Jan Mayen – My Trip Report – Part 4

Going home…

Continued from Part 3 – Other hikes on Jan Mayen

Back to the introduction

June 17 – Day 10

We left Båtvika 20:00 sharp. I volunteered to clean the deck. Doing something is better than doing nothing. We had a nice dinner and the spirit was very good. Everyone had achieved more than we could possibly have hoped for, up front. Stories were shared, and now we were on our way home. The only question was if the ride home would be as smooth as getting here?

June 18 – Day 11

I slept quite well. Got up around 08:00 and enjoyed crisp bread with brown cheese and juice and coffee alongside. Tried to make progress on the latest Harry Hole book. Went to bed again but got up 09:30 due to rougher sea. Or “flat sea” as the crew kept calling it.

Mats announced that if we were able to keep steady progress, we would visit Barentsburg on the way to Longyearbyen. This news was received extremely well.

The sea got even rougher. Or flatter. All depending on who you talk to.

Johannes (crew), trimming the sail

I’ve started to realize that I have a life to return to. I hadn’t given my job one single thought since I left Longyearbyen. My girlfriend and my dog had been in my thoughts every now and then, but it was a pure delight to be so disconnected from my real world.

Johannes, Tony and Greg decided that the bed was the best place to be. We were slightly off course to get maximum benefit from the sails. Cooking in this type of sea is interesting. Tomato soup for lunch. Nothing is easy. And given the fact that we “had seen nothing yet“, I tried to imagine cooking in really, really bad sea…

Later in the day, bad news: a Russian trawl bag in the propeller. Full stop. We couldn’t continue sailing northeast due to possible ice drifting our way. The crew sat course for Bodø, Norway, hoping to reach calmer waters for repair. In worst case – a tow.

I was not sad about Bodø at all. I had nothing to do in Svalbard, other than getting on the Sunday flight. I could imagine getting to Bodø on Saturday, rent a car, get in it, drive non-stop to Ålesund and leave the car at the airport. Bob’s your uncle!

In the meantime, Chili con Carne for dinner and more dishes. Due to the new angle of the boat, we had to use freshwater to flush the toilet. The toilet was also a new experience. We could only flush whatever came out of the body. Any toilet paper had to go to the waste bag. I had imagined a terrible smell, but it was actually a concept that worked. Unfortunately, one of the cabins had a problem with the toilet, which made no one happy. Neither the clients that hoped to use it, nor the crew that had to fix it.

June 19 – Day 12

Still en route to Bodø. I didn’t sleep a wink last night. The boat’s angle was such that I kept falling out of bed. I had still not discovered the leecloth under my bed. Later on, the plan to reach Norway was abandoned. Apparently, there wasn’t calmer waters after all. The new plan was continue to Svalbard. I assumed that the owners really wanted the boat to return to its base.

For the first time, I felt a bit worried about the sailing. Probably because I had time on my hands. Worrying kills time. Keeps you engaged with something. The motor is plan B and when plan B isn’t working, then there is a degree of vulnerability. Like meeting ice. The crew didn’t seem worried. They told me that in this weather, they would be sailing anyway. But still. I was not on home turf. I was not on a mountain, and I was a bit … uneasy.

Kjell Erik on the bridge. It helped to see how cool and relaxed the crew was

The latest development was to try to fix the propeller in a calm Svalbard bay. The forecast suggested good winds for sailing, but my flight on Sunday seemed like a faint dream. Others, who didn’t have any specific commitments awaiting told me not to worry. I was slightly annoyed about that. I will defend my right to worry and moreover – Svalbard doesn’t offer daily flights and hence – most, if not all flights are full. I pictured myself hanging around in Svalbard for the entire week. Normally, that would sound like a dream, but not right now. Too many plans and committments awaiting. Even the pancakes that Johannes served for lunch, or the spaghetti for dinner didn’t get me in a better mood.

June 20 – Day 13

The new trend was to wake up earlier each day. Nothing to do with Fredrik. He was a good roommate. I just woke up earlier by the day. I got up 05:30 and had another delicious breakfast that included crisp bread and coffee. I felt like Jack Reacher at the table. Happy about the breakfast, and very happy about the coffee.

Spent some time with Mats who didn’t know if he would make the 06:00 flight on Sunday morning. The wind speed had decreased and we’re doing 5-6 knots. The math didn’t look good.

At 09:40, Mats decided to try to fix the propeller. The boat was rigged for full stop, which was impossible. The boat was still doing 0,5-1 knots while Mats prepared for his dive – wearing a wet suite and a helmet.

The skipper goes on another crazy stunt…

More than two hours later, Mats surfaced for the final time – after a number of complicated dives -and announced that the propeller had been cleared. We’re back on engine propulsion! Spirit onboard was sky-high. Perhaps we could make it to Svalbard before our Sunday flights after all?

Part of the crap we had in the propeller

Everything went back to normal. Spaghetti for lunch. Plus leftovers from the day before. And the good news never seemed to end. The freshwater maker repair at Jan Mayen was only partial successful, but now Mats had fixed the problem for good. More showers for anyone in need! Delicious risotto for dinner and brownies for dessert. Johannes (crew) once again rose to the occasion on the dessert. Massive dishes this afternoon, but no worries. We were on our way to Svalbard, with ETA Saturday afternoon!

