We made it to Svalbard! There won’t be many photos this time. Why? Because really, nobody particularly fancied it. In fact, nobody fancied doing much of anything apart from sleeping and (only because it was necessary) watches. It has been a horrendous trip. 676 miles of cold and wet and waves. On board were four of us: Cap’n Haddock, D, J and me. Some (CH and D) tolerated it better than others (me = intolerable). J had the worse of it though, spending almost the entire trip camped out in her bunk. Somehow she still remained cheerful though! Even CH didn’t last the whole crossing – about 2/3rds of the way Gareth resurfaced to let us know that he intends to put Hal on a trailor to the Med as soon as this is all over. In fact, Hal probably faired the best of us all. One broken shelf, a small tear in (a non-vital part of) the genoa and a bit of water here and there, typically because we left a seacock open that we shouldn’t have. Her batteries don’t particularly like the cold weather so we ended up having to run the engine more than normal to recharge. Other than that, she kept plodding along through the swell, bouncing back and forth at all angles and the autohelm kept us on track much better than our fed-up, cold attempts at helming!
Before writing this I happened to read through our North Sea crossing and realise how much has (or hasn’t) changed.
1. The North Sea did not toughen me up….
2. Any deviation from our cross-track caused me immense pain. I spent many watches calculating how much extra time we would have to spend at sea because we’d deviated a few miles from our track, or set the track slightly off shore from Svalbard.
3. Customs is still fairly good entertainment – this time CH rang the customs office and they decided they were too busy to see us. We could take an outrageously expensive taxi across Tromso to discuss our plans, or we could email them. What information would they like? Absolutely no idea. So we used common sense and probably told them way more than they were interested. We haven’t heard back.
So what did we do: We started with a lovely day or two in Tromso with Captain senior (x2). They flew over with CH for the weekend and a bit of adventure (and to see us off). We all had lots of walks and great food and a few tourist excursions, such as the Arctic Cathedral.
After a frantic run around on the Monday getting food, fuel, gas, and other last-minute supplies we set off mid-afternoon for Svalbard. Or so we thought. In reality, we motored out of the islands surrounding Tromso and into gale force winds and massive swell. First though, here is us excited to be setting off:
And waving goodbye:
We did actually have a nice sail out of the islands. It was pretty windy in parts and at times all over the place but the water was calm and we were still excited to be setting off.
Here’s the view leaving Tromso:
We made our way out again into open ocean. It’s amazing how quickly one forgets a rough sea. And subsequently how quickly reminded of how tough it can be! We sailed about 20 miles out before turning back to find a sheltered anchorage for the night. A combination of factors, J and I not feeling great, hearing the word “gale” on the Norwegian forecast on the radio (and not understanding a word of the rest of it) and the emphasis that we were meant to be doing this for fun, and that wasn’t going to be fun… So, 20 miles off the outer coast of Norway, we turned back and a 4-hour journey out became a 2-hour journey back, racing down waves and playing the chaotic surf. Admittedly, that bit was fun… Here’s J taking us out towards Svalbard the first time, putting on a brave face thinking “what the hell have I signed up for?!”:
Unfortunately, despite heading pretty far back through the islands, we couldn’t escape the gale and spent the night at anchorage in a small bay with 40-50 knot gusts! Needless to say it wasn’t the best sleep and we rotated through anchor watches until around midday Tuesday.
Not to be disheartened but having seen the weather forecast we made the decision that Wednesday would be a better day to leave for Svalbard than Tuesday so we spent the day sailing up the coast to find an anchorage further north (and hopefully knock another 20 or so miles off the journey). Even this turned into an adventure as we couldn’t find a bay where the anchor would hold. We tried at least four bays with eight or nine anchoring attempts before we found somewhere that would hold. In reality though we just changed our approach and stopped trying so hard to drag the anchor off the bottom. Fortunately this worked and we accidentally switched the instruments off so if we had moved the anchor alarm wouldn’t have gone off anyway. We had a calm, quiet dinner and an excellent night’s sleep before setting off the next day back into the wild Barent’s Sea.