At 0459 this morning, Isbjorn and her crew crossed 66º 33’ north latitude, and entered the Arctic. I’d have preferred to do it under sail of course, but motor-sailing on an oily calm sea, the mountains of northern Norway in the background standing watch in the silvery morning light…well, it ain’t that bad!
This feels really exciting. In all of the sailing we’ve done to this point, this feels like the biggest accomplishment. We were only 30 miles off the mainland coast, closer still to some off-lying islands (all of which were in sight), but crossing that boundary line where the midnight sun never sets in high summer, man that felt like something.
Mia woke me up at 0300 to do the last hour of her 0000-0400 watch together. I had noticed at 10pm the night before that we’d be getting close to the magic number on her watch, and asked her to get me. She had coffee ready, which I could smell when she rousted me from a deep deep sleep. That helped a bit. I wouldn’t have wanted to get out of bed, but then the view when I popped my head out the companionway was worth it…on the horizon ahead, the sky was on fire with the coming dawn, the low light reflecting off the oily flat sea shined like mercury and the snow-capped mountains stood tall off the starboard beam. I was awake.
The miles ticked down slowly but surely, and an hour after Laura & Dick joined us to start their watch at 0400, Isbjorn crossed the line. We celebrated by taking photos of the occasion with each other, and once Tom & Rick woke up, we stopped Isbjorn for the obligatory Arctic swim, the first of what surely will be many as the summer continues in the north.
It’d been slow but pleasant progress for the previous two days. After our rollicking start, the wind gradually eased off until it was barely a zephyr from the northeast, precisely the direction we wanted to go. The crew got some excellent practice in light-air close-hauled helming, while the captain got some practice in patience as they learned how to coax 5-6 knots boat speed out of Isbjorn in barely as much breeze. Finally last night the wind quit on us for good, and it’s been a motorboat ride ever since.
As I write, we’re closing in on Bodo, which should be our first Arctic landfall, and is currently about 37 miles distant. We’re just starting to enter the channels between the outer skerries now, and the mountains that have dominated the eastern horizon since late last night continue to grow and resolve themselves ahead and off to starboard. There is still a LOT of snow, despite it already being late May.
After planning for this for two years (and dreaming about it for much longer), we’ve made it to the north, and I’m having trouble expressing how I feel. This is a big day. And we’re only just getting started.
Until next time, hold fast!