Irene made a quick, if not particularly comfortable, passage from the Canadian Arctic to Aasiaat in Greenland.
During early planning stages, we had thought to skip Greenland and head directly down Baffin Island to Labrador. As we popped out into the Baffin Sea, driven by a fierce arctic 75 knot tailwind, we altered plans based on these factors:
1) We were low on diesel fuel – the long detours around heavy ice had depleted our reserves.
2) An extra nasty storm was brewing on the Baffin Island side. Our shore support, Mike, was emphatic that we head east.
3) Greenland seemed like an interesting place to visit. Good pastries were rumored to be available there.
4) Aasiaat is the destination of the Norwegians tug with the Maud that we had followed through the ice and we were very interested to meet the crew.
Sometimes serendipity helps out – in this case, we reluctant visitors to Greenland were oh so glad we were diverted to this country.
All of the factors that directed us to Greenland were valid, and we were rewarded in unexpected ways:
1) World record customs experience. Clearing in took minutes and the official motto seemed to be “what can we do for you?” The official drove us to the diesel fuel company office!
2) Greenland villages are wonderful to explore, and very photogenic in the arctic light.
3) Several towns in Greenland have an institution called the Seaman’s Home where sailors are welcomed. Showers, good food and excellent company were all to be found there, and the Seaman’s home in Aasiaat was exceptional for facilities and for friendly staff. And….. coffee and pastries!
We were tied up to the village fish boat pier, and refueling went well…
We met the Norwegian crew of the Tandberg Polar at the Seaman’s Home. They are a wonderful group of people, all competent sailors and almost as happy to have escaped the Canadian Arctic as we. We enjoyed hearing the story of their experience of the passage through the ice.
We were aware as always that time was ticking away, and we needed to get south as soon as possible.
Nuuk called to us, just a coastal hop south, and after a quick check with the weather, we headed out. The passage was uneventful, except for crossing the arctic circle and completing our Northwest Passage celebrated with tropical drinks and chili followed by a full night of northern lights.
Soon, we found ourselves in the big city and capital of Greenland.
Interesting points of our visit to Nuuk.
1) Great neighbors, a Lady German singlehander and a Kiwi/Scot couple.
2) Firewood! In a treeless land!
3) The fiord starts to freeze!
The landscape here was vertical. We were always climbing up or down ladders and stairs. The chill in the air and the bare rock reminded us of our days in the mountains hiking and climbing.
We were rafted to two wonderful neighbor vessels here. We were all shorthanded by arctic standards. Nehaj is a German yacht that belongs to the first female singlehander through the NWP, Suzanne. She had the endearing trick of deferring questions until she had the chance to confer with her crew. The New Zealand yacht Larissa is sailed by Mark (of NZ) and Heather (of Scotland.) Chatting over a cozy dinner aboard Larissa we were all simultaneously elated to have actually completed the NWP and escaped the arctic, and wondering what the heck to do next. The weather at sea was frightful, with near constant gales and hurricane remnants ravaging both the way to Europe and the Eastern Seaboard of North America.
Remaining in Nuuk was a possibility that Mark and Heather settled on. Wintering over in Greenland is not for the faint of heart, but we knew these two particularly competent sailors could handle it. Not sure we could! Suzanne opted to head for Lunenburg where she had contacts. Ginger voted for as far south as we could get as fast as we could go on the Eastern Seaboard.
Decisions made, it was just a matter of provisioning and taking off. We were quite low on firewood and had little hope of finding any here in Greenland. Somehow Ginger found some pressed wood blocks, convenient and reduced for quick sale as they seem to use them for summer cookouts! We hired a taxi to get them back to the boat. Our taxi driver was looking forward to a caribou hunt, and explained that hunting rules forbid motorized vehicles in the area. “No problem, though – it’s going to be an early winter. The fiord is already frozen over at the head so the walking will be easy!” We took this as a not so subtle hint to get going, and headed out into Davis Strait early the next morning.