We have been drying vegetables and caning meat and shopped to have food for 6 weeks, which is the maximum time we should be away. Amazed that we managed to put it all away. Though I’ve made lists as to where the different stuff is, so we can find it without having to look through everything.
Then we just needed to get gas. Not possible… until Thursday. So, we have to wait, then because it is close to Liv’s arrival we wait till Sunday.
Sunday afternoon found me poring over the grib files. I had seen it coming for a few days. Thought we might get ahead of the forecast strong gale off shore. But apparently, it had moved a little faster than anticipated. The grib files told us, we’d be fine, the first 8 hours or so, then the 30 knots belt would follow us all the way to Bjørnøya. Not only that, it would be forward of the beam – maybe we’d need to be close hauled. Didn’t look like fun. Especially, since my expectation of the Grib files, is a bit more wind than they forecast. I suppose we could have done it. It wouldn’t be dangerous. But I’d most likely get seasick and with Liv just having arrived, she might too. No, we had to wait a day or two :(
Tromsø – Torsvåg – Bjørnøya
Departed Tromsø Tuesday morning to go to Torsvåg. There, we got an updated weather forecast, thanks to the internet at Torsvåg Ocean Fishing and decided to have a quick dinner (useless for some of us, we would find out) and then go at 20:45. It would be very little wind till we got clear of land, then we would have a nice easterly. However, there was a heavy, and steep, swell, right against us, so it didn’t take Liv long to succumb to seasickness and start to feed our dinner to the fishes. I actually held off another hour and then Håkon had an 18 hour watch, with only a pod of dolphins, who jumped clear out of the water, as company. After that we were weak, but OK, although food didn’t appeal to us until we reached Bjørnøya (Bear Island) at 18:25 Thursday evening. Almost half the trip was done motoring in the weak wind – we only saw 3 other ships. The southern tip was enveloped in fog that came and went, but we found our way into the anchorage, admiring all the birds around us and anchored in 10 m. The water is that beautiful green color, it gets when it’s snow melt-off. We had dinner and slept like babies, although we could have wished for less swell.
We are now a 74 degrees N.
Bjørnøya – Hornsund
After a rolly, but reasonably, quiet night’s sleep we woke to sunshine – almost balmy. Sørhamna (Southern harbour) is really a nice anchorage, even with a nice tiny beach at the head. We had some real nice views along the island – at least halfway up the eastern side. Saw some huts on shore, where there have been human activity (mainly coal mining) and as we got to the northern part the wind pick up with a nice westerly. Talked to Bjørnøya radio, got a fresh weather forecast and was tempted to go to Herwigs hamna (where the radio station is), as they told us there was very little swell. But, they also told us that it was very foggy and we would have to go towards the harbor with a 20 knot wind on the nose. So we pressed onward, north, in the sailable wind. Bjørnøya Radio station is a meteorological station, where a crew of about 12 people stays for 6 months stretches, with only radio contact to the world.
The rest of the trip was foggy – at times visibility was just a few hundred yards – at times a couple of nautical miles – it was overcast the entire way. Saw lots of bird and some dolphins. At one point, I saw 2 x blasts from a whale. Quite a ways off, so didn’t see the actual whale. We did see Sørkap (Southern cape) – just a small mountainside with snow here and there. But what a feeling that was. We’re here – we’re actually in Svalbard. After that the fog enveloped us again and we practically blind-sailed into Hornsund and the Isbjørnhamna (Polarbear Habor) anchorage. A Canadian boat, Milvina was already there. They called us (saw us on the AIS) to let us know that it was quieter there, than in Gåshamna (Geese harbor), that we thought would be best, due to the swell from the south. They also let us know to look out for small pieces of ice (not even growlers or bergy bits) to watch out for. We already envisioned ice for the anchor dram, but the ice, we saw, was quite dirty and (luckily, actually) few and far apart. The water was beautiful meltwater green. Behind the rocky Wilczek peninsula, the swell subsided, noticeably, and the anchorage was really nice and quiet. We saw Milvinia when we were less than 200 yards away and anchored behind it, in 7 m. Liv woke up, Haakon started dinner, and Judith was kindly picked up by Neil and thus went over to say Hi and pick up some pointers for getting weather forecasts via the HAM radio. After the late dinner, we all fell into a deep sleep. The anchor watch woke us a few times, but the Rocna held us stady – just a mistake in the anchor watch app.
We are now at 76 degrees N.
Liv and Haakon slept late, while Judith joined Neil for a morning trip to the Polish research station, to get a new weather forecast (not all that uplifting wrt actually seeing Svalbard). We don’t have a rifle yet (will rent in Longyearbyen), so it was nice to go with Neil, who had his rifle. Rather a strange feeling to have steady ground below the feet again. The Poles were having a quiet Sunday morning, but where very friendly. Afterwards, Neil tried to help a little more with getting grip files via the iridium, without using 10 expensive minutes per try. Then Milvina took off for mainland Norway.
Hornsund – Longyearbyen
After a leisurely brunch, we took off in heavy fog towards LYB. We did get several glimpses of the glacier in Hans bukta, but given the visibility, decided not to try to go closer. I can’t wait to see these Glaciers on a clear day.
