To the Far North

 Svalbard Experience

 

After a very good dinner in the main restaurant and a long day of activities, we decided to forgo the post dinner program and get some much needed rest as Seabourn Venture continued the journey to Svalbard

 

Sunday July 31, 2022

 

Under overcast skies we approached the Svalbard Archipelago.  The seas were relatively calm, nearly flat as we detoured to pick up a pilot near Longyearbyen.  Our destination today is Poolepynten, on Prins Karls Forland where we hope to go ashore near a walrus colony for photos.  Patrick is also going to do some kayaking in addition to seeing the walrus colony.

 

It is possible to track the ship on AIS at sites like marinetraffic.com, since the protected Svalbard archipelago is highly regulated and patrolled, with numerous AIS base stations.  Similar to the southern polar regions, group size ashore is limited to 50 people at a time, so we will go ashore in color groups that were assigned on embarkation day.  The first color group changes each day so every group has a chance to be first.

 

We arrived at our destination, but alas there were NO walruses, so the ship headed east to Spitzbergen Island to a large tidewater glacier in St Johnsfjordern where will have zodiac tours and a kayaking session.  Patrick elected to do a kayak tour, and when arriving at the site, proceeded 

 to enter the kayak.  Patrick was immediately requested to exit since a polar bear was sighted on the beach headed for the kayaks.

 

We followed the bear and the rest of the ship’s zodiacs followed in behind when they heard we had sighted the bear.  We had a lot of time watching the bear before we finally headed back to where the kayaks were anchored and the bear reappeared behind us.

 

Monday, August 1, 2022

 

Texas Bar and Monacobreen

 

Satellite cover is poor especially deep in the fjords, so we have little coverage except at night while we are moving from place to place.

 

Going all the way to the northernmost tip of Spitzbergen, at about 80 degrees north, we then headed back South and anchored in front of Texas Bar at 79 degrees 36 Minutes North.  We are now about 650 miles from the North Pole.  The weather was overcast, calm winds and a temperature of 45 degrees.  Patrick kayaked in the morning and then went ashore at Texas Bar, named after a hut with a row of bottles.  The hut was originally built as a hunters hut and has bunks, etc.  The tradition is to bring two bottles and only take one drink, so the bar continues to grow.  It is really isolated.  There was actually a sailboat anchored in the next bay, which left partway through the morning.

 

Just a few miles further south is a large glacier named after Prince Albert 1 of Monaco.  This afternoon’s activities include zodiac tours and another kayak excursion.

 

When we arrived at Monacobreen there were actually 5 glaciers in a ring around the ship and the kayaks toured around the eastern portion of the bay.

 

 

Tuesday, August 6

 

When we awoke, Seabourn Venture was steaming north towards the edge of the pack ice.  It was very foggy and the the ship carefully approached the pack ice, with visibility only a few hundred yards.  This was at a latitude of 80 degrees 45 minutes north.  Altering course, Seabourn Venture skirted the edge of the pack ice and finally penetrated a band of ice at 81 degrees north.  We continued north and after breaking through pack ice for a few miles, stopped at 82 degrees north, further than any other Carnival Corporation ship.  We had signed up for wine tasting at 1430 and it was a unique experience to be tasting wines as the ship crunched through the ice.

 

Captain Alex opened up the bow platforms, normally reserved for crew docking and anchoring, to passengers and crew as we moved through the pack ice at 2-3 knots, shoving the ice flows aside or splitting them apart.

 

At a little before 1700, Captain Alex stopped the ship and we drifted for the night in the pack ice at 82 degrees North Latitude, only 480 NM from the North Pole.  Celebrating with our second formal night of the cruise.  Spectacular!!!  We will spend the night in the pack ice and start looking for polar bears.

At this latitude we have no satellite coverage, so no internet.

 

At midnight a female polar bear approached the ship.  A quiet announcement was made and many guests and crew heard it and got great photos and videos of the bear, until it was spooked by some kind of noise from the ship.  Miriam and I slept through the announcement, along with the ship’s photographer.  We were fortunate to have another guest airdrop their iPhone video to us so we have some record of the encounter.  We will have another chance later in the voyage.