June 21 – Day 14

Got up early and looked forward to a breakfast with newly baked bread, coffee and my new Jo Nesøbø book. Later on, I went up to and chatted with Johannes (crew). After I while I heard a strange sound from the engine and asked if this was normal? 3 seconds later, Mats came running up and switched off the engine. My heart sunk…

It seemed the problem was with the propulsion shaft, and not related to the previous incident. The crew tried to fix the problem and we continued a few hours later on a lower RPM. But the problem reappeared and now the crew was determined to fix the problem for good. With instructions from HQ via the sat phone.

In the meantime, Mats had an “interesting” method of making sure we had progress while the part(s) to be fixed were cooling down. He strapped the dingy to the side of the boat and the dingy actually pulled/pushed the huge sailboat forward. We got 1-2 knots. And, thanks to a gentle breeze, we were able to do 4 knots.

You’ve probably not seen this concept too often!

“Tears and laughter”. Tears, for the airplane that would surely leave without some of us and laughter for this insane, but very cool idea.

Just before 17:00, the crew had seemingly fixed the problem and we went back on engine propulsion. 160 nautical miles to Isfjorden Radio. In the meantime, life on board continued as normal. Johannes (crew) made waffles. Later in the evening, I started to have hopes about reaching Longyearbyen before Sunday. Without any prior experience with knots as a metric, I hadn’t properly realized that there is a significant difference between 7 and 9 knots.

We saw whales every now and then, but with exception of our 3rd day of sailing (to Jan Mayen), I was always too late for pictures. Nice dinner; oven baked vegetables with sausages. Fruit coctail for dessert. Latest update is that ETA in Longyearbyen is around 15:00 tomorrow. Yes!!

June 22 – Day 15 and arrival in Longyearbyen

I didn’t get much sleep. Got up around 04:00 and enjoyed my breakfast. A couple of hours later, we could see Svalbard, and the boat traffic increased on the radar screen. We could also see trawlers in the horizon.

First view of Svalbard!

It was time to get started on cleaning the boat. This kept us busy until we reached the mouth of Isfjorden – where we got cell phone coverage. It was really nice to hear Anne’s voice again. Everything was just fine back home, and I looked forward to see them again the next day. Or more likely, the day after that, given the public transport system on Sunnmøre.

Herring gulls, keeping us company

We arrived in Longyearbyen at 16:00 in brilliant weather. What a nice way to end the trip!


Once on land, we off-loaded all our gear and said goodbye to the crew.

Finally, back on land!

The UK team took a taxi to their camp site near the airport, as they would stay on Svalbard for a couple of days. The rest of us took a taxi to Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg where we checked into two rooms that Petter had booked while sailing in Isfjorden. Johannes, Fredrik and I shared one room. Petter, Greg and Jukka shared the other.

No, we’re not on set in Universal Studios 😉

At 20:00, we all met at Kroa, another reservation that Petter had made in Isfjorden. Kjell Erik and Johannes from the boat also joined us. I found that very nice, but also surprising, as I was confident that they were fed up by now, stuck with 10 clients for almost 14 days – asking all sorts of questions – all the time! It was a very nice end to our project. Everyone was over the moon with respect to how lucky we had been in terms of weather, and what we had accomplished.

Dinner at Kroa

Pictures from June 22



June 23 – Day 16 and departure day

Breakfast at 07:30. The others arrived in turn later on. A taxi picked us up 12:45 and took us to the airport. I said goodbye to Johannes and Jukka who would stay on a little longer. After a smooth check-in, Petter, Fredrik, Greg and I waited to board the plane. Kjell Erik and Johannes were also on the same flight.

Ready to go home

The 14:50 flight to Tromsø was 15-20 min. delayed. At Tromsø, we had to take our luggage, go through customs and check in the luggage again. Petter and Fredrik had a direct flight to Bergen. Greg and I were flying to Oslo. The flight was delayed again, but as I had 3 hours to kill in Oslo before my flight to Ålesund, it didn’t matter much.

What mattered more, was that my 22:45 flight to Ålesund didn’t leave until closer to 23:30. Which is a considerable delay, given the public transport system I was heading for. The Ålesund football team was on the same flight. I had a long and nice chat with the goalkeeper, sitting next to me. They had lost their game, but we didn’t talk about football at all, as we had a common interest in mountains.

1:07 on Monday morning, I was finally in my car at Ålesund airport Vigra. The 01:15 ferry from Sulesund was out of reach. The next one left at 03:00(!). But I figured that I would be able to reach the 01:40 ferry from Solavågen to Festøya. Which I did. Just. After driving through Ørsta, I parked the car outside my house 02:50 – exactly 12 hours after leaving Longyearbyen. I got a warm welcome by Anne and Karma. It was nice to be home. And if I just could get myself to bed, I might get some sleep before I had to start working at 8am.

Thanks …

to Petter. Without him, I would never have been on epic expeditions on Greenland, Svalbard and now – Jan Mayen.

to the entire team. For making this trip such a wonderful experience.

to the boat crew. For their skills and patience. For calling everything “flat sea”, which made me relax more than I would otherwise would.

to the Jan Mayen base. For the freshwater and help with the bags.

to Anne. For looking after Karma and for being at my place when I got back home.

to myself. For facing one of my biggest fears – the sea.

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