Things That Go Scrunch!

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 15 Jul 2008 22:45
Position: Alongside Nuuk
Wind: Calm
Weather: Sunshine.

Yesterday we took our rest day, still I could not resist the urge to go for
another hike. I thought finding the source of the village water supply was
a good objective, which actually didn't take long to track down, just follow
the black pipe lying on the ground. It's supply was not from the stream I
thought, the one that could be heard in the background from Qornoq, but a
smaller one to the east of. The pick up starts ingeniously from a rusty
iron box full of rocks with several black pipes leading into it from
slightly higher up, I presume the rocks were there to hold the pick up box
in place and perhaps to provide some filtration. Alongside the black pipe
for most of the way up was a newer blue pipe of slightly larger diameter,
the system was obviously about to have an upgrade. Once this goal had been
achieved I aimed for a few ridges slightly higher up to see what could be
seen, which led me on until eventually I got up to the snowline at about
1750 feet and found the stream that was making all the noise. Tilman would
laughed at my puny feat and I was tempted to go a little higher but I need
some more fitness work and perhaps a climbing partner before I try anything
much more ambitious.
I then followed the stream back down to sea level, certainly the descent was
much quicker than the climb up. It was an enjoyable hike, the only down
side being the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes of course are well known to be
endemic in Greenland and I was prepared with the insect repellant, no self
respecting Australian goes outdoors in the summer without the 'Aeroguard',
but these were the worst I have experienced thus far, at least for pure
numbers. My worst mosquito experience remains the Northern Territory in
Australia, my brother John might recall, but that is another story. Here
they are mostly a nuisance as I haven't noticed being bitten, it is just
that there are just so many of them, they swarm around like a mist, get into
your mouth, up your nose, in your eyes and in your ears. They are easy to
swat but swatting at them is pointless. Apart from applying liberal amounts
of repellant the best defense I found was to try and stick to the ridges
where you might find a little breeze, they are weak flyers and even a couple
of knots of wind seems to keep them away. Even so, a great day, I even
built a small snowman.
Today on the other hand was perhaps one of those days where it might have
been better to have rolled over and gone back to sleep. I started out well
enough, I awoke to the popple sound of small waves on the hull, a sign that
some wind might be blowing in through the entrance of the bay, so it seemed
best to get up. Sure enough poking my head out the companion way revealed
about 10 knots of breeze blowing straight into the entrance and a bunch of
bergy bits were also making their way into the anchorage. Well I wanted to
get going anyway and thought maybe we could make good use of the breeze. I
had a snappy breakfast, weighed anchor and by 7 a.m. we were on our way. We
managed to sail for about an hour but it was perhaps a bit too optimistic to
expect a breeze in these fjords, surrounded as we are by many high
mountains, to carry consistently for very far, so it wasn't long before the
sails were down and the motor was on. There were numerous bergs and bergy
bits throughout this section of the sound, gradually thinning out as we got
closer to Nuuk and towards the fjord's entrance. I guess we all enjoy
reading other people's adventures largely because they are perhaps doing
something a little risky (otherwise it wouldn't be an adventure), we are
held in suspense with the knowledge that at any moment something interesting
might happen, i.e. that something might go wrong. We obviously don't want
anyone to die but . . . I can thoroughly recommend an interesting book on
this theme, "Lost in the Cosmos. The Last Self Help Book", quite funny,
thought provoking and has some rather uncomplimentary insights into human
nature which are hard o deny (out of print and available from your friendly
used bookstore, The Annapolis Bookstore.) I am obviously leading into one
such moment. I had been motoring for several hours, I was in the cockpit
standing behind the wheel when all of a sudden I hear an awful scrunching
noise and looking ahead I find that I am looking up at a steep angle into
the sky rather than a low angle forward towards the sea. Has a nuclear
submarine surfaced beneath the bow, or perhaps Sylph had decided to take her
motto, "Per Ardua Ad Astra", literally, that she has had enough ardua and it
was time to head straight for the astra? Pretty quickly I discounted these
two possibilities and came to the unpleasant conclusion that I had messed
up, I had hit a bergy bit square on. This is probably my biggest risk as a
single hander, long periods of having to look out, to stay alert with long
periods of little stimulation, the mind, my mind anyway, has a tendency to
wander. I thought I was looking out but clearly I wasn't. The bergy bit
stood about a meter out of the water and a whole lot more of it was beneath
the water. It must have been in my blind arc straight ahead, and obviously
I hadn't moved so as to clear this blind zone for quite a while.
Instinctively I brought the engine to stop and Sylph slid silently back off
the berg, digging her stern in momentarily and sluicing water over the
decks, now doing about four knots backwards instead of the six knots
forwards we had been doing when we climbed up on to the back of this thing.
My initial reaction was simply to say, "Whoa!" and that was about it. I
looked below expecting to see water rushing up above the floorboards, and
went down to turn the bilge pump on to slow the flood down. I looked back
at the berg, wondering how I could have missed it, red antifouling paint
stained its otherwise glistening white surface. Looking back below all was
calm, no water was sluicing around, a little water gurgled from the bilge
pump and then stopped, Bob C was still asleep on the V-Berth, I don't think
he even noticed. I motored clear of the berg and went up forward to check
the damage, leaning over the bow, some paint was chipped on the starboard
side, and that was all I could see. I had been toying with the idea of
continuing north today but now put this to rest.
Well we are back alongside in Nuuk, there seems to be no significant damage.
I can say thank goodness that Sylph is made of steel, steel boats are a lot
of work to maintain but there is nothing stronger. I love wooden boats,
they are one of the most beautiful functional objects man has created, but
if Sylph had been made of timber Bob C and I would now be bobbing around in
our life raft, and I am certain Bob C would not have taken too kindly to
this notion, I know I wouldn't, those claws!
We are safe, a day I could have done without, but after kicking myself
several times with a few more to come no doubt, I philosophize that perhaps
a near miss like this one is not a bad thing occasionally, very
occasionally, to help one wake one up and take more care. I lost a few
points out of the box of good seamanship today, but I had spent a lot of
time and effort depositing a few last winter. Last summer's cruise I had
noticed a bad spot of corrosion so I had Sylph hauled out and spent many
hours pulling the interior apart, chipping rust, having some new plate
welded in where it was thin and repainting as much of the bilge as I could
get to and had time for.
And here is a plug for Petrini's Shipyard, they were very helpful in all
that work last year which has made this little adventure possible, and has
maybe helped to save old Sylph and a couple of Bobs. Thank you John.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Did I hear a bump or was that a dream?