The long passage to Greenland and our appointment with death
Orkney Islands – Faroe Islands – Iceland
Trapped in Reykjavik
At a very strong and exhausting pace we managed to cover a lot of miles in just a few days. It was a marathon, a real feat with the low barometric pressures "chasing" us continuously.
We had managed to cross the worst seas in the worst weather conditions.
Unruly, huge and strong contrary waves, painful miles, all-day riding.
They were such rough seas that I promised myself that we would never travel in such weather conditions again but wait as long as necessary for the most favorable ones each time.
Nestled in the wonderful Rafnar shipyard we had the opportunity for a general reconstruction.
We laid out all our clothes to dry and immediately set about repairing the damage of the Rib.
While it was not planned, we went ahead with a change of valvolines as I was particularly concerned about the heavy strain on the lower units both from our heavy loads and from the constant rough seas and strong currents.
Days 11th - 18th / 13th - 20th July 2022
Position: 64°09'N 21°56'W – Reykjavik
The days of desperation and unbearable pressure!
The Rib may have been perfectly safe inside the yard, but we weren't.
Pessimism and disappointment had nested inside us for good. We were living the devil's week. A multi-day wait loomed ahead of us which were slowly and torturously killing us.
In the following days, the consecutive low barometrics created prohibitive conditions for our crossing in Greenland.
At these latitudes the Atlantic Ocean weather is almost exclusively influenced by the Icelandic low. The Icelandic Low forms between Iceland and southern Greenland and is extremely intense during the winter season. Summer is milder, producing winds that rarely exceed 35 knots, and is divided into two separate low barometrics. One near the Davis Strait and one to the west of Iceland. In fact, it is so common that it is characterized as a semi-permanent low. Usually found between the 60th and 65th parallel, it moves east and creates very rough seas.
For the next 8 days the ocean brought forth serpents.
But even when I found some drawn-out windows of weather, I stumbled upon the frozen Tasiilaq. Tasiilaq was our next station, 400 nm further west. But it insisted on being stubbornly blocked by the ice. A large area around its port was crimson according to the code eggs of the ice accumulation maps. This meant that the sea was "frozen" around Tasiilaq and only an icebreaker could cross it.
A rare event for the season, but as we were told, this year's winter was particularly heavy and so the ice would be slow to melt.
In fact, when I contacted the local authorities of Tasiilaq for more immediate information, they told me very characteristically: "please don't even try to start because we are already trying to rescue the crews of two sailboats that were blocked in the ice. We don't have time for any more rescues..."
No matter how much I pushed my mind, there was no way out.
Our mood was in tatters.
Abrupt braking after 10 days of continuous action and riding.
This waiting was killing us deeply.
Once, I was studying the winds and at the same time the ice accumulation on the east coast of Greenland.
But it was not only the strong winds and the blocked Tasiilaq that somehow blocked our mission. The weather conditions in these places change in a flash and no one can know where the next day will find him.
Konstantinos with great distress decided to fly back to Athens since it was impossible to reach Greenland on the scheduled day, from where his return had been arranged.
So I was completely alone with my head ready to explode from the infinite but fruitless combinations I tried to make in order to find a solution.
And the problems were continuing.
The airport in Nuuk, Greenland, would remain closed until the end of July due to heavy fog. But that's where Cristiano and Carlos would land on July 20th according to our schedule. But even if their flight took place, no one could have calculated where I would be.
Most likely we would never meet.
Faced with huge impasses, unable to find solutions, I decided to stop thinking as much as possible. So I was let go for a couple of days, until my mind cleared, and I was only concerned with the work on the boat while in the afternoons we organized evening excursions with our local friends.
But the pressure was enormous.
The weight on my shoulders was unbearable.
What I considered most important was first of all, to be able to meet with my crew. I immediately contacted Cristiano and Carlos and suggested them to come to Reykjavik on the 20th.
It was the only sure way for all of us to be together.
So after finding a way to get together as a crew, I kept looking for a way to continue our mission. But everything was suffocatingly pressing in the opposite direction.
I began to think that we should attempt the Iceland circumnavigation by completely changing our schedule.
But should I forget the Arctic Circle?
That too was impossible to even imagine.
I don't remember ever feeling such a terrifying pressure and tension inside me.
The whole mission was at risk and all our efforts would be wasted.
But I would not accept this under any circumstances.
For the second time I had to make a big decision: should we stop here, completely change the program and circumnavigate Iceland, or should we insist on achieving our primary goal? Everything looked like we had to give up.
But I knew very well that there was no such case.
There was absolutely no way I was going to back out and end our mission here.
