Raymarine Ambassador Juho Karhu on his way to Svalbard!

Raymarine Ambassador Juho Karhu on his way to Svalbard!

Monday, May 13, 2019


Juho lives in his sailboat s/y Sylvia and has sailed throughout the winter in Northern Norway, far above the Arctic Circle. Juho is not only a sailor but also an eager freeskier. Below Juho’s greetings from 70th degrees north.

"S/y Sylvia on has made it through the winter just fine, even though snow shovel and broom were the “most used equipment” of the boat, far more needed than for example winch handles! The only real equipment loss was the headsail furler, which at some point froze and never recovered from that. The Raymarine electronics, which I installed myself while anchored in the Finnnish archipelago just before leaving, have made it through without a hitch in temperatures down to -20 C. This even though one of the winter storms ripped the pedestal cover and flew it away, and after that the screens have been without a cover.


One of my main goals here was to ski some lines which are only accessible by boat. The relatively harsh winter conditions of the Norway’s northern coast were something that I had read about, but the amount of wind and the constant winter storms still surprised me. Gale and storm warnings day after day after day! Combine that with the polar night (no sun above the horizon for 2 months) and you get some challenging anchoring and skiing conditions!


3 Tulossa takaisin

Coming back home after a long day of skiing

Now the spring is here though and the weather is getting better as well. Skiing conditions are extremely good. The midnight sun starts shining in about a week and there’s already so much light that all activities outside are possible 24/7 without a headlamp.

Next week a few friends will join me and we start watching for a weather window to cross the Barents Sea to Svalbard. Besides of the weather we also have to keep a very close eye on the sea ice situation. The ice coverage around Svalbard is about 10 % above the average of 1981-20. We’re heading to the west coast of Svalbard, which the tail end of the Gulf stream keeps relatively clear of ice, but it is still very early season for Arctic cruising and the winds and ocean currents can still cause the sea ice to get transported to the west coast and block the fjords. That would be bad news for a fiberglass boat such as s/y Sylvia!

4 40 cm lunta  

40 cm of new snow in one night!

I spent the whole winter here in the north and only went back to “civilization” for one week to speak at the Finnish boat show in February. There I spoke a about cruising life in the Arctic in general and also received many questions about s/y Sylvia’s technical equipment. This seemed to be an interesting topic for many, because Sylvia is a normal series production Beneteau Idylle from 1984, with as few special modifications as possible. I’ve tried to maintain a minimalistic approach (“the less you have, the less you have to maintain”), and won’t go through everything, but here are some of my choices:

I’ve moved to digital age with my charts and will do without paper charts in Svalbard as well. Both the navigation charts and topo maps are only in electronic form. The 9 inch Axiom screen is big enough for route planning. I have the same charts as on my Axiom screen also available on couple of phones and a tablet. Occasionally I use my laptop too. On top of the Navionics charts I’m also using Seapilot charts. In areas where the cartography is not necessarily that well established I think it’s more important to have two sources of map data than to have a paper map.

5 Pienoisella lumipeitteellä

A bit of snow cover did not seem to affect Quantum’s functionality...

- Whether to get a radar or not was something that I thought about a while. For a low-budget sailor it’s a rather big investment, but now I’m glad to have had it. In completely unknown and new places I’ve found it invaluable. Up here in the north it’s not just the fog that can make your life difficult, but also the darkness and snow flurries. Especially the snow flurries came as a bit of a surprise to me as even relatively small clouds and the resulting snowfall can very quickly reduce visibility down to less than 100 meters. When we get to Svalbard the radar can also be used to detect ice. I’m a complete novice when it comes to radar and was rather skeptical about whether I’d be able to interpret the image or not, but the Quantum makes things very easy. Just turn the automatic settings on and off you go.

6 360 astetta kääntyvältä

The 360 degree rotating Axiom screen is used to control all of the electronics, including the autopilot and the radar

The only thing I might have missed is a good fish sonar! Because when the weather is cold, the fishing season is running hot! At least supposedly, because on board s/y Sylvia our luck has not been so great, and that absolutely can not have anything to do with our complete lack of fishing skills, so let’s blame it on the equipment ;) ! We have managed to get a really big catch by catching the fishing line around the keel though. A decent sonar installation is definitely on list the next time we haul out.

Stay tuned, next time you’ll hear from me is after or during the Svalbard trip :) You can follow the progress more closely on Facebook ( http://www.facebook.com/alluringarctic) or Instagram @alluringarctic.