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Arctic - Greenland

photo above Hildur - sleeps 10

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East Greenland - Arctic Wildlife, Flora and Great Trekking

The whole East Greenland coast is cut off by sea ice for much or the year, but in the Artic summer the ice breaks up and there are a vast number of glacier carved fjords that can be explored. The Inuit settlements are sparse so you need a self sufficent expedition ship to navigate the wilderness. At latitude 70 degrees North lies an extensive fjord system known as Scoresby Sound, with the tiny village of Ittoqqortoormiit at the head of 350km of spectacular cruising ground.  Mountain ranges, tundra vegetation and flowers, distant views of the Greenland Icecap and huge glaciers carve the landscape. Classic Sailing uses Iceland as a stepping stone to reach this land of midnight sun, polar bears and walrus. 

In 2017 we have two very different types of Greenland expedition on offer:

1 week voyages on schooners Opal, Hildur or Donna Wood - where you fly from Iceland to Scorseby Sound and back, with an action packed 7 days in Greenland

3 week expeditions on gaff ketch Tecla - sailing from Iceland to Scoresby Sound, exploring for about a week and sailing back to Iceland

All Greenland Vessels - voyage descriptions, dates and prices

Introducing Our Greenland Sailing Specialists

New to Classic Sailing, but old hands at exploring the Arctic and Icelandic waters under sail, we are thrilled to be able to offer a series of 7 day adventure voyages in Greenland on Icelandic owned schooners Opal or Hildur.  Established in 1995, this family run business was the first to run regular whale watching tours from their home port in Husavik, NE Iceland.  Three generations of this local family are now involved in the running of the business, which has grown rapidly each year and is now a leading light in tourism and Icelandic culture.  They have restored three wooden schooners Opal, Hildur & Haukur and a fleet of historic wooden fishing vessels that now offer a range of sailing, wildlife and whale watching tours on the edge of the Arctic Circle. They have won many tourism awards in Iceland and internationally and Classic Sailing will also be offering their innovative schooner voyages in Iceland, including regular Edge of the Arctic Voyages and Ski and Sail Expeditions.

photo above Opal - sleeps 12

Tecla - Longer Expeditions to Greenland with Challenging Offshore Sailing

Tecla is sailing to Greenland for the first time but the ships crew has already spent a year exploring the Iceland coast. Skipper Gjis has considerable experience of high latitude sailing having been the first mate on Barque Europa for several Antarctic seasons. The distance from NW Iceland to Scorseby Sound, Greenland is about 400 miles from Iceland's NW fjords.  As you get closer to East Greenland, you will encounter spectacular icebergs drifting down the coast, so this is truely an adventure where guest crew will an important part of the expedition team. This far North there is light at night, but lookout duty will be important.  Once in Scorseby Sound there are still bergy bits from the glaciers but the seas are flat and you can also anchor and relax walking ashore.

photo above - Tecla - sleeps 12


schooner dwarfed by iceberg

Scoresby Sound as a Summer Base

If you have been inspired by the wildlife on BBC Frozen Planet and the future plight of the Arctic with global warming then this voyage is a way of finding out more for yourself whilst participating as guest ships crew. Our self sufficent sailing ships take you into a remote polar wilderness in an environmentally benign way but also travelling by your own physical efforts setting sails, hoisting and lowering ships boats all helps connect you with the local community - who have a tough living dictated by the sea and the elements.  By working together a ships crew (professionals and guests of many nationalities) soon becomes a close knit group more akin to an expedition than an Arctic Cruise.

More isolated than the Antarctic Peninsula ?

The current Admiralty Arctic Pilot Book says that the 400 mile indented, fjord coastline of East Greenland has only two principal settlements Tasiilaq and Scorseby Sund.  This rather dry publication has maps showing the extent of sea ice, which has been known to cut off Scorseby Sound - even in Summer. It explains why you are unlikely to be sharing your anchorages with anything other than intrepid expedition ships like Tecla. Without aircraft flights to Scorseby Sound and the tough Icelandic schooners taking the trouble to base herself here for 4 short weeks the local Inuit would be unlikely to meet you.

