Custer Had a Plan, Right? Part Two…

We awoke this morning (Sunday, 14 Aug.) to Boogie looking at the weather reports and forecasts for the region. And here’s the plan that resulted: We’re here in Ísafjörður until Tuesday evening, at the earliest.

We have a chart for our original destination, Scoresby Sund, and will make for that port…but the weather charts indicate that the ice and wind conditions in the area of Scoresby Sund won´t open up until late Wednesday. And when we do head out to sea, we´ll head west first because the charts (and the conditions outside) show that swath of wind I mentioned a couple of posts ago: mega winds out of the north…but only about 70-100 miles wide. Inside of that area, closer to Greenland, the winds abate quite a bit. So we’ll make for that mellower area then head north along the coast toward the mouth of Scoresby Sund.

The challenge is that we have two guests aboard (friends of Boogie and Marlies) who need to get out — from somewhere — on Saturday. On that same day we have nine or 10 (I forget exactly how many) guests due to meet Polar Bear — again, somewhere. That “somewhere” would ideally be at Constable Pynt in Scoresby Sund, Greenland. That’s where I was originally going to meet the boat after my American sojourn in July; that’s where Boogie and Marlies’ friends were going to fly in and out of; and that’s where next Saturday’s guests were going to join Polar Bear. So Constable Pynt is where we wanna be next Saturday. But if we can’t make it in due to ice or weather then we need to be in a place like Ísafjörður or Akureyri or Kulusuk where there are regularly scheduled flights. But the chances of getting close to Greenland, being turned around by ice and making it to Akureyri (farther east in Iceland) are slim. And remember: we don’t have a chart for Kulusuk, so that’s out. So it’s either: get in to Scoresby Sund by Saturday, or get turned around soon enough that we can make it back to Ísafjörður, again, by Saturday.

And right now, the weather is honkin’ outside: a cold, biting wind out of the northeast is strong enough to put whitecaps in the harbor and decent-sized swells at the end of the fjords in the area; sporadic rain showers that chill to the bone anyone foolish enough to be caught outside; low clouds scudding by just below the tops of the peaks surrounding the area. Bottom line according to some locals: winter is back.

Great. So where am I going? North. Good thinkin’, Luke…

In the meantime, before the weather completely crapped out we removed one of our headsails in advance of hoisting a smaller version so we’re better equipped for the conditions outside. A few other tasks before the wind and rain made it more work than we felt like dealing with (since we weren’t going anywhere soon) and I wandered off to the local establishment to catch the Chelsea-Stoke and Manchester United-West Brom matches on the telly.

After those matches, Marlies and Boogie and I took a rental car and wandered off south, in the opposite direction we went on Thursday. This time, we hit up Suðavik, about half an hour from Ísafjörður, to see the arctic fox museum (cute and interesting) and Heydalur, site of a true natural hot spring (nice and much better than the concrete pool we wallowed in on Thursday. A tad indulgent, yes, but worth it to see the other half of the Westfjords.

During our road trip it occurred to me that in all my talk of the “otherworldly” and “lunar” aspects of the local landscape, I might be giving a false impression. While it’s true that such characterizations are accurate for the high country in the Westfjords, down along the coastline northwest Iceland is a land with enough shades of green to rival Ireland or Scotland. As you wind along the undulating, snake-like coastline, it’s a light-green grassy patch here, a dark green creekbed there — and everything in between. It’s when you get midway up the mountainsides that the green starts to alternate with the black and brown of rock (before giving way entirely to rock higher up).

Another interesting (to me) observation: given the nature of the coastline here in the Westfjords, driving distances are almost exponential progressions over straight-line distance. Look at a map for this area: it’s just one fjord after another, undulating in and out, for the entire circumference of the peninsula. There’s one road that rings the Westfjords (a couple of others here and there, but not many others) and that road runs in one side of an six-to-10-mile-long fjord then back out the other, equally long side of the fjord. You’ll be driving and you can see where you’ll be in 20 miles — just a half-mile away across the water. On top of that, Icelandic highways are NOT American freeways or German autobahns. In many places, they’re dirt. Yes, dirt. And where they’re paved, the roads are two lanes wide at best. In fact, for many stretches of today’s ride the highway is one-and-a-half car widths wide; when you meet an oncoming vehicle, you slow down and sidle off your right tires to the shoulder as (you hope) the other driver does the same. Heaven help you if the other car is an RV or a semi… It’s like Iceland said, “you know, there are these far-flung settlements…let’s build a road to link them.” They build this road over mountain passes and alongside the ocean — wherever they could — and they said, “that’s good. We’re done here.”

And to be honest, I dig that. It builds in a sense of patience. A sense of “soon come,” as they’d say in the Caribbean. “Island time” is not limited to the lower latitudes, it seems.

Anyway, so…tomorrow. Tomorrow, if this storminess continues (preferably offshore, and lined up north-south as indicated on the charts) I may be looking at some decent Greenland Sea surf. Same goes for Tuesday. The challenge will be access: Maik works (it is Monday after all) but I might be able to scare up a board and have Boogie drive me in his shiny rent-a-car (which he has until 5pm). So…we’ll see.

But more importantly, we wait. We wait on wind here in Ísafjörður and environs; we wait on wind and ice just across Denmark Strait in Greenland. I’ll update as I can. Thanks for tuning in.

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