Nanuq in Disko Bay

Nanuq 2015 : Denmark - Norway - Fair Isle - Feroes - Iceland - Greenland

Leg 6 : chart

Leg 5 : chart

Leg 4 : chart

Leg 3 : chart

Leg 2 : chart

Leg 1 : chart


 LEG 6 : 580 miles : crew 6 : 10 days

Background source : Atlas of Canada - The North polar region, see

Leg 6 : Arrival in Qaanaaq (September 9th, 2015)

Qaanaaq, Inglefield Bredning, 77°28' N. To the right hand the Arina Arctica, the last supply ship before winter (photo Peter Gallinelli)

Qaanaaq (*), september 9th, we have arrived at our destination, at the end of the 6th and last leg of this first big chapter, the place we have dreamed of for many years. To finally be here seems still unreal. Nanuq pulls on her anchor in a shallow bay a few hundred metres away from the village, protected from ice but not from the chilling wind blowing down from the ice cap (***). We experience first snow on deck. Although unheated, our contemporary 'passive igloo' is cosy and warm.

Since our departure from Kopenhagen our log has counted 4700 nautical miles (~7500km). This kind of travel can't be compared top sitting in an airplane zapping from one place to another. We have sailed every wave, profited from every breeze, rounded many caps and seen thousands of different unique viewpoints along the way. We have had moments of waiting, doubt and tiredness, moments of joy, of discovery and awe. We have shared precious moments with a crew which has helped us with their presence and persistence to come here ... at the average speed of a pedestrian.

We turn a page. And open a new chapter.

Autumn will be dedicated to prepare the winter camp: preparation of the boat, installing the windmills and the scientific equipments. The days will get shorter and will give place to the first snowfall, the autumn storms and the formation of the ice. The remaining summer crew will leave the boat once the ice is formed.

To be continued.


Moorings :

Fan Gletscher (77°32.5N 69°54.8W): mooring to the W of the delta formed by the streams coming form the glacier, opposite of Herbert Oe. Excellent hold in 7m sandy ground. Open to the S.

(***) Qaanaaq (77°27.9N 69°16.6W): very good hold in 5m in sandy ground. 5-6 cables to the W of the village. Protected by some underwater rocks that are visible at low tide forming a small bay, providing shelter from the drifting ice. The approach is though a narrow passage, 2.0 to 2.5m depth at low tide, 77°27.8N 69°17.0W coming from the S. The depth in the bay is around 5m. No protection from the wind nor some swell at high tide. Access to shore by dinghy on the beach towards the village. 3/4G network. Don't miss à stop at Qaanaaq Hotel!


Leg 6 : The most northern settlement on earth (September 8th, 2015)

Melville Bay (photo Peter Gallinelli)

The crossing of Melville Bay was fast. Half of the bay we were able to profit from NE winds, which slowly calmed down forcing us to continue by motor. The days are still long at this latitude; the sun disappears behind the horizon for a few hours, leaving nonetheless a blue twilight. Enough to see the small bits of Icebergs that cross our path!

Our compasses start to mislead us, they are no longer accurate. When the sea is a little rough, the swell makes it hard for them to show a constant heading. The magnetic deviation is about 60°. Here this instrument that is key to accurate navigation comes to it's limits. We now follow the wind and the indications of our GPS.

Siorapaluk, the most northern village of the world (77°47'N), Robertson Fjord (photo Peter Gallinelli)

We are back from Siorapaluq, the northernmost settlement in the world. After speaking to the locals, we have yet again lots of new and useful information on the area. Combined with the information from our maps and satellite photos, it allows us to identify potential mooring places for our winter camp. Once these places are virtually located, we still need to go on place and carefully analyse the pros and cons. We are looking for several qualities: first of all protection from the open sea and drift ice, proximity to a village, access to a fresh water source (if possible) and finally, not to be to much closed in order to be able to take advantage from the wind for our windmills. Ideally would be an open view towards the S to see the first (and last) sunbeam!

Walking through the toundra, Robertson Fjord (photos Peter Gallinelli)

The end of the summer is approaching. The little streams are freezing, for the first time we have a little ice on our deck. Our winter camp is not yet defined, mooring possibilities are scarce in this area...

Moorings :

Qeqertarssuaq (77°25.4N 70°14.0W) : good hold in 5m sandy bottom in a little bay open to the NW (find a spot between the algae). Make a big turn around the W of the islets that close the bay to the N to avoid underwater rocks in the axis of the islets. Do not go further into the bay as the Islet to the W, there are numerous rocks! The end of the bay is dry at low tide. The abandoned village is 1.5km to the E of the mooring. There are several turf ruins along the coast.

Barden Bugt (77°08.7N 70°43.1W): landlocked mooring with excellent hold in 15m sandy bottom, aprox. 80m from the beach at the end of the fjord behind a 'moraine'. Keep clear of shoals close to the different 'moraines' and Kap Powlett. Remains of an abandonned village along the N coast of the fjord. Glacier landscape. Over night there is a cold breeze blowing from the glacier. A potential winter camp mooring? To be tested in strong winds from the W (uncomfortable swell from the side may occur).

