The Arctic

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The fog has finally lifted enough to sit done and write this blog.  Well, I’m not sitting, I’m standing in the pilot house scanning the horizon for icebergs while trying to write.  We spend our watches staring out into the fog prepared to dodge whenever little berg may pop out in front of the boat.  The radar doesn’t see the little bergs which are the size of a school bus (or larger).  It’s a bit like sailing blindfolded through waters that are teeming with freight containers.  When you finish your five hour watch (we do five hours on five hours off) all you want to do is crawl into the warm sleeping bag and rest.  Since there are only two of us on board one person is always alone for five hours trying to deal with fog, ice, winds etc.  It’s not always foggy up here, but when it is you better pay close attention to the foggy little world around you.

We stayed an extra day in Nuuk so I could install the diesel heater I traded a salted pig for.  It would have been fairly straight forward installation back in the states.  For instance you need to make a five inch hole through the steel deck for the chimney.  No problem, go to the hardware store and buy a five inch hole saw, problem solved.  That’s not so easy in Nuuk so I tried to cut the hole with my grinder, but it broke my only large invertor (I have used it 100 times before with my large invertor, but it chose this moment to die).  Then my jig saw broke.  I ended up spending hours cutting a five inch hole through my steel deck using a pair of vise grips that were holding a broken hack saw blade.  I felt like I was trying to break out of prison with a nail file.  And so it went for the next 14 hours until finally the installation was complete, or as complete as its going to be under the circumstances.

We left Nuuk with good southerly winds and a couple days later we pulled into Sisimut, Greenland second largest city with a bustling population of 5,000. Pulling into these little harbors in Greenland is such a crazy experience.  There are little boats tied off everywhere in the most chaotic fashion.  Boats tied to boats tied to boats until you have 20 or 30 small powerboats tied off in an incredible jumble.  If I was still sailing my old Pearson 323 id just join the jumble but at 42 feet of steel plus a bow sprit I’m way too big to join the pack.  Seawalls can be sketchy, not just because they are a combination of broken wood and jagged metal but because the tides can range 15-20 feet.  If you tie off to a seawall underestimating the tide thinking “hmmm this is a nice place to stop” the tide drops, the water leaves, your boat falls over on its side, the tide comes back in and floods your boat, bye bye boat.  It sounds like a headache but I find these harbors quite fun and amusing.

The whole reason we stopped in Sisimut was to find a guy named Bent who runs the local boatyard, old fishing boats mostly.  We have decided it would be best to leave the boat in Greenland this winter.  We plan on doing more research up here next summer and sailing 3,000 miles back to Annapolis then another 3,000 back to Greenland seems a bit ridiculous.  Also by keeping the boat in Greenland for the winter we can double the amount of research that we can do this summer.  The down side is the boat is also our home, so we will be homeless for 9 months (fall, winter, spring).  You may be thinking “well heck, why don’t you just stay on the boat and spend the winter in Greenland?” We have a hard enough time running our non-profit organization from Annapolis, let alone Greenland. Plus I need to find work this winter and unless I want to shovel snow for a living ill need to get back state side.  In the end Bent said he “could” pull our boat and put it on the hard for the winter but for some reason he needs a couple weeks to decide if he wants to and will do it.  So everything is still up in the air.

While in Sisimut we met a 27 year old French guy who is about to single hand the Northwest Passage.  He had crew but they left and took their sat phone with them leaving him with no communication.  I let him borrow our spare sat phone under orders to mail it back to me from Alaska.  This way he will have ice info which can save your life in the Northwest Passage.  I wouldn’t normally give a stranger a $1,000 piece of equipment but there are very few sailboats up here so when we meet we treat each other like family.  That’s the way it should be everywhere, one big sailing family.

Ocean Research Project wouldn’t exist without help.  Many people reading this blog have helped us over and over again throughout the last three years.  Without your help there would be no research organization, we exist because of you.  I can’t thank you enough. Like usual we did this Greenland Climate project with only 20% of the funding we needed.  It’s only because I have such a long history doing expeditions on a shoe string budget that we left the dock and went anywhere.  Any size donation makes a big difference and 100% of the funding goes to research and education (check out Nicole’s education blog!).  You can donate via the donate button on the website and it’s all tax deductible.  I feel very fortunate to have had your help. Thank You.

Fortitudine Vincinimus

Matt Rutherford

towny helm jumbles

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