Sailing Greenland 2020

Just in via Satellite; Global Surveyor Captain Danny Drahos received Friday 24th July:

We were tied up to the wall in Olafsvik, approximately 60nm NW of Reykjavik. Olafvik is a friendly, picturesque fishing harbour.
We had chosen this port as a starting point due to it being in close proximity to Greenland and a slightly better position to the wind.
My Iceland adventure group had left the previous day and I was working frantically to get GS ready for the new arrivals.
First to arrive was our engineer Petr with a new sail! He was soon followed by Peter and Zuzana. The following morning, I picked up the mini-bus and drove 200km to Reykjavik to pick up the rest of my crew. Everyone had been sailing with us before, so I gave a quick introduction and moved onto the safety briefing.
The weather forecast was favourable with N wind up to F7. Ideal for our 50 tons yacht.
After topping up fuel from the rather shallow and small fuel pontoon, we were ready to go!

The first 24 hours we had sunny weather. With winds as predicted, we were covering 7nm per hour on average.
On Friday evening we sent our first report to Joint Arctic Command in Greenland.
It was a beautiful sail with a full staysail and the main in first reef.
We had seen a few dolphins but what was very exciting were around 10 whales, some of them as close as 30m from our bow!
By Friday night the weather had changed. The Barometer was rising, temperature falling, and we found ourselves in thick fog. It was expected for this part of the Denmark Strait and we already had our routine with the watch system.
The watch system is two people on watch for two hours at a time; one on the helm with the other keeping a lookout and watching the radar screen.
The sea is now moderate and we are flying at 9 to 10 kn. We know we can do this for the next few hours but once we get closer to Greenland, where there is a higher risk of icebergs, we will have to slow down.
We should see the coast of Greenland in the early hours of the morning. Very exciting!

Just in via satellite; Global Surveyor Danny, Petr, Petr, Peter, Bob, Zuzana, Ruth, Jendys, Andy and Ruth. Received Saturday 25th July: …⛵

Saturday morning in the Denmark Strait was very foggy and the night was really cold. We were under staysail and the main was in first reef. GS was flying through moderate seas. We could see 10 knots on the GPS! The atmosphere on the boat was fantastic. Loud music in the cockpit whilst Bob was baking, cooking and frying. Around midday the sky started clearing up and the wind was dying down. We were now approximately 80 nm from the Greenlandic coast and I was expecting the first icebergs soon, but first we saw whales! A pair of these large mammals were playing close to our starboard. Everyone was on deck taking pictures. It was only getting better! The sun was shining and on our port bow appeared a large iceberg! Before we knew it we could see them all around us! It is quite the view!
Later on, in the afternoon Andy and Petr were working on deck getting the dinghy ready when Robert shouts “land Ahoy”. The dramatic coast of Greenland was now on the horizon. Steep mountains covered with ice and snow. Greenland hello again, one of the best views I have ever witnessed.
Now it is midnight and I am overwhelmed by the beauty of nature in the midnight sun.
Tomorrow morning, we should be anchored at Tasilaq.
Sending love from Global Surveyor and Eastern Greenland.

Just in from satellite; Global Surveyor Danny Drahos. Received Sunday 26th July:

Greenland here we are!

Saturday night as we got closer to the coast there were many more icebergs, many of which were in our way. You can see the large ones on the radar but the small ones, called growlers, often not. These so-called growlers still weigh tons and can cause significant damage. There were many so we sent Bob to the bow. It was a very cold night, Bob was standing on the bow for hours, eventually he was replaced by Zuzana warning the helmsman every time we had a big chunk of ice on our collision course. Around 3am we were passing Kulusuk with all the marked and unmarked rocks of its southern shore. The decision was made earlier to go straight for Tasiilaq, the capital of Eastern Greenland with 1600 inhabitants.
By 6am, with the sun shining over the snowy mountains, we had sneaked between rocks and icebergs into the fjord formerly known as Kong Oscar Haven. Despite being there a couple of times last year I was again taken away by the beauty of this place. A little, colourful town with houses spread over the rocks covered with flowers and surrounded by snow and ice covered mountains. And the sun! Shining the bluest sky you can imagine. Wow. The effect of this place is impossible to describe. I love it here!
As I tried to take it all in, a message via Iridium from our superb shore-based support Victoria came in. Our covid retest is arranged for midday with a Danish doctor in a little local hospital.
Now for a wee rest and after that the covid test Danish/Greenlandic style!

