We are now docked in Longyearbyen, from where current arctic adventures will take place!
Our long journey through the Atlantic has brought us all the way up to Svalbard, where we will be the Hero Ship in the shooting of a TV-Series called The North Water. It is taking place in the pack-ice of the Polar Sea, north of 80deg. The story of the 1852 whaler named the “Volunteer” (Aka Activ) is based on the prize winning novel by Ian McGuire, The North Water. In a week, we will be sailing north into a white world with a production crew/cast that has for the most part not ever been in these latitudes. We can’t wait to experience how it will feel to be surrounded by the icy waters and its hairy inhabitants - that require armed watch on deck. In the meantime, the ships crew are turning into whalers of a time gone by. Daily chores are now hardships of rowing, (fictional) harpooning and flensing of whales, to name only a few.
After 17 days at sea we reached Iceland, and being, due to northeasterlees and occasionally almost Sargasso-like conditions in the North Atlantic, low on fuel, we decided to make a stop. This first part of the voyage has brought upon us everything from warm summerdays, helming in t-shirts and sweating whilst setting sails, to fishing in the fog on the Grand Banks, cold starry nights and red moons, schools of pilot whales, fin whales, dolphins and orcas, fighting a northeasterly gale 200 miles south of Greenland and after roughly 2200 miles getting the first glimpse of Icelandic mountains in the horizon. The days are getting colder still, however slowly, and it’s safe to say that the ship and crew are more than ready to keep going, as soon as our tanks are yet again full - though we’re not to complain about this opportunity to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, not to mention the chance of, however short it may be, exploring beautiful Iceland a bit.
Rigging work in Lunenburg
While we’ve been in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, we’ve been working with Ironbound Traditional Rigging to do a big maintenance job of the standing rigging on the foremast. For the past weeks we’ve been splicing and serving new wire, and have now replaced the lower shrouds and back stays, changed the jib boom guys and overhauled the forestays. Now it’s all starting to come back together and we’re excited for the day when we’ll be climbing our new rig to set the sails - once we set the course for Svalbard in July.
St. Vincent - Nova Scotia
… So since last, we’ve sailed the ship from the Caribbean to Nova Scotia, and we have thereby entered a new (and colder) chapter in our voyage. The wind kindly took us all the way in just 11 days, as the waters turned darker and the wind colder. When you cross the Golf current from south to north the change happens so incredibly fast - within hours, t-shirts and shorts are put aside for sweaters and pants, the air and water starts smelling differently, less salty, the formations and colors of the skies are dramatic and unlike something you’ve seen before; it’s beautiful and gives you the chills at the same time. During the evening, and long after it should have been dark, the sky was the color of brass, almost solid looking, and only interrupted by thunder and lightning painting its way across. Now we’re in Lunenburg, enjoying Canadian spring, and preparing for the voyage to come… Soon we’ll be making our way to Svalbard.
Happy New Years! Activ is currently docked in a shipyard on the west coast of St. Vincent, with able crew on board giving her some love, before we proceed the adventure. A great journey is ahead of us. We expect to depart St. Vincent again in april.
Today, roughly five months after we left the familiar surroundings of the Ring-Andersen ship yard in Svendborg, we find ourselves anchored up in the midst of coral reefs and tropical little islands, with the occasional sea turtle peaking up its head and mantarays guarding the seabed beneath us. We’re at Tobago Keys, and with us on board is architect Volkwin Marg, owner of Activ, and his family. We had quite unusual weather, sailing from Trinidad to Union Island on the 18th, with great sailing conditions, around 20-24 knots of wind (we haven’t been this lucky on the last few trips going north) but very heavy rain, that seemed to last an eternity. Usually the showers come and go, rather unpredictably, as little mood swings and breaks from the warm sun. Tomorrow we’re headed for St. Vincent to explore something different. In the meanwhile life goes on, robes are being hauled, deck seams are improved, wood is being treated with linseed oil, the hull is getting scraped to remove barnacles, lobsters are barbecued on deck, fresh fish are getting caught - and all is well on board.
This picture was taken by Martin de Thurah.
We're now back in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, after spending the past 15 days exploring coral reefs, abandoned islands, waterfalls, rain forests and the diversity of the Caribbean Islands, on a route going Trinidad - Carriacou - Petit Saint Vincent - Petit Martinique - Union Island - Tobago Cays - Bequia - Tobago - Chacachacare - Trinidad.
It's been wonderful traveling with two members of the Activ Expeditions advisory board, Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason and movie director Martin de Thurah, and the rather unique combination of fellow creative people that they brought with them.
Now they've embarked their different flights to all their different corners of the world, and frankly left us feeling a little blue without their presence.. Fair winds and many, many thanks and hugs from Activ. We miss you already and hope to see you back on board soon.
This wonderful picture was taken at anchor in Carriacou by Adam Jandrup.
