Sailing Tilvera to the North

Den Helder (The Netherlands) – Bodo (Norway) –  5th April – May 4th 2023

An spontaneous visit to the school before departure!

After spending few days in the shipyard in Den Helder working on Tilvera, just one week before departure, I decided to go to Enkhuizer Zeevaartschool as they advised me to take a rapid radio course that would give me a worldwide radio  license (MARCOM A) to operate Tilvera and that would never expire! Three days after intensive studies and exams I was extremely excited to know that I passed the exam and went happily back to the shipyard in Den Helder.

My first time sailing Tilvera

On the evening of the 3th of April , Heimir came back to Iceland, since he had to still work at the shipyard in Húsavík and I stayed onboard Tilvera with the rest of the crew. I was a little bit nervous but mainly excited about experiencing sailing Tilvera for the first time on a real expedition. On the morning of the 5th of April, a total of five guests embarked the ship: Chris, Robin, Mariska, Jan and Jacqueline.  

The adventure begins!

For this first trip there is more crew than guests for mainly two reasons. First, because it’s a very challenging trip and more hands are needed. And second, because we want to give students from the Enkhuizer Zeevaartschool an opportunity to learn, get some sea-time and fill in their task book.

As part of the crew we had Famke, an enthusiastic sailor from the Netherlands who works on an organic farm, David, a young French man with many talents, Raíssa and Christof (from the inspiring project Piratas do amor), and Rob,  a passionate Dutch sailor. A core crew member is Hadassa from the Netherlands, who has been sailing with Heinz for years and will accompany us as first mate until Svalbard. Hadassa is an amazing woman, with whom we felt a strong connection from the very first moment she stepped aboard. She introduced us to the chores and tasks of the ship, which we all take care of in a rotating manner. These include bread baking, cooking, cleaning and sewage pumping. Heinz himself (previous owner builder and captain of the ship for more than 20 years) is joining the trip as a captain and as our mentor for the transition year. Before leaving Den Helder, Heinz gave a safety briefing as well as a general tour of the ship and we organized watches of 4 hours.

Setting sails to Norway!

Around midday we set sail to Stavanger, Norway. The weather was amazing with South-Easterly winds and rather calm seas the whole way. Yet It was quite a challenging crossing with winds gusts up to 50 knots. About half of the 13 people aboard felt seasick – or at least got very close to it. In total we sailed 426 miles in 60 hours with a top speed of 12,3 knots  – a record speed for SV Tilvera. It was fascinating to see Tilvera on the natural elements. When I was at the wheel, I could feel how powerful she really is and how much she loves the wind. She is solid and sails so steady that even in heavy weather you feel totally safe.  

Letting go and leaving reality behind you for a while feels just like freedom. On the way, Heinz as well as Hadassa were placing so much emphasis on creating opportunities for us to learn and never get tired of sharing their knowledge.

Norway was mind blowing!

We arrived in Stavanger at 02 am and went to bed exhausted. The next morning we had a short walk around town before sailing on to the nearby Lysefjorden, where we moored at a tiny little pier called Revså Kai. The next morning we hiked 18 km to an impressive cliff called Preikestolen. The hike was challenging and stunning at the same time. Impressive cliffs, waterfalls and some areas with the characteristic Norwegian landscapes with lakes and already green trees. On the top of the cliffs the wind was blowing and the snow made it difficult to reach the top, but we made it and had a quick snack time together. During the hike, amazing and inspiring conversations started to arise and we could already feel the friendship growing naturally between us. After returning from the hike, Christof cooked up the mussels while the rest of the crew sailed the ship to a little village called Jørpeland, where we moored for the night.

A taste of the Norwegian fjords on our way North

The next morning we set sail with our destination to Runde, a small island 260 miles up north. We again had amazing South-Easterly winds between 5 and 8 Beaufort, which is quite uncommon for this region known to mainly have Northerly winds.

