Jardim do Mar // Madeira's Big Wave Surf Spot

Jardim do Mar // Madeira's Big Wave Surf Spot

When we added the Madeira passage, Jardim do Mar rocketed to the top of my list of places to see in the limited time we’d have ashore. I had this vision in my head about the place from reading the book, and I wanted to see for myself what it was like, see how that vision matched reality and see how much of the village had changed since the author spoke so highly of it.

Isbjorn in Madeira: A Local Futbol Game

Isbjorn in Madeira: A Local Futbol Game

Old town ended as I ran high above a public bath, far below the road at sea-level, a popular place for locals to swim and sunbathe. The road continued up and into the suburbs of Funchal. I passed two men smoking cigarettes outside their home on a narrow side-street, and 30 minutes later on my return they were still there, still smoking. A Sunday morning ritual.

Towards Madeira: Warm Weather Sailing at it's Best!

Towards Madeira: Warm Weather Sailing at it's Best!

In this way, the Atlantic islands exist in two parallel universes. That of those who earned these islands, and the one of those who didn’t. The sights look the same. All the colors are there, bright. The flowers smell delicious in both of these universes and the fish tastes great. But in the universe of those of us who make landfall in these places, we who earned it, there’s a feeling in the air that’s reserved just for us. If you’re reading this having made a landfall of your own like this, you’ll know exactly the feeling I mean. If not...well, you gotta go and earn it.

One Humongous Iceberg // Svalbard-Iceland Part 3

One Humongous Iceberg // Svalbard-Iceland Part 3

We’ve sailed almost 1,000 miles south from Svalbard and yet the temperature and the weather remains much the same. Grey, overcast skies, light drizzle, patchy fog and cold. Feels like we’ve gone sideways. I said to Mia earlier that when you leave the Chesapeake in November to sail south, you get a distinct change in climate along the way. By the end of it, you’re in shorts. Not so on this trip. We’re 14 degrees of latitude south from our northernmost point - but we’re still in the Arctic. It’s almost August, but still feels like winter here. As I type, I’m in my long underwear, jacket and hat. The hatch is open, so I guess the temperature has gone up a few degrees. But the climate feels the same.

FOG // Svalbard-Iceland Part 2

FOG // Svalbard-Iceland Part 2

There has been more wind than the GRIBs have indicated, and for longer. Just a few days ago we started thinking about conserving fuel. Motoring at 1500 RPM instead of 1800 to squeeze our every last hour, thinking it’d be mostly a motorboat ride to Iceland. Right now, at 0700 on a Thursday morning, it’s blowing 15-18 from the NW and Isbjorn is beam-reaching through the mist at 8 knots, urged south by the favorable East Greenland current. We can’t see where we’re going, but we’re getting there fast!

Escaping Spitsbergen // Svalbard-Iceland Part 1

Escaping Spitsbergen // Svalbard-Iceland Part 1

When we have wind, we’re making the miles. It’s 1100 on Wednesday July 18 as I write. Mia’s on watch. James just woke up and is in his bunk on the port (high) side, editing photos on his laptop. Jordan just woke up. Isbjorn is enveloped in thick fog. I’m at the nav station with one eye on the radar. We’re under full sail, the big genoa pulling in a ten-knot southeasterly and utterly flat calm sea.

Mission in the Hills & 80º NORTH // Delos in the Arctic Part 11

Mission in the Hills & 80º NORTH // Delos in the Arctic Part 11

We got ashore around 7pm and tied up the dinghy to a giant whalebone on the stony beach, keeping her offshore with a stern anchor and starting up the steep slope to the hill just west of Isbjorn’s anchorage. Large polar bear tracks led west in the snow across the little saddle towards the archipelago on the other side. We made the ridge in a few minutes and walked further south for a view over the alpine lake which feeds the little waterfall that plunges down towards the anchorage. The lake, on July 1, was frozen solid and covered in snow.

Holmiabukta Revisited & Arctic Swimming // Delos in the Arctic Part 10

Holmiabukta Revisited & Arctic Swimming // Delos in the Arctic Part 10

We’re back in Holmiabukta, my favorite anchorage in Spitsbergen so far, in the island’s NW Corner as it’s know in the local parlance. Mia is trying to figure out the labeling on the water tanks - we all showered yesterday and didn’t run the watermaker in the silty water, so all but one of the tanks (plus the bladder tank) is empty…

Texas Bar // Delos in the Arctic Part 9

Texas Bar // Delos in the Arctic Part 9

Four hours later, we moved the boat out of Hornbaekpollen and into the beautiful half-moon bay at Texas Bar. Turns out, the place is just a hut, and a tiny one at that, with a huge TEXAS BAR written on the front of it in wooden drift wood nailed to the walls. An old ship’s hatch sits out front with a couple of makeshift driftwood benches. The hut blends right into the grey scenery - it’s a very basic four-walled structured covered in tar paper to keep it watertight and with a stainless steel chimney sticking out the top.

