Norway: Bergen

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.

 

Bergen, Norway

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).

Bryggen

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!

Buarøyna, Norway – waiting for the weather to cross the North Sea

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.

One of the apps we refer to – Windy

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.

Until then…

 

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Norway: Fuel, fjords and Finding Nemo

Northerly headwinds or lack of wind hindered our progress for a week or so. We had no choice but to motorsail from Egersund and around the top of Stavanger along the southwest coast of Norway. Travelling on the Saturday of the Constitution Day long weekend, the weather was warm and the air very still. Choosing a suitable anchorage north of Stavanger (identified in the Harbour Guide), we motored along only to find the chosen anchorage filled with weekend sailors. No problem as two miles along we found a quiet bay – Litlevag – where we dropped the pick for the night.

Fishing harbours typically have cheaper diesel than marinas or guest harbours. Such was the case at the fishing wharf at Skudeneshavn at the south end of Karmøy which sold diesel for NOK10.49 per litre (A$1.73/litre), a big difference from NOK12.60 at Egersund. That’s the cheapest we’ve seen anywhere in Norway so we added 300 litres to our tanks.

The North Sea offshore oil and gas industry is apparent along these islands, with semi-submersibles, jack-ups and other support vessels in various states of construction or engagement filling the small harbours.

Filling propane cylinders in Norway isn’t so easy, especially without a car. So when the opportunity arises to fill our cylinder(s) it makes sense to do so. Dropping anchor at the north of Karmøy, Wayne paddled the dinghy and took the gas bottle across to Hagia and the LPG Norge filling station. When he came back he said the attendant was stoked as he’d never seen an Aussie pull in for LPG! We hadn’t used much gas since filling the bottle in Flensburg but it was good to top it up anyway (FYI around NOK25 per kg).

Haugesund Gjesthavn

Filled with diesel and propane, we continued motoring north and entered the channel into the town of Haugesund. The southern bridge across the channel has a vertical clearance of 22m and the guest dock on the eastern bank has plenty of room. Paying for the berth was super easy through the GoMarina app. Overnight fee of NOK155 was pretty good, plus an extra NOK50 if we needed electricity, but we didn’t. Apparently a nearby hotel sells shower, toilet and laundry tokens but we had no need for those either. Haugesund has a long shopping road/mall offering the usual – stuff for interiors, clothes, cafes, etc. – there’s even a good chandlery/fishing store at the wharf.

As we still have a few weeks in Norway, we decided to travel into the Hardangerfjord and hike within the Folgefonna National Park.

Gorgeous azure waters within the fjord

The forecast was for heavy rain for a few days so we stopped at a small island, Lykelsøya and tied up to a floating pontoon in around 14m depth. The day we arrived was very warm (24degC), the sky was blue and the cold azure water looked stunning.  It was obvious to us that such a warm day would be followed by a front, changing to cold and rainy soon after. Unlike us, the 14degC water temperature was enough to allure three young boys from a small dinghy. Daring each other to jump in the water, they laughed and shrieked as their skinny white bodies dived below and quickly shot out back onto the dock.

Lykelsøya – floating dock yet to be placed for the summer crowds

Last summer’s hiking tracks through the scrub had disappeared and have yet to be established at this time of year. We tried to hike around the island we didn’t get far into the bush. I got some nice photos of the boat though.

Workers have been busy placing wooden boardwalks around Lykesoya

Just before we went to bed I flushed the toilet and on the third pump the intake blocked! Bugger! Wayne took the pump apart and water flowed through just fine. To be sure there wasn’t a small obstruction (sometimes even a small shell), we used the bicycle pump to blow air down through the hose and successfully heard bubbles outside, indicating no blockage. So the blockage had to be in the white pipe from the pump to the toilet, or at the toilet itself. Wayne took the white hose off and peered into it, then pumped water through it. A small fish about 4cm long flew out onto the floor! We had found Nemo! Later that afternoon we sucked in another Nemo, again blocking the intake. At least this time we knew what the problem was and quickly fixed it. It’s much better than having a blocked outlet!

So after two days of bucketing rain holed up watching movies, reading books, finding Nemo(s) and listening to news via podcasts we were ready to continue our journey.

Rosendal – Blue Heeler tied to a hammer-head dock

From Lykelsøya with light winds, we motored 15nm to Rosendal, a popular tourist town in the summer months and an access town to the Folgefonna National Park. This time of year the marina was empty, except for a couple of other yachts and small local boats. Payment for a berth is easy using a credit card payment machine located in a small white building nearby. Cost was NOK250 per night (A$40) plus extra for electricity and showers. The amenities are first rate and I took the opportunity to do some laundry too.

