After the excitement of having reached the Eastern Arctic, we were rewarded by a quiet night at anchor. But the euphoria was soon dampened by the prospect of the 1200 miles long passage to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. As I knew from last year, we could expect both strong winds and flat calms in the area ahead of us.
In due course we had both.
Before we left Fort Ross, we went ashore to explore this remote location, once a trading station of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Two of the original cabins have survived and are still in good order. One has been converted into an emergency shelter for visiting scientists or Canadian officials, but can be used by any visitor. We duly signed the souvenir book that records the names of all those who passed through here on their way to or from to the Northwest Passage.
From a nearby hill we looked across to the west towards Bellot Strait that we had passed less than one day after the Australian yacht Philos, whom we had last met in Cambridge Bay. Apparently our transits through the strait were the earliest in the season ever recorded.
We had to fight our way out of Prince Regent Inlet against headwinds and sufficient ice still about to keep us alert, but as we reached Lancaster Sound, the wind dropped, the sky cleared and the sun came out. The chilly dampness was gone and we enjoyed a sweltering Arctic day of 8 degrees Celsius, while passing an ever-changing panorama of tall cliffs scoured by ancient glaciers.
The mountains are covered by permanent ice and snowcaps, the sharp difference in temperature producing weird cloud formations.
With the calm predicted to continue, it was decided to make a 160 miles detour to the nearest Inuit settlement at Pond Inlet and buy some fuel.
We reached Pond Inlet by noon on Monday and, as soon as we had anchored, the crew landed me on the nearby beach. I stopped a passing truck with a couple in it and asked the way to the Co-op supermarket, where I needed to book the delivery of fuel.
“Oh, it’s a long way up that hill,” the driver said while opening the back door of the cab. “Get in, we’ll take you there.”
They were very curious about us and where we had come from, but wanted to know more about the other Inuit settlements that we had visited in Arctic Canada than the rest of the world.
The Co-op tanker arrived and Kevin, the helpful driver, started filling our jerry cans.
Filling the cans was easy. The much harder part was to launch the dinghy full of cans through the surf, row into deeper water, start the outboard motor and get to the boat, where offloading the heavy jerry cans onto the rolling boat was quite a performance.
To reach the open sea we had to negotiate a narrow strait overlooked by breath-taking scenery.
Our enjoyment of the beauty surrounding us was soon marred by a strong wind being funneled through the strait … and straight into our no longer smiling faces. It took us several hours of tacking to get through, as can be seen from the zigzag course we had to sail.
By the time we had finally reached the open sea, the wind had dropped and on came the engine. We caught the south-setting West Greenland current, that gave us a boost of 1 knot… but also brought with it a procession of icebergs that it had picked up while passing the calving glaciers along Greenland’s west coast on its northbound way.
And then the fog descended, visibility dropped to a boat’s length, and we had to be on high alert to avoid running into one of those glistening behemoths, floating silently by.
It is still a long way to Nuuk indeed!