« Walking the ice «  toward Upernavik (12)

Our  next guests cancelled.  I am now alone with Eric.  Not a bad deal as a consensus is easy to reach!

In Ilulissat few minute before departure

We decide to leave Ilulissat tomorrow  July 18.  Naturally, the next day, nothing is ready. We need provisioning for our North West Passage and for my next crew of 5 people. As you probably know, the next Costco sits in Anchorage.  It happens to be just on the other side of an icy continent !  And along my way, Wal-Mart is not expected around the next iceberg!  And Upernavik is not much of a village. At most 1300 souls excluding a few more seals. 

We spend our morning shopping and returning, arms full,  to the boat. We distribute this food in the different lockers.  It’s important to agree on some sort of classification if we want to get it back when needed.  And, before leaving, one last internet connection.  In town, and for 50 Crowns, we find an internet Cafe offering an unlimited access for as many days as needed. The greatest deal when you compare with the satellite communication rates. And why not one last local beer and some good coffee before leaving?  Seated close to us two girls, even better, two French girls:  Claudine and her nice friend Gwenola.  Their plans are kayaking in …  Upernavik!  

And now, I get again all my wife attention…

All my wife attention…

As the story goes, they got stuck in this town.  Due to bad weather, their expected plane cannot take off or land in Upernavik. We are Wednesday and no opportunity to take off before Friday at the best … Both are pretty upset but there is nothing they can do….  My French gallantry shows.  I immediately offer Claudine and Gwenola to join my boat.  Breskell does not fly but it glides nicely on the arctic water. 

And I can show them the other face of some icebergs and much more.  Eric can share the inconveniences of crowded berths.

And now my wife imagines the worst scenario.   I like it:  her husband with his good friend Eric, running wild on the ice-sheet..  and then kayaking on open waters with these two girls with into the sunset.

Sadly, they are afraid to miss their next appointment in Upernavik.  They don’t want to take this opportunity …. A mistake, but nothing we can do !

The story stops there and, sadly, my wife’s short attention span for my anecdote. 

It’s late afternoon now, around 7:30 pm.  Let’s make a decision:  either a night navigation, not a problem as night doesn’t  really exist at this time of the year or we leave tomorrow morning after a good rest. 

We leave now !  If we delay , with Claudine and Gwenola around, maybe we won’t go…


I translate: .. flat calm.

The weather report calls for north wind between 2 to 5 knots. I translate: « Petole « …  flat calm.  It’s good for us. I prefer motoring in « petole » than motoring against 10 to 15 knots north winds.

We crank the engine.  Out from Ilulissat and some slalom around icebergs.  A skill we master now. 

the light to the north is gorgeous,

Almost 9 PM and the light to the north is gorgeous, combining all kinds of colors dominated by a pink orange, a special mix that only confirmed artists know how to get . A sky you imagine exposed only in a some frame inside first class museums…. No sailors, silent spectators of this grand spectacle, stay unmoved by the beauty of this fabulous tapestry generated by the summer twilight of these high latitudes. 

.. shut down the engine and enjoy this unique show.

We simply shut down the engine and enjoy this unique show. All is quiet around Breskell except for the flapping of  water reverberating against the growlers and, from time to time, the cannon-shot of an iceberg breaking apart and dying slowly. What a privilege to be there….

A privilege to be there

  I understand why people build cathedrals or pyramids with some local show of lights when they survive in some uninspiring countryside .  These artificial things of beauty quiet their soul.  Nature offers freely that to the Native people of Greenland, Alaska or Northern Canada. 

Magnificent cathedrals of ice  those icebergs.

Huge snowed pyramid mountains like Denali, magnificent cathedrals of ice with these icebergs.  Now, believe it or not, they got also the natural show of lights coming with it:  the actual twilight of our summer night and later, the aurora borealis of the winter darkness.

Any sailing artist has also some practical side.  I go down to the kitchen full of the creative energy inspired by these natural wonders. On my way now to create a master soup.  Bring me the fishes, the potatoes, the cabbages and every other edible things buried deep in the Breskell’s lockers.  Yes, even these canned sardines in olive oil. I boil all that enthusiastically with a mix of my special secret condiments that even my wife never allows in her kitchen fearing their powerful effects.

A wonderful and delicious Arctic creation which surprises Eric.  And me even more !  During our mealtime , some inquisitive growlers come playing with Breskell.  They are not vicious or menacing.  They just slide peacefully patting the boat and keep drifting to their uneventful death.  It’s almost midnight now, time to start motoring north with the reassuring grumbling of my faithful Perkins.

Pushing the ice, we cannot move faster than two knots.

Back on track and slowly pushing the ice, we cannot move faster than two knots.  A slow pace at idle speed.  There is so much ice that going faster could have been dangerous for our little wooden hull. Breskell performs well and the hull doesn’t flex when hitting even big chunks of ice. 

Rode bay

 In this peaceful northern twilight, after « walking the ice », we reach the beautiful tiny village of “Rode bay”.  It’s 1 am the next morning.  Our last task:  dropping the anchor.  Not an easy one this time. The bottom is rocky and we need several tries pulling with the engine before finally setting safely our anchor and switching off the motor. Again this very special arctic quietness in a spectacular surrounding.

A small village sit in front

Now, close your eyes and take a seat with us. There is no wind. A small village sit in front.  Behind the top of the hill, on the ocean side, the top of a huge iceberg slides slowly and drifts quietly. A living part of paradise in this unbelievable spectacle.  A fairy tale just for us in front of our eyes. 

A privilege bond with nature

We, sailors, have a very special bond with mother nature.

fair winds and smooth seas.

Often, she helps us with fair winds and smooth seas.  At other times, she tries to drown us with gale force winds and enormous seas.  Each time with the same equal indifference for our insignificant existence . Respect and fear are an equal part of this particular bound so difficult to share with the city dwellers well protected in their world of too much hard concrete and too little natural things. Maybe also a way for us to reconnect with the ancien spirituality of the inhabitants of these isolated areas. Hard to explain with words this feeling for those living in huge, smelly, crowded and noisy cities. Time to join the bed, our head again full of this spectacular scenery.  It was a small day of only 24 miles.  We left Ilulissat on our own schedule, take our time <<walking the ice>> and in exchange for this small moving pace got memories for a lifetime..

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