Navigating as close as possible to the coasts and inhabitants of Greenland | Polarjournal
The sailing duo pass through turbulent waters after leaving Nuuk on their way to Disko Bay. Image: Uummaa

Two adventurers set off along the coast of Greenland in a Hobie Cat, with a 2,000 nautical mile journey ahead of them.

Starting on July 9, Dominique Bleicher and Paola Beneton have been sailing up West Greenland from Nuuk on a 5.51-meter catamaran. As they sail close to the elements, the adventurers explore nature and meet the local population. Their Hobie Cat Tiger 18 has a 36-centimeter draught, with fins up, enabling it to explore small coves and narrow channels when sailing downwind.

Highly functional close to the coast, the boat moves forward with little wind. Its limit: strong gusts. Originally designed for racing, this type of sailboat is light and not very stable. It easily capsizes, which is not very pleasant in a temperate climate and unthinkable when sailing in polar environments.

“We have survival suits which theoretically allow us to stay in the water for around ten hours,” explained Dominique Bleicher before the start. “The problem is that you don’t necessarily have the gloves when you fall in, and hands in two-degree water quickly become stunned”, added Paola Beneton. The catamaran has already crossed the Denmark Strait in 2022, piloted by two mountaineers, Nicolas Marcillaud and Tom Gautier, a feat that inspired the two adventurers.

On either side, benches are used for crew or travel bags to balance the boat in the wind. “As soon as it’s above 12 or 13 knots, we’ll pull over and wait. During a summer week, there’s one impassable day, 4 navigable days and two days of calm”, they explained. The adventurers are also using paddle oars to get around without the wind.

Dominique Bleicher and Paola Beneton enjoy catamaran cruising in the Stockholm archipelago. Image : Uummaa

Dominique Bleicher and Paola Beneton picked up the yacht from a container in Nuuk on July 4, assembled, masted and launched her. After a few trials, they headed north, taking advantage of the southerly winds prevailing in the region. The yacht will call at coastal villages, 30 to 200 kilometers apart. Sailings last between one and six days.

For supplies, village supermarkets provide food and equipment, yet water may be in short supply on the long run. “We’ll be carrying bottles and looking for streams where we will filter the water,” they explained.

Between villages, fish farms can serve as resupply points. When at rest, they moor to the rocks with pegs, or pull the boat up onto the shore. The hull is reinforced, and they use diabolos to hoist it out of the water.

In the area of Greenland that the adventurers are visiting, there may be seals, walruses, whales, perhaps belugas, but no bears, according to their sources. Image : Uummaa

They have a strong connection to Greenland from their polar voyages with Janusz Kurbiel, a sailor-explorer who disappeared in 2016 300 kilometers north of Nuuk. Their readings of Jean Malaurie inspired them for this trip, notably Lettre à un Inuit de 2022. They would like to talk to Greenlanders about living on an island and isolation, which can sometimes cause problems for young people, and their relationship with nature. At last count, they were in Atammiq, having dinner with local people, immersed in Greenlandic culture and their ultimate goal is to go as far north as Disko Bay.

Camille Lin, PolarJournal

Link to Uummaa Expedition: Facebook and Instagram

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