Traveling through an Icy world
It has been a very busy and very fascinating time since our last update over a month ago.
The engine replacement project has been a great success, and unfortunately, we have needed the service of this engine for more than 250 hours in the last month as we have been negotiating ice and calms almost the entire time.
Except for a few annoying small things that require constant attention, the engine is operating exactly as she should, and we are very happy that we have been able to pull this off in the set time frame.
On July 15th, we set sail heading north along the coast of Greenland.
Places like Eqip glacier, Svartenhuk, Upernavik and the Devil's Thumb have been visited before we headed into the vast desolation of the Melville Bay. Melville is an area in NW Greenland that is practically one big glacier front over a distance of several hundreds of miles. Only occasionally interrupted by a mountain ridge that ends in the sea. This piece of water with practically no places to hide or to anchor, and with icebergs of all sizes and shapes, is only navigable for a short period of time during the second half of the summer.
We sailed through here with Jorgen Rasmussen and his crew, in order to search for wildlife for their photography project.
After four days in this amazing part of Greenland, we sailed across the Baffin Bay to Devon Island in Canada, and after a 2 day visit to the sea ice edge in Admiralty inlet, we are now floating around in Milne Inlet, just south west of the settlement "Pond Inlet" on the north coast of Baffin Island.
We hope to spot and photograph the Narwhal's that come here to reproduce during the summer.
July 9th "Amazing light"
There is 24 hours of daylight at the latitudes that "Bagheera" is currently located. The most beautiful part of the day is late in the evening and very early in the night. This picture is taken during one of my night walks, just before midnight. It is the "skyline" of Ilulissat, with Disko Island on the horizon.
As a continuation on our Engine story: the engine works again! there are a few minor issues to resolve, but nothing that cannot be done over the next few days. There is a small oil leak, the electrical stop button does not travel the proper distance to shut the engine off and the main alternator does not charge correctly. I would not have expected the engine to be perfect at the first shot, there are always minor adjustments to make. So I'm perfectly happy by how it worked out. It was a bit of a gamble to have an engine come in by airplane and swap it out here in this remote port. But it was organized well, and all that was required to make this into a success was actually in the right place on the right time.
We can continue our trip north!
July 2nd "Disassembling of an engine block"
Over the last few days, I managed to completely disassemble and take apart the ceased up engine. With proper use of the rigging, I managed to put both the gearbox and the remainder of the engine block on deck. This way, I have clear and full access to the engine room compartment for a thorough cleaning, some paint damage repairs and maintenance of pipes, hoses and wires.
We have been suffering from a small, but very annoying fuel leak in one of the supply lines to the engine for some time now. It was in a very tough spot to reach for proper repairs when the engine was in place. Now that the engine is temporarily gone, I will take the opportunity to repair that leak once and for all.
I just got word from airgreenland that the new engine is supposed to arrive her by Saturday morning. Fingers crossed! That would give me 8 days to get everything back together, make it work and go out for some test runs.
June 30th "The challenge of getting fresh water"
We did not have the chance yet to fill our water tanks since we left Halifax, over a month ago. There is a simple way of getting fresh water, and that is using the hose that is available at the fish factory. But the truth is, that the water smells badly, and it also looks dirty. To such an extent, that I did not even try to taste it. What else can we do?
Well, the answer is pretty simple. There is an enormous glacier just a few minutes away from here. Glaciers are ice rivers made out of compressed snow, and are therefore made of fresh water. All we have to do is sail out to the glacier front with our little zodiac, and collect the smaller blocks of ice. We put those in a big bag that collects the melt water, and we can poor that in our tanks.
It is a lot of work, we will need about 800kg's of ice to get the tanks full again. the upside is that the water is of such purity, that it is worth a lot of money when sold in a bottle. And we use that on our boat to do dishes, take showers and run a washing machine! Simply because it is melting away in the sea anyway.
In order to speed up the melting process a bit, it really takes ages when done on deck, we put some pots and pans on the heater.
