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Exploring West Greenland

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Embark Disembark Vessel DurationVoyage No
Tue 19-09-2023, 18:00Illulissat, West Greenland Fri 29-09-2023, 10:00Nuuk, The Capital of Greenland Tecla 10 NightsTC190923

The West Coast is also where the majority of Greenland Inuit live but there is still plenty of wilderness.  It offers a more extensive summer Arctic playground than Scoresby Sound on the East Coast and is steeped in Arctic exploration history from the Vikings to more recent attempts on the North West passage.

  • Voyage
  • Vessel

Ideal Voyage to explore Greenland

A west Greenland cruise. Starting in Ilulissat, the voyage will pass through some of the most spectacular icebergs and bergy bits you will see. They originate from the glacier Sermeq Kujalleq, just South of Ilulissat. Towering high in the foggy mornings, navigating out of Disko Bay may depend on wind and weather. 

Along the way there are many amazing places to stop, many of which have a rich history of whaling or Viking exploration. 

Kangaamiut is one of those places named after the form of the mountains, which according to Dutch and British whalers looked like “sugar loafs”. 


  • Ilulissat, Greenland
  • ‘Sugar loafs’
  • Viking history
  • Nuuk, Capital of Greenland


Vessel type / Rig Gaff Ketch
Guest Berths 12
Beam 22ft
Draft 8.9ft
Deck Length 90ft
Overall Length 124ft
Tonnage 92 tons
Year Built 1915
More about the Vessel

Voyage Description

Polar tall ship crew
Polar tall ship crew


West Greenland

A huge icecap covers the interior of Greenland. Despite global warming, the whole coast has never been circumnavigated, even by an icebreaker, due to huge amounts of ice in the Northern half of the country that never breaks up. Coastal mountains as high as 2500 metres trap the ice cap but huge glaciers push through the ranges and these are very active, calving many icebergs into the sea. The middle of the West coast of Greenland has a small coastal strip of land that becomes ice free in the summer.  This allows fjord sailing with incredible mountain backdrops, wilderness walking with low tundra vegetation and flowers or bare rock.

The West Coast is also where the majority of Greenland Inuit live but there is still plenty of wilderness.  It offers a more extensive summer Arctic playground than Scoresby Sound on the East Coast and is steeped in Arctic exploration history from the Vikings to more recent attempts on the North West passage.

On a sailing voyage we never use the word itinerary, as skippers will always be aiming for the best sailing and shore landings for the forecast and most idyllic or sheltered anchors and ports. They are as keen as you to include some of the highlights described below, but you have to go with Mother Nature, not fight her. The description below is based on what we think might be possible, based on Tecla’s last adventure here but nothing is guaranteed on a sailing voyage. In this part of the world, ice reports, wind direction and keeping a close lookout is vital.

Just like the North West Passage, this voyage much depends on the amount of ice that is met underway. This could mean you have to wait a day or two in a sheltered place before heading out into the open. 

Greenland Identity & Culture

Nuuk, starting point of this voyage, is the capital of Greenland. Flights to Nuuk from Reykjavik are daily. And although in winter time the ice wins land and spreads out also into the bay of Nuuk. In the summer time Nuuk is free of most forms of ice. The city houses a large part of the population of Greenland. Once founded by early settlers and called ‘Good Hope’, it was only after the second world war, when the Greenlandic National identity was reawakened that the city was renamed, Nuuk, translated this means Cape. The National museum has a collection of Inuit mummies dating back to the 15th century. The Cultural Centre of Nuuk displays the work of a different Greenland Artist each year, which is well worth a visit.

Setting sail North from Ilulissat, there is much exploring to do along the way. Depending on wind, and weather conditions and taking in account any Ice anomalies like Storis – sea ice – making its way around the south cape. 


Blue Whales & Meteorites

The island of Akilia has the oldest sedimentary rocks in the world and south of Maniitsoq is evidence of a huge meteorite which hit the earth 3 million years ago. This bit of coast North of Nuuk is good for blue whale or humpbacks.

The first day might be used to sail to Maniitsoq and the fantastic landscapes around the Sermilinguaq Fjord with glaciers reaching down to the sea.

Sugerloaf Mountains and Humpback Whales

Further North are the distinctive mountain surroundings were formally known as Sukkertoppen. This name came from Dutch, German and British whalers in the 17th and 18th century, who thought the flat mountain tops looked like ‘sugar loafs’. Kangaamiut is a village at the entrance to the Evighedsfjord (Eternities Fjord). The locals still make and sell Inuit handicrafts here. The mountains here are up to 2000 metres and look out for humpback whales in this region.

Glacier in Greenland
Greenland Glacier


Another beautiful place with a whaling history is Ukiivik (Sydbay). A sheltered anchorage can be found here among one of the many low islands. Taking the dinghy ashore, it is a good surrounding to go for a hike. The hills are accessible and from the lighthouse some amazing pictures can be taken. 