The following graphic shows the daylight over the year at 75° N:

Graph : horizontal axis = number of day; vertical axis = number of hours. For definitions of civil, nautical, astronomical day, please refer to... (clic = zoom)


Leg 6 : The arctic route (September 2nd, 2015)

This morning the summits of the surrounding mountains are covered in frost. The weather forecast for Melville Bay predicts -5°C. Upernavik is in the south. More and more, the landscape shows its true nature: blank rough rock. Our voyage continues North. The weather is on our side, although the lack of wind forces us to use our motor to trace our way. August-September is the period with least ice, allowing us to reach far into the fjords.

Approche de la côte au petit matin après une nuit de près en mer (photo Peter Gallinelli)

The region of Upernavik is a paradise for every climber and alpinist. Majestic granite walls reaching steep into the sky. Big valleys, covered by a rich flora lead to snowed in summits up to 1500m. We are on the lookout for future travels, writing down what we see around us for future planning.

But while our imagination is already in the future, the present has us searching for possible winter camps. There are quite a few possible spots that would be suitable for the winter, even though the ice arrives relatively late in this region (December-January) and is quite thin (20-40cm). This can be a problem, as a lake of thick ice reduces the possibilities to travel freely between the winter camp and the close by village making access for friends and family difficult. During the delicate periods of freezing and melting of the ice, while the boat is not yet strongly frozen in by the ice, we are exposed to winds and drifting ice.

We approach the glacier front of Upernaviks Isfjord. The glacier has retreated tremendously: we manage to go 20km deeper into the fjord as was possible 20 years ago according to satellite photographs of that time. Some lakes have simply disappeared. The landscape still has the visible marks of the former presence of this great mass of ice that has completely vanished as for now.

At the foot of the glacier we find a little unexpected anchorage freshly uncovered from the ice (*). As always we profit immensely to go on land and discover this so absurd landscapes and are surprised by the speed with which new life takes hold on these uncovered rocks.

Nanuq crossing Upernaviks Isfjord (video extracts Kalle Schmidt)

Isfjord also gives us the first opportunity to touch fresh ice. While the verge ice explodes with the sound of broken glass, the 15cm thick ice sheets crack with a deep thundering sound. We discover Nanuq in another light. The reinforced bow easily pushes the big ice blocks that float along our flanks side, cleaning the hull from algae. The safety fuses of our tilting tiller work, avoiding destruction when we hit a big block of ice.

Although the enthusiasm is very high we have to keep in mind that we are exposed to the elements and that caution and attention are essential. The possibility of a storm is high during autumn, so we always have an open eye for a protected plan B.

While the voyage goes on, so does our scientific program: two weather buoys have been launched and are drifting in the Labrador current, a third one will be launched in Melville Bay. The absorbers from the Université de Savoie are soaking up particles and for the Université de Brest we are collecting water samples every 3 or 4 days.

Every day brings us something new: a new experience, a new encounter, a new environment. The versatility of this country is breathtaking even though it's ingredients are so scarce. It is this ever changing coast that surely gave name to this country as well as its people, as it is the country of man. We are impatient to go into the coming season and experience this beautiful country under a different light.

Moorings :

(*) Isfjord, island without name (72°48.2N 54°15.5W): 13m deep, fine sand bottom. Good hold for anchor in good weather. Possibility to access the Greenlandic Ice-Cap. Beautiful sight onto glacier.

Fjord without name (72°48.2N 54°15.5W): very good mooring protected from the wind and the ice. Sandy/muddy ground with good hold (algae can be avoided). The end of the fjord is accessible with some local knowledge (rocks in the passage - pre-sounding with dinghy recommended). The little bay at the end of the fjord is potentially an all weather/all year round mooring place. Fresh water stream close by, on the exposed S side of the bay. There seem to be some rests of a summer camp of local fishermen. The big waterfall shown in the N of the fjord no longer exists.

Appilattoq village (72°52.3N 55°34.2W) : excellent small natural harbour used by local fishermen. Good hold in the middle of the main basin at 13m, in sandy bottom (depths vary between 6-18m). Approach from the W through a little passage. It is recommended to stay in the middle (8m), as there are some rocks to both sides close to the shore. Care should be taken when moving inside of the bay as there are some isolated underwater rocks in the main bay and the passage leading to the smaller bay to the E. Fresh water lake 15' away by foot. Distance to inhabited village ~2km - easy walk. GSM connection.

Atiligssuaq (72°46.9N 55°51.4W): small bay perpendicular to the main fjord. Well protected from the predominant winds. Sandy bottom (unverified hold). Good mooring can be obtained by anchoring in 12-15m water and attaching two lines to the shore.

Bay to the South of Umiasugssuk (72°45.8N 55°53.9W): good anchorage on sandy/rocky bottom. Small beach on the S of the rocky isthmus that closes the bay to the NW. Steep mountains on both sides of the bay. Many climbing possibilities. Several waterfalls in the surroundings. Old snow at sea level (August). Quite visited by locals. Avoid mooring to close to the flanks of the mountains, danger of falling rocks!