"there are still great stretches of coast which have never yet been approached by a surface vessel and our knowledge of them has been obtained in boats or native craft along the partially ice free zone between the land and sea ice, by air reconaissance, or by means of sledging journeys over the ice fringing the land." Admiralty Arctic Pilot Book 2012

Fly to Greenland to Join Schooner Hildur or New Schooner Opal

Our Icelandic partners are Authorised Icelandic Tour Operators who will sell you the return flight from Reykjavik to Constable Point Greenland as part of your booking reservation when you book via Classic Sailing. This means you don't have to spend days sailing North to reach Greenland. You can start your 7 days in the heart of East Greenland, exploring the remote and magnificent nature of Scoresby Sound Fjord which extends 350 km inland.

The flight to Iceland from your home country is not included, but from the UK there are several budget airline options

See our port information for travel tips on flights to Reykjavik

More on the vessel Hildur - History, sail layout, accomodation, kit list

More on their new larger Schooner Opal - kit list and vessel details

Experienced Arctic Guide on Board

On schooner opal or Hildur there will be an experienced Arctic guide on board who enhance your voyage.  They will be able to tell you more about the wildlife, local culture and some of the techical aspects of navigating and sailing in Greenland.

The Inuit of Arctic East Greenland

The Greenlandic Innuit share a common language and culture with those in Canada and Alaska, and the ancestors of the present day Greenlanders have inhabited the country for 4000-5000 years. Whilst the West Coast of Greenland is relatively populated, the East Coast far less so. The community here represents one of the oldest and most isolated in Europe, seperated from their countrymen on the West Coast by vast high ice cap.  A wide belt of sea ice grips the whole coast for most of the year, and until commericial flights arrived the East Coast was cut off from the rest of the world.  The consequence is that the East coast dialect is unique and there are many individual traditions and handicrafts.  Primary occupations are still hunting and fishing, sometimes by traditional kayak.

A Flavour of the Week - Not an Itinerary !

Anyorock walls tower above deckne familiar to Classic Sailing will know that we try and create action packed holidays on every voyage with sailing and skills to learn, memorable meals, walking ashore, learning about wildlife and cultures but you will rarely pin us down to an itinerary as we are all sailors and flexible by nature.  The Greenland High in summer can give stable, sunny days with very little wind but crystal clear skies and a full range of mountain panoramas .....but you are next to the second biggest icecap in the world so if the weather does change, then you can have a different kind of polar experience....or some thrilling sailing.

The suggested route below is based on the 7 day voyages on Opal, Hildur or Donna Wood. Tecla will do her own thing, but you may end up visiting some of these highlights.

The itinerary may be subject to change for reasons beyond our control, such as changes in airline schedules, flight and ship delays, strikes, weather, sea and ice conditions, government restrictions or emergencies which can be beyond our control. If pack-ice conditions do not permit the planned itinerary to be completed, the captain and expedition leaders will work out the best possible alternative. We reserve the right to change or alter the programme if necessary.

dog sled in IttoqqortomiitDay 1 (Wednesday)

Depart Reykjavík for a flight to Akureyri, North Iceland and then a plane to Constable Point Greenland, a small airfield on the west side of Hurry Inlet in Jameson Land. Embark and get an introduction and a safety briefing by the crew and then sail towards the village of Ittoqqortoormiit where the evening is spent with locals in perhaps the most isolated village of the world. Ittoqqortoormiit was founded in the 1925s by people from Ammassalik. It is the most northerly settlement on the east coast of Greenland. The 450 inhabitants make their living mostly by subsistence hunting of seals, Narwhale, Muskoxen and Polar Bear. The quaint little houses dot the rocky slopes of south Liverpool Land with magnificent views of Kap Brewster and the Volquart Boons Coast to the south.


finding a way through the iceDay 2 (Thursday)

Sail west between whole palaces of icebergs that gently drift under the influence of the currents in the Arctic waters in the mighty fjord of Scoresby Sound, after calving from the parent glaciers originating in the Inland Ice. Anchor at Hekla Havn, on Denmark Ø, the site of an old Inuit settlement and wintering camp of the first scientific expedition to Scoresby Sound over a hundred years ago. There after a short evening walk to explore Hekla Havn, and the surrounding area.


