I upgraded my first s/y Sylvia to a bigger version in the spring 2017. I had noticed that living in a boat was a great option for me, but “camping” style living in a narrow 30 foot boat with no headroom was just a bit too uncomfortable in the long term. I also had trouble fitting all of my kiteboarding/hiking gear inside. So I decided to make a “good” investment and buy a cruising boat from the 80s. Such a depreciating asset would surely only cause me trouble…


s/y Sylvia, autumn sailing in the Finnish archipelago

While buying the boat I was only thinking of cruising the Baltic and living in the boat. I’m of the stupid variety of people that does not really like warm places, so I wasn’t expecting to sail to Caribbean or Mediterranean. But after a few months in the Baltic I was starting to think of a longer trip… The boat had proven to be quite seaworthy and sturdy, so why not?

… so the idea was born and now I was in trouble. I started checking the maps and because of my earlier mentioned fear of warm temperatures, sunny beaches and easy life, I turned my sights to the northern latitudes.


Nuvsvåg, Norway, spring 2017

From my earlier skitouring trips in Norway I remembered the bays on the opposing shores. And I remembered the snowy mountains glimmbering above the bays. There was no way to access these places without a boat, and the furthest ones remained out of reach even if we rented a fishing boat. The maps and satellite images showed more of these potential places, all the way to the outer islands. Perfect! It was time for s/y Sylvia to act as our basecamp here. We had already tried tents, snow caves and on our previous trip a camper van, as shown in the video below.




But why stop there? I spun Google Earth’s virtual globe even further towards north. I mean, if we had already sailed to Tromsø area in northern Norway, then we’d “only” have to cross the Barents Sea to get to Svalbard. The idea made a little bit anxious though. S/y Sylvia is a pretty sturdy boat, but she’s just a normal glass fiber box, a family cruiser. And I couldn’t call myself an offshore Arctic sailor either. Would our skills and the boat prove good enough? And how’s boat life when the temperature outside is far below zero? It was time to ponder for a moment…

Testing the boat

During last autumn I then decided check my cold tolerance and the boat’s performance by staying in the boat well until the winter. I’d get some kid of a reference if northern Norway/Svalbard was a feasible idea when things get dark and cold.


Bylandet/Mickelskären, Finnish archipelago, December 2017

In October it already became clear that several pairs of woolen socks were needed inside the boat. The boat heater uses some electricity (and diesel), so it wasn’t feasible to keep it on during the nights. A winter sleeping bag and down blanket guaranteed a good night’s sleep. As long as the sea wasn’t frozen, the temperatures could not really get below zero degrees Celsius inside the boat 😉 And I did not have to worry about using electricity to run the fridge!


Finnish Independence Day, 6th Dec 2017

November and December were quite warm and provided some very good sailing. I’m a little bit allergic to crowded harbors, so this gave me a good opportunity to avoid the masses and explore the islands close to Helsinki and the harbors in Tallinn. But after the snowfalls in December I was suddenly making snowmen on the deck and eventually had to cave in and buy a plastic shovel to get rid of the snow. Afterwards I realized I probably should’ve just left the snow there as insulation (s/y Sylvia does not have any insulation).


In the end the test results were positive. S/y Sylvia did not mind the snow and the freezing temperatures, and the test subject itself (me) also stayed alive. But leisurely cruising the Baltic in December is quite different from crossing the Barents Sea right when the ice situation allows, so there’s still quite a bit of excitement in the air…

PS. Want to know who the idiots behind this are? Read here.


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