To the "Land of Ice and Fire" and Beyond
Updated: May 5, 2019
Our 2019 season is about to get underway and it promises to be our most adventurous and challenging to date! In just over a week from now we start the long flight from Sydney, Australia to Bodø, Norway where Ada Hardy has spent the northern winter. Our timing leaving Sydney is spot on as winter is approaching and the temperatures are cooling down. Bodø on the other hand seems to still be trying to shake off the winter chill with temperatures today ranging from a low of -2C to a maximum of 4C. Good thing we left plenty of winter woollies on board!
Our plan is to leave Bodø on about May 20 and work our way south down the Norwegian coast to arrive in Florø, our proposed departure point for the 200nm passage across to the Shetland Islands, on about 6 June. We aim to spend 10 days in the Shetland Islands and are particularly looking forward to cruising in an English speaking country for the first time in 9 years! The thought of being able to read product labels in shops and talk to the shopkeepers has me thrilled in anticipation!
When a suitable weather window appears we will make the 200nm hop across to the Faroe Islands and hopefully spend another 10 days exploring there before the slightly longer passage - but still only 250nm - to the east coast of Iceland, the "Land of Ice and Fire".
From that point on the journey will become more challenging. We aim to arrive in Iceland around 1 July and then spend the next 3 - 4 weeks following the coast in an anti-clockwise direction to the capital Reykjavik in the south west corner of the country. The east and north coasts of Iceland have very few sheltered anchorages and distances between secure ports is quite large. Hopefully we will get enough breaks in the weather to get round in good time to the west coast, where there are many more good anchorage options, and make it into Reykjavik as scheduled towards the end of July. We anticipate spending a day or two in most ports we visit and making excursions inland by hire car to see the spectacular sites that Iceland is renowned for.
My wife Karen, will leave the boat in Reykjavik at the end of July to return home and I will be joined by three buddies for the next stage of our journey from Reykjavik to Belfast, Maine via Greenland, Labrador and Nova Scotia.
If all goes to plan, we will spend 3 - 4 weeks in Greenland between our arrival point in Kulusuk and departure point at Nanortalik near Cape Farewell in the south. I have arranged for a local guide to join us in Kulusk to spend seven days on board in the Ammasalik fjord region to introduce us to the local culture, wildlife and challenges of navigating in ice. We will then hopefully have 2 weeks or more to work our way south down the coast to Nanortalik with plenty of time for exploring icebergs and hiking on the way.
This part of the trip is going to be very much dependent on ice conditions at the time. Even though August and September are the most likely months to be able to safely access the east coast there is no guarantee. If ice conditions are not favourable then we will head direct from Reykjavik around Cape Farewell to the west coast (about 700nm) which is far less affected by ice than the east. The most recent ice chart below (issued on the 1st May) shows ice at a concentration of 9/10ths or greater along the entire east coast. We need ice concentrations to be no more than 3/10ths for it to be reasonably safe for us to travel - so there is a lot of melting that needs to happen between now and then! The chart shows that the lower half of the west coast is already free of fixed ice and affected only by isolated icebergs.
I will be very disappointed if we don't get to spend time on the east coast because it is so remote and rarely visited. There are no permanent settlements other than at Kulusuk (and Tasiilaq nearby) on the entire coast.
Towards the end of August we will be starting to look for a weather window for the 500nm crossing from Nanortalik to Goose Bay in Labrador, Canada. After clearing customs and immigration at Goose Bay we will make our way south along the coast of Labrador and Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to arrive in Bristol, Maine (where the boat will spend the winter) around 15 September.
I look forward to sharing this year's adventures with you in regular posts over the coming months.