June 25th “What to do when you are stuck in a place you did not plan for”
Eventough we did not plan to stay in Ilulissat for this long, we still very much enjoy ourselves. There are so many things to do and to see, that one does not even realize where the time went. We make hikes to the glacier, working aggressively on solving the engine problem, and do some small jobs that can always be found on an expedition boat.
We are actually making good progress on solving the engine problem, but that will be details for a later update. I now just want to update you on what a normal day in the office looks like when the office is actually a boat.
Yesterday, Andre, one of our guests for this summer, was doing some maintenance work on the small Suzuki outboard engine. The carburetor wasn’t working properly, and a good cleaning of the internal parts made a world of a difference.
Other daily tasks we do are hiking, cooking, shopping, cleaning, getting drinking water (which is a story on its own for a later date), trying to arrange everything for the engine, administrative work and so on. We are technically waiting for things to happen, but we are very busy doing so.
And of course, we could not be more grateful for all the fantastic help that Willy and Vijayanthi of the Inuit cafe are giving us!
June 24th "New developments regarding engine replacement"
We potentially have very good news regarding the problem that we have posted about yesterday. This would mean that, with some struggle and effort, we might be able to get "Bagheera" back to her old self over the next few weeks. The next couple of days are going to be critical. We will keep you updated as to what the new developments are when we have more news.
June 23rd "Engine troubles in the north".
The life of a cruiser in remote area's is not always that great. We were just off the coast of the incredibly beautiful "Disko Island " when disaster struck. Disaster you might wonder? well kind of disaster. Our engine ceased a crankshaft bearing and is not deemed repairable here in Greenland. This basically means that we have no main engine from here on, and travelling further north is therefore out of the question.
The difficulty is in the part. I found out, after talking to many specialists, that there are no machine shops in Greenland. Not even in the capital "Nuuk", only 400 miles away from here. Well, there are machine shops, but they are not capable to machine a crankshaft to make it fit with the oversized bearings that are available in Europe.
This all would mean that we have to take the engine apart, send the parts to Denmark or so for machining, and have them send back here, and hope that there are no communication mistakes between the different parties and that the tolerances are within the limits of the different parts. Not a risk I'm willing to take if you know that the first attempt is going to take at least 6-8 weeks. That probably will end up being 8-10 weeks since it is Greenland.
We are back in Ilulissat now, enjoying the nice weather, make a short hike in the surrounding every day, and working to fix the problem the rest of the day.
We have pretty much exhausted every option available, and I think the only way forward is to abandon our original plan of going to Melville and Baffin Island, and sail the boat straight back to Halifax without the help of the main engine. Not ideal, but doable. Options we have considered include, but are not limited to: ordering a new engine and have it shipped to Greenland, building in a used engine, mount an outboard on the transom, charter another boat to continue the journey. Everything has its own kind of problems, and I consider them to big of a risk to get stuck here for the winter. Eventough I would love to spend the winter here in Disko bay, it is not something that I can do this winter since I need to get back to my winter job. Leaving the boat here is only postponing the problem to next year.
I will have to keep my thinking head on for a while to see if there are options I have not thought of yet. Any thoughts?
Any way, this is our backyard for the next short while, there are worse places to be stuck!
"Arctic Parcel delivery service"
About two months before departure to the north we got a request from someone to bring with us two relatively big and heavy parcels from Halifax to Nuuk. It sounded very interesting to me, and I went to Barrington street in Halifax to take a look at what it was that I was about to take with me. The nature of the "parcels" was very interesting and I could easily fit them on the boat, so I took them with me! As you probably noticed, I refer to the fact that they are parcels, and not what it actually is. That is because there is a journalist involved in all of this as well (Andy Schell over at www.59-north.com) and I want to give him the honors of revealing what they really are when the time is there! For now you will have to do with a picture of me, unloading the cargo.