Nutaamiut (73°31.1N 56°25.1W) : Village marked as disused on charts but inhabited: new infrastructure (fishing plant, GSM antenna, houses). Anchorage can be found to the E of the GSM Relay antenna (50m from the chapel) at 0.2nm from the cost. Sandy/rocky bottom, 6m deep. Caution is advised, there are some shallower spots. There is no peer, but a protected stone wall equipped with rubber tyres at the foot of the crane to the S of the village. The anchorage is not well protected from ice although shallow bottom keeps big icebergs away.

 LEG 5 : 650 miles: crew 8 : 15 days
Background source : Atlas of Canada - The North polar region, see

Leg 5 : on our way to Upernavik (August 25th, 2015)

After a few days without connection, we're back with some news! We have used these days to complete some of the older articles, enjoy the reading!

After Ilulissat, the contrast is quite accentuated when we moor in a little bay off Sarqaq, a little peaceful village home to the arctic garden that once belonged and was cared for by Hanibal Fencker. Two big greenhouses are the shelter to numerous plants. When we open one of the doors we are welcomed by the image of a little tree just as tall as us and the aromatic smell like we haven't smelled in a while. In the fjord enormous blocks of ice lie peacefully close one to another. In the evening we are surprised by fireworks. The people of Sarqaq are celebrating! There is joy in the laughter, the music is loud! It is Saturday, time to celebrate, also on board.

Sarqaq: Icebergs and dogs enjoy the peace. Hanbibal Fencker's garden (photos Peter Gallinelli)

In Sarqaq, as well as most of the other villages, the fuel tanks show the dependence of fuel in this regionsl (photo Peter Gallinelli)

The next morning we continue our way. In front of us we have the Vaigat: an unprotected passage to the North of Disko Island. It is 6o miles long and 10 miles wide (twice de size of the Lac LŽman), with no really mooring possibilities. To the North we find the Nugussag peninsula, crossed by big semidesertic valleys leading to high, snowed-in peaks. It presents itself as a magnificent hiking area, ready to be exploredÉ We could spend weeks here; definitely a place to come back to!

The following days are marked by the welcomed presence of the sun. We are heading north; every degree we get closer to the North Pole, leads to the loss of a degree in the height of the trajectory of the sun. The scarce flora is changing its colours from green to red and orange. Everything seems to retreat back into its roots. The cormorants are heading towards the South. The winter is approaching.

Mushroom season. Niaqornat (photos Peter Gallinelli)

After spending the night in the cover of a big wall S of Nugsuata (**), we head to Niaqornat (***), the Village at the Edge of the World. It is a meeting point between arid mountains and the rough sea. Time passes differently here. It is a village of contemplation. At the beach the grandfather plays with his grandchildren, throwing stones.

The only person that speaks english manages to download the GRIB files for us. Internet access exists in every inhabited village in Greenland. Therefore, we use the mobile coverage maps, to find out if a place is inhabited.

GSM coverage map. 2G and sometimes even 3G (map extract © TELE-Greenland)

After a short crossing over the Ummanaq fjord, we arrive in the Upernavik area (****). The landscape completely changes. The deep valleys and volcanic formations change to round polished granite. While the mushrooms dry on the navigation table, we cross the 70th parallel N.


Moorings :

(*) Sarqaq (70°00'N 51°57'W): good anchorage inside the little bay to the S of the small village. Protected to the S by a little island and 1m shoal. Excellent hold in sandy bottom (5-10m). Fuel available on the peer. Small shop. Nosy-Bé wintered here in 1996. Well mapped on charts.

(**) Temporary mooring to the S of Nugsuata (70°40'N 54°34'W): well protected from the dominant winds from NW and SE. Open to the sea to the S and W. Good hold in rocky bottom covered with algae (11m), close to a pebble beach at the foot of a stone wall. Volcanic origin. Surrounded by beautiful valleys, with mushrooms and berries. Some Inuit tombs.

(***) Niaqornat (70°47'N 54°34'W): Small village installed on an isthmus. Beautiful surroundings with great hiking possibilities. The mooring is situated on the W of the isthmus. Good hold in calm weather in 15m sandy bottom around 15m from the beach. Open to the NW and only protected by big icebergs grounded on the shallow bottom.

(****) Mooring to the S of a glacier 'moraine' at the W entrance of Amitsup Suvdlua (71°49'N 55°24'W): Good hold in 10m sandy/algae bottom. On the shore there is an old hunting cabin. The 'moraine' is not shown on charts but can be seen on satellite images. Arid surroundings, amazing hiking terrain! Close to the beach there are some rests of turf houses and a tipi camp.


Leg 5 : Sisimiut and the route of Sila (August 19th, 2015)

For the last days we have been slowly proceeding north. The extensive archipelago along the coast offers the most numerous oportunities to explore the different landscapes. During the day we enjoy the calm and protected waters between the islands. In the evening, after securely mooring in a small bay at the foot of some mountain or the mouth of an extensive valley, we go for a hike in the surroundings.

