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 LEG 4 : 630 miles : crew 7 : 13 days
Background source : Atlas of Canada - The North polar region, see atlas.gc.ca

Leg 4 : the long route North II (August 14th, 2015)

Our GPS indicates 66°33' N ; we are crossing the polar circle for the second time this summer! And we celebrate it: Peter and Mathilde drive over it with Nanuq, Lisa and Jakob with the dinghy, Ilona and Alina cross it hanging over the water from the boom and Kalle swims over it! For us it's a symbolic line: we are in the arctic again! Also the landscape gives us hints that climate is slowly getting colder. The relative green hills are slowly turning into grey rocky mountains. Glaciers cut through this rough scenery. We have to start looking out for Nanok, the polar bear. We carry with us some flares, just in case.

The polar circle is also the border between the agricultural South and the dog sledging North. There is even a law that prohibits sledge dogs further south of the polar circle. We're entering the Greenland inhabited by the hunter.


Nanuq moored in a bay a three miles north of the polar circle (photo Peter Gallinelli)

The wind in this region follows the coast. So forecast is rather simple: head wind, wind from astern or no wind at all! It is far from ideal when sailing. We either decide to head onto the open sea sailing long legs or we follow the calm inland route slaloming in-between the islands. The inland route pleases us. It needs attention to detail, but allows us to get a real feeling of the vast array of possibilities that this coast has to offer!


Ruins of an old factory, abandoned houses, half a century old glass wool insulatione (photos Peter Gallinelli)

In Nuuk we manage to buy most of the equipment we are still missing for the rest of the trip and most importantly the winter expedition. We buy the last 3rd of the nutrition thanks to the help of the local team of Greenland's main food supplier. We are happy that the food is so far on board as it is our fuel for the winter!

We try to avoid pre-cooked dishes and dry-frozen foods. Rather we stock on basics: rice, pulses, flour, oil, butter, sugar ... but also peanut butter, honey, jam and a big stock of Wasa bread. To complete our diet we'll have to fish and maybe hunt once in a while. So far the ocean has been very kind with us, offering delicious cod. Variety will come in the creativity with the recipes!


Daily catch. Alpine background; snow at sea level (photos Peter Gallinelli)

We will soon arrive in Sisimiut. Another leg comes to an end, a new team will come aboard. Every two weeks we make a strategic stop. Replenishment of fresh food, water, and any other missing item. These places can be reached by plane or by boat opening the possibility for people to join us if they so please. Each crew change leads to a different on-board dynamic, to new encounters and exchanges. It's a way of sharing experience.

In Sisimiut we buy a rifle. It will serve us as protection in case of an unfriendly encounter with the polar bear. Sisimiut marks the end of leg 4 and the beginning of a new one. There is fresh snow at 500m, the thermometer marks 5°C on deck: summer in Greenland!

Moorings :

(*) Tovkussaq (64°52.8'N 52°11.8'W): Good hold to the N of the bay in 5-10m sandy bottom. Fresh water can be obtained at a small waterfall to the W of the bay (metal ring in the neighbouring rocks).

(**) Tasuissaq (65°34.8'N 52°46.2'W): Good hold to the NNE of the bay in 10m sandy bottom. Beautiful hiking in the surroundings with beautiful view to the W. In proximity of Maitsoq. Very alpine.

(***) Iserkuq (fjord). Several mooring possibilities, one of them being 'Jak's Bay' (66°07.4'N 53°36.4'W): Good hold to the S of the bay in 18M muddy ground. Small waterfall top the W of the bay with metal ring. Very rocky and arid surroundings.

 


Leg 4 : the long route North (August 6th, 2015)

Leaving Narssarssuaq, Nanuq makes her way towards the open sea, leaving the sheltered and warm fjords of the SW-coast. We're heading NW on the inland route, passing one abandoned village after the other. The crew has to get used to the waves again when we get to the open sea, after weeks of calm water.

Next port of call: Paamiut, a small town with its 1600 inhabitants. Now obsolete buildings, built in the 60's, are being dismanteled. They are cold, empty, unpersonal, inadequate, symbol of some kind of modernity that surged in the transition between traditional ways of living and the contemporary danish model of living.


Paamiut - buildings from a low-cost post-war urbanization (photo Kalle Schmidt)

After 2 hours, just enough time to do buy some fresh food for the following days, we cast off to continue our route. The North is our destination! One evening we moor close to a small village. A handful of colorful houses stand spread over two hills. We are eager to find someone to talk to... It seems liked there is live. Curtains hang behind the windows, there are sofas on the porch, there are drawings on the walls and flowers standing on the table. We are surprised when we take a closer look. The curtains have lost their original colour, the sofas have deep holes and the paint on the walls is falling off. It seems like we have arrived in some kind of ghost town. There is no one left here. It seems like everyone droped whatever they were doing and left. Decay apperas everywhere due to the wind and the cold. It makes us think of an old Inuit proverb: ''Siku Silalu kisimik naalagaapput' - 'The only masters are ice and time'.

We leave early in the morning, swallowed by a dense fog. Without being able to see much further than our anchor, we cautiously follow our radar and echosounder. Navigating in these conditions, makes us appreciate even more the sense of adventure the former navigators had when they discovered this area. They ventured into the unkown without any, charts, meteorological data or precision instruments. They solely relied on their experience and knowledge of things we have likely forgotten about. Only part of this knowledge is transmitted in the sailing directions we can buy today.

The fog slowly transforms into a bright white mist, iluminated by the hiding sun. We seem to float on a completley blank sea. It seems like our perception of the world has shrunk down to a radius of 200m, static, with time moving at a different rhythm. The route through a labyrinth of rocks and shallow water is possible thanks to the directions and charts. At noon our anchor takes hold on a good sand ground. We discover Sioqquap Sermia, a huge sand beach at the foot of the big greenlandic ice cap that nourrishes this endless delta.


Sioraq - sand as far as the eyes can see (photo Peter Gallinelli)

We take a few steps on land, enough to give us a feeling of the inmensity of this place. It makes us aware about our place on this planet that is so beautiful and hostile at the same time...

Moorings :

(*) Siorak (62°28.8'N 50°19.0'W): Good hold in sandy bottom protected by the little islets to the S. Not recommended unless the weather is calm. Possibility to make a short visit onto the amazing sand beaches. The inland route is exposed to the wind and waves from the W. Charts are quite vage and not 100% in accordance with GPS positioning. Caution!

 

 

 

peter.gallinelli & all - November 2015