Dernier jour avant de quitter le site d'hivernage

Vagabond is free since 13th July (with the passing winterings, dates of liberation from ice were quite constant: 13th July 2005, 15th July 2006, 7th July 2007, 13th July 2008). And since last night, engines are running again. We will pull up the sails more serenely. In case of drifting ice or if no wind, we will still handle the boat! Now we need to finish changing our hut into a sail boat, while the passing polar bears are looking on. Not a day without a visit. This morning, when we were all busy on the deck, one of them was walking on the beach, less then 20 m from us. Surprised, he sat down to better observe us, but he didn't take out his camera...

Voilier polaire en panne

The way is almost clear! But for now, Vagabond is not able to find her way through the last ice floes. Her engines don't start, apparently they didn't like the long sea water bath, when we found holes in the hull last April. We are still trying to repair with what we have on board, before may be deciding to go under sail only. Difficult decision: winds are capricious in the Arctic, and at the end of the fourth wintering, rigging, ropes, sails and fittings should be used very carefully.

Tempête en cours

Strong gusts up to 100 km/h. We are watching some remains of pack ice speeding along, but few hectares of ice are still blocking Vagabond. And protecting her from swell. Wind has been bad since last night and we are happy that we could enjoy a quiet and splendid sun to achieve scientific work: sea ice thickness measurements, dismantling radiometers, weather sounding with the helium balloon (quickly deflated just before the storm). Hunting field has been reduced: 4 polar bears were seen this morning, including a female with her 2 cubs, not far from the boat.

Impossible par la mer

After one week of effort, drifting ice stopped Albarquel. The old boat's crew, although very determined to get as close as possible to Vagabond, had to turn and go back, even before passing south cape of Spitsbergen. Then I got ready to cross the island on foot, from the mine of Svea: a hike that looked to be quite hazardous, because of snow melting. But luckily, Wednesday night, a helicopter could be chartered at the last minute from Svea! So the whole family could go, also with Rémy Marion (polar bears specialist photographer). We flew over muddy rivers and slyly cracked glaciers... until Vagabond, separated by 12 km of ice with open water. Only just informed about our arrival, Sébastien was waiting for us on the beach. He had looked after our amazing hut for one and a half month. Quick greetings and the helicopter took him back to civilisation, with his dog Tundra. This morning, westerly wind pushed away most of fast ice, and blue sea is now at less than 3 km from Va gabond. Tens of seals and some polar bears are enjoying pack ice still around us.

Patience, patience!

Patience! No other behaviour would be better at the moment in this part of the white world. Here nature has the supreme monopole on the elements. No differences between wintertime when planning a scooter trip or summertime when getting ready for a sailing trip, from town all departures are well respected. Hardly the arrivals. Albarquel had to sail back right before South Cap of Spitsbergen because of the strong winds. She got a shelter in Hornsund. After several days, the ketch is finally about to leave again. At the same time, some of the ice in Storfjord broke up. Sailing far for the drifting pack will be her challenge. In Inglefieldbukta, I keep waiting and enjoy that the polar bears are coming back. It's like watching a local TV. Live transmission! Does this come back announce a soon breaking-up? +1.4°C inside my binoculars (Sébastien Barrault)

Ça sent les écuries!

Home, sweet home! France, Eric and Léonie left Longyearbyen on board Albarquel on Tuesday end of afternoon. This ketch was in the old days used for salt transportation along the Portuguese coast. Now she is heading south of Spitsbergen before entering in Storfjorden. Ice conditions are not ideal. The sea ice is still dense in the north-west part of the fjord. The sailing yacht might sail along the west coast of Edgeøya and Barentsøya. She will land most likely at about 30 km from Vagabond early this weekend. If the ice is safe enough, the crew will be transferred on it. The forecasted winds might not break the sea ice soon. At the moment the ice is like a puzzle. The main piece which keeps all together is hidden among many floes. If this little piece could detach, the sea ice could break up over several kilometres in a couple of hours only. +2.1°C when dreaming about a warm shower (Sébastien Barrault)

Sacré farceur !

Franchement je ne l’inviterais plus. D’abord on l’attendait près de 4 mois. Une absence remarquée. Puis il se pointait timidement au plus froid de l’hiver, se faisant même longuement désirer. Et quand venait le jour de le célébrer, tout beau et tout chaud qu’il était, il se faisait la belle pour retrouver sa résidence du sud. En ce 21 juin, le soleil était à l’apogée... de sa farce. Il préparait sa nouvelle fugue alors que les glaces et la neige retrouvent à peine un aspect plus liquide. Comme partout en Scandinavie, on s’était mis à son heure, celle des réjouissances. A Inglefieldbukta, on avait sorti Maurice pour l’occasion. Et oui, il n’y a pas de fête sans ballon ! Puis la plaisanterie frappait une fois de trop. Car celui qui avait la gueule de bois, c’était lui encore ! Tempête de neige et de grêlons au réveil. Méfiez-vous de sa prochaine blague: le 1er août prochain vers midi au Svalbard, il s’éclipsera totalement derrière les rondeurs de la lune… (Sébastien Barrault)

Quand l'ours est touriste et le phoque nudiste

Côte Est du Spitsberg ou Côte d'Azur, c'est du pareil au même. A l'arrivée des beaux jours, tout est prêt. Même à Inglefield-Plage. La glace dans l'immense sorbetière (et il y en a à gogo), les glaciers, les montagnes... un authentique concentré d'exotisme. Il y a même un voilier dans la baie. Ici l'offre est unique : tous ceux du coin, tous à poil, et un brin grassouillets, se languissent déjà en surface prêts à offrir leur chair au premier venu. Comme chaque début de vacances, on fait grise mine quand les jours maussades s'attardent. Et premier bilan mensuel : où sont donc les touristes ? Seul 0.34 % des voyageurs attendus s'est pressé d'un pas amblé sur la côte, soit 12 sur les 3500 recensés au Svalbard. C'est bien peu. On annonce le beau et la mer fraîche. Tant mieux! Les glaçons ont déjà été commandés pour la prochaine saison. +1.2°C sous le parasol (Sébastien Barrault)

Ma bulle vagabonde

In my red and white metallic bubble, I'm wandering. My silent fight against ice breaking up started. I'm loosing everyday a little bit more of my freedom... let's say, from land. But I'm getting another one. Not a spiritual one. No mysticism: I've been isolated on the East Coast, but for only 4 weeks. I cannot remake my own world in such a short time. At least I broke myself of using hours and minutes. What a privilege! It is not necessary to follow the sun. He also lost his sleep. My days are not longer, but they last more. My diurnal cycle got 3 hours more. To be "Vagabond" may also means to be able to stop clock's tick-tock. Eating slowly, forgetting oneself reading or working... and sometimes hurrying up to do nothing. +0.8°C at the end of my 12th book. (transl. EB)