Day 5 Rees-Dart
We have just discovered that as we are not commercial traffic we will not be on marine traffic after we leave northern Norway (tomorrow) so the only way to follow us is on the mailasail link below, and even this may not work….let’s see! You can’t sign up for email updates as it’s a very basic service.
Today began wet and miserable, “endless days of rain with no night or day to break it up” says skipper Patrick. For some reason the alarm went off at 0640; I think a phone call had to be made at 07:30 to the antenna engineer. I decided to go and hide in the hut ashore and cook…meanwhile an antenna was duly fixed so we can hopefully make satellite calls for ice forecasts, and a call was made to the hot water heater engineer who didn’t show much enthusiasm to come and see us. I made enchiladas, a Moroccan chickpea and sweet potato stew with macaroni (extremely good as agreed by all of us this evening) and a lentil coconut soup. After that the boys went off in the car to reclaim tax and buy more bits and I waited in for the engineer. I checked all the medical kit and the grab bag (in case we have to evacuate we need a bag with food and water, survival suits and medical kit, flares and radar reflector on a stick) and then looked over the passage plan for leg one, 40 miles from Tromso to Torsvag. We plan to do this Wednesday morning as the tides look better then and we would prefer not to do a night passage at the start of the trip. We have been to Torsvag before with Lorna and that time we got a bucket full of cod fillets from the sport fishermen so we hope to get some more on Wednesday. Although I’m not sure how much room there is on board now I had done yet another massive shop!!
By the time the boys returned several hours later I was a bit fed up but as they bought some delicious pastries that cheered us all up. It was still raining and very cold!! Shortly after that another trip to reclaim tax and I went to the supermarket surely for the final time for ten days or so. On returning to the boat we fixed the auto helm and tidied up the mess we seem to generate each day. I did some labelling, little things please little minds and I do like my dymo….eventually I persuaded the boys that we should go for a walk as IT HAD STOPPED RAINING. At 7:45 pm we had a lovely walk up on the ridge above the marina and looked out to sea to check the buoys we will be rounding in a day or so. It was warmer finally and good to have some exercise. Back for a late dinner (lucky I’d prepared something earlier….) and some more lists and navigation before a midnight trip to the airport to pick up the final member of the leg one team, Lizzie. It’s going to be good to have someone else to help in the galley as we conform to gender stereotypes….nice and warm down below!!
We plan a four hour on and four hour off watch system with alternate changes every two hours, so we get some different company. It should be a couple of days from Torsvag to Bjornoya so we should be there by Saturday if we spend a night in Torsvag harbour.
Forecast for tomorrow 3 deg to 5 deg and not much rain, similar until Thursday when the temperature threatens to go up to 13 deg….but by then we will be out to sea and further north where it will probably stay cold…..
Lizzie has arrived and with her arrival the mood and the weather has improved. The most exciting part of her arrival was her luggage, containing many treats and five home made cakes (Lorna’s, Lizzie’s and Virginia’s!) so we won’t be short of treats. My job today was to run 4 km to the Maritim center to collect a special signed custom form, then run 5.5 km to the customs house for another stamp, back to the shop to collect some money (tax reclaimed) on the promise that we would be leaving Norway very imminently….job done and some exercise in the process so I was happy. Meanwhile Patrick climbed the mast to repair lights (failed) and we ticked a few more jobs off the list. After a fine lunch (cauliflower lentil soup) we filled up with diesel and we set off in Sea Fever for a short sail to town only half an hour away, but with the attraction of Cafe Bonna, an old favourite. Patrick is studying the wind as we plan to leave for Torsvag at 0600 tomorrow. The sun is shining and we have a splendid view across to Tromsdaltinden with its head stuck in the cloud. Memories of running, skiing and hiking during the past couple of years come to mind, and the friends we have shared those experiences with.
After a reasonable lie in we had breakfast on board and made a plan. More shopping in store, we went to collect the outboard engine which had been serviced and we purchased some flare guns. Then time for a nice coffee and cake in a new coffee shop before watching the locals at play…..racing individually as teams and dressed up they were very amusing as there was not much coordination. But everyone was having fun.
Shopping for dinner and then back to fight with the water heater (no success) and put on the mainsail (success eventually but everything had to be done three times as we always forget how lines are led!) whilst the weather was moderately ok. ie not raining! By the time that was finished it was time for a big shop (as if we didn’t have enough food…) and then some dinner and a discussion about where to mount the gun, and how to stow the food so we don’t forget where things are.
Lots of food stowage took place with more lists and special boxes of food for Kirsty (gluten free) who might struggle to eat all the special food we have provided. Then a relaxing afternoon with Norwegian friends Jan Magne and Karin and soon some dinner in the grillhutten, cooking as I write…..good to escape the jobs on board and the miserable rainy weather…..