Just in via satellite; Danny Drahos. Received Sunday 26th July:

On Sunday morning it must have been 18 degrees in Tasiilaq whilst outside of the fjord was absolutely freezing! Inside we were walking in t-shirts and shorts overlooking icebergs floating in the bay. The microclimate of this place is unbelievable!
The appointment for our Covid test was at 11am so we had to stop gazing and hurry.
It was the same as in Iceland; apart from obligatory tests you would not know that Covid ever existed. I was really surprised that we could get tested in such a remote place.
By eleven o’clock we were knocking on the back door of a tiny hospital.
Soon we were in the hands of a Danish doctor who was looking quite unsure what to do. After ten minutes of hesitation we were given some forms (in Danish), to fill out. Fortunately, a chatty friendly Norwegian doctor just came out of the hospital. Ten minutes later, with his help, all our paperwork was done. The Danish doctor in charge still seemed confused and we were asked to come back in one hour. On the way to the harbour we met another Dane, a former teacher that had been settled here for many years. After a couple of minutes of chat, we understood what was going on. We were the only boat and only foreign people that had arrived since the start of the pandemics! We were probably also the first people to get tested here!
Anyhow, later on that day the samples were taken and we were told that the results will arrive the next morning. We were free to go but we were told we should “not do any hugging with native folk” (real words). Well that was easy so off we went for a walk to the mountains and wee swim in the freezing water of the lake in the valley of flowers.
The next day we topped up the water and set sail for Sermilik fjord. We had arranged with Victoria to contact the hospital to get our test results and pass the information to us over Iridium.
As soon as we were out of the fjord, we were completely absorbed by navigating between icebergs and rocks in almost completely uncharted territory. Sermilik fjord is allegedly the most productive fjord in Greenland for icebergs; approximately five percent of all Greenlands icebergs come from here. I remember what a surprise this fjord was to me last year and it is again.
It is out of this world!
The large fjord is surrounded by massive mountains covered in snow and glaciers. The water is covered with icebergs of all sizes including magnificent giants the size of a football pitch!
The deeper we got in the fjord, the thicker the ice cover got. Soon we were moving at one knot trying to make our way through the ice cover. It’s a real wonderland, unforgiving but beautiful beyond imagination. All the other guys onboard are in Greenland for the first time and I think what they are seeing has totally exceeded their expectations. Thousands of pictures have been taken.
It seemed to be much more challenging this year compared to last as there is now much more ice.
I knew from last year the progress towards our chosen anchorage would be slow and we needed to be really careful not to get stuck in the ice. It’s complete wilderness and none of us have time to wait in the frozen boat for next summer.
I was really glad that the forecast was very mild; if there was any risk of wind, it could potentially blow ice back into the fjord. If that was the case, we would have to abandon our plan to get all the way to the edge of the glaciers where icebergs are born.
Around 6pm Greenlandic time we had found the bare anchorage deep in Johann Petersen fjord. It was almost completely covered in ice, so we set an ice watch for the night. The ice-watchers task is to keep an eye on openings in the ice cover just in case they start closing. The view is stunning. We are looking right at the head of the fjord where there is a giant wall of ice, it’s a glacier. All day we could hear loud thunderstorm like bangs as glaciers were moving and icebergs were braking off.
It’s late night, some of the guys are fishing on-deck and Peter is trying to take aerial pictures of the giant whales that are pottering a few hundred meters away. Adam and Ruth are cooking and Andy is getting ready for his first ice watch. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. What a great day we had.

Ps: Victoria texted at midday that eight of us are negative, but the Danish doctor was ragging as Robert and Jenny supposedly did not show up for their test! I texted back that it’s impossible as I actually have a picture of Robert with the testing stick deep in his throat and the Danish doctor holding the end of the stick. Also, Andy swears that he was watching whilst Jenny was tested.
A few messages later it was confirmed that the tests were just lost. They were found and the results would come soon. At this point we have still not got the results, but we are pretty positive that the guys are as Covid-negative as the rest of us. We have all spent the last week together in the close quarters of Global Surveyor and everyone was tested in Iceland anyhow.