 

About 0815 we headed through the pack ice back to Svalbard for the rest of our trip.  We had drifted 3 NM further north during the night, so we were 477 NM from the North Pole.  The sound of the ship pushing through the ice floes was like a constant roll of thunder.  When we hit larger floes the ship would shudder.  Seabourn Venture was able to make 3-4 knots through ice 2-4 feet thick with floes up to 150 feet in diameter.

 

At noon the ship stopped and launched 2 zodiacs for the polar plunge event.  Any guests and contractor were able to participate.  It was not our event!

 

Continuing SE, we are headed for 2 smaller islands to the east of the main Spitzbergen Archipelago.  The first island is Storoya, where we finally spotted walruses and more polar bears.

 

The second island is Kvitoya Island (or White Island), since it almost entirely covered by a glacier.  There is a monument there to the ill-fated Solomon Andree Balloon expedition to the North Pole.  Their remains were not discovered until 1931 since this island is seldom visited.  The balloon expedition only made it to 83 degrees 50 minutes North before the design flaws became evident that forced the team to land on sea ice and make their way to Kvitoya where they perished. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V-Cove at Isla Carmen to Isla Coronados

Here is a photo of the area we went snorkeling in on Saturday. We were in the small, shallow strait between Isla Carmen and the tiny rock island. The anchorage is just to the right (south) of where this photo ends. … Continue reading

Juneau to Ketchikan

After six nights in Juneau we headed out of Auke Bay on July 12 headed towards Gambier Bay, on Admiralty Island. It turned into a real slog between Douglas and Admiralty Island as we had an adverse current instead of the predicted favorable current.

Once in Gambier Bay, we anchored in the SE arm of Snug Cove which is smaller and less used than the larger area to the west. We ended up spending three nights here while we tried to find a productive prawn area.  After six pots in three locations with mediocre results, we’re scratching Gambier Bay off the list of prime prawning areas..

The weather at this point has become more unsettled with a series of weak fronts separated by only modest sun breaks.  At least the temperatures are moderate and we haven’t had to run the furnace to heat the boat.2022-Cruise-247x

Fortunately, one of the sun breaks coincided with a stop at the lovely West Brother Island anchorage.  Drake got to play on the beach there before high tide took it away.

With another soggy front forecasted, we headed to the village of Kake on Kupreanof Island for a couple of nights where we’d have shore access for walks.  While there we reconnected with our yacht club friends, Ann and Craig on Shot-8, whom we had last seen in Sitka about a month earlier.

2022-Cruise-250xFrom Kake we headed to a rendezvous in Security Bay on Kuiu Island with Kathleen and John who cruise on our sistership Laysan.  While we’ve met up with them in Petersburg several times we’ve never anchored out with them. The next morning, we first fished for halibut near them by Kingsmill Point (they were successful, we weren’t) before going our separate ways. They were headed out towards Sitka while we headed back into Fredrick Sound..

With another front coming through, we decided to spend the time in Cannery Cove at Pybus Bay. While very scenic and often with good bear viewing, Cannery Cove is  open to the east and doesn’t offer great protection from weather out of the southeast.  It was a little bouncy and slightly annoying at times.

After two nights in Cannery Cove, we headed out to fish for halibut at a spot than had worked for us last year.  Unfortunately, the spot is not at all protected and the weather hadn’t quieted down enough for us to fish it so we headed over to fish Cleveland Passage just north of Cape Fanshaw which is relatively protected.  Marcia managed to pull in one halibut before we left for our anchorage that night at Read Island Cove in Farragut Bay.

An early start from there saw us through Wrangell Narrows with the morning high slack and we docked in the Reliance Harbor in Wrangell that afternoon. Once again, another front was forecasted for SE Alaska and we decided it’d be more pleasant at the dock than in an anchorage.

