Sailing between mountains and glaciers

By |Published On: July 27, 2023|Categories: Europe, Svalbard|848 words|0 Comments|


Today we made the long haul down through the Forlandsundet, that beautiful mountain and glacier lined channel between Kongsfjorden and Isfjorden. On offer was a stop at the walrus huddles at Heemskerckneset and Poolepynten. Once out of Kongsfjorden we also discovered that today was going to be a sailing day! Yeeha!

Dovkie (also known as Little Auk).

Dovkie taking off on a glass-out.

Sadly, both of the walrus sites proved to be a disappointment. At Heemskerckneset the walruses were a long way from anywhere we could access by boat, while at Poolepynten the winds made anchoring a bit iffy, so we continued on.

Forlandsundet at least didn’t disappoint. What a beautiful part of the world it is, lined on both sides by jagged peaks, glistening glaciers and pillowy, white snow masses all set above a deep blue and sparkling sea. It was breathtaking the first time we saw it on northern leg and it was no less so on this southern leg.

Frederieke sailing through Forlandsundet.

Having decided that landing at Poolepynten wasn’t on, we set our course for Eidembukta on the Spitsbergen coast a bit further south. This was also a spot were a walrus huddle had been seen on the beach before. Here we anchored close into the beach and were soon joined by SY Snow Bear and SY In Utero.

What a view from the cockpit!


Next morning, we took the dinghy ashore and climbed up and over the beach dunes/moraine to the estuary behind them. While it is clearly usually open to the sea, the estuary was now cut off by the dunes. Nevertheless, it was home to half a dozen of the most nervous seals we’d yet seen.

The estuary, with all seals hiding from view.

Initially we thought that they were so flighty because they couldn’t access the sea, but then, we found the bear tracks. Very, very fresh bear tracks, all sharp edges, wet and still settling. Now there were half a dozen very flighty seals and two very alert humans. And no trace of a walrus huddle – presumably they had already decided to clear out.

A closer look confirmed that, indeed, these were polar bear tracks, and very fresh ones at that.

We did a scout of all the likely hiding spots in our immediate vicinity and not having found anything large, fluffy and white lurking in any of them, followed the tracks north along the estuary and out onto the beach. There they disappeared in the surf line but, as far as we could tell, the big, white and fluffy thing had gone off into the rocky outcrops of the headland that we had intended to go to next. How does that famous quote go? When the facts change, our plans change. Or something like that.

We did not stay too long on the beach, what with fresh polar bear tracks.



Back on board we set sail for Borabukta about half way along Isfjorden.

Sailing into Isfjorden.

Beautiful patterns on the mountains.

Beautiful weather still…

We arrived late in the day to find a very exposed, but calm anchorage with clear blue skies. Nearby two other boats, SV Lifesong and SV Barba, were also anchored for the night. The forecast predicted more calm weather, but again, the Svalbard weather forecast is not what it seems.

…but it changed overnight.

Around 0530, the wind had picked up and changed direction and the swell was beam-on, making for uncomfortable sleeping. In fact, sleeping was impossible so we got up to keep an eye on things in case the anchor started dragging. Except there was not much to see, given that misty drizzle now obscured the glaciers and mountains and the sea wallowed grey and unenthusiastic. Not a pleasant spot in those conditions, and in fact, the worst anchorage from the trip, at least thus far. Oh well, you win some, you loose some.

Borabukta was meant to be another of our attempts to spend time at a glacier front. The dense fog, contrary winds and swell, and floating bits of ice meant that we were foiled in our attempt, again.

The fog is lifting a little bit to reveal a glacier.


Instead, we entertained ourselves with a visit to a walrus huddle that was on a nearby beach, and, as usual, they did not disappoint with their strange bodies and behaviors!

More walrus, enjoying themselves in the shallows.

A pile of them were lying next to, over and on top of each other on the beach, some of them leaning on their tusks while lying on their bellies, looking very uncomfortable. Two others returned from a feeding trip and spent a lot of time in the shallows scratching and washing, before hauling themselves ashore to join their mates. All the while growling, roaring, grunting, barking and whatever other sounds walrus make.

How cool is this?! Yuma with walrus 🙂

Then, after three weeks of traveling in the remote waters of west and north Spitsbergen, we headed across Isfjorden towards Longyearbyen to stock up on food, water and diesel.

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Continuing south