Fairwinds Goes North . . .
Adventures in a small boat on a big sea

Albin Vega 27
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Tuesday 29th June 2010-06-19

We were woken at six thirty by our hyperactive neighbour knocking on the hull and announcing that he had woken up so he was leaving. We staggered out of bed and set a long stern line so he could slip out, then he decided he was going to wait until the bakery opened. When he left he offered us all his fenders as he had bought new ones for his new boat. His old fenders were better than ours, so we now have 11 fenders on board. If we can find a poorer yacht than us we will give some of our old ones away, but otherwise we may have to dump a couple as there is simply not enough space on Fairwinds for that many fenders.

One advantage of being woken at such an ungodly hour was that we were breakfasted and out and about wandering round Bergen by half past nine. We had a map, but essentially we just wandered aimlessly absorbing the flavour of the place. We did a circuit via Johasnneskirk and the University campus, then back via the big ornamental lake with the fountain. It is a very compact little city, neat and easily absorbed. We didn't visit any museums, galleries etc as everywhere costs at least a fiver to get in and anyway we didn't have the time, having decided to limit our Citybreak to 24 hours - being moored right in the middle of as city is a novelty, but not really what we came for.

Kathy put some washing on then we had lunch. After lunch she went to check the washing and I walked up to a chart shnop to look at charts. We know we want to at least go in to the mouth of Sognefjiord, so I bought the Norwegian Batsportkart folio for that area, which was a bit of an extravagance at over £50 (the exchange rate being offered in the Tourist Information Centre was a dismal NOK8.40 to the pound, and the chart folio was NOK497). The charts are lovely, with lots of land detail that is absent from UK charts, but at that price we will be using the pilot and the electronic charts to fill any other gaps.

The washing dry and the chart situation dealt with we went for another walk. Our original plan had been to go up the Floyen funicular for an aerial view of the city, but by now the sun was long gone, dark clouds hung over the hills and Bergen was threatening to live up to its reputation as Europe's rainiest city, so it seemed like a bit of a waste of kroner. Instead we grabbed the brollies and wandered past the superyacht Galaxia (home port Douglas) down to the old castle (bits from C13) then back round Bryggen, the old wooden buildings remaining from the Hanseatic days. It is now a World Heritage Site, and really is quite extraordinary.

Bergen was now 'done' but there was one business chore to deal with, a bit of online filing to be done with Companies House before the deadline. We asked in the TIC if there was any handy free internet, and the guy recommended a coffee shop behind the old church near the fishmarket. The place was called Karma, and served excellent coffee with comfy settees and a very relaxed atmosphere - highly recommended if you are in Bergen and looking for an internet cafe.

(Vetrlidsalmenning 6, Bergen Tell: 5501836

Kathy went back to the boat to clear the decks for departure while I updated the blog and checked that the denizens of BlueMoment and Seil Chat were not running amok. I returned just after six and at twenty past, just a little less than 24 hours after our arrival, we motored out of Vagen then popped the genoa and headed for a marina called Bakarvag mentioned in the pilot, which was just three miles NE of Bergen. The pilot was a bit vague, and there was an anchor symbol although it was referred to a as a marina, so we were not sure what to expect.

What we found was a scruffy looking inlet with oil floating on the water, a private marina in the Northern end and a rather industrial looking boatyard at the bottom. We initially tied up at a pontoon down the bottom end, where some one told us we would probably be ok to stay but they might be putting boats on it at seven in the morning. A police boat came in, gave us a good eyeballing then decided we were harmless and went back out. We didn't want to be woken at seven again, so we went back to the marina and had a look at the area just inside the breakwater, where there were several empty berths. We were half reversed i to one on the inside row when I saw it said 'reserved' although the one next to it didn't. There was only a couple of metres spare to manoeuvre in, and it took us about fifteen minutes to finally get berthed. I saw a light on in what was billed in the Pilot as a restaurant but obviously wasn't any more, so I went and knocked on the door. A very nice man explained that it was an office for a film making company and that the marina was nothing to do with him. Honour satisfied we made tea, drank beer and had an early night.

