The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Q&A: Literature And Sailing Singlehanded On The East Coast Of Greenland

Question: I am planning to take my boat from North Donegal to the east coast of Greenland. I was planning to make landfall in the area of Kap Dan. My boat is a 38 foot Rival (fiberglass) and I was planning the out bound trip single handed. Could you suggest any literature on the east coast?

Answer: The best information on Greenland is the RCC Pilotage Foundation Guide to Faroe, Iceland and Greenland by Ker. You will also want the British Admiralty Arctic Sailing Directions and Danish charts. We also recommend a forward scan depth sounder if you plan to visit any out-of-the-way anchorages. You will want some way to receive ice charts and although they are theoretically available over weatherfax we have had much better results using an Iridium phone.

I would strongly advise against making a single-handed passage to the east coast of Greenland. It is, in my opinion, just too hostile a place for single-handed sailing. The risk of bad weather, constant cold and the ice that can threaten without warning, can exhaust a single-hander. In fact, although Phyllis and I normally sail double-handed, we always take a third hand on trips to East Greenland.

Finally, and this is a standard piece of advice we always give, if this is your first voyage to ice encumbered waters, we would recommend making your landfall on the west coast of Greenland and then making your way to the east coast once you are comfortable with the surroundings. The Cape Dan area is one of the iciest in the high latitudes and can make a dangerous landfall. (Tilman lost Sea Breeze near there.) That also brings to mind that you may find this compendium of Tilman’s passages to the high latitudes interesting: H. W. Tilman: Eight Sailing/Mountain-Exploration Books

Having said all that, we have met several single handers in Greenland who have made it work. It all depends on how tough and experienced you are and how suitable your boat is.

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