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.