Much if the way north I have been teasing Anne that Norway is pretty much like the west coast of Scotland and it was a long and cold way to come to see what we'd lived, sailed and climbed amongst most of our lives. However, the reality is that Norway delivers simply stunning mountain scenery on all horizons in, for us, great weather (with a few grey rain days thrown in to keep mass tourism away).
According to the pilot book, which may have been written by a Shrek fan, we are in the "Far North". Not, "The North" which is of course south of here or indeed, the "Farthest North" which is naturally, way oop north. All of it is mightily impressive and the glaciated mountains and snow fields capping the mountains just go on and on.
Lofoten is more of the same, just further out to sea. We have been anchoring in desolate bays, tucked in through the rocks.
Two nights ago we weaved in through the skerries to find the recommended anchorage and dropped the hook with rocky islets on all sides. It felt pretty tight but we dug in the anchor and rowed ashore for a walk along the beach. Surprisingly this was white coral and, but for the temperature it could have been the Bahamas.
However, daft as it seems after all the effort and time to get here we've brought this Norwegian odyssey to a close, at least as far as making ground northwards is concerned. Fortified by a celebratory dram to the accompaniment of the Kintyre Schools Pipe Band (drawing quizzical looks form the nearby Polish and Norwegian boats) we decided to draw a close to this adventure and head south and make sure life comtinues to be worth living by getting to Fiona's wedding on time.
It was or is a wrench to leave, however without deadlines and commitments (name that song!) you get velcro'd into places and our wee girl's wedding is a cracking reason to turn south.
From here, Rorvik, it's something like 1,050 miles to Largs and 700 to Orkney an average of about 45 miles a day. The current plan is to sail when we have wind and cruise the Norwegain islands before crossing the North Sea to leave the boat in Kirkwall for Fiona's bash. We will then return and spend a week or two or three making our way to Largs then onward south in August. We may then hit (not literally) the Isles of Scily before cruising the French west coast and north Spanish coast and Rias. We also need to make the start line of the 2013 ARC nearly 3,000 miles away.
Tired just thinking about but boy...... I can feel the warmth already!
P.S. this photo is of the towers outside Svolvaer in the Lofotens. It's famous for climbers who climb and jump from one tower to the other.
As we were leaving, Anne turned back and took a long lens photo of the towers. Amazingly, if you can zoom in, there's a climber on the top of the right hand finger! Now that's scary stuff. We didn't see if he did the jump.
Yesterday dawned grey and drizzly so we stuck well and truly, velcro'd to the bed reading while the precipitation went through its full range from mist to mizzle to drizzle to raining to tropical, without the heat, downpour.
We are clad in fleece, waterproofs and climbing boots. The locals are wandering around in "Newcastle Overcoats".... cotton T shirts to you and me.
We finally made vertical and decided walking in the rain was better than sailing in the rain. Five miles later in the next village and no return bus in sight it wasn't looking like such a great plan. However, we made it back and made a conscious note to get up early to escape our tide locked pontoon berth.
Whether it was the walk or we are just bone idle I don't know but we slept through the tide and woke to about 3 inches below the keel and shallower towards the end of the pontoon. We gently nosed our way forward with Anne on the bow swinging the lead (imagine.... a classic phrase used in its proper context!). When Anne was showing less than one metre at the bow and grounding on my lovely new epoxy job we abandoned all hope and reversed back into our berth.
Stuck for a few hours we did the shops, did more shops and finally..... some shops. Fortunately we found the live spot in Svolvaer, the public library and are enjoying a couple of hours in the warmth catching up on Lofotens history, albeit, in the children's section, looking at the pretty pictures as the language is indecipherable.
This afternoon we will head for the Trollfjord and overnight in Digermullen.
Having stayed up way past our bedtime last night I was too lazy to shut the curtains and put up our patented black out blinds on the windows. (Cut outs from Cornflake boxes.... you won't read that in Tom Cunliffes "No Nonsense Expert Sailing" book.)
Consequently, tossed and turned all night with the blazing sun streaming in. Finally gave up at 7am, crawled out of bed, fired up the banger and headed north, (where else!).
Best decision so far today as we had a cracking sail oop north and put in 25 miles across to Lofotens in jig time.
Now parked in the centre of town, Svolvaer town, on Ausvagoy with the first tourists of the season staring down at us over their excruciatingly expensive lattes.
