Summer Term 2017

Arctic Blog

Ocean Spirit of Moray

Click here to see pictures of Ocean Spirit in the Arctic.

15 August

Tonight Ocean Spirit finally arrived in Shetland. The day started with us still crashing and bashing into mountainous seas, but slowly the time to go went from days to hours and after supper we had our first sight of land! To our relief as we got closer we started to feel the shelter of Shetland and the sea started to get (a bit) flatter as we sailed in towards the shore.

The wind was still tricky and we had to tack in force six winds all the way to the entrance to the harbour. By this time it was dark, and having taken down the sails Mr Lerner took us into the channel that led to Lerwick using the many confusing flashing lights to guide us. Duncan was on the helm had to follow all the instructions very closely but eventually we saw the pier at Lerwick and were soon tied up and still for the first time in seven days.

We were all very excited and after tidying up the boat we had a quick welcome to Shetland party on deck with the rest of the cokes. We also had a bit of a phone frenzy catching up with all our messages. It was nearly two in the morning before we got to bed, but at least the boat wasn’t rocking any longer and we could all sleep soundly in our beds.

14 August

The strong winds have continued to blow and we have been making fast progress towards Shetland, but today the wind direction changed and we are now beating into the wind and sea. This means continually crashing into massive seas and waves breaking over the bows of Ocean Spirit. Every time we smash into the sea we fall off the five meter waves and the boat crashes into the trough with a huge shudder and massive waves come along the deck and into the cockpit getting us very wet. Mr Lerner tells us that this is OK, but it is not OK if you are trying to sleep or cook and living in the boat is a bit like being in a washing machine at the moment. The good news is that we are still making good progress to Shetland and should be there soon even though we have taken down the mainsail because of the wind. Everyone gets very wet on deck and getting in and out of our oilskins and layers is making us tired (and in a few cases grumpy).

12/13 August

Captains Log

The last couple of days have been quite high on the wind/seasickness scale so not many volunteers to keep up the blogging.  With a rapidly deepening low pressure system approaching us we worked hard to route Ocean Spirit towards the west so that the depression would pass beneath us and allow us to avoid the severe gale force winds in the eastern parts of the system.  Thanks to some clever thinking and a lot of good advice from Simon the Weather Guy, we found ourselves in strong but favourable winds as the low tracked past us.  Mostly this meant sailing in NW force 6-7 with seas that built to over 5 meters.  This was a bit challenging for some of our team, but meant that we were sailing very quickly towards Shetland.

In fact between Midnight Saturday and Midnight Sunday we covered 230 miles which is a boat record!  Those who were not seasick worked doubly hard to help the others and did their duties for them until they felt better.  After a while even Duncan and Max recovered from the dead and were able to take the helm again, which was lucky as they are both super accurate with the steering. 

The boat’s routine always carries on, so despite the strong weather we were able to keep things clean and shipshape, bake our bread and cook our delicious meals (an excellent braised steak and mash from White Watch helped to lift moral on Saturday night). As forecast, the winds have died down and we had a very pleasant over-night sail with our first properly dark night for many weeks and finally a glimpse of the moon and stars which made everyone feel as if we were getting closer to home. With about 300 miles to Shetland we are now sailing close to the wind and will expect to do some tacking before we make our landfall, hopefully before the next deep depression arrives on Wednesday evening. In the meantime we have a Dogwatch Party this afternoon to mark crossing the Arctic Circle with surprise cans of coke, lots of chocolate and some blue noses.  We may even break out Mrs Kerr’s bread and butter pudding to have with supper tonight! 

11 August

The early hours of the morning were spent being thrown about the ocean in Force 5-6 conditions, trying to maintain a straight course south-west. It was made especially hard by the large swells throwing the boat from side to side. Below deck, seasickness from the movement of the boat was starting to take its toll. Some of the crew were still getting used to the new routine; 4 hours on watch, 8 hours off. Some even felt a little lethargic, from not getting enough sleep during the night. However, despite these conditions, we pulled through and continue our journey to home, anticipating a soft bed and a warm shower when we arrive.

10 August

The day began in Longyearbyen; the crew of Ocean Spirit awoke from a full night’s sleep feeling rested and ready to begin the day. The morning was spent making preparations for the long journey ahead - getting the boat ready for its voyage to Shetland. The crew of Ocean Spirit cleaned thoroughly below deck; scrubbing underneath floorboards, wiping down walls and cleaning the heads.

When she was ready, we said our goodbyes to our friendly guide Per with three cheers and at noon Ocean Spirit set sail for Shetland. Motoring out of the fjord with the sight of Longyearbyen fading away into the distance, the crew couldn’t help but feel a little sadness leaving behind the town they had got to know so well.

