Leg 3-2007, Update 1
July 19, 2007, 0130 hrs, 76.58 N, 13.28 E, Log: 109,796 miles
Broadreaching at 7.8 kts in 27-32 kt NNW winds, 6′-8′ seas
Baro: 1002.8, Cabin Temp: 61F, cockpit 44
Headed South to Norway!
Repairs between Legs 2 & 3 kept us busy. Fixing the mainsail batten pockets took a day for us both and recaulking some deck seams besides normal maintenance items took another few days. A treat was being able to take MT to a couple of isolated anchorages where we enjoyed fabulous hikes and exploring.
Torn batten pocket
Batten pocket repair
A week later we were able to come alongside the single busy float in Longyearbyen to wash down, fill tanks and totally charge the batteries while also dashing into town for a final provision at the only grocery store in Spitsbergen, www.svaldbardbutikken.no.
Shortly after our Leg 3 joined us, Wednesday noon on July 11, we set sail for Ymerbukta, at the entrance to Isfjord, 23 miles W of Longyearbyen. We were looking forward to fossil searching along the river bed ashore, but no sooner had we anchored when a Sysselmannen patrol boat approached from the next bay, putting a hold on our fossil hunt in lieu of being polite. Tor and Ivar joined us for dinner and we enjoyed
Sysslemann Tor and Ivar
hearing their tales of adventure. There had been 50 applicants for each position, and Tor, a biologist, had volunteered for remote duty on Bear Island the previous summer, solely to better his chance at being selected to work in Spitsbergen. They had found a couple of rusty and leaky 55 gallon fuel drums abandoned on the ridge above the anchorage and were on their way to transfer the fuel into a studier drum so the helicopter could remove them.
Early Thursday morning we sailed north, stopping for lunch at Poolepunten Point on Prins Karls Forland. Friends on the Apogee 50 Joyant had anchored here the night before advising us of several walrus on the beach. Even before we reached the somewhat tenuous and partially exposed
Walrus at Poolepunten Point
anchorage we could see (and smell!) the 2000lb behemoths. We anchored in rather choppy conditions and dinghyed ashore to hike up the beach to the point where they snuggled together. We were careful not to disturb them as we admired the incredible view, eight giant walrus on the beach, two cavorting in the water, and spectacular glaciers and mountains in the background.
Thirty miles and a few hours later we anchored at Engelsbukta which proved well protected from the 15-20 kt northerly winds we had experienced all day. We sighted reindeer ashore, and when we landed and hiked the hill they seemed fearless and curious, galloping past us, stopping, coyly looking at us while pretending to be grazing, then running back. It got rather sad to watch one poor reindeer get hassled by a couple of nesting birds which chased it for a good mile.
Reindeer being chased by birds
We had planned on stopping at Magdalene Fjord the following day, but with continued clear and calmer conditions we pushed on for a total of 68 miles to Sallyhamna one of our favorite anchorages.
Saturday morning, July 14, we got our normal 0600 start, planning on sailing to the edge of the pack ice, which according to the Navtex ice report was unusually close, just 30 miles NW. We had heard from a Dutch boat that they had spotted several seals and a polar bear along the ice edge, so as that was an added incentive, besides just seeing the edge of the ice pack that extends to the North Pole and beyond.
As we left Sallyhamna on the course we had plotted the night before, Amanda turned and admired the dramatic Drottenfjellet Fjord and glacier just south of Sallyhamna. The sun was shining on the glacier, Stefan was standing watch on the mast pulpit, Chuck was on the helm. I said, “We’re not in a hurry, let’s duck in there and have a look!” I had a look at the chart, noting two rocks awash, one which I could see further
Stefan keeps watch approaching Svitjodbreen glacier
in the bay, and a closer one which was not showing in the nearly-high tide. I knew the chart was not accurate for GPS positions from many previous plots at anchor showing us ashore. We motored slowly in, got some pictures, then Chuck steered us out of the bay and back toward our original course. I assumed we had passed the rock awash that we hadn’t seen and at 0641 left the chart in the cockpit, taking the bucket and brush to the foredeck to clean the sand and bits of kelp that came up with the chain.
