June 18, 2018
When we have wind, we’re making the miles. It’s 1100 on Wednesday July 18 as I write. Mia’s on watch. James just woke up and is in his bunk on the port (high) side, editing photos on his laptop. Jordan just woke up. Isbjorn is enveloped in thick fog. I’m at the nav station with one eye on the radar. We’re under full sail, the big genoa pulling in a ten-knot southeasterly and utterly flat calm sea.
I slept through the night, not waking up until 1000 this morning. The wind filled in after dinner and it’s ... Read More
It’s official – 59 North Sailing is now a two-boat operation! Starting in February, 2019, ICE BEAR (ex THINDRA), a German Frers-designed Swan 59, will be making offshore passages with Mia & I on the helm! Yep, you heard right – a 59-footer for 59 North ;)
I’m hoping that this news is received with both surprise and support – adding a second boat to our passage program is a huge leap of faith, but something that we feel is almost inevitable as we build upon the success of our first four years with ISBJORN, our beloved Swan 48. ... Read More
Note: Dan is Isbjorn’s oldest and most loyal crew. He was aboard for our first-ever passage to Lunenburg in 2015, and has sailed with us many times since. He was one of the first to hear the news about the new boat, and had a lot of questions for us! I’ve published our answers here:
... Read More
- How will you break it to Mia ;)
- You just refit Isbjorn. Why the new boat? What are your plans for Isbjorn?
You know me, always up for a challenge! The main reason is from the success of this summer and
We got ashore around 7 pm and tied up the dinghy to a giant whalebone on the stony beach, keeping her offshore with a stern anchor and starting up the steep slope to the hill just west ofIsbjorn’s anchorage. Large polar bear tracks led west in the snow across the little saddle towards the archipelago on the other side. We made the ridge in a few minutes and walked further south for a view over the alpine lake, which feeds a little waterfall that plunges down towards the anchorage. The lake, on July 1, was frozen solid and covered in ... Read More
We’re back in Holmiabukta, my favorite anchorage in Spitsbergen so far, in the island’s NW Corner as it’s known in the local parlance. Mia is trying to figure out the labeling on the water tanks – we all showered yesterday and didn’t run the watermaker in the silty water, so all but one of the tanks (plus the bladder tank) is empty. The labels got screwed up when we re-did the plumbing, so it’s a matter of trial and error now finding the full tank.
We left Texas Bar at midnight on Saturday morning, knowing there’d be a westerly wind ... Read More
(Cont. from part 8) Four hours later, we moved the boat out of Hornbaekpollen and into the beautiful half-moon bay at Texas Bar. Turns out, the place is just a hut, and a tiny one at that, with a huge TEXAS BAR written on the front of it in wooden driftwood, nailed to the walls. An old ship’s hatch sits out front with a couple of makeshift driftwood benches. The hut blends right into the grey scenery – it’s a very basic four-walled structured covered in tar paper to keep it watertight and with a stainless steel chimney sticking out ... Read More
0200. James just went on watch to relieve Brady. We’re ten miles out of Texas Bar, on the way back towards Longyearbyen after exploring as far north and east as we’ll get on this little adventure. The west wind is being kind to us so far – Isbjorn is sailing 7 knots on a close reach, getting lifted out of the fjord. Which means we’ll be headed offshore, but the forecast is saying 10-12 knots, so that’s okay. Much more than that though and it’ll be uncomfortable.
Texas Bar was a bit of a Shangri La for the Isbjorn & ... Read More
Beluga’s! There were several dozen all around the boat. James got this from the drone.
“Man we’ve seen EVERYTHING today! Walrus, polar bears, the Virgohamna site. All we need now is a whale.”
Not 30 seconds after Brady said that in the cockpit as he drove Isbjorn north along the coast and towards our current anchorage at Holmiabukta, we spotted a spout off to starboard. Then another. And another.
“I thought it was ice on the water at first,” Brady said. “Then I saw the spouts and saw it was swimming, and just shouted BELUGA!”
We’d sailed right into an ... Read More
The 3 Isbjorns! – The boat in the background, with mama bear and baby bear dining on old whale blubber. We were in the dinghy, shooting with long lenses.
Mia had been very excited to get to Virgohamna. “Just getting to Svalbard felt like something that would never actually happen,” she confided in me. “And now, getting here, this far north (at 79º 38’ north), to this place I’ve read so much about, and with so much connection to Sweden, it’s just surreal.”
Her, James and I hiked up the steep slope overlooking the site for a birds-eye view of ... Read More
Ruins of petrol tanks from the Wellman expeditions.
The harbor is named after the ship ‘Virgo,’ which anchored off the desolate stony beach in the late 1800’s with supplies for the Swedish explorer Andree’s planned ballon expedition to the North Pole. We dropped anchor surely closer to shore than ‘Virgo’ did back then, anchoring in about 30-feet of water a few hundred feet off the beach. The scenery here is different than the west coast – small, but tall, islands, littered with black volcanic scree on they’re steep slopes. It’s rugged terrain, mostly black, yet surprisingly green in places where ... Read More