Icebergs ahoy!

By Chris Bray 8 November 2013
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Chris and Jess have sighted their first iceberg as they prepare to sail to Greenland.

Follow Chris and Jess on the tracker position map

beautiful west coast of Newfoundland, through the fog, icebergs, whales and dolphins of the Strait of Belle Island, around the top Northern tip and we’re now here in St. Anthony on the North East corner of Newfoundland, ready to sail to Greenland – an epic eight-ish-day crossing.

The weather charts of late have been filled with low pressure system after savage low pressure system, creating winds of 90km/hr+, but a perfect weather window has finally opened showing perhaps nothing serious at least for six or seven days, so last night we refuelled with diesel, filled up our 200L water tank, strapped everything down, and as a last taste of civilisation, we were lucky enough to be invited aboard the awesome Canadian Coast Guard / Searchand Rescue ship HARP. Reassuringly, these guys told us we seemed very well prepared for the voyage ahead.

Smiling, we returned to Teleport, only to find large amounts of water sloshing about in the bilge! Scoping some up I hastily tasted it, and ignoring the hint of diesel, oil and other scum that always accumulates in a yacht’s bilge, I was pleased to detect that the water was not salt water. So the good news was we weren’t sinking, but the bad news was there must be a leak somewhere in our 200L drinking water tank.

After tightening all the hose fittings hoping that may have been the culprit, water continued to flow out, and so we had to empty and heave the entire flexible tank out and up onto the wharf, and slice open the ‘protective’ canvas outer cover and pull out the internal vinyl bladder. Amazingly, it had at least three sizeable puncture holes/tears in it – yet there was not even a scratch on the protective canvas cover, and we could find nothing sharp where the bag rested – more confusingly still, the holes were on the top of the bladder where there wouldn’t have even been much force/pressure.

This pathetic water bag thing we have seems to be criss-crossed with stressed crease corners and folds, all threatening to tear through at a moment’s notice. Nothing we could find or think of seemed to want to stick to the glossy, slippery vinyl plastic, not even the Coast Guard’s inflatable dingy repair kit. In the end, we opted for good ol’ Duct Tape, and amazingly, it seemed to hold up under pressure. So very late last night – after midnight – we reinstalled the patched bladder, filled her back up, and went to sleep, dog tired, still hoping to escape in the morning to Greenland…

Unfortunately, we can’t really leave today anyway, because the first 50 miles out from St. Anthony here is filled with icebergs (and their associated, smaller but more dangerous ‘growler’ chunks bobbing around them), and we wish to do this section in broad daylight to help us see and avoid them – requiring us to leave at first light and maximise our daylight time to get through the worst of it before the harrowing night-sailing with torches through (less crowded) berg teritory commences.

Already I can see another low pressure system perhaps six or seven days to the west of us now, and so it’ll be a bit of a race across to Greenland, but we can’t afford the time to wait for this and whatever systems are likely behind it to pass, because the season up here is ticking on.

Filling you in since the last update, as we crossed the invisible line on our ice chart showing we’d now entered the zone where there be icebergs, we decided that while we can at least, we may as well only sail during the day, and pull into the nearest harbour come 8:30-9pm each night when the sun goes down. So we’ve had lovely brief stop overs in sever

On the way to our next stop ‘Flowers Cove’ – after a few false-alarms passing white plastic bags that looked like ice – we passed our first iceberg! Perhaps 15-20m tall. Officially, an Iceberg is 10m or higher, a ‘berg-bit’ is less than 5m tall, and a ‘growler’ is less than 1m tall.

The following day we woke early and did the long, exposed last dash up the strait and around the corner, deciding to pull into a little harbour called Quirpon at the base of the last big northerly headland of NFLD which is actually an island with a very narrow, shallow channel separating it from the mainland. So after loitering around and waiting for high tide and dead calm wind, we gingerly motored slowly through and anchored on the other side for the night, saving us the long, icy, exposed route around the headland. From there it was a short three- or four-hour sail down here to St. Anthony, past another berg and a bergy-bit, where we’ve been prepping for the passage ahead.

For a full version of the blog, check out the Teleport website

Preparations for the Arctic sailing adventure
Arctic sailing adventure sets off