After 5 and a half days and 900 miles of fast sailing from Oban, Velvet Lady raced across the Arctic Circle. We had made stops in Tobermory on the Island of Mull and Torshavn in the Faroe Islands to break the passage, and had been counting off the Latitudes ever since! Oban is at 56 degrees, Torshavn 62 degrees. The Arctic Circle is at 66 degrees 33 minutes North. Every watch on deck we seemed to need more and more clothes to keep warm in the polar wind!
As we finally crept in between the islands, the rain showers gave way to sunshine and revealed the stunning scenery. Dramatically high hills still with a dusting of snow on the top. 16 hours after crossing the Arctic Circle, Velvet Lady was secured alongside a rickety pontoon in Engen in Holandsfjord; looking out at Engenbreen, a tongue of the Svartisen Glacier. The Svartisen glacier is Norways second largest ice field, with an average height of 1500m, but some tongues lick right down to nearly sea level making it the lowest lying glacier in Europe. I have been here before with the Challenge Business, but that did not stop the first view of the glacier taking my breath away as it glistened in the afternoon sun. I knew that there was a track up to the glacier and that it was possible to climb right up to the ice, so after a little exercise to get our legs working again that’s what we set out to do.
The glacier has receeded quite a distance since I was last here in 2002, so the climb was a little bit longer than I remembered. We might have needed lots of clothes to be sailing offshore, but as we walked higher and closer to the glacier we found that we needed to peel layer after layer of thermals off!. By the time we had reached the glacier we were down to T Shirts. As we arrived by the ice, a very hardy group set off on a ‘guided ice walk!’ Sitting eating our sandwiches at the base of the glacier we could see right over the glacial melt water lake to Velvet Lady, a speck in the distance.
We had made such good time in our passage to Norway, that we had enough time to meander between islands and negotiate some very narrow gaps between rocks for the remaining miles to Bodo. With good clear visibility, we also managed to get great views of the higher parts of the glacier as we were sailing away from it. Navigation here keeps us on our toes. To negotiate all the rocks and islands we use very detailed 1:50,000 charts, and seem to need a new one every 2 hours!
As we approached Bodo from the south, we could make out the snow capped mountains of the Lofoten Islands on the western horizon. They look very much how I remember them and incredibly inviting! Looking forward to next week and visiting them again.