Not so long after, as Ocean Spirit made its way outside the fjord and began its journey southwards, the crew on watch was very lucky to see pods of whales swimming alongside the boat. Gliding through the water with grace and majesty the large beasts were intriguing to watch. The whales however were not the only creatures with us at sea, as several seagulls from Longyearbyen had followed our vessel. It is still a mystery as to what they are doing following us so far out at sea - or where they go to feed or sleep. However only one thing can be said about our winged companions, and that is that they’re planning something… Perhaps one day they may even commandeer the ship. Only time will tell!

8 August

In the morning we woke up at anchor surrounded by the massively high cliffs of Templefjord that had been carved by the wind and ice into structures that looked like castles From Lord of the Rings. We could just imagine all sorts of Orks and mythical creatures running around up there. We went ashore to the beach which was covered in MASSIVE boulders left over from the late Jurassic period and contained a multitude of fossils, primarily molluscs of some sort. The crew set to work splitting with hammers and chisels. During the excavation, we were treated to a visit from one of the locals - a wild reindeer appeared by our side. A short while later, Duncan came sprinting down the hill back to the group having been chased by it.

We spent roughly an hour on the beach and everyone successfully got some fossils. We returned to Ocean Spirit feeling like Indiana Jones and set sail for Longyearbyen which took roughly five hours. For once the wind was steady enough to allow us to sail nearly all the way and we had some useful tacking practice. Once we arrived in Longyearbyen, we decided how we were to spend our last evening on land. Most people headed off to a local restaurant to try a moose burger, it was okay… Something people noted was the plethora of Lenin statues around. After we ate, we had our last shower for many days until we reach the bustling metropolis of Lerwick (or Thorshaven in the Faroes if we go to plan B) and headed back to Ocean Spirit. We had a briefing that evening in which we discussed the long voyage ahead of us and
other particulars. Mr Lerner was delighted to read to us a very heartfelt message from Mrs Kerr that filled us with pride and confidence for the
journey ahead.

7 August

After breakfast and moving the boat closer to the dilapidated (and rather dangerous looking) old pier we went ashore to Pyramiden. Luckily there was a modern dinghy pontoon behind the pier so getting off the dinghy was no problem (easier than climbing up to the pier without a ladder which is what happened last time Ocean Spirit was here). Per then took everyone along the road towards the abandoned ghost mining town which had been left by its inhabitants with just a few days to pack back in the late 1990s. Because of the hurried departure most of the buildings were left still full of things and have remained untouched for the last twenty years. We were amazed to see the Soviet era propaganda and statues and managed to get into the “community centre” and see the cinema (still with film in the projection room) and sports facilities. There were music rooms with old instruments in them and Sam played a pit of Coldplay on an out of tune piano (probably the first and last time it will be heard there).

Although now there are a few Russians that live in Pyramiden for the summer, the place has mostly been
taken over by nature and we were very excited to get close to an Arctic Fox that was looking around for food. We also saw a herd of reindeer and lots of sea birds that had taken over some of the buildings and turned them into manmade bird cliffs. After a quick stop in the newly re-opened hotel (very Russian and very basic and probably not on Trip Advisor) we returned to the boat by walking on top of a rickety pipeline that went down to the harbour.

Per had been speaking to some Norwegians who had seen Polar Bears at the Glacier nearby so we set off immediately to try and find them. After some careful navigation in an area that hadn’t been put on the map yet, we spent an hour or two looking for bears but with no luck (although the Glacier itself was an amazing sight). Suddenly we had a call from another boat who were also looking for the bears to say that they had seen two a little further down the coast so we quickly went to the bay they were in and finally got a sight of some Polar Bears. They were some way off, but is was thrilling to finally see them in the wild. After the bears finally walked off we made our way down to the impressive anchorage at Templefjord spotting some whales on the way.

6 August 2017

Ms Kerr left the boat very early in the morning hoping that Rod Stewart would be her taxi driver, and as today was mostly a rest day, some of us began with a shower whilst the others continued with the day’s usual cleaning duties. With the Scottish weather following us, Plan A of hiking up a nearby mountain soon turned to Plan B; an exploration of Longyearbyen to find snow mobiles and huskies and to visit the town museum to further our understanding of Svalbard’s history. With our new found knowledge of the area, we would like to recommend to anyone who may find themselves in Longyearbyen some highlights which include; Santa’s mailbox, adopting huskies for a day and eating as much local food as possible. We then sailed a few hours to Pyramiden where we stayed the night. To top off our rest day Ocean Spirit’s staff surprised us with a viewing of Pirates of the Caribbean in our own home cinema in the saloon finishing off with a good night’s sleep…