Just in via satellite; Global Surveyor Danny Drahos. Received Tuesday 28th July 2020:

Well, another day started far earlier then expected or wanted for that matter. Around 2am Greenlandic time, Robert came to wake me up as there were two quite large icebergs coming towards our bow pushed by flood tide. He said that they were about 20 minutes away by his estimate. Five minutes later I was on deck and icebergs were already at our bow touching our anchor chain. I really hoped to pull the anchor up before it was too late as it could get stuck underneath them. It would have been painful to lose our 14kg CQR.
By the time the anchor had come on deck our bowsprit was literally sticking into the progressing iceberg. We reversed back and started checking if we could drop the anchor again on the other side, but the ice was piling up and our escape route was narrowing. The decision was made to make our way closer to the middle of the fjord and head as close to the glaciers as we could. I think there were 4 of us on deck. The rest were sleeping; missing our exciting escape! Ice/anchor watch really is a necessity.
It’s Greenlandic summer so despite it being 3am, the sun was again shining and it was another beautiful day. The tide should soon turn to ebb, so I was gaining more confidence that it was safe to continue deeper into the fjord. It was a very slow progress and it became more often that we had to use a long pole to push smaller pieces of ice away to create space for Global Surveyor.
Two hours later we were looking at a giant iceberg floating and two massive heads of glaciers. It was glorious sunshine and we were enjoying the view. Ice cover was now probably 80% and we could not continue further. After half an hour of drifting with ice we were starting to realise that the ice was actually closing in on us again, so, unfortunately, we had to turn back. Progress was extremely slow; there were two guys on the foredeck with poles and one with a hand-held radio giving the helmsman directions. Often it took a fair bit of hesitation to decide which way to go. It took us eight hours to do 15nm. Once we had passed our anchorage from the previous night, we drove our bow onto a small flat iceberg to take a break. We flew the drones to get pictures of the unbelievable scenery.
By four o’clock that afternoon we were back in Sermilik fjord. We were trying to cross to the other side by finding the narrow channel leading to the next fjord where we hoped to anchor outside the little village of Tiniteqilaaq. A couple of seals were pottering around and the icebergs were absolutely gigantic. We were now progressing faster as we had more free water available. My biggest worry was that the hole in the wall was going to be blocked by ice and we would have to sail all the way back through the open ocean. Fortunately, that was not the case and we were soon approaching our destination. Meanwhile, a big iceberg, about 100m from us, broke and big chunks collapsed and crashed into the sea. The noise, the wave and feeling that power of nature is pretty amazing to say the least!
Tiniteqilaak is a tiny village of 60 inhabitants with million-dollar views over the fjord. It has a tiny harbour enclosed by a little bay with a narrow entrance. Nothing is charted and it’s full of rocks. Although I was here last year the entry was still quite tricky. After passing the small island with barking Inuit dogs that are left there for the summer, we had to do a fair bit of manoeuvring to get through the rocks and shallows. I will definitely make sure that this track is saved in the memory of my plotter to save me loads of stress on the way out. Despite being on high water we had a couple of times with just over three metres on our echo-sounder – our draft is 2.95!
Eventually we were outside of the village and the depth increased to 20 metres. The anchor is now down and crew is getting ready to go ashore. This is a village of hunters and fishermen and we are running short on fresh meat. We all know which meat we will be able to get here. Slightly controversial but you know…”When in Rome do as Romans do!”
Many regards from the village with arguably the worlds best view.
Danny and crew
I will send pictures soon!

Just in via satellite; Global Surveyor Danny Drahos. Received Wednesday 29th July 2020:
This next blog is written by Robert Zelenka.

