To Sisimiut, a perfect sail before a serious emergency

August 25th/ 26th
Departure day for Sisimiut. I needed about one hundred twenty liters of diesel ( thirty gallons ). No need to hurry. We woke up slowly and had a good and convivial breakfast. When my crew would be ready, I planned to go to the fuel dock. A real small dock, no more than twenty to twenty-three feet (six/seven meter). Not an easy task to tie later my fifty feet Breskell to it! Luckily, the weather was great and the wind calm. By the time we were ready, four or five small boats had docked for diesel or gas. How to get there in the middle of this flotilla? No choice, we had to wait. These guys are locals, at home here and they had priority.
Finally we moved in, got fuel and at about eleven o’clock left the dock. The weather report predicted a really nice day. Blue skies and winds up to 5 knots from NNW. For a sailor that meant no wind! We were in for another motoring day…
Out of the harbor, we passed a huge cruise ship : AMADEA. She was at anchor right in the middle of the bay with an easy access to town. Her private launches were ferrying passengers  back and forth during her day long stay.
We took a two hundred twenty compass course aiming for a waypoint I set up about seventy miles from QEQERTARSUAQ.

Perfect sailing day. All sails up…

About two or three hours later the wind rose up slightly. Forever a sailor, I sent up the sails. Every one of them. Main sail, gib and stay sail. The wind got slowly stronger and stronger: ten, twelve , and event fifteen knots. We run up to nine knots under sail only. The first time in Greenland we had such a nice ride. Everybody enjoyed it and the captain more than most . Good wind in the right direction and under a clear sky. A sailor’s delight!

Seals basking in the sun

And to had to our pleasure, we met large colonies of seals basking in the sun.  I thought the wind would die in the evening but it din’t. It got a bit weaker but kept pushing Breskell towards our destination: Sisimiut. From broad reach we went to wing on wing with this very good following wind. Not strong but enough to push us at six to seven knots. I did my chart plotting by hand as the software on my computer had definitely crashed and was unusable . Still easier than years ago when we had to use a hand compass on paper charts.
I reached my intermediate waypoint and now aimed directly to Sisimiut, sailing parallel and close to shore.
We still had this good 15 knots wind, but now with a strong current against us. We sailed at no more than four to five knots on the ground.
It was around eleven PM. Edgar, one of our crewman , was steering for about thirty minutes. He asked me to be relieved to go quickly to the head. I took over but made a small but a costly mistake. I did not take time to pull on a warm jacket. He was supposed to come back right away… Wrong!
I started negotiating the waves. Wind against current always make for a rough and choppy sea. And some waves were quite big. As I was negotiating one of these, my wheel suddenly went slack. I understood the problem immediately. A steering cable had broken. I had no more control on Breskell and was so close to the rocks… A real emergency! I let everybody know.: “all hands on deck NOWl” In my mind, I had many time before rehearsed this kind of situation. I knew what to do. Pull the jib in, start the engine and ask somebody to bring down the main sail. I opened immediately the locker on the back of the boat to gain access to the mechanism of my twin rudders. On the port side sector, I installed quickly a line and asked Dom to take care of the starboard side. For him, the order was clear: find a way to keep the starboard rudder as much as possible in line with the center of the boat … Then a simple solution: tighten this one with a taut line. This way, with one rudder locked on, I could steer directly the boat with only the port side rudder. For now, Breskell was laying across the waves , rolling a lot in the process and getting closer to the reefs. I got the engine running one thousand five hundred RPM. Using a lot of strength with my whole body, I got it back on his original course. Remember, I had still not much in term of thermal protection. Now we were no more in a real emergency. We could go on to Sisimiut again, eleven miles away. We were still close enough to shore for becoming too confident. At least, now I could control again the boat.
To go starboard ? I pull my line with all my strength.
To go port? I push on the rudder quadrant with my foot… A bit easier, the legs muscles being stronger than the arms’ ones. Legs…arms, legs… arms,

Steering cable broken! Emergency repair with line

I get better and better steering the boat in this creative way! Not an easy task, but it worked. Edgar took over for a while so I could relax. We asked Vari also. But she could not handle it ….. She was again going toward the rocks so I took over immediately and stayed at this improvised “helm” up to the end of the trip. Leg-arm, leg-arm … but what about the plotting ? I asked Malik to do it . He was doing a great job… Working closely together, we were going to make it.
After about three hours, we got to the harbor entrance. There was no wind and this port was also very well protected. I asked Edgar to take the control of the engine. We entered very slowly. Our boat getting in with no boat getting out; every thing was going well. Right behind the pass, there was a sailboat docked along a fishing boat. I clearly explained my intention to Edgar. Before running into big troubles with our unorthodox steering, we had one try. Better to get it right at once and reach this sailboat. As soon as possible, I made my final approach. Slowly. Very slowly. Now, close enough, I asked to throw the docking lines. Onboard the other sailboat, they took them and tightened Breskell . It was over! Time to relax and share the story of our little emergency with our neighbors. They were English.. Very cool and nice people. And still surprised by our unconventional “leg-arm “ docking maneuver . Never saw that before I guess!
Then all my crew went to town. I took advantage of being alone to fix the steering system without anybody looking over my back. I had a spare cable onboard . One hour later, the repair was done. Another advantage to know one’s boat from the top of the mast to the bowels of her steering quadrant. Not to mention her double rudders… Another life saving gift coming directly from the naval architectural talents of my father.
Now, remember my long exposure without much of a thermal protection ? This, combined with the stress of the emergency, my unorthodox steering posture and the load of my big boat on her small rudder… For that all, they was a price to be paid. The bill was coming tonight. And it had to be paid in full. My body was one big painful muscular spasm from my neck to my lower back and with my left foot even worst. In fact, I couldn’t walk anymore ! I felt like a ninety years old fellow being hit by a truck and left in a ditch on the roadside during a cold night. No doctor aboard. The girls consulted together and suggested first an old proven women’s remedy: a hot salted water bath for my foot. Why not ? Could not be any worse. Then they consulted again and prescribed some healthy food. That made sense also. As a final nurse’s order they suggested a bed rest. I had a hard time with this last part of the prescription crawling to my bunk. Took some time, but I finally managed it alone.
Then I didn’t remember anything…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *