Archive for the ‘Jan Mayen’ Category

Off Towards Greenland

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Position N70,58.16 x W008,41.29
Now I’m sitting on Sumara with John, Tim and Sarah discussing plans for a quick departure. Our Charlotte is off sailing on Aurora for a day trip with some people from the Main Command Station. The grib weather data doesn’t look too good as far as wind direction goes so it will be a pretty tough sail. A depression is building off the Greenland coast which may cause concern later. We propose to leave in a few hours at around 14.00 and beat as best we can with the North Coast of Iceland as an option for lee or a short stop if needs be. Sarah will transfer to Aurora on their return. She has been wonderful crew on Sumara so we shall miss her. If it is rough and wet we may not update the blog for a while to ensure delicate equipment doesn’t get trashed. If we can’t get through the ice then we will end up in Iceland.
Last night we were entertained on Aurora by Siggi and his father Jon to a spendid feast of salt cod curry and an out of this world rubarb pie with cream. It was brilliant. They have really looked after us wellon the mountasin and at anchor. Charlotte and Stuart took a walk to base station where Charlotte had a beer in the outdoor hot tub! They bought us presents of Beerenberg Badges (on Dans Credit Card!).
We will miss Jan Mayen, it is a very special place.

Sent at 12.15GMT 10 July 2011

The Mighty Beerenberg Conquered!

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Jan Mayen Beerenberg Walking the Line

Position N70,58.162 x W008,41.350 Wind northerly Force 4

On 7th July we sailed Sumara and Thembi up the coast 6nm to Stasjonbukta where we joined the Icelandic yacht Aurora with our Charlotte and Siggi, who was to be our mountain guide. The anchorage was calm then but is exposed to the north and west. We all went over to Aurora to discuss our plans to climb Beerenberg and decided to set off that afternoon and make a base camp a short way up. We could then set off in the following morning for the main climb. After a frantic hour or so assembling the gear we were taken ashore in Auroras Zodiac. Sarah, Stuart and Siggis father gallantly remained on the yachts to act as anchor watches.
We hiked up over rough volcanic rock and moss to 460m above sea level and pitched our tents. Siggi knew there was some freshwater nearby which is very rare on the island and the soft moss made for a surprisingly good surface to camp on. It was a good move as we had knocked a little bit off the next days climb and base camps are fun!
In the morning of the 8th July we set off up the volcano. The team consisted of Charlotte, Dan, Tim from Yacht Thembi and John, our Charlotte and myself from Sumara plus Siggi our wonderful mountain guide from Iceland. Beerenberg’s height is 2277m with a massive crater which makes it one of the largest volcanos and it is the most northerly in the world. There was a long walk through sugary snow on the glacier surface until we rose above the cloud level at about 1000m.
When the team eventually stopped I thought “marvelous it must be little chocolate break”, on close examintion I noticed Charlotte hadn’t got any legs. Adding the evidence up I realised she had fallen into a crevasse and was trying to pull herself out. We decided to proceed to the rock a few hundred metres ahead and rope up. Apparently roping up normally takes place after the first person has fallen down a crevasse in the same way as crampons normally get put on after the first person has had an accident on the ice. To be fair, the first long section of the glacier was not heavily crevassed but that was about to change. Once we were roped up into two teams the Thembi crew of Tim, Dan and Charlotte lead the way through some massive and very beautiful crevasses over fragile snow bridges. I preferred this section of the climb because the pace was slower and as a rank amateur I could relax and enjoy the climb while the experts judged the best way to proceed. There was little wind and lovely sunshine. As it never gets dark there were no real time pressures. At about 1500m height the gradient steepens as the climb leads towards the volcano rim. By now I suppose we had been climbing continuously for about 6 hours. The final climb to the rim was slower going with lots of crevasses. We all managed to get across them safely. The rim of the volcano involves walking along thin ridge of snow with a steep drop into the crater on one side and a steep slope on the other. It was a truly amazing experience with breathtaking views and a real sense of adventure. The rim led towards the final summit called Haakon V11 which is a steep mound of snow covered rock. We finally climbed onto it at about 1800 after a total of 11 1/2 hrs climbing from sea level. It was a very emotional moment after all the years of planning to finally be there. It was a real delight to climb with such a pleasant and supportive team. The views were totally beyond description. It has been the best day of my life without doubt. After a team photo call we dropped down a few metres to get out of the wind and take a well earned break in the sun.
I believe we started to descend at 1900hrs. The descent was much faster. Eventually we were down to cloud level and back at base camp. The tents were packed away and our back packs were once again very heavy.The Thembi crew and Siggi walked on ahead while the Sumara crew took it a bit slower. By the time we were in sight of the yachts the Thembi crew were onboard Auroras Zodiac about to tackle the surf. The conditions at the anchorage had completely changed. There was now a heavy swell and a moderate onshore wind producing breaking waves on the beach and severe rolling for our small yachts. The Zodiac was pushed by Siggi and his father, who were wearing survival suits and standing in the water, while Tim and Dan paddled frantically to clear the surf. They made it. We weren’t so lucky. When our time came the Zodiac wouldn’t move forward when the time came because she was stuck on a rock and the next wave proved to be a massive roller which crashed over the boat completely soaking us. Another three waves broke over the boat, our waterproof Ortlieb bags were floating in a foot of icy water, so John and I jumped over the side to help drag the boat up the beach to empty her. The water temperature was just 3.5 degrees! Our second attempt was wet but successful. Sarah greeted us back on a very rolly Sumara with a curry and Champagne. What a day!
Now, it’s 9th July and John is frantically trying to dry out our seaboots. We have sailed back to Kvalrossbukta to try to find some lee under the cliffs but the swell is working its way in. We may attempt a shore landing later to light a small fire to dry out our gear. Hopefully we will sail to Greenland tomorrow.

Sent at 15.56GMT on 9th July 2011

Another amazing day up here

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Position N70,58.18 x W008,41.43 Calm
We went ashore yesterday together with the Thembi crew and decided to walk the five or so miles to Olonkinbyen on the south side of the island to introduce ourselves to the Station Commander (Per Erik Hannevold). Actually we met him en route in his Mercededs Land Rover and he very kindly said that he would greet us at the Base Station in an hour or so. We walked along the dust road over the hill and along Sorlaguna and the air strip and eventually arrived at the main station where 18 people work providing radio and weather services. With huge kindness the Station Commander offered us all a shower (it may have been in his own interest!) and laid out seven clean towels. After coffee and an interesting chat about the history of the island we were asked to stay for diner, traditional Norwegian fish cakes, yummy. We were then asked if we would like to send postcards as the supply ship was arriving today and they could take them to Norway. The Station Commander stood patiently by as we wrote the cards even though he would have to supervise unloading the ship overnight. By now it was about 1800 and we decided to take a look at the alternative anchorage Batvika near the base. It was small and rocky but looked fine for one or maybe two boats. They keep a 30 ft dory there ready to evacuate the island if Beerenberg or any of the other volcanos erupts. There is an earthquake about twice a week on the island. At the end of January a large one of 6.2 occurred.
On the way back to the anchorage, Tim and Dan, of boundless energy decided it would be fun to climb a hill in case we can glimpse Beerenberg as the cloud level was lifting. It whacked me out and I was very sad to see it was only 198m high! The view was grand and the soft moss made a good rest spot before the descent back to the boats.
When we arrived back at Kvalrossbukta the supply ship was there and we watched it being unloaded by a warm fire. The Jan Mayen nurse offered us all a beer! By the time we arrived back on the yachts I was certainly pretty tired and it was now past midnight. We eventually bedded down and fell into deep sleep when a hoot and general commotion woke us to see our Charlotte arriving on the large yacht Aurora with Siggi at the helm. They came alongside wondering whether to drop Charlotte off but Sumara was full to the brim so we suggested she stayed onboard until the morning when we will sort ourselves out. Aurora proceeded on up the coast to Stasjonbutka where the climb will start. We will join them today. Hopefully we can start the ascent on the Mighty Beerenberg later today or tomorrow morning.
That was yet another “wow!” day!

We are learning more about the birds. I mentioned to Charlotte that I saw a Fulmar with an orange patch on its stomach and she said she had seen one too.(This is going to be confusing, as we have two Charlottes, I think we will have to prefix our Charlotte with “our” but it by no means signifies ownership!). We wondered if they were a different colouring so when we met two scientists researching Fulmars on the Jan Mayen cliffs I mentioned it and they said they were patches of sick. Fulmars, if they are threatened, can projectile vomit as a defence mechanism. Tim and Dan have both experienced it and Tim reckons it smells so revolting that you have to incinerate your clothes!
I was attacked by an Arctic Skua as I walked along the track. I was quite a thump on the back of my head but no blood drawn. The Skuas are horrible birds!

Sent at 08.55GMT on 7th July 2010

It’s so beautiful!