I was leaning over the bow to scoop up a bucket of water when there was a sudden thud and instantly I was flying from the bow, doing a loop and landing feet first in the 34 degree water. I held the bucket, swimming aft along the hull to where crew tossed the Lifesling down, towing me back to the swim step. As I climbed up the stern, blood spurted over my jacket and the teak decks. “Your chin is badly cut!” said Amanda. I grabbed the cockpit cleaning towel, applied pressure to try and stop the blood and quickly assessed the situation. We had obviously found the rock awash, and fairly close to high tide! Amanda quickly tried backing off with full reverse power, but from the angle that the bow was pointing up in the air, it was obvious our 5-6 kts of momentum had carried us well up the rock.
In a couple minutes we had the dinghy launched, motor mounted, second bow anchor (44lb. Delta with 50′ of chain) in the dinghy. Peter and I motored the dinghy to MT’s transom where crew passed us an end of the 180′ nylon rode which he shackled to the chain and they paid out. In a couple minutes we had it set directly astern and led to the primary sheet winch. Even with a large pull and reverse power MT wasn’t budging. I had a quick hot shower below, got into some dry clothes, grabbed a hot chocolate and went to work rigging our third anchor, a 40 lb West Marine Performance 2, to the spinnaker halyard and setting it abeam in deeper water. Our crew scooted out to the end of the boom which was secured with the preventer and heeled MT over. With MT starting to heel considerably there was no movement from the rock. As the tide continued falling, Peter and later Amanda put on a dive mask, hung over the side of the dinghy and reported that the rudder was clear, but the keel was totally aground, with shallower water to port.
Setting the stern anchor
Crew scrambling to get MT off the rock
We called our friends on Joyant whose sail was still barely visible as they were also sailing to the edge of the ice pack. Amanda let them know our situation and they offered to turn around and stand by if we needed any help. We declined, but told them we would let them know how we progressed.
Stefan, a emergency room physician, offered to take a look at my bloody chin. I lay down on the cabin sole lifted the sodden, bloody towel off to Amanda’s gasp. A three inch gash to the bone was the problem, and it was still bleeding so Stefan glued it closed with Dramabond tissue adhesive. Getting back to work we tried re-leading the stern anchor around the amidships cleat to pull from a different angle, but still nothing. We watched the tide (one meter tidal range) closely on the shoreline and frequently sounded around the boat with the sounding lead. As we weren’t going anywhere soon Amanda made porridge and passed bowls to crew on deck with Bob eating his on the end of the boom. We retrieved the spinnaker anchor, knowing it would be difficult to get it back once we got off.
By 1106 the wind hand increased to 12 knots, and with a little chop coming into the bay, we felt a couple jolts as the tide slowly brought MT closer to vertical.
At 1231 we ran the stern anchor line to the opposite side of the transom (the shallow side) and started to move the boom over to have crew scoot out to try and heel us over the other way. I started the engine, put moderate reverse power on and MT pivoted. I thought we had moved, but Amanda noted that the stern line was winched into the same place. Within a few minutes I tried reverse again, and slowly we floated free. Wow, what an incredible relief! We quickly led the stern anchor line to the bow, then retrieved the dinghy. After pulling up the anchor Delta anchor by hand, stowing the chain and line, we were off.
“Hard Rock Wait”
John’s cut chin
Carefully getting back on our pre-charted course, we checking in with Joyant who had just found the edge of the ice, relaying there were seals and many birds. We had a great sail until we got into thicker ice where we motored, looking for leads. At 1728 we had gone as far as we could, reaching 80 09 N, 10 09 E. Shutting the engine down we drifted about, nearly locked in the ice. We saw several seals, polar bear tracks, birds and incredible vistas, with white ice as far as we could see especially when Amanda went to the masthead to take pictures.
View from pack ice to northern Spitsbergen
Looking north to the pole
At 1800 we started the engine and slowly picked our way through several miles of fairly close ice then sailed 80 miles south for the research base Ny-Alesund, arriving at 0623, 24 hours after we had originally left Sallyhamna. With everyone exhausted, only those on watch were awake to tie to the surprisingly empty fueling float. At 0900 a truck pulled onto the main wharf and Peter discovered 3 important points from the harbormaster, Bjorn Valle; the Hurtigruten coastal steamer/expedition ship would be arriving shortly, Bjorn would sell us fuel once he had tied the ship up and that the shop and post office would be open (a first for us!) only during the ship’s two hour visit.
