Blue Heeler took almost two months travelling the 900nm or so distance from Flensburg to Bergen. Along the way we’ve visited picturesque anchorages, fishing villages and high walking trails with incredible panoramas.
Bergen is our final destination in Norway before heading across the North Sea to the Shetland Isles. It is tempting to continue north and cross into the Arctic Circle, but we have to be realistic with our forward plans and start heading south again to warmer climates. Our home in Australia is still a long way off.
We arrived in Bergen on Thursday, Ascension Day. In Norway, schools, businesses, and shops are closed with only a few small convenient stores and cafes open. It’s common for Norwegians to take the Friday off a well and have a four-day long weekend, and on Friday the boats started filling the harbour.
Bergen is very touristy and fjord ferries the main attraction. Even in late May, the town is bustling with tourists. The fish-market at the end of the harbour offers local seafood at crazy prices – crays, salmon, whale meat, sea urchins – a plate of fish and chips can empty your wallet of around 30 Euros.
A trip up the funicular to Fløyen will have you waiting almost an hour even with a pre-purchased ticket bought online so it’s quicker to walk up the hill. Up on top however there are plenty of hikes of different grades to get away from the masses. Up the top are excellent views of Bergen and surrounding islands of all directions. The walk down the hill back to town takes around 35 minutes.
There are many restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops around the waterfront and it’s no secret the prices are exorbitant for an average meal in Norway. We were happy enough to have a beer on the boat with a packet of chips and watch the people go by. (For cruisers, payment for the dock is easy through GoMarina and everything is included in the NOK300 fee, including electricity, water, washer/dryer – no wifi though).
Bergen was founded around 1070 and buildings and churches from that era are dotted around the town. Bryggen, the famous stretch of Hanseatic commercial buildings on the eastern side of the Vågen harbour began in the 1300s and was added to the UNESCO list for World Cultural Heritage sites in 1979. Bryggen attracts thousands of tourists so be careful to watch out for selfie-sticks or you could lose an eye!
The weather wasn’t so favourable, unlike last year – 1st June 2018 I’d jumped into the 17degC water in Sweden as the weather was quite warm. This year is much cooler and very wet – the temperature around 10degC and the water about the same. No chance I’ll go for a dip in Norway!
With so many boats visiting over the long weekend, it wasn’t long before Blue Heeler had a neighbour tying up to our cleats, then another tied up to our neighbour. Rafting up is fine and unavoidable in busy harbours, so long as those rafting up don’t decide to stay up to 3am smoking, drinking and clambering all over our deck! At one point we looked up through the saloon hatch as an overweight guy crawled under our vang placing his full weight on the hatch. Bad form!
On Sunday we were keen to leave the goings-on around the dock and head back out to a quiet island. Fifteen miles south of Bergen we hooked a stern mooring and tied up to a dock at Buarøyna. This island was one of a number of German forts along this coast built in 1941/42 and the bunkers scattered around the island are well preserved. A walk around the island is interesting, poking in and out of the bunkers.
The heavy rain continued, but in between showers we prepared the boat for crossing the North Sea – bikes stowed in the aft cabin; Windpilot vane and rudder prepared;engine checks; list of rescue and coastguard information at hand; grab bags; stowing anything that moves; and regularly checking the forecast.
The trip is less than 200nm so only a two night trip. Our plan is to ride the back of a low to make the most of a southerly breeze, then pass across the top of another low to sail a north-easterly breeze into Lerwick. That’s the plan anyway, and after watching the weather in this region, it could change quickly as lows can roll up from the south quite quickly.
Have we enjoyed Norway? Yes, of course. The west coast fjords are spectacular and the ability to pick and choose where we stay and where we visit makes this an unforgettable visit. Norway is often acknowledged as expensive and while that is generally true, for a visiting sailor it needn’t be too expensive as long as you stock up before you come; buy only what you need; avoid buying alcohol and eat out sparingly! Grocery prices were around the same price as Australia in most cases, and berths were usually around NOK180 per night (A25) for a 12m yacht and never more than NOK300 per night (A$45). Sailing in pre-season April and May has benefits as many of the places we stayed didn’t charge anything, or at least had off-season rates. The summer season is generally 15th June to 15th August.
So today we leave to cross the North Sea and return to the UK and EU.