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Positon N70,58.189 x W008,41.469. Anchored in 8.2m
Kvalrosbukta, Jan Mayen

We have had a truly amazing day. Gentle winds with occasional calms wafted us north towards the east coast of Jan Mayen whilst being entertained by Northern Bottlenose Whales, Fulars and Puffins. The Mighty Beerenberg Volcano has been very shy and hid all day behind low cloud cover and drifting mist patches. However the sail around the North Cape of Jan Mayen was stunning. The cliffs are the wildest imaginable covered with patches of soft green moss, snow, and black lava ash and then slashed through by ice blue
glaciers calving off into the sea. The rock is bent and twisted and piled up and broken off with patches of rust red and piles of grey scree. It was just so so beautiful!As we ghosted along towards the large rocky hill sheltering the anchorage from the North we saw the unmistakable sight of the Thembi crew standing on the hill crest waving! Soon Thembi came into sight looking gorgeous against the rugged cliffs and we luffed up and set our anchor in 8m. Tim, Dan, Charlotte and Stuart rowed out from the beach to greet us and we were soon all snugged in Sumaras cabin drinking fortified hot chocolate. The whole sail from the Faroes about 600nm south has been a real pleasure at times almost unbelievably comfortable with the yachts gliding silently through calm seas. We must be the luckiest sailors around.

Anchor Tackle – Boring Technical Stuff
We are using a Rocna 15kg bower anchor and carrying a Fortress kedge and a folding fishermans. The chain we are using is 60m of 8mm grade 70 galvanised which is about twice the strength of most yacht anchors chains (normally grade 30 or 40). It is called Aqua 7 and I brought it in from Italy. There is more information about it on the gear section of the website. We use a nylon three strand snubber with a Wichard anchor hook fitted with a plunger. Our chum is about 15kg of bronze with a Davy and Co anchor shakle. We position about half way down the chain. The anchor has a tripping line connected to a spare fender. We lay out 12 x the square root of the depth. Sumaras samson post has heavy slotted stainless plate on the aft side to snub the chain. It can be very useful for getting a stubborn anchor to break free by snubbing the chain while the yacht is pitching forward and allowing the swell to drag the anchor out – thanks for that Terry, it works a treat! Sumara is also carrying 100m of 16mm polyester octoplait anchor warp and 100m of nylon 16mm octoplait and 60mm of 14mm three strand. We are hoping that this ground tackle will be bullet proof as there are no secure anchorages in Jan Mayen and we have to expect bad weather at some point.

Sent at 22.21GMT on Tuesday 5th July

50 Miles From Jan Mayen

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Position N70,13.2 x W007,53.9 Calm

Sumara is still chugging along through a calm sea with no wind. We are going to go around the north end of the island in the hope we can see the glacier snouts. Visability isn’t too bad but I think the island must be under cloud cover. As predicted we have been seeing more wildlife in the calm sea with three separate whale sightings. The sea temperature is going up which is strange (8 degrees now). Thembi is chugging along too but I think they are going for the south of the island. Their position is 70.22N x 009.11W.

The ice situation in Scoresbysund isn’t looking good with fast ice across the entrance. Hopefully it will improve although offshore winds don’t appear likely in the next four days. We have heard that Charlotte is going to try to bring 20L of diesel out from Iceland if she can buy containers. It will be useful if we have to head south to Angmagssalikto clear the ice. We have motored a total 23 hours so far so we should have 80L of fuel left at 1L
per hour. We need a bit for heating too.

I’ve just finished reading Northern Lights which was a present from Alice and Fran. I
hope those panserbjorner are friendly to us. Back to Naiv Super again, I’m determined to finish it but it’s a struggle reading Norsk.

Sent at 18.14GMT Monday 4th July

Two Good Things About an Oily Calm

Monday, July 4th, 2011

It’s 0545 and we are motoring through an oily calm. I’m taking the opportunity to charge everything up. While we were sailing downwind for the last three days or so the Aerogen wind generator was not often generating any power as so little wind was passing over the boat. I use a bungee strap to hold it facing downwind otherwise the rolling motion of the boat makes the generator revolve – just got to remember to take it off when the wind changes. I have only one general service 105 amp hour battery. It is a Lifeline Advanced Glass Matt battery and it is very good. My last one was still in good shape after 9 years but I decided to get another for this trip. The engine has a smaller 45 amp hour battery separated with a rectifier (I think that’s right – not a blocking diode anyway). The unusual thing about Sumara is that I use a double sized alternator, instead of the usual 35 amp one I have fitted a 75 amp Balmar alternator which is de-rated to half via a Balmar controller. I can turn the alternator off to maximise thrust for the boat when I need it, or I can leave it on half power for normal use, or (and this is the good bit) I can turn the engine into a mini generator while at anchor by switching to full power. It then puts a nice load on the engine (about 4hp) and diesels like to be loaded. Advanced Glass Matt batteries can be charged quickly too. I reckon it is a perfect system for a small boat. I have never needed to use shore power apart from running the odd power tool or fan heater in the winter. I got all the bits and advice from Merlin Power but I am in no way connected with them.

Despite all that, as the battery power eventually faded away, we gradually turned off the AIS, then the VHF, then the GPS and Navtex leaving just the sailing instruments.

