Over one month and over 500nm since we left Germany. The past couple of weeks along the archipelagos of the Skaggerak we’ve found anchorages aplenty, and most harbours still shut for winter. Here’s what we’ve been up to.
Blue Heeler’s exit from the EU was straightforward. We were told by phone that unless we have something to declare or plan staying longer than six months, there was no reason to take Blue Heeler to a Customs station. Travelling familiar territory from our 2018 trip we returned to Fredrikstad on the south east side of Norway to buy diesel from the Glommen Bunker Service. Battling the 2.5kn south flowing current of Norway’s longest river, the Glommen, after a couple of hours we eventually passed by Fredrikstad’s star fort and entered the quiet water of Fredrikstad harbour. As we approached the bunker boat, we were waved away by an employee who told us the fuel was only available at the marina at the north of the city. To get there we’d have to wait until 6pm when the three town bridges opened. The bridges only open at set times during the day and we’d missed the 1pm opening. It was 2pm so there was no reason to hang around. Using the Harbour Guide app we identified a place three miles south where we could get diesel. So off we went again, this time flowing quickly south along on the strong current.
At Kjøkøysund Marina a self-service pump offered diesel at NOK12.99 (A$2.12) per litre (Fredrikstad was NOK10.83 – A$1.76 per litre). For safety reasons the pump stopped at NOK1500 (115 litres). (Note: last year at Fredrikstad we purchased diesel but had drama when NOK1000 A$165) incorrectly deducted from my debit card as A$1000! This took a couple of weeks to rectify. Luckily we had no such trouble at Kjøkøysund).
A couple of miles farther at a small island of Arisholmen we stayed one night tied to a large blue mooring. Overnight the wind shifted to the east so it was a little bumpy but otherwise okay.
Making good use of the favourable wind the next morning, we sailed with foresail to the west coast of island Hui, weaving around rocks, shallow and narrow channels until we reached the tricky entrance. Once inside we had the choice of two blue moorings; we tied up to the one in deeper water.
The Harbour Guide app is a great resource for sailors – harbours, anchorages and services are listed and there are plenty of options to anchor. The hard copy Imray RCC Pilotage Foundation guide to Norway is also a great resource to have and easier to flick through.
Next day, navigating our way through the islets and skerries, we had a great sail to Larvik. As strong easterlies were forecast overnight we anchored outside the Hølen Båthavn on the eastern side of the fjord. Before settling in for the night, I dinghied ashore and walked a short way to the convenient Meny supermarket for a small bag of groceries.
On the western side of the fjord 2nm from Hølen Båthavn is Stavern and we motored there the following morning. Entrance to the harbour is easy and we tied up on the guest wharf. The guest harbour and facilities were closed for winter – power was disconnected from the dock, but water was available. Of course we have a water maker but it’s easier to fill from docks.
Two nights in Stavern gave us a chance to look around and stock up on fresh veggies from the supermarket. To the south is the pyramid-like Minnehallen ‘The Sailors’ Memorial Hall’ a national memorial for Norwegian merchant sailors who lost their lives in wartime service during the two world wars. It’s lovely to walk through forests of beech trees – the new leaves attracting nesting birds in the warming season.
The seasonal launch of local boats from their winter lay-up has begun in Stavern, as it is most places a this time of year, but little else was happening over the weekend in this quiet town. We continued along the coast only 14nm until we reached a small boat harbour at Brevikstrand, anchoring close inshore. In summer time there would be absolutely no room in this harbour – but at this time of year we had the anchorage to ourselves, except for small teams of Eider ducks, swans and seagulls.
Next stop for us along the coast was Risør harbour. The wind completely died, so we had to motor 30nm but the day was wonderfully warm and sunny. We had checked out a couple of nearby anchorages but we weren’t happy with the rocky bottom, depth and exposure to overnight winds. Risør harbour, although available to tie-up to, is officially closed for the season ‘Stengt for sesong’ as the sign said. Despite this electricity was available at the dock, although no water. Perhaps you’re wondering what we do when the facilities such as toilets are closed? The release of holding tanks is not as strict as other countries and in Norway holding tanks for sewage can be emptied to the sea when the boat is more than 300 metres from shore. Of course it’s necessary to use common sense of where and when to empty.
Risør has free town wifi available so it was good to update all our apps without draining our prepaid plan. Here in Norway, despite not being a member of the EU, SIM cards from other EU countries can be used up here with no roaming costs. We still use our SIM cards bought in the UK over a year ago and we’ve had no trouble at all with access. Though this is likely to change in the coming months, thanks to BREXIT.
Three nights at Risør was enough time to enjoy the surroundings of this coastal town. The white-painted heritage preserved wooden buildings are typical of the area. Risør has a long history of wooden boat building and although the town was quiet during our visit, the summer months of July and August offer cultural events to attract thousands of visitors. It’s worth walking up the hill for a great view of the harbour from Risørflekken and continue along the many forest tracks. Risørflekken is a large white painted area of rock on the hill visible from 12nm and has been a guide for sailors over the years.
Sailing from Risør the forecast showed a north-westerly 10/15kn wind, which certainly helped us along the 25nm to Arendal. The day was cold and drizzly, with 20/30kn squalls upsetting our sailing from time to time. Arendal guest harbour was busy surprisingly full, with a number of winter live-aboard vessels alongside. We met Tina, Nils, and other friendly folk; all happy to be heading into summer after a long cold winter.
Although unmanned until mid May, Arendal has a payment machine and the off-season rates were acceptable. The payment machine is a convenient way to pay for services – electricity, laundry, toilets, showers and it wasn’t long before I’d done a couple of loads of washing and had a steaming hot shower.
April was a surprisingly fine month for sailing, but now cold Arctic wind is blowing from the north chilling the air considerably. Locals say that May typically has snow up here, so it’s a subtle reminder that we are quite north and the weather can change quickly. Tides aren’t a problem in this region, with a tide of no more than 0.50m, although strong winds can affect the water levels.
The following day we were happy to meet up again with Annika and Bjorn “Moon” and had them over for dinner to catch up on news of their winter, plus talk about sailing amongst other things. We first met Annika and Bjorn in Tasmania in early 2010 and will see them again as we are travelling the same direction.
Another cold north-westerly breeze the following day allowed us to sail south for a few hours before the wind dropped off so that we had to motor the final two hours to our anchorage for the night. Along this section we passed through the strait at Blindleia. One of the busiest and narrowest waterways in Southern Norway during the short summer season, at this time of year the traffic was just a few power boats. Two vertical obstructions to consider are at the eastern entrance – the 21m clearance of overhead cables followed soon after by a road bridge with a 19m clearance. Considering our vertical clearance is 18.3m it didn’t leave much room for error. The water height has to also be considered and the Kartverket website has the information. As you can gather, we made it!
Two miles on we dropped anchor at a small bay called Gitkilen. This anchorage is protected from southerly winds expected the next day, but open to the north. We sat in the cockpit trying to absorb the sun’s warmth before we went below for the evening. It wasn’t long until the Webasto was burning just enough diesel to keep us warm throughout the night. Once this strong south-westerly wind blows over we’ll continue our trip around the slightly wilder coast of southern Norway at the confluence of the Skagerrak and the North Sea.