5 August 2017

In the morning we went ashore to Barentsberg, a rather dusty and dirty Russian settlement and coal mine. After a walk past the mines along some very black tracks we had a tour of the local area where we visited the chapel, museum and the gift shop. It was interesting to see all the Soviet era propaganda including a massive sign that said “We strive for Communism”.  After a lot of scrubbing the boat to remove every trace of coal dust, we began our sail back to Longyearbyen and arrived early afternoon and quickly went ashore for our much anticipated showers.  After that we had time to explore the settlement and visit the very expensive shops.  Later in the evening we all met at Kroa a restaurant that was built in the style of the old trapper huts and had seal skins on the seats and original pit props from the mines to hold up the tables. It was Ms Kerr’s last night with us and so we had lots of pizzas to say goodbye. When we arrived back at the harbour we waited as a massive Italian cruise ship departed and we got lots of waves from the passengers as they sailed off into the distance

4 August 2017

Report by White Watch

On the eve of Louis’ 16th birthday a few of the crew stayed up to wish him a very Happy Birthday. After this everyone went to get a good night’s sleep except those on watch who had to guide the ship into English Bay. 

In the morning Louis and Chris did the engineering checks and had to clean out a water inlet filter that had become clogged full of seaweed and tiny jellyfish, it was quite messy and as soon as the pump was turned on it seemed to immediately fill up with jellyfish again! After motoring to the other side of the bay we anchored again and went ashore here we found ourselves a short walk from a glacier and on a beach ripe with stones to be skimmed. After stripping the beach dry of stones and everybody ashore we set off towards the glacier. After half an hour of trudging through streams and across pebbly banks we were at the foot of the huge and curiously named “Comfortless Glacier” which went back 50 km inland and stretched away from us at a slight incline. We scrambled our way onto the glacier and walked up it just 50 meters. This was the furthest we could go as we did not have the proper equipment and to go further would become dangerous. We carefully walked back down the glacier crossing a small crevice and, on the walk back to the boat picked up items of litter which were strewn about the place whilst Per and Mrs Kerr gave us a geography lesson.

Once back on the boat White Watch were on lunch duty and prepared fantastic hotdogs for everyone on board and made enough bread rolls to feed a small army, which we were. During this time Anna also baked a cake for Louis which was beautifully iced by Sam with donations of bits of chocolate from everyone to help decorate it. This cake was kept to be eaten later when we were ashore. We arrived at Walrus Point in the evening (although you couldn’t tell as it still seemed like midday).

As soon as we had disembarked and skimmed a few more stones we were greeted by a very large but friendly walrus swimming around the point. After gawping at the size of it we got our wits back together and set off for the pack/ herd of walruses on the other side of a low hill. After straying too close to a nesting tern whilst looking at some whale bones, Captain Lerner and Ms Kerr got dive bombed! This was easily countered by using a stick held above the head for the bird to attack, which worked well apart from the “present” it left on Mrs Kerr’s hat! But Walrus Point did not disappoint as there were many walruses all lying around on the beach making the most disgusting noises. A few seemed on the brink of starting a fight, but they all calmed down eventually. We headed back to the dinghy and broke open the birthday cake for Louis and sang him a Happy Birthday. It was all very pleasant and the cake was wonderful. Louis seemed to enjoy it.

We then climbed back on board Ocean Spirit and set sail for Barentsburg to the south of us. It was a beautiful passage and those who could got a good, early night and did not wake till the morning.  

3 August 2017

We woke after a welcome full night’s sleep to remember that we were still in the stunning remoteness of Spitsbergen, although morning doesn’t quite seem like morning when it is light 24 hours a day. In fact the only way to know if it’s day or night it is by looking at your watch.

We set off after breakfast and a quick clean up to Magedlena Fjord only two hours away and anchored off a point which had become the graveyard for over 100 sixteenth century Dutch whalers and also had the remains of some of their blubber melting cauldrons. Sadly the actual site is now fenced off as tourists from the cruise ships started taking bones from the graves as souvenirs and did a lot of damage to the already fragile plant life by walking all over it. We then went back on board to look at the spectacular 80 meter high Glacier at the end of the fjord. The only difficulty with this was the very densely packed icebergs that Captain Lerner had to skilfully steer us through. The slow progress was worth it and we were rewarded with amazing views of the blue ice and could hear it rumbling and cracking.  We took lots of photos and had a nice group shot of the whole crew with the ice in the background. On the way back Louis and Mungo did some ice fishing and successfully captured a large chunk of ice which they are now keeping prisoner in a box on deck.  No one knows why! 