If you don’t have the energy for a trek uphill, then wander the shoreline towards the remains of the old whaling station. 18th Century whalers use to come here to trade with the Greenlanders during an annual meeting called the Assivik. Go and explore! 

With more possible stops like Attu or Kangaatsiaq along the way. The Tecla will slowly make her way towards Disko Bay. 


Erik the Red in Disko Bay

Disko Bay has been an important location for centuries. Its coastline was first encountered by Europeans when Erik the Red started a settlement in 985 AD on the more habitable western coast of Greenland. The two settlements, called the Eastern and Western settlements, were sustenance economies that survived on animal husbandry and farming. Soon after the Western settlement was established, the Norsemen travelled up the coast during the summer thaw and discovered Disko Bay.

In Disko Bay there are several beautiful places that can be visited. Anchorages around Disko Island are well sheltered and accessible. Some of the islands will not be open to the public as Arctic Terns will be nesting. 

On Basisø an old abandoned settlement can be visited with old Sod houses dug into the hillside. And all the way in the North of Disko Fjord lies Atanikerdluk, once visited by a group of explorers out to find the Franklin Expedition. McClintock, in charge of the expedition has said about the area 

navigating the sea ice on Tecla in Greenland
navigating the sea ice on Tecla in Greenland

Icebergs and Huskies

Illulissat will be the end port of the voyage. The nearby glacier Sermeq Kujalleq will riddle the water with Bergy bits, Growlers and more forms of ice. Navigating into the Fjord will be depending on ice density and weather forecasts. Which will make it all the more interesting. 

Illulissat itself is a busy fishing port with little over 4000 inhabitants. Which is a lot less then the estimate of 5000 sled dogs that also live in Illulissat. The town has, in a basic form, all you can need. A bakery, some shops, a hotel, a youth hostel and an airstrip. From Illulissat one can fly to Kangerlussuaq, to catch a connecting flight to Europe.

What Wildlife Might I See

In August the remaining sea ice offers good opportunities to see polar bears. As you get into September the polar bears are starting to roam the beaches looking for stranded whales or birds to hunt.

In August the seabird chicks are hatching and learning to fly. They are preyed on by Gyr falcon, skuas, gulls and arctic fox. Seals and walrus can be seen hauled out on the remaining ice but by September they have moved to the beaches and rocks or are at sea hunting. Migrating Beluga and Narwhals keep heading North from West Greenland to stick with the edge of the sea ice. The North West passage is probably the only place far enough North to see them at this time of year.

There are often huge pods of Beluga in the estuaries of Somerset Sound. (source – Swoop Arctic).

Arctic birds and icebergs
Arctic birds and icebergs



Classic Sailing office team have sailed in Antarctica, East Greenland and Nova Scotia, but not the NW Passage or Bering Sea. Our best source of what it is really like is the sailors who were on Tecla last year.


We have the following useful publications, and will be reproducing the most useful snippets about weather and sea conditions.

  • Admiralty Sailing Handbook chapters on Ice navigation.
  • RCC Pilotage Foundation – Pilot Book for Arctic & Northern Waters


Whether you are an experienced sailor or a complete beginner, the professional crew will train you to be guest crew from the moment you arrive, with the intention that everybody works together to sail the ship. The common thread to all Classic Sailing holidays is ‘Hands on’ participation on ships that use ropes, blocks and tackles and ‘people power’ to set sail.


We cater for a wide range of ages and physical abilities and how much you are expected to do varies a bit between vessels. See the vessel tab above which explains all about the ‘sailing style’ and what to expect in terms of hands on participation. There is a lot of information about day to day life, the ships facilities and accommodation on the vessel pages.

Tecla on a sailing expedition in the Faroes
Tecla on a sailing expedition in Greenland


Every customer sailing with us will need to fill in basic medical questions on their booking application. If you are not sure if your current level of fitness and agility are up to a voyage, then please ring the Classic Sailing Office on 01326 53 1234 and we can chat through your concerns and possibly find options that might suit you better.


  • Berth in a 2 person ensuite bedroom – bunkbed
  • All meals on board (or lunch packs for day trips on shore)
  • Pillow, Duvet and fresh sheets
  • Towels
  • Possibility of washing clothes weekly
  • Ice pilotage
  • Fuel 
  • Berthing costs
  • Dinghy excursions
  • Planned excursions on shore / permits with Inuit settlements
  • Third Party liability insurance


  • Travel to Joining Port
  • Travel from end port
  • Alcoholic Drinks but there is a bar on board
  • Waterproofs


Start & End Port

Illulissat, West Greenland

Ilulissat is a coastal town in western Greenland. It’s known for the Ilulissat Icefjord which is an utterly incredible sight and you owe yourself the opportunity to experience the Icefjord in all possible ways. It is listed as UNESCO world heritage site. The Ilulissat Museum traces the area’s history and the life of local-born explorer Knud Rasmussen. The area is home to thousands of Greenland dogs, used for dogsledding which is still widely used for transportation by the local fisherman on the ice or similarly as a way to see the sights.

