June 20, 2012

Finaly on our way on Leg 1: Longyearbyen to Iceland via Jan Mayen

We are making long tacks sailing out of a wintery white Isfjord... Finally on our way to the North West Passage. A long lived dream of sailing to the Pacific by way of the northern route. Living on Svalbard there is so much history related to the times when Barentsz and Franklin found their deaths trying to find a northern route to the Orient.

Petter looks at me rather pityingly and I can see a little smile on his face. Finally on our way, also for him. This is his first long crossing and now we are on our way out of the fjord. When I raise my eyebrows he spontaneously tells me, I can see you change with every mile we make. The last busy weeks in Longyearbyen were rather straineous and my shoulders were hanging down a little the last days in town. But now with the open water ahead of us life looks a lot brighter . We make a tack into Gr√łnfjord to redo the reefing lines and to tie a small rope around the staysail halyard. The swivel of the roller reefing was not turning very well and needed some “help”.

We are very lucky with the weather. 35 knots from the northwest and we are doing 8 knots towards Jan Mayen. There are days of more than 200nm. The back side of it is that this wind comes directly from the Greenland icecap. So inside it is only 2 degrees Celcius. Coocking with gloves and a with thick woollen head up into your bunk. Petter has the time of his life though. Three weeks ago we had not heard of each other and it turns out we have lots in common. I wish it was always like this…..

Petter read somewhere that Jan Mayen can be seen at 100 nm in fair weather. When we spot a small cloud in the south he is sure we are looking at the Beerenberg. Now I saw the lower parts of the volcano on an earlier trip but a perfect conical volcano in winter dress… I can not see it in that cloud ahead. Petter turns out to be right. The cloud is still there when I come on watch for my next watch. While we are doing 7 knots in a nice Westerly breeze. Our approach could not be more spactacular, with the warm light of the midnight sun on the snow of the volcano and our sails. Even the breast of the Fulmars are colored read by the low sun.

We anchor of a black lava beach where the white swells run up high. How we should be able to do a landing tomorrow morning, we do not know. But after a double ankerdram ( a good whisky to celebrate the arrival) we decide we will find out tomorrow….. After a good sleep we do some small jobs on board and then call the “weather” station. No more than 20 work and live on this remote outpost. If we would like to come 7 miles to the south there would be a better landing place. And if we take some clean clothes we can have a shower before diner. Today with a Cognac since there is a birthday to celebrate.

The station leader would like to take us on a tour to Walrus bay on the western side of the island. The place where the Dutch whalers had their station. Zeven died in one winter, in the same year the same happened on Smeerenburg, Spitsbergen. The same way Barentsz and his lot must have struggled to get through their winter in Nova Zembla. The zeven were reburied since their last resting place was almost taken by the waves and swell of the winter storms. We find a stone to commemorate their ordeal. When Petter shields of the light we can make out some of the text.

Light winds on our way to Iceland. With the flat sea we can keep the boat sailing along nicely. Petter is fascinated by the Windpilot and when he realises that the vane is the sensor and the pendulum the “electric motor” he decides to get one for his own boat. I now have to clear out minimal one of the many crates per watch so to arrive organized in Reykjavik.

The sun is getting closer to the horizon now. Every “night” a little fuller and more red. And now at 67 and a bit north he disappears half into the sea. Hangs there for almost an hour before it seems to decide not to set and come up again.