Tor Jkolsrud – cruise director aboard Nordstjernen
The Nordstjernen Hutigruten www.hurtigruten.com is a traditional, 50 year old Norwegian coastal steamer which had passed us many times. No sooner had they tied up than their captain, first officer and cruise director were leaning over the rail on the wharf oogling Mahina Tiare. When asked if they’d like to look below they were aboard in a flash! They were keen to know where we had found the edge of the pack ice, what animals we’d seen, and were curious about our sail-training program. Tor Jkolsrud, the cruise director who works for www.spitsbergentravel.com, a sister company of Hurtigruten was particularly interested, saying he had just purchased a Vindo 40, a gorgeous Swedish built 1979 sloop, eight weeks earlier. He had lots of questions about maintaining and repairing 30 year old teak decks and in the end invited us aboard to see Nordstjernen. She really is a lovely old ship, reminding us of a smaller version of the Britannia! Tor mentioned that his company was looking for cruise directors and guides for their two new ships which split seasons between Antarctica and Greenland/Iceland, would we be interested?
Rob, the new director the small British research station also came by to see Mahina Tiare. Turns out he hails from Ft. William, Scotland, and is a friend of Rick Atkinson, our friend and previous expedition member from Port Lockroy, Antarctica. Rick had just visited Ny-Alesund the previous day, guest lecturer aboard a Russian research/expedition ship, the Vavalov. In return for a visit aboard Rob invited us to the
Scientists Alex – with red algae, and Birgit
British base to meet the researchers. Birgit Sattler, an Austrian professor and Alex Anesio from Italy and Scotland showed us some fascinating red algae they had recently discovered. The algae breeds on the glaciers, swimming through snow to the surface, before shedding its flagellates and reproducing. We were amazed the amounts of research the Brits were carrying out on a very modest budget except Amanda who was across the tundra at the Dutch station.
Maarten Loonen, a barnacle goose scientist, had trapped a very young Arctic fox and was attempting to measure, weigh and ear tag the little fella. Amanda had keenly photographed the whole process and much to the scientist’s pleasure, downloaded the images to his computer. http://loonen.fmns.rug.nl/arcticstation/weblog.php?nr=145.
Young Arctic fox
Measuring Arctic fox
With another arriving ship it was time to clear the dock for their tenders. We headed for the end of Kongsfjord (Kings Bay) and it’s spectacular glacier. Stefan had offered several times that morning to take a look at my chin where dried blood had soaked the dressing and I had said, “Once we’re off the dock”. On his inspection he quickly noted that the tissue adhesive had not held causing the wound to open and a blood clot to form. It needed immediate attention – serious cleaning out and suturing. Unfortunately, with all our extensive medical supplies there was no local anesthetic. We chatted with the Ny-Alesund harbor master asking what supplies they had and we all set to head back when communication was interrupted by Ocean Spirit of Moray, a British sail-training vessel for teenagers (www.gordonstown.org.uk ). They offered the needed materials and after we rafted mid-fjord Stefan met with their medic and obtained supplies after which he quickly irrigated the wound and popped in 5 stitches. BOY was it handy having an experienced ER doc onboard!
Sail-training vessel Ocean Spirit of Moray
MT alongside Ocean Spirit
Following John’s stitch up we worked our way up to the face of the towering glacier, where we shut down in the shadow of the enormous and quite noisy ice wall. What a great way to enjoy another of Amanda fantastic dinners, sunny, comparatively warm, and with calving ice all around.
We chose Piersonhamna, just across the bay from Ny-Alesund for our evening anchorage after backtracking form the glacier we all collapsed for some needed sleep. At 0600, the watch was on deck and we were under way again. Nick, our 13 yr old crewman and Stefan’s son
Sailing along Kings glacier
expertly charted our course for the 56 mile jaunt down to Askelsundet, where we tucked into a beautiful and well protected cove with a glacier nearby, ice all around and a whole bevy of walruses on the beach, what an exciting time. On the way, we stopped at walrus spit on Prins Karl and lo and behold, there were even more there this time, including a pair that was so curious that they swam to within 10 feet of the boat. As we watched them swimming all around the boat, moving their big front flippers and waving their flipper tails sideways we marveled at how graceful they are in the water as ashore they look so ungainly like giant lumps of gray rock that waddle about.