Wednesday 30th June 2010-06-19

We slept like logs but woke at half past eight to the sound of a stream of lorries tipping rocks into the fjiord, reclaiming more land N. of the breakwater. We were soon under way, sailing North close hauled in a F3-4 with a light chop on the water, grey skies and light rain. Our route took us up Byfjiord then inside the island d of Flatoy and through a bit no wider than parts of the Crinan Canal into and then across Radfjiord and up past Konsoy. In a particularly picturesque part of the sound studded wioth isla ds we came across a small island with a short quay and picnic tables. We turned round to go alongside for luch and Kathy caught her first fish of the trip, a reasonable sized codling.

Once moored alongside we had just laid out lunch in then cockpit when we were slammed against the quay by the wash of an ignorant MoBo driver passing at high speed. After a few well chosen curses we settled down to a peaceful lunch. Five minutes later we were astounded to see a 38-40ft Danish yacht apparently preparing to come alongside the 5m of quay available behind us. Their initial approach was at right angles with a large fierce looking troll of a woman standing in the bow yelling. This was obviously ot working, so they reversed off and took more of a swing in, heading for our windvane at a rate of knots and only just stopping short when I waved at them to slow down w ith a huge burst of revs astern before backing off again for another attack. By this time I had had enough, so I threw our lines off and motored smartly away while letting the Danish skipper know in no uncertain terms what I thought of his seamanship and his manners. I have to say that in all my years of sailing this guy is the only one who has actually provoked me to the marine equivalent of road rage.

We composed ourselves and finished lunch drifting in mid channel before setting off into the widening section of Radfjiod, which we spent most of the afternoon tacking up . It was still cold and grey, but with almost no chop and an apparent wind o 12-14 knots the sailing was enjoyable. The fishjng line was out again and Kathy caught another cod, giving jus a matching pair for tea.

Following the slightly vague instructions in the pilot we felt our way down Grunnesund to an anchorage in a tiny bay, where we dropped the Spade in eight metres then took a stern line ashore to a tree. It is an incredibly peaceful spot, and sitting in the saloon and looking out you appeared to be actually in the forest. The cod - filleted and fried in Ruskoline - was delicious, and was followed by cheese and port as we listened to the birdsong in the trees.

Thursday 1st July 2010-06-19

We woke to blue skies and the odd shaft of sunlight coming through the trees. Once untied and up-anchored we motored over to the shop on the other side of Radsund, where we filled up the water tank and the two diesel cans. In the shop several of the Norwegian tabloids had a spiky sun on the cover and headlines that presumably translated as 'phew what a scorcher'. We sat outside the shop in the sun and had a coffee before continuing our journey North through the picturesquely tortuous watery maze of Hordaland. The wind, what little there was of it, was on the nose - it always blows straight up and dowin these narrow channels, and even when we came out into the slightly wider Lurefjord we didn't bother putting the sails up as it was only a couple of miles before we were back in the canal-like leads between the islands. While I was puzzling over which channel to take out of the top of Lurefjord Kathy announced she had caught a fish - and what a fish, a perfect 2-3 pound salmon.

By now we were both in shorts, a t-shirt and bare feet, as it was seriously hot. We ate lunch as we motored NW along Bakkoysund, then as we came out into the broad sea-road of Fensfjord and turned right for Masfjord we hoisted the sails and enjoyed the silence, although the scenery was a bit industrial for a while as we passed a large oil terminal. Soon the t-shirt was off as well - the first time in shorts seul since Spain in 2006. Before long we had the pole out and ran for about eight miles goosewinged, making three knots, before the wind died as we approached the entrance to Masfjord. There is a small marina at Masfjorden, and we decided to pull in there. The alternative was a potentially squally (according to the pilot) anchorage a few miles further down the fjord, but as we hadn't had a weather forecast all week we decided to take the marina berth (80 kroner without electricity, 100 kroner with) and investigate the anchorage tomorrow. Kathy fried the salmon in butter and we ate it in the cockpit with new potatoes and peas and a glass of white wine. Perfect.

Went for a walk into the village. It was unbelievably quiet, no traffic, hardly anyone going about. Very peaceful. Back to the boat for port and cheese.