The rest of the day was taken up with sailing to our next destination and enjoying finally having some wind so we could turn the engine off for a bit. The highlight of the evening was definitely Ms Kerr’s apple crumble with custard - it was all eaten very quickly and everyone wanted seconds! It was midnight when we arrived and the watches who were not on duty were rudely awakened by the sound of the anchor being dropped - this is not a quiet operation but at least we all knew that we had arrived at English Bay. 

2 August 2017

Report by Blue Watch

The day began at sea  with our usual morning routine. Red watch was responsible for breakfast; bacon rolls to be eaten on deck on our voyage towards the North. Soon after we anchored in the remote far north island of Amsterdamoya where we were able to go ashore and witness the remains of several unsuccessful (and mostly fatal) attempts to reach the North Pole by balloon. There were also the open graves of seventeenth century whalers some with bones still visible.

After a couple of hours we set sail again and  sailed past dangerous icebergs with the intent of reaching our target of eighty degrees North. With Max skilfully at the helm, Ocean Spirit traversed the treacherous icy Arctic Ocean with finesse and the agility of a seal moving through water. In a disappointing turn of events however, the crew of Ocean Spirit never quite reached their intended destination. Due to the concentration of icebergs, large enough to pierce the hull of any respectable ship, Ocean Spirit was left with no choice but to stop its journey just nine short miles away from the objective of being at just one degree of latitude (or 600 miles) from the north pole itself. However, not all was lost as we celebrated the seventeenth birthday of  Matthew, with a delicious cake baked on board . 

From this point, we sailed eastward towards a remote fjord on Danskoya and prepared to anchor there for the night. Upon arrival, the crew of Ocean Spirit took part in the “Clean-up Svalbard” environmental conservation project by cleaning the beach of waste and debris. Led by our valiant Norwegian guide, Per, the crew of Ocean Spirit cleared a substantial amount of waste from the beaches. Once finished our efforts did not go unrewarded as we then all enjoyed a cold swim in the fjords icy waters. After this, cold, damp and tired, we proceeded to warm up by Per’s bonfire and finally went back on board for a welcome late supper and bed!

The Adventure begins!

Report by White Watch

We all met at Heathrow's Terminal 2 from various different flights and routes. The majority of us arrived an hour early but we struggled to find each other in the beginning, we kept walking past each other. Eventually we all congregated around a group of chairs and laughed at our passport photos. We then met Kelly and Becki and checked in before heading through security which took a while as people got searched. Once through security we had to get something to eat as we were unlikely to be able to eat at Oslo and would be arriving late at the boat. After all eating something substantial we got on the flight to Oslo which was an hour and a half. 

We landed in Oslo where we had to go through passport control; we were all separated into different queues which then led to the incident of three of the girls getting locked into a corridor, which was in fact the correct corridor but security had not yet arrived. Once security arrived the rest of us went through the same corridor but it had been opened by then. After going through security we all quickly bought a drink and got ready for the next flight to Longyearbyen, which was two and a half hours. 

While on our descent into our destination we saw Ocean Sprit with the banner raised and the amazing scenery. We arrived in Longyearbyen and we were greeted by Captain Lerner and a polar bear (not real). It was also still really light when we arrived considering it was about two in the morning. We got a bus from the airport to the boat as it was dangerous polar bear territory and we were unable to get there by any other method.  Captain Lerner was amused that the bus driver looked exactly like Rod Stewart including his hairstyle. We got all our bags onto the boat, had a short meeting and went to bed.

The next morning we met our Norwegian guide Per who told us about the area and polar bear safety. We also had a colourful boat safety briefing due to trying on our bright orange immersion suits! After filling up with lots of fuel and water we readied to go towards the 80th parallel.   

Eleven Go Mad in Spitsbergen

Parents' Blog by Mr Simon Gray

26 July 2017 - Day Four

A long night with plenty to do on watch and now on three hour shifts which proved cold. During a lovely hike that the morning we  found evidence of a former py post where the Norwegians used to watch the Russians and vice versa - basically a small hut with a stove. We even explored the remains of whaling huts.

25 July 2017 - Day Three

The midnight sun and twenty four hours of daylight is losing its novelty but only another few days to go. We are managing to sleep better and the weather conditions have proved better than expected with velvet-like seas, average wind yet still penetrating cold. We decided to walk up a glacier and then had an excellent hot meal on the beach complete with rum cake.

