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 offshore, but the forecast is saying 10-12 knots, so that’s okay. Much more than that though and it’ll be uncomfortable.
Texas Bar was a bit of a Shangri La for the Isbjorn & Delos crews. We didn’t really know what to expect ever since Mats Grimsaeth told us he’d buy us a drink there, at the northernmost bar in the world. I had a sneaking suspicion the place was just a nicknamed hut in the wilderness that is far norther Spitsbergen. But the charts even showed it as a landmark; ‘TEXAS BAR’, right there on the beach behind a lovely crescent-shaped anchorage. Off course we had to go there to find out for ourselves, and it became the mission of the second part of this trip.
A Cool Anchorage Missed
After a wild day - full of wildlife, we finally found an anchorage after midnight at a cool little placed called Holmiabukta, inside a very protected fjord with a glacier by the same name at it’s head, which itself was nestled in amongst the archipelago of the so-called ‘Northwest Corner’ of Spitsbergen. The anchorage was right behind a high ridge of bedrock, scraped clean by glaciers of the past, that flowed steeply down to a peninsula to the NE. Across the harbor to the east were high mountains. Above and behind us, a stream flowed fast down the steep scree slopes and tumbled onto the stony beach. At the top of this and out of sight laid a big alpine lake, a freshwater source labeled as such in the cruising guides. Beyond were endless snow-covered peaks.
It rained as we arrived and was still raining into the next morning. There wasn’t any wind with the rain, but it was the worst weather we’d had since starting the trip almost two weeks ago in Longyearbyen. As cool as the surroundings were, nobody felt like exploring off the boat. Instead, we had a long sleep-in, laid-back breakfast and a photo-sharing session from the whales, polar bears and walrus we’d seen the day before.
The next leg of the trip would take us further north and further east, towards our Texas Bar mission, on a brisk, wet & cold westerly. We’d have to leave that evening to make the 50 miles overnight, but it was fast sailing, despite the rain. And it rained the entire way.
Rather than beat back west and further into the fjord towards the Texas Bar/Hornbaekpollen area, we stopped short at Mushamna instead, a large cove inside an almost impossibly narrow entrance between two low sand spits. The cut was only a boat-length wide, and yet was 35-feet deep in the middle, despite the low topography on either side. It was 70-feet inside the pool. We inched west and watched a lone reindeer prancing over the hill, at first just his horns visible as he trotted down towards the water to check us out. We stayed here just for the night, rising the next morning to a bit brighter picture in the west, where we were headed. We didn’t bother getting off the boat here either. Mia baked scones for breakfast.
With one long starboard tack we made our way deeper into Leifdefjorden and into Hornbaekpollen. As we approached the anchorage after blast-reaching at 8 knots most of the way, the wind shut down as if someone had hit a switch. Once we got behind the bigger mountains, we motored the last few miles, stopping en route to check out the biggest, bluest iceberg we’d seen yet, drifting out from Monacobreen glacier at the head of the fjord. James flew the drone over towards it, and a small cruise ship passed between the iceberg and the shore as we drifted around and admired the ice.
Hornbaekpollen was another very protected pool with another narrow entrance, almost completely encircled on all sides and deep again inside, over 60-feet. We anchored on the small shelf to the west under high cliffs. Late that night, the guys took a midnight mission in the dinghy to recce the mythical Texas bar in the hopes we could have a cookout there next day. The finally got back to the boat at 0400.
I cooked scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast (at 1:30pm!). We had optimistically said a noon wake-up call and breakfast would give us a head-start on the day, but that didn’t happen. We got ashore before 3pm anyway, and explored the glacier to the west of the anchorage and just over the high moraine, spending several hours climbing around in the ice and playing with James’ ice axes and crampons on a low ice wall. The Delos gang did a few interviews too, which we’ve done now throughout the trip as they continue filming.