Walking to the boat we disturbed the family of otters who enjoy using the pontoon as a sleeping area. On board shortly afterwards we found that SAS had clearly thrown our bags around, or dropped them from a large height, and all my plastic boxes were smashed into pieces. The large sealed gluten free 500 ml stock packet had disgorged its contents all over everything else. The cheese container was similarly smashed, so it was a bit of a mess. The water heater, which had been replaced in our absence, was leaking so the boys conformed to gender stereotypes and looked at that whilst I sorted the messy bag. Later (ie this morning!) we cracked open the wine boxes. As it’s daylight 24/7 now we had little idea of the time of day. But we all slept well as boats have small windows anyway so the light didn’t disturb us.
This morning we are reviewing the lists and shopping for parts. We are very much hoping to be ready for departure on Tuesday after Lizzie arrives at midnight Monday. Hopefully her flights with Norwegian will be more straightforward! We’re excited to be having an additional crew member for the sail to Svalbard which will probably take the best part of a week. We’re hoping that weather will permit a stop on Bjørnøya, but as it’s shrouded in fog 200 days of the year we’ll need to be lucky to see it. The Barents Sea can also be a bit windy so we will be picking our day and hoping to avoid storms.
Monday will be a final food shopping and cooking day….there are certain things we don’t want to run out of and gas and toilet roll are a couple of them!
Home made cake made it in one piece, and we have mastered using Lizzie’s camera to take photos too!
The first crew members have arrived here in Tromso a couple of hours earlier than intended. SAS cancelled our flight as we left home, resulting in the charts being left behind and high stress levels all the way round the M25. Thanks to assistance at home from Lizzie all three of us were reassigned to a flight two hours earlier which we all made by the skin of our teeth. Taking a gun with us was no easy matter, with customs to be cleared and the bag holding the ammo being completely unpacked in the airport…..we made our connection in the same way, having to clear customs and go through security again, but were delighted when the Tromso flight was delayed by 45 mins so Peter could buy some booze and we could snatch some pizzas. Arrived at Tromso to find that the car hire assistant had lived in Svalbard from the age of 1 to 13, so he was interested in our Winchester 0.375.
Lizzie has helped me to establish a blog that we should be able to update via the satellite phone, no promises but watch this site. We have managed to upload a position (lat and long, not too bad, puts us in the woods, but good enough for non sailing!) and a photo (suitably reduced in size) and a few words. The map bit should be easy to update as we just have to send our lat and long position and that won’t be a long email. Thanks Lizzie, who is now joining us for the first couple of weeks of the adventure to Svalbard, and bringing some techno wizardary to the team!
We seem to have been preparing for this journey to the high arctic for a long time, and hopefully all the work will put us in good stead. Peter Y has been looking at ice charts which appear to show the ice receding fast. Good for us if not for global warming. The problem will be drift ice which will come with the current around the bottom of Svalbard, and make the lower fjords less attractive on arrival. So we will probably want to head up to Longyearbyen on arrival where we have to register with the syssellman (governor) anyway. Above is a map of Svalbard, the main island is called Spitsbergen, a name many people are more familiar with. I have added the names of some of the fjords we will hope to visit. We will be sticking to the West coast as we only have a little over two weeks for exploration.
So what preparations? The boat is pretty well organised now, we have everything in its place and food for an average of 5 people for around a month on board. Medical kits and tools for all sorts of occasions, warm sleeping bags, waterproofs and cosy gloves, hats and boots are all needed as well as all the safety and life jackets and life raft equipment necessary on a small boat. The temperatures should not go below zero in the summer but it will be chilly especially if there is fog or wind. Actually once we get there we may well have light winds. The journey there across the notorious Barents Sea is another matter! On the way out we are rather light on crew (3 of us) so I’m really hoping for some good weather around June 11th/12th.
Why go? I guess that it’s one of the last accessible wildernesses and with a boat already in Norway it seemed a good challenge. The wildlife should be amazing, polar bears, arctic fox, walrus, many birds, and geology and geography aplenty. Glaciers, ice and as unspoilt as it gets. In between the cruise ships which we will try to avoid. We must take a gun and so have had lessons and purchased a weapon to take with us for polar bear protection. Let’s hope we don’t need it. But everyone carries one when outside the main town of Longyearbyen. We went to Shropshire for some practice and we know who will be carrying the gun. It’s not me!
Just a few miles from Tromso across an impressive bridge is the mountainous island of Kvaløya which we sailed to last year for a couple of enjoyable ski days at the end of May. This year conditions were quite different and the snow level very much higher. After a day of boat business we took a drive over in our “rentawreck” car with dubious brakes and a squeaky gear box for a lovely drive around the coast to the small town of Tromsvik (school but no shop) and onto the rough road to the tiny village of Narvik. Here we saw ptarmigan and fabulous views. It was a very wild and windy place and I couldn’t imagine living here in summer with long days, let alone winter with long nights, but stunningly beautiful and so close to Tromso.
This picture is from Ersfjordbotn at the end of a long fjord out to sea.