Today, after searching a mooring, we make a stop in a little village with about 20 small houses. Only 5 minutes after arrival, we are approached by Stephen. He is the teacher. He invites us to come to the school for a morning coffee. He asks if we could talk about ourselves and what it is that we are doing. 20 pairs of young eyes stare with excitement, carefully listening to what we are saying. There is joy: the children gloat with enthusiasm and present big smiles. We are touched by the openness and kindness of our hosts. The young Greenlandic woman who will take over the teaching in the village thanks us for the visit. We are grateful for the kind and humble invitation to spend a day among these kind people. We'll come back!

Nanuq under an iceberg in Disko Bay, close to Ilulissat (photo Sréphanie Piffeteau)

Travelling with a boat somehow opens doors towards people, allowing us to exchange ideas, share thoughts and, mutually learning from one another. Martin, for example, is researcher in building physics for the Danish Technical University and our contact in Sisimiut. His domains are ventilation and thermal insulation in arctic regions, topics that are not strange to me.

He shows us the two prototypes of passive buildings that exist in Sisimiut, welcomes us to his lab and offers us the services of his workshop. This allows us to fabricate the mast for our windmill. In return we organise a conference and tour on board for the students of the summer camp. We will stay in contact, the first results of our expedition are awaited with great interest.

Peter explains the 'passive igloo' to students of the Danish technical university / proud and spontaneous demonstration of traditional Greenlandic costumes (Photos Lisa Gallinelli, Kalle Schmidt)

After spending a night in Quequertarsuaq, Disko Bay, we head to Ilulissat. Surrounded by blocks of ice, it's a busy city, marked by tourism; Greenland's Chamonix. We find nearly everything that is still missing, at high prizes obviously. Most importantly though, coincidence has it that we lie side by side with Vagabond (link). Eric and France share with us precious information and advice about the region we are heading towards. More importantly they share with us moments of first friendship.

Vagabond and Nanuq (Nanuq and Vagabond on the right) together in the harbour of Ilulissat - autumn 2015 (photos Peter Gallinelli / Kalle Schmidt)

Meanwhile their two daughters, Leonie and Aurore, spend the day together with our young crew. Later, a customs-agent comes on board. He had seen us loading dog food onto our deck and wanted to make sure we didn't have any dogs on board coming from the south. They would have to be castrated in order to preserve the Greenlandic sledge dog gene pool.

The day passes too fast between buying what we need and visiting the town and the three expedition boats: Vagabond, Atka(*) and Nanuq(**) - all full of innovative and unusual conceptual ideas. They are floating innovation labs. At 22 UTC, after a long day, we cast off 5 miles to the North of Ilulissat into a little bay. More and more the maps become schematic, giving us less and less detail and more discovery.
More to come!

(*) Périple 50
(**) Intégral 60

Moorings :

() Sydbay (67°13'N 53°53'W): In contrary to the instructions found in Imray, the anchorage to the N is not strong enough for strong winds (20knots) from the S (to deep and to many algae). Excellent hold can be found to the W of Ukivik in 12m sandy bottom. Protected by several awash rocks to the SW of the island. Visiting the island is recommended: the view from the light house and the the well conserved turf house are extraordinary.

(*) Ikerasarsuq (68°08'N 53°27'W): The rocky and deep bottom is not suited for mooring. There is however a little peer suited for a short stop. The small village lies out of the way of the main touristic route.

(**) Hunde Ejland (68°52' 53°07'W): Small unvisited village situated on an archipielago at the entrance to Disko Bay. Approach to the little harbour through the N/S channel to the E of the archipielago. Aim towards the little peer to the W, avoiding the visible rocks. There are some 6m shoals. Fresh water is produced by reverse osmosis.

Bredebugt (69°16'N 50°58'W): Small bay on the S side of the main bay, 5M to the N of Ilullisat. Good hold in 6-8m sandy bottom. Depth close to shore is around 5m. Size limit, the use of land lines may be recommended.

 LEG 4 : 630 miles : crew 7 : 13 days

Background source : Atlas of Canada - The North polar region, see

Leg 4 : the long route North II (August 14th, 2015)

Our GPS indicates 66°33' N ; we are crossing the polar circle for the second time this summer! And we celebrate it: Peter and Mathilde drive over it with Nanuq, Lisa and Jakob with the dinghy, Ilona and Alina cross it hanging over the water from the boom and Kalle swims over it! For us it's a symbolic line: we are in the arctic again! Also the landscape gives us hints that climate is slowly getting colder. The relative green hills are slowly turning into grey rocky mountains. Glaciers cut through this rough scenery. We have to start looking out for Nanok, the polar bear. We carry with us some flares, just in case.

The polar circle is also the border between the agricultural South and the dog sledging North. There is even a law that prohibits sledge dogs further south of the polar circle. We're entering the Greenland inhabited by the hunter.

Nanuq moored in a bay a three miles north of the polar circle (photo Peter Gallinelli)

The wind in this region follows the coast. So forecast is rather simple: head wind, wind from astern or no wind at all! It is far from ideal when sailing. We either decide to head onto the open sea sailing long legs or we follow the calm inland route slaloming in-between the islands. The inland route pleases us. It needs attention to detail, but allows us to get a real feeling of the vast array of possibilities that this coast has to offer!

