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Exploring West Greenland

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Embark Disembark Vessel DurationVoyage No
Fri 26-07-2024, 18:00Nuuk, The Capital of Greenland Mon 05-08-2024, 10:00Illulissat, West Greenland Tecla 10 NightsTC260724

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.

Setting sail North to 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. 

The first day might be used to sail to Maniitsoq. The surroundings were formally known as Sukkertoppen. This name came from Dutch, German and British whalers in the 17th and 18th century, who recognized in the hills the forms of ‘sugar loafs’. Now known as Kangaamiut. 

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.





  • Voyage
  • Vessel

VOYAGE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Amazing history
  • Look out for polar bears, arctic foxes, Gyr falcons and humpback whales
  • Sail through sea ice
  • Explore Nuuk, Capital of Greenland

Tecla

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

FULL VOYAGE DESCRIPTION

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.

ice covered landscapes

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.

 

wrap up warm!

Ukiivik

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. 

MARJAM HELMING TECLA IN GREENLAND
MARJAM HELMING TECLA IN GREENLAND

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 July and 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

 

WINDS, WAVES & WEATHER

Ice adds another dimension to sailing, and it’s important to understand that the Skipper will plan the exact route and itinerary to make the most of the forecast conditions, but that ice may also halt progress at any time. It’s good to be flexible, and to make the most of the journey, rather than feeling a need to tick off particular destinations.

HANDS ON HOLIDAYS

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.

SAILING STYLE & LIFE ON BOARD

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

AGILITY & FITNESS

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.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

  •  
  • 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

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED

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

I

Start & End Port

Nuuk, The Capital of Greenland

Nuuk

Nuuk, the capital city of Greenland, offers a unique blend of stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and modern amenities. It’s well worth spending some time here before or after your voyage. Here is a brief guide to experiencing a memorable day out in Nuuk:

A Day Out in Nuuk:

1. Morning Exploration:
Begin your day by exploring the city centre. Visit the National Museum of Greenland, which houses exhibits showcasing the history, culture, and art of Greenland. Take a leisurely walk along the colourful harbour area, admiring the picturesque view of the surrounding mountains and the charming houses. Don’t miss the iconic statue of Hans Egede, the founder of Nuuk, located near the harbour.

2. Cultural Immersion:
Immerse yourself in Greenlandic culture by visiting local art galleries and craft shops. Nuuk Art Museum showcases contemporary Greenlandic art, while the Katuaq Cultural Center hosts various events, performances, and exhibitions. Explore the Nuuk Cathedral, a beautiful modern church known for its impressive stained glass windows.

3. Greenlandic Cuisine:
Indulge in Greenlandic cuisine during your lunchtime. Visit one of the local restaurants and try traditional dishes like mattak (whale skin and blubber), Greenlandic seafood, or reindeer meat. You can also sample local delicacies such as dried fish or “kaffe-mik,” a traditional coffee gathering with cakes and pastries.

4. Outdoor Adventures:
In the afternoon hike up nearby mountains like Lille Malene or Store Malene for breathtaking panoramic views of Nuuk and the surrounding wilderness.

5. Nuuk’s Cultural Landmarks:
Discover Nuuk’s cultural landmarks, such as the Nuuk Art Museum, which houses an impressive collection of contemporary Greenlandic art. Visit the Nuuk Cathedral, a modern architectural gem known for its unique design and serene ambiance. Explore the Greenland National Theater and enjoy a performance showcasing traditional Greenlandic music and dance.

6. Evening Relaxation:
End your day by unwinding at one of Nuuk’s cozy cafes or restaurants. Sample Greenlandic specialties like crowberry desserts or sip on a local beer brewed with Arctic ingredients. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade and enjoy the peaceful evening atmosphere with stunning views of the sunset over the mountains.

Remember to dress warmly and bring appropriate outdoor gear, as the weather in Greenland can be cold and unpredictable.

 

Getting to Nuuk

Recommendation for flights to remote or cold climate destinations we recommend purchasing flexible flights that offer full refunds. See advice on Flexible flights here.

1. UK: You will typically need to take a connecting flight from a major airport such as London Heathrow or Manchester. There are no direct flights from the UK to Nuuk, so you would first fly to a major European hub, such as Copenhagen, Denmark, or Reykjavik, Iceland. From there, you would then take a connecting flight to Nuuk, which is the capital city of Greenland. It is advisable to check with airlines for the most convenient routes and schedules.

2. Canada: There are direct flights available from several Canadian cities to Nuuk. For instance, Air Greenland operates flights from both Montreal and Copenhagen to Nuuk. Alternatively, you could fly to Reykjavik, Iceland, which serves as a common connecting hub for flights to Nuuk. From Reykjavik, you would take a connecting flight to Nuuk, completing your journey.

3. USA: From the USA, you can reach Nuuk in Greenland by taking a connecting flight. Similar to Canada, there are no direct flights from the USA to Nuuk. Your best way is to fly via one of the Canadian airports mentioned above.

4. Europe: Several airlines, including Air Greenland, Air Iceland Connect, and Air Canada, operate direct flights from European cities like Copenhagen, Denmark, Reykjavik, Iceland, and Keflavik, Iceland, to Nuuk. The availability of direct flights may vary depending on the airline and the time of year, so it is recommended to check the schedules and book in advance to secure your preferred travel dates.

Please note that flight schedules and routes can change, so it is essential to check with airlines or travel agencies for the most up-to-date information before planning your journey to Nuuk.

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.

Recommendation for flights to remote or cold climate destinations we recommend purchasing flexible flights that offer full refunds. See advice on Flexible flights here.

