Susie Theis


Rounding Cape Farewell

It was 6:00 am in Reykjavik harbour and sunshine was bursting as if it were midday. The engine was on, warming up before our impending departure. Down below deck we filled our coffee mugs and rubbed the sleep from our eyes. Lou looked between us adult crew members with a light hearted half smile and said "Well, should we go to Greenland today?!". With that we cruised out of the harbour and watched the capitol city of Iceland sink into the horizon.

Eight days. It was hard for me to imagine what it would feel like to be confined on a forty five foot vessel without sight of land for eight full days. I tried not to think too much about it for fear of psyching myself out.

Since the ice around the southern part of Greenland was still too thick we'd have to forgo the fjords of the south and head for the industrial city of Nuuk. When people asked me before I left what I was most excited about, Greenland was the first place that came to mind. While the other places were desirable, in my mind, Greenland was just that much more remote, that much more wild and therefore that much more badass. You can't even fly there direct from the United States!

About five days into the passage things were going pretty uneventfully. We celebrated Fourth of July somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic, pretending we were at a cookout with hotdogs and ice cream. Wearing my puffy down coat and stocking cap I don't think I ever felt farther away from the summer ritual. We had just finished dinner on Sunday  and were soaking up the small bit of sunshine that had poked out when Zetty yelled from the cockpit "Pilot whales! Pilot whales!".

Now let me tell you, spotting dolphins, whales or any sort of marine life with fins quickly turns the boat into an all out circus on Arctic Monkey. There is a wild rush of excitement as everyone stumbles over each other grabbing cameras, buckling life jackets and pulling themselves through the companionway and up on deck.

It's quite the spectacle. Often, by the time everyone is situated in the cockpit the mammals have vanished. However, this time a pod of about thirty pilot whales began surfing through our wake, swimming right up to our stern. I was squealing just as loud as Rosie (who is three years old) with excitement. After five monotonous days at sea it was a spectacular treat. Lou later confided that the last time he saw pilot whales doing that was in the pacific. "They were doing that and then they started ramming the boat..." Let's just be thankful that didn't happen to us this time.

We had received our daily weather report from Commanders, the weather agency, we use to get our forecasts and were pleasantly surprised to see that mother nature had dealt us an amazingly fortunate hand and things were stacking up in our favor. We had 18-25 knots of wind coming up to Cape Farewell, however by morning it was supposed to die down. But, for some reason it didn't...and for twelve hours we endured our first gale of the passage. This passage was also meaningful because it was the first time we'd have to be on strict lookout for icebergs. After taking a beating for the first twelve hours of the day the winds died and we found ourselves motoring just I'm time for dinner. As we had heard, the Arctic was living up to itsreputation as being either too windy or dead calm.

On the second to last morning we woke up to our first massive iceberg sighting. The sun was blinding and the water was calm as we motored up close to get a better look. Lou also wanted to take the opportunity to see how the ice came up on radar as well as show us what it sounds like when the boat grazes a piece of floating ice. Although it would take a lot for an aluminum boat like Arctic Monkey to take a blow we still taking every safety precaution. Not long after the berg encounter a small pod of whales began feeding in the area. They were surfacing all around us as we quickly scrambled from side of the boat to the other in desperate attempts to capture it on video.

We spent the last few days of our passage motor sailing. After the gale we encountered while rounding Cape Farewell I don't think any of us were complaining. As we started making our final approach into Nuuk the mountains we had been eyeing for some distance started to grow. I found myself surprised by the fact that even though we'd been on the boat for almost nine days I wasn't as anxious to get off as I would have predicted. Pulling into a new harbor always gives me a good feeling; a sense of accomplishment for the journey completed paired with a feeling of anticipation for what's to come in a new place. Though industrial and rugged I couldn't wait to see what our time in Greenland would bring.

Susan TheisComment