Running before a steady, comfortable breeze we averaged 5 ½ knots under sail on the 15 hour passage from Ny London to Ymerbukta. With a spinnaker we would have taken 8. Speed however, was not our priority and our stress-free passage afforded us magnificent views of the mountains of Oscar II land and Prins Karls Forland.
We were on our return from 8 days ski touring in the far NW of Spitsbergen, our high point being Virgohamna a mere 15 miles south of 80°N. Virgohamna was the site of several unsuccessful attempts to reach the North Pole by hot air balloon and near to one of the centres for the slaughter and processing of whales in the early 17th century. Alongside at Ny Alesund was a lone whaling ship, freshly chopped Minke whale meat on its decks; the final vestige of 400 years of carnage.
We sailed with kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots and puffins as companions. In the mountains flocks of little auks took over, circling round us playfully and noisily on the summits. Images of picturesque, serene anchorages with walrus colonies, barbeques on shore and swimming competitions will be forever with us.
Spitsbergen offers the adventurous ski tourer everything from easy glacier cruises to steep couloirs plunging to the sea. Good snow conditions, clear skies and sunshine allowed us to enjoy some superb skiing to finish the 2015 season. 7th June.