03-6August 2023: Umiatsugssur Ilua anchorage south of Uppernavik – a NWP gathering!

Early in the morning, the fog lifted just on time to reveal the magnificent entrance of the fjord with sheer rust coloured cliffs towering above us and small icebergs lingering about. Softened by the gentle morning light, the mountainous landscape is spectacular and offers an exciting arrival after 3 days of grey and little visibility.

We make new friends with Jade, Ben and Jossiah on S/Y Caprivi and John, Kara and little Dean on S/Y Sentijn. All are very welcoming as we search for a good spot to anchor. Soon Thindra and Uggly Betty pull in and we find ourselves amidst a fantastic NWP gathering of like minded souls on the quest of a passage west through the ice. I seize the opportunity of a windless evening to face my fear of height and go up the mast. It is likely that I will have to go up when the time comes to spot a way through the packed ice while Petter would push the cumbersome floes and Calin would remain at the helm. It is amazing how mental preparation allows you to go beyond your limitations. I manage to turn fear into exciting adrenaline and end up feeling pretty relaxed observing a wandering arctic fox on the beach from the comfort of the 2nd spreader.

The anchorage is absolutely stunning and we are grateful to Ugly Betty for their recommendation (they first called it “secret anchorage” – no longer secret! Then “Lost drone bay” as they lost 2 drones there!).
We benefit from lovely weather with little wind and good sunshine. Finally I get to set up my yoga mat on deck for some well needed stretches and best of all, I get to inflate my kayak and paddle up the fjord. The soaring mountains above me convey a humble sense of smallness. With my favourite playlist in my ears, my heart bursts of happiness as I glide around scattered icebergs with an indelible grin. Alone in untouched wilderness, I’m in my happy place.

The water here is crystal clear and so inviting that I embrace a polar plunge. The water is about 4 degrees and sure is refreshing. I only manage few brasstrokes but feel pretty proud to have overcome the mind barrier of the cold. I feel incredibly energized afterwards and vow to do it more often and last a little longer each time.

Over 20 of us gather around the bon fire for a delightful social afternoon as we get to know more of each other and share tales of previous adventures. We get to meet 2 more of the rowers that intend to row through the NWP, an incredible and ambitious expedition starting in Pond Inlet. They are luckily being towed behind Ugly Betty from Iceland to Pond, saving them time, energy and hypothermia. They kindly share some of their excess dry food portion and the afternoon turns into a great (and easiest!) pot luck dinner by the fire.
As we are all waiting for the right weather to start our passage west to Canada and finding ways to kill time, the rowers were also super kind to let us all have a go at rowing their 44ft purpose built open rowboat. They plan on rowing 2 hours on/2 hours off and after rowing for just 20mins, I can’t imagine the endurance, both mental and physical, one needs to continue those shifts relentlessly for 2000 miles – or 2 months. Not to mention the wet and tight cabins, with no heating to warm up or even just dry up. It is almost inhuman and I feel once again honoured and humble to meet such inspiring souls and incredibly courageous human beings.

We also took the opportunity to try our new gun purchased in Nuuk. We put a target on the rocks, away from the beach and each take turn to shoot. Hopefully we never have to use it, but over here and more so through the NWP, the theat of a polar bear attack is real and it’s almost compulsory, if not strongly recommended to carry a gun. Looking at how long it takes me to reload after firing, I sure hope the bear attacks us is slow motion.

The fishing hasn’t been successful in this anchorage but we enjoyed some handpicked mussels. Every night, the beach is visited by a couple of arctic foxes, one white and one brown – we suspect mother and son. It’s so joyful to watch them leap and play around like small puppies.

A large berg has been slowly drifting into the bay. Sentijn and Thindra had to reposition – just on time before their anchor chain would have gotten caught under. Everyone has been keeping a close eye on it, some doing anchor watches at night. Ugly Betty has been consistenly harassed by it and are the first to leave the anchorage.

As Sentijn and Caprivi leave to go across, Walkabout turns up! We have invited them and Thindra for dinner, it should be a fun night!

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