In Farmhamna, late Tuesday afternoon we enjoyed a quiet anchorage off a trapper family’s cabin, followed by a magical hike up the undulating
hills above the anchorage. The view in all directions was breathtaking and a very curious reindeer mom and youngster kept checking us out, galloping back and forth in front of us before wandering off, only to follow us, popping up from behind rocks to look again.
Departing early Wednesday morning we had another brilliant day with great sailing at times and sunny calm motoring at other. Joyant had raved about Fridtjovhamna, a glacial bay inside of Bellsund where they had seen both walrus and a polar bear on the beach a week earlier. The glacial wall had recently moved forward many hundred meters, only stopping when it ran into an island. This is one of only two glaciers in Svalbard that is advancing, instead of retreating. We anchored off the east sand spit guarded by eight walrus piled next to each other and gingerly went ashore to photograph them with Mahina Tiare in the distance.
Kittiwakes take flight
The German yacht Pagan had anchored nearby, so we dropped by to say hello. Just as we said goodbye, Amanda thought to ask if they had seen any polar bears recently. “Of course! We just came from the bay,15 miles from here, where there are bears feasting on a dead whale that washed up on the beach a couple weeks ago”. We instantly made plans to sail there first thing the following day, on our way south to Norway.
In Fleur de Lyshamna we found the remains of the dead beluga whale and went ashore to speak with Tor and Ivar, the two Sysselmannen men we had met a week earlier. They told us that for the past week four or five bears had been taking turns eating, then retreating to sleep, so we patiently waited several hours at anchor, taking turns watching with the binoculars. At 1700 we gave up on the bears and set sail for Tromso. It’s now 0130 Thursday, July 19, and we are rocketing along on a broad reach in 35-30 kt winds with 440 miles to go to Torsvaag, Norway.
Leg 3 crew – Lyle, Chuck, Bob, Nick, Stefan and Peter
Lyle Krehbiel, 62
I founded and am one of the owners of a company specializing in database software for emergency 9-1-1 calls. Prior to founding the company I taught college for many years. My wife and I own a Pacific Seacraft 31, Bella Luna, which we home port in Annapolis MD. We spend around three months a year on Bella Luna, several months in Maui HI, and our home is in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Fortunately as long as I have cell phone and internet access I am able to do my job. Several years ago I sailed on Mahina Tiare from Hawaii to Tahiti and am taking this expedition to have a very adventurous trip in an area that few have sailed.
Bob Garbe, 55
Hi there, I do safety and health consulting for the federal government, and have over 33 years of service. I am on my third Mahina expedition, having done Leg 3 (Tahiti to Hawaii) and Leg 6 (Fiji) in 2004. This time out I am looking for some cold weather sailing experience, as I intend to try on the northern Great Lakes in the next couple of years. However, I need to get a boat first, as I sold my Nor’Sea 27, Endorfyn last October. AND, I am looking forward to retiring in mid-to-late 2008. Currently, I live and sail, when I have a boat, in Denver, CO where I also enjoy hiking, snowshoeing and anything out of doors.
Chuck Yingling, 64
Not sure they need me, at least they still feed me in San Francisco where I failed Retirement 101 after 27 years as a professor at UCSF School of Medicine. I now work part-time with a local private practice group, monitoring brain and spinal cord function during surgery and consulting in this field nationally (www.brainmon.com). My wife gets seasick at dockside, more so when sailing in our Baba 30, Hinayana, so I get my deep-water fixes on trips like this. (Also Samoa – Fiji on MT in 2002, Easter Island – Pitcairn – Marquesas in 2004, San Juan – Nassau on the clipper Stad Amsterdam in 2006).
Peter Schmid, 43
I work as a research director for the French Research Agency CNRS and teach at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. This is my fourth Mahina trip; after exploring the warmer waters of the Caribbean, the west coast of Ireland and the Southern Pacific, I thought it would be interesting to explore the Arctic Ocean. So here I am, sailing under the midnight sun, keeping an eye out for walrus, seals and polar bears and enjoying every minute of being at this high latitude. My wife Donna just came back from the first leg from Ellos to Tromso raving about the beautiful Norwegian coast line.
Stefan Spann, 43
I’ll be 44 July 18 on this trip. I’m an emergency medicine physician and live in Corvallis, Oregon and have a boat in Anacortes Washington. My family and I sail in the San Juan Islands every summer for the last 11 years on our Catalina 30. I’ve raced as crew in Boston, chartered in the Med, Carribean and Thailand. I came on this trip to prepare for a six month voyage with my 13 year old son.
