Starting our trip north, but going east first

By |Published On: July 9, 2023|Categories: Europe, Svalbard|362 words|2 Comments|


Keen to get out of the harbour, we left Longyearbyen in the afternoon and looked for an anchorage relatively close-by as we wanted to head north. Smeerenburg, in the far Northwest of Svalbard, was our aspirational (and ultimate) destination. This being Norway, of course, it wasn’t to simple sailing. First we had to push out into a brisk headwind that was heaping chop into the Adventfjord. Rather than tack backwards and forwards northwards in that chop, we motored out to the eastern point of the fjord’s mouth and then set the headsail for a lively run downwind towards the eastern end of the Isfjorden, to Skansbukta in the Billefjorden.




Once the site of an attempt at gypsum mining, this short fjord is fringed by high tabletop mountains. From their heights they fall hundreds of crumbling vertical metres past multi-coloured rock layers to steep, shifting scree and scurvy-grass slopes, and then, almost without pause, down into the sea. Kittiwakes, fulmars and guillemots crowd the ledges and wheel in high circles along the cliff face, small and silent in the distant heights.





We anchored in shallow water close to shore. On shore several hundred metres ahead of us a camp was set up, and a group of a dozen or so people drifted in and out of the tents. Not quite the isolation that one might expect on remote Svalbard but, by the same token, not entirely unsurprising so close to Longyearbyen. Happily, we figure that any polar bear around this bay would surely go for a tourist in a tent, rather than a tourist on a sailing boat. Still, despite now having guns on board (a signal gun and a .306 Mauser rifle) to deter a curious polar bear, over night we made access to our boat and us as ‘difficult’ as possible by filling up our swimming platform with all our fenders and locking our companionway.


Much later, we heard about another sailboat in Svalbard who had a polar bear playing with their fenders on their swimming platform. Oh well, we tried, and it made us feel safer (sort of).


  1. Pierre-Michel August 9, 2023 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    Great reading. Wished to be aboard, though it’s colder than in Oz !

    • Frederieke August 21, 2023 at 5:16 pm - Reply

      Thanks Pierre-Michel. All going well, we’ll be passing by France next year, you can join us then!

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