After three nights in Wrangell, we headed out with better weather forecast in hand down the East Passage and anchored in Berg Bay.  We had stopped there in May on the northbound part of the trip and enjoyed it because of easy shore access to an area for Drake to play, which he did again on this return visit.

We continued a down East Passage and into Blake Channel and anchored in Fools Inlet. Part of the reason for our taking the route we did was to look for new prawn sites so we dropped prawn pots hoping to stumble on the “motherlode” of prawn sites (spoiler alert, we didn’t find it). Next we went to Santa Anna Inlet for a night and finally to Vixen Harbor. 

We had looked at the write-up for Vixen Harbor every time we had passed it during our travels in Ernest Sound.  The charts suggest is virtually impassible but the guides say it is doable but requires careful navigation.  Recently, I came across the very complete description provided by Kevin Morris of the Slowboat website.  Fortified by his description and overhead drone images, we entered its narrow channel and anchored uneventfully. 

2022-Cruise-259xAfter watching the entrance channel through a tide cycle and taking the kayak through it with a handheld depth sounder, its least depth (zero tide) seems about 8-feet.  A mid-channel route is probably safe but at high tide, favor (ever so slightly) the west side of the channel (starboard side while entering) as it seems to be a bit steeper.  When exiting, we waited for a rising tide and a tide level of about 6-feet before leaving.

From Vixen Harbor we headed down a docile Clarence Strait and, rather than arriving in Ketchikan in the evening, we went to Deep Bay off of Moser Bay.  Friends Brenda & Pete have a cabin here and Brenda came out to our boat in her skiff and we caught up on things going on in our lives.

The next morning, July 30, we headed into Ketchikan arriving shortly after 9 AM.  From here we’ll wait for suitable weather to cross Dixon Entrance and clear into Canada at Prince Rupert. 

It’s a Way of Life Not a Vacation

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own, but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

We love the life we’re living and many think it’s a perpetual vacation. I’ll let you in on a little secret…living on our boat isn’t like being on vacation. We live on our own boat, not a cruise ship with a full staff. We still have to do maintenance on our home(s), pay bills, get prescriptions filled and make doctor appointments. Just to name a few of the normal life things that have to get done. Everything we do is done in a very small space…less than 600 square feet, which includes our outside space. We have no washer and dryer, no dishwasher, our refrigerator is dorm size with little space for frozen food, our shower is 3’x2′ and we have no comfortable furniture to relax on. Are you ready to join our crew yet?

CONTINUE READING HERE…»

Puerto Escondido to V Cove on Isla Carmen

On Tuesday, our friends on Whirlwind (the sailboat with the kids) and Sprezzatura (the Nordhavn 40) had gone to an anchorage called V Cove on Isla Carmen. On Thursday, we joined them. We left the marina in Puerto Escondido at … Continue reading

Embarkation Day to Bear Island

 July 27 – Embarkation Day

 

Check-in for the Seabourn Venture was moved to the Clarion Edge Hotel and was open at 1000.  We arrived at 1030 and were cleared to go into the holding area awaiting shuttle busses to the ship, which was only about 300 yards away, but due to security at the dock, we were required to ride the shuttles.  The room gradually filled, there were 15 tables with room for 8 at each table.  Champagne was served, and there was also coffee and fruit.  There was access to restrooms, which became important when Seabourn announced a delay in starting the shuttle service.  The shuttles were taken table by table and we were on the 10th table.  We did not get onto the ship until after 1500, a wait of 4 ½ hours.  By then, it was a mad rush to get something to eat, go to the mandatory zodiac safety briefings and watch the mandatory ship safety video.  The room TV was locked until you had completely finished the video.  Our parkas were also not in the room as promised, so we had to go to another area before departure and get fitted for them.

 

Our stateroom is large, for wheelchair access, but has some limitations in the number of chairs, no dining table and also a number of inoperative wall outlets.

