august 11 - 22. august 2023
Welcome on board for a very special trip and nature experience! We invite you to an exclusive voyage around Svalbard - by sailboat! On this expedition you will have the opportunity to see and experience Svalbard in a way that few have done before you. With a sailboat and as a small group we are flexible, and will get close to nature and wildlife, both on sea and on land by foot. Come join us; we will have wind in the sails, salt water in the hair and experience a lot along the way!
On this expedition we sail clockwise around the whole of Spitsbergen, with the sun and with the current. On the northern side of the archipelago, we go ashore on Nordaustlandet, before sailing through the Hinlopen Strait, around Barents Island, and into the Storfjorden. The program is packed with highlights and we are passing by many great places, see the program in the sidebar for more details.
Svalbard is wild and fierce in its own way! At Arctic sailing around Spitsbergen we have a lot of time to dwell in nature and let the landscape sink in, and we have the surroundings mostly to ourselves this far from Longyearbyen and of what can be called civilization on Svalbard. With the sailboat, we are able to enter small lagoons and sheltered harbours, places you may have read about in old expedition tales. On Svalbard there is midnight sun until August 11, so there will be daylight 24 hours a day.
During the 850 nautical miles in varied landscapes there are good opportunities to see polar bears, whales, seals and a bustling birdlife. You will have a unique encounter with the beautiful and uninhabited arctic landscape, that will get less desolate and uninhabited as soon as you start listening and take your time to look around and become at one with it.
If this is your first time at 78 degrees north you will have a meeting with the Arctic that that stays in your body and mind for a long time. And if you've been to Svalbard before, this trip will give you so many new and exciting experiences that it will be worth a new trip to the archipelago.
It's not just any sailboat we use on this trip, but our 70-feet expedition boat Valiente. She is a very steady and comfortable boat built in steel, made for sailing in arctic waters. The boat is well equipped and has a large outdoor area, a wheelhouse and a 360-degree-view lounge. For pictures and more info about Valiente see link here.
SailNorway will be providing skipper and first mate (co-skipper), and a dedicated Svalbard guide with extensive experience from Svalbard. Us in the crew will work as guides and polar bear guards when we are ashore in the terrain. Along the way, sailing or on motor, we will include all participants in the sailing. We will generally sail at all times of the day, and everyone onboard will be running watches of 4 hours on and 8 hours off. When we are at anchor we always rotate the shifts with an awake anchor guard and the rest can sleep.
Our Svalbard circumnavigation is primarily a major exploration, but also a great opportunity to learn a lot about sailing and navigation, and not least the use of a boat as a starting point for explorations and experiences on ashore. Are you ready for the summer's great polar adventure?
See our short film about SailNorway recorded on this specific tour here!
See skipper Mats's nice pictures and travel story of the trip we made circumnavigating Spitsbergen in 2017 in our blog here.
The Arctic is a vulnerable area under pressure from people and climate change. In SailNorway 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 considerably 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 any traces behind.
Having the lowest possible carbon footprint as possible is important to us. We sail as long as there’s wind, and we target to have a sustainable menu, procurement, and waste management. Although we have to use engine for moving forward when it is completely windless, our trips are among the most sustainable ways to experience Svalbard.
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.
The ice conditions for the past four years in July and August have allowed us to circumnavigate Spitsbergen. In the summer of 2019, there was a lot of ice south in the Hinlopen Strait, also in July, but we got through as the first boat of the season. So as a subject of change to our Arctic sailing around Spitsbergen we must underline that it is the ice conditions that decide whether we get to circumnavigate or not. If there is too much ice in the Hinlopen we have to turn around and sail back counterclockwise. We will do whatever we can to get around. However, if we turn around, we will sail as far south on the west side as we have time to, and to other exciting places where the ice does not stop us.
Exploring Spitsbergen by sail boat was an amazing experience, stunning scenery and great people to share it with.
Day 1: Get to know the boat, the gear and the other participants
We meet onboard the boat in the harbour of Longyearbyen at 14.00. We start with getting to know each other, before we go through the plan for the week. We get to know the boat and the equipment, and finish packing provisions and equipments. The life onboard requires cooperation, and before departure we go through routines and procedures onboard, for sailing and emergency situations. In Longyearbyen there is midnight sun this time of year, and we will make the most out of the afternoon and evening and set sail with course towards the world's northernmost settlement, Ny-Ålesund.