Given the poor visibility, but good wind from behind, we sailed (rolled?) through the night towards Longyearbyen, which we reached just about noon. As we were reaching Isfjorden, the sun started to try push through the heavy clouds and we got a much better look at the scenery. Very nice - breathtaking, in fact. What a feeling – we got here! The town looks like something out of the Wild West – just a shame the whole town is built on such shaky grounds – we still feel we’re sailing, even when walking on hard ground. We went to check in with Sysselmannen, rent our riffle (one is not allowed outside of the town boundaries without a riffle to protect against Polar bears – though, you’re not supposed to shoot them – just scare them away if they get too close). Amazing how nice it was to get a good shower and clean clothes on.
In the evening, we met with Marina, a jeweler, who lives here (but have her boat in Greece) and went to Karls Berger bar. A bar with an amazing selection of whiskies (though none from Gaelic Whiskies) and cognac brands. We had dark beer: Libertine Black Ale, and wine.
We had a really nice night’s sleep, although, early in the morning, the ship we were lying outside, decided to go. So had to get up and move the boat. Our friends Annette, Bjarne and Niels had arrived in the night so after breakfast we met up with them and went for a walk in town. The sun came out and we decided to save the museum for later and go sailing instead. So we got ready and took off in the afternoon. We had planned to sail to Skanskebukta, but the sun was shining ahead of us and there was just a nice wind from the south, pushing us along at a nice leisurely pace, so we decided to go all the way to the Nordenskjöld Glacier glowing white in the distance (this turned out to be a wise decision). We ate dinner along the way, passed a group of kayaker’s staying in tents (and a polar bear guard patrolling around them) on the little peninsula where Camp Bruce (a former Scottish mining adventure) have once been (there are still buildings from back then), and when we got to the glacier, the sun was gone and it was cloudy, but still a breathtaking sight. We sailed slalom among the (very) small icebergs to get closer to the Glacier front (where we were still at least half a mile (nm) away). We enjoyed the view and caught an extremely small piece of ice (which were still surprisingly heavy) for our drinks later). Four days ago, a polar bear had been spotted here, but we didn’t see him. Finally, we sailed over to Pyramiden and anchored up for the rest of the night. We had our anchor dram (with glacier ice) and went to be around 3 am. We are getting completely messed up time-wise. Surprisingly, spotted a lonely guard on the pier – we thought there would be no-one there. Caught no fish today, even though we stopped and tried hard.
Pyramiden – Skanska bukta
Pyramiden was a Russian mining town that was abandoned in 1998. Everything is pretty much, as it was just left. However, when we visited, we got the impression that there are some efforts to do something about it. A small group of workers were moving things about.
Saw a ‘citybus’ driving from the abandoned (?) town to the pier. After breakfast, we went over to tie up the pier. A small tourship from Longyearbyen had just let a group of tourists onto the bus. The lone Russian guard was on the pier, rifle slung over his shoulder and in a uniform-like long coat and fur hat. He asked us to go on the inside of this dilapidated pier. We had carefully decided what piece of the pier we trusted enough to tie up to, so wasn’t very happy to be told to go to another place. However, the inside place looked OK and had a ladder so we could more easily get from the boat to the pier. As soon as we tied up, the Russian guard asked for NOK 200, which seemed a bit steep for this pier with missing or rotten supports and rusty wires sticking out everywhere. But it was worth it, just for the extremely service minded reception from this Russian guard. Forget all about Russian bureaucracy and inefficient, bored and couldn’t-care-less officials. This guy, not only spoke perfect English, he was really sweet and helpful. Asked if he would let us photograph him he obliged smilingly, and then exclaimed ‘Oh! I should get my gun’, then actually ran off to get his rifle, which he’d left at his housing when he went to get the receipt for the docking. Then posed with his rifle and us and happily answered any questions about being stationed here. He’d been here 3 years – but only from March to November – and it was OK, but Longyearbyen, now that would be a nice place to be. Because in Longyearbyen there was places to go – and television – and one could get a signal on a mobile, everywhere. Here, they just had one spot, by the road, where a mobile signal could be obtained. After that he told us about the town and showed where everything was on a map. He mentioned all the interesting parts, where the Lenin statue was, the football field (that was now destroyed), the stadium, etc. And we shouldn’t forget to visit the hotel where we could get souvenirs and Vodka shots. Except he pronounced Vodka slightly different than we do – something like Wothka – it has to be heard.
We then walked off to town – no citybus for us – past a small airport – or helipad (saw a polar fox). There were dilapidated buildings and huge areas, just filled with detritus from a life once lived in this place. Bjarne named it the Northernmost garbage dump. However the buildings in the town proper (there once lived more people here, than in Longyearbyen) were actually quite nice and some even looked like they must have been pretty new in 1998. We ended up at the hotel, where it actually looked as one cold book a night. The women weren’t as accommodating as the little Russian guard and said the museum had just been for the group. We bought some chocolate and returned to the boat. Another tour boat had just come in from the Glacier. They were late, so we speculated that maybe the polar bear was still to see – but they hadn’t spotted it, so we dropped an idea of going back. At any rate, the fog was closing in and we couldn’t see the glacier anymore. Instead we sailed to Skanska Bukta where we anchored up – as usual, apparently, way after midnight, but in sunshine. Would have really liked to go ashore – there were buildings, some old railroad tracks to a small former mine and the hull of an old boat lying on the beach. But unfortunately, our dinghy has developed a leak, which just seems to be getting worse. A beautiful spot with interesting geology all around – and nice and sheltered. Next morning (well about noon) we ate breakfast and then took off for Gåsøyane (Geese islands) – stayed outside the protection zone and did a spot of fishing – no luck, except Niels caught a stone.
