Iceland and Greenland Advanture

Fulfilled a long-held dream by sailing from Greenland to Iceland

In the summer of 2022, I fulfilled a long-held dream by sailing from Greenland to Iceland, navigating one of the world’s most inhospitable seas. The winds howled at no less than 30 knots, often reaching a relentless 45 knots. Surrounded by cold, gray, and often foggy conditions, we saw no other ships nearby. Despite the harsh environment, the journey was breathtakingly beautiful. The stark beauty of the ice, mountains, and glaciers instilled a profound respect for the primal forces of this remote area, balancing on the edge of danger and awe. The icebergs, each uniquely captivating, added a constant threat, demanding unwavering attention and a high level of focus.

My journey began with a flight to Narsarsuaq, a small town in southern Greenland, where I joined Ariaan van Walsum and Andre Viddeleer. Ariaan, the skipper, navigated his boat, Mischief, a Victoire 1270, across 3,918 nautical miles with a rotating crew. I was invited for the approximately 950-nautical mile leg from Greenland to Iceland. The adventure commenced with some unexpected challenges, including recovering from a collision with an uncharted rock that disabled all electronics onboard. However, after sourcing expensive batteries in Narsaq, we managed to get the systems running again.

From Narsarsuaq, our journey took us through Prince Christian Sound, a narrow passage framed by steep mountains and dotted with icebergs. The area, often impassable due to ice, was navigable for the first time that year. We continued, constantly vigilant against the unpredictable weather and the dense ice fields.

The crossing from Greenland to Iceland spanned eight days, marked by harsh conditions and the magical presence of pilot whales. The endless shifts, three hours on and three hours off, were exhausting yet exhilarating. As we approached Iceland, the sense of returning to civilization grew, highlighted by the sighting of the first ship on our AIS near Vestmannaeyjar.

This voyage was more than just a sailing trip; it was an immersion into the raw beauty and power of nature. It epitomized the ethos of Driven by Nature, an initiative that embraces the spirit of adventure, the reverence for nature, and the connection among sailors. Each leg of the journey not only challenged us physically and mentally but also reminded us of the importance of slowing down and truly connecting with the world around us.

Ellen Sander, co-founder of Driven by Nature, encapsulates this philosophy, inviting others to experience these transformative journeys. Whether it’s for professional training or personal enjoyment, Driven by Nature offers a unique opportunity to explore, learn, and grow in some of the world’s most pristine and challenging maritime environments.

Personal Log Entry: Greenland to Iceland Sailing Expedition

Log Entry:

Embarkation at Narsarsuaq:
My adventure began awkwardly as I loaded my belongings onto the Mischief. That evening, I prepared a Côte de Boeuf with haricots verts, mashed potatoes, and salad, accompanied by a fine glass of red Burgundy. This meal served as a small token of gratitude for my shipmates, Ariaan and Andre, who had just navigated a close call with an uncharted rock that damaged our electronics but fortunately not the hull.

Journey to Narsaq:
The following morning, spirits lifted as we set sail under clear blue skies for Narsaq in search of replacement batteries—our hopes for a simple fix to our electronics woes. A serendipitous flyover by a plane, whose pilots we had met the previous day, felt like a salute to our resilience and determination.

Technical Challenges and Ice Navigation:
After securing the needed batteries at a steep cost, we managed to revive our equipment. Despite Ariaan’s decision against a hull inspection, we ventured onward to Quatartoq. Here, amidst downloading the latest weather updates and preparing for an imminent storm, the gravity of our journey intensified. The storm that hit was fierce, pushing us to “heave to” and battle through visibility near zero and chaotic ice conditions.

Anchorage and Recovery:
Exhausted, we sought refuge in a sheltered cove after a grueling 24 hours. As the storm abated, we warmed ourselves by the stove and found comfort in the melodies of Charles Aznavour, echoing in the backdrop of where Vikings once roamed. This moment of tranquility amidst such rugged nature was surreal.

Prince Christian Sound:
With renewed vigor, we resumed our course through Prince Christian Sound the next day. The storm had miraculously cleared a path through the ice, allowing us to navigate this storied route. The fjord, flanked by towering mountains and calving glaciers, was breathtakingly isolated—underscored by the singular seal that seemed as curious about us as we were about it.

Departure from Greenland:
Leaving Greenland behind, we faced the open ocean with a mixture of anticipation and solemnity. Icebergs loomed like specters through the fog as Andre and I steered through them cautiously, aware that any mistake could be dire.

Voyage Across the Ocean:
The subsequent days were a blend of beauty and intensity. We followed a rhythm of three-hour watches, accompanied at times by pilot whales whose presence was both comforting and a poignant reminder of the vast, vibrant ecosystem around us.

Landfall in Iceland:
The sight of Vestmannaeyjar brought an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. As we raised the Iceland flag, spotting the first other ship in days, we reflected on how far from the ordinary world we had journeyed.

This voyage was not just about crossing geographical distances but also about overcoming personal limits and embracing the raw force of nature. Each wave and wind, every moment of fear and awe, has been etched into my memory, a testament to the power of the wild and our place within it. This log will serve as a reminder of what we can endure and achieve, driven by nature, alongside the unyielding spirit of adventure.

End of Log.

Why this trip?

  • Narsarsuaq Arrival: Starting the adventure in Narsarsuaq, experiencing the raw beauty of southern Greenland, and preparing for the journey aboard the Mischief.
  • Scenic Flight Over Greenland: Witnessing the stunning aerial views of Greenland’s icy landscape and the North Atlantic dotted with icebergs during the flight to Narsarsuaq.
  • Unexpected Repairs: The challenge and camaraderie experienced while making emergency repairs to the boat after hitting an uncharted rock, showcasing the resilience required in such expeditions.
  • Provisioning in Narsaq: The strategic stop in Narsaq for essential supplies and batteries, highlighting the logistical challenges faced in remote areas.
  • Ice Navigation: The thrilling and perilous navigation through ice fields, where every iceberg presents a unique natural artwork and a navigational hazard.
  • Prince Christian Sound: Sailing through this narrow, ice-choked passage, surrounded by steep mountains and glaciers, offering some of the most dramatic landscapes in the Arctic.
  • Storm Weathering: Enduring and managing severe storms with strong winds, which test the skills and resolve of the crew, emphasizing the unpredictability of nature.
  • Wildlife Encounters: The magical moments spent in the company of pilot whales, adding a serene contrast to the harsh environmental conditions.
  • Arrival in Vestmannaeyjar: The sense of achievement upon reaching Vestmannaeyjar, marking the successful completion of the challenging leg from Greenland to Iceland.
  • Cultural Exchange: The brief interactions with the locals in Quatartoq and the residents of Aappilattoq, providing a glimpse into the lives of those living in some of the most isolated parts of the world