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A tricky passage

01/08/2014

Fog, ice bergs, tidal races, strong headwinds, freezing cold temperatures, and a notorious headland to round. Any one of these taken in isolation is enough to add an element of stress to a passage, take 2 of them and life starts to become difficult, but add all of them into the same passage and you have the ingredients for a seriously uncomfortable time.

Our 200 mile passage from Upernavik around Svartenhuk to Disko had all those ingredients. Svartenhuk, northern Greenland's most notorious headland with it's associated tidal race, 48 hours of continuous thick fog, temperatures only marginally above zero, and plenty of bergy bits, too small to paint on radar until the very last moment, but large enough to do us serious damage if we hit one.

We were spared the strong headwinds for the first 36 hours of the passage, but when they eventually arrived, they were the straw that broke the camel's back. We could not face the prospect of bashing into a bitingly cold Force 7 for a further 18 hours to reach Aasiaat. Instead we bore away and ran for cover in Diskofjord.

Nipisat, an extremely exposed bight on the south western tip of Diskofjord would normally be regarded as a pretty marginal anchorage. However, under the circumstances, it was like manna from heaven, allowing us an uninterrupted nights sleep and time for the wind to moderate and go around to a much more comfortable northerly direction.

Setting sail again the following morning left us with just 50 miles to cover, no fog, and only bitingly cold temperatures left to contend with - a veritable "stroll in the park" compared to the previous 48 hours.

Having reached Aasiaat we now have the option of proceeding down the coast in more comfortable days hops, with the possibility in many places of taking the inner lead route inside the off lying rocks and skerries. Experience suggests it won't be a doddle, nothing in Greenland ever is, but hopefully a bit easier than the passage from Upernavik.

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