We had decided to go to Tempelfjorden and maybe all the way into the Von Post Glacier. But the fog closed in and the wind piped up, bringing short crappy waves with it. First it was nice to be able to sail, but then it grew into a small gale and right on the nose, so instead it was a bit of a slow slog (probably a bit more than our friends bargained for) to get back to Longyearbyen, though as soon as we got into Adventfjorden, we were in sheltered water. We arrived a bit tired and weatherworn, so decided to go out for dinner.
Next day, we set about fixing the leak in the dinghy, get some propane (we had surprisingly already run out of one of the bottled gas), and wash some clothes (Marina had kindly let me borrow her washing machine, as the one in the harbor was broken). Today three cruise ships visited Longyearbyen – the biggest (Magnifica) had room for 3000 guests and 700 crew. The ship and its gigantic moorings completely encapsulated the tiny floating pier for the sailing boats (we were warned by the harbormaster) – there would be no leaving while it was there. And suddenly the town was more than doubled and the streets, and shops, full of people and busses going to various sights. This evening we had decided to eat at ‘Huset’, which is famous for their excellent food and amazing wine cellar. We walked there, past Longyearbyen church and a small miners burial site, as this place is almost out of town. This was previously the place for parties and gatherings and apparently it was placed here so that it was neither near the workers, nor near the bosses, housing. The place looked like something that could be seen at Pyramiden – ugly, scruffy and no signs telling us this was the place. However, inside is was fine. We did indeed have an excellent dinner (the Reindeer was fantastic – sorry Santa) and finished off the day with a nightcap and a card game on the boat. All of a sudden, though, we (and the other boats) noticed a whole pod of Belugas (white whales) swimming into Advent fjorden. They came quite close to the pier. After a long time, they came back out again (the fjord is not very big) – apparently just a short visit to say ‘Hi’. By then the cruise ships had left – no Beluga show for them.
Slept late, went shopping, and then went to the museum, which was really nice; very nicely set-up, very informative and, in general, a world class museum with all about the mining, the trappers (mostly men, but also a few women) and the flora and fauna. We all enjoyed it. This evening we ate at Kroa, which is very rustique, as it is set up as a trappers cabin. The food was again excellent and the wine wasn’t bad either. Again we had the night cap on the boat, but no Belugas came by (that we noticed).
Longyearbyen – Eidem bukta
Today, another gigantic cruise ship arrived, plus two smaller ones, who anchored in the fjord. The big one was even larger and it was only possible to stay on one side of the fuel pier – time to go. We said goodbye to our friends. They left the boat early, to do some fossil hunting and we took off towards Ny-Ålesund. It was overcast and drizzly, but we did have nice views of the mountains and several Glaciers. The wind was first against, but otherwise, it came and went and we reached Eidem bukta in time for dinner. A bit of a rolly anchorage, but otherwise nice and quiet. The anchorage is just north of Farmhamna, that is actually inhabited by four persons. A Dutch sailing ship was anchored up there. No walrus and not that many birds.
Eidem bukta – Ny-Ålesund
Woke up to drizzle and no wind and motored over towards Poole Point. There SS Malmö was (a very Swedish smal cruise ship – maybe 20 guests – with a Danish skipper) with two dinghies in the water. Walrus was playing up all around in the water – in the binoculars, we could only see two on the beach, so we didn’t go ashore, but just drifted around looking at the walrus. As we continued up through Forland Sound, the sun broke through, although with a few, very small, drizzles allowing for some nice rainbows. Prins Karls Forland showed itself in more and more splendor – a magnificent sight with its glaciers, snow covered mountains and dramatic clouds and skies and the sun shining. The sound was like a mirror – no wind and surprising little current. It was actually warm – 15 degrees C (60 F). We sailed as close as possible to the Buchanan ice, a Glacier that was almost down to the water, but had to stop at around 3 m depth. We got in the dinghy, took a little round and just took in the magic of the scenery (and saw a seal). Then we went back out to our course and through the very narrow and only 4 m deep, Forland Reef. Still the sun shone, one magic view opened itself after another and after we sailed into Kongsfjorden we were met with small bergy bits and quite a bit of drifting ice. Did a little slalom dance to get around the bigger bits, arrived Ny-Ålesund and even got a nice mooring. What a day. What a fabulous day. After a late dinner, I just couldn’t sleep, but took a small walk inside the area, where you don’t need to carry a riffle. Even though it was after midnight, I met a few other stragglers. The light was gorgeous and the sun shone, at least 40 degrees over the horizon. We’re now at 78 degrees 55 minutes North.
