We motored all night. Want to guess again about the wind direction at daybreak on this six of August ? Better not! With daybreak , we got … a light SE at last. For a hardcore sailor, nothing could be better news. Even light , this wind was pushing Breskell in the right direction. No more fighting, an easy down sailing. First thing first : cutting off the engine noise. All sails out, main and gib, we were running at four to five knots. It felt so good to slide smoothly and silently toward our first Greenland city. Tomorrow in Nuuk: we were about one hundred nautical miles away. We kept our regular look-out, mainly from the pilot house warmed by our wood stove. Each 15 minutes, a crew member was getting outside. Those vagabond growlers, undetected by radar, were always on my mind.
They could severely damage Breskell. Actually, the boat was feeling better than I was. My chest and sides hurt, muscles , bones and every ligaments between them also. Could I have asked for a sick leave? Nobody in my crew knew anything about sailing. I guessed I had to stay in the captain’s chair…. At noon, Ann saw an iceberg and called me: “a big one in front. And wait… now a second one on our starboard. “
Again, we sailed respectfully among those cathedrals of ice slowly drifting to their death in the warmer waters waiting for them farther south. Better to keep a sharp lookout if we didn’t want to meet a much quicker ending in their cold grips. The first one was right in our way. On my radar screen I saw it clearly. Quickly dressed, I climbed on deck to watch it approaching. At four knots and still under auto-pilot, we got closer and closer. I was ready to release the Aries any time and took control of the helm in case of a collision course .
IMPRESSIVE…. HUGE…. Adorned in these vibrant blue and green colors given by the sun mirroring on their surface. God, how beautiful they were drifting slowly along Breskell. Better than any human made exposition in a modern museum. A natural artistic delight with its surreal surroundings of fog, sun, water and ice.
Ann decided to wake everyone up for this free ice color show.
From what I read on the radar screen, we were now less than a mile away.
Gathering on Breskell deck, in awe and quietly , we just admired their parade. How big were they ? Hard to say. Probably seven or eight stories high and around six or seven soccer fields long. Bigger maybe. They drifted close by. They had started their epic journey as little snow flakes many thousands of years ago. Now, free at last from the ice pack, they drifted slowly south, some water cascading over their surface, premises of the long process of erosion slowly destroying them . A process that we humans are increasing at an alarming rate. They are returning to their first liquid state, ready to start another cycle of their eternal life out of scale with our human one. On huge cruise ships, out for a few minutes from the luxury and comfort of the cabin, I am sure their majesty was very much appreciated by the passengers. The growing number of “northern cruising adventures “ and the promises of seeing them on the open water is a token of their popularity. Even the best pictures by the best world’s photographers cannot convey how impressive and how humbling their meeting on the high seas are . For us, sailing alone in these high latitudes, their fabulous and hazardous encounter were enhanced by the adrenaline needed to reach them. Each day, each night against currents, winds and waves, with the fog and cold as constant partners, we had to fight mile after mile our way north. We were anxious to discover, out of the next bank of fog, the size and shape of our next fugitive neighbor.
Never far away from a hazardous encounter with growlers, their vicious relatives. Flush with the surface, some are, for sure, marauding around their icy parents, hungry to snatch for themselves a freshly painted piece of Breskell tasty wood. All these close encounters made of each of them, small or big, many lifelong images.
Finally they disappeared as they came: slowly and with “MAJESTY”
Time to recollect all these fresh memories during my afternoon nap. I woke up again to the reality of sailing. All sail flapping, the boat was stuck in a “ pétole “ on a sea as flat as a mirror. Far away, in front of us, we detected the first sight of the land.
A pretty impressive land. We were now 58 nautical miles from the Greenland shores. I made a realistic proposition to my crew. Let’s motor for a few hours and get closer to shore. Why? If the wind again betrays us and comes back from the north, we will not have to fight for too long. What about the weatherman ? Pretty sure this guy was paid by the Greenland tourist office to promote his nice weather “from the South “ to all those vacationers coming for the first time to this remote island. This maniac was calling again for South winds. Enough! I didn’t want to take any more chances. As we got close to land, we would “park the boat “ offshore, heave to, as we sailor say, waiting for daylight. There was no way I was going to sail there in the dark.