Friday 2nd July 2010-06-19

Woke to a beautiful blue sky day with a few gusts from the SE making it over the hills. A bit of boat cleaning, fried tatties, bacon and egg for breakfast then it was off into Masfjord. We sailed maybe half a miler under genoa then the gusts ran out and we motored round to Andvik to investigagte the anchorage. The pilot says anchor in 20m, which seemed a bit extreme, so we had a wee motor round and decided that it would be a good place to anchor in 10m in the SE corner, with plenty of swinging room. The pilot says is is exposed to gusts, and there was certainly a strong gusty SE wind funnelling down the valley, but with good holding (described as sand and mud) and plenty of chain out it would be a wonderful anchorage in spectacular scenery.

It as far too early to stop however, so we decided to go deeper into Masfjord. We managed to use the breeze coming down the valley into Andvik to sail for as mile or so, then the engine went on again. Even though it had begun to cloud over it was still roasting hot and we were both in shorts once more. The fjord was dramatic but we were heading inland, away from the coast and our general Northerly routing, so we decided to go as far as Solheim where the fjord branches and stop there. Apart from anything else, we had heard a 'repetition of gale warning' from Rogaland Radio, but we hadn't caught much detail - it sounded like SE F7 decreasing, but VHF reception in the fjords seems to be erratic. By now we were sailing between towering mountains, off the chart and navigating with a tourist brochure while the GPS beeped and complained that it no longer had a reliable signal. The Nordhordaland tourist brochure promised a 'guest marina' and the pilot said old ferry quay and shop. There was a short quay, but that was about it. A young lad working on the quayside directed us to come in behind a small fishing boat, which involved a stern first approach into a confined space, always a fun manoeuvre in Fairwinds, but it went smoothly enough. He commented that we were the fourth yacht in in a week, something he obviously found a bit astonishing. Total mileage today just 11 miles.

An attractive blonde lassie came over and started chatting. She had spent a year in Edinburgh doing her masters in HR, so her English was pretty impeccable even by the high standards we have come to expect. She told us we should definitely go to Geraingerfjord, as it was the most dramatic fjord in Norway. She promised to come back later with more information printed out from the internet, including recommendations for a stop tomorrow night on our resumed journey Northwards. I asked her if she could possibly bring a weather forecast as well, as we hadn't had one since we left Lerwick - Blondie Haslar would approve.

We went for a walk round the tiny village - maybe 20 houses, most of them on the rocky outcrop that shelters the quay - then up to the church, where they had been cutting silage. The views were fantastic, as the photos should confirm. Still in search of the mythical shop we walked up the hill towards the 'main' road, but all we found were a few more houses with fantastic views across the fjord.

Back on the boat we chilled for an hour with a G&T, then Ingvisk came back bearing charts and printouts. She suggested stopping at Dingva on the S. side of Sognesjoen tomorrow, and gave us a printout detailing the facilities there. It looks civilised, so maybe I will get the blog and calendar up. She also gave us some tourist bumff about Geraingerfjord, including details of a fast ferry that we can take the last 15 Km to save having to sail all the way down. It is now definitely on the agenda if we have time.

The weather was a bit less wonderful - it looks as though tomorrow will be the last day of the mini heatwave, with a high of only 19C. The forecast for the rest of the week was mostly rain and temps of 12C-13C, with the good news being the wind direction - generally South and blowing at anything from a F3 to the top of a F6. By the time Ingvisk left after wishing us well for the remainder of our voyage the predicted overnight rain had started, but it was light and so was the wind. Kathy began cooking - a jazzed up tin of curry tonight due to fishing failure - and we settled down for what promised to be a peaceful if uneventful Friday night.

Saturday 2nd July 2010-06-19

We woke to bright blue skies after a lot of rain overnight. We dropped our lines and left the quay at quarter to nine, motored out in to the fjord and managed to sail for five minutes until the wind died, then we motor-sailed back out of the fjord with the wind gusting from zero to thirty knots from various directions. Once past Masfjorden we began to enjoy a fantastic sail, and by the time we were heading NW up Fensfjord we had a lot of wind well aft of the beam, so when the genoa began to collapse we just furled it and continued to make between five and six and a half knots under main alone.

