And They’re Off!

It’s 12noon on Tuesday, 16 Aug., here in Ísafjörður, Iceland. The wind calmed overnight (although it’s picking up again) and the rain is just spitting a bit now. And in today’s news: Polar Bear is departing Ísafjörður in about three hours. And there was much rejoicing.

As detailed earlier, we’re going to head out of the fjord here and turn left (west) to ride the strong winds outside toward calmer conditions nearer the Greenland coast. Once we’re clear of the heaviest stuff, we’ll turn north and head for Scoresby Sund. We’ll hope for relatively benign conditions there — not too much wind and/or ice — so we can round the cape that protects the southern flank of the sound. If there’s too much ice, or if there’s too much wind with enough ice that combined there’s sufficient danger, then we’ll turn around and be back in Iceland (likely here in Ísafjörður) by Saturday. We should know, based on weather reports and satellite photographs of the ice conditions, by late Wednesday whether we can get into Scoresby Sund.

We spoke with the family of the skipper of Aurora, a charter sailboat based here in Ísafjörður (that we saw off Jan Mayen several weeks ago), who’s been in Kulusuk for a couple of weeks now. The skipper said he’s never seen so much ice and the locals in Greenland said there’s more ice than there’s been in 45 years. So…we’ll see what happens. (The irony is that Polar Bear could have made it the week before I rejoined the boat had Boy Wonder not skedaddled for the UK, but let’s not get into that here.)

I’ll be stoked if we can make it to Greenland. To see such a unique place would be a rare, if not unique, experience, hopefully surpassing even all that I’ve seen on this trip so far.

But more importantly, I’m anxious to get back to sea. Yes, I’ve been back on the boat for the past week, but I haven’t really been on the boat since I left in Akureyri in mid-July. Being tied to a dock is nowhere near the same as being at sea. That rhythm of daily life on board, the sounds and motions of the boat moving through the water, the way the universe is reduced to the 72-foot length of Polar Bear and the sea from horizon to horizon…these are not remotely replicated when in port. In port, the rhythms of life are driven by shore life and the hours kept by the town in which you’re docked. Being on a boat in port is just living in that town in a very small, damp apartment with a lousy bathroom.

At sea, though, the boat becomes a mobile castle, a bulwark against the harsh-yet-beautful environment that conveys you to ever new sights and destinations. The beds are sumptuous, the food extravagant and the bathrooms, well, they’re still not exactly plush. And the clarity that comes from being on a watch system — you’re either on or you’re off — enables one to be remarkably productive and still be refreshed at all times.

So, yeah…I’m looking forward to casting off the lines this afternoon. Once we depart, we’ll be out of contact until we return to Iceland, be that in a couple of days or a couple of weeks. I will, of course, post once we’re back in range. Talk to y’all then…

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