“Through the eyes of the crew.”
The first steps led our group of adventurers to the local shop marked by a flag with two polar bears on a 20ft pole. Expecting some dried fish and maybe a few cans of food, everyone was shocked by the variety that was on offer. From fresh grapes, avocados, all kinds of canned foods, even nori seaweed for sushi, to fishing gears and shotguns! Of course, we are Czech so ask for beer and buy out the whole stock.
Flying the drone from a hill above the village proved difficult as there is a local heliport and the drone’s software cannot be fooled. The cemetery is on top of a hill oversees the bay and the fjord full of icebergs and smaller ice chunks. Surely the best view the deceased can have from their piles of stones with a simple white cross under which they were buried. Some seal carcasses and a polar bear skin drying in the sun behind the local hunters-cottage invoke the idea of getting fresh seal meat. For 150DKK we got not only half a seal, but the whole show of getting it out of the water, gutted, cut and ending with the hunter proudly eating the raw liver right in the bloodbath where he stood. After a quick hot shower in the local service-house (a grey building perfectly clean next to a red school-house) for 15 DKK each, we headed through the Ikasartivaq fjord connecting Sermiliq with Angmassalik Fjord. Meanwhile, Robert butchered the half seal and prepared delicious raw tartar with garlic, onion and fresh ginger alongside a pot of strong stew and baked spare-ribs. The stew was fine as the ton of chilli he put in slightly overkilled the seal’s strong fishy smell and after taste. Navigating through narrow Ikasartivaq resembles sailing in the Alps. We hoisted both sails and sailed in the setting sun. We found an anchorage in a small bay behind Kûngmit village which protected us from the winds of the Angmassalik Fjord. At midnight Petr and Bob took the dinghy, VHF, life vests, signal flares (just in case) and hot tea then head out to the fjord to catch some fish with ETA 0500.
The rest of the crew are having a quite night
Regards from Amasilik fjord
Robert the expeditions butcher and cook

Just in via satellite; Global Surveyor Danny Drahos. Received Thursday 30th July 2020:

I had to look at my watch to remember what day it was: Thursday 30th of July. One look in the next bunk confirmed that Petr came back alive and well from his fishing expedition with Robert in our 3.5m tender. They were out almost all night.
That is not the end of the good news; we now had 15 beautiful, chunky cod’s as fresh as they come!
Our next stop was an abandoned US air base from the second world war which was hidden deep in the fjords between high mountains. In the late afternoon we were anchored outside the derelict old pier.
This place was pretty much left as it looked when abandoned some 80 years ago. Thanks to the remoteness and dry climate all the vehicles and machinery were still there in various stages of decay.
Some of them in surprisingly good shape with tyres still holding their air – well done mister Goodrich. It really was a unique sight.
It was yet another stunning place, but with that being said, you could almost feel the pain of the young soldiers stationed here many years ago; literally at the end of the world in the Arctic base with not much else to do then admire the beautiful scenery.
The decision was made to have a barbecue on the beach and soon our cods were grilling on the makeshift barbecue on the 90-year-old engine.
After filling our stomachs with arguably the freshest and most organic fish you can get, we found ourselves admiring the built quality of the near 100-year-old vehicles. I know some of us felt like Alice in Wonderland!
Around 10pm the decision was made to continue to our next anchorage. A picturesque bay with views of Knud Rasmussen glacier.
At around midnight, we were anchored again. The ice watch is set and it is now time to have some well deserved rest.
Sending many regards
Danny and team on Global Surveyor.

Just in via satellite; Global Surveyor Danny Drahos. Received Friday 31st July 2020:

Friday morning 6am. As I was in the middle of my dream, I could hear Bob shouting my name.
It turned out my dear friend was that excited about the two giant Halibuts he had caught, that he felt he had to share the information with me immediately.
“Brilliant” no more ice watch for Bob as he always wakes me up.
By 10am everyone was up. First, we had glorious sunshine with stunning view of the icebergs that broke off Knud Rasmussen glacier. Then, the fog set in.
Me and Petr were working on the boat. Bob was preparing Halibuts whilst the others were reading books or catching up on sleep.
Around 2pm the fog had almost burnt away and again we had amazing views. As Petr J said, “even if you just randomly take pictures with closed eyes you could make a calendar.”
We were in a very pretty bay with a little Inuit hunting hut, a large sandy beach and from behind the rocks we could hear a spring or river
We decide to go for a hike and also take the jerry cans for some fresh water.
Once onshore we quickly split in groups. While Adam, Ruth, Jenny, Petr K, Peter and Zuzana were heading towards the snowy mountains, me, Bob and Petr J decided to climb towards a little waterfall and soon we were in the water. We had a view over the little river ending in the sea, surrounded by snowy mountains and the icebergs that were floating in the bay. While we were taking a dip in the pristine water we were in full sun and the air must have been at least 18 degrees.
If heaven exists, it should look like this. I could imagine spending months here just with a fishing rod and a little boat.
Later on, refreshed and sun-bathed, we had full jerry cans of fresh water and headed back towards our dinghy. Whilst we were enjoying our time onshore the tide had gone out and our 100kg tender was now around 60 metres away from the water – oh joy. It was still very warm and I enjoyed the next few hours walking around barefooted on-deck. In the early evening Petr picked up the rest of the group from the shore that had came back from the mountains. Everyone had a proper Arctic sun-tan. Andy looked almost like an Inuit and the others were not far behind.
For dinner we had the stunning halibut cooked by Bob and the plan for tomorrow is to sail right under the head of Knud Rasmussen glacier. Ice watch set and it’s time to rest.
Regards from Eastern Greenland, Danny and team Go West

Just in via satellite; Global Surveyor Danny Drahos. Received Saturday 1st August 2020:

Saturday was “the day of the glaciers!”
Our bay looked very different this morning. The wind picked up last night and the bay was now full of small icebergs.
There was no fog today. The sun was shining and we were heading towards the heads of glaciers in the Sermiligaq fjord.
Most of Greenland is covered in ice hundreds of meters to kilometres thick. The ice makes its way towards the sea, moving between high mountains that create giant rivers of ice. On the edge the sea the icebergs break off.
We sailed towards Karale Gletscher (another glacier) and we could see a massive ice wall and a huge ice river above it from the miles away. As we were getting closer the ice cover was getting thicker. There were a couple of side streams of the main glacier and we stopped the boat just under one of them.
The team decided that they would like to go ashore and climb the narrow bit of land in-between two glaciers to get a view from above. Petr dropped half of the group on shore and took the second half on a dinghy ride towards the head of the main glacier which was around a mile away from us.
I stayed on-board and kept the boat in relatively free water while maintaining radio communication with both groups. After a few hours they decided to come back but the group in the dinghy were now nearly locked in by ice. I decided to make my way towards their position using the hull of GS to push the small icebergs out of the way. It was possible with the 50-ton yacht but definitely not with the rubber dinghy. Eventually I could see them and found a clear path alongside the coast; they were soon onboard. Peter from the other group was also on the radio asking to be picked up. He had his drone with him so give me directions to steer between the ice as he had an aerial view.
After another dinghy ride to the ice bergs birthplace, we started making way towards Knud Rasmussen glacier. It’s possibly even more impressive and we could actually experience the large chunks of ice braking off, with thunderstorm like roar! Although very exciting, we were slowly getting tired and navigation between the ice was getting more and more challenging. It was getting so thick that we could not avoid it any longer, so we had to slowly make our way through, pushing smaller bergs to the side and avoiding only the bigger ones. Every evening I have found myself surprised again by quality of the Jotun paint as after the inevitable contacts with the ice there were still almost no scratches on the hull of Global Surveyor.
We were now heading for the anchorage in Ikaasak. The fjord was south east of us. This was the first time on this trip we were going to the place I had not been to last year. Maximum concentration was needed here as it’s almost completely uncharted apart of the approximate contour of the shore.
At a slow speed, we finally entered the bay that leads to an abandoned Inuit village. Where there is a village there is always a decent source of fresh water! We were running out of our own supply so we knew tomorrow we would have to go ashore and get some.
At 10pm our 145kg CQR went down together with 450kg of chain and we were ready for our first night without ice watch as this fjord is almost ice free and the shallow bar at the entrance to the bay would not allow anything significant to enter.
Tomorrow the plan is water, hiking, visit to abandoned village, preparations of the boat for Denmark strait and, well, we are going to be busy as hell!
Many regards from Team Go West