Ruins of an old factory, abandoned houses, half a century old glass wool insulatione (photos Peter Gallinelli)

In Nuuk we manage to buy most of the equipment we are still missing for the rest of the trip and most importantly the winter expedition. We buy the last 3rd of the nutrition thanks to the help of the local team of Greenland's main food supplier. We are happy that the food is so far on board as it is our fuel for the winter!

We try to avoid pre-cooked dishes and dry-frozen foods. Rather we stock on basics: rice, pulses, flour, oil, butter, sugar ... but also peanut butter, honey, jam and a big stock of Wasa bread. To complete our diet we'll have to fish and maybe hunt once in a while. So far the ocean has been very kind with us, offering delicious cod. Variety will come in the creativity with the recipes!

Daily catch. Alpine background; snow at sea level (photos Peter Gallinelli)

We will soon arrive in Sisimiut. Another leg comes to an end, a new team will come aboard. Every two weeks we make a strategic stop. Replenishment of fresh food, water, and any other missing item. These places can be reached by plane or by boat opening the possibility for people to join us if they so please. Each crew change leads to a different on-board dynamic, to new encounters and exchanges. It's a way of sharing experience.

In Sisimiut we buy a rifle. It will serve us as protection in case of an unfriendly encounter with the polar bear. Sisimiut marks the end of leg 4 and the beginning of a new one. There is fresh snow at 500m, the thermometer marks 5°C on deck: summer in Greenland!

Moorings :

(*) Tovkussaq (64°52.8'N 52°11.8'W): Good hold to the N of the bay in 5-10m sandy bottom. Fresh water can be obtained at a small waterfall to the W of the bay (metal ring in the neighbouring rocks).

(**) Tasuissaq (65°34.8'N 52°46.2'W): Good hold to the NNE of the bay in 10m sandy bottom. Beautiful hiking in the surroundings with beautiful view to the W. In proximity of Maitsoq. Very alpine.

(***) Iserkuq (fjord). Several mooring possibilities, one of them being 'Jak's Bay' (66°07.4'N 53°36.4'W): Good hold to the S of the bay in 18M muddy ground. Small waterfall top the W of the bay with metal ring. Very rocky and arid surroundings.


Leg 4 : the long route North (August 6th, 2015)

Leaving Narssarssuaq, Nanuq makes her way towards the open sea, leaving the sheltered and warm fjords of the SW-coast. We're heading NW on the inland route, passing one abandoned village after the other. The crew has to get used to the waves again when we get to the open sea, after weeks of calm water.

Next port of call: Paamiut, a small town with its 1600 inhabitants. Now obsolete buildings, built in the 60's, are being dismanteled. They are cold, empty, unpersonal, inadequate, symbol of some kind of modernity that surged in the transition between traditional ways of living and the contemporary danish model of living.

Paamiut - buildings from a low-cost post-war urbanization (photo Kalle Schmidt)

After 2 hours, just enough time to do buy some fresh food for the following days, we cast off to continue our route. The North is our destination! One evening we moor close to a small village. A handful of colorful houses stand spread over two hills. We are eager to find someone to talk to... It seems liked there is live. Curtains hang behind the windows, there are sofas on the porch, there are drawings on the walls and flowers standing on the table. We are surprised when we take a closer look. The curtains have lost their original colour, the sofas have deep holes and the paint on the walls is falling off. It seems like we have arrived in some kind of ghost town. There is no one left here. It seems like everyone droped whatever they were doing and left. Decay apperas everywhere due to the wind and the cold. It makes us think of an old Inuit proverb: ''Siku Silalu kisimik naalagaapput' - 'The only masters are ice and time'.

We leave early in the morning, swallowed by a dense fog. Without being able to see much further than our anchor, we cautiously follow our radar and echosounder. Navigating in these conditions, makes us appreciate even more the sense of adventure the former navigators had when they discovered this area. They ventured into the unkown without any, charts, meteorological data or precision instruments. They solely relied on their experience and knowledge of things we have likely forgotten about. Only part of this knowledge is transmitted in the sailing directions we can buy today.

The fog slowly transforms into a bright white mist, iluminated by the hiding sun. We seem to float on a completley blank sea. It seems like our perception of the world has shrunk down to a radius of 200m, static, with time moving at a different rhythm. The route through a labyrinth of rocks and shallow water is possible thanks to the directions and charts. At noon our anchor takes hold on a good sand ground. We discover Sioqquap Sermia, a huge sand beach at the foot of the big greenlandic ice cap that nourrishes this endless delta.

Sioraq - sand as far as the eyes can see (photo Peter Gallinelli)

We take a few steps on land, enough to give us a feeling of the inmensity of this place. It makes us aware about our place on this planet that is so beautiful and hostile at the same time...

Moorings :

(*) Siorak (62°28.8'N 50°19.0'W): Good hold in sandy bottom protected by the little islets to the S. Not recommended unless the weather is calm. Possibility to make a short visit onto the amazing sand beaches. The inland route is exposed to the wind and waves from the W. Charts are quite vage and not 100% in accordance with GPS positioning. Caution!

