Pining for the Fjords?
No more, as the last days of July find us in Snigsfjorden on Norway's South coast, basking in an implausible heatwave similar to the hazy memory I have of Norway from some 45 years ago.
It seems to have been a little while coming.
We've been onboard Sula for 6 weeks or so, but as ever, the journey started long before that. Having finally found and bought our new boat at the end of 2013, a long Winter of waiting and preparing the house for renting followed, working up to an almost inevitably frenzied last few days before an epic 3 day shuttle of our gear from Devon to Holland.
After unloading all our stuff from the hired van into a huge pile on a patch of grass as near to the boat as we could drive, I grabbed a few hours kip before setting off to take the van back. I arrived back in Holland by plane and train to find Lucia surrounded by piles of tins and clothes and boat gear and looking a little beleaguered. It took us a full week just to transfer everything on board and find homes for it all. At first it looked pretty hopeless and I was wondering what and where we were going to dump, but gradually more and more storage spaces revealed themselves and were duly rammed. The process of re-homing and re-re-homing stuff or course continues.
Our first lesson in how Sula behaves differently from our old Fair Grace came in the sea lock where we discover that the kick in reverse gear is the opposite direction. To cut an embarrassing story to the bare minimum, we failed to get a line to the side of the lock and crabbed our way down, narrowly avoiding wedging ourselves diagonally across, but unable to straighten up. We figure that at least we gave the lock keeper some entertainment. Look out for it on Youtube! Thankfully the downstream gates opened before we piled into them, and we were out into the sea.
|Typical Dutch sailing barges|
|Dutch sailing barge|
The gaps between the long Frisian islands are narrow and the tide runs hard between them. The sandbanks and shallows extend outside for miles, all of which add up to it being potentially hard work to get out of the relatively few anchorages and get going. It is fair to say that the first day of open sea sailing in Sula wasn't an overwhelming success. This wasn't really the fault of the boat.
The long drag out from the anchorage, the classically short and lumpy North Sea, together with slightly squally weather for a longish day to the next available stop had the crew on the verge of mutiny already. I had half expected it would come, but just not quite so soon and so forcefully. I was left in the cockpit for the last 4 hours or so, seriously wondering if we were going to have to sell the boat and buy a cottage in the mountains instead. Encouragingly though, things perked up as soon as we arrived and I decided that maybe we could delay the sale for a short while at least.
|Automatic pilot on the making - check the feet!|
|Scary moment in the Kiel Canal - it's huge and far too close|
As a necessary concession after the traumatic first sailing day, we are heading into the Baltic rather than straight up to Norway. I don't feel too bad about this and although it is my third trip up the busy River Elbe and through the Kiel Canal in recent times (the second this year after delivering Fair Grace to Sweden), it at least gives me opportunity to finally get the tidal calculation right so rather than fighting the (up to 5 knot) current, it sweeps us up to the entrance of the canal, albeit in thunderstorms so heavy that the visibility is down to 10's of metres. This would be OK except for the fact that the Elbe has a narrow channel and is possibly the busiest stretch of shipping in the world, which made for some slightly tense moments but thankfully no close shaves.
|Sea of jellyfish in Denmark|
This brings up the inevitable topic of Sula and how we feel about her. This could risk becoming boring, so I'll try to keep it brief.
The Baltic happily brings calm tranquil sailing and for the most part good weather. The only downside is that this really is a popular sailing area and so the relatively few anchorages tend to be a bit busy. This is probably the German/Baltic equivalent of the Solent I guess.
|New friend - Aarhus jazz festival|
|Skagen's rafted up yacths - low season|
|Sunrise sailing the Skaggerak|
....More Norway stuff to follow....