Polar Bear heads back to Iceland because of heavy sea ice conditions
Friday, 12 August, 2011

 

The sea ice of East Greenland has proven to be a serious obstacle to our scheduled itinerary in Scoresbysund this season.  We attempted to make the 2 day crossing from Isafjord in Iceland to Scoresbysund, only to be turned back by dense sea ice just 70 miles from our destination.  Radar was our only means of navigating safely as visibility was less than 50 metres for much of the journey.  This picture of the radar screen shows clearly how much ice was around the boat before the decision was made to head back to Iceland!

It would appear to be what forecasters call a 'bad year for ice' as billions of tons of ice pour down from northern Greenland transported by the East Greenland current.  In recent years there has been nothing like this amount of ice hanging around in late July to August.  Perhaps we are seeing the drastic results of previously fast icefields breaking up through warming, or could it be that an extremely cold winter has delayed the ice break-up by several weeks.  Whatever is causing this, we have seen first hand how impressive the forces that work along this coast are.  East Greenland will open up when she is ready and not before.

 

North Iceland - a world beyond imagination
Thursday, 28 July, 2011

 

This is Polar Bear’s first season of exploring the north coast of Iceland and we have been seriously impressed at what we have discovered. Imagine watching humpback whales launching out of the water to a backdrop of snowy mountains. In one 24 hour passage we stopped counting humpback sightings but there were more than 40! Add to that white sided dolphins, minke whales and even an unconfirmed blue whale blow and you get the message that northern Iceland is one of the best whale watching destinations in the world.

Inland, things are nothing short of spectacular too. Lunar landscapes, lava flows, volcanoes and huge steam plumes set the scene. Hot sulphur pools are everywhere around here, and watching the sunset across a mountain plain whilst slowly boiling in nature’s hottest bath is something I personally will remember for the rest of my life! Good for the skin apparently, but I think just good for the soul!

Starting our journey in Akureyri we sailed to Husavik for the traditional boat festival, then north to the remote island of Grimsey where we were made very welcome by the locals. A short walk from the harbor and there is an enormous Puffin colony! Perfect place to relax in the sun and marvel at this tiny island on the edge of the Arctic.

Finally we arrived in Isafjord on the extreme north west coast of Iceland. The capital of the Vestfjords, and this charming town is where we leave you. Next up we will attempt to sail to Scoresbysund in East Greenland. Ice conditions have been terrible this year however and there is every chance we will be turned back, but we can but try…

Awesome, isolated, haunting, Jan Mayen
Friday, 15 July, 2011

photo: Matt SchoenfelderJan Mayen has lived up to its reputation as a mythical, atmospheric and often intimidating place to visit in great style. Polar Bear made her 4th trip to the island with a team of mountaineers determined to reach the summit of Beeremberg.

But conditions were not going to make this an easy trip for anyone onboard. Upon arriving at the island, skipper Boogie and 2nd mate Luke pulled off some incredible surf landings to get the team ashore. Northerly swells and a driving wind would quickly make the ‘usual’ anchorage untenable, giving little option but to drop the climbers and sail around to the south east side of the island.

Despite ferocious conditions on the mountain, the summit was reached followed by a quick retreat to the base (helped by very generous 4x4 logistics) for a hot bath and drinks at the bar.

Once again the kindness shown by the base commander and his team was legendary and we are so very grateful for everything you have done for us.

Leaving Jan Mayen behind creates mixed feelings. It is great to be heading towards the beautiful city of Akureyri in Northern Iceland, but with great sadness to leave such a magnificent, unspoiled and isolated part of the world.

Those who have spent time on Jan Mayen know very well, they can leave the island behind, but it will never leave their imagination.

Congratulations to the crew of Polar Bear on another successful adventure.

 

Summer sun in the Norwegian Arctic
Saturday, 2 July, 2011

Once again, the mountains and islands surrounding North Norway’s Vestfjord have provided the perfect backdrop for Polar Bear’s Norwegian voyages.  Two weeks of cruising between the Lofoten Islands and the mainland left everybody onboard in awe of this incredible environment.