Rosendal, Norway

Old church, Rosendal

View from hikers cabin, Rosendal

Rosendal has some excellent hikes, but with limited time and more rain forecast for the following day, we didn’t go far, walking up the hill overlooking the town for some great views. The trail passes over farmer’s land passing docile dairy cows as they munch the lush green grass.

Sild in the Hardangerfjord, Norway

We stayed just one night then continued the following day to the island of Sild. (Sild is Norwegian for herring). We thought we had the place to ourselves, but just as we arrived so did another power boat. The stern mooring is so far away that our 20m line wasn’t long enough. After snatching the mooring with my mooring hook, the guy, already docked, then helped me with the bow lines. After which we extended the stern line a little more. I don’t understand why the moorings need to be so far from the boats. Water depth was deep enough for our hull right up to the dock. There are not too many anchorages within the fjords. Depth not far from the banks can drop down to 100m in no time at all; the centre of the fjords can be up to 800m deep. It’s easier to take a berth or tie up to a dock.

Rickety wharf at Sundal, Hardangerfjord, Norway

From Sild, the tiny village of Sundal is just over 6nm east. Blue Heeler was the only boat in town, and probably the first yacht for the season. We tied to sturdy posts that hold up a rickety dock. There is a floating dock for the summer season visitors, but it is still stored out of sight and won’t be deployed for another couple of weeks. Depth at the dock was 2.5m and we arrived at low tide (tide range is around 50cm). Within the park are a few people in campers and caravans, but the kiosk hasn’t opened for the season either. Nonetheless, we had electricity at the dock and hot showers in the ablutions block.

View looking south over Sundal, Norway

Access to Norway’s third largest glacier can be reached via Rosendal and Sundal within the Hardangerfjord. I’d already planned on a hike through the Bondhusdalen valley and after a quick lunch, we headed out into the Folgefonna National Park.

View looking north from Sundal to the Folgefonna National Park

From the Sundal Camping ground the walk to the head of the trail and car park is around 20 minutes. From here another easy “green” route, 35 minutes to the Bondhusvatnet lake, with stunning scenery all the way.

The next leg of the trip is medium “blue” grade – this track goes further in to the moraine fields (Vetledalen) under the Bondhusbrea Glacier. The trail was rocky at first giving way to wet and muddy farther along with small bridges to cross creeks. On the northern side of the lake is a pebble beach and from here we continued along until we reached the glacier’s moraine field. A photo from 1997 showed the glacier much bigger, but now, 22 years later it is visible only at the top of the mountain.

The walk back to the boat took just under two hours. Later than evening Kenneth, the camping park manager, came by and collected NOK130 for our nights stay. There are plenty of longer and harder hikes around the park including guided tours that cross the glacier, but these don’t commence until mid June.

Dilapidated dock at Godøysund Hotel

Next morning we threw off the docklines and motored west and ended up berthed against another rickety dock at a dilapidated and derelict hotel at Godøysund. Peeking through the windows, I could see old printers, computers, and other items; tables, chairs and curtains still in place, while plates and other crockery are smashed on the floor. Apparently it was closed in 2016 and it looks like they just walked away leaving all the stuff inside to ruin. I imagine there may be sheeted beds upstairs too. Spooky!

Now we are nearing the end of our trip in Norway. Bergen is 30nm north and we are watching the forecast to gauge when we may cross to the Shetland Islands.

But first we have to reach Bergen.

Until then.

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Norway’s South: Kristiansand to Egersund

As Australia cools into winter, Norway’s south is beginning to warm up. The smell of fresh paint and cut timber wafts through towns as people prepare their homes for the summer season. Festivities are still weeks away usually in July and August. As expected, the outside the air is rising above 15degC for the first time this season, but mostly the days are nearer a chilly 10degC. Still too cold to swim with the water less than 10degC.

My last post followed our route along the south east coast of Norway. This post will introduce you to some of the places between Kristiansand to Egersund as we round the Lindesnes lighthouse and the southern cape where the Skagerrak meets the North Sea.

Kristiansand, Norway

Kristiansand is the largest town on the southern coast and was founded by Danish King Christian IV in 1641. The town dock at Kristiansand was closed, but we tied up anyway. The dock is exposed to the south, but during our stay northwest winds kept Blue Heeler from bumping against the dock. “Moon” turned up the next day and we helped Annika and Bjorn with their lines. We used our time to visit a supermarket and wander through town. At this time of year it’s very quiet. One afternoon Annika, Bjorn and I took a bus to a shopping complex 20 minutes from the town for a few things. Loaded with fresh groceries, the next day Blue Heeler took off for Mandal.