Some of the intrepid explorers decided to go swimming - Duff, William, Richard, Simon, Ness, Alex and Harris - in part as a dare and in part as it was just nice to get clean. Simon wore his special Caribbean trunks with images of surfing and tropical fish. Many photographs were taken and even more screams heard.  Two stayed in as long as possible each one wanting to be the last to leave but after 20 minutes decided this was plain silly and so a draw was declared and both left the sea at the same time. This was of some relief to the skipper who was concerned at the possible effects of frostbite on fingers, toes and perhaps even other extremities!!!

With no option to stay due to the ice we set sail for the South again - this time heading for Ice Fjiord in an overnight sprint.

24 July 2017 - Day Two

Day Two began with our going ashore at Walrus Point and finding, unsurprisingly, a large colony of male walruses living a semi-monastic existence on a spit. Having arrived late at night this meant that we were the first to see them and allowed us to avoid seeing other tourists. We also explored trapper’s huts. At one point we must have inadvertently walked over some Tern nests as we were dive bombed by Terns protecting their young. This was vintage Hitchcock but we had the presence of mind to hold pieces of driftwood over our heads so that any contact would be made with the driftwood. We have a very amusing photo of us all holding pieces of wood like this in what could almost be a Monty Python sketch. 

The most astonishing feature of this land is its barren and rugged beauty - tall mountains rising either side of the fjiords, with cliffs reminiscent of teeth carved from advancing glaciers - yet with no evidence of trees or other vegetation other than the occasional arctic flowers that have somehow defied the elements to survive. As the evening wore on, we could see mists descending from the mountains giving us the feel of a curtain half descending. Absent heat, one person suggested this was like the scene in King Kong where the ship penetrates the curtain of fog to find the lost and hostile Skull Island. There was some amusement where we discovered that the word Kong is often used in Svalbaard and means King, which is ironic. 

We then set sale due North - this time to go beyond the 79th parallel in search of ice bergs, though on arrival we found so many it was felt prudent to head south again to an old whaling station which was the site of the joint Norwegian and Italian expedition to cross the Artic using an airship.  Perhaps most interestingly this is also the site of a scientific research station with large antenna and satellite tracking dishes - reminiscent of Alistair Maclean’s Ice Station Zebra. We had already anchored but again found more icebergs floating towards us and so raised the anchor and headed south overnight to English Harbour, which some of the team found ironic given they are from Scotland.  

Finally, we did spend nearly an hour playing a game of who could catch a chunk of ice using of hooked poles and buckets - this was felt important to mix with the rum ration.

23 July 2017 - Day One

Day One of our odyssey began with eight parents and three teenagers arriving from as far away as the British Virgin Islands, where they are fond of sailing albeit in warmer conditions

No parents knew one another beforehand and there was a slight feeling of trepidation not only for our lack of sailing experience, but also the inevitable cold and the fact that eleven persons were arriving independently on a remote island in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s novel And then there were none…!  With one of our crew called Ness Christie, this seemed all too realistic, though she is no relation. Thankfully our lack of experience was more than compensated for by unbridled enthusiasm and, more importantly, due to a highly experienced skipper and crew.

Some had managed to meet in various bars and pubs the night before with day trips to coal mines, kayaking, hill walking and visiting the Global Seed Vault.   

Aside from four highly competent and remarkably tolerant crew, we included a surgeon, lawyer, pilates instructor, farmer and fund manager in our number. All useful roles in normal life but reassuring to know we had a surgeon in case of medical emergency, a farmer in case we became stranded and had to survive on the land and a pilates instructor in case we all got so stressed out and needed to calm down. Many of us also felt we were using muscles and joints not used in some time so this would be an added dividend.  

However, we were fortunate to find that we also had William Wordie whose grandfather had not only mapped key parts of Spitzbergen in the early part of the 20th century but had also been on the Shackleton expedition to Antarctica in 1914. Whilst unsuccessful in not reaching its destination due to the ship, Endurance,  being crushed by advancing ice, the expedition was most successful in its tale of survival and the heroic rescue led by Shackleton when he raised the alarm in South Georgia and immediately took a boat to rescue his men stranded at Elephant Island. With an excellent skipper and three experienced mates, and with William’s DNA, we all felt we were in excellent hands.

Our joining instructions were to meet at the Harbour Master’s Dock by 12.00pm latest which was achieved. One complication was Stephen whose case went missing and so he rushed to get new clothes in local shops prior to leaving. Thankfully he was successful. Simon had managed to get most of the kit on the list but was missing some key items which were simply not available in the Caribbean but a team spirit of sharing meant he was ultimately fine.

The view was we should make sail as quickly as possible and we were quickly split into two crews - the Starboard and Port crews -  with two to three hour watches.

