Isbjorn's First Days in the Arctic // Exploring Lofoten

  Isbjorn in Henningsvær, our first Lofoten village.

Isbjorn in Henningsvær, our first Lofoten village.

Isbjorn is at sea. Long passage today in rainy, blustery conditions from Reine towards Lødingen at the head of the Vestfjord and the northern end of the Lofoten islands. We need to make some miles towards Tromsø now after bouncing around Lofoten for the past few days. 

18 Hours in Bodø

  James, our ships photographer, caught us coming into Bodø, where he joined Isbjorn.

James, our ships photographer, caught us coming into Bodø, where he joined Isbjorn.

We’ve had pretty good luck with the weather so far - our sailing days have been windy and gnarly, with rain and wet and cold. But then our time ashore when we wanted to get up in the hills and explore the little villages have been beautiful & calm, with blue skies and light winds. 

Dick left us in Bodø, having prior family arrangements to get back to, while we added our ship’s photographer James Austrums, who will be with us now for the entirety of our Arctic sailing, all the way to Iceland. He was there on the pier as we motored into the harbor on the final few miles of our passage from Shetland, taking photos of Isbjorn as she rounded the breakwater. 

  We bode goodbye to Dick in Bodø after we issued him his official 'Bluenose' certificate, courtesy of  our friend Thomas!

We bode goodbye to Dick in Bodø after we issued him his official 'Bluenose' certificate, courtesy of our friend Thomas!

In the 18 hours in Bodø, we met Ola, a fan of the podcast and fellow Swede who popped by the boat to say hi. Ola used to work as a boatbuilder in Sweden for Linjett. He and his wife built their own Linjett during his tenure there, then sailed it across the Caribbean and back, including stops in Iceland and Greenland. They wound up settling in Bodø by a series of coincidences, and set up a woodworking and boatbuilding shop there over the last couple of years. Ola offered to do some work for Isbjorn if we needed anything - I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, as we were preparing to leave the dock again that afternoon, but asked about some ice poles for Svalbard, and where we might get them. “I’ll make them for you!” Ola said proudly. Nevermind we were leaving in two hours - he’d do it.

So I sent James on a mission with Ola. They found some suitable wood at the local lumber yard, then returned to Ola’s shop to do the finish work. Ola had experience with this - he’d made his own poles for keeping the small bergy bits of ice off the boat at anchor in the fjords in Greenland when it drifted in with the tide. James and Ola came back with two 12-foot pine poles, 2x2-inches round, each with a metal spike set in the end to get some purchase on the slippery surface of whatever ice we need to fend off of Isbjorn. They’re now lashed to the foredeck and ready for action!

Ola also had a surprise for Isbjorn. In the two hours they were gone, he’d not only fashioned the poles, but also built a small teak wedge we could install in the galley to level the surface a bit when the galley is on the high side offshore. I was lamenting this fact when Ola came to see the boat, and low and behold he came up with a solution on the spot. I’m already scheming how we can get Isbjorn back to Bodø some winter so that he can rebuild Isbjorn’s entire interior - Ola’s specialty. Just check out this boat that’s currently for sale that he redid, gutting everything except the bulkheads and building it back up from scratch.

  That'll help in the galley - thanks Ola!

That'll help in the galley - thanks Ola!

Henningsvær and a Taste of Lofoten

After our chance encounter with Ola, and a few projects we didn’t even know we had crossed off the list, Isbjorn left Bodø on a strong southwesterly and rocketed across the 50-miles of Vestfjord and into Henningsvær, a small fishing village built into some off-lying skerries at the base of an imposing mountain range to the north. The village itself, made up of small two and three story white and red cabins, is built on two adjacent oblong islands with a stretched-out L-shaped channel down the middle.

The south end of the channel was closed off with rip-rap, onto which the road was built, connecting both sides of the village. Isbjorn sailed through the outer skerries and to the top of the village channel, then motored the last few hundred meters into the visitor’s pontoon next to the road at the head the village, her bow pointing straight into the snow-covered peaks just to the north. Next morning, in beautiful weather, we climbed those peaks for a miraculous view down onto the town and the boat.

  Overlooking Henningsvaer.

Overlooking Henningsvaer.

Upwind to Straumøya

  Laura at the helm while Tom films Isbjorn charging upwind in the Vestfjord.

Laura at the helm while Tom films Isbjorn charging upwind in the Vestfjord.

We kept moving. The weather was forecast to be sketchy again next day, but good for sailing, albeit upwind. We sailed Isbjorn right off the dock in Henningsvær, not even bothering to start the engine, drifting out at 2.5 knots under half the genoa on the southerly breeze. Once out of the village channel we rounded up to set the mainsail, then brought her up to close-hauled for one offshore tack to clear the outer skerries, then tacked over onto port and were able to lay the course for Straumøya, the anchorage I had eyed up about 25 miles to the south, and just around the corner from Nusfjord. It was a windy sail, that southerly gusting into the 30s on occasion and Isbjorn reminding the crew what it’s like to really sail hard upwind. The decks were awash in green water half the time and the cockpit watch was rarely dry. But it was fast & exhilarating sailing!

  Isbjorn's anchorage in Straumøya. That little cove to the bottom was FILLED with mussles! Can you spot our dinghy?!

Isbjorn's anchorage in Straumøya. That little cove to the bottom was FILLED with mussles! Can you spot our dinghy?!

Once around the last group of skerries, we eased the sheets and sailed right into Straumøya, a relatively isolated anchorage with a few small summer cabins perched on the outer islands. Across the fjord lay some razorback ridges on the farwaway peaks, already green in the early springtime here, while to our southwest the granite rocks sloped upwards obscuring the view to the south. We found TONS of mussels at low tide in the small cove just off Isbjorn’s bow and worked up a mighty appetite climbing up to the snow line in the hills overlooking the anchorage. James foraged some wild juniper to cook with the mussels and we had a late-evening FEAST aboard Isbjorn as we watched the sun dip below the mountains in the northwest. Of course it never got dark.

In the next installment, there’s weather in Reine…until then, HOLD FAST!

// Andy