At Sea: Is It Worth It?

When a passage is going well there is no doubt but if it turns rough with no end it sight and little progress is being made in the right direction it becomes hard to avoid the question: is it worth it?

Sitting in the pilothouse as I type this post, looking out at the mirror calm with the wind indicator registering less than a knot of wind and the sun giving the illusion that it’s warm enough to stop for a swim in the Labrador Sea. It seems impossible that a few days ago we were pounding relentlessly into 25 knots of headwinds and turbulent seas. The only peace being the split second between Snow Dragon dropping off a wave and her hull hitting the water with an alarming bang before the next wave lifted her up.

Every task no matter how simple from making a cup of tea to walking a few feet without being thrown across the cabin became a big effort if not impossible. Sleep was fitful at best.

But the disheartening part wasn’t the discomfort, it was looking at our distance to Nuuk and realizing that we were a week into what should be a two week passage if not shorter and weren’t even close to being halfway. With the wind preventing us from moving north, pushing Snow Dragon towards Cape Farewell or the Labrador ice limit depending on the tack, we had to face that depressing realization that were getting nowhere. During our worst day we gained only 22 miles in 24 hours and at one point starting sliding backwards, increasing our distance to Nuuk.

Finally we pulled in a weather forecast that gave a glimmer of hope that the northerly winds would end. A friend even sent an email to encourage us, saying south wind was on its way. The change was slow and at one point I debated taking my computer to the foredeck to show the weather gods that the GRIB files indicated the wind would begin decreasing by 18.00 and they were late. Snow Dragon slamming into a wall of sea, sending water flying over her bow and landing on the aft deck quickly dissuaded me from even thinking about getting my computer out.

Eventually the wind did reduce, slowly followed by the angry sea before dying completely. Leaving us with the opposite problem, no wind. Aside from a few hours of light breeze filling our sails, Snow Dragon has been a powerboat for the last 3 days.

The monotonous sound of the diesel engine occasionally elicits a no wind complaint from one of us but at least we are covering distance quickly. Now we are motoring along at 6 knots with only 210 miles to go until we make landfall at Nuuk. The end is clearly in sight and any hardship a distant memory.

Is it worth it? Ask me again next year when we do the same passage all over again.

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