Day 3 (Friday)

Sail west through the narrow Føhnfjord with the majestic basalt mountains of Gåseland on the port side and 2000 metres high sheer granite cliffs of Milne Land on the Starboard side. After being up close to the peculiar looking Red Island and even landfall at the red sandstone shore the tour continues to the north through Rødefjord which is often filled with both larger icebergs and ice crust from icebergs that are breaking up. We will arrive in Harefjord in the late afternoon where anchors are set for two nights.


BBQ in Greenland after a swim.Day 4 (Saturday)

The whole day is spent ashore in Harefjord scouting for muskoxen, snow hares, grouse, geese and other wildlife, which normally graze on the south facing slopes. Between 6 and 7 hours of easy to moderate hiking with a lunch break at the top of a ridge with a breath taking view over Harefjord where the glacier tongues descend into the sea. Those who prefer less exercise can stroll at the coast or stay on board enjoying the view. In the evening the crew will make a bonfire and prepare BBQ at the rocky beach.


towering rock walls on all sidesDay 5 (Sunday)

The sailing continues eastwards through the awesome Øfjord. This is one of the most spectacular parts of the trip. Terrific mountain peaks and granite walls tower 200 meters up from the sea just like if the Cerro Torre (one of the majestic mountains of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in South America) and Fitzroy river (in Queensland, Australia) has been moved to the Arctic: A true feast for the eyes. Usually the sea breeze in the Øfjord during the middle of the day allows sails to be set. Close look at some of the most amazing cliffs and a glacier front. This day ends by setting anchors in Jyttes Havn Bjørneøe in the late afternoon.


trekking as good as Patagonia but no other humans for hundreds of miles.Day 6 (Monday)

The day is spent hiking in and around Jytteshavn in Bear Islands as this is possibly one of the nicest and most picturesque anchorages in Scoresby Sound. There are two options of a longer or shorter hike in the Bear Islands, or on the northernmost tip of Milneland, a short zodiac ride away. Jytteshavn is the place to try your skills at sea swimming at 71°N and temperatures can be as surprising as 13°C in the summertime. In the evening we offer a nice meal on board and then a cosy bonfire on the beach with story telling or singing.


Day 7 (Tuesday) 

Sailing north along the Bear Islands towards the mouth of the Northwest fjord for a brief stop at Sydkap where we visit local hunter huts and look for muskoxes and other wildlife before heading east around Jameson land towards Hurry Inlet. As we sail into the last evening and night of the trip it is likely that we’ll be experiencing the largest icebergs on our journey and when we wake u

golden carpet of dwarf scrubs

p next morning we are anchored at the airstrip in Constable Point.


Greenland climate & winds

You can expect temperatures between 2 and 12 degree Celsius, but the area is also known for having very little rain. It can be windy but on clear days and no wind, the sun can be very strong! Due to the long lasting high pressure over Greenland, the weather is usually very still.

The prospect of seasickness is very unlikely on these voyages as you are sailing within narrow fjords and the seas are calm with no swell.  If you are someone who wants strong wind sailing and polar landscapes then be aware that both Greenland and Spitsbergen in summer can have long periods with light winds or calm. For dramatic seas and exhillerating sailing then our 21 day Antarctic voyages on Europa may be more suitable.  We will however set sail whenever possible and the crew will gladly and proudly educate you about Hildur as a sailing ship.

Arctic Greenland Expeditions - Brochure & Debbies Travel Blog

More on the vessel Hildur - History, sail layout, accomodation, kit list

East Greenland Sailing & Wildlife Expeditions - voyage descriptions, dates & prices


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