Mandal, Norway

Mandal, the most southerly town in Norway, has a number of guest piers for visiting yachts and the homes are typical of this area – white and charming. We docked at Pier One with views of the pedestrian bridge and Kulturhus. A convenient card payment system offered off-season rates (NOK120), but no access to the facilities as they are closed. Water, electricity and WiFi is pretty much all we get (and all we need) at most places and it’s rare that we ever meet anyone. A number of naval vessels were in the harbour displaying full colours in commemoration of May 8th, the end of WWII, while a band played to many aged servicemen and servicewomen.

A strong easterly blew that night, but with a change the following day we continued our trip around the coast to Farsund.

Still chilly and damp some days

The south coast of Norway where the Skagerrak meets the North Sea can be notoriously rough in the wrong conditions. A maelstrom of currents, mixed with strong wind can whip up horrible seas, specifically on the exposed stretch from Lindesnes to Lista. Naturally we don’t choose to go out in bad weather, but we appreciate how quickly things can change and always have the most current marine forecast. 

The Lindesnes lighthouse is the first lighthouse built in Norway. The damp and rainy day wasn’t as windy as we’d hoped so the iron sail had to be started. We could barely make out the Lindesnes lighthouse through the mist as we rounded the southern cape. Between Lindesnes and Lista is an 11nm skärgård of islets and skerries and we navigated our way to Farsund through the well charted waters.

Farsund reflection in early morning

Farsund is an easy harbour to visit, with tidy white timber buildings terraced up the hillside. We tied to the city dock, leaving no more than half a metre of water under the keel. Tides are almost non-existent in this part of the world, but that will change as we head farther north. Right at the dock is a supermarket which was convenient but the harbour facilities were closed for the season.

The rain persisted all day – a result of strong northerly winds – so we decided to wait it out on anchor for a few days. Next to Store Eigeroy about 2nm from Farsund, we dropped anchor and let the northerlies pass over. The days were bright and sunny and after three nights on anchor, we headed back into Farsund for some supplies and to take advantage of the forecast favourable winds the following day. We had an opportunity to travel to Flekkefjord, about 40kms away and a local bus runs there a few times each day. (tip: when buying local bus tickets in Norway, huge savings can be made by buying through busline AKT’s app rather than on the bus).

It can get quite gnarly around the Lista coastline where the Norwegian coastal current meets the Atlantic current – the Skaggerak and the North Sea. But for us, an easterly wind was ideal to sail around the coast passing Lista and heading up towards Egersund.

The day was perfect to keep sailing as we had good wind and plenty of daylight. To sail was tempting, but I’d seen a photo of a view at Kirkehavn in my RCC Pilot of Norway and I just had to visit and see the view for myself. So we turned and headed towards Kirkehavn.

Kirkehavn’s timber church

Approaching Kirkehavn the first obvious building at the entrance to the town is a white wooden church, giving the town its name.The guest dock on the southern bank is free for visitors but has no facilities except water. Soon after docking and a bite of lunch, I was off walking up the hill which takes around 30 minutes. The views are stunning and better than in the book! Kirkehavn has a small supermarket where you can buy licorice ice-creams and other items, particularly rewarding after a hike up the hill.

The Hågåsen kystbatteri is atop the hill high above Kirkehavn. This fortification is one of hundreds of Nazi Germany fortresses built in 1942 along the Northern European and Scandinavian coastlines to defend against an expected allied invasion – known as the Atlantic Wall. The expanse of ruins are explained through descriptive information boards in English.

Hågåsen kystbatteri – Remains of an Atlantic Wall fortification, Kirkehavn

From Kirkehavn to Egersund is around 29nm. No wind at all for this leg but we must keep hopping north when we can as it’s easy to get holed up for a week otherwise.

I was keen to arrive at Egersund on the 16th as May 17th is Norway’s National Day and I wanted to see how the Norwegians celebrated.

A naked Nymph with her hands raised to the sky welcomes us to the harbour of Egersund. The day before the celebrations the marina is quiet and our friends from Moon are one day ahead of us and help us with our lines. The harbour office is at the end of the pier and access to showers, toilets, water, electricity and water are included. (Laundry facilities are super cheap too at only NOK20).

Constitution Day: May 17th is Norway’s National Day commemorating the signing of the constitution on 17th May 1814. Celebrations are equivalent to the US Independence Day or St Patricks Day so it’s a big affair!  May 17 is more like a party, especially for the children.

The day begins with freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and champagne for the adults. By mid- morning, groups of traditionally dressed children of all ages, led by marching bands, parade through their communities shouting “hurrah” and waving flags.

