Andy & Mia

“Polar Bear! POLAR Bear! POLAR BEAR!”

18 Jun

  Polar bear tracks, a few days old. The bear we spotted on the hill to the left most certainly laid these tracks when seal hunting.

Polar bear tracks, a few days old. The bear we spotted on the hill to the left most certainly laid these tracks when seal hunting.

Once around Treskelodden, the seas flattened out completely and the scenery changed from steep dramatic peaks to a flatter, more open area separated from the main fjord by the long low peninsula of Treskelodden. It was perfectly protected. The aim was Selbukta – we hardened the sheets again and were able to shoot up the channel and towards the foot of another glacier where we’d anchor for the night. One tack onto starboard after rolling ...

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Isbjorn Sailing & Dancing with the Ice in Spitsbergen

18 Jun

Isbjorn dances with the icebergs in Hornsund, Spitsbergen.

The weather held as we ambled back to the dinghy and made our way back to the boat. Knowing how quickly it can change here, we hauled up the anchor and continued deeper into Hornsund, to see what we could see, while we could still see. The sun shined on every corner of the land, shadows casted by friendly cumulus lent some depth to the otherwise white, blue and black icy landscape. There was enough breeze from the north, 10-12 knots or so, that we quickly hoisted sailed and aimed the bow ...

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Isbjorn & Crew Amongst the Glaciers in Horsund, 77º North

18 Jun

Isbjorn & crew amongst the glaciers in Hornsund.

Our first night at anchor in Spitsbergen was spent right on the edge – had we had a westerly or northerly wind, it would have been untenable. But with the light easterly that blew cold air off the glacier, the anchorage was safe.

The crew spent the night on anchor watch. We stuck to the same rotation schedule we’d kept offshore. Except this time we only needed one person up in the cockpit at a time, so the 4-hour watches were split into 2-hour shifts. In reality, these anchor watches were spent ...

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Landfall in SPITSBERGEN!

17 Jun

  Anchor down at 77º North! We made it to SPITSBERGEN!

Anchor down at 77º North! We made it to SPITSBERGEN!

The passage I’d feared the most, turned into one of the best. With a good omen in Finnkroken in the group of eagle feathers Mia found on the beach, we departed in the midnight sun in the middle of the night, racing the developing low off Greenland to the north. In the end, we beat it, and had incredible wind angles, if not perfect weather (relatively speaking – it snowed a lot of the time, was overcast for much of it, but we had no real ‘storms’ and great angles, ...

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Omens & Offshore Sailing

16 Jun

  Midnight sun as we sailed close by Bjornoya en route to Svalbard.

Midnight sun as we sailed close by Bjornoya en route to Svalbard.

“Maybe it’s the eagle feathers?”

James mentioned that to me while I was congratulating myself on the incredible weather window we got on leaving Tromso. That aforementioned low, which was forecast to form off east Greenland, did precisely what the GRIBs said it would do and gave us near-perfect wind angles for the duration of the passage to Spitsbergen. 

I’ve been terrified of this trip. Genuinely scared. It’s the unknown up here, it’s cold wet and foggy, and the Arctic’s reputation as being a gnarly place is obviously ...

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To the North! Crossing 73º North Latitude

16 Jun

  0100 Departure from Mainland Norway towards SPITSBERGEN!

0100 Departure from Mainland Norway towards SPITSBERGEN!

Isbjörn JUST crossed the 200-mile mark since leaving our snug anchorage at Finnkroken, and in another three miles – by the time I finish typing – we’ll be across 73º north latitude. The weather is gorgeous outside. A low, dispersed ceiling of silver-blue clouds allows the sun to shine through now and then, blanketing the boat with warm (relatively) and dry air. Jordan and Patty have nearly fully recovered from their bout of mal-de-mer that beset them to their bunks fairly quickly once we got offshore proper and outside the protection of the ...

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Departure & Into the High Arctic

7 Jun

  Isbjorn on anchor as we readied for departure towards Svalbard.

Isbjorn on anchor as we readied for departure towards Svalbard.

The weather for the past week is the coldest it’s been – by far – since we crossed the Arctic Circle. High’s in Tromsø during our short stopover never got above 5ºC (41ºF), and only for a short period in the afternoon. The fact that the sun hasn’t set since May 26 gives the environment a warmer ‘feeling’, at least mentally, but it’s cold. It snowed in town, on and off for the past few days, and above about 200 meters in the surrounding mountains, a fresh coat of white ...

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Isbjorn Inland // Relaxing Exploration in Arctic Norway’s Inner Fjords

2 Jun

  Motorboatin' in the inner sounds gave us a chance to play with the camera exposure. Photo by  James Austrums .

Motorboatin’ in the inner sounds gave us a chance to play with the camera exposure. Photo by James Austrums.

After our stressful night in Reine, the wind had eased off enough to let us get off the dock around 0900 the next morning. I had only gotten about 4 very fitful hours of sleep, but knew I could relax and nap once in open water. The gusts in the valleys were still touching 35 knots, but the lulls between them were longer and came more often. We removed all the extra dock lines we’d added prior, then made our ...

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Arctic Weather in Reine, Lofoten

30 May

Trust me, this was way sketchier than it looks in the video! That breakwater isn’t far off Isbjorn’s bow…

“In the high latitudes, you’ll have a long stretch with no wind, and you kind of feel comfortable with it. But you really have to keep the ship in shape all the time and be prepared for the weather, and never let your guard down. And it’s so easy to let your guard down.”

-Maik Brotzmann, from Tuesday’s ‘On the Wind’ podcast episode.

I’ll say I’m pretty relaxed being at sea again after the other night, which was a reminder that ...

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Isbjorn’s First Days in the Arctic // Exploring Lofoten

29 May

  Isbjorn in Henningsvær, our first Lofoten village.

Isbjorn in Henningsvær, our first Lofoten village.

Isbjorn is at sea. Long passage today in rainy, blustery conditions from Reine towards Lødingen at the head of the Vestfjord and the northern end of the Lofoten islands. We need to make some miles towards Tromsø now after bouncing around Lofoten for the past few days. 

18 Hours in Bodø

  James, our ships photographer, caught us coming into Bodø, where he joined Isbjorn.

James, our ships photographer, caught us coming into Bodø, where he joined Isbjorn.

We’ve had pretty good luck with the weather so far – our sailing days have been windy and gnarly, with rain and wet and cold. But then our time ...

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