Ny-Ålesund – Nilspollen
Started the day with a walk around this miniscule town. This is a town full of researchers, of all the nationalities, who are signatories of the Svalbard Treaty, various arctic research is the raison d’etre of this place. Research equipment is everywhere and when we arrived we were asked to turn our mobiles to flight mode, turn off all wifi seeking equipment, plus any blue tooth devices, so as not to disturb the scientists transmitters. Terns with small ones were right next to the road/path, as were Hvitkingæs (Barnacle geese). We walked right to the edges where the signs said, not to go any further, due to polar bears, without a riffle (we have one onboard, but just wanted a short walk). We also walked to the other edge of town and visited the shop; Håkon did his shopping for my birthday, Liv and I bought postcards and sent them from the world’s most northerly post office. Then we took off and sailed into the fjord towards the kings Glacier, sailin in interesting patterns around the growlers and the bergy bits, swung over close to Blomstrand peninsula (which was discovered to be an island when the glacier retreated), made an upside down u-turn into Pierson bay and looked at Ny London (a failed marble mine). Sailed into Kross Fjord and into, and very close to (though not closer than adviced) the July 14 Glacier, where we floated around and had a late lunch in beautiful sunshine and listened to all the sounds of a glacier: Dripping from the melt, small melting water rivers at the edges, scraping of ice, bubbles escaping the thousands of years old ice and now and then a loud crack when the ice broke. While we were there we saw a small growler calving and turn over, as the balance was disturbed by a part that fell off. After that, a long slog, dodging the odd growler and ice bits, up to Nils pollen, next to Sally hamna and the Lilliehoek Glacier. Fantastic views over yet another magnificent glacier. Nils Pollen was really a small, very protected, anchorage. On one side a green, fertile bird mountain, silhouetted by the stark, pointy dark brown, mountain peaks on the other side of the fjord. We anchored on 4 m, had dinner and went to sleep in blazing sunshine.
Nilspollen – Ny Ålesund
When we got up, we could see that there was quite a bit of ice in the fjord outside the little anchorage. We had intended to make an early start for Magdalena fjorden (a 50 Nm trip), but again I had trouble getting weather reports from the Iridium, even though we tried again, when we were more out in the open. I do not want to chance not being able to get weather reports, so we decided to return to Ny-Ålesund, to get it fixed once and for all. Not least because it took us a good deal longer to get out of Lilliehoek fjord as apparently the glacier had calved a lot of ice during the night. So we had a lot of delicate sailing to do, waltzing around the various ice bits, which at first seemed to be mostly off shore, so that we could get by, by staying close to shore (still had to swerve and sail around small growlers). At one place it seemed like there was no getting through it – it was all forming a barrier of ice – carried by the current. But we sailed this way and that and found a small ribbon where we could get through, by pushing some bits aside. A little heart pounding later, we were through.
So we turned over to Ny-Ålesund, I got the Iridium fixed (again – crossing fingers) and the wind piped up from NW – good thing we didn’t go (NW – you guessed it) to Magdalena Fjord today (although we may have been ahead of the heavier winds, had we got the early start we wanted. Anyways, nothing lost, without a gain, tonight the local pub, Mel lageret (flour storage!!!) is open and we even got us an excellent hot shower.
A nice, quiet day, where we slept late, read books and was happy that we were not out sailing in the NW wind with sleet. The charter boat with the German sailors moved to be on the outside of us, so the little boat: “Teisten”, that ships scientists over to Ny London on Blomstrand Peninsula (which is actually an island), could get in and out of the harbor. A huge ice floe was threatening to come into the harbor, but headed for the beach instead. As the day progressed the wind piped down and eventually the snow subsided as well. The little snack/souvenir shop opened and it seemed half the research station where there to talk and do small shopping. We have no idea where they get their food, certainly not in that shop. Haakon made pancakes which quickly disappeared and in the evening the wind was all, but gone too.
Ny Ålesund – Magdalenefjorden
Up early, but not early enough. A polar bear had been shooed away from right in front of the harbor office, had sauntered down on the little beach, from where it disappeared, about 6:30 am. About 40 m from Touche, where we were sleeping. ”Fram” (et Hurtigtute cruiseship, which we’ve seen before, in Rosendal in Hardanger fjord), was lying outside the pier and was unloading tourists. The weather was clear, even with a bit of sunshine and a weak wind was blowing. Time to move on. This place is a research station today, but previously it was the place where Amundsen and Nobile took off for The North pole in a blimp, called Norge (Norway) in 1925. The mast, to which they tethered the balloon is still there, as is a rather large bust of Amundsen outside what used to be his house. We sailed out of Kongs fjord and clearly felt the waves and swell from the NW’er yesterday. Unfortunately, the wind (the little there was) was still NW, so we had a motorassisted slog, tacking in the waves – not my favorite point of sail. But we had some beautiful views to the 1., 2., etc. to the 7. glaciers – we wondered, did they just run out of names, or had they just no creativity. Arrived Trinity Hamna in Magdalene fjord around 9 pm.” Fram” was getting the last tourists back on the boat, took a swing into the Waggonway glacier and sailed on. We had a cozy evening with Friday night wine at dinner and a game of cards, before we went to bed, quite overtired.