 LEG 3 : 1060 miles : crew 11 : 16 days

Background source : Atlas of Canada - The North polar region, see

Leg 3 : South-West Greenland (August 6th, 2015)

After 6 days on the open sea, we have made a radical style change: during 10 consecutive days, Nanuq becomes a moving base camp. We head from one mooring to the other, exploring the grenlandic backcountry. A wild and rough mixture of rock, green patches and ice, trenched by numerous fjords. This vast land, once the arriving point for Eric the Red, offers its beauty to those who come to see it.

Our topographic map coves an area equivalent to the size of Switzerland. The possibilities for any mountaineer are endless, it is empowering and discouraging at the same time: the hardest part being where to begin... The terrain is rough, it seems unpouched by human, only the tracks of animals can be found. It is exciting to discover this new and unknown landscape, sometimes hardly accessible...

Nanuq mooring in Stephenses Havn (photo Peter Gallinelli)

The nights, mostly with clear sky, allow us to profit from the cosiness inside of the igloo. The mornings are something magical. The fog lies thick on the water surface, the water is like a mirror, a thin crust of fresh ice floats on its surface. The melting water from the ice cap, floating on the salty sea water, freezes easily at night. There is absolutley no sound. A bit further away from the glacier, the water is at +10°C, similar to the water we can find in the north of Scandinavia. It is to warm to start cutting the wheel of Compte,bought in the Jura in June, which is enjoying the freshness of our hull.

It is the end for some of the Crew. Their plane leaves from Narsarssuaq. It is wind still, warm and dry. There is a feeling of abandonment and "end of the world" at this place that calls itself the "Hub of the South of Greenland".

Discovery at he base of the ice cap- Warm bath with 'dressing room'' - time to DIY (check out the T-shirt!) (photos Kalle Schmidt)

Coincidence makes us meet Agathe, french architect living in Greenland. Together with her husband Kalista, they have around 300 sheep, being one of the 37 farmers that are located in the SW of Greenland ( It's a country for people who have the character to live in full autarcy and who accept periods of complete isolation and loneliness.

Moorings :

(*) Qaleragdit Ima (60°59.4'N 46°40.4ÕW): Anchorage at the foot of a temporary tourist base camp. Beautiful view on the ice cap. Good hold in 15m sandy bottom. Other mooring possibilities closer to the ice cap to the E of the fjord. The foot of the glacier, little active, is 2NM further N than indicated on the charts.

(**) Little well protected bay (61°00.1'N 46°34.9,W): Anchorage in 10-15m sandy bottom. Approach to the bay from the E through a narrow passage, 4m deep in high water. Stay in the middle, there are quite a few shoals on both sides. Caution!

(***) Ipiutaq (60°58.3'N 45°42.7ÕW): mooring in a little bay, at the foot of a small sheep farm, on the N side of the Fjord leading towards Narsarssuaq. Good hold in muddy/algae bottom. The bay is 25m in the middle ascending to 5m towards the coast. Friendly farmers couple with daughter always open towards visitors (


Leg 3 : Greenland approach (July 25th, 2015)

It is 7am UTC - LAND IN SIGHT!! The first ice touches the reinforced sides of our hull. Big smiles on the crew's faces show their joy to see the first ice bellow the sharp mountain peaks. We arrive in a world where the mountains join the sea, glaciers licking the salty water of the atlantic - a dream for every Mountaineer-Sailor..

Landfall Greenland East coast unfortunately still inaccessible at this time of the year (photo credits Kalle Schmidt)

The crossing was a pleasure for everyone onboard. With winds between 25-40knots made it possible to sail 600nm in three days. On arrival in Greenland, the ice conditions on the East-Coast make it impossible to reach land. it takes us two days to make our way around Kap Farvel, making our way through a sea of icy bits, always bordering the ice belt. Yet again, as on the North-Coast of Iceland, we are being swalloed by a dense fog. With low visibility we make our way through the cold labyrinth of turqoise ice, with the help of corse of our radar and the compass. The water temeprature is around 1.5°C, the saturated air around 10°C. The crew is confortably covered in warm layers!.

Landing on a piece of shelf ; in the far background our companion, Nanuq (photo credits Peter Gallinelli)

6th day on the water: we slowly make our way pushing the blocks of ice with our hull. We have 3 Crewmembers on deck, always on the look-out for submerged bits that could harm our rudders and propeller. The concentrate dice serves as a buffer, leaving behind a calm slowly moving sea. The line between water and air becomes mear imagination. from time to time a group of seals create a contrast to the grey-white background. They seem unsure of our presence, not knowing whether to fall back to their sleep or leap into the water and disappear. These conditions are perfect for us to venture ourselves to discover the greenlandic floes in our dry-suits.


Sailing around Kap Farvel - following the ice edge (photo credits Peter Gallinelli, Alain Berthoud)

The night last 4 hours at 60°N. We decide to retreat into open water and dirft, navigating without light in the dense fog, seems like a bad idea. The hourly shifts continue, now destined to spot the ice around us. We slowly drift towards the south due to the Grenlandic Current. It is calm, the sound is absorbed by the fog and the ice..

This rythm allows us to through our first meteo buoy over board, send to us to Reykjavik by Météo-France. Equiped with precission equipment they are destined to meassure different parametres that will help the understanding of our environment, the different parameters that influence our climate. Also, the data will be used to elaborate a more accurate wheather forecast for navigation, especially for small scale boats like us (see science...).

