Leaving for Canada

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Wed 11 Aug 2010 22:52
70:41.334N 52:08.540W Wednesday afternoon

We're finally leaving for Canada!

We left our own private anchorage yesterday morning after Andrea and I had gone on an exploration of the head of the fjord in the tender. The rock strata were incredible, like a twisted layer cake and eroded into pinnacles and crazy valleys. We landed on some rocks at the bottom of a scree slope where huge boulders had come to rest. One of them was a solid block of quartz the size of an armchair. I think we could get Saxon Blue into this inner area of the fjord past the islands and rocks but it would need a sonar and we won't have one of those until we pick up the new parts that are on their way to Clyde River in Canada.

Once we left, it wasn't long until we were back into the main area of Umanak fjord and could see icebergs all around us again. As we motored back towards Umanak, we saw a lone whale which we think was a young Fin Whale. We didn't watch it for long as a local boat came tearing across the water towards us and I didn't want to give the whale's position away or witness anything too grisly. We carried on towards Umanak and decided to anchor once again in Spraglebugt despite the Westerly wind which would make it a bit uncomfortable. It would have been less windy in Umanak harbour itself but I was worried that we'd be on a lee shore in there if the wind turned and the threat of an iceberg causing a wave is always a concern.

We dropped the hook just outside Santa's hut again and I set off with Andrea to film some Inuit graves just to the North. We dropped Magnus and Kali to walk into town while we shot off in the tender, did the filming and then dropped the camera back onto Saxon Blue and drove round to town at maximum flog. As we came into the harbour, there was another yacht moored alongside the Royal Arctic pier. It was a smart looking boat adapted for high latitude sailing and we immediately felt that we should have come into the harbour and gone alongside them. Magnus and Kali were waving to us from the Hotel balcony so we moored the tender and set off straight up there.

The restaurant was pretty crowded with another bunch of people speaking English and Magnus introduced us to them. They were with the yacht and were a group of glaciologists along with climbers, 3 helicopter pilots and a BBC team. Magnus knew the owner, Alan, and the boat, called Gambo, and had even sailed it for a fortnight some years ago. With that, we sat down to dinner. Just after I'd finished my main course, I looked out of the window to see a massive berg outside the harbour shed one side of itself into the sea. I said "look at the berg" and our crew did, just as it shed another massive slab. Kali soon alerted everyone in the restaurant to the show going on outside and they all looked on as it shed yet more ice.

All this ice came from the left hand end of the berg but, even after it had stopped falling, the berg looked to be moving. I realised that it was adjusting itself in the water as its balance had changed. The upward movement of the left hand end was so slow that it took a couple of minutes for it to come to a halt in its new position with the previous wave-cut platforms now at a jaunty angle. By this time, the wave caused by the falling ice was visible and heading towards the harbour. The guys from Gambo were slightly concerned but the locals with their smaller boats were rushing about dropping mooring lines and heading out into the open sea. In fact, the wave didn't do any damage in the harbour but it certainly shook everything about and one 30 foot Targa went straight round to Spraglebugt and spent the night anchored near us. Suddenly, our decision to put up with a few waves to avoid the risk of berg-tsunamis seemed pretty wise. If the berg had shed a larger lump or even turned over, the harbour would have been downright dangerous.

Andrea and I walked back to Saxon Blue after dinner and it was late by then so we went straight to bed. We all had a pretty disturbed night, though, as the boat was constantly slapped by waves. I really struggled to get out of bed this morning but we had a lot to do. Andrea and I walked back over to town while Magnus and Kali went in the tender. They did the supermarket shopping to top up our stores while we got some hardware, downloaded ice charts and weather information from the internet at the Hotel and phoned our families. We all met up for lunch and, what joy, the chip boat had docked so I got some in while I could. We also got to look around Gambo and met her French crew. She's very seaworthy and well stocked but needs Kali's touch, I think.

Andrea and I walked back over to Saxon Blue again - we were certainly getting plenty of excercise - where we stowed the provisions and got ready for sea. We've worked out some waypoints that should take us South of the ice that's still sitting in the middle of Baffin Bay. We would have expected to go North of this Middle Pack but it's stayed North itself so, although we can't head straight for Clyde River, we are better off going around the southern edge. In the end, we set off about 5pm and we're now heading out of Umanak fjord towards Baffin Bay and the open sea. The forecast is good for the next few days so we should have a comfortable crossing - I hope so anyway. The sun is out ahead of us and there are massive bergs on both sides, one with an enormous arch in it. We can see the land on both sides at the moment but that should have dropped away astern by the time I come back onto watch at 0400 tomorrow.


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