Nicholas Spann 13
I’m still in school, seventh grade. I live in Oregon U.S.A. and so far the only sailing I have done has been short trips in the Caribbean with my dad and family on a thirty foot Catalina. The main reason I joined this expedition was to learn how to blue water sail and to see if I like it because my father and I plan on going on a six month sailing trip.
Leg 3, Update 2
Nick concentrates at steering
We set sail south, a little sad to leave the amazing magical land of Spitsbergen, to Torsvaag, Norway at 1700 on Wednesday, July 18. 20 kt NW winds sent Mahina Tiare flying along at close to 8 kts on a broad reach in rough, confused seas. The winds held in the 25-35 kt range all Thursday, slowly coming forward to nearly a beam reach. Worried about our Norwegian courtesy flag wearing out, Amanda asked Peter to take it down. Well, he really did, pulling the flag halyard down as well! Oops.
While speaking on the SSB radio with Tom and Dorothy on the Apogee 50, Joyant, Terry Coats aboard Querida, a Cape George 36’ cutter broke in after hearing our position to tell us we were just 18 miles behind them. We had seen Querida in several ports, but had never met Rob and Terry, so decided to try calling them on the VHF for a chat. It worked! Realizing that we would catch them we really poured the coal on; shaking out reefs and steering a straighter course. Nick spent many hours standing on the mast pulpit scanning the horizon for a sail, with the bribe of dessert if he was the first to spot them.
At 0300 Saturday, Nick sighted a sail ahead and within a few hours we closed to within camera distance of the salty cutter that had been cruising since 1990.
Querida, Terry and Rob Coats’ Cape George 36 Cutter
Mahina steaming up to Querida
Torsvaag provided a rainy, misty landfall where by 1600 we had rafted up to a fishing boat in the crowded little harbor. There was no sign of the whaling boats we’d seen in 2000 and instead a new marina had been built plus a small sport fishing lodge. We enjoyed showers in the fish packing plant along with walks and runs. Querida arrived around midnight and stopped by Sunday morning to share notes on anchorages with us.
After a very slow start the next morning we had a lovely sail to Finnroken, an even smaller village where we knew the fishing was good. Everyone got in on the line casting act and we ended up with ten fish.
Landfall at Torsvaag
Peter and Amanda codd’in around
Monday we worked on completing our teaching which included Stefan going aloft to replace the flag halyard and straighten the windex which had been bent by a crash-landing bird.
“But you said to take the flag down!”
Stefan replacing the flag halyard
Marveling at the shore side greenery and warm sunshine crew set out for long walks and runs ashore before a late lunch on a perfect summer day. We up anchored late afternoon and zoomed along on a broad reach with following winds of 15-17 knots all the way to Tromso, with a pause for practicing Lifesling overboard rescue. There was a perfect berth waiting for us in the normally crowded town basin in front of the Rica Hotel (thanks Bob!) and it was a treat to give MT a proper scrub down and tidy up.
Perfect broad reaching conditions
Peter’s applies caviar to the fish
Peter who lives in Paris and has been to an exclusive NY cooking school was in charge of preparing our cod dinner. (Look for it in November’s Galley Essentials) Just as his Norwegian baked fish was coming out of the oven a couple sailing a Forgus 39 sloop popped into the slip next to us. With plenty of cod to spare we invited them to join us for dinner. What a fun evening! Oddi and MJ live on a small island north of Stavanger and were full of stories of adventures.
Amanda in cloud berry heaven
Wednesday the sewing machine came out for instruction and we completed our last teaching goals before crew scattered to find prezzies to take home. As the expedition ended so did our fabulous summer weather and during the 27 mile passage Amanda and I made to Senja Island, on Thursday, we had a mix of pea soup fog, serious rain and a little clearing. Now we’re exploring the small islands around the north of Senja. Today the sun has come back and as there aren’t any public laundry facilities in Tromso we’re washing laundry in bucket and hanging it to dry in the rigging – just like in Tahiti.
Monday we’ll head back to Tromso to reprovision and are looking forward to meeting our Leg 4 team Wednesday noon. Until then we’ll seek the help of other cruisers, locals, and 5 guide books to devise a sailing route that will take us to many new (for us) islands and places. We’re in for an exciting summer trip to Ellos, Sweden.