Magdalenefjorden - Sallyhamna
After a late breakfast, we went ashore and met the Sysselman (Svalbard Governor), who has a station there (actually there were two: Atle and Georg). He told us, that there was a polar bear, feeding on a reindeer carcass, over on the other side of the fjord. We took a little walk, over towards, where there were supposed to be walrus. We didn’t seen walrus, but a polar fox eyed us inquisitively instead. Also took a round of the blubber ovens (from Duch whalers in the 16th century) and the burial peninsula, where about 130 Dutch and English whalers were buried from around 1600 to the end of the 1700’s. Then we went over to where the polar bear had been sighted; and lo and behold, we did see it. It was sauntering away, as we approached, but we got a real good view of it. WoW! Amazing. As it disappeared behind a moraine, we went in towards the Waggonway glacier, listening to the crackling and the bubbling and the dripping of the ice, and then swung back in hopes of seeing the polar bear again. We only saw the cadaver, so slowly we turned out of the fjord towards Virgo hamna. On the way there, we met the Germans on the Norwegian boat and told them where they could see polar bear. Funny to see sea marks – painted bright orange. Virgo hamna was a dismal, desolate place, not very inviting; just a half round valley full of large boulders – and all the remains after the Andrée and the Wellmann expeditions, trying to reach the North Pole by balloon. Both failed several attempts, but while Wellman was quickly forgotten, the myth surrounding the disappearance of Andrée, Frænkel and Strindberg, who wasn’t found untill 30 years after their attempt, made that crew very famous (posthumously). Having read several books about these men and their foolhardy attempts to reach the North Pole, it was an amazing feeling to be there. Finally though, we decided it was time to leave, to get to Sally hamna, where we prepared to stay overnight. On the way, we motored closely by Smeerenburg peninsula and saw a whole bunch of walrus lying there on the beach. They lay, decoratively, right in front of the historic remains of the blubber oven. In Sally Hamna we met the two Sysselman again, as they had now moved to this cabin. Sally Hamna is a nice, very well protected little bay and we anchored in 4 m water, halfway in. We invited Atle and Georg to the boat and had a cozy evening talking with them. They told us (and showed photo’s) of a (tagged) female polar bear with her cub, that they had seen near Knattodden at the nw corner of Magdalene Fjord. We had probably sailed right by, but without our binoculars at constant search.
Sallyhamna – Moffen – Mushamna
Decided to forego a visit on shore, to get an early start, as the weather was quite co-operative for going to Moffen and then afterwards to Woodfjorden. The wind was about 15-18 knots from the west, so we had a lovely sail through Svenskegattet and then from Jermaktangen, on the NE corner of Raudfjorden, we aimed for Moffen. There was a bit of waves and swell, so it was a bit rolly, but it was wonderful to sail, instead of motoring, which we do most of the time. Moffen is a very small island, which is actually a ring island with a pool in the middle, which is now a protected wildlife reserve. It’s appeal to us, lay mainly in its position above 80 degrees North, which we wanted to cross. We rounded the island and celebrated the crossing of 80 N with cheers and photos (will have the Champagne tonight). Again we met with the Sweedish small cruise ship “Malmø”. They had been to the edge of the ice, but couldn’t quite tell us where it was – only that it was quite a bit out and varying a lot. It didn’t seem quite worth it to go North for hours, in a search for the ice edge. There was quite a bit of ice build-up in either end of the Moffen pool. We were later told, that one week ago, the ice edge had been just below 80 degrees N and that, that meant, that we couldn’t have gotten as far north as Moffen.
After we reached Wood Fjord, the wind all but died away and we motored the last bit towards Mushamna. We saw 2-3 cabin cruisers in the Fjord and wondered if they had come off a bigger ship or come here all the way from Longyearbyen. Right before the Mushamna hunters (and over winterer’s) station, one seemed very interested in something ashore, and sure enough there was a polar bear there. It started to saunter away, as we got near, but we did get a good look of it.There is a very sheltered anchorage just south of Mushamna station, both in a bay outside and further into an extremely well sheltered lagoon. One of our books says not to stay in the lagoon, as there are a lot of polar bears around. However, as we approached, we saw that there was already a sailboat in there, plus the three cabin cruisers and later more came in. In turned out to be positively crowded towards nighttime, with 7 cabin cruisers (quite small ones) and 3 sailboats – all Norwegians, except for us. From one of the cabin cruisers kids sped around in the lagoon in their dinghy; resembling, on a smaller scale, the waters around Oslo and Bergen. We are about 185 nM from Longyearbyen, if you sail very direct and don’t go into any fjords or anchorages on the way. We had our Champagne and dinner and celebrated that we have now done everything we set out to do here (except go all the way around, which we have decided not to do, due to reports of up to 4/10th ice in Hinlopen Streetet). If we were to sail around, there are 318 nM (of direct sailing) to Sørkap, and from there, 140 nM up to Longyearbyen, where we have to turn in, our rented riffle.
