april 25 - 2. mai 2022
Welcome on board for a totally unique experience! We invite you to an authentic expedition, as in the good old polar-explorers days. With our traditional expedition ship Alma, we are going to cross the Barents Sea, from mainland Norway to Svalbard! Alma is a slightly smaller replica of the expedition ship, Gjøa, of the famous Norwegian polar-explorer Amundsen. As Amundsen and his crew sailed north with Gjøa to be the first to pass through the northwest passage, we are now sailing our traditional expedition vessel up to the ice-filled waters of Svalbard!
On this trip you will have the opportunity to arrive at Svalbard in a way that few have done before you now in modern times. But that was the only possibility to visit the archipelago back in the days. With the sailboat as a means of transport, we get close to the natural forces crossing the Barents Sea. Not to mention how we get close to nature and wildlife during the whole crossing and especially for the last days along the coast up to Longyearbyen. We will get wind in our sails, saltwater in our hair and lots of experiences along the way!
We cover a distance of about 600 nautical miles in total during this adventure. The crossing of the Barents Sea is a wonderful experience, and we’ll sail through the bright polar night on our way to the goal; Svalbard. As we leave mainland Norway, we’ll only have the ocean in front of us until we arrive at Bjørnøya (translated: Bear Island), which is about halfway. When reaching the southernmost tip of Svalbard we’ll be greeted by the typical Svalbard nature with its iconic mountains, deep fjords and glaciers. We sail into one of the fjords of South-West Spitsbergen; Hornsund or Bellsund, where glaciers meet and crash into the sea. A spectacular sight. If time allows we also visit the Russian settlement of Barentsburg, before we arrive in Longyearbyen.
The best part of this trip however is what boat we are actually sailing! Our last addition to the fleet; Alma, is an almost new traditional sailing vessel, in Norwegian a Hardangerjakt, at 45 tons. She’s built by the boat builders at Karmøy, Western Norway, until 2012 and is equipped for expeditions to the world’s most remote waters. This is a real outdoors adventure vessel! And a ship where we can really experience some of the feelings that Amundsen and his crew onboard Gjøa had when they were on their 3-year expedition through the Northwest Passage more than a 100 years ago. In an almost identical ship, only around 20 feet larger than our Alma.
Alma is however a very safe and sturdy boat with enough comfort for us modern people. With a lot of room and sace below deck, a cosy galley midship, sentral water based heating and comfortable beds with warm down duves and pillows. Pictures and more information about Alma can be found on her webpage here.
Our skipper and co-skipper onboard will include everyone in the sailing along the way. Some of the best part with this type of adventure, and totally necessary on a traditional vessel like tjhis. From start we will divide into watchteams, and as long as we are more than a total of 9 persons onboard, you as a participant will have 4 hours on duty and 8 hours off. When we get to Bear Island (Bjørnøya) and into the fjord of Svalbard we will adapt the shifts to the best possible so we can be flexible and go explore land.
Whether you are a traditional-boat enthusiast, want new sailing experiences, or learn more about sailing and crossing of oceans with a big boat, this is an ideal arena for learning and new insight. The sailing comes in addition to the experiences along the way, which makes this a great nature experience!
This trip will take place in late April/early May, and during this time of year we can get quite some weather and strong winds out in the Barents Sea. Our expedition vessel Valiente however, is an incredibly sturdy boat that handles all these conditions. The question will rather be if all of you as our fellow sailors can tackle the weather? :)
The Arctic is a vulnerable area under pressure from people and climate change. In SeilNorge we are committed to taking care of the environment as much as possible and we believe that small boats with few people and little pollution and waste are much less harmful to the environment, climate and local wildlife, than larger boats and cruise ships. We also try to gather garbage at the places we visit, instead of leaving something behind. On Svalbard we follow AECO's guidelines for encounters with wildlife, beach cleaning, cultural heritage sites and for arctic operators. More about AECO's guidelines can be read here.
To be a part of, and experience multiple nights out on open sea was the biggest experience for me. Combining that with ascending mountainpeaks, and the trip to Bear-island was very unique, and something i never would’ve experienced without SailNorway. There were plenty of smaller, beautiful moments underway - especially when we sat down to cook, tell a good story or crack open a bottle of Akevitt!
