Svalbard arrival

Sun 17 Jun 2018 17:36

Svalbard arrival

Saturday/Sunday 16th/17th June

0230 and we are approaching Longyearbyen under sail with no power, no engine but plenty of food. It’s been another long day and night and day again, and even more dramatic (eventful/stressful/epic/terrifying depending on your point of view) than a the last ones. It’s hard to remember the order of events. I’ll try with Lizzie’s help (editing happening the following morning (evening?))

We reached Svalbard after a speedy crossing of the Barents Sea on Saturday afternoon and planned to anchor in Hornsund. Dramatic scenery in monochrome mountains and sea awaited us after a long hard sail, not quite as hard as Friday night but consistently demanding and lots of speed records. It was good to see land but the excitement may have been premature - 12 hours after almost arriving we are still hard at it! Highlights of the day include:


Virginia won the speed record at 13.4 knots surfing down a wave.
Lizzie really enjoyed the surfing, and reached 12.4 knots
Patrick later claimed Virginia’s victory, as his 13 knots was in flat water in Bellsund.


Patrick and Virginia saw a whale “as long as the boat” pass us like a juggernaut close enough to see a giant eye.
Dolphins disappeared.
Sun disappeared.
Plenty of small guillemots, puffins, eider ducks and wonderful displays of fulmars around the boat.

But the main event of the day came when we were finally turning into our intended destination, Bellsund, in the early afternoon. After 48 hours of sailing with no need for engine, we realised we had no engine. Peter methodically went through every possible method to diagnose and fix the problem while the rest of us panicked (some more visibly than others.) He succeeded in accurately predicting that we would soon lose all power. Virginia was grumpy whilst Lizzie was incredibly positive given the experience. Patrick and Peter were serious, focused and discussed options. Limited.

We started what we thought would be a 50 mile sail to Longyearbyen, but turned into 90 miles. Distances seem to increase when you’re not heading due north with the wind behind you. We lost power at 2300. Fortunately the crew were (mostly) old enough to be happy using manual charts and dead reckoning, and we had wind and daylight.

During the emergency response, nobody slept except Lizzie - hoping that Jaffa cakes and banana bread would do the job. She rustled up a meal in the early evening to keep us going, a delicious mixture of quick cook macaroni, cannellini beans and carbonara pasta sauce with green beans and herbs. We did have one tricky moment when the wind died completely outside Barentsburg and called for assistance, but luckily it filled in and we continued our beat into Longyearbyen. Despite this and immense tiredness, the crew enjoyed amazing views of black mountains, white snow, and multicoloured (grey) clouds. The sun tried to come out but didn’t quite make it.

After a few phone calls with the Sysselman and emergency response, we managed to sail almost all the way in, and were helped along the final part by a friendly pilot boat who strapped us to his starboard side and planted us gently onto the welcoming jetty. Arrived at 0640, 96 hours after leaving Tromso. Land feels a bit wobbly, but we’re quite glad to be on it. Simple pleasures such as a shower and a cup of tea sitting down in a cosy cabin are welcome, and I think we are still glad to be in our boat and not the giant cruise liners that visit. Possibly. Sunday has been spent sleeping and recovering, we might make it 20 mins to town. And a pub.

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