Spitsbergen 2013

An online log of Atlantis' travels and adventures to Svalbard

Light Airs and Graces

Posted by admin on June 1, 2013

We're loathe to write of nothing but onboard catering arrangements but meals do take on an importance of their own when passage making. Particularly when there are only two of us onboard, mealtimes provide an interlude from the solitude of keeping watch alone whilst the other sleeps.  So mention of the home-made bread, made to Fiona's recipe (which worked perfectly), cottage pie and hand-crafted beef burgers with all the trimmings are really just a vehicle to record the times of the day when we are both up and about.  We are working a 6 (hours), 6, 4, 4, 4 watch system starting at 0800hrs.  It allows each of us one good sleep each day and manageable night watches. Watch changes coincide appropriately with mealtimes (food again). The two six hour watches give time enough to achieve a chore or two and the odd number of daily watches means that each of us has two night watches only every other day.  We can hardly call them night watches now though, as the sun only just dips the horizon at 65ºN.  Cue more photos of sunset/sunrise - just one radiant continuum.

Ships passing in the night day

We are in good company, it seems.  On the AIS receiver, which advises us of other ships in the vicinity, we have seen Cunard's Queen Elizabeth leap-frog us northwards along the Norwegian coastline and, earlier, P&O's Aurora steamed gracefully past us on a reciprocal track.  We can only imagine how jealous their passengers must have been of the opulent style in which we are travelling - but we can all enjoy the same weather.

We are somewhat reluctant, having seen something of the dreadful 'spring' at home, to share news of the positively balmy spell we have enjoyed for the last day or two.  Daytime temperature in the almost unbroken sunshine has risen to 21ºC!  Shorts are on and sunscreen applied.  It all marks a rather pleasant interlude from the freezing conditions earlier in the trip.  The downside is the lack of wind.  The engine is on; chugging away gently at reduced revs to conserve fuel but pushing us slowly ever further north.  We are hunting wind and very fortunate to be able to receive prolific forecasting information over the Inmarsat Fleet Broadband terminal so generously lent to us by Andy's employer.  That said, anyone who thinks satellite comms are normally prohibitively expensive might wish to think again: it is cheaper to phone home on the satphone than to use GSM roaming from a mobile - if we had a GSM signal out here 100 miles from the Norwegian shore that is.  Plug over, but they deserve it - the connectivity it has provided has been superb and totally reliable in all conditions thus far. 

A recent weather map depicting wind over the Norwegian sea illustrates our problem:

Arrows show the direction of the wind: the number of barbs indicates the strength (one full barb per 10 knots of breeze, half a barb for 5 knots etc).  Where there are no arrows, where we are mid-way up the Norwegian coast for example, there is no wind!  The prospects are good, however, later in the weekend.  We are just glad we didn't take the north-west option when leaving Shetland having seen the wind strength approaching Iceland.

A longer blog than usual as the engine doesn't take much tending.  We are reluctant to set a precedent and there's some serious sailing to be done shortly!  Over the next few days we plan to put into northern Norway to replenish fuel and then its onward on the final leg of our passage to Svalbard.

And finally: 

Lest anyone fear we lack company on watch

West of Trondheim

Posted by admin on May 31, 2013

Position Report:

64º 10.2N  007º 07.1E - 75 miles WNW of Trondheim.  Slow progress in very light headwinds but all well on board.  Is it just me or does the sea appear to move in this photo?

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Norwegian Bound

Posted by admin on May 30, 2013

Anyone following the track of our first night out from Lerwick might have reason to be confused.  Winds from the north meant that, like dinghy racing, we spent the night tacking on the wind-shifts in order to maintain the best possible course towards our ultimate destination.  It was slow progress but inexorably we crept north and eventually left Muckle Flugga light in our wake.  

The weather forecast left [and still leaves] us with a problem.  Heading north-west might bring the prospect of more favourable and stronger south-westerly winds but only after some time and with further to travel; heading north-east towards Norway brings the possibility of headwinds.  Going due north is likely to lead us to a sustained patch of no wind at all.  To compound the challenge, some forecasts show the possibility of a weak circulation along the norwegian coast that may provide a beneficial lift along the coastline. All forecasts suggest the next few days' winds to be light and fickle. Having set out with an outline plan to opt for the north-western approach, following receipt of more recent short term detailed forecasts we have adjusted the plan subsequently to take the paying tack north-east.  So far, it seems to be working in our favour.  Earlier this evening we crossed the international boundary into norwegian waters and our neighbour Betsy's hand-crafted courtesy flag now flies at Atlantis' spreaders.