Day 1: Departure from Tromsø
We meet on board the boat in the harbour in Tromsø center at 14:00. Here you’ll meet the other participants, work on getting to know our home for the coming days and we’ll fill up the boat with the necessary supplies and equipment for the voyage. Life aboard the boat requires cooperation, and before leaving we’ll hold a briefing on safety and how the boat works. Then we set sail, passing the Lyngen Peninsula on our way north. At this time of year the nights are still bright, and if conditions are good, we go straight out into open waters heading for Bear Island.
Day 2-3: Past fishing boats and oil rigs to Bjørnøya
The first part of the Barents Sea is actually quite trafficked, and we’ll usually pass at least a couple of fishing vessels here. It takes approximately two days from the time we leave the mainland until we see land on Bjørnøya, of course depending on the wind and sea. The distance is about 220 nautical miles, and there is a large stretch of open sea, but with abundant wildlife below sea-surface. We hope to see whales, maybe have dolphins follow the boat and the birds are with us all the time. In the evening on the third day we will begin to hear music from the bird colonies on the southern tip of Bjørnøya.
Day 4: Bjørnøya: the misty island in the middle of the sea
There are around 300 days of fog a year here in the middle of the Barents Sea, so the island is not easy to spot. Neither for those who come by sea or flying over, so it will be an interesting view as we approach. If conditions permit, we go ashore, and we will try to catch Barents cod on our secret fishing spots around the island. We will almost anyways find a more or less sheltered bay for anchoring up on one of the sides of the island, depending on the current wind. So we can at least have a rest at anchor
Day 5-6: Second leg; from Bjørnøya to Sørkapp
This next leg is slightly shorter than the leg from the mainland to Bjørnøya, and now we are getting to the remote parts of the ocean! We'll pass by South Cape around 24 hours after we leave Bjørnøya. We continue up the southwest coast of Spitsbergen towards Bellsund. Where both Van Mijenfjorden and Van Keulenfjorden are cutting in through the raw landscape. Here we find the very characteristic layered Svalbard-mountains divided by glaciers that calf into the fjord! Sometime during the night we’ll find a sheltered and ice-free harbour where we anchor up for a well-deserved rest.
Day 7: Finally on land in Svalbard!
In Bellsund we plan to go ashore and stretch our legs, and we surely find enough driftwood for a bonfire at the beach for breakfast! Maybe we also aim for a small hike to one of the nearby peaks. Further the sail into Isfjorden pas by Isfjord Radio at Kapp Linnè. The old radio station that once was the only communication the Svalbard society had with the outside world, which today is a nice hotel. If time permits, we stop in the Russian settlement Barentsburg, located quite close to the entrance of Isfjorden. A special experience in itself and a time travel back to the Soviet era.
Day 8: Goodbye in Longyearbyen
Very early this morning we cast away from Barentsburg for the last stretch through Isfjorden. We reach Longyearbyen just after breakfast where we pack our stuff and clean ourself out of the boat before the trip ends at 10.00 latest. If you have time we recommend a night or two extra in Longyearbyen to explore this cosy village in the middle of the raw arctic nature! Goodbye for now and thanks for a wonderfull experience!
If you haven't had the opportunity to experience Longyearbyen in advance of the trip, then we recommend staying an extra day or two before traveling home. It's always smart to add time for some rest and calmness before and after such a trip, to let the impressions sink in and see what's happening.
Changes to the program
The program should be seen as a starting point that we adapt to weather and conditions. We also reserve the right to constantly improve our itineraries. On board with us we always have a dinghy for beach landings and small expeditions, we have fishing gear for the cod, and gear to hike or make a bonfires on the beach - we are ready for adventure! Are you?
Travel - in general
Sometimes we have to fly, but not always. If you have the luxury of time, we always encourage to travel as environmentally friendly as possible. Traveling slowly also gives another start to a holiday. Cycling, taking the train or driving a car together are good alternatives! Feel free to add some extra time before and after, since up in the north weather that can sometimes change your plans…
Getting to or from Tromsø, the fastest option is flying if you are going to the eastern part of Norway, but if you have time to travel slowly we recommend that. Taking Hurtigruten south from Tromsø to Bodø and train from there is one option.
Very few row to Longyearbyen, a few more sail, but most fly. Norwegian and SAS fly to Longyearbyen, check out www.norwegian.no or www.sas.no.
