Greenland…and 20 Days to Go

Kind of a strange afternoon, this. We’re anchored in among the Bjørne Øer, the Bear Islands, up Scoresby Sund a ways. Boogie, Marlies and one guest just took off in the dinghy to chop some ice off of an iceberg. Boy Wonder and another guest are assembling one of the high-end collapsible kayaks. The rest of the guests are milling about the cockpit, and I’m in the saloon area typing away.

We arrived here after motoring for about 19 hours. We pulled the anchor and left Constable Pynt around 3pm yesterday and made our way south the 16 miles to the beginning of the fjord that opens on to the larger sound. It was a lovely motor with clear skies and a fresh breeze in our faces — fresh enough, in fact, that if I’d been on a personal trip I’d have sailed and tacked back and forth down the fjord. But I’d have had to stop after about 13 miles: the wind had filled the mouth of the fjord with ice, not unlike what happened yesterday at Ittoqqortoormiit. Boy Wonder was again hoisted into the spreaders and he picked our path out through the floes.

After reaching Scoresby Sund, we turned right and headed west, deeper into the main fjord. The water was now open, with a handful of truly enormous icebergs scattered about in the deeper water. They were simply phenomenal creatures, these floating mountains of ice, with a temperament that changed with the light reflecting off their varied faces. And as the evening wore on, the light lowered and the shadows deepened, making for even more subtle and superb lighting.

Watches were divided into four, two-hour stints. I’m assigned to a team with two Finnish guests, a married couple, and we wiled away the 11pm-1am and 7-9am stands in idle chat, mostly about Finland. Nice people, and they were on Polar Bear here in Greenland last summer. Interestingly, the missus of the pair remarked last evening at suppertime that she was glad Marlies was aboard because last year the food was much less palatable (and in smaller quantities). And yet, they were back for more. Interesting…

Also interesting (to me) and perhaps to be filed under the category of “Euro behavior perplexing to this simple Yank” was when we were all eating lunch just today. Marlies was serving up seconds of hot dogs and the Finnish husband indicated he wasn’t interested. I dispensed second dogs to everyone and then grabbed my empty plate, Marlies put a dog on it and I slid it back onto the table. Finnish Husband slid over in front of the plate and started dressing up the dog how he liked it. Hmm. I grabbed another empty plate from one of those guests truly not interested in another helping and Marlies handed me a dog — for me. Never a word from the mister. Interesting…

Polar Bear arrived here in the Bear Islands at the northeast corner of Milne Land, an enormous (are you sensing a theme here? Everything in this land is on a scale unfathomable to the normal everyday back in Europe or the States). island within the Scoresby Sund fjord complex. We dropped the hook and drifted backwards to a pair of lines that Boy Wonder and a guest had secured ashore. Made fast to the three points, and surrounded on pretty much all sides by rocky islands, we’re in a very solid spot right now.

So Boogie and Marlies and Alison took off on their adventure, Boy Wonder is rigging up another adventure, and we’re all going to do a shore supper (cooked by Boy Wonder and I, as per Marlies’ schedule) á la Lille Molla in the Lofoten. Since polar bears are a possibility here and since we don’t have a rifle with us (yet another planning oversight by the owners), we’ll stay close by and be extra vigilant, and we’ll check any location out ahead of time.

Apart from the aforementioned, um, “interesting” behavior by the guests, this seems to be a fun, enjoyable crew. We’re truly multinational, with Brits, Finns, Scots, Germans in addition to our Dutch, British and American crew. All but the Germans and a couple of Brits are in for the duration — all the way across the sea back to the UK — so they’re up for adventure and they’re up for sailing and they’re up for pitching in to make it all work. 

And as for Greenland (or what we’ve seen of it so far), it truly is an amazing land — after a summer of amazing places. As with aspects of the Lofoten and Iceland, I recognize a lot of the beauty here from my days in Alaska, and in fact, one of the dangers I’ve had to guard against all summer has been to keep from being too jaded given the superlative nature of my Alaska homeland. I think I’ve succeeded so far, and truth be told, the scale here is big even by Alaska standards — for instance: the coast of Greenland is, yes, a lot like where Prince William Sound meets the Chugach Mountains, or the outer coast of the Kenai Peninsula…but it goes on for hundreds and hundreds of miles, from one horizon to the other — but the danger is ever present. I’ve been disappointingly surprised by the dearth of wildlife thus far, and that’s one area that Alaska has had it all over every destination we’ve been to this summer so Greenland is no different.

But I’m stoked to have made it here to this far-off corner of the globe and am looking forward to how the next week or so shakes out. Weather forecasts keep varying so one day we’re likely headed back to Iceland the middle of this week, the next day it’s looking good for us to be here until we drop a few guests off for next Saturday’s flight at Constable Pynt and then some. Then it will be on to Iceland — likely Akureyri but possibly Reykjavik or Ísafjörður, it depends on the wind direction — where we’ll drop off Alison (she’s the friend of the so-called marketing person for the boat company) and then head on to either the Shetland or Orkney islands.

What I’ll do remains to be seen, though it’s 99 percent certain I’ll stay aboard until the job’s done in the UK. Or at least: until we arrive in the UK; I’ll be damned if I’m sticking around to clean up the boat and prep it for winter after the owner’s screw job.

But the possibility of jumping ship remains. Boogie’s temperament seems to be drooping a bit; he’s not his usual jovial, gregarious self. I don’t know if he and I are wearing on each other after a long summer or if he’s just had enough of the BS with the owner and it’s coming out as frustration with everyone (Marlies included), but it can be unpleasant — and a boat (even a 72-foot-long boat) is too cramped for there to be unpleasantness among the crew.

And on top of that, I’m getting more frustrated with the experience. The lack of sailing is a huge factor there; I’m tired of motoring and simply being a bus (or glorified RV) for a bunch of tourists. Yes, we’d still be that if we were sailing, but if we were sailing a) I’d be having more fun, and b) I’d be getting more of what I expected when I signed on. But that’s not happening and it’s like just one more step that delays the inevitable plunge/decision: buy my boat or not. A lot of that decision will be based on my experience and comfort level with the vagaries of owning a boat, and I’m not getting as much experience in that area as I had hoped or expected.

There are 20 days left in this summer’s adventure. Twenty days in which to experience more of Greenland, hope for some more sailing, and then take the next step in this life. Hopefully it’s a life of more stompin’ on the terra.

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