Tuesday, March 04, 2014

A Greenland Yarn: Engine Failure

We enjoyed the rest of our stay in Kangerdlugssuaq Fjord, exploring the abandoned village, kayaking, baking and practising our rifle shooting, and were not too sorry when a storm in the Denmark Straits kept us locked inside for another day. But we were running out of time for the final leg to Tasiilaq and so the following day we prepared Aurora for departure.

I was checking the water outlet when Siggi turned the switch that was meant to turn over the engine. There was a whir but no motion, and the outlet remained dry.

"What's up?" we asked, but Siggi was silent, opening up the engine housing and reaching for his tool chest. He was busy all day, trying all possible solutions, but to no avail. The starter motor was broken. We were locked in an ice filled fjord, 200 miles from any other human and no answer to our calls on VHF.

I had time to think through our options, and there seemed to be just the one: to tow the yacht out to sea like the sailors of old, though they had used oars and we'd use an outboard motor. To be sure of success we'd need an outgoing tide and negligible wind inside the fjord, and by golly that's just what we had.

"Let's do it Siggi" I said, and jumped into the Zodiac with the ship’s mate.

We picked up the tow rope and after Siggi had hoisted the anchor began to make way slowly towards the exit of Suhaili Bugt and the main fjord. We had to go behind an iceberg twice the size of the yacht and then close between two rocky islands, trusting the water was as deep as promised by Robin Knox-Johnston's survey.  We reached the main fjord and so far it was working, but we couldn't relax for we had many miles yet before the open sea.

We were passing an iceberg about the size of a tennis court when the outboard made a cough and died - the fuel tank was empty, and Aurora was now drifting out of control, in an ice packed channel far too deep to anchor!

To be continued...

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