This trip was a disappointment. Everything was disappointing.
There wasn’t much snow and that what was there often unskiable. Disappointing. The permanent daylight made for disturbed body clocks and sleep. Disappointing. We were continuously warned of the polar bear threat yet only saw one in the arrivals hall at Longyearbyen and one in the museum. Disappointing. The potato salad for the barbeque had far too much mayonnaise. Yet more disappointment. And I could go on, and on. Rare has so much disappointment been felt in such a short time.
To try and overcome our disappointment we skied and sailed in one of the most magical places on Earth. We got Aleiga up to 10.6 knots under sail, had an exhilarating beat up Krossfjord, spent nights in idyllic anchorages and barbequed on the beach. We enjoyed ascents of several mountains with incredible views and did have the occasional patch of skiable snow on southerly aspects. The light throughout was extraordinary and perhaps most so when we left the Ny Alesund bar at 1am.
It was a pleasure to be back on Aleiga again, captained by the very experienced Anton Heijbel. Anton immediately reassured us with his quiet efficiency, competence and easy smile. Aleiga is an Ovni 445 which is a great yacht for sail / ski expeditions coping surprisingly well with up to 8 on board. 8 is the max so when I heard that unbeknown to me we had been assigned a second crew I wondered where we’d put her.
It turns out this was a mystery that needed no solving as her incompatibility with our project proved itself almost immediately. 10 litres or so of diesel in our fresh water tanks was her opening shot. The second salvo was a cold water shower through the deck hatch onto the group dining in the saloon. Mistakes can be made but further issues made it clear that she had to go. It was with relief that we said our brief goodbyes, continued the cleaning operation and at last set sail.
Yachts, camels, tractors, armoured personnel carriers, rusting chair lifts, mules and CO filled Russian vans have over the years been called upon to access the snow. All come with a variety of challenges for the ski tourer and much as we greatly appreciate (most of) them we are always relieved when we start travelling through the snow covered mountains by the means we know and love best. Skis.