They say that eating fish fuels the brain; our weather routing decision-making may therefore have been sharpened by our menu since departure from Lerwick.  Richard Pattison's generous gift of prodigious quantities of freshly caught cod and a couple of large crabs have ensured a seafood theme to most meals.  Fresh crab sandwiches for lunch, eaten al fresco in the cockpit, have been a real treat.  For Tuesday's dinner, pan-fried cod has never tasted better but this has now become 'so passé': this evening, therefore, we tried our hands at fish pie to ring the changes.  We are privately rather proud of the result.  Light winds ahead for some time to come may make for slow progress but we are not going to starve!    


Serving suggestion.

Before ending this dog~watch blog, it is worth noting that we are soon to enter the realms of the midnight sun.  We are not quite there yet but the sky is never dark.  It begs an interesting question whether the red skied horizon is 'red sky at night' or 'red sky at morning'.  The colour simply tracks across the northern horizon as the night progresses.  All rather beautiful.

Midnight - looking north

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Posted by admin on May 28, 2013


Atlantis alongside in Lerwick

Another bonus of a stopover was the time it allowed to catch up with Richard Pattison; a previous military colleague but now skipper of the restored 1900 herring drifter 'Swan' now operated by a charitable trust and used for sail training.  Richard and Swan's boatswain Scott very kindly assisted us with local knowledge, support and a tour of Swan.  She is a lovely vessel and so immersed were we with the tour we overlooked the time; discovering only after arriving to eat at the local hotel that the kitchen had closed.  Ever ready to be flexible we opted for an even better alternative with a mongolian (ie self-cooked) fresh cod dinner drummed up in Swan's galley and eaten on board.  Thank you Richard and Scott for your help, hospitality.and assistance.


Apologies for the prolonged absence from reporting our progress to the interweb but there has not been a great deal of progress to report!  Late on Saturday night we tied up at Victoria Pier in the heart of the Lerwick in the Shetland Islands.  Our main reason for dropping in was to pick up a large kedge anchor that had been pre−ordered for us; so that we shall have the ability to set two anchors.  This has two advantages. When set fore and aft (front and back of the boat) it means that we can moor without needing the room to swing to the wind and tide in smaller channels and inlets once we get to Svalbard.  Having two anchors also gives confidence that if weather is poor we can better secure the boat or, in extremis, prevent being blown onto a lee shore.  

Sadly, the anchor had not yet arrived − mañana does not have a direct translation into the norse and gaelic derived local dialect; but it possibly should.  Having been reassured that the anchor could arrive by Saturday and would definitely by Monday we made best use of the time we had on our hands with maintenance chores and some local exploring.

Key amongst our achievements has been a full service of the main primary winches.  These operate at times under considerable loads; failure of either could be dangerous and, no less importantly, severely compromise our ability to set and trim sails.  Besides maintenance, we explored Lerwick's fascinating museum and enjoyed people~watching the various groups of quay walkers and other crews stopping by on journeys of their own.  We've been watched too and it is a sign of the times that the attendant of the dockside public conveniences had been watching our approach since rounding Sumburgh Head on Saturday night on his AIS terminal and therefore expecting our arrival!  I cannot think of another port in the world where initial tourist information is provided during one's first trip to the shoreside 'facilities'.

By Tuesday morning (28 May) it was apparent that the long awaited anchor was not going to materialise, so we opted for an alternative solution, topped up fuel and water and put to sea into an initially boisterous south-easterly breeze with a lumpy sea.   By evening the breeze had settled to a gentle but unhelpful northerly and we enjoyed our first night back at sea with a series of windshifts determining the direction of travel -none perfect.

Only in the Shetlands?

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West of Fair Isle

Posted by admin on May 25, 2013

As at 1000hrs we are at 59 34N 002 24.4W - 45 miles south-west of Sumburgh; the southern tip of Shetland.

Making good time in light winds and SUN! (albeit it doesn't seem to have any heat in it).

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