 

Seabourn Venture at dock in Tromso

Seabourn Venture departed on schedule at 1700 and we had just time to go to the “sailaway” celebration in the Constellation Lounge on deck 9, followed by an Expedition Team briefing at 1830.

 

Dinner service begins at 1900 and we met Brenda and Brian in the main Restaurant where we enjoyed a good meal before calling it a night and retiring to our suite.  We were too tired to even tour the ship, which appears to be beautiful.

 

July 28

 

The ship rolled a little all night, and when we got up at 0530 we saw why.  The seas were on our beam at 12+ foot swells and 6 foot wind chop on top of the swell.  The stop at Storestoppen Island was cancelled after zodiacs were launched and it was determined that it was not safe for passenger operations.  The ship proceeded to Hornvika, where once again the seas were too rough, so some of the shore excursions were cancelled.

 

After several hours rolling motionless off Hornvika the ship headed to Scarsvag, where the Zodiacs were finally launched and Miriam and I headed ashore for a included excursion to North Cape.  The weather was pretty gruesome as we approached Nordkapp by bus, with winds to 30 knots and rain, heavy at times.  Since we had been there before, we just waited in the tourist center until we could re-board the bus for the return to Scarsvag and the ship.  By the time we returned, it was nearly time for dinner, so we changed and headed quickly down.  Dinner was not all that good, with overcooked lamb and undercooked fish, but it is very early on a new ship with a new crew.

Patrick at Nordkapp Globe

Part of the “children of the earth” sculpture 

At the entrance to Nordkapp visitor center

 

The internet is still not working, very frustrating, but at least they finally fixed the power outlets in the suite.  We still have no table for room service, and they have no plan for addressing the problem, again, very frustrating.

 

We knew there would be teething problems on a new ship, We understand they have an issue with the stabilizers and the thrusters, which could explain why the ship is moving around so much.  We are currently sort of circling around North Cape, not yet headed to Bear Island and Svalbard, no explanation given.

 

July 29, 2022 – At Sea

 

Today is a “sea day” and sometime after midnight the ship left the North Cape area and headed to Bear Island.  This distance is not far, so the ship was only doing 7-9 knots, with no stabilizers.  We now know that the stabilizers retract a slow speeds.  The weather ranged from overcast to fog and the seas were about 2 meters at 7 seconds on average.  Winds persisted at 15-20 knots.  Tonight was the Captain’s reception and the first “formal” night.

 

July 30, 2022 – Bear Island

 

Seabourn Venture arrived at a small protected bay on the southeast tip of Bear Island or Bjornoya Island.  We arrived in fog, which persisted for most of the day, with some clearing at times.  The island is about halfway between Nordkapp and Svalbard, in the middle of the Barents Sea.  The island was “discovered” and named by by a Dutch Explorer Willem Barentz in 1596.  The name came from an encounter with a solo Polar Bear involved in a dramatic fight between Barentz’s team and the bear;  the bear lost.

 

Patrick was on the first kayak excursion at 0715, and then on an 1100 zodiac tour.  Bear Island has large bird colonies on the cliffs, with puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, gannets and even some northern skuas.  The southern cliffs are pieced by many caves and arches created by the severe weather pounding against the limestone.

 

Puffins from kayak

Inside one of the sea caves at Bear Island

Seabourn Venture at anchor Bear Island

“Fogbow” leaving Bear Island

After recovering the zodiacs, about 1430 Seabourn Venture continued on to Svalbard.  Immediately we were back into a thin layer of fog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puerto Escondido Days 3 – 6

On Sunday, Dan, Liz and Drake came to the marina at lunch time. The males went to the pool. Another cruising family was also at the pool, with kids who were 9 and 11. The four kids had a blast … Continue reading

Tromso Interlude

 Tromso

 

July 24, 2022

 

We were exhausted after the nearly 24 hour journey, and after doing our Covid testing to board the ship decided not to go out for a meal.  We were not all that hungry anyway, so Patrick walked up to a local Burger King and brought back some fish and chicken sandwiches for a light supper.  Since it was Sunday, most shops and many restaurants were closed.

