Imagine sailing in complete darkness well within the Arctic Circle during the heart of winter. This presents one of the most poetic and harmonious ways to seek the Northern Lights.
There are many ways to experience the Northern Lights, often involving snow and cold. However, the city of Harstad, rich in maritime traditions and situated on a wide fjord, offers a unique Northern Lights adventure—a sailing tour under the night sky. Incredibly quiet and environmentally friendly, setting sail in pursuit of the Northern Lights provides both harmony and peace of mind.
Where do we sail?
The journey begins in the heart of Harstad’s city centre. However, the route is determined by wind, weather, and, above all, the likelihood of clear skies. Sometimes, the best chances are toward the distant peaks of the islands of Andørja and Rolla. Other times, it makes sense to sail north, passing the picturesque medieval church of Trondenes towards a myriad of islands where you can anchor in calm waters. Another option is heading straight south towards the Tjeldsund suspension bridge. As locals often say around Harstad, “Mid-fjord” can be a good solution—it’s all decided by wind, weather, and, above all, cloud cover.
What are the chances of spotting the lights?
Aurora borealis is a faint and elusive phenomenon, and the green lady comes with no guarantee. This tour, however, is designed to maximize the chances. The hours, from 8 to 11:30 at night, coincide with the most intense Northern Lights activity in the atmosphere—some 80 to 800 km above Harstad. Some nights, snow-laden clouds cover the sky, and Aurora gracefully stays away. However, it only takes a gap in the cloud cover for the Northern Lights to appear. If the big light show erupts, you’ll have front-row seats and be in for an unforgettable moment.
Life on board is a breeze
Northern Lights hunting on a sailboat is as relaxed as it gets. Wrapped in blankets, you can sit on deck and watch the city lights disappear. Only the beaded glow from distant hamlets disturbs your night vision, allowing you to study every inch of the night sky. Stop by the cockpit for a chat and some good stories from life on board. After all, a tall tale from the seven seas is just right onboard a tall boat. Below deck, you can warm up, and hot drinks are always available. When you get a little hungry, there’s hot soup, and perhaps Ann-Helen and Halvard have brought some treats from their farm as well.
Old salts ensure safe sailing
Halvard and Ann-Helen are far from newcomers to sailing. After more than a decade circumnavigating the globe, they have experienced all kinds of weather and waters. The sturdy boat “Bifrost” is named after the bridge between the human world and the abode of the Gods in Norse mythology. The sagas’ description of “Bifrost” is something shimmering and radiant, often interpreted as the Northern Lights. An expert crew with divine connections should ensure plain sailing.
Ann-Helen and Halvard are regaining their land legs
“We call it post-traumatic sailing syndrome,” Halvard says with a wink. After a good decade lost in the eternal blue, they set sail for home. Then they discovered the beauty of the homely waters they had missed. Sailing with guests among the islands in the summer, and primarily bringing skiers around to mountains in the sunny end f winter.
The sail-farmer is deeply rootet locally
Back in the day, coastal farmers in the north combined tilling the soil with fishing, the so-called “feskarbonde” – fish-farmer. Halvard and Ann-Helen see their combo as a modern interpretation of this old tradition—the “sail-farmer.” In summer, they offer midnight sun cruises, but their main season is the end-of-winter sail-and-ski season, exploring the island world with backcountry skiers. Simultaneously, they operate a farm on the island of Grytøya with longhorn cows. This unique combination also allows them to give back to Halvard’s home island. Starting new activities in rural areas is a way of stemming the tide of urbanization. They also provide young people with work training both on the farm and onboard the “Bifrost.”
Good to know about Northern Lights sailing
If the weather is so bad that one cannot carry out the sailing, it is cancelled and you get a full refund.
A soup, hot drinks and maybe some snacks originating from Halvard’s farm are served on tour. Special food requests, notably allergies and vegetarian or vegan fare, should be informed about when booking. We recommend you have dinner before leaving.
You can book directly with the company or visit the website of Visit Harstad, the local Tourist Board-
Visit Harstad runs an excellent, well stocked website.