July 23, 2007
Visiting Aasiaat Radio
We stopped to visit the radio station in Aasiaat, the current capital of the north. The station's repeaters cover the entire populated coast broadcasting weather and marine traffic. The weather is offered four times daily in Danish and Icelandic. We called in for a translation. Thus we had gotten to know our translator and he had invited us.
We were told it had been a busy year for gales and lots of ice. We also asked him where he goes for dinner and he said Ilulissat, 60 ice choked water miles away. The only roads in Greenland go from one end of town to the other.
'There is a restaurant here but you must call them first or no one will show up. None of us eat there.' We continued to eat on board.
We left Aasiaat and Disko on the 24th with a light favorable breeze. In two days we arrived in Sisimiut. At 5,500, it is Greenland's second largest town.
The blond Danish girl working in the museum told us that we just missed the good weather. After a week of sun it was pouring rain. She did, however, recommend the Misigisaq, a Chinese restaurant serving all the local favorites- caribou, musk ox, seal and whale. Our waitress, just arrived from Singapore, brought us cashew chicken and spicy fish. We had finally eaten off the boat. The bill was $ 150.
Jeannie was in haven the next day. We hailed a taxi at the quay and loaded a month's laundry. We were bound for the washing machine at the hostel. We arrived just as the office was closing but after an initial turn down the manager relented and showed us to the laundry room. Two hours later we had clean laundry and tramped down the hill to the hotel where we had an excellent $ 200 candlelight dinner with a view of wrecked snow mobiles rusting in the perpetual daylight.
On the way back to the boat we stopped by Luck Dragon, a UK boat that had arrived the day before (first and only pleasure boat we were to see in Greenland). We invited Jeffery, a quarry owner from Hough England who was waiting for crew, for dinner. Jeffery said he was headed to Alaska. He had two small problems. A fishing boat had run into him on the dock bending his wind vane. More seriously, his mast step was rotten and the mast was slowly pushing its way through the bottom of his boat.
I suggested that a friend had the same problem and fixed it by pouring ready mix concrete into the bilge and stepping the mast on that. Jeffery liked the idea. (Two months later we heard that he made it through the NW passage!)
Visiting the Capital
As the largest city, the 13,500 inhabitants of Nuuk consider it the powerhouse of Greenland. Nuuk also bills itself, more appropriately, as the world's smallest national capital. We spent the day touring the museums and collecting tupilaks - small grotesque figures carved in reindeer antler. These were originally hidden in the houses and kayaks of enemies to invoke evil spirits but are now an art form.
Greenland's social ill, alcoholism, was on display. It was a lovely sunny day and so the grounds around the local liquor store were crowded with some of the population staggering and listening to loud music blasting from the apartment block.
The mountains, fiords and ice continued as we made our way south. We stopped in Paamiut for fuel and a museum visit. The blond Danish girl working there gave us directions to the homes of the soapstone carvers the town is known for. We could not wake them but found carvings on sale at the gas dock.
Later, we saw the girl on the dock with her husband and young son. We invited them aboard for tea. They were Jehovah's Witnesses from Denmark at the beginning of a three year teaching contract at the town's only school. Unfortunately they did not speak Greenlandic, the language of their students.
We continued down the coast using the inside passages where we could. The charts are incomplete so we closely followed the soundings spaced like Hansel and Gretel's bread crumbs down the white space on the charts. With the ice and close quarters we did very little sailing. All of the scenery is spectacular; however it is often foggy so one misses a lot.
We arrived in a gale late in the day to find our chosen anchorage blocked by ice. After considering our options we choose an open roadstead beneath a mountain where the katabolic winds periodically built up and blasted down oscillating from calm to gale every other minute. Once again we thanked our 200 pound anchor for keeping us in place.
The next morning a Danish gun boat stopped in the channel behind us and asked the usual series of identity questions. We were not in their system. Not only did Autook fail to enter us, we were told we should have checked in when first crossed within two hundred miles of shore and once every day since.
We apologized and said we would do better in the future. In fact we were checking in almost every day with Aasisiat Radio by way of asking for a weather report. The difference is that if we were in the Navy system and failed to check in due to radio problems or simply forgetfulness, we could be fine but set off alarms would be set off. However, since Steve Fossett has disappeared we are more likely to follow such rules.
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