Dispatch from Nanuq: “We felt a big shock under the boat”
2 August 2018 – Safiria Buono:
“On the 30th of July, Nanuq arrived in the Svalbard archipelago. After one week of fog and open sea, we were happily sailing in the Recherche fjord, looking for a place to moor. Sun was at rendez-vous, and so were the belugas, one of the animals that most inspired the fish-tailed mermaid legend. (Now, thinking back to the event a few days later, I can say that maybe the tale is not the only thing in common between sirens and belugas.) We were surrounded and, obviously, enchanted. You could feel the excitement of the crew, who were finally going to relax after the one week crossing between Iceland and Svalbard. But suddenly, we felt a big shock under the boat. People who were inside rushed outside: “What was that?! We’re blocked? We’re blocked. Wow.”
The boat had just been stranded. The right daggerboard, the one on which we were supposed to put the sonar, was broken, stuck, but still attached to the boat. We quickly tried to get the boat out: first with engine; then with a rope attached to the mast, pulled by the dingy; and several other techniques that didn’t really worked.
We were fighting against time. The tide was getting lower and lower, and the daggerboard was still stuck. We ended up cutting it in two halves it with a saw, and we put the broken piece on board. After that, the only way out was to wait for the tide to come up again: 12 hours at least. We were not even at 1/3 of the low tide yet, and we were already inclined more than 49 degrees.
And yet the light was incredible, the belugas were still there, and the entire crew was surprisingly positive about the situation. So we started joking about it, playing games, figuring out how we would go to the toilet (we couldn’t use the normal toilets, as the boat was too inclined), taking pictures, reading, chilling out, and eating energy bars because we also couldn’t cook. Some people went to sleep, others couldn’t because their beds were out of reach, on the upper side of our stranded boat.”
“Absolutely. You cannot imagine the story. I was sleeping while it happened: there was a big crunch noise and everyone was rushing out. I jumped into tender with Kai with 50m rope and started pulling mast sideways while 8 belugas were surfacing around us. Then mist lifted. All the while, a huge reindeer was overlooking it all from a cliff!
When the tide went down and the boat tilted, we all had to sleep on the sidewalls. No panic and everyone in good spirits and helping. Peter calm. Then the mist lifted and the amazing landscape was all around us.”
“However, 12 hours later, we were sailing again, heading to a new bay to moor. Once we were at sea, we could finally relax. We did several long walks, visiting deserted islands, beautiful glaciers, abandoned homes. During the last 5-hour walk I did with Kai, Alberto, Mike and Ombretta, we first saw some bear footsteps. They seemed old, so we continued. But, almost at the end of the walk, just when we were reaching Nanuq, we encountered several bear excrement that seemed about 6 hours fresh. Not too fresh, but not old enough not to make us feel a little stressed – mainly because we had absolutely no view of the surroundings as we were climbing and then going down every 5 minutes. However, once again, I was surprised how everybody seemed relatively relaxed and, with cold blood and a rifle, we returned home safe.
Now we are in Longyearbyen: repairing the daggerboard preparing the sonar, changing crew and getting ready to set sails once again!”