted the tender on a spare genoa halyard and siphoned it back into our main water tanks. We siphoned the last 60 litres of fuel from our 200 litre barrel into the main fuel tank and then topped that up by pumping another 150 litres from our auxiliary tank. We calculated that we still have a motoring range of up to 800 miles so we remain well resourced despite having motored extensively throughout the windless fjords.

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.
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