We arrived in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland on June 11th in the late evening, and cleared customs first thing in the next morning. A friend of the father of the owner of the parcels, who is a woman from Greenland that lived in Halifax for a while, stopped by that same morning as well to pick up the parcels. Johan is his name, and he is a seaman that sailed the coast of Greenland pretty much all his life. He recently retired and had plenty of time, so he was generous enough to take us for a tour of the city. Johan showed us the highlights and some of the history, took us to the grocery store, and invited us to his home for coffee and pie. All and all a very exciting day, because it was also the first nice day in Nuuk for that year! It was a windless, sunny day with temperatures of 15 degrees Celsius. We were lucky to see the town on specifically that day!
"What day of the week is it again?"
Life at sea is pretty slow, the days are no longer scheduled events, but rather a process that you go through. It is almost impossible to know which day of the week it is, and even the time of the day is not that easy to guess anymore, it is really liberating, as well as relaxing for the mind. Did we leave yesterday? Or was it last week? It is a question you really have to think about for a while when asked in a situation we are in. It is that we keep a logbook, otherwise we would be lost in time...
Especially now that the darkness of the night is fading away with every mile we move further north, the days seem to melt together into one long one. Last night was only 3 hours of "no light" (you can't even call it dark anymore). We are now just north of 60 degrees, and Nuuk, our destination for this delivery trip is at 64 degrees north, 240 miles ahead of us.
So to be very honest, there is not much to write, not much is happening. Which, in the Arctic, is usually a good thing. We fill our days with cleaning, reading books, and lots of good conversations. We eat a lot, and experiment with cooking, once in a while we take care of the navigation, and adjust or change the sails. Today was a day of personal care as well, shaving, washing hair and so on; at sea those are not activities one usually does every day, especially not in a cold climate or regions of the planet where the weather is not always favorable.
However, everything is about to change shortly when, in a couple of days, land as well as other people will be back in our lives because we will sail into the capital of Greenland: Nuuk.
June 6th: "The eternal fog of the Grand Banks".
We have been on our way for about 36 hours since we left St. John's NL,
but our world has been surprisingly small since then. We have been sailing between very dense fog among icebergs ever since. We saw about 6 or 7 of them
on the radar, but with a view varying from only a few boat lengths to a couple of hundred meters at the most, it was a good thing we did not see them in real life.
As of dusk on the 5th, the Grand banks remained behind us. The temperature is down to 4 degrees Celsius, and the water is even colder. The wind is pleasantly blowing from the SE, and we are rushing forth with higher than average speeds. The fog lifts now and then, and the horizon becomes visible for a bit, being covered by rain for the next bit.
We were able to have the heater on in the cabin for a significant part of the day today, it raised the temperature in the cabin from a cold and damp 6 degrees to as much as 15 for a while. In the afternoon, the wind turned and the back pressure from the mainsail on the heater was too high, so we had to turn it off again. The warmth will remain in the boat for a while, so hopefully the night will not be too cold for watch standing. That is necessary because even though we have passed the Grand Banks, there are still icebergs in the area, and we have to keep being on the lookout in order not to run into one.
June 4th: "A quick pit stop in St John's NL"
The way from Halifax to Newfoundland was longer than ever before, a distance that is often covered in 3-4 days took us almost 6 days due to lack of wind and persistent winds from the North East, exactly the direction we were heading for!
This resulted in a lot more engine hours than anticipated, so we make a quick stop in St. John's for re-fueling which we were passing within a few miles anyway on our way north off the Grand Banks.
The weather for the next few days is looking good, it looks like we will have stronger winds from the south, exactly what we would need to speed up the delayed delivery trip to Nuuk.
We'd like to thank everybody who likes, follows, shares and comments to our facebook page and website. The number of responses is overwhelming!
We will be heading back into the eternal fog and between the majestic icebergs of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland as soon as the fuel delivery truck shows and filled our tank up.
The picture shown here was taken during our approach of St John's harbor, the first full size iceberg of the 2014 season, we're on our way!