As luck would have it soon after leaving Longyearbyen harbour, we hit a squall and the seas became rough with instructions to hoist sales quickly - all achieved with the Starboard crew getting soaking wet, not really knowing quite what they were doing but doing their best to do it anyway and well-supervised at all times. No one complained but the BVI person opined that he was used to sailing in sunny conditions, wearing shorts, hawaian shirt, flip flops and clutching a PainKiller which is a local rum concoction unique to the island of Jost Van Dyke in the BVI. He had brought with him some Pussers Rum and  Pussers Rum cake from Tortola in the BVI using seven aeroplanes. He was paranoid about dropping this quasi-sacred relic and happily handed it to the skipper for safekeeping.  Pussers used to supply all of the rum for the Royal Navy until 1970 when the tradition was phased out.

The squall proved interesting and a number of shipmates spent the next three hours having long conversations with the bottom of buckets giving a completely new meaning to the school motto - Plus et en vous. Thankfully as we sailed between the main island of Spitzbergen and Prince Karl's Forland the seas calmed as did our stomachs. The rum proved medicinal and therapeutic - indeed, so much so that the skipper forced us to ration it!

19-20 July 2017

Final Days
Andrew Robertson, First Mate

The first leg of Ocean Spirit’s 2017 adventure in Svalbard is almost over. Wednesday was our last day exploring this beautiful place before heading back to Longyearbyen. From Gipsvika we went to a small bay nearby called Bjonahamna where we set up a bonfire on the beach. Before having lunch around the bonfire, most of us put our courage to the test by going for a swim in the Arctic waters. I think cold is an understatement once we got in! After lunch we spent a little time hunting for fossils, finding a few fossils of shells. Soon it was time for us to leave, our last sail ended up as a challenging beat to windward in 25 knots of wind, but nothing these guys couldn’t handle after three weeks living and sailing on Ocean Spirit.

There have been many highlights from the past three weeks and I think these remote islands not far from the North Pole will hold a special place in our hearts. Before we board our plane tonight, we will all head ashore one final time as a group together for pizzas tonight in Longyearbyen, a group that we no longer call trainees, but competent crew members, a group that have bonded together through tough times and made new friends. So while we say farewell to our crew, Ocean Spirit will sit quietly for a while as though her soul has departed, before the next group of adventure-seekers arrive onboard.

18 July 2017

Arctic Ghost Town
by White Watch - Ellie C, Louis, Doug, Esme and Ragnar

After spending the night at anchor near one of the world’s top 10 ghost towns all night, we went ashore in the morning to explore. Pyramiden resembled a big empty 1970s film set and it is fair to say you could make a horror movie there. We ventured into the Cultural Centre, now being restored for tourism, and saw the sports hall, cinema and music rooms. We learned about the Soviet miners and their families and got to see how they would have lived.

We then cruised across the fjord to the Nordenskjold Glacier to get the official “Ocean Spirit in the Arctic” photo. On the way we spotted a pod of Beluga whales, using their white colour to disguise themselves as icebergs. Some of us got to go in the dinghy to take photos and get closer to some big icebergs. To finish off the day we continued back down the fjord to Gipsvika, a bay surrounded by mountains that look like temples. For dinner tonight we tried whale, which got a mixed response, but was definitely a change from beef or pasta.

17 July 2017

Meeting the Russians
by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Jasmine. Ed. Callum and Divij

Today we visited the Russian settlement of Barentsburg, which is an active coalmine. The town consisted of various old, run-down industrial buildings mixed with apartment buildings that had been newly re-clad in vibrant colours. As we walked through the town, our guide pointing out interesting facts about the settlement, it gave off a quiet but steady working vibe. We were quite taken aback to hear that miners sign on to work here for 3 to 5 years and only get paid on completion.

Once we got back on the boat we weighed anchor to head towards our next destination. The wind allowed us one of our best sails of the voyage with speeds regularly reaching 9 or 10 knots. This allowed us to arrive at Pyramiden, another Russian coal mining town but this one abandoned since 1995, by early evening. We watched a movie, Master and Commander, and got a good night’s sleep.

16 July 2017

Back to Barentsburg
by Blue Watch - Katie, Theo, Wilf and Aidan

After spending a night taking turns at anchor watch, monitoring some large chunks of ice from a glacier in St Jonsfjord to make sure they didn’t come into the bay where we were anchored, we sailed back out of the fjord this morning with a strong breeze behind us. We spent the whole day sailing to cover the distance to Barentsburg, a Russian mining settlement, which looked rather eerie as we approached it.

