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Amsterdam November 2018 Tiama’s Polar Adventures 2018

Amsterdam – Norway – Spitsbergen/Svalbard – Norway – Amsterdam 5100 miles over 6 months.

Dear all This is an after the fact update on our 2018 summer in the Arctic.

Tiama spent the winter of 2017-18 in a safe berth in the Amsterdam Marina, undergoing another winter refit, replacement of all the standing rigging (one of the strands in the old wire had broken in Greenland, a strong sign to replace them all). And the usual electronic updating/replacements including a new Auto Pilot, etc, boat haul out and getting a permit to go to Spitsbergen from the Governor of Svalbard who requires you to have a search and rescue insurance, something I have never come across before, and they won’t give a visitors permit unless you carry a Gun onboard for polar bear protection – that already sounds like an adventure from the start.

Poolypunten Spitsbergen

There is no native human population in Spitsbergen and there never has been. Reputedly it was discovered by Willem Barents a Dutchman in 1596 while looking for the North East Passage, and there after exploited for its bounty of Whales, Walrus, and any other animals that had lived there peacefully until we Arrived.

Willem Barents named it Spitsbergen but the Norwegians call it Svalbard. Both names are used concurrently. For this tale I will stick with Spitsbergen. The place is governed by Norway under a treaty signed by all interested countries. So in a way it belongs to all of us, anybody in the word can go and live/work there without any visa requirements.

We left Amsterdam crossing the North Sea towards Norway, ducking and diving in between offshore platforms, wind farms and busy commercial shipping lanes. Onboard were friends and some Dutch family, nice, and they proved themselves quick learners and competent crew by the time we arrived in Bergen on17 May Norwegian Constitution Day. People were nicely dressed in traditional clothing and a harbour filled with boats.

Lofoten Peninsula

From there another 600 miles north through the Norwegian fiords to the Lofoten islands chain were friends from NZ joined the boat for a 2 week cruise along that fabulous coast with white capped mountain ranges coming right down to the water’s edge and some very quiet villages, and villagers.

Lofoten cod drying racks

Norway is interesting, I had the idea of going back to my roots as those Norsemen came visiting the Netherlands in the old days and planted a few seeds here and there, and I was romanticising having some Viking blood in me somewhere, and meet some tough men and woman living a basic life in remote fiords.

Well it is not like that, the Fiords are still there and almost as beautiful as ever with thousands of islands and anchorage’s but in just about every one of those nooks and crannies there is a nice house ashore with its own private jetty and a road leading to it.

Combine this with large scale industrial Salmon farming, working hard to destroy the water quality in there vicinity (with all the spills from whatever antibiotics and feed they are giving the salmon), while at the same time claiming to feed the world, makes a busy place.

Norway has its infrastructure sorted with a seemingly endless amount of beautifully constructed concrete bridges and fast ferry service connecting the remote villages along the coastline. There is a better Wi-Fi connection along the whole Norwegian coast then there is in some places in Amsterdam and it is easy to see where some of that money comes from.

I have never seen so big many offshore oil supply vessels with many new builds under construction in massive sheds

inside those same old fiords, all servicing the offshore oil industry.

The country is full of great people, very chatty and willing to help where ever you go. But, if you like me and enjoy a beer ashore, then please bring a large stack of krone as this is not a cheap pastime. Not that this seems to stop the locals. From the top of Norway it is another 600 miles to Spitsbergen across the cold and often miserable Barents Sea. Bjornoya -Bear Island (sin bears) is situated half way between Norway and Svalbard.

Bear Island

We sailed close by to have a look, too close actually as we managed to hit a rock in thick fog that came by in waves, this gave us a fright. Fortunately Tiama is a sturdy steel vessel, no real damage was done, the weather also started to deteriorate and we finally arrived on the Spitsbergen Coast with a bit of a draft, headwinds mostly, always hard work.