Day 2: The world's northernmost settlement New Ålesund
If we are lucky, we will see a walrus colony already this morning in the Forland Strait. A little farther north we get to the inlet of Kongsfjorden where we find the research town of Ny-Ålesund. Here we moor for a trip on land. Ny-Ålesund is also known as the starting point for Roald Amundsen's journey to the north pole with the airship "Norway". The Kongsfjord itself is considered one of the most beautiful places on Svalbard, so now it's time to check that the setting on the camera is correct and start snapping the good memories. In the heart of the Kongsfjord there are three pyramidal mountains, Dana, Nora and Svea, named after the Scandinavian countries. The mountains and the majestic glaciers in the area make this fjord a truly beautiful sight!
Day 3 - 5: Cultural heritage in the desolated north
We continue north, to the north-west side of Spitsbergen. Here we sail into the Smeerenburgfjord, an area that has its name from Dutch whalers in the 17th century. There are clearly visible cultural monuments from the activity in "Spekkbyen" (blubber town). All remains from before 1946 are completely protected on Svalbard. We continue onwards to Virgohamna, which also has visible remains from the early whaling, but also carries a lot of polar history from the period this place was used as the starting point for reaching the north pole; both for Swedish Salomon August Andrée's ballooning, and the attempt by Walter Wellman by airship. Furthermore, we head eastwards and into the fjords on the northern side of Spitsbergen towards Woodfjorden. Here we stop at the Mushamna fishing station for bonfires and stories on land. From here it continues north and we approach the milestone on the trip; 80 degrees north. At our northernmost point, we find both cold champagne and a suitable ice floe from the pole ice for a real celebration! Who will be the first to swim? Then, the journey goes south into the Hinlopen Strait, an area with a lot of water flow and sea life, and with small and large icebergs drifting from the surrounding glaciers. If weather permits, we go ashore and stretch our “sea legs” somewhere in Hinlopen.
Day 6 - 8: With the bow heading south
We are now about halfway and we have course south. We sail through Freemansundet, an area known for many polar bears. Furthermore, we pass the inner parts of Storfjorden, a large and shallow fjord that extends all the way down to the southern parts of Spitsbergen. Along the way, we pass some of the most beautiful, and least visited areas throughout Svalbard. Along the east coast there are several mountains we can climb, especially the Keilhau mountain is a good option with a steep ascend. We are now approaching Sørkapp (south cape), which we have to round before turning northward up the west side and towards Hornsund.
Day 9 - 12: Towards civilization
We spend the last days on board in Hornsund, along the west coast, up towards Isfjorden and Longyearbyen. Hornsund is an incredible beautiful area, with good protection against wind and weather from the sea. A somewhat more inland-like climate makes this a good area for anchoring, and the possibilities for mountain hikes are many. In the fjord, four glaciers meet, and the sight and sound of the glaciers calving into the sea is nothing less than enormous. As we approach Longyearbyen, we pass Isfjord Radio lying at the entrance of the Isfjord, an old radio station which today is an attractive place for accommodation. Inside the Isfjorden, we hopefully have time to a stop at the Russian mining town of Barentsburg; a special place with its own rhythm and atmosphere. The last morning we sail into Longyearbyen, we clean and wash the boat, and check out at 14.00. We encourage everyone to stick around at least until the next day, with accommodation on land, so we can meet for a farewell dinner on land in Longyearbyen this last night.
We recommend everyone that is joining us on a trip to/from Longyearbyen to staying an extra day or two before traveling home/before the trip starts. Longyearbyen is a thriving little Arctic village, with the raw arctic natre It's always smart to add time for some rest and calmness before and after such a trip, to relax and let the impressions sink in.
The program should be seen as a rough itinerary that we can adapt to the weather and conditions. We also reserve the right to change and improve our itineraries. We will have a dinghy for beach trips and small expeditions, fishing gear for cod, and gear to hike or make bonfires on the beach on all our trips - we are ready for adventure! Are you?
Deposit and payment
You pay a 6000NOK deposit when you book the trip, and the rest of the payment is due 60 days before the trip begins.
Travel - in general
Sometimes we have to fly, but not always. If you have the luxury of time, we always encourage you to travel as environmentally friendly as possible. Traveling slowly also allows you to start your holiday in a special way. Cycling, taking the train, or driving a car together can be good options! Feel free to add some extra time before and after your trip, since up north the weather can be unpredictable and might affect your plans!