Again and again, I spread the maps on the table with my gaze fixed on the shores of Greenland. Waiting for the crew to arrive, I plotted courses, studied the weather and ice accumulations while anxiously I was looking for our chance.
Deleting Tasiilaq as a destination, the only solution was to approach Prince Christian Sound - a 50 nautical mile fjord - in southern Greenland and through it to the west coast of Greenland, to Nanortalik. 750 nautical miles of course, 650 of which in the open ocean.
Our fuel autonomy was not enough, however.
Finding that Prince Christian Sound was free of ice, I began to calculate the fuel we would need and look for the appropriate extra tanks to load on board.
The maximum amount of fuel we could have on board was 2,900 litres.
But calculating an average consumption of 4 to 4.5 liters per mile, the equation didn't work for me. There was only one solution.
I knew very well, from the test period, that even with 3 tons of weight the consumption varied from 2.7 to 3 liters per mile only when our speed did not exceed 8 knots.
So I started the calculations.
I got a pencil and paper.
24 hours at 8 knots means 192 miles and about 600 liters of fuel.
The remaining 450 miles to Prince Christian Sound could be covered in another 15 hours of navigation, at speeds of 28 to 32 knots and an average consumption of 4 liters per mile.
So we still had 500 liters left for the last 100 miles to Nanortalik where we could refuel.
However, for the above to apply, we needed two days with good weather conditions or at least the first 24 hours with good seas so that we could travel at 8 knots with the calculated fuel consumption.
The risk was great.
However, there was no other option.
The corresponding weather window I was looking for appeared on July 21st. As soon as the crew arrived we were to set sail.
Everything is fluid but there was hope now.
Every day at dawn, the first thing I did was study charts, winds, ice, fuel… hoping but also shielding our safety in case something went wrong.
Then I would go to work on the boat at the Rafnar shipyard until noon and in the afternoon together with Vangelis and Nikolas we would organize inland excursions.
I really don't know what problems we would have had without the huge contribution of both the people of Rafnar who provided us with what we needed for the boat and our friends who made sure we had a good time softening and compensating our very bad mood.
Words are too few to express my profound gratitude.
Wandering in the Icelandic Hinterland
The land of Geysirs, with incredible geological formations, volcanoes, waterfalls, lakes, glaciers and major movie productions.
Iceland is a fascinating destination with a priceless treasure of diverse natural landscapes that take your breath away, completely different from each other, which take many days to visit.
First of all, we wandered around the main streets of Reykjavik to soak up some of the wonderful aura of this small colorful city. Magnificent buildings, modern architecture, beautiful streets, unique neighborhoods and relaxed rhythms.
It may be considered one of the most expensive cities in Europe, but the quality of life it offers you is exemplary.
We took the main road that leads to the impressive Hallgrimur Lutheran Church, whose bell tower reaches a height of 74.5m and seems to pierce the sky.
It is an attraction of unique architecture that dominates imposingly from every point as it is the tallest building in the city.
Gullfoss Waterfall – The Golden Waterfall
One of the most fascinating landscapes in the country and perhaps the most impressive of Iceland's many waterfalls.
Its waters fall on two levels from a total height of 21 meters to end up in the equally impressive gorge of the Hvita River which is several dozen meters high.
Defying the spray of water that shoots several meters away, we got very close feeling the enormous momentum and incredible dynamics of its waters.
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lake is a unique geothermal spa in the world, in the south-west of Iceland a few kilometers away from Reykjavik.
A heavenly place, with incredible shades of silicon dioxide, which attracts millions of tourists.
The hotel unit in the center of the lake is perfectly in harmony with the environment and offers unique experiences to its guests.
Geyser - Geysir
Iceland is the country of hundreds of geysers, with the largest number of geysers in Europe.
Geysers are a type of hot springs that periodically "explode" and shoot out columns of hot water. They called Geyser, after the name of the largest geyser in Iceland.
You just have to wait a few minutes to admire the water explosions that create steam jets that reach a great height.
That's how the days in Iceland went.
With mixed emotions.
On the one hand, wonderful moments with local friends who took care to relieve my thoughts with parallel visits to wonderful places in Iceland, on the other hand, with incredible moments of anxiety and tension because my mind was always there: to find a way to cross the other side.
Thus the long-awaited 20th of July arrived.
In the morning we put the Rib on the water and I filled up with fuel from the only gas station in Reykjavik that is located on the dock.
After the main tanks of the boat were filled, I started to fill the flexibles which were too many.
2,900 liters in total.
In the afternoon Cris and Carlos came to the marina, direct from the airport. They immediately set to work and undertook to continue the thankless and tiresome supply of flexible tanks.
Everything was ready for the great passage...