Hasta la vista
After a few weeks here in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, we’re inevitably longing for the sea again. This time we’re headed for an Atlantic crossing, with our expected first stop in Tobago. Having bought all the canned tuna, tomato, sardines, mushrooms and even squid (!) (their selection of canned food here is apparently a lot more exotic than what we know from Denmark) and all the cabbage and chorizo we could get a hold of, we think we’re ready for a long time at sea. Here’s to fair winds, flying fish and sunsets.
Under the sun
We’re currently alongside in the harbour of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, with our masts towering up in the blue skies, joining the canary mountains in a beautiful setting. This island is majestic with its mountains and fruitfulness, the rumbling Atlantic Ocean against the breakwaters and beaches, small fishing villages and larger cities like Santa Cruz, tapas, sangria - the list goes on. We spend the early morning hours, before it gets to warm, on working and maintaining the ship, and in the day we get to discover the hidden treasures of Tenerife. There’s plenty for us to do in the days to come, before we embark on a transatlantic journey.
1600 miles to go
The sun has just sunk into the surprisingly calm waters surrounding us in the English Channel, and left us in a swirl of orange and pink colors. With our current position right outside Dungeness, England, we’ve sailed around 500 nautical miles, leaving us 1600 to go. The weather on our voyage this far has been very gentle, and even though the North Sea in that sense has treated us kindly, we’re hoping for a bit more wind in our sails for the rest of the journey. Everyday the sun gets a little warmer and the color of the sea changes, shade by shade, into something more tropical. With these conditions it feels like both the ship and its crew is magnetically drawn to our destination, moving slowly but willingly, destined to our path.
2,5 months ago, we arrived in Svendborg. The ship yard was covered in snow, the nights were dark and cold (and all of them spent right next to the fireplace) and it seemed almost an eternity until may and departure. Now it’s may the 18th and we’ve let go of the lines. We’ve packed away all our tools, bits and pieces, washed the deck and set the course. Finally heading south. We’re sailing through the Kiel channel now, and will be spending the night in Rendsburg. Tomorrow morning we continue our journey, and hopefully, if the gods of wind and weather treat us right, the next time we set our feet on ground, it’ll be on the white beaches of Madeira.
We're going to Madeira!
We're still at the ship yard in Svendborg, snorting like wild horses behind the bars, waiting to be set free and run. Any day soon we'll be letting go of the lines, setting sails and heading south. Next stop Madeira…
t's a thursday afternoon. The sun keeps disappearing behind the clouds for a few minutes of rain and chilly winds, only to reappear the moment after as a warm kiss of summer, deleting all evidence it ever went the other direction. It seems somehow the weather lost its way. It's not entirely sure what to do next... What mood to settle for.
To some extent it reflects the ship these days. We're working around the clock to prepare as much as possible before sailing out, even though it’s a never ending circle and it seems every day a new task presents itself and demands our immediate attention.
There’s the varnish, the painting, the stocking up, the provisioning, the sorting out, the repairs, the planning - and with it the dreaming, the hopes, the anxiousness, the restlessness and the teared up kiss and goodbyes to our loved ones at home.
We’re preparing, as much as humanly possible, but the thing is, that probably the varnish will never be as shiny or glossy as we’d want it to. The freshly painted railing will be dirty and scrammed before we’ve even walked on it, screaming for a new layer, yet again. The deck will get dirty. The aft peak will get messy. The winds will change and the route with it. The schedule will be pushed. Some dreams will be fulfilled and others might not.
We’ll never be ‘done’. That phrase somehow simply doesn’t exist on a wooden ship, yet alone on the ocean. We’ll try, we’ll do it all, but when we’re through, it’s time to start over again.
We’ll hope and plan and say goodbye, and hopefully, once the sails are set and we’re left with nothing but the force of the sea and the wind, all the previous listed emotions will be replaced by a beautiful simpleness. We will finally be on our way, and there will be nothing more that we can do.
.. Except for an additional coat of varnish when the weather allows it, of course.
Mayonnaise and sea charts
The saloon has been flooded with sea charts and the usual preparation chaos the past many days. In between the never-ending stacks of charts, a few tin cans and a computer, the chief steward is hiding, trying to figure out how much mayonnaise, rye bread and mackerel an 8-people crew - consisting of young, danish sailors - will eat during a few months. His facial expression shows very well the seriousness this task demands. If we run out of coffee or mayonnaise, being the chief steward is suddenly the most dangerous position on board. Therefore, we're taking due precautions - buying plenty of everything.
At the ship yard in Svendborg
Activ has arrived at Ring-Andersen ship yard in Svendborg, after an icy sail from Copenhagen on the first of march. She's now looking forward to the loving hands of boat builders and crew members, who'll take good care of her and make sure she's ready for her 11th transatlantic voyage, set to launch in the beginning of may.