At our first anchorage in Hornsund the weather cleared, sunshine and the splendour of Hansbreen glacier was revealed to us.At those moments I always think that it is good be alive and to be lucky enough to be in such a place to

experience these glaciers and mountain ranges. It does one good somewhere deep inside. Shore party Hornsund,

We arrived in the main settlement of Longyearbyen in thick fog, +/_ 80 meters visibility and the radar showed at least 12 ships at anchor in the harbour.So much for thinking we will arrive in an isolated settlement. Longyearbyen has about 2500 inhabitants in summer and is a buzzing/happening place. Lots of cruise ships

some with a combined passenger/crew compliment of 4500 people onboard, all going for a walk.

On those days it is not a good idea to go ashore as there will be a sea of people in the same red jackets visiting the relatively few stores and restaurants. The charter boat wharf is full with all size of sailing and motorboats and lots of small high speed craft all doing a lively trade. Sobering to see this all going on and we are part of it.

Luckily Svalbard is a big place and the tourism seems to be concentrated in a relatively small area with most boats visiting the same places so while there is an impact in those places, the overall impact on Svalbard as a whole seems relatively small. After restocking & refuelling (tax free fuel), we left for a two week voyage up the West coast of Svalbard.

This was as much voyage of discovery for me as it was for the others onboard, visiting historic whaling sites where some poor bastards tried to scratch a living boiling down whale meat, Smeerenburg on Amsterdamoya,

Smeerenburg remains

the biggest Dutch whale processing site in 1617 And other exploration sites where the more wealthy, fame-searching departed from to reach the North Pole in a Hydrogen filled balloon, only to end up crash landing on the ice and starving to death.

The coast is covered with deep fiords and an endless amount of glaciers. Sailing up close to them is a bit of a heart stopper when large lumps of ice come crashing into the water from the ice cliffs 300 meters in front you and the boat starts to roll around in a thick soup of ice lumps, it is safe enough in a steel boat, but worrisome nevertheless.

We managed to reach 80 degrees north without seeing any pack ice, a bit disappointing that. This summer the ice had retreated to 81.5 degrees North while the summer before it was right on the North Coast of Spitsbergen.

Then back to Longyearbyen to pick up the second party, and do mostly the same route going to different anchorages and glaciers. The whole place is endlessly fascinating, with lots of places to go for a walk and get a feel for this remote and Ancient land.

yes this Brolly came in handy

Most of the people who came were old friends or became new friends and had an inkling or were warned of what to expect from the boat and the limitations & idiosyncrasies of her skipper. More so this time because I managed to hurt my knee whilst jumping down from the cockpit seat temporally forgetting that I’m not 28 anymore.

This slowed me down considerably. Luckily the others onboard were more than capable to cover for me, including being the gun toting possible bear defender of the group during walks ashore.

The last 2 trips were with close family, fantastic to be in such a place with your nearest and dearest.  I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters all older then me and they flew to Svalbard to join me onboard Tiama for a one- off ‘last chance to see’ (average age was 70) 8 day voyage.

For most of them it was the first time that they had done something like this

with the Benjamin in the family as skipper! The sisters The Brothers We did not travel far during this time but managed to see more wild life than on all the other trips combined, including a mama polar bear and 2 cubs.

We also reconnected as a family, just brothers and sisters, starting from the viewpoint that we were only going to talk about good things that happened in the family and not rehash bad stuff or, as they say in Holland, “don’t start pulling old cows out of the ditch”.

The sisters

After spending nearly 3 months in Svalbard Tiama turned south crossing that draftee Barents Sea again.

And then a nice slow two month voyage down the Norwegian Coast without too much

The Brothers

commercial pressure of having to be at a certain place at a certain time.

So what next, the world is your oyster as they say. Greenland and back through the North West passage towards Alaska is always interesting.

We will see what comes up in the next wee while?

For those interested, the NWP was totally blocked up by ice this northern summer 2018. Commercial and tourist traffic could not get through and had to turn back.

Only 2 yachts managed to scrape through in one piece, and one other yacht was actually sunk by ice pressure. Luckily for them, without loss of life. Goes to show that the NWP still has some surprises and is not a sure thing.

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings.

Bye for now and fair winds. Henk

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