Nuuk, The Capital of Greenland

A great place to understand old and new aspects of Inuit Culture, Nuuk shows both sides. It is the modern centre of Greenland with its city restaurants, fashion shops and as a tourist gateway to all sorts of outdoor adventures. Down on the historic waterfront you get a feeling that the old traditions, history and independence are still very important to the locals, even if they are now city dwellers. There is Greenland National Museum and the Inuit Art Museum here to learn more.

Although the exact joining location may not be known until much closer to the time, it is likely that Tecla will be somewhere near the harbour – where the ferry comes in on the map below. Make sure you make a note of the boat phone number found in your confirmation for any problems and up to date location on the day.

You can also track Tecla using the marine tracker.

Kit List

What to pack for a sailing holiday on Tecla

THIS IS TECLA standard voyage kit list. Specialist Antarctic kit list to follow shortly


  • Sailing instruction
  • Safety Equipment (Life jackets and harnesses)
  • All meals to including refreshments throughout the day.
  • Bed linen, duvet, pillows and towels.

What's Not Included

  • Travel to and from the start and end port.
  • Optional trips or tours taken ashore
  • Meals ashore
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Personal towels

What to bring

There is limited storage space on Tecla so please pack all you belongings in a soft rucksack or bag.
  • Footwear: Shoes with a good grip e.g. trainers or sailing deck shoes. (Sandals are great for beaches but you do need toe protection for sailing). Tecla has steel decks so waterproof walking boots are fine at sea in moderate winds and dry conditions and great for voyages where you might do some rough terrain walking like Iceland and Scotland.
  • Rubber Boots or second pair of shoes for wet weather or getting in/out of dinghies.
  • Swim suit & beach towel
  • Suntan lotion & sunglasses
  • Sun hat / warm hat, scarves, gloves
  • Clothes that dry quickly like fleeces and thermals. Mix of warm, waterproof & windproof layers. Wool jumpers are warm, even when wet, but can take a while to dry. Merino wool type shirts are good for under layers.
  • Small rucksack for going ashore
  • Travel insurance documents/any travel tickets
  • Personal medicines/ spectacles/ seasick tablets –check which brand if you suffer from asthma or are on regular medication.
  • Camera/binoculars etc
  • Modest quantity of alcohol for evening meals
  • You are welcome to bring musical instruments


This trip fulfilled my desire for adventure sailing as we transited the north coast of Iceland, along the Arctic Circle. Even though it was rough, the boat and crew performed admirably.


An enjoyable week in less than ideal weather conditions. The crew were competent and friendly, the catering excellent. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a voyage on Tecla.


A great mix of sailing in Scottish waters, some super hikes and an opportunity to see some of the immensely important historical sites in the Orkneys and Sheltands.  

Mooring alongside in the Fair Isles was a great privilege.  

The ocean passage to the Faroes was quiet but as a result we were blessed with clear skies whilst slinking in and out of the islands and some of the best coastal views one could hope to see anywhere.  

The ocean passage to Iceland was a bit of a bimble until we were 60 miles off and then it got exciting.  Thanks to a great skipper and permanent crew we snuggled into a fjord whilst the cruise ship ran aground in Reykjavik harbour.  A good holiday, an adventure and fun.


Any initial doubts as to the number and experience of the crew were very quickly dispelled and we were impressed with the knowledge and the handling skills of the skipper and the 2 mates. Every opportunity was taken to enhance our enjoyment on both voyages and at every stage we were made to feel relaxed and under no obligation to crew the ship under sometimes testing (but enjoyable) conditions. As an observation, we must congratulate the skipper for her culinary skills under difficult conditions..........the food was perfect for the voyage.


A delight. A competent and engaging professional crew, an interesting voyage with some challenges and some great rewards. Good companions to make the log spin around.


Brilliant. I would do it again tomorrow. And good value too. The food was excellent. I loved the spicy meatballs and my wife loved the fresh langoustines.


Most enjoyable classic sailing with great food, a true sense of teamwork, great guidance and a good sense of humour. Can't get any better. 


Vessel Gallery

Globe trotting Tall Ship Tecla in action and images. This historic gaff ketch is our Iceland Specialist and also has Greenland Sailing Expeditions. Photos from Classic Sailing customers, ships crew and professional photographers. We hope it gives a flavour of her sailing, life on board, the people that come, her beautiful sailing grounds and what it is like to live below decks.

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