July 7, 2012

Leg 2: Iceland to Cape Farewell (Greenland)

We get into Reykjavik harbour early morning and are just about to have a whisky in the cockpit to celebrate our arrival when customs shows up. Very seriously they count all half and almost empty bottles in the bottle locker in the table. They inform us it needs to be sealed. An unknown sweet liqueur ends up in the sink and if we kindly empty half a bottle there will be no need for a seal. Well if we have too… Welcome to Iceland!

Harpa, the controversial
Reykjavik opera house

Harpa opera house.

We are moored opposite the prestigious opera building, “Harpa”. It was finished after the financial crash much to the anger of a big part of the population. They had other worries on their minds. Many could not pay their loans anymore and did not have a future on the island. They took the keys to their home and car to the bank manager, got on the plane and started a new life elsewhere in Scandinavia.

Changing crew.

Petter has to return home, we became close friends in just a few weeks time. He will try to join one of the later legs. Ashleigh from Australia arrived in Iceland a week ago and Georgina arrived a few days later. Lots to do before we can leave. Buying the stores for the next four months with 6 persons on board needs some careful planning. Ashleigh gets very familiar with the Reykjavik bus system. She has long list off essential (spare) parts. Back home in Longyearbyen there is very little available, so it needs to be done here. When she tries to get on the bus with a 6 meter aluminium pole she is refused by the normally very friendly and helpful Icelanders. We need a truck taxi to get it on board. We will need it to fend off the ice.

Our crew for the
leg to Greenland

Digital navigation.

Much of the time in Reykjavik we are dealing with soft and hardware problems. Next to the laptop there is a tablet on board that works on Windows. So now the laptop becomes the backup and we want to navigate and communicate by way of the tablet. So it should be able to do all the tricks. After some time Patrick and Ilona of Telemos, Netherlands understand that the on and off switch should work and the SD slot is not there for the show, even on a “seldom” used demo model. But then these freshwatermussels from the Netherlands cannot comprehend that the inbuilt GPS antenna should also work when there is no sim card installed. There are very few UMTS antenna’s mid ocean. A Global Positioning System as far as they can see just needs to work a couple of miles offshore. Luckily the shop in Iceland also solves that problem. In the good old time we did without these gadgets, we would have been out of there for days by now. Just a sextant and an almanac….

Friends en pioneers

"Best Explorer" comes in, happy faces, Italian friends from Tromsø and Spitsbergen. They are on their way to the North West Passage too. They are the first Italian yacht so they have to go for a diner at the embassy. Willy de Roos, a Dutchman that lived most of his life in Belgium went before us in 1977. The “Williwaw” was the first yacht to sail through the passage. Nowadays 4 -5 sturdy yachts a year manage to find their way in the maze of islands, shallows, pack-ice and fog. To add to the confusion the magnetic compass will loses all sense of direction. Some do not make it and have to back out, others might have to stay the winter….

Diving to check the rudder bearing

Diving in.

We are searching for a place to dry the boat out. On our way from Svalbard we had a “klonk” in the ship. With an alloy hull it is very difficult to locate the origin of the sound. A lever on the rudder stock that was not 100% tight might have been the culprit but to be sure I would like to check the lower rudder bearing. In the end it is easier to dive. All looks fine, so no worries!! A yacht from Lithuania mores alongside. They got a new, bright red sheet around the prop. I have to cut it to pieces before handing it back.

Our Italian friends from
Best Explorer waving goodbye

On our way to Greenland.

At sea again, just enough wind to keep the sails full and moving along at 4 – 5 knots. We are more than happy not to have to listen to the engine all the time. The latest ice chart directs us to 50 nm south of Cape Farewell. Quite a detour for the heavy pack ice is coming south on the East Greenland Current.
"Isblink" a sign of ice on the horizon
We do not really feel to be on our way to the North West Passage, sitting in the cockpit in just a T shirt…. Hanne mails us the latest ice chart but nothing much changed. When we get close to the ice edge we get into fog, the air temperature drops and on the “horizon” we can see the “iceblink”. Where the ice reflects the light the horizon seems to lighten up a bit. We sail past some smaller pieces of ice and decide to tack to the south and away from the ice.

Wind against tide means waves.

It is a bumpy sail to the waypoint 50 nm south of Cape Farewell. We have the current with us but 30 knots of wind right on the noose, not all seem happy with that…… Every time we tack to starboard the graphic display on the Garmin shows the temperature to fall. A clear indication that we are getting close to the ice edge. Finally the wind slackens of to 10 knots and the sky clears. The sharp peaks of Cape Farewell stick out 60 nm to the north of us...

Ice south of Greenland Fog rainbow Time to change the courtesy flag