Safety and risk - in general
We take safety seriously and on our trips we train on handling different situations that can occur at sea. On board the boat and trips, everyone must know what to do in potentially dangerous situations. For us it is important that you as a guest and participant is trained quickly enough to be a participating crew, not a passenger. It contributes to learning, sense of achievement and increased safety for all. This is also why our trips are considered to be sailing courses, you are trained to be one of the crew members on board.
Mountain hikes and alpine/backcountry trips involves a certain risk, as does sailing. However, we as an operator, and our skippers and guides, do everything we can to minimize the risk in a professional manner. Everyone gains on this and we have no one to lose.
In terms of risk, we sail a safe and sturdy boat that is well equipped for this type of trip. However, all sailing in general, and sailing in arctic regions, involves a certain risk that you must be willing to take.
Feel free to contact us for a chat and guidance about risk.
Level of this trip
Sailing wise, our trips are not difficult, and you are always welcome to join us! We have with us both people who have never sailed before and experienced sailors. However, you must be prepared for everything from no wind to sailing in harsh weather. If you are a beginner, we will try to make you a seaman/woman as soon as possible. If you are experienced you will be given responsibility and greater challenges.
In Northern Norway and the Arctic we must be prepared for all seasons, often during a single day. It’s a part of the experience; it’s wild, beautiful and raw – in all aspects, also with regards to weather. Prepare for the contrasts! For us the most important thing is to enjoy the ride and the sailing. Use what you have, borrow if you can, and invest in something new if you must. In good time before departure we will send you a detailed recommended packing list for this trip.
Food and cooking
On our trips everyone contributes to the operation of the boat, so as long as you have not booked one of our trips with a designated chef, all take their turns in the galley during the trip. Skippers and guides assist as much as they can along the way. In advance of the trip, we set up a menu and shop what is needed. We try to offer good menus with healthy and “boat friendly” food. If you have allergies or preferences let us know in the registration form, and we will take that into account. During the trip, we also often sail by a good restaurant or two where we stop and eat. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
What we expect from you
We want you to take part in the routines onboard the sailboat, whether it is sailing, docking, navigating, looking for whales and icebergs, washing up, cooking, clean the boat or contribute in other ways when required. Our trips require a little effort from all participants - and you should be open to contribute and open up a bit socially. We have many different people with us on our trips, and most people go very well together. Our experience is that doing things with others out in nature, and not least do things with new people with different personalities than one might be used to, is what creates the best, most interesting and memorable stories :)
Life on board and accommodation
Life on board a sailboat is social and pleasant, but for some it can be perceived as quite intimate and crowded, which is important to be prepared for. On our trips everyone participates in the operation of the sailboat and everyone is considered crew. We would like to get to know you well and hope that you will get to know everyone else on the sailboat as soon as possible. It requires some patience, generosity and an open mind to thrive, but the new acquaintances and completely raw nature experiences are quickly what will take your focus as soon as you become comfortable with life at sea.
Accommodation on the boat is part of the fun. The accommodation is generally in shared cabins, some of which have a double bed and some have a bunk bed solution. The distribution is quite a puzzle, but we do believe we are quite good at it. Let us know if you have any special needs or reservations.Any accommodation before and after the trip must be arranged on its own. If you have any doubts about where to stay, we are happy to give you some recommendations.
On the boat we have a lot of heat and a lot of good food, but not always abundance of fresh water.
What kind of people join this trip - and how many are we on board?
Many come alone, some travel as couples, some travel as a group of friends. The common denominator for everyone is that these are fun and committed people you become friends with almost no matter what. Sharing grand experiences creates strong ties! Many people wonder about the age composition of our trips, but that is not so important to us. It doesn't matter if you are young or old as long as you want to go on a trip and intend to do your part so that you and the rest of the crew will have a good trip together. The number of participants varies from trip to trip. If we get many participants, we will expand with more boats and skippers. On most trips we sail more boats in a fleet, with 7-9 people onboard each boat.
ECO, Environment and sustainability
Both sailing and hiking/alpine/backcountry trips are environmentally friendly activities and we sail as much as we can and use the engine as little as possible. We encourage crew and participants to travel as environmentally-friendly as possible, and we use local ingredients and resources as far as possible. We also have our own trips where we collect litter and clean ocean trash from beaches.
Philosophically we often say that sailing is an exercise in sustainability; we move with the wind and we have limitations on things like water, diesel, electricity and food. In order to run sustainable - knowledge, patience, agility and hard work are required. The same applies to almost everything you try to do in a sustainable way.