We departed Nuuk in the early morning. A thick fog and a chill breeze blew down from the glacier, shooting through my layers until I put on my foulie top. My being the new guy on board means there is a competition, in my head alone, to *not* be the first to reach for warmer clothing. I failed at this competition immediately as Les and Ali seem to be comfortable in but half the layers I require to be just short of shivering. And it’s not cold yet. Note to self: leave pride on the dock and just try to stay warm!
The wind died a few miles off shore requiring that we fire up the engine, and the fog cleared by evening, revealing a jagged, dragon’s tooth coast, black rock, snow-capped mountains, an infinity of peaks. Glaciers poured into the water, and in places the ice cap just came into view.
Ali dug out H. W. Tillman’s compendium and we reviewed the various bays and mountains of Greenland that he visited here in MISCHIEF, many of which these two have also explored. I’ve been so focused on Northwest Passage Makers, I’d forgotten Tillman’s footsteps are all over this coast.
We settled into watches of 3 on and 6 off before lunch.
Sunset came after 11PM and left the oily sea reflecting the color of gold and rose until dawn but five hours later, when it came up over the mountains barely 90 degrees east of where it set into the ocean.
At dawn I came on watch and Ali pointed out a flat top object ahead on the horizon, large as a city block and likely our first berg. Over the hours this berg grew in size but lost its angularity until it resolved to be a lump of an island. So no ice yet, though it was on this day that we crossed the official line into the Arctic, that being 66.5* North.
Wind came up from the south in the late morning and we were soon wing and wing making 7 and 8 knots over a short, steep chop. I made the fool request that we shake out the reef in the main, which Les allowed, and which operation was almost beyond my physical ability. The sails, apart from being much larger than I’m used to working, are made from the heaviest, high-latitude cloth. Insult to injury: soon wind was 30 knots and the heavy sail had to come down altogether.
We continued under poled-out jib until the small low blew itself out overnight.
Late next morning saw us making our last 60 miles to Aasiaat through a series of rocky islands, dark with lichen atop and white stone at the waterline. Les explained the bare rock below had been abraded bare by ice in some previous year. And it was in these channels that we began to pick up our first bergs grounded out in the shallows, drifters down from the great ice machine in Disko Bay. Our way into harbor was nearly blocked altogether by a grounded sentinel at the entrance, but some careful maneuvering put us around it, and we dropped anchor in Aasiaat just in time for lunch.
350 miles of northing. Upernivik next…