16th Jun. We have recently weighed anchor from deep in the St Jonsfjorden - a sizeable fjord culminating in a most impressive glacier. Taking Atlantis into uncharted water recently uncovered by the retreating glacier face was an exciting and somewhat nerve-wracking experience; complicated further by the need to dodge floating ice that had recently carved from the glacier face. You really cannot appreciate the scale of the scenery here until close up and personal. From a distance the glacier looked impressive enough. At its face one begins to appreciate the size of the ice cliff which, in this case we estimate to be well over 100 feet. To give some idea of scale, the white blocks floating at the base on the right of the photo are about the height of a man.
Now, to recap a little and make up for the paucity of words published since we left Longyearbyen. Pictures from previous posts provide the illustrations. After an initial day spent in the Isfjord we visited a small bay named Borebukta to witness the close floating ice still there after the winter, then it was a short sail into Trygghamna a small fjord at the mouth of the main Isfjord. The following day, in a near perfect anchorage close to the end of the fjord we inflated the dinghy and set off for our first foray ashore. On the beach, signs of Arctic fox and a close up view of a smaller glacier. Back on board another night at the same anchorage before a morning departure back into the open sea. On route we idled near the mouth of Trygghamna to view a pair of snoozing walrus lying on the beach, the monumental bird cliff roost overlooking the beach and the remnants of whaling camps established on the headland.
At sea again, it was a hard beat north along the coast to a sheltered anchorage at the northern end of a bay known as Eidembukta - you'll have detected by now that bukta = bay. Here the first blow to morale was the discovery that our trusty heater had taken a gopher (wave) into its exhaust pipe and, as most of us would in similar circumstances, was now refusing to soldier. An uncomfortable couple of hours in the cramped lazarette at the back of the boat with the heater failed to elicit a repair. As mentioned before, this is a blow to morale but not catastrophic. After an otherwise comfortable night tucked in behind a small group of skerries (rocks), it was time to move on again.
First stop was the low Poolepynten headland pictured in a previous blog. It is home to a resident group of walrus who seem to relish playing lazily to the cameras. The weather, still blustery, precluded a planned longer stop and we headed east into the five mile long St Jonsfjorden. After viewing the glacier face it was time to find an anchorage which we achieved in a sheltered spot only metres from a grey shingle beach.
A further setback was the discovery that a seal in the engine gearbox seems to have blown (there's a joke that's very similar, but it's not suitable for a family blog) and be leaking significant quantities of oil into the bilge. This could be more serious but not yet. One to watch and in the meantime we shall keep topping up with as much as we lose. A repair, here, is impractical and we shall press on regardless. Atlantis is, after all, a sailing boat!
16 June. After our coldest night so far (-3ºC) in the cabin, we weighed anchor, exited the fjord spying as we did so, a couple of reindeer grazing high on the slopes above us. As I type, we are heading for the northern end of the Forlandsundet (Forland Strait) and plan to overnight at Svalbard's most northerly and remote settlement at Ny Alesund.
Our lack of recent blogs reflects not just the ever changing distractions we are privileged to experience here, or the fatigue of two days plugging to windward in strong winds and freezing seas, but also the difficulty we now have getting a satellite signal which disappears altogether when we are in fjords. In open water, the signal is weak, slow and unable to multi-task - rather like us as a crew really, as the temperature and conditions become ever harsher.
Really enjoying your posts
Feel (ever so slightly, and from the comfort ove +30c ) we are sharing the experience