Entry to this place would be fine in the dark. All you would need to do is follow the stink. It was probably the smart people in the council who said to put the fish drying racks down at the end of the harbour, away from the people. However, if you're sailing in, boy, what a niff.
We certainly got the best of the day as the rain has just started. Not grest timing for the 15 exposure suit and ski goggle clad tourists that just left on the RIB for a two hour trip up the Trollfjord. I'm sure the novelty of speeding along at 35 knots wanes pretty quickly, especially for those who bullied their way to the front seats only to find the rain takes on the effect of being nailed by the whole opposing team at the company paint-balling day. Anyway, we are headed there tomorrow but at a much more leisurely pace.
Meanwhile, its Svolvaer in the rain for me, being dragged to the tourist office then the museum and the obligatory peak into the local church. Shame, cause there's finally some nice looking pubs.
We had planned a short day yesterday, just 18 miles up to Kjerringoy. This was supposed to be a rebuilt traditional Norwegian fishing village.
Somewhere along the line they let Barrett Homes or Butlins work on the plans as to our eyes it was just a newly constructed bunch of holiday homes. The only concession to "tradition" was that most were painted the special Dulux shade of Norwegian brown. Hint of Norway I guess.
Anyway, not only was the village a bit disappointing, I think we were expecting it to be a bit more ramshackle, perhaps with some old wifies gutting fish while the fisherman stood around in dirty yellow oilskins smoking Rollups, but the pontoons were all full. We therefore, true to form, pressed on for Grotoy. The pilot book said this was a great place to get an uninterrupted view of the midnight sun.
As last night was mid-summer and the longest night (downhill to winter folks!!!!) we stayed up till midnight to watch the sun not go down. Seems daft now come to think of it.
Anyway, it didn't. The sun dropped to about 10 degrees above the horizon then just moved north and started a slow climb. How it got to the other side of the bat this morning is beyond me.
The Swedish couple we met reminded us amateur tourists that Europe's largest glacier poured into the head of one of the fjords we'd be passing.
We're not that great at tourism, as Mike and Diane will testify. We usually arrive somewhere just after or leave just before some great, once in a lifetime event.
We were therefore really pleased to be reminded about the glacier so I could reprise my younger mountaineering days by climbing around on the rocks, beside the glacier while trying to assure Anne that if we were really quick, it would be OK to take a shortcut down by dashing under the glacier then ducking back out onto the safety of the rocks.
She wasn't going to have any of it so back up we went and took the (sensible) long way round with Anne moaning that, "no wonder the boys get up to what they do".
We had a great day climbing in the sunshine in the mountains and got back in time for a snooze before the wind and rain moved in signalling a change in the weather for the next few days.
Saturday morning dawned much the same although the rain let up long enough for us to cast off in the dry.
For me, a day like today is what I think of as an "oatcakes and marmalade" day
When we were courting, walking out, we deduced to take a weeks holiday camping. In that way of being a father and for the first time your daughter says she is gong away with a bloke for a week, and you don't know what to say, poor Anne's dad gave us some money to cover B&B expenses for the week as he didn't quite want to say, "no way are you spending a week in a tent with that long haired gigolo".
However, like me, George has never been that au fait with what things really cost, other than marina prices, and his generous donation to the holiday was only going to cover a night, two at best. So, armed with this new found wealth we headed up to Blacks of Greenock and hired a tent for the week. We had a great time touring round the west coast and one of my abiding memories was being parked up in my mother's Morris 1000 Traveller, (you know, the mock Tudor style "estate") eating oatcakes and marmalade while the rain drummed out its song of the west coast on the tin roof.
Anyway, today is just like that. A wet, grey west coast day, the rain is pattering on the deck, Anne is on deck steering and I'm under the duvet and we're under engine again making for Bodo. Such are the pressures of being the Captain.
This will be the start point for our anti-clockwise tour around the Lofotens over the next two weeks. Here's hoping for better weather.
Last night were in the fairly industrial port of Sandnessjoen. Norway, even this far north seems like a busy place industrially. Every day we are passed by half a dozen or more freighters taking stuff north or south. I guess the roads are so twisty going up and down the 50 mile deep fjords that its quicker by sea.
We had a social evening with the couple from the Swedish Halberg last night and swopped weather and stories. First people we've met for a long time.
