Sailing to Svalbard

Just before my first Elbrus summit, I managed to sail to Svalbard from Northern Norway. It was a tough trip through snow and freezing cold. Here are a few notes from the trip.

I had a bit of time to spare, and was looking for a boat. Sailing yacht Mae West (Holland) was to be sailed to Svalbard for picking up guests. The crew/guests on the leg from Norway could not come because of sickness, so the boat needed delivery crew. I'm lucky I made it to Tromsø just in time to briefly meet the owner of the boat, and to set off.

S/y Mae West, in harbour of Tromsø

The last hours before the sail-off were spent doing preparations and mending jobs on the boat. The passage could take anything from several days to a couple of weeks depending on weather, and there was risk for furious Arctic storms at those latitudes.

A workshop for building ships in Tromsø harbour, a very colorful place

Not all preparations can be made on shore. On the second day, the Code 0 halyard was to be retrieved from the mast. I climbed the 18 meter mast at sea, while swinging back and forth, absolutely done when came down. Just 2 people onboard, we interchanged watches with sleeping and having warm food.

At the helm, towards Svalbard

On the first day, still near the shore, puffins would half-fly, half-run away from the boat. It was raining and gray, but the rest of the trip really gave us variable weather. Everything from blazing sun, rain, rainbows, fog, and snow - we had it.

Storm is brewing

Suddenly: sun and rainbows!

Thick fog, only a cable's visibility ahead.
Yes, this is snow! Sailing still, about halfway to Svalbard
The sea colors were ever changing, just as the weather. Everything from storm blue speckled with gray, to saphire, to quicksilver or aluminum. I kept log and read Spitsbergen maps, guide books, and Amundsens diary - the latter being very effective in motivating me to deal with the cold (The cold? For those guys, -17C was a hot summer day!) To keep the cold away, I would do a bit of push-ups. Realised that I had bruises from the mast adventure. Wales were passing by and saying hi, sending fountains up the air. Suddenly the depth sounder jumped to 7,1 meter - must have been one passing right under us. A lot of curious birds were making us company too: Little Auks, Great Skuas, and other sea birds. Porpoises came to visit, too.

Despite the interchanging weather, sea, and fauna during the sailing, it was a real treat to see land again after almost a week at sea.

Land in sight! Southern Svalbard
The isles met us with Arctic sun and freezing temperatures.

But I could never imagine what would meet us upon arriving to land. Half a ton of muscle with long tusks. See next post -