A relaxing day in a lovely town
Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Mon 12 Jul 2010 21:55
The fog finally cleared just as we approached the rocky entrance to Sisimiut harbour. In fact, it was a bit disconcerting when I could actually see the land. By then, we'd been navigating by radar and GPS for ages and I had a good idea of where I was going between the rocky islands showing up on the radar screen. Suddenly, I could see massive rocks all around and a load of houses. It was so unexpected that I was disorientated for a minute or so and had to concentrate back on the screen. Luckily, the good visibility meant we could follow the leading lines into the town so that made avoiding the many rocks a bit easier.
We wanted to get into the inner harbour of Sisimiut as it was blowing about 18 knots up the fjord and we didn't fancy getting bounced about on the outside. The harbour is charted very shallow, though, so I had to be careful. Some friendly fishermen pointed us towards an excellent berth with a tricky approach so we reversed out again, set up the fenders and came back in, all much to the consternation of the audience who couldn't make out where we were heading for. The first time I tried to get alongside, the wind blew us off again so I set up for another go. This would require some positive manouvering. So, a bit quicker and a bit steeper. I had to get close enough for Jamie to step onto a metal ladder and, by the time I got the turn in, Kali was gesticulating wildly and telling me that the bow was too close. It was close but we managed to get Jamie ashore without actually touching the dock and then it was a bit of a flurry to get the lines on but all sorted quickly enough. A job well done.
We headed off into town to find somewhere for dinner and chose a Thai restaurant. That gave us an hour or so to look around before eating. The town is lovely. The multi-coloured houses are scattered over the rocks going up from the harbour. In the middle is the oldest part, dating back to the 1700s. There's a lovely red-painted wooden church with old buildings in front of it and a whale jawbone arch. One of these buildings is a museum with an Umiak or skin boat outside it. These were the womens boats of the Innuit, paddled by the family with all the camping gear while the men paddled their kayaks alongside. The construction was lovely, all the wooden parts lashed together with rawhide and then the whole thing covered in sealskin pulled tight like a drum. It was a work of art - light, seaworthy and beautiful. When you look at something like that, you realise how all this technology would leave no trace once it rotted away. People could have had boats as good as this for millennia and we'd never know.
The town does have roads but there aren't many cars and most people are just walking around. Everyone seems to have a boat. There are dozens of motorboats in the harbour, coming and going all the time. A few 40-50 foot fishing boats are also moored up and they seem to move less often. They all have massive harpoon guns mounted on the bow with half a dozen diagonal irons holding them on. As we walked up the hill, we passed groups of sled dogs sitting patiently in the sun behind houses. They weren't as lunatic as I was expecting. Maybe they've got bored of yapping by this stage and are just sitting there waiting for winter to come around again so they can get stuck in.
Dinner was excellent. Loads of fish with an emphasis on crab. That explains the crab pots stacked on the wharf near Saxon Blue. After we'd eaten, we had a good chat with some locals and some other visitors who'd all come down to look at Saxon Blue. Everyone thinks she's beautiful and they were all very impressed when they asked Kali and Andrea who had sailed her from England and were told "we did". Everyone mistakes our red ensign for the Australian or New Zealand flag so the UK must be very unusual in having a marine ensign that's different from the national flag.
We had a peaceful night's sleep occasionally disturbed by locals departing from the harbour a little too quickly, their wash tapping against our hull. Then it was time to get up for a breakfast cooked by Richard and then Andrea gave me a haircut on the quay, much to the delight of the local females - female mosquitoes, that is. They hadn't seen such an easy meal in many a long year and took full advantage. My haircut was completed in double-quick time and I now look extremely sensitive or extremely ignorant, depending on your perception.
Then off into town to get some weaponry. Richard had already emailed a local shopkeeper about us purchasing a gun suitable for defending ourselves against a Polar Bear and we'd been told that it would be no problem. No licence needed. No awkward questions asked. The shop was a tiny building that sold everything from Manchester United T-shirts through floatation suits and hiking boots to fishing gear and guns. The guns were just lined up in a corner with the large calibre rifles upstairs - including a pump-action rifle. We wanted a pump-action 12 bore shotgun with some solid lead slugs and a flare-gun to fire flash-bang cartridges. We picked out a suitable gun then went into a long discussion of what ammunition we wanted, could we buy a second-hand flare gun, where to get ammunition for that - it went on for ages and thankfully Richard dealt with most of it.
In the end, we walked out with a 5-shot pump-action shotgun in a hard case, a box of cartridges containing a few large shot (probably pretty effective against a bear) 3 boxes of ordinary shot (for practice) 3 boxes of blanks (pretty useless but they were free and we can use them to practice loading the gun) a second-hand flare gun, some cleaning stuff and a super-warm all in one arctic suit which makes me look like the world's fattest ninja. We'll pick up the single slug cartridges in Aasiat, our next port of call, and the flash-bang flares may have to wait until Pond Inlet in Canada. I'm trying not to think about the fact that we now have a weapon onboard that would be illegal at home without a very hard to obtain licence. I suppose it's a necessary evil and all that but I don't take any pleasure in it, even though the purchase process was a good introduction to the Greenland world and the shopkeepers were lovely.
In the end, that took most of the day. We had a snack in the Seamen's Mission which is really civilised with great food and then we've been sorting out washing and other domestic stuff. We're having burger and chips for dinner tonight so we're all looking forward to that. Then we have to decide what the weather is doing and whether to head off for Aasiat tomorrow or to wait here for a bit. There are some winds forecast but we may decide to take advantage of them and actually sail for a bit.
I'm still loving Greenland. It's a real can-do place. Not really much large employment, everyone is just getting along doing enough and sorting out their dogs, their boat, their family, enjoying just being alive. It took six employees of the Royal Arctic shipping company to come down and tell us where to get water. One of them could speak excellent English and the others were just having a good look at us and a discussion about what it all meant. They were all friendly and providing a topic for conversation is our job - that's our part in the daily life and I think they appreciate the effort that we put into it. It seems a fair exchange - we come and look at them while they look at us and we all discuss it afterwards. Everyone is really good-humoured about it. As I said, it's great.
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