About half way into the voyage Heinz decided to change course to the city of Bergen to look for spare parts for the heating blower. We arrived there on April 11th at 02 am and moored in the middle of the city. The next morning Heinz showed us how to set up the storm jib and while he was busy fixing the heating system we took a walk around Bergen, which is known as “Europe’s rainiest city”. We checked out the old town and explored the fish market, where we bought some locally smoked salmon, cod and herring, which we enjoyed together with the crew during a memoizable late lunch in the pilothouse. In the evening our fellow crew member Rob surprised us with his Pizzaiolo skills and hosted another great dinner.

From Bergen we sailed 162 miles to the beautiful island of Runde. The 6 km2 small island is famous for its enormous number of birds. It is said that during the summer more than 500,000 seabirds inhabit the island. Since we arrived a bit too early in the season, we did not see many birds. However, the stunning view from the top of the cliffs made the hike a memorable experience after all. Back to the pier, Famke – who had also studied at the Enkhuizer Zeevartschool, Raissa and Christof took a dip in the ice-cold water.

Crossing the Arctic Circle!

We continued our journey up north following a protected route through the impressive fjord and island systems of Norway’s Atlantic coast. At 09 am on the 16th of April we crossed the Arctic Circle, which marks the northernmost latitude at which, on the Winter solstice – the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere – here the Sun will not rise all day, and on the Summer solstice – the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere – the Sun will not set The further north we progress from now on, the longer the days will get. We celebrated our achievement by singing to the ocean and hugging each other!

Reading the signs of the water we find our soul animals

Holandsfjorden is best known for the Svartisen Glacier, the second largest Glacier in Norway covering 375 km2. After a good night of rest from the three day crossing we went for a long hike exploring the beauty of this majestic ancient body of ice. We really enjoyed the raw energy of this remote, cold environment and were slowly falling in love with the North. I have been travelling quite a lot and seen other remote areas in the world . Yet , this was one of the most spectacular hikes I ever did. Not only because of the views, but it was very powerful to witness and realize the power of water. Water in all forms, water in glaciers melting into ice cold water reaching our seas and creating life. Life is water and water is life. Since a year ago when we started dreaming about our Tilvera project, somehow we have always had the presence of a polar bear in our minds and hearts (which could be another whole chapter to explain why). Finally, when we reached the top of the glacier we looked up to the 30 m high steep glacier and found a polar bear shining through the sun rays.

We talked about how much the importance of the glaciers to the climate and how through the years Heinz can see the retreating of it… Glaciers disappear as do indigenous communities and cultures as society and globalization evolves… “Our past melting into the present through water”

Alone in such a majestic place where the color of the mountains and the reflections of the water on such a calm day made me feel very emotional and happy. I love reflections!

Back on the pier I rigged up the fishing gear and, together with other crew members and guests, was amply rewarded. We caught codfish, colefish and also found some more mussels, which we all – in a great community cooking event – turned into a traditional french Bouillabaisse.

The last leg to Bodo, reflecting on the highs and the lows and the treasures we take back home

The next day we woke up early again and sailed the last 60 miles to Bodø, which is the final destination of the first leg of our trip up north with SV Tilvera. Upon arrival, Heinz and Raissa hosted a very emotional sharing round, giving space for everybody aboard to reflect upon and share their highlights, lowlights as well as the treasures they will take home with them. I could not hide my tears to see how well everything was flowing and to realize that I was part of such a beautiful project. I felt humble.

After a last night aboard, the guests and one crew member left and the remaining seven crew members started cleaning the ship as well as themselves – two very important tasks after so many days at sea. Next day we re-provisioned the ship and welcomed the new crew members and guests.

Tomorrow morning Heimir comes back to Tilvera. I can’t wait to tell him how amazing the trip went and how I felt! In two days will set sail again for a 12 day trip to Lofoten, Tromsø, Bear Island and finally Svalbard. Checking the weather forecast, we are expecting a storm to delay our departure and encounter very heavy seas and Northerly winds. But I have no doubts that this is going to be an incredible tour as well. I was never in Svalbard yet but after spending already a season in Antarctica onboard Bark Europa it feels super exciting to be able to reach the most northern latitude I ever sailed!

We are all up for reaching the end of the world, the land of ice and exploration, and we will share with you after arrival in Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard

Until then, you can follow our journey on Marine Traffic and check the ice-situation by the Norwegian Ice Service.

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