White watch prepared a filling shepherd’s pie and vegetables along with an apple sponge cake for pudding, which tasted really nice and went down a treat. When we arrived in Barentsburg we anchored in the same spot Dan and Per had anchored four years ago. Once we had settled down and listened to a briefing about the coal mining settlement we planned to visit in the morning, we set up the DVD screen and watched The Hunger Games which everyone enjoyed.

15 July 2017

Hiking onshore

We had a tricky exit from our anchorage, having to avoid numerous chunks of ice that had fallen off a glacier with a noise like thunder and drifted out across the fjord early this morning. Ed gracefully steered us safely by, zig zagging until we were clear. The really useful boathoooks were extremely helpful pushing some of the nearest ice away. After tacking to windward into a fog bank we anchored at Engelsbukta (a bay used by English whalers centuries ago). We hiked up a glacier and witnessed Doug being absorbed by the glacier (he got stuck in some snow!). On the beach we saw polar bear footprints and witnessed Wilf’s impressive stone skimming skills. We are now motoring in zero visibility, dense fog - pray for us - to our anchorage in St Jonsfjorden for the night.

13 July 2017

Have an ice birthday!
by Blue Watch - Katie, Wilf, Theo and Aidan

13 July signified Doug’s Birthday which was celebrated by seeing packed sea ice at 79 52N early this morning, our furthest north, which made him potentially the only person with their birthday at that Latitude. To mark the occasion Blue Watch made doughnuts, iced of course!

After retiring a safe distance from the drift ice, we landed on an island where we did a beach clean-up in the rain. Did you know that by 2030 there is estimated to be more plastic in the sea than fish? We were horrified by the amount of plastic and fishing nets washed up on the beach. We then had a quick picnic and Wilf created a mars bar nutella wrap combo while the rest of us had wraps and sand with our frozen hands.

Afterwards we sailed round to a glacier in nearby Magdelenefjord and saw the beautiful shades of blue coming off it. Slow speed, careful steering, and a long boathook at the ready stopped us re-enacting the Titanic. We’ve seen lots of dolphins, puffins and walrus but we may have been at sea for too long.

12 July 2017

I am the Walrus
by White Watch

Having sailed from Longyearbyen on Tuesday evening, we anchored in Farmhamna, a small bay, in the early hours of this morning during White Watch’s favourite midnight to 2 watch. We slept for a bit then prepared a homely, delicious breakfast of eggs and bacon to start our day. The excitement about the day’s plans made the short sail to our next destination much easier.

When we reached Poolepynten and landed on the shore the smell from the walrus was extremely pungent and we all enjoyed watching them roll around and talk to each other as well as hit each other with their tusks. We survived some attacks by Arctic Terns and took photographs of some whale bones. Back on-board we continued on our way while being circled by puffins and unknown creatures in the sea. Red Watch made carrot cake to keep us going.

We’re heading North so looking out for Icebergs and whales but 24 hour sunlight makes that much easier !

11 July 2017

We meet Per
by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Jasmine, Ed, Callum and Divij

This morning, Per our local guide, took us on a tour of Longyearbyen. First we visited the kennels where all the sled dogs are kept. There were also Common Eider Ducks nesting next to the kennels for protection from Polar Bears and Arctic Foxes. To get a better view of Longyearbyen, we walked up a very steep hill and the view from the top was worth it. We even got to touch some snow. Once we had made our way back down the hill, we were allowed some free time in town where we all enjoyed a lovely lunch. Some of us then headed back to the boat early for a last shower before leaving port. Once everyone was back on-board, we set off in the evening for our exploration of Svalbard. We are all very excited thinking about what’s to come.

10 July 2017

Arrival
by Ellie and Louis (White Watch)

In the early hours of Monday morning we finally reached our destination; Longyearbyen, in Svalbard, land of the Polar Bear. We were glad of a lie-in followed by some free time on shore, showers and some good food. We then did a mini deep-clean of the boat. We met Per, who is to be our guide when we go on shore. In the evening, to celebrate our arrival, we watched a DVD Pirates of the Caribbean complete with Cokes and  popcorn.

9 July 2017

Land Ho!
Report by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Ed, Callum, Jasmine

After what has seemed like many weeks, we finally spotted land on the horizon. As we got nearer, all the mountains started to take shape. The sheer cliffs and mountains were a magnificent sight to behold. As we sailed closer, more and more of the icy landscape came into view. This boosted everyone’s spirits and motivated us to sail onwards towards our initial destination of Longyearbyen.

8 July 2017

A Swell Time
Report by Blue Watch - Wilf, Theo, Katie, Aidan and Divij.