We see several groups of Orcas. They travel silently between the ice: no splash, no waves. We only know of their presence because we can see them. They come to the surface at regular intervals, moving through the water at considerable speed. It is beautiful to watch these creatures where they belong, we are in their home...

Unpackaging a SVP drifter buoy | RADAR navigation through ice : floes and a bigger berg on starboard (photo credits Alain Berthoud, Peter Gallinelli)

After another night drifting South, we do the last miles until we finally see land again. The moment the bottom of our shoe touches the happiness rises. We have arrived in Greenland! A rough but breath-taking landscape of peaks, glaciers and fjords sorrounds us. We have moored close to an abandonned village. Small concrete cottages give us anj idea of the dimensions: small, one house not far from the other, cosy for the winter months. One of the houses seems to be still a summer retreat, the open door and the interior giving the impression that it had been left in a hurry.

The grenlandic flag flies under our starboard spreader in the slight wind. It is Lisas birthday!

Before heading to Nanortalik to buy some supplies and post these news, we make a stop at Tasermiut. A big fjord, sorrounded by high peaks, at its end a big glacier. We go on land to hike, a wonderful pick-nick in our backpacks. Some go back onboard, others stay a bit longer. In the morning part of the crew returns on land for a morning hike and some bouldering. We see a pair of Imperial Eagles. A place to come back to!


Leg 3 : voyage to Greenland (July, 22th 2015)

600 nautical miles (1100km) separate Island from the E-Coast of Greenland. The wind blows strong from the North, coming at us with speeds up to 40 knots. The sea is rough, waves up to 4m roll in from atern pushing and pulling. We sail under small jib and 3rd ref, doing an average speed of 9-10 knots. From time to time a waves breaks on our bow, shovering everything and everyone on deck. It is a game with the waves. Nanuq is in his element! We can hear in shout with joy each time we surf down a wave! Seasickness is oly temporary and soon everyone has a big smile on his face. The warm cabin is a welcomed resting place after the two hours in the cold and wet win.d

Sky and sea - gale SE of Iceland (photo credit Peter Gallinelli)

Leaving Island we install the atmospheric and underwater PCB-captors. The samples (collected by passive absorbers) will be analysed later by the LCME of the Université Savoie Mont-Blanc. (see science... )

Installation of PCB measurement equipment, Iceland 64°02'N 22°58'W (photo credit Alain Berthoud)

As expected, the wind slowly gives away. The clouds give way to the sun, the sea becomes calmer the wind disapears. We continue under motor, moving through a smooth sea that reflects the sky as if it was a mirror. We are in the middle of nowhere, a minuscule point in a big ocean. Life on board now focuses on other rhings than wind and waves. The crew draws, reads and writes. The notion of time disipates into the savouring of the present. The kitchen becomes the centre of the life onboard. Music of all kinds, at different moments make the mood. Everyone looks for something to do while off shift.

We are followed by daulphins on the way and once in a while a humpback whale shows us his back.

Land is at 100nm. The crew is impatient to see the first signs of land!


Leg 3 : departure to Greenland (July, 19th 2015)

The new crew is on board and enjoys a last visit to local the swimming pool with unlimited hot water! Packets with scientific equipment arrived and we have embarked the weather buoys. The scientific program can finally begin.

Imram and Nanuq side by side, Iceland (photo Kalle Schmidt) - sailors from the whole world meet at the visitors ontoon in Reykjavik (photo Victor Guillot)

In Isafjöordur we meet Imram, the former boat. Under the flag of his new captain he is waiting the arrival of his crew in Island, planing to also make a visit to the East-Coast of Greenland this summer ( short visit aboard brings back memories of past adventures (

We are at the western end of Iceland, prepared to cast off for a 500 miles crossing where we will be cut off from the world. Landing on the east coast of Greenland will be in 4 days. At the time of writing the access is still impossible due to the belt of drifting pack ice along the coast coming down from the Arctic.

 LEG 2 : 960 miles : crew 11 : 12 days

Background source : Atlas of Canada - The North polar region, see

Leg 2 follow-up : tour around Iceland (July, 15th 2015)

We are making our way around the North Coast of Iceland, discovering its rough coastline interrupted by beautiful fjords. Steap hills with snowed peaks rise on both sides of these fjords, some giving shelter to small fishing villages. We passed caps like Langanes and the Horn, known for the strong currents that flow in their vicinity, the vicious storms and the icy winters. It is a cold summer, the thermometer never over rises above 10°C.

Extract of american 'Pilot Charts'. The windroses show the predominant wind frequency by sector, Tassilaq region in the west.

These past days the wind has predominantly been blowing from the NE, as the 'Pilot Charts' confirm for the month of July. Blowing at speeds up to 25 knots, we make our way steadily towards the West. The weather on the other hand is much less convincing. It is humid, cold and the constant dense fog not only makes our shifts slightly unconfortable but also creates the sensation of being lost in space. We have no reference of moving on, except the hourly GPS-point. The visibility is often of less than 1NM, making the approach into a narrow fjord a tricky maneuvre and the image on our Radar is of great help for a safe landfall. Where is the SUN?