Kit List

Not all sailing areas require the same gear, the same foul weather equipment or even the same shorts. But some items you must always bring. In this kit list we hope to give you a small insight in what to bring, but of course, please consider this list might not encumber all that you would wish to take!
Very important is that your bag or small suitcase needs to be stored in the room, under your bed, there is limited space – so bring a foldable bag! the following is Tecla's standard included/excluded and kit list. Below this you can find more specific info and kit lists dependant on sailing area.

What's Included (Standard)

  • Coffee and tea
  • Blanket, sheets, pillow and covers (for longer voyages there will be clean bed linen)
  • 3-4 crew members guiding the group
  • 1 towel
  • For longer voyages you can wash clothes once halfway through the voyage

What's not Included (Standard)

  • Soda and alcoholic drinks 
  • Landing fees and Paid excursions ashore
  • Transfer to and from the vessel
  • Visa if needed
  • You can not wash clothes on board on shorter voyages

What should you always bring

  • Soap (preferably parabens and plastic free)
  • Tooth brush & Toothpaste
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Socks (at least until halfway through the voyage)
  • Underwear (at least until halfway through the voyage)
  • Binoculars (if you like bird watching, we have a pair on board, but it stays in the back close
    to the navigational area, it does not go on hikes)
  • Sunscreen
  • Photocamera (or you can ask other guests for their pictures)
  • Chargers for electrical equipment – there is 220v with central European plugs and a usb
    plug in the cabin
  • Day pack rug sack or small bag for hikes.
  • Water bottle for hikes
  • A good mood and an open mind
  • Passport
  • Visa if required
  • Valid Insurance papers
  • Personal Medicines
  • Seasickness pills if you need them

Ocean Crossing

When the ocean crossing is not part of the Southern Ocean sailing (so no South Georgia or Antarctica included) the crossings are usually in warm weather. Going from North to South, please be advised that the weather in the Falkland Islands is cool and wet! So also bring at
least one set of warm clothing.

  • Waterproof jacket (can be sailing gear, but hiking gear, light weight jackets are very nice as well)
  • Waterproof pants
  • T shirts (at least 5)
  • Shorts (at least 2)
  • Long pants
  • Light / cool footwear with grip on deck (can be flipflops or sandles)
  • Waterproof boots / footwear
  • Swimming outfit
  • Sunhat
  • Merino wool thermal wear (can be light weight)
  • Water bottle (yes it said so in what always to bring, but during warm days, this is really a must!)

Greenland & Iceland

If there are any items you usually take on your hikes, and they are easy to take in your luggage, don’t forget to bring them!

  • Hiking waterproof pant
  • Hiking waterproof jacket
  • Wool sweater
  • A lightweight down jacket can be very nice
  • Warm head wear
  • Buff or neck scarf
  • Gloves against the cold, not necessarily for sailing
  • Long pants
  • T Shirt
  • Sweater
  • Merino Wool full under layer (at least 1 full set, depending on length voyage, 2 sets)

Falkland, South Georgia & Antarctica

On the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica there are different levels of Bio-Security we will have to comply with. To make it easy on yourself we recommend you bring one set of hiking gear that you would like to use on shore, that is completely cleaned at home. This means Velcro is cleaned and does not contain any seeds or pollen. Your pockets are empty of any seeds, pollen, sand etc. Your boots are cleaned, no sand or mud on them.
This way, getting ready for the first landing becomes a walk in the park. For more information on Bio Security, please contact us.

These surroundings can be very cold, especially on longer watches. And also because these areas are protected, we ask you to take at least two sets of wet weather gear, with one of them at least completely clean. If you have sailing gear, perfect, but also bring some light weight, waterproof hiking gear. We recommend goretex pro of any brand. This is tough and durable. Often easy to clean and light weight.

For the cold

  • Merino wool 180/200gr thermal underwear (at least 3 sets)
  • Down jacket (if possible 800/900gr filling is the best)
  • Down jacket (700gr) or windstopper jacket
  • Woolen sweater
  • Warm head wear
  • Buff or neck scarf
  • Gloves against the cold, not necessarily for sailing (two pairs)

For the Rain

  • Waterproof footwear
  • Waterproof hiking footwear
  • Waterproof hiking jacket
  • Waterproof hiking pants

In the cold, making layers is important. If there is no rain, most 800gr down jackets with a merino wool layer underneath are warm enough. If it rains, most jackets do not fit over the down jacket. Therefore we recommend layer one merino wool, layer two a woollen sweater, layer three a thinner down jacket or wind stopper and layer four your water proof jacket.

Of course we understand that not everybody has these items in their closet. Please contact us if you are unsure what to pack.

North West Passage or Taste of the North West Passage

Summer in the Northern Territories of Canada can be cold, but they can be beautiful and warm as well. During the 2019 voyage we have had days of 2 degrees and days of 19 degrees. We had nights of 0 degrees, but also nights with a warm land breeze, where a woollen sweater and merino under layer were enough.

  • Hiking waterproof pants
  • Hiking waterproof jacket
  • Wool sweater
  • Warm head wear
  • Buff or neck scarf
  • Gloves against the cold, not necessarily for sailing
  • Long pants
  • T Shirt
  • Sweater
  • Merino Wool full under layer (at least 3 full sets)
  • Down jacket (if possible 800/900gr filling is the best)
  • Down jacket (700gr) or windstopper jacket
  • Waterproof boots
  • Hiking shoes

Review

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.

Bruce

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.

Jonathan

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.

K

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.

Geoff

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.

Mike

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.

Steve

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. 

Thomas

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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