Spitsbergen 2013

An online log of Atlantis' travels and adventures to Svalbard


Posted by admin on July 19, 2013

After leaving the Arctic Circle we made steady but slow progress along the inner channels that separate a myriad of small islands and skerries (rocky patches) along the north Norwegian coastline.  In many places the main channel narrows to only a few hundred metres; in some, to a mere few hundred feet. And yet, this is a busy motorway for the shipping traffic plying its trade along Norway's coastline. Most regular and recognisable are the Hurtigruten ferries whose twice daily schedule north and south is the equivalent of a long distance bus service. 

Other passing ships of all shapes and sizes kept us on our toes, as did the complex and constant route finding challenges. Nevertheless the tidal current, which never seemed to turn in our favour, meant we had plenty of time to admire the extraordinary scenery too.  If we had witnessed it on our way north we would likely to have been more fulsome - and attentive with our cameras.  That we were comparing it with the even more impressive and imposing geography of Svalbard has perhaps left us a tad blasé?  The continuing persistent drizzle and consistent low visibility hasn't helped either.  In contrast to the UK's heatwave, locals are rueing one of the worst summers in recent years. The last time we remember savouring sunlight of any real strength was in Magdalene Fjord at 79º North on Midsummer's Day.

Even Vikings need rescuing occasionally

At 2300hrs on Wednesday night we reached Rørvik.  It is a small town but with a good range of services within easy reach.  With a ten day non-stop passage to UK ahead of us, we stopped for fuel, water, gas, some fresh food and other last minute preparations. It also provided an opportunity to visit the town's interesting post-modernist waterfront 'Norwegs' museum.  In truth, it isn't really a museum - more an imaginative diorama of Norwegian heritage and origins.  Inside, it is well done and we are glad we stopped by. Outside, the architecture is apparently prize-winning - in the rain its predominantly concrete block structure was not so flattering although it's probably an acquired taste.  The picture below taken in better weather is not ours.    

At midnight on Thursday (18th July) we have set off once more. Our route now takes us along the southern Norwegian coast and into the North Sea where we hope we may RV with some of the warmth that UK has been enjoying (enduring?) recently. The downside is that we may then run out of wind.  Nevertheless, in ten days or so we hope to be in the English Channel.

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Crossing the Line

Posted by admin on July 16, 2013

Just before 8pm this evening, Atlantis crossed the Arctic Circle - heading south.  To be honest, on the way north over a month ago we had rather overlooked the milestone as we were well out to sea at the time. This time, now homeward bound, we have taken the inside channels of the Norwegian coastline in order to avoid the bad weather we spoke of in an earlier blog.  The prominent Arctic Circle monument marking the line, and our return from Arctic waters, was impossible to miss.

We'll be making inshore progress south for a couple of days - in spectacular scenery and flat waters.  The downside is the impact on our diesel consumption.  The alternative, however, would have been to stay put somewhere for a while, and set back our southbound progress, or to have attempted to sail into gale force southerlies which would have achieved little and possibly caused unnecessary damage to boat or crew.

The calm waters and use of the engine have permitted time for a little sail maintenance:

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Svolvaer II

Posted by admin on July 15, 2013

At 2300hrs on Saturday night we rounded Anda Light marking entry into the northern fjords of the Lofoten Islands.  We have made good time although it has been a 'robust' passage with blustery winds and rough water most of the way.  The smooth waters of the fjord were a welcome respite.  By 1200hrs on Sunday we had motor sailed through the Raftsund and arrived safely back in Svolvaer.  Atlantis and her crew have stood up well through the rough and tumble of the crossing and remain in good shape.

Regular readers will remember the disappointment of our earlier arrival here when one of the world's most spectacular mountain vistas was masked by mist and our entire stay coincided with persistent rain and dismal weather.  Well ..... plus ça change! We would have posted a photo but it would be so similar to the dreak images of our last stay there seemed little point in expending the bandwidth.

We are not stopping for long.  We have already refuelled, filled water tanks and fixed a few minor electrical instrument gremlins that had evolved over the last few weeks.  As previously described, the weather for the next phase of our journey is unhelpful, but we do have a short 24(ish) hour window on Monday night when we might be able to make some progress to the south before being confronted by strong southwesterly winds later in the week.  We intend to take it and will leave on Monday evening and make best time south before once again heading inland very early on Wednesday morning.  From then, if the forecast remains unchanged, we face 48 hours of unfavourable winds (and persistent rain!) and may try to thread our way through the inshore passages and fjords that punctuate the north Norwegian coastline. 

On a more positive note, at this range, the forecast from next Sunday looks altogether more promising.  We certainly hope so.

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Position Report

Posted by admin on July 12, 2013

As at 2230 hrs on Friday we are at 70º 41.4N 013º 43.3E.  We have made good progress south from Svalbard and Atlantis has been a trooper soldiering on through some big swells at pace.  We are now just over a hundred miles from the northerly shores of the Lofoten Islands and well within the official Inmarsat satellite coverage footprint again - although, in truth, we never found its most northerly extreme! It now looks as though the weather is going to make us work for every mile.  The wind has switched to a more southerly direction so progress in the direction we need to go is slowed by the need to tack (zigzag) whilst sailling as close to the wind as we can. A few days ago, with the wind up our 'chuff', we were covering 100 miles in 15 hours.  It is likely to take us 24 or more to reach the coast. 

Whilst UK, we understand, is preparing for more heatwaves, the forecast for the next week or so here looks rather more bleak and not at all helpful. Strong near gale conditions from the south and southwest along the whole of the north Norwegian coastline are being induced by a series of low pressure areas rolling north along the coast. Things may change for the better as the forecast develops nearer the time but, if this is the case, we may end up holed up for a while.  It may also force us into taking some of the inshore leads that run along the coast south of Bodo to creep southwards despite the offshore conditions.  The bonus is that it will provided more diverse material to report on the blog.  We'll keep you posted. 

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Position Report

Posted by admin on July 11, 2013

As at 0600hrs 11/7/13 Atlantis is at 74º 04'N 014º 10.5E.  We've made good time since leaving Svalbard but it has been a rolly old ride.  Soon after leaving the Isfjord and turning south, the northwesterly wind rose and has been in the region of 30 knots ever since with much stronger gusts.  After changing down headsails and dropping to the first and then second reefs in the mainsail, we are now battened down snugly and reaching under working jib alone and averaging between 5 and 6 knots boatspeed in the right direction in a predominantly following big sea.  All well on board.   

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