Approach of Isafjordur (credits photo Peter Gallinelli - Kalle Schmidt)

Discovering the N-W fjords

Black sand beach at Hornvik / more or less wet crossing of more than one stream / drying our wet clothes (credits photo Peter Gallinelli)

If there is one word to describe the fjords in NW of Iceland, it would be vastness. It is a wild, continous coastline of rough steap cliffs, mountains reaching to the sea and beautiful beaches of black volcanic sand. One of the most solitary and untouched places in Iceland, they are full of endless possiblities. There are valleys crossed by uncountable little streams, mountains with snow on their peaks and waterfalls of all sizes. The fog adds yet another dimension to this already mysterious landscape, hiding some of nature's beautiful corners. Our hiking is a little adventure for some of our crew. The fog, the rough terrain and the icy streams that we have to cross, are new to some and make each time we leave Nanuq an exciting event. Nevertheless, it is always a pleasure to be able to return onboard our warm and cosy Igloo, completeley soacked, our wet and cold feet screaming for new socks. A cup of warm tea and a little something to eat always brings colour back to our faces.

Whereas human traces are rare in this area, we find from time to time groups of huts. Some of them are inhabited during the summer months, others show the signs of the cold and the wind on their walls. While we can see that it is not a place destined for our species, we are overwhelmed by the abundance of wildlife that is present in this region. We have seen arctic foxes looking for food on the beach, a great number of birds nest in the valleys and cliffs of the fjords, and occasionally a whale sbhows its fin, to the crews delight. From time to time, a group of dolphins follows Nanuq for a while.

We are now heading towards Reykjavik where our next crew will be waiting for us. More to come soon...

Distance since Torshavn : 740 nautical miles


Leg 2 : arrival in Iceland (July, 8th 2015)

We arrived early in the morning in the little harbour of Eskifjordur. We started on the Faroe Islands and with increasing winds (up to 30knots) and developing sea, we managed to beat our way over to the East coast of Iceland. Making our way into the fjord, sorrounded by white peaks on both sides, we were received by the kind words of the harbour master: "Welcome to Iceland!...and of course you may use our toilet." - both great news for the crew. During our crossing the temperatures had already dropped considerably, being around 5°C in the fjord. There is no longer need for a refrigerator as the butter, being soft in Norway, is now hard as a rock. Water is at 5°C. Fresh snow at 500m.

Nanuq sailing full power in near gale conditions (extract from video footage Kalle Schmidt - having a gigantic shower)

Cold wind blows strongly from the North, unusual for this time of the year. We will have to wait till Saturday for the change of weather predicted: 10-15knots from NE. After the formalities with the custom officers we are allowed to step on land and begin our exploration of the fjord and it's sorroudings. Everyone spreads out into different directions. Some decide to explore the valley and town, others head out to do some hiking in the neighbouring mountains. The day is concluded by a relaxing islandic bath in the local swimming pool... sauna and thermal bassins (34-42°C), heated by the earth. Heated to the bones, the crew is happy!

Land in sight / landfall on Island's East coast /view over Eskifjordur (photo credit Kalle Schmidt)

We had a slight problem on our way. During our crossing we hit a floating object with full speed, for our port dagger board is severely damaged. Luckily we don't depend on it and can continue our navigation even if we loose some degrees to drift caused by the missing dagger board. The people from Eskifjordur try everything to help us find solution which will probably be in Reykjavik.

More news to come soon...

 LEG 1 : 820 miles : crew 11 : 9 days

Background source : Atlas of Canada - The North polar region, see

The voyage begins here : Copenhagen to the Feroe Islands (July 6, 2015)

Nanuq is making her way through the Northern Sea, towards Fair Isle, a small island half way between the Shetlands and the Orkneys. We sailed up the Kattegat, made our way West through the Skagerrak with strong winds, and passed the oil fields of Norway. The crew is slowly getting used to the wind and waves, some at times still fighting sea sickness.

Crew Nanuq with core team in Copenhagen / Sailing (photo credit Kalle Schmidt)

Fair Isle is a wonderful little spot in the middle of nowhere. The Vikings who sailed towards their raids used to call it the "peacefull island". Our crew certainly can appreciate this name. Between hundreds of different birds, some less happy to see us than others, everyone spreads out in different directions. Afterwards a good shower and a cold beer in the local bar of the bird observatory.

Three days later we arrive in Torshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands. We were welcomed by a generaous man, who after asking if we ate fish, came with a beautiful fillet of bacalao and another one of salmon. The crew which will be leaving us still enjoyes the last moments onboard and the hiking possiblities of the outskirts of Torshavn. Whereas the preparations in Limhamn seem long in the past, there are still some ongoing: acquiring scientific equipment, reacquiring of lost packages lost in transaction, etc. We have to think of everything we might need for a year because it will be hard to improvise once we're in the north.

And then there is crew changes: meeting the new-comers, saying goodbye to those we have come to know over the past few days. We have come to know each other but also many others on our way, mainly sailors but also locals to those places we passed as visitors. These were rich encounters which make our travels so worthwhile.

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peter.gallinelli & all - October 2020