Holmiabukta, Andy’s Favorite Anchorage // Delos in the Arctic Part 8

Holmiabukta, Andy’s Favorite Anchorage // Delos in the Arctic Part 8

0200. James just went on watch to relieve Brady. We’re ten miles out of Texas Bar, on the way back towards Longyearbyen after exploring as far north and east as we’ll get on this little adventure. The west wind is being kind to us so far - Isbjorn is sailing 7 knots on a close reach, getting lifted out of the fjord. Which means we’ll be headed once offshore, but the forecast is saying 10-12 knots…

Thar She Blows! Belugas to Starboard // Delos in the Arctic Part 7

Thar She Blows! Belugas to Starboard // Delos in the Arctic Part 7

“Man we’ve seen EVERYTHING today! Walrus, polar bears, the Virgohamna site. All we need now is a whale.”

Not 30 seconds after Brady said that in the cockpit as he drove Isbjorn north along the coast and towards our current anchorage at Holmiabukta, we spotted a spout off to starboard. Then another. And another. 

“I thought it was ice on the water at first,” Brady said. “Then I saw the spouts and saw it was swimming, and just shouted BELUGA!”

POLAR BEARS Up Close on Danskøya // Delos in the Arctic Part 6

POLAR BEARS Up Close on Danskøya // Delos in the Arctic Part 6

They found it not much later in the form of an old whale carcass. It was mostly skeleton by that point. A few rib bones lay scattered in the shallows while the majority of the spine was on the beach, seagulls picking at the sinewy bits connecting the spinal bones. But adjacent to it was a large patch of blubber that must have survived the winter under the snowpack. Mama bear found it and directed her cub towards it, and they feasted while we watched from the RIB. To say it was an emotional experience would be an understatement. Just look at the photos. To be that close to nature, to the symbol of the Arctic itself...there’s no words.

To the North Pole in a Balloon!? Virgohamna // Delos in the Arctic, Part 5

To the North Pole in a Balloon!? Virgohamna // Delos in the Arctic, Part 5

The harbor is named after the ship ‘Virgo,’ which anchored off the desolate stony beach in the late 1800’s with supplies for the Swedish explorer Andree’s planned ballon expedition to the North Pole. We dropped anchor surely closer to shore than ‘Virgo’ did back then, anchoring in about 30-feet of water a few hundred feet off the beach. The scenery here is different than the west coast - small, but tall, islands, littered with black volcanic scree on they’re steep slopes. It’s rugged terrain, mostly black, yet surprisingly green in places where moss and lichen cling to the rocks and thrive on the moist environment. There was a low layer of clouds concealing the tops of the islands, fog at sea level that came and went and a light, almost nonexistent breeze from the northwest, which caused Isbjorn to lay stern-to the stony beach.

Sysselmannen in Magdalenafjord // Delos in the Arctic, Part 4

Sysselmannen in Magdalenafjord // Delos in the Arctic, Part 4

Isbjörn is anchored at Virgohamna in low clouds and patchy fog. The cockpit is dry for the moment, but the forecast looks damp. There is graffiti on the cliffs above Virgohamna - white letters spelling ‘METEOR’ in all caps, and what looks like ‘CRASHED’ underneath it. Then another name to the left of that which I can’t make out. The remains of the balloon expeditions are scattered around ashore, which we’ll go explore on this afternoon’s mission.

With Delos in the Arctic // Part 3: North Spitsbergen

With Delos in the Arctic // Part 3: North Spitsbergen

There was ice towards the head of the fjord, lots of brilliant blue chunks broken off the twin glaciers at the eastern terminus of the water. They were bigger bergs than we’d seen thus far, bigger even than some of the ones we played with down in Hornsund, and bluer. The ice lent a big of color to an otherwise greyscale day. Of course, despite the hour, we opted to head deeper into the fjord to play with the ice rather than head to anchor and sleep.

With Delos in the Arctic // Part 2

With Delos in the Arctic // Part 2

We anchored briefly at Poolepynten where the first walrus colony was said to be. It was. On the beach, a dozen or so walrus (walri? walruses?) were lounging in a group, one lone fat dude lounging just down the slope, and another 3 or 4 frolicking in the shallow water just off the beach. We landed the dinghy on the south side of the point and slowly made our way towards the group, filming all the while. Unfortunately we left with a sour taste in our mouths when we were basically run off by a small cruise ship that disembarked two groups of 50 tourists on the same beach, with guides and radios and enough freaking rifles to start a small militia. That put a damper on things for me. I went back to the boat and the rest of the gang chilled with the driftwood and waited an hour or so for the ship to bug off.

With Delos in the Arctic // Part 1

With Delos in the Arctic // Part 1

A Birthday Party & Roald Amundsen Goes Blimping

To get straight to the point, because everyone is wondering this, a few thoughts on sailing with the Delos crew: the Delos gang is exactly what we expected they’d be like after meeting and hanging a bit with Brian & Karin in Stockholm a little while back (in a very good way); filming with them has so far been an AWESOME and educational experience - it’s fun to watch other creatives work and learn from them; they Delos crew works WAY harder than you’d think; they are genuinely nice to each other and to us; furthermore, Mia, James & I have been made to feel FULLY part of the group; they are so damn enthusiastic about experiencing new places it’s infectious; and finally, no, they aren’t filming 24/7. Onwards.