Sunday, March 6, 2011

Winds and Anchoring in the Arctic

I have been looking into different types of wind and anchoring conditions for the many fjords we will no doubt visit while sailing up the West coast of Greenland and into the various types of weather conditions we will encounter while attempting to make the Northwest passage.
What I have found is very interesting! There are certain things to take into consideration when anchoring in fjords at high latitudes. There is a risk of some of the fjords acting as wind acceleration zones where wind is funnelled in at extremely quick speeds or even worse encountering katabatic winds. Katabatic is the generic term for down slope winds flowing from high elevations of mountains, plateaus, and hills down their slopes to the valleys or planes below. Katabatic winds might also reach gale force as an out blowing wind over ice-covered surfaces in Arctic, Antarctica and Greenland, where the wind may be extremely strong and gusty near the coasts and less severe in mountain regions.
Also these fjords tend to be extremely deep requiring us to come very close to shore to anchor in still very deep water.  We will need to take lines ashore to ensure we are not slammed up against the fjord walls or swinging uncontrollably in the evenings. For that we will need lots and lots of extra line and chain. Also the untouched ocean floor can often be covered with tons of kelp and sea weed making getting a good hold difficult and resulting in massive balls of seaweed over a meter wide accompanying your anchor back to the sea surface. Apparently in these anchoring conditions the awkward fisherman’s anchor is the anchor of choice.
For running lines ashore a range finder is helpful to decide on anchoring distance and the amount of line one will need. The benefits of running lines ashore is that your boat is more secure against confused winds and is always facing the direction of the exit if ice starts to move in making escape straight forward.  Plastic tubing is recommended to prevent ropes from being chafed by the boat, rocks, trees or whatever else you tied up too. One must always have more rope, chain and anchors then expected because if a situation arises it may be necessary to cut your lines and maybe even anchor to make it out safely.

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