The day began with a rather sad strength of wind, falling to 4 knots, and a peacefully flat sea. This idyllic setting was soon thrust aside in favour of looming swells and blustering winds which allowed our watch the honour of breaking the speed record for the voyage so far, reaching up to 12.6 knots. On the down side it wrought havoc in the galley where frequent, vehement language and the clattering of pans were commonplace. Meanwhile, those unfortunate on deck in such miserably cold weather felt as though they were riding on a rollercoaster. To counteract the effects of the weather some warm filling dishes were required, the watch preparing dinner used their advanced culinary skills to create a particularly magnificent meal. White watch continue to devour all in their path, they cannot be stopped, they are insatiable…!

FriYAY 7 July 2017 (... not a typo we're told!)

Report by White Watch - Louis, Ellie C, Doug, Esme and Ragnar

Despite the sea being quiet, our day was full of exciting flavours. Home-made boat bread is the best. Red Watch made our day with their brilliant hot dogs for lunch. The visibility was pretty amazing and over the last 24 hours we have seen two Orca pods, several Minke whales, some seagulls and a rainbow. Since leaving we have sailed 1000 nautical miles altogether making steady progress.

6 July 2017

A Whale of a Time
Report by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Jasmine, Ed and Callum

On Wednesday night we crossed the Arctic Circle. We celebrated this occasion of crossing into the Realm of the Bluenose this afternoon by having a little party with balloons and a cake, and carrying out the tradition to please the sea gods by painting our noses blue!

During our watch from midnight to 0400, when we were just starting to feel tired, something in the water caught our attention. A spurt of water made us realise it was a whale resting on the surface. With reference to our whale identification sheet we decided it was a Minke whale. This was a first for some of our crew and lifted morale for the rest of the watch. Much to our surprise and delight, this evening we spotted a pod of Orcas which came within 50 metres of us. Almost everybody on board came up to have a look.

A wonderful highlight to end the day, which we decided was a sign of good blessings from the sea gods after our Bluenose ceremony.

5 July 2017

Report by Blue Watch - Katie, Theo, Wilf, Aidan and Divij

Today we had 24 hours of sunlight. In Blue watch we started and ended the day on watch. The wind has been very temperamental and we have had to swap between motoring and sailing very frequently. We put the mizzen staysail up which looked very cool and allowed us to use the Southwest wind. The rain has also been on and off all day. Red watch spotted a whale which they believed was an Orca [Skipper said it was more likely a Minke!] This made a change from the common seabird that most watches have seen along the way. Dinner tasted brilliant and so did lunch, there were many clear plates. To boost morale, Andrew baked a superb carrot cake which many of us enjoyed. The  Arctic Circle crossing is near… will it be on our watch?

Blue watch, over and out.

3 July 2017 - Heading to Uncertainty
Report by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Jasmine, Ed and Callum

This morning we departed Lerwick, after helping move another yacht with our dinghy. We set our sails just north of Lerwick, and soon encountered a short patch of wet and windy weather, before the sun came out with a steady breeze. This was a promising outlook for the day to come. Our watch soon became pretty busy, as the wind started to ease. We had to take reefs out of the mainsail, and change headsails in order to maintain a steady pace. As the sun set in our evening watch, and the sky turned a lovely shade of lilac, we are pointing our bow in what we hope is the right direction towards Svalbard, and watching the last part of UK land slowly fall behind us.

PS: Ellie C-C is happy to report that she is no longer sea sick!

2 July 2017

Report by Ellie and Louis

After a good night of sleep, we had a lie in till 0845, when we were woken by the sound of Bohemian Rhapsody, which some of us didn’t find very pleasant. We all gathered in the galley for some bacon sandwiches, which was the only way Ed would get up. We then cleaned the boat, and Ragnar’s excitement was soon broken when he found out that the heads were not the sleeping accommodation. Afterwards, we ventured around the surprisingly big town of Lerwick on the Shetland Islands. We also managed to get a shower (our last for at least a week) and a Tesco shop, to our delight. We are all feeling clean and fresh, ready for the long voyage ahead.

30 June 2017

Report by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Jasmine, Callum and Ed

This morning we departed on our voyage to the Arctic, leaving Inverness at the ungodly hour of 0600 with everyone in good spirits. However, once we entered the Moray Firth the waves started to test our spirits and a few people felt unwell as we got used to the motion at sea. The highlight of the day was when the Coastguard Rescue helicopter hovered close above our masts conducting a highline assessment exercise which they had asked us to take part in. While they didn't lower the winch man down to us, the experience of seeing a helicopter that close was thrilling and boosted our energy. All of us in the crew took advantage of our nap times when off watch and are looking forward to a possible stop-over at Lerwick in the Shetland Islands.


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