Just before we turned North into the narrow passage between Sandoy and the mainland we passed close by a yard where they were making the arch section of a suspension bridge, presumably with a view to taking it somewhere by boat, and a mile or so down the sound we passed between the buttresses it was obviously destined to span, thus rendering another ferry obsolete. We carried on down the channel at a splendid rate, preventer on the main and propelled by the accelerated wind that we were now getting used to in these leads., By now we had run out of borrowed chart and were on the electronic charts, and as we approached the narrowest part of the channel the route became less than obvious. I wondered if perhaps running flat out with a prevented main through gaps less than a quarter of a cable wide while peering through bright sunlight into a ten inch screen for guidance was entirely wise. We rounded up through 180 degrees and put the engine on for two minutes while we dropped the main and set the genoa. In the interim a 50ft schooner came past and kindly showed us the way through, and we proceeded at six knots under genoa alone. It seems that the secret of sailing these channels in strong winds is to use one sail at a time.

Hurtling out of the top of Brandangersund through a tiny steep-sided channel past a 'crossroads' sectored light with four white sections Kathy caught a couple of small saithe, enough for a good starter. We hung a right down Gulafjord then a left up another sound between Hisaroy and the mainland, then on into Sognesjoen, the wide channel leading from the open sea into Sognefjord. A couple of miles further on and we turned into Dingja, a pretty little village in a west-facing bay with a small marina. We tied up at the pontoon after one of the most amazing days sailing in terms of speed , scenery and general pleasure that we have ever enjoyed. We saw two yachts all day, both local and both motoring. At least 50% of the Norwegian yachts we have seen are Bavarias, the Cruiser 39 and Cruiser 42 being the most popular. Yachts are a rarity though, this is MoBo territory, and there are hundreds of them in all shapes and sizes.

We went for a short walk to a beautiful inland lake stretching back in to the mountains then back at the marina we showered - a bit steep at NOK20 for three minutes, but very welcome nonetheless - then I fired up the netbook and tried the Repeatit - more in hope than anger - and to my amazement found an unprotected wireless network with a good signal. This was the first time I had downloaded my email since Bergen - over 600, nearly all spam, but a few from clients or new enquiries which I dealt with before looking at the weather. There I discovered a huge hideous low we had been blissfully unaware of, with the Gribs promising F7 for Sunday afternoon in open water and the possibility of stronger wind with a bit of West in it for Monday. I didn't think where we were was very sheltered, neither did I know where would be secure between Dingja and Floro if it did blow up, so we decided that tomorrow we would just go over to Leirivk in Bofjord, a short fjord off the North side of the entrance to Sognefjord. It looked completely sheltered and promised a shop - we are running out of a few things like bread and potatoes. Leirvik also has wireless internet so we will be able to check the weather again - the next five days don't look very promising at all, with another huge low coming in on Wednesday.

Sunday 2nd July 2010-06-19

Woke early to blue sky after the overnight rain. We left just after nine and sailed out of Dingja in gusty conditions under genoa. We were expecting the wind to get stronger as the morning went on but it didn't and eventually we overcame our inertia and put the main up as well. After a pleasant sail into Bofjord we tied up at the one pontoon berth marked 'gjesteplasse' in time for lunch in the cockpit.

After lunch we booted up, dug out our walking poles and set out to do some Norwegian style walking. A mile or so down the road we struck out up some steep newly cut grass fields towards the woods, where I spotted a likely looking path. It climbed steeply for several hundred metres, and although I was sure it would take us somewhere good I could sense Kathy getting fed up. I pushed on ahead and discovered that the path did indeed come out at an amazing panoramic viewpoint with a table a nd chairs, so went back to reassure Kathhy. We enjoyed the tremendous views over the Sognefjord approaches and Bofjord for a while, then made our way back down via the main path, a longer but much gentler descent.

Monday 5th July 2010-06-19

Woke to howling gusts and the boat lurching against her lines. Showers with no sunshine in between. Did some shopping - our first proper shopping since getting to Norway. If you are careful about what you buy supermarket shopping is not so much more expensive than at home.

A Danish boat came in and I spoke to the skipper briefly - just to tell him his port running light was on and his starboard wasn't working. They seem to have a lot of young people on board and are heading for Flam near the bottom of Sognefjord.

Spent much of the day reading on board and wrestling with a very poor (but free) internet connection. Later in the afternoon it cleared up a bit and we went for a short walk along the West side of the fjord. Leirvik really is quite a pretty place, very secure in all winds with a decent supermarket and good showers, and only 75NOK a night - highly recommended as a stopover.


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