Sunday, 7 September 2014


Our first anchorage - Mandal
My previous memories of Norway are from our family trip in 1968 in our 32ft Buchanan gaff cutter “Orlando”. I was 6 years old and so these are among some of my earliest clear memories. Well, I say clear, but of course in the way of early memories they are all shaped and warped and disjointed, sometimes blurred but with snapshots of exceptional but perhaps deceptive clarity. One facet of my memory of that time was the unbroken sunshine we had throughout the duration of our time there, which seemed like months.

Islands off Mandal
The unreliability of these memories was demonstrated to me by my father before he died in the Spring of last year. He had become increasingly disabled through recent years and clearly took vicarious pleasure in following our travels. I spoke to him about Norway not long before he passed away. He told me that we had been there for about 2 weeks in total.

Our little explorer
Many other elements of memory remained accurate and more drifted back as they were nudged by the scenery we came across.

Whereas in '68 it was a drawn out, rough and unpleasant passage from Dover to Stavanger, this time we had a single tranquil overnight crossing from the northern tip of Denmark to Mandal. The south coast of Norway is littered with small granite islands giving lots of shelter but anchoring is limited by the depth of the water. We arrived in late July in the heart of the short but intense Norwegian holiday season, so some of these anchorages were busy during the daytime and having heard that the West coast is quieter we decided to press on in spite of the scenic beauty and get around the corner.

Typical hairy roof
We were rewarded with less boats and increasingly spectacular scenery at almost every turn. The delightful anchorages and breathtaking views are simply too numerous to list, and this was our introduction to the real problem of cruising in Norway – there's just too much of it to see.

The memories started kicking in as we dropped the anchor off Klosteroy, not far from Stavanger; pictures of a young girl in a kayak curiously paddling out from an island to investigate us; picking and eating the delicious yellow rasberry-like berries, and the mountains.
The weather this year surpassed even my rosy recollection and locals were saying this was the best Summer for 30 years or more, so we motored ourselves around, swam and stood with our mouths open waiting for the next view and trying to think up new superlatives.

Jaap and Anneke
In an enclosed anchorage near Skudenhamn we met Jaap and Anneke from Enkhuisen in Holland on their boat Kim. We were immediately struck by their warmth and humour and on their recommendation crossed to Skudenhamn and ate waffles in Johannes front room cafe, which is a mandatory part of any visit. We parted company there, but this wasn't the last that we would see of them.

Tight spot but ever so safe!
August saw us working north to Hardangerfjord, in yet more implausibly beautiful surroundings.
Maybe we had become a little blasé about the weather, as when the barograph started to freefall and the radio squawked of an imminent force 10, we were caught somewhat unprepared.

We managed to retreat around to the lee side of Varaldsoyna island but were uncomfortably aware that the wind was set to shift in the night leaving us badly exposed. It was a worrying time, as while we were some 40miles from the open sea, the wind funnels and gusts strongly up the deep fjords and an unpleasant sea can kick up. Because of the steepness of the sides, sheltered harbours are few. We couldn't find anywhere where our anchor would hold and were preparing ourselves for a pretty unpleasant night when a shout from the shore changed things.

Glacier off Sunndaal
Ole was a master mariner who had returned to the island (somewhat reluctantly I felt) to run the local shop and taxi service. He had built himself a tiny harbour tucked behind his house and in short order had us installed and securely roped up, then supplied with bowls of ripe plums from his overflowing orchard. We said that we planned to head off the day after and he calmly and confidently said that no, we would be staying for three days at least. He was right of course, as the wind from ex-tropical cyclone Bertha tore up the fjord for the next few days while we remained tucked in our private refuge. Thanks again Ole.

The carrot and the stick
We tied up at Sunndaal early one morning and set off from the boat to walk up close to the base of a glacier, coaxing Beatrice on with regular handfuls of wild raspberries. Bizarrely, we were swimming in the fjord that evening.

Waterfaull - Lysefijord
Bertha seemed to unsettle the weather pattern, or maybe it just unsettled us, as we decided that it was time to stop heading further North. The trip south was a series of relaxed day hops. We made an unplanned stop in Haugesund where a branch of the fjord almost forms the main street of the town. A classic boat festival was in full swing when we happened past, the highlight of which for me was a tour around one of the original Shetland Taxis. The bravery and toughness of the folk who had manned and used her during the war years was almost palpable.

September became colder