FOG, ICE and RAIN!
By the time we left Newfoundland mum's nerves and fever was under control. The weather forecast promised a windy sail through the first night - towards Greenland – and that was exactly what we got…
We did not come across any icebergs when we left the coast of Newfoundland. At least we did not see any, before the fourth - and last - night toward Greenland. Even in thick fog, it was possible to identify the icebergs as a faintly blue-white glowing haze before we could see them for real. The radar was very helpful in these waters, even though it can't "see" small growlers. The sea temperature dropped further, from 9°C along the coast of Newfoundland to chilly ZERO. It was assuring to know that we had several heating systems on board!
The reason that we choose to set sail in rather fresh winds, was a wish to arrive the coast of Greenland in relative calm weather, due to the possible drift ice or small ice. Luckily, our plan proved correct.
The wind calmed as we sailed closer to Greenland. According to the ice charts there was no drift ice in the area. Our first iceberg showed up on the radar, and for our eyes, during the last night, before we carefully sailed up the Skovfjord on the south west coast of Greenland. While approaching the coast we contacted the Ice Central. We were told that the Bredefjord was packed with icebergs; they did not recommend sailing through it. Skovfjorden on the other hand, was open and still a wonderful sight.
Our destination was Narsaq, situated in a sidefjord between Bredefjorden and Skovfjorden. We sailed among icebergs and growlers of various size. Neither the boat nor the crew were in any danger, and there was plenty of space for Empire to manoeuvre. When we got closer to Narsaq we could see the blockage of icebergs. No wonder why the Ice Central recommended us to sail up the Skovfjord.
The icebergs were big and there were not much room in between them. In the bay outside Narsaq there were several smaller icebergs, some of them quite close to the dock. On the inside of the dock Empire was safe, only a few tiny bits were floating around.
A police officer welcomed us soon after we went ashore. He was in the harbour because of an investigation due to a beer burglary the night before. Eivind thought it could be useful to document our departure from Canada and asked the police officer how to handle this. “Formalities you ask – no, this is Greenland. Drop by my office tomorrow to get a stamp in your passports – afterwards you must come to my house to meet my wife and have coffee with us. Welcome to Greenland!”
Our first meeting with Greenland was more than nice. Narsaq (The Plain) is a small and quite town. Not much happens there – but the nature is grandiose. Lasse, the police officer, and his girlfriend Iben served us coffee and homemade cakes the day after arrival. The day was rounded of with sightseeing and dinner in Empire, together with Iben and Lasse.
We continued the voyage further south in protected waters to Qaqortoq (Julianehåb), the second largest city on the southwest coast of Greenland. The city was bustling with life when Empire tied up – not because of our arrival, but because of a cruise ship also anchored in the bay. For a few hours the number of inhabitants was doubled, with lots of people in the streets.
From Qaqortoq we sailed on to Uunartoq, where we found a sheltered bay. We anchored in lee of a gravel island left by the glaciers many years ago. Soon after dropping the anchor, we rowed ashore to find the path that would take us to the hot pots…
The hot pots on Uunartoq are said to be the only one of its kind in Greenland. Eirik Raude and his Viking friends were also familiar with these hot pots. It was wonderful to sink into the warm water, looking down on Empire in the fjord with icebergs floating by!
Among the few
During the next day we probably met all the sailboats cruising around the east coast of Greenland that summer… On the east side of the island where we had anchored, we found the American yacht "Ramshackle". We got to know the couple aboard Ramshackle while in St. John's, Newfoundland. The couple had had a rough passage to Greenland and enjoyed a few days of calm in Uunartoq.
Later that day we also met an American boat tacking past us in one of the neighbouring fjords. They were among the few cruisers we met, while sailing in Greenland waters. We did not meet any sailboats flying the flag of Greenland…
Later that day we tied up at the fish pier in Nanortalik.
From Nanortalik we continued to Ikigait, a small bay at the beginning of the Inugsuernerit Fjord. The Vikings used the bay as an anchorage when arriving Greenland from Norway or Iceland. The bay was also the last anchorage before heading home again. The family that settled in this inhospitable place where the fjord meets the open sea, did better as traders than farmers.
Walking around ashore we saw some stones, supposed to be remindings of the Vikings once living there. There was really not much to see, but we could feel the historical vibes.
Shortcut through Greenland
The next morning we were in a hurry to hoist the anchor. During the night the wind had shifted. Luckily Marius early bird woke us all up, in time. When we peaked out of the hatch, we were only a few meters from the rocks. We concentrated on hoisting the anchor up first. The long line ashore we picked up afterwards by dingy. That was way too close…
From Ikigait across the Inugsuernerit Fjord we headed north up Ujaragtarfik. The fog was tick and the water temperature was down to +0,8°C. A few times the fog lifted, to let us see the glaciers on top of the mountains along the fjord. At the end of this fjord, several fjords meet in something reminding of an advanced motorway crossing. Just before the crossing there is a gap in the mountain. 120 people called "the gap" their home.
The tiny settlement named Augpilagtoq has the tinyest entrance. It was so narrow, we could almost touch the mountain walls on both sides, on our way in to the natural sheltered harbour.
There were many curious people closely watching, when Empire moored to the shaken old dock. They were no less curious, when the second sailboat that day came in to the small settlement. The boat was Russian and had crossed from Iceland a week earlier.
One of the elderly ladies spoke a little Danish. All the others living in Augpilagtoq spoke Inuit only. Some of the older boys found it amusing to jump off Empire’s bow – only wearing some filthy wet suits. Tough guys!
Electricity was only to be found from the always buzzing generator and none of the houses had water taps. The inhabitants had to carry water from a tiny blue painted house, like many Greenlanders do in their small communities. The only motor vehicle we could see was an old tractor. The road in Augpilagtoq was hardly suitable for any other type of cars. When travelling around in this area, you go by boat.
When we left Augpilagtoq, our plan was to enjoy one last stop at the weather station at the mouth of Prins Christian Sund – the fjord that took us through the southern part of Greenland without sailing south of Cape Farwell.
As we sailed eastward Prins Christian Sund we downloaded a new grib-file. The grib showed that if we headed directly toward Iceland we could get a good weather window. If we choose to wait, the risk could be waiting another two weeks for the next window.
By the time we decided to head directly for Iceland, the wind were blowing 15m/s out of the west. As we sailed through the last part of the fjord, the fog diminished - before it once again thickened as we sailed in to open waters. As a last farewell, the fog disappeared when Empire was a few nautical miles of the coast. Behind us the glacier mountains were shimmering in the midday sun – as waving us goodbye!