 

Since Tromso is some 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle, for a few more days the “Midnight Sun” never sets.  Tomorrow evening it will still be 5 degrees above the horizon at it’s lowest point.  Getting up late this evening (midnight) it was interesting to see a a colorful sunset/sunrise that lasted for hours.

 

July 25, 2022

 

Today will be another day relaxing and exploring the old town.  There is a chance of rain, but at 0500 the sun was shining and the winds were calm.  We have a few last minute items to purchase, including sunscreen.

 

The buffet breakfast was a zoo when we went down early due to two large tour groups trying to get food before their tours departed.  Many of the people were pushing and practicing poor buffet behavior even if there was no Covid.  We should have waited 30 more minutes because all of a sudden the breakfast area was deserted except for ourselves and two other couples and there were no line and plenty of food.

 

During the night the room had gotten very warm and we discovered the AC was not working.  The sun shining into the room warmed it up so it was uncomfortable, so we called maintenance.  The staff was unable to fix the AC, and the only other rooms had high tub/shower combinations rather than walk-in showers.  The step into the tub was too high, so we were given fans, which definitely helped.

 

Patrick walked around the old town and took a few photos of the scenic wood houses, statues to Roald Amundsen and other polar explorers, as well as the very modern public library, and whaling guns outside the Polar Museum.

Arctic Cathedral
Unique Manhole Covers from Tirpitz Salvage
Interior of Arctic Cathedral

Entrance to Arctic Cathedral

One of many statues to Roald Amundson, Polar Explorer

Whaling guns outside the Polar Museum

Tromso Public Library

Waterfront warehouses now restaurants

 

We enjoyed an early dinner just 2 blocks from the hotel, at Pastafabrikken, an eclectic mix of soups, pasta and pizzas, with a few sandwiches thrown in.  The choices were broad, portions were huge and the flavors were spot on.  We shared a large Caesar salad, then Miriam had a mussel soup, Patrick a fresh mushroom soup and we finished with a Gorgonzola Tagliatelle.  There was fresh bread, but we could not even begin to finish the dishes.  We were offered “takeaway” boxes, but where would we store the food?  Service was good and our server had been to Seattle and worked on Seabourn ships in a variety of roles.

 

In the middle of the night we got an email from Seabourn changing the boarding location and process, still trying to understand what it meant.

 

July 26, 2002

 

After Miriam and Patrick had a good (and uncrowded) breakfast Patrick met our friends, Brenda and Brian, who arrived the night before.  We decided to take a taxi across the bridge to the “Arctic” cathedral, actually a parish church, and then up the aerial tram.  Following that, we walked back 1.5 miles across the bridge connecting Tromso to Tromsdalen where the tram and cathedral are located.  Wandering through the old part of the city where our hotel is located we stopped and made reservations for dinner at “Fiskekompaniet” restaurant for all four of us.  We also checked out the revised boarding location at the Clarion Edge Hotel, about 600 feet from the Radisson Blu.  The rain that was predicted held off until we were back to the hotel, but the air smells of moisture, so rain is on the way.

 

The air conditioning is still not working in our room and it is nearly 80 degrees from the sun shining on our side of the building.  The hotel staff brought a second fan.  Apparently global warming has hit Tromso also, since the taxi driver said the last snow was May 17, Norwegian Independence Day, and they usually have snow even later.  In 2017 we had snow in June just 200 miles north at “NordKapp”.

 

 

 

 

 

Bahia Candeleros to Puerto Escondido

Q: How far north are you planning to go? A: We doubt we’ll go farther north than Bahia de Los Angeles, but we have no firm plans. Q: Have you fished? Is the sea warm? A: We have not fished … Continue reading

Crossing Dixon Entrance 2022

It’s an early 5 AM departure from Foggy Bay for our first open water crossing of our inside passage trip. This body of water is know as Dixon Entrance and is notorious for its rough water. In the past we have waited up to a week for a calm water crossing but toady we have […]