Rúnar Óli Karlsson

Greenland report – Part I

August has been very busy with all seats booked for East Greenland. We planned to set sail on the 3 August on the first trip with eight guests, but an unusually low pressure system in the Denmark Strait, changed our plans and we to a short sail across the bay, visited the beautiful Vigur island before anchoring in Lonafjordur fjord to let the storm pass. We stayed there for two nights, did some walking and kayaking in the company of curious seals and ate nice food. On the third day, people were getting anxious to head over to Greenland. Finally captain Siggi gave order to lift the anchor and head out of the fjord. The low was diminishing and cruising South pretty fast and would be gone when we arrived into the Strait. At least we hoped!

Felix from Switzerland doing a great job during the passage in the rough weather.

It was dead calm for the first few hours and the group enjoyed the view over the fjords and bays and watched the mountains sinking into the sea when we got further from the coast. A favourable wind picked up from the NE and we were doing 9-10 knots and Siggi started worrying about that we were making too good progress and might catch up with the remaining of the storm. We reduced sails but were still making good (too good!) speed. The wind grew stronger and Aurora was in her favourite mood; cruising the waves under broad reach with no problems. Some of our guests started feeling a bit sea sick and went to the warm bunks to relax.

Stretching our bodies after the crossing in Mikisfjord.

In the evening we hit a very think fog. It can be quite challenging to sail in 25-30 knots of wind in fog and in an area where the Icelandic fishing fleet spends a lot of time…! The radar was turned on and watched closely. Also, recent news of icebergs in the area kept the crew on alert. When the dusk closed in on us, Siggi made a decision to heave to for the night since it was too risky to sail at this speed with so little visibility. Heaving to means that you tack the boat but don´t take the staysail over and tie it down. The boat almost stops and then you lock the wheel and things are quite comfortable. We slept well for seven hours before continuing our voyage in calmer winds. This is the first time we´ve had bad weather crossing the Denmark Strait and we´ve made quite a few crossings.

Icelanders in Greenland. Birthday girl Sveinborg (left) with me, Freysi and Solveig.

Late in the next evening the mountains of East Greenland started appearing above the horizon and the crew was getting excited. We anchored in Mikisfjord that we have visited many times before and it is the perfect place to relax after crossing the Strait. Many options for walking or kayaking are in the area and the anchorage is shallow so the big icebergs don´t cause any problems. The day after the arrival, we walked into Sodalen valley where an Australian mining company is searching for gold and platinum. The two Australian geologists in our group had much to talk about and exchange information with their fellow country men. Luckily there was a 30th birthday party in their camp and we got cakes and pancakes. Thank you very much! They showed us a video taken the day before from a helicopter where a big polar bear was sniffing around in the abandoned village in Skaergaard (that we were going to visit the day after!).

The group with the Inuit hunters. Photo: Inge van den Broek.

The next day we sailed to Suhaili bugt and dropped anchor. The kayaks were launched and we paddled to the abandoned village in Skaergaard. The shotgun was kept handy and the flares also. No signs of polar bears but we met three Inuit hunters far away from home, shooting narwhal and seals. They had also seen the polar bear the day before. Becky and Larry, the geologists from Australia were eager to take us to a nearby glacier tongue to pan for gold. The story goes that it´s highly likely to find small fragments of gold in the smaller streams coming from the glacier. We had no luck this time with our primitive equipment.

Great mountain walk close to Suhaili bugt. Just managed to get above the morning fog.

After some great time in Suhaili bugt, we sailed out of the Kangerlussuaq fjord and headed along the coast towards Kulusuk , enjoying the view of the coastline with its calving glaciers and unnamed mountains more than we could count. We spent one night in a great anchorage inside a small island off the coast with towering mountains circling the island. Part of the group kayaked the last bit in the great surroundings and beautiful weather.

The perfect place to relax.

Finally we came to the village of Kulusuk where we spent the last night and checked out the village before the group flew back to Iceland. Some people decided to stay few days longer in Greenland to further explore the nature and culture of the country. The trip has come to an end and I want to thank you all for our great time together. Hope to see you again.

There are more photos in our photo collection. Please take a look.
Aurora is still in Greenland doing another expedition further South with surfers from California. Yes, surfing in Greenland!  Stay tuned for another report in September.