June is the perfect time to cruise up here.  The summer sun lingers high above the horizon, breathing life and colour into the rugged landscapes.   There is so much to see, from snow covered peaks to alpine pastures, precipitous cliffs or white sand beaches.  Sea eagles are never far from view and close encounters with dolphins and whales never fail to make the heart smile.

Both of our groups onboard took advantage of the endless daylight and beautiful weather conditions.  One party would take to the water for a paddle while others would scramble to the top of the highest peaks.  Sleep is saved for home time, you wouldn’t want to waste a minute in this Arctic paradise.

Whales, dolphins and eagles welcome Polar Bear to Arctic Norway
Tuesday, 14 June, 2011

Sailing north and leaving the Shetland Islands astern, Polar Bear is back on station for another season amongst the incredible Arctic waters.  Sunshine and showers pretty much summed up our last passage between Lerwick and Bodo in Norway.  Although there was not much wind, we saw some astonishing sunrises and even a welcoming party of pilot whales, white sided dolphins and sea eagles as we approached the coast.  Passage time was a 4 full days, giving us some extra 'down-time' in this fascinating and beautiful city.

This weekend we take on a full complement of adventure seekers for a cruise amongst the Lofoten islands.  Weather has been fantastic up here since we arrived and the sun has not stopped shining (literally, never!), so we should have a fantastic trip.  Although both of our cruises in Lofoten are now fully booked, we do have berths available for the next leg.  Leaving Bodo we'll sail through the Lofotens and out to sea, bound for mythical Jan Mayen and on to North Iceland.  Visit our itinerary for further details of all of Polar Bear's summers adventures.

And don't forget, you can follow our progress CLICK HERE...

Ready, Steady, Time to Sail!
Thursday, 9 June, 2011

Crew in Lerwick, Shetland IslandsWell here we go!

Polar Bear's crew arrived yesterday and after a chance to walk the streets of Lerwick one last time, we are ready for the next leg of the journey.  Sailing north through the Shetland Islands, past Whalsay, Fetlar and Unst, we will finally head north east towards the distant Lofoten Islands.  This journey is approximately 600 miles and should take us 4 days.  For each mile we cover, we sail closer to the midnight sun and of course the Arctic Circle.

It's not too late to join us for a cruise or even an expedition this summer.  We still have berths available for cruising between Norway, Jan Mayen, Northern Iceland, Greenland and Scotland.    Please contact us for more details of these incredible adventures onboard 'Polar Bear'.  Where will your next adventure take you?

Click here to see where Yacht Polar Bear is right now...

 

'Earthwatchers' explore the Shetland Islands
Friday, 3 June, 2011

The Polar Front are proud of our association with the 'Earthwatch Institute'.  This week we are delighted to be entrusted with a group of dedicated Earthwatch supporters who bid for their berths at a fundraising auction last year.  Despite ferocious winds and driving rain at the start of their trip, it seems like the weather is improving and the magical Shetland Islands are revealing the dramatic scenery and wildlife for which they are so famous.  This morning they are on the remote island of Whalsay, and today they will explore the islands further north, hoping to encounter Orca, Humpback and Pilot whales aswell as dolphins, otters, seals and hundreds of species of sea birds.

The Shetland Islands are a mecca for wildlife.  There are more species of birds here than anywhere else in the UK.  Preserving the natural diversity of special environments just like Shetland is exactly what Earthwatch are capable of doing.  Through a program of scientific study, educating the public, working with industry, IGO and NGO's, Earthwatch continue to make giant steps forward in protecting the natural environment.

Please take some time to visit the Earthwatch website and discover how you can be involved in a vast array of environmental projects around the world.

 

Polar Bear sets off with this opening blog of the season, thanks to 1st mate Marlies!
Tuesday, 31 May, 2011

 

Sunday 29th May

As of this morning, the Shetland Islands are in sight!

We set off last Friday, just after lunch - a few days later than planned as the weather decided to put a solid force 8, increasing to force 10 (gusting 60+ knots) in to our path...for the sailors under you, you know you do not want to set off in that sort of weather, for the non-sailors, let's say, although you need wind to sail, 70-80 miles/hour is just a tad too much to be fun.