Just in via satellite; Global Surveyor Danny Drahos. Received Sunday 2nd August:

Today was our last day in Greenland. I stayed on-board together with Petr and Andy while the others went ashore to visit the “abandoned” Inuit village.
This was the windiest day we had since our arrival and we were fighting with the new sail onboard that needed to replace our old one. The new main sail for our 70ft yacht really was a big bugger and very difficult to manage at the anchor in the fresh breeze.
A few hours and a few bruises later our beautiful shiny new canvas was up and set.
While Peter was working on GS, me and Andy loaded the empty jerry cans into the dinghy and went for a ride to explore the bay and look for a source of fresh water.
Soon we found a stream coming down from the icebergs and after two runs we had an additional 200 litres of fresh water in our tanks and should be good to set sail across to Iceland!
The rest of the group were coming back late in the afternoon. In the allegedly abandoned village they found an Inuit family with dozens of dogs and seven children. Unfortunately, due to the latest changes in rules they were not allowed to go near or talk to them (“no hugging the native folk” and all that!)
During our last dinner in Greenland, it felt like we had been here a lifetime. Every day was different and every day was enriching and exciting.
At 10pm we set the sail for the Ocean. We closely passed several giant icebergs and the cameras were taking more pictures – thousands must have been taken on this trip! I’m now looking back at the magnificent scenery of snow-covered mountains with giant glacier rivers in between them.
Greenland, I hope to see you soon again!
Regards, Danny and team onboard Global Surveyor heading from icy Greenland to greeny Iceland!

Just in via satellite; Global Surveyor Danny Drahos. Received Monday 3rd August 2020:
On Sunday night when we were setting off from Greenland it was again a different situation with the ice in the fjords. It’s amazing; how can so many icebergs appear overnight?!
It took a couple of hours to get out to the Ocean. Adam was at the helm and he altered our course to NE to avoid the first ice field. I then sent the first report via Iridium to the Greenlandic Joint Arctic Command.
These reports are mandatory, but they do not confirm when they have been received. If you do not send them, you guarantee receiving threatening emails. The next few days my sleep was almost non existent between looking for icebergs and trying to send reports exactly on time every 6 hours.
We had all 3 sails up and Global Surveyor was flying towards Iceland. There was much more ice here then last year. We passed the last large icebergs almost 100 miles from the Greenlandic coast.
When we were 200 miles out, I sent the final report and a polite request for confirmation. After a few hours when nothing came back, I picked up the Iridium and made a direct phone call. The guy on the other side of the line confirmed that the report had been received and I went to sleep ????.
The next day, around 20nm off the Icelandic coast we called the Icelandic coast guard on channel 16 and reported our planned arrival time in Olafsvik.
The coast guard suggested that we may have to land in Grundafjordur instead and that they would be in touch soon to confirm.
We were almost in Olafsvik and had received no confirmation, so we picked up the phone and called them. Olafsvik was confirmed as our port of entry and we were told the police would wait for us on the pier.
We arrived late in the night and 2 policemen in masks were waiting. This was the first time I saw anyone in masks since our arrival. They told us that Covid is back and they are having small spikes in some villages, so the rules had slightly toughened.
They were mostly interested to know if we had any Icelanders on board as they would have to be taken for a Covid test. Foreigners are considered less likely to spread the virus and all we had to do was confirm that everyone was fit and healthy.
I was given the customs guys phone number and soon a bunch of rather complex forms landed in my email box. They seemed to have been meant for a boat the size of Queen Mary 2 and it took me a good 3 hours to get through them. As everyone in Iceland, the police and customs were very friendly and effective and by the morning we were all sorted.
The next morning, we took a trip to the local thermal pool which was fantastic!

Then, it was time to say goodbye. My crew slowly disappeared. Little did I know, they would be the only group I would take this summer to Greenland. Well, what can I say? We had an epic time and loads of fun!
Thank you for a great time and even better company Petr J, Petr K, Andy C, Adam and Ruth, Peter and Zuzana, Jendys and of course, Robert “Bob”.

My great friend Simon has now arrived and we are preparing Global Surveyor for her next adventure.

Many regards from Iceland.

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