The rest of the day for the kids is filled with eating unlimited amounts of ice-creams and hot-dogs, listening to speeches and more flag waving. Older teens dress in coloured overalls are glad school has finished. We got into the swing of things and had a hot-dog for lunch and we were offered a large piece of cake from another boat. Shops and businesses are closed as this is a local day for the people and a nice day out for tourists.

 

On display are the National dress of the men and women of Norway – their ‘bunad’. Each design indicates where in Norway they come from and there are hundreds of designs, all uniquely tailored to suit the individual. A bunad can be worn for weddings, christenings, important family events, and other formal events.

Around the marina it was odd to see so many well-dressed people sitting on boats – women in long black skirts and intricately embroidered bodices, men in blue suits and tan shoes – usually people that hang around marinas are dressed more like us, scruffy. 

View of Egersund

We watched the parade then walked up Varberg, the hill that overlooks the town of Egersund. It took around 15 minutes and we had great views of the town and surrounding hills. We were warned that the drinking and revelling would go on into the night, but to our surprise everything was peaceful and orderly and we had a good night’s sleep.

Already the geography is changing along this stretch of coast.

The following morning we left early as we wanted to add some diesel from the self service station located next to the Nymph, and catch an early breeze to sail north. Diesel here was NOK12.60 per litre (A$2.09 per litre), so we only grabbed a small amount, hoping to get cheaper fuel north.

So off we go towards our next destination.

Until then…

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Norway: South East Coast

South east coast of Norway

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.

Diesel available at Kjøkøysund Marina

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.

Can’t have too much information

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.

Larvik

Stavern – closed for the season

View of the isles south of Stavern

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.

19m vertical clearance at Blindleia

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.

Until then…

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Sweden and Skaggerak

The Øresund strait between Denmark in Sweden is a busy shipping area and due care needs to be taken. Easterly winds still dominated the forecast, so we motor-sailed east to the Swedish side where we could sail comfortably north along the coast. At this time of year most of the small harbours are closed; some charge a reduced fee. When we weren’t anchoring we enjoyed a cheap night in a fishing harbour at Torekovs as the payment machine wasn’t operating. We wanted to make the most of the favourable winds and not motor so much through the islands. On the way though we stopped at Lerkils to visit sailor friends Claes and Laila from Comedie –  a most enjoyable evening.

8.4 knots – living on an angle

A steady 10kn easterly wind on the beam filled our new sails and had us clocking over 8kn at times. Blue Heeler managed 60nm in 9 hours. As we approached the archipelago near Gothenburg we anchored each night – it’s so peaceful at anchor. All we hear is the unusual bird noises of the Eider. Listen to their ‘gossip-like’ sound here.

Last year we went through the narrow channels of the archipelago twice – up to Norway and back south again – so this year with steady winds we sailed on the outside of the islands for some excellent spinnaker sailing.

Three weeks since we left Flensburg and already the temperature is improving – up to 15-20degC. The sea temperature is now around 10degC which also means the inside of the boat is a little warmer so we don’t need to run the heater so much.

At Easter we anchored at the rocky island of Härmanö. On the banks were small bonfires and fireworks shooting into the sky as if to celebrate the full moon. (Swedish folklore tells of the day when witches supposedly travel to Blåkulla (Blue Hill) to cavort with the devil before returning on the night before Easter Sunday. On their way back, Swedes light fires to scare them away!).

Easter Sunday morning was calm. No witches could be seen either flying above or floating lifeless on the water. A slight breeze allowed us to sail from the anchorage slowly passing the town of Gullholmen. It was still early and people dressed in pyjamas were catching the early morning sun rays. We even saw one guy jump in the cold 9degC water for a morning dip – he wasn’t in long!

Timber houses fill the town of Mollosund

Heading west to exit the archipelago, the wind shifted to a steady south westerly 10-15kn breeze. Time again for the spinnaker! We had the spinnaker up for most of the 50nm sailed this day – perfect conditions. Already we have almost 15 hours of daylight and that will only lengthen as we head into summer and farther north.

Our final day in Sweden was relaxing. I spent an hour or so sewing some courtesy flags for the Shetland Isles, Orkney’s and Scotland. I can always hoist the UK red ensign, but it’s always nice to present the local flag when possible.

Norway is not a member of the EU and when we re-enter the EU we will get another 18 months of permitted cruising time. However, decisions (or lack thereof) around BREXIT is making our future plans uncertain. Although we hoped not to have to worry about Schengen restrictions once we head to the Mediterranean, we may not have any option once the UK leaves the EU. Who knows?

Anyway, until such time as the UK makes up its mind, we will spend the next couple of months enjoying the northern latitudes of Norway. Unlike its vertically challenged southern neighbour of Denmark, Norway’s mountains and deep fjords will provide a different sailing experience for Blue Heeler.

Until then…

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