May 31st: "The grieve of an autopilot"
When I'm writing this, during a night watch at sea at 2 in the morning, it is almost two weeks since the day we should have left for Greenland, but fate decided otherwise. We left Halifax on Sunday May 18th, as planned, with the destination Nuuk, Greenland. We were only 20 miles out at sea, and Halifax was just disappearing in the haze, when the autopilot started to beep and showed some errors on the screen. This was strange, but a reset of the autopilot computer was performed, and on we went. In less than 10 minutes, an error appeared again. The intervals became shorter, and after a short while, the autopilot did not want to steer anymore.
The nature of the error made me think that there was a bad connection in the wires between the computer and the drive, so the decision was made to return to Halifax, and replace the cable and the connections between the two units all together. We managed to do that before darkness fell, and we all agreed to depart the next morning.
A lot happened that following morning, but the short version of the story goes as follows: the "drive error" of the autopilot was caused by a damaged drive. The drive got damaged, because the autopilot was not suitable for our steering gear, and was effectively designed to steer a hydraulic drive, rather than an electrical one. The steering was on or off, and nothing in between, causing more than normal shock loads on the system, that would normally be dampened by the hydraulic pressure built-up in an hydraulic system. The damaged drive was not the only damage to the system, some of the link arms in the steering gear got fractured in the six years of shock loads as well, and in fact, one of the links broke on the way back into Halifax. The hairline fractures were so thin, and covered in grease, that I had totally missed them during my inspections in the preparation period.
The only acceptable and feasible "repair" would be to replace suspicious parts in the steering gear, replace the drive, and exchange the autopilot for one that actually can gradually steer an electric drive as it was designed for.
Within a couple of days, the new autopilot was installed and dockside tested, but the long wait for the parts of the steering gear was the bottleneck in a timely departure as we were hoping for. The parts had to be flown in from Denmark, and mistake after mistake was made in the sending of what had to be a simple parcel handling. The manufacturer shipped two days late, the wrong shipment type was selected for the wrong reasons, customs took their time releasing the parcel, document handling at the courier’s side was not handled well etc. Eight days of waiting, 20 phone calls and 6 emails further, the package finally arrived, and.... the parts did not fit the boat. The motor had a bigger housing than the original one, and a strip-out of the wooden protective case as well as wire re-routing had to be done to make everything fit properly, the link arm keyways had to be filed out to fit the existing gear and so a few things more, that made a job that would normally take two hours, into a job of a full day.
After the hardware installation came a new challenge that should have been an easy ride if it wasn't for my own stupidity. The drive has to be setup, calibrated and sea-trial tested before it can steer the boat. But I could not get it past the last dock side trial before going out for practical testing. Whatever we did for fixing the problem, I could not get past the error "rudder moves too slow" during the dockside steering test. One of our guests for the delivery trip to Nuuk, who stayed around for the full experience, came with the brilliant, but in my eyes not applicable comment that port and starboard rudder angle limits might have been set the wrong way around. But hey, we tried everything else, so let's try this as well. You can guess it: In as little as minutes, the test was completed successfully, and Dag Wedelin was the hero of the day!
Now, two days later, we just passed Sable Island, a sandbar in the middle of the ocean, about 150 miles to the south east of Nova Scotia. Driven by an autopilot that is smoother, has less power thirst, and is much less noisy than the old one ever was! (Who is now named Jane). We are out at sea, on our way to Greenland, with almost a week and a half delay. The Grand Banks are waiting ahead of us, with their eternal fog and majestic icebergs. 280 miles to go to Cape Race, the most south western point of Newfoundland, from there, it is another 1000 miles to the north to our destination. Currently the weather is fantastic, with very smooth sailing over a nearly swell-free ocean under clear blue skies. We will keep you posted on our progress.
All best, Bagheera and crew.
May 14, 2014.
It is almost time to let go of the docking lines! The last preparations are in progress, wheelbarrows full of food are being carried to the boat, and the first few days of our crossing to Greenland are already appearing on the GRIB files.
Sunday will be the big day that we will be heading north. We will try to update this page every week while we will be up north. So if you are interested in following our Journey, make sure you check out this page regularly, or leave a like at our Facebook page