Very few row to Longyearbyen, a few more sail, but most fly. Norwegian and SAS fly to Longyearbyen.
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 a boat and on trips, everyone must know what to do in potentially dangerous situations. For us it is important that you as a guest and participant are trained quickly enough to be a participant - not a passenger. It contributes to learning, a sense of achievement, and increased safety for all. It's also why our trips are considered to be sailing courses: you are trained to be one of the crewmembers on board. Feel free to contact us to discuss risk.
Safety and risk - expedition
On our expedition trips, we often spend multiple days on sea-crossings, and we sail into areas far from people and with extra risk factors, such as sea ice and unreliable navigations charts. This requires our crew to have extra focus and awareness of the potential situations that might arise. We sail in these areas only in the most optimal seasons, and use only our largest and most sturdy boats, which are both equipped and dimensioned to cope with this type of expedition sailing. We are fully aware that sailing is the safest and most accessible way to visit these very inaccessible places. However, sailing in general, and especially sailing in the Arctic and over the high seas, involves a certain risk that you must be willing to take. Feel free to contact us for a chat and guidance regarding risk.
Level of this trip
This is a trip for people who want to experience the Arctic, and the spectacular landscapes and the unique wildlife Svalbard has to offer! In terms of sailing, this trip is not very difficult, but you must be prepared for both calm winds and sailing in harsher weather. If you are a beginner, we want to make you a seaman/woman as soon as possible, and if you are experienced, you will quickly get more responsibility and greater challenges. The group and crew will be divided into watch teams so that we can learn from each other and help each other out.
As with all activities, there is plenty of specialized equipment and clothing for sailing. We do not expect you to buy lots of new equipment to join any of our trips, so, use what you have, borrow what you need from a friend, try to purchase used equipment, and if you have to invest in new equipment - buy quality items that will last. What you need is something waterproof and windproof on the outside, and layered clothing underneath. A pair of higher rubber boots for landings from the dinghy is very nice to have, in addition to slippers to wear below deck. Out on the high seas and in the Arctic, it is cold even in summer, so bring both swimwear and plenty of warm clothes. We will send you a detailed recommended packing list in good time before departure.
Food and cooking
On our trips you will be part of the crew onboard and get the chance to participate in all aspects of the running of the sailboat. This includes the cooking, where everyone is taking turns in the galley! Skippers and guides assist as much as they can along the way. Before the trip we set up a menu and purchase what is needed. We offer good menus with healthy “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 often sail by a good restaurant or two where we stop and eat.
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, cleaning the boat, or contributing in other ways when required. You will be split into a watch team, with the teams working in rotations of 4 hours on and 8 hours off, with a rotating system to make sure that the night-shifts are divided equally among all watch teams. Our trips require a little work from the participants - and you must be open to contribute and open up a bit socially. We have many different people with us on our trips, and most people get along very well. Our experience is that doing things with others out in nature, and not least doing 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 one should 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 boat as soon as possible. It requires some patience, generosity, and an open mind to thrive, but the new acquaintances and completely raw nature experiences 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 of which have bunk beds. Figuring out who sleeps where can be a bit of a puzzle, but we do believe we’ve gotten quite good at it. Let us know if you have any special needs or reservations.
We have plenty of heating and good food on the boat, but not always abundance of fresh water. This means it will not be possible to shower every day, but more or less every other day we are either in a harbor with fresh water or we sail through a place where we can borrow showers or enjoy a sauna. A morning swim in the sea is free and is available all year round!
What kind of people join this trip - and how many are we on board?
Many come alone, some travel as couples, and others travel as a group of friends. The common denominator for everyone is that these are fun and interesting people you will become friends with almost no matter what. Sharing grand experiences creates strong ties! Many people wonder about the age composition of our trips, but this isn’t 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 in making this a great trip for everyone. Most of our participants are usually between 25-55 years old. The number of participants varies from trip to trip, but on these trips we are usually between 6 and 11 people.
Environment and sustainability
In general sailing is an environmentally friendly activity,, 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 much as we can. We also run 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 sustainably, knowledge, patience, flexibility, and hard work are required. The same can be said about many other things that one tries to do in a sustainable way.