We're six on board for this trip from Newcastle to the Shetland Islands, some 300nm due north of our homebase in the Royal Quays Marina. Robin, our Scotsman, and Luke, our token American (adopted Alaskan) who is our 3rd man for this Arctic season, had been on board for a week and a half and have done some great work in helping us get the boat ready. Boogie (skip) and I (mate and your faithful writer) have been here a few weeks as you might know. Cynan and Louise, our London crew, had arrived the night before and after the last fresh goodies on board and the safety briefs done, that was us off to sea!

Winds were still up and 1 reef quickly became 2 while we were all trying to find our sealegs, in between feeding the fish. We've had some fantastic sailing so far: beam and broad reaching all the way, with a bit of motorsailing thrown in for good measure every now and then.

Wildlife is fantastic: porpoises, dolphins, lots and lots of sea birds, including the beautiful gannets: a big white bird, with black wing tips and an orangey head...stunning. If I recall correctly, they are some far flung family member of the albatross. In the last month Orcas have been sighted off the south point of the Isles, so we're keeping our eyes open - would be a great start to Polar Bear's Arctic season!

At the moment we have Fair Isle on our port side and have sight of the Shetland Isles in front of us, where, so I have been told, the best fish and chips is to be had on the market square: good enough to fly there just for that as my friendly tip man indicated.

If it's good enough to fly there, it's certainly good enough to sail there, so we're hoping to get in for last orders!

Still getting into the watch rhythm, and, as you will have noticed, into the blog rhythm!

Will try and get something out every day or every other day and promise to be more descriptive as we go! So check back soon!

 

Marlies

Sunday 29 May 2011 - 1350 BST

27nm off the south tip of the Shetlands

 

Helping to make your luggage lighter...
Thursday, 4 November, 2010

One of the biggest worries about planning a serious trip to a remote region is how much your bags will weigh when you check in for the flight!  If you're planning on camping whilst on one of our trips, we have a range of equipment for hire which means you don't have to carry it through the airport.  

Onboard we will have MSR ASGUARD 4 season mountaineering tents 2/3 man.  They were brand new for 2010 and of extremely sturdy construction.

We have MSR WHISPERLIGHT multi fuel stoves along with COLEMAN WHITE GAS.  We also have MSR COOKSETS.  

All of this equipment is top of the range and in top condition, meaning that you don't have to buy or travel with your own.  One less problem!  

 

West towards Greenland
Monday, 30 August, 2010

 

One name can never be enough to describe a place like Greenland, but it if were, the word ‘Greenland’ would not be my first choice!  It is not very green!  After visiting Jan Mayen with it’s extreme volcanic landscape and miles of black beaches, East Greenland, only 290 miles west, could hardly be more different.  100 miles off the coast of Greenland the sea temperature dropped to 3°C signalling our arrival into the East Greenland current. Fog quickly thickened and radar became our only means of keeping watch. Thankfully the wind and seas were gentle but the atmosphere was electric.

50 cold miles passed before we were to find our first Radar contact; we were in iceberg territory.  As Polar Bear closed in on the coast we saw an intense white light coming from the fog.  The fog lifted and infront of us in clear sunshine were mountains and glaciers as far as the eye could see.  An iceberg around the size of an aircraft hanger tempted us off course for a quick look, but turned out to be 3 miles away.  The size and scale of this place was simply mind-blowing.

Hours later we made our final approach towards the entrance of Scoresby Sund (largest fjord system in the world).  Having had no wind to talk of for the last 10 days, a force 7 came from no-where to make life a little more exciting.

Once into the Sund, the extent of open water here became apparent, like a hidden sea surrounded by soaring peaks and littered with bergs.  Finally we rounded Cap Tobin (north shore) and the welcome sight of ITQ lay ahead. No harbours here though, we would be anchoring for the next month.  We dropped the hook in a violent catabatic wind which was trying to push us back to sea.  30 minutes later the wind had dropped to nothing and the sun returned.  The anchor was finally holding and we were in East Greenland.  A cold beer marked a brilliant end to an emotional day.