Blind in a rat hole

August 15th:   we woke up late at six thirty and in full day light. Stephan, Kiki and Kingsley, owners and founders of “Ocean imaging” from Australia came with a plan. They knew exactly where they wanted to dive. I agreed to sail Breskell there. I had the area chartered on my electronic maps. Their spot, perfect for diving but right in the middle of rocks, was a navigational nightmare. Not an easy course also, even if they had figured out how to get there. We prepared the different waypoints along our track then took care of the boat. Our goal was about 12 nm from Sisimut.. Everything went well until we were very close to the intended stop . My centerboard, again, hit a rock. I use it, in some tricky places, as my own upfront sonar. Not fully down and going very slowly, she gives us an advance warning of what is under Breskell keel at a time when my depth sounder is literally overwhelmed by depth information. Very quickly, we rise the board and backed off a bit farther from shore.

A rat hole…

With so many obstructions, the holding will be good. Maybe even too good! I dropped my anchor with a safety line to get it back on board if it gets stuck under rocks. The wind was now blowing pretty hard. I decided that we should stay put and not fight this 20 to 25 knots wind on the nose. How long? The all night sure. I knew the wind would get stronger. Some tried to argue that we should leave. I would not accept any suggestions. A boat captain in not a nice syndicate officer presiding over a participating meeting where important decisions are taken by consensus. There is no safety in numbers against the forces of nature. A storm is going to beat with exactly the same equity any number of boats on its path. At sea, coming with the captain experience, there is just a good or a bad decision and sometime a bit of luck! As the captain, the safety of my crew was my only priority. Even if it was difficult for some, knowing nothing about boats and sailing, to expect that it could become dangerous to keep going on. Even a mutiny of my crew would not have changed my mind.  But I had a nice crew and very soon, seeing the wind getting stronger and stronger, everyone understood my decision. I knew also that they trusted my sailing experience. The wind increased from twenty-five to thirty then to thirty-five knots with higher gusts. Even in this well protected anchorage, Breskell moved a lot around her anchor. Like every sailor during a blow, I hoped my good size anchor would hold well on this rocky bottom and decided about an anchor watch for the first hours of the blow.

Malik, our local crew member

Malik, our local crew-member, told me that this kind of wind could easily last several days. My decision was already taken. In that case, we would stay here for as many days as necessary . As a matter of fact, I felt like trapped inside a rat’s hole. No more choice than anybody else, we had to stay! In the back of my mind I thought that this didn’t feel like a well established stationary depression above our head. The cloud patterns, the weather forecast, my sailor feeling made me think that this looked more like a thermal wind… Going down the mountain’s slopes with the heat of the day and stopping during the night when it cool off. We had diner, enjoyed the evening and went to bed.

August 16th
  I got up early, around four AM and without any wind. My intuitions were good. The fog had now simply replaced the wind. It was so thick that I couldn’t even see the bow of Breskell. In fact we could not see anything. We needed to get out of that rat hole completely blind.
Half and hour later, the motor was running. Kingsley pulled the line while I got the anchor.. I was happy to leave that trap, this time with no current, no seas and not a clue about our surroundings. 
Kingley took the wheel and followed blindly the compass courses I gave him: 50,60.70, 95,120…..  Mere numbers for him to follow blindly on the boat compass while I closely watched the radar and got my headings from the computer. Rocks were everywhere. On the starboard side, then on the port side, then more of these around! We kept going, plotting our progress carefully ….

In the fog, plotting with map  computer and radar…

It was scary. Relatively quickly we were at last on the open water but still 100% blind. We used the fog horn every few minutes to signal our presence to others improbable boats. Only our radar could “see “ something around, helping us to build our navigational reality. I kept my eyes on its screen and tried to make sense of its electronic drawings.
For now, we went first West and later North. We needed to sail about 48 miles today to reach the bay I chose: KASNGIUSAP PAVA bay.
  It’s about midday when I got to my waypoint marking the entrance of the fjord. It was still very foggy.. I expected to see land any time soon. Still nothing, even with these pretty high mountains around us.

Imagine our ancestors  navigating with this first map of Greenland…

Again, I made my entrance with the help of my electronic charts combined by a careful validation of my location with the radar without any visual clue. One mile to shore …nothing….. half a mile still no shore. I know it’s there because it appeared clearly on my radar screen. Now I had entered into this little bay seeing nothing except for my theoretical position on a chart and an electronic trace on a radar screen. Another stressful moment. That is sailing life. Ninety percent of good time and ten percent of pure adrenaline. That’s addictive also. For now, a kind of electronic navigation in a virtual reality. Except that my crew and my boat were as real as the rocks around us. Finally at less than half a mile, the shore appeared through the fog clouds. We chose a spot to anchor. Pure magic! I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I dropped the anchor in 15 feet of water. It was peaceful , really peaceful with Breskell laying quietly in the bay at the end of a very foggy day. Now my turn to relax.
I went ashore with Malik and my beloved gun looking for some fresh meat. Remember the deer, the musk-ox….all the promises of the adventure movies? We saw one snow hare. It saw us even before and ran away. No meat roasted on a beach fire for tonight … But later I landed some fresh cod!

No meat but fresh fish…

Dominic and the crew of “Ocean Imaging”

Kingley and his magic flying machine

flew their wonderful machines.

Survey around Breskell by « Ocean imaging »  drone

Edgar and Vari went in the water with Kiki.. The water was around 34 Fahrenheit. (1-2 Celsius).

Nice swim… in 34 Fahrenheit water !

Another day to remember.
As Kiki could say: “We have done it by ourselves.”
With a little technological help.