Yesterday's highlight was crossing the Arctic Circle. That, as well as actually managing to sail all day long. At 66 33.44N we crossed the invisible line, marked by a large metal globe sculpture on the island beside us.
We turned into Holandsfjord after 10 hours sailing, some slow, some good speed finally tying up two hours later below the glacier at 8pm. A long day but ending in stunning surroundings.
Typically, not a soul in site. Just us chickens...... now where's that hat?
Well, here we are. Parked up on the Gjesterbrygge in Sandnessjoeen directly opposite a Swedish couple in their Halberg Rassay 62.
We've crossed paths with them in a few harbours and its about time we said "Hi", So I'm off shortly to A) see if we can find people to talk to and B) seriously, see where we can get a weather forecast.
The Norwegian equivalent of what was Clyde Coastguard giving the Inshore Shipping Forecast is "there's nothing nasty coming your way". I presume they also have an announcement that says, "Whoa, jeez, you wanna see what's coming your way". Fortunately we haven't heard one of these yet.
Given what forecast we had said there wasn't any wind today we had a late start. I lay in bed while Anne got up and did the laundry. (In my defence, I did do an oil change this evening!).
Back in Orkney, Mike, our Port Office from the OCC said to me as we discussed our travel plans and the absence of wind, "I've never heard of anyone motoring to Lofotens". Well, that may be us. We seem to have alternate days of wind and calm. Tomorrows forecast is good however so if we wake to the sound of a decent breeze we plan on getting up at the crack of dawn, and making a start on the 80 miles to Bodo..... the other side of the magic, Arctic Circle.
It's a funny or at least a new and slightly strange mind-set we've got into as regards distance. When we were in Oban and Largs, a days outing would be perhaps 25 miles to Tobermory or Tarbert. Now, 40 or 50 miles is our norm and picking off an 80 miler is no big deal..... as long as there's a decent breeze.
I always remember Anne's dad, when he was running his RYA training school. Some weekends George would clatter off Largs, Bangor, Campbeltown and be back in Largs on Sunday night for dinner. For many, that's a summer cruise. We seem to have got into the same mode, which is just as well as we are now 1,119 miles from our daughters wedding!
Having checked our flights yesterday where the cheapest round trip was nearly £1,000 our plan to leave the boat up here before heading back for our Fiona's wedding got ditched. Plan A is therefore to do the next two or three weeks cruising the Lofotens then, when the Norwegian forecaster finally says, "Whoa, jeez, you wanna see what's coming your way". If its anything north of west then we're outta here and making a dash for Alesund, Lerwick or Kirkwall.
However, that's a few weeks away so meanwhile we will press on and see what it is that makes the Lofotens the "must do" cruising destination.
We had a great sail yesterday from Smaever. Unusually, a reach all the way in 10-15 knots just cruising along at 7 or 8 knots.
Since we did the bottom on Time Bandit, we seem to have picked up an extra knot which, when you're trying to go from one end of Europe to the other and back in one season is jolly handy.
The passage north was again weaving in and around the skerries and islands which gives a great kayakers close up view of the coastline. We've also had a wildlife day....
.Anne...."Stuart, quick, quick look. There's a seagull."
Stuart... "No, it's just another eagle"
We are definitely in eagle territory. One passed yesterday obviously on its way back from the shops as it had a fish in its paws. It's also breeding season for the other birds and the eagles are having a go for their chicks or maybe just scrambled egg. They don't seem to get much joy. As soon as they get near a nest (or a table by the window) they get mobbed by half a dozen or more parents who chase the poor thing off for miles.
We went ashore to the pub last night, prepared to splash out on a beer. The 150 year old farmhouse, now converted to a bar and restaurant with rooms above had just served dinner to a dozen cycle tourists. We arrived and the owner and his buddy the chef sat down with us for a chat and update on the local life.
Pretty tough running a tourist establishment when the season is so short and the economy is struggling. Despite this, they generously gave us poor Scots discounted beer, a side of smoked salmon and the offer of one of their cars for the day. Having only just commented in the previous 24 hours how reserved the Norwegians were it really made our day to see this refreshing level of friendliness and generosity.
Today, we motored in a flat calm and blazing sunshine to Brunnoysund, 30 miles further north. Same old deal, weaving in and out the islands. You can tell we are getting further north. The snow is back on the peaks.