Sailing. The Truth.
Lets face it. Sailing, to get from A to B is perhaps one of the slowest modes of transport short of those monks you see prostrating themselves every second step for a thousand mile pilgrimage to some monastery somewhere. Although sometimes sailing seems as much effort.
Consequently, unless there's been some excitement during the day or passage, sailing really doesn't make for dramatic narrative.
Our last few days have been like that.
Mageroy. This island is "owned" by the Kommune which I guess is the Norwegian equivalent of the Council but seemingly much smaller.
For the length of Norway that we have sailed, or rather motored, now approaching 1,000 miles we have seldom been out of sight of a house. Just the one house or perhaps a group of two or three but little that would be classed as a village. Together, these isolated homes make up the Kommune and theses collectives seem to have a government budget to look after their area.
On Mageroy, the Kommune had advertised for a couple to run their nature reserve, their island.
The new Dutch custodians we met had answered the call to abandon their careers and city lights to manage the reserve. With just one house dating from 1624, two other buildings, one dock with pontoon and a few walks which you could crack off in an hour I suspect they will have a tough job making an income they can live on.
The previous custodians had run the island as a "party island". Now, isn't it just our luck that we arrive when the party's finished!
From Mageroy we motored on down to Alesund for the night then on to Floro.
Making this oassage involved getting around the Norwegian equivalent of the "Mull", avid readers (although I'm grateful for any level of reader) may remember that this is the headland that is so dangerous the authorities have considered digging a tunnel to bypass its turbulent waters. The Norwegian lifeboat even runs an escort service round the headland during the summer!
Therefore with due regard to the forecast which was saying just 15 knots we headed on out, straight into 30 knots and pretty big and occasionally breaking seas. The couple we met in Floro thought we were nuts to have done it but it was actually a good thrash and one of the few sails we've had in these last 1000 miles.
Once in Floro we had two goals. One, find a doctor to take a look at Anne's arm which has mysteriously stopped working. Trapped nerve I think. Second was to find a bar to watch the Wimbledon final.
The doctors was interesting. First thing you notice when you walk in is the credit card machine at the door so you can pay before you leave. The other is the doctors walking around all cool in their Docs and 501's. (name that tune!)
Armed with some prescriptions we found the bar and Floro topped the bill with its large screen projected onto the wall and the bar populated by Brits from the local oil industry.
Saltire flying from the rigging beyond the bar deck we watched the match amid great support from all around. All Brits that is. The Norwegians weren't following the game, preferring to sit on the deck, 60 miles from Europe's largest and rapidly retreating glacier under the hiss of half a dozen space heaters coughing out CO2.
Today we are in Aksvoll In pouring rain although we had a grand sunny day yesterday.
Gong back to where I started, the pace of travel. The way to do Norway is definitely by powerboat. The last three stops we've been in the company of a small group following our route. The difference is they live two hours after us and arrive two hours before. One drives a boat called a Nimbus 3000. Have my suspicions it might be Harry Potter. Will go and check later.
Tomorrow, once the driving rain stops we will either make our last or penultimate leg to Bergen where we will leave Time Bandit for two weeks or, if tonight's forecast is favourable make a break for Lerwick.
If the blog goes quiet, we're at home and this old waffle will recommend around the 25th July.
It's looking like the weather is about to change with nearly a week of south westerlies heading up way. That's going to make a passage to the Orkneys not that attractive.
We therefore booked some flights from Bergen last night and so, if any of our readers have any recommendations of where to leave the boat for a fortnight, please let us know.
Meanwhile, sun is blazing and...... guess what, hardly a breath.
Leaving Mageroy having has some low calorie, diet waffles in the ancient trading post, dating back to 1624 apparently. Kristiansund tonight.
Deadlines and All-Bran?
They both keep you moving!
We've been on the go now on our quest to get back for the wedding for what seems like days. In fact, it is days.... all of them under engine. There is as little wind up here as there are people.
We had been told that while Norway has a reputation for rain, if you can get far enough north you get into the Arctic High and better weather. Well, that's what it seems we are in. One big hole with not a drop of wind.
Still, the sun is out and yesterday we saw our first non-TV Orcas. A whole school, pod or whatever you call the collective went past, complete with their big, Free Willy dorsal fins. One or two breeched (or is it breached?) giving a a spectacular yet vaguely threatening show. Having seen what they do to the poor wee seals you had to worry about the three guys we had just passed fishing in a twelve foot aluminium dinghy, right in their track.
We have changed our route back, picking a different track through the islands. We are getting better and a bit more daring at the shortcuts. However, as usual, just when you think you're being really bold, the 500 foot long Hurtigruten comes around the corner having negotiated the skinny channel you've spent hours checking for height and depth.
Tonight we are in Mageroy. An old trading station that consists of just a few houses and the original old building. It holds the bar, restaurant and gift shop. Four boats are moored in the bay and typically, not a sign of life.
Tomorrow, the fleshpots of Kristiansund.
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.