The other good thing about an oily calm is that you tend to see more things in the sea and earlier this morning while we were still under sail John spotted some whales. I quickly got up to have a look but only saw them move off in the distance. The fulmars are pretty spectacular too. They skim just above the surface of the water with only an inch to spare. The fulmars have, as always, entertained Sumara the whole way on her long journey north and I place a bet they will sit in the water behind us when we anchor in Jan Mayen.

There are only 100 miles to go now. I am getting very excited about catching the first glimpse of the Mighty Beerenberg volcano. It is one of the biggest in the world and certainly the most northerly. The last large eruption took place in 1970 but it has erupted since. Sadly with the calm conditions the visibility has dropped off but that should be no surprise as 60% of the July days are foggy. Hopefully it will clear later.

Sumara should be at anchor in Kvalrossbukta on the NW coast of Jan Mayen some time on the 5th July. Thembi must be nearly there!

Sent at 06.36 GMT Monday 4th July

Magic Carpet Ride

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Position N68,39.8 x W008,00.4 Wind F2 Easterly
We have had an amazingly smooth ride for the last twelve hours. The wind eadsed off a bit and we gybed the genoa so we are now gliding through a smooth sea at about 3 knots. There was even a bit of warmth in the sun at lunchtime. We are very lucky for this could have been a really tough sail. I’m sure the tough sails will come at some point but for the moment we are enjoying ourselves. Because of a lack of water we can only wash in salt water although John confessed to having a little freshwater wash with his hat on. Sarah is moaning because the loo seat is about 5 degrees cold. My cultural highlight of the trip was being woken up by “Shaun the Sheep” thanks John. Only 150 nm to go. If the weather was clear we could see the mighty Beerenberg soon but its just started to rain. Thembi will be a long way ahead.

Sent at 18.05 GMT on Sunday 3rd July 2011

Going Like a Bat Out of Hell

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Position N66,57.43 x W007,25.2 Wind force 4-5 southerly.
We have had some great sailing maintaining a speed of around 6 knots. It is mighty rolly polly with the boom and yankee pole dipping alternately every few seconds. Occassionally Sumara does a mad death roll and everything flies around but it is great to be making rapid progress. Only 253nm to go to the waypoint. At this rate we will be there in a couple of days but I suspect the winds may ease off later tomorrow. (haven’t downloaded the grib yet). Thembi are out of radio contact and should be a long way ahead by now. It doesn’t look like we will need diesel but we are running out of bacon. Almost as serious a problem. We crossed into the arctic circle earlier today. It is raining and 8 degrees with a sea temperature of 6 degrees. As a lot of the time involves sitting in the cockpit with no movement to keep warm it is crucial to wear appropriate clothing. I have a pair of merinos on plus 3 pairs of Guy Cotten thermals under a Musto HPX oilskins and I’m as warm as toast. Sarah  gave me a pair of MOD issue arctic socks which work a treat.

Sent at 18.05 GMT Saturday 2nd July 2011

Magic Carpet Ride

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Position N65,08 x W006,57.

It is 1845 and it is curry night. I asked John what type of curry and he said “a nice curry”. We are sailing at 5 kn bang on course through a calm sea with a little bit of sunshine. Soon we will make up time as the grib files (digital compressed weather information for sat phones) point to good south winds of 10-20 kn for the next 36 hours. After that the wind looks like it will slacken off a bit. Just about perfect, no it is perfect!

PS. Just received email from Thembi. All is fine. Thembi Position is 65.22N x 007.40W. Just out of radio range ahead of Sumara.

Sent at 19.06 GMT on 1st July 2011

N63,39.65 x W007.41. Force 1 Northerly. Sunny. 451nm to Jan Mayen

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Well who would have believed it! Its a lovely day up here, the sun has a bit of warmth (15C)and it is pretty much calm but sadly no wind. Sumara is chug chuging along but I think we can see Thembi to our port beam so I suspect they are making a gallant effort at sailing. We could only manage 1 knot sidewards so decided to burn off somne very precious diesel. We have 103L on board, lets say 90L useable, which needs to get us to Greenland. I’ve emailed Charlotta to see if she can smuggle some onto Aurora in her handbag but haven’t had a response. Not sure if Charlotta has got a handbag in any case. There was a rendezvous at 2200 last night with Thembi as they overhauled us just after a rain squall. Lots of video going on. I was in bed. John knocked up some warm rolls with bacon this morning (that’s something else for Charlottas handbag). I’ve just painted a rubbish picture of Ullapool – lovely place just a rubbish picture. Its tough out here.

Sent by satellite phone at 10.27 GMT on Thursday 30th June 2011 (Blogged by Gerry)