Around midnight, most of the people from all these boats met on the long spit, which shelters the lagoon, and had a campfire and a party. Unfortunately, by then, we were too tired (and had had too much Champagne) to join them. The night was clear and still and it is still bright daylight. However, the light has a different quality to it, due to the fact that we are nearing the day where the sun will actually dip below the horizon again. How strange it will be, to have darkness at night again. But that will not happen until, perhaps, on the way to Tromsø. Up here, the change goes very fast from midnight sun till polar night, not as gradual as on the lower latitudes.
Mushamna – Hornbaekpollen
As the party had gone on till about 6 am, all was very quiet the next morning. Later on I talked to one of the power boaters. They all come from Longyearbyen and are on a one week holiday. I was wondering how they had enough fuel to sail this far, but it turned out they’d had help. The Norwegian Polar institute had sailed some barrels of fuel to this place, so that they could top up here. Also, he told me, in the winter they set out fuel depots for the summer, by moving the fuel by snow mobile. At lunch time we went out along the spit at slow pace, so that Liv and I could try to see the polar bear again, and Haakon could fish. Didn’t spy the bear, but had a good view of the trapper’s cabin. We had planned to go ashore there, but since the polar bear had been seen sleeping, behind the cabin, we didn’t take the chance. Over by ‘Andoyane’ (duck islands) Haakon caught a cod and we all saw a whale right by one of the big icebergs. There was a scattering of growlers and bergy bits, along with some rather large bergs. The books state that sometimes you even see polar bears on the ice. We didn’t today, but tomorrow we will go closer to the mighty Monaco glacier. We anchored in Hornbaek pollen a real nice little sheltered pond, where no ice should get in – if the wind (almost non-exiting) doesn’t change. There is one small bergy bit in a corner, where it seems to be grounded; otherwise, we had the pond all to ourselves. Had a nice cod dinner, played some cards and went to bed. Today our brand new (Changed it in Tromsø) solenoid for the gas, gave out. At first we thought it was rather early for the gas bottle to be empty, but it turned out to be the solenoid that wasn’t functioning. Very annoying, but better than having used a bottle of gas, way too fast.
Hornbaekpollen – Texas bar – Krokvika
We went towards The Monaco Glacier, which is beautiful; big and with pointy mountains in it and behind it. There were quite a few large bergy bits, some of them larger than Touche. We swerved in between, but couldn’t get that close to the glacier itself. There was also a stiff wind right from the glacier, into our nose. Afterwards, we found Texas Bar and anchored up in the little bay in front of it. It was a bit choppy, but we made it safely to shore. Again, it was a bit odd to be on land; we walked a bit wobbly and of course looked all around for polar bears. The cabin is open to visitors; that is, we had to remove the bars in front of the door and window. There was an entry room, where firewood was kept and then another door into the cabin room. There were one bunk bed, a little table and a woodstove ion the corner – very small, but cozy. We signed into the guestbook and locked it all up again.
Went for a walk, up the little hill behind the cabin, nothing much to see further on, that the delta from a retreated glacier, but we saw lots of flowers on the little hillside. Got back on the boat again and started out for Andøyane; the plan was to go in between them, looking for birds and polar bears. Called “Skydancer” over the radio to ask how Worsley hamna was (they had been there for two nights). They told us it was choppy, but that they could see two polar bears from where they were. That got us over there in a hurry. We saw them on the point of one of the islands. Apparently a mother and her 2-year cub – the cub was quite big, I’d guess a male. They seemed to be foraging – probably raiding bird nests for eggs and young birds. We sailed around the point, threading carefully in low water, until we got a prime position (with the sun from the side), from which to watch and photograph the two animals. What a sight it was – we were actually quite close, and took loads of pictures. The animals looked out at us, but then decided it was time for a nap, ignoring us, so after a while we took off again, having decided to stay at Krok vika for the night. This bay was quite large and there was shelter from the wind, but only a slight chop. This is right on the side of Rensdyr Flya, but we never saw any reindeer. Over the radio we heard that some of the boats, that were in Mushamna, had gotten into a lot of ice at the entrance to Hinlopen. Good thing we had decided against going all the way around, exactly because of the possibility of more ice than Touche (and we) can handle.
Krokvika – Sallyhamna
Tried to get an early start, but it is amazing how well we sleep and how tired we are. Soon after we took off, we saw a ship coming in the fjord. After a short while it seemed to change direction and then came over towards us. Went down to turn on the radio, but by then, they had launched a rib coming over towards our side of the fjord. We thought that they had seen something interesting on land, but we couldn’t see anything, and then it became apparent that they were coming towards us! It turned out to be a Sysselmannen patrol, checking our permissions. We had a chat with them, and they told that they at been over at the entrance to Hinlopen, and that there was thick ice, that the boats were trying to find their way through. Afterwards we continued on our way, with the usual phenomena, that the wind changed, as we changed course, thus having the wind right on the nose, plus the waves from the last two days’ of northwesters – it was very choppy. Reached Sallyhamna in time for dinner and settled into the lovely protected anchorage. Unfortunately the sun had all but disappeared. We still have the midnight sun (until Aug. 18th), but we get the feeling of evening and also that we are nearing the end of the midnight sun period.
Sallyhamna – Danskenesset
Went ashore and walked to the cabin, about a mile north of the Sysselman cabin. This cabin was weatherbeaten, to say the least, ravaged by a polar bear and generally falling apart. We also looked at the graves and blubber ovens from the Dutch whale catching period. We saw “Tyr”, Sysselmannens big boat (the one, where our three controllers came from). It sailed slowly around Fair Haven – we got the feeling it was keeping an eye on us. We collected at big bag of garbage from the beach and the peninsula, we walked across (Amazing how much there were). A sailing ship showed on the horizon and eventually made its way into Sallyhamna. This was a German charter boat: “Perithia”, with its German skipper and the 6 paying guests. They also got checked by the Sysselmen. Liv and I went over in the dinghy, to say ‘hi’ and got treated to a cup of tea. The Skipper and his boat had made three trips this season – last year, he also went all the way around Spitsbergen. He told us that three weeks ago, when he was up here last, the ice edge was just below 80 N and you couldn’t get to Moffen at all.
Then we upped anchor and sailed a slightly different way to The Smeerenburg peninsula, where the walrus was slumming it on the beach. There we anchored up on the south side – the little wind there was, was from the North and we wanted to come from downwind of the Walruses. So we did and therefore got as close, as allowed, to these humongous animals. We were very quiet, and kept our distance, but all of a sudden they must have noticed us, because most of them suddenly went into the water. Not the biggest three, they just turned their head and shortly the others came back on shore. We quickly, and quietly, made a retreat. A short motoring later, we were pas Danske nesset, where we anchored up for the night. Since Judith’s friends were having café night in Denmark, Liv and Judith had boat café with fresh baked cake, Chai latte, hot chocolate, drinks and music – and a card game.
Danskenesset – Magdalene – Engelskbukta
Up and off, relatively early, as the weather forecast made it a good idea to get some way south before the wind went south (and against us). We sailed close to Knattodden, on our way into Magdalene fjord, as we’d been told of a polar bear sighting (mamma bear and cub) last week, but we didn’t see them. It was a bit foggy in the fjord, but there were lots of small ice bits, so Liv and I decided this would be the place for our dip in the Arctic Ocean. So we got ready and each of us went in for a dip. We had to push some ice bits out of our way, so we could get in from the swim ladder. Liv took a few swim strokes, Judith got up again in a hurry. We had really feared this crazy idea – how cold it would be – but honestly, it wasn’t as bad as we thought. We didn’t even freeze to death, when we got up. We continued the sail down past the seven glaciers, in glorious sunshine (it was almost balmy) past Kongs fjord (Kings fjord) and on to Engelskbukta (English bay). Saw a few Reindeer on our way in.
Engelskbukta – Selvågen
Judith was woke up with birthday flag, song and presents (a lovely sweater with a polar bear and Ny-Ålesund logo, plus a Svalbard t-shirt and buff, a beautiful turquoise thermo cup, a bookmark with penguins and a blue container) Furthermore, it was the most fabulous sunshine, blue skies and a mild temperature. We enjoyed breakfast in the cockpit and Liv and I went for a row in the dinghy. We saw Reindeer and Pingo’s (A Pingo is an ice lens, due to an underground (below the permafrost) spring, penetrating through a weak spot in the permafrost, and then freezing near the surface). Then we took off (after Haakon had gotten dinner ready for Mr. D, the slow cooker) motoring a little at first, then sailing with wind from NW 5-15 knots, later moving to the North and eventually there was none. We had a bit of trouble getting the anchor to hold in Selvågen (Seal inlet) – it’s very deep with a sudden rise to the shore. On shore there was a camp of sorts: 6-8 rather large, green, tunnel tents, plus two larger, white, tents. There was a dinghy on the shore and later one more came with 5 people. Research? Camp for tourists? Liv baked a lovely brownie birthday cake, which we had with whipped cream and we celebrated the fantastic weather and Judith’s birthday.
Selvågen – Trygghamna
Got up and away early, as we wanted to go southeast before the wind began blowing too much from that direction (predicted). Today was foggy, poor visibility, and very low hanging clouds – what a difference from yeaterday. We were too late to beat the wind direction, but the wind was fine for tacking, so we sailed. Around Poole Point, which we got very close to, we saw two other sailing boats (“Noorderlicht” and “Skydancer”) and a lot of walruses in the water. They got quite close, but we didn’t stop long, as we have a long stretch today (not least, considering, that we’ll have to tack all the way). Several of the small cabin cruisers passed us, probably have to be back in Longyearbyen today, sunday. Well, the wind died and we motored around ‘Daudmannsodden’ (dead man’s peninsula), around Alkefjeldet (Auk mountain) and into Trygghamna (literally, Safe harbor). We decided to go ashore before dinner, as we could walk close to a glacier here. Of course it was farther than it looked on gravel/rock/boulders, but at least we got warm from walking. Along the way, we spotted many fossils, but with nothing recognizable on them; and Liv and I played on some ice floes. To and from the boat and the beach, we passed (at a good distance) a little rocky islet with a couple of gulls and their offspring. They dive-bombed us to make sure we didn’t get any closer. Back on the boat we were very hungry and tired, so just ate dinner and soon went to bed.
Trygghamna – Longyearbyen
Tried to get an early start, as we were supposed to get Easterly winds (right on the nose), but as usual, we just motored, as there was very little wind. Right out of the bay, we saw either a fin whale, Minke whale or a blue whale. Arrived 5 hours later, as the only sailboat on the ‘water’pier in Longyearbyen, which was a change from last time we were here, where we lay 3 deep on the pier. There were two Dutch boats over on the diesel pier. Skydancer was at anchor near the previous coal harbor, now small boat harbor, as was the red British boat, we saw last time we were in Longyearbyen. However, outside the harbor lay a large, very fancy motorboat, with a helicopter and large tenders that brought lots of people back and forth. The washing machine – and drier – was fixed, so we started doing a lot of laundry, knowing that that’s not available in Tromsø. Went out to eat and ended up in Pubben, at the Radisson, which wasn’t as good as Kroa, where we couldn’t get a table.
Spent a leisure day in Longyearbyen; visited the Airship museum for Polar Exploration, which was very good, if a bit large for just one visit, then went shopping, on a café and for a walk up to the large old cable railway station (distributor building) for coal carts, through which the coal carts came, by way of towing along cables on high masts, from the different mines in the area. Quite ingenious – must have been hugely useful. Tonight we had reserved a table, so had a lovely meal at Kroa.
Longyearbyen – Isbjørnhamna
Motorsailing, intercahnging with sailing, when there was wind. Then it was from SE, which meant tacking. After which is bent more southerly and then disappeared when we had don the tack-leg out. Bellsund, we therefore only saw at a distance, when we had done a tack out. As we neared Hornsund, we passed several large bergy bits and it turned out that both Hornsund in general, but also Isbjørnhamna (Polar bear hamna) in particular, was full of bergy bits and smaller ice bits. The beach was certainly full of it. So there was no staying overnight, or visiting the Poles, only a bit of drifting about, while Judith got a weather forecast from the Poles and the Polish research station. As last time we were here, they were extremely helpful.
Isbjørnhamna – Teltvika
So we pressed on – we are in a bit of a rush too, because the long-time weather forecast had shown that very heavy winds were forecast along the shore, starting Monday. Now we had a good NE wind, abaft the beam, but as soon as we cleared Sørkap, we started getting the big waves (4-5 m), that had built up during the previous days of gale. It didn’t take long, before Liv caved in and a few hours later, Judith followed. Really hadn’t thought we’d get seasick this time, as we have sailed so much up here and even the preceding 24 hours before we hit the waves. But we both had it bad, and again Håkon had to do most of the sailing, with not enough help from us. Also, on the way into Hornsund, our heater decided to quit, so now we didn’t have the nice warm cocoon of the cabin to retreat to (but instead 4-6 degrees C – brrr) off duty. At least, we have lot’s of blankets. We talked to Bjørnøya meteorological station and got a weather forecast for around Bjørnøya. Tonight (and perhaps the early hours tomorrow) a gale will come by, so we decided to anchor in Teltvika on Bjørnøyas western side (sheltered from the Northeasterlies and the waves). A little later, the coast guard called us. Routine; who were we, where did we come from, where were we going. We, of course, gave the info and explained that two out of three were seasick, so we needed a little rest. They asked if we had enough food and water (we didn’t tell them that we had more than enough food, since Liv and I didn’t eat anything), did we need a weather forecast? We said yes, thank you to that, especially if they could give us one for all the way to the coast. They were super friendly; when they heard that our heater was not working they offered to send a technician over to see if he could fix it – we thanked them profusely and offered coffee and chocolate. They came a little later – bringing also a doctor, who had Scopoderm patches for Liv and I, which we decided to give a try, even though we thought we might be fine after our bout with seasickness (as we were on the way up). The heater didn’t get completely fixed, but it did output some heat, so we could get a bit of warmth in the cabin (it 4 C (39 F) outside) when off duty.
Teltvika – Tromsø
The next morning, the wind and waves had decreased some and we had a fine trip the rest of the way. As we got further south the number of Fulmars decreased. We missed them and their beautiful swaying, gliding and hovering right over the waves, often one wingtip just cm’s above the water. They would often circle the boat, looking at us, as if they were thinking: What strange wings you have. It was very entertaining and just as uplifting as seeing dolphins, usually is (alas we saw only one dolphin on the way back). We arrived Tromsø in the morning, after experiencing our first sunset and –rise in two months. It is strange to be here in Tromsø, where it is semi dark at night, and where the boat will overwinter. Though of course, during the winter there will be polar night with total darkness, except for the Northern lights. Now the boat must be closed up and soon we fly home. We will be busy all winter, looking at photos and putting together films.
Best boat kit: I’d be hard pressed to choose between the autopilot and the heater. We really missed the heater, when it gave up, but I think we would have missed the autopilot more. It took all the waves with no problems.
Best clothes: Brynje Arctic (a Norwegian ski-underwear set, based on a double layer system, in one). Best experience: Being quite close to two Polar Bears from the safety of our boat. Sailed distance Tromsø – Svalbard – Tromsø: 1760.3 nM