In the evening, around 7:00 , we left Nuuk to pick up the crew coming for the next few days in Kangerlussuaq, a small town farther north. We sailed down the fjord in the twilight and away from the danger of the rocky shores and then up North. Not much sailing in fact.
The wind was light and that gave us plenty of time to enjoy the perpetual play of the sun setting in the late evening and rising again in the early morning with just a shadowy period between sunset and sunrise..
There were no more real night but a palette of unbelievable colors with this midnight sun which refused to disappear completely. From the deck of Breskell, we were admiring a true light show playing in a surrounding of snow, ice, mountains and water. A beautiful windless day also the next morning….. The light breeze raising with the sun was not impeding our northerly progression. We were motoring at an average of 7 knots for the next 19 hours. And we kept motoring for the next day, August 9th.
A cruise-ship was shadowing us all night at reduced speed. My guess was that her captain planned to enter the fjord with the rising sun to offer his passengers this spectacular panorama as a breakfast special with theirs eggs, bacon and orange juice. In northern latitudes, cruise-ships or sailboats share the same waters and the same exceptional surroundings. We follow also the same navigational rules. Yet our experiences cannot compare when we meet ice cathedrals or approach mighty glaciers. On cruise-ship life organize around ETA to the next beautiful port of call generally in the morning, the timing of your next delicious meal and the schedule of the nice attractions and activities planned by your cruise director. A packaged dream life of sort. On the contrary, reality of hight latitudes sailors is constructed around long hours pointing against the wind, of freezing watches, of complex navigational choices and of night filled with anxiety and difficult decision making. This life is packed with adrenaline and not for the faint of heart. But what extraordinary experiences and memories we bring back home!
An analogy could be made with the view from a mountain summit. One reached by helicopter after an hour flight and the same panorama but experienced differently by trekkers after a long week on the trails hauling heavy back packs, food and mountain climbing equipment and nights spent in tents and sleeping bags .
Same summit, same view but two different experiences. One bought with money, one earned with sweat. With some sweat, my guess is that they last longer and go deeper in your soul.
In the afternoon, two miles away from Kangerlussuaq fjord, studying the map, consulting the tide tables and currents, I started my entrance preparation. We had a good ebbing current against us for now but I know my timing was good to get in ….
About one hour before the slack, we entered the fjord. As we slide in, we discovered how strange and beautiful this landscape was: dry and covered with tundra, without trees nor grass. A lunar landscape with only mosses, lichens and rocks on each side of high and steep mountains covered with snow on their summits and glaciers along their slopes.
Can you imagine the raucous when one of these big chunks of ice tumbles down from this hight? At least a five or six hundred yards free fall and then what a spectacular splash!!! The more we penetrated between those two rocky walls, the more impressive it became . Gray, green, blue, black, all mixed in a strange and surreal symphony of colors. Not a house or a living soul around; only a desert of bare rocks. Wonderful and peaceful.
In our way up the fjord during the dim light of the “night”, we kept a sharp look-out for any uncharted navigational hazard.
Early the next day, I prepared my dock line to tie to the pier that Malik, a crew member from Nuuk knew about in Kangerlussuaq. Alas during our final approach my boat refused to coöperate. One thousand meters from the land she stopped smoothly. It didn’t take me long to understand what was going on…. We were stuck in the mud! Thanks God, I have a center-board…. With Vari ‘s help, we raised the swing keel and backed up the boat. Slowly, Breskell started to move. Free again, and now with a much reduced draft, I got around several local boats on moorings and dropped my anchor in a nice spot with a lot of swinging room . There were one Danish and one Russian boat there. No need to fight for space in this anchorage. Unfortunately, we were pretty far from the land. We needed to launch our dinghy and use our 8 hp Yamaha outboard to pick up our people on land…. That can wait until tomorrow. For now, I went to bed after this long “daylight night” steering Breskell along this narrow fjord . At about 11 PM, I woke up and took a ..”breakfast! As an offshore sailor, I serve the boat’s needs first. So I slept when the boat was on a safe course, with a good watch or in a safe anchorage . And I ate when I awoke.. . Today it is dead calm outside and without any wind. The water gurgling around the hull with the strong current was the only noise.
Time to launch my dinghy and pick-up my crew waiting on land. But as every sailor knows, outboard engines have a timing of their own. I cranked and cranked. Neglected for too long, mister Yamaha let us know that for now, it was not ready to go. As a sailor from Brittany speaking my native language, fluent also in French and now an American citizen, I have a long and eclectic list of marine swearwords to choose from. I used them all without any persuasive effect. So finally, I asked one crew member, Edgar, if he would agree to go and pick up my crew on land while doing surgical intervention on the engine. Once the motor was back on the deck, I opened it up and checked it out. These “ kickers” have few parts. Generally it is plugs or carburetor. I started with tuning the spark plug gap and cleaning them. Guess what? Mister Yamaha was happy now and showed it by starting right away.. When Edgar got back to the boat, with his help we put back the motor on the dinghy. I was able to finally pick up the rest of my crew. With everyone safely onboard, I went for my usual briefing with news guests. General safety, man (women) overboard, what to do or not to do on Breskell and so on…I finished with the use of marine heads. Toilets on a sailboat are intimidating for landlubber and have a life of their own. A marine head digests only products pre-digested. You wanted to use toilet paper? Sure you can. It has to be put in the trash bin and not in the loo. You want to put it in the toilet? Chew and swallow it before! And never forget to close the two-way valve when finished. If left open for some time, this valve could sink my boat. A few minutes later, we raised anchor and went down the fjord to find a nice anchorage to spend the night. No need to go far away. Less than an hour later, we dropped the anchor in another beautiful place.
All my crew needed to do now was to enjoy themselves . Some of them went on land, some stayed on board to take the first pictures. .The nice people from <<Ocean imaging >> came with a drone. They tried it during this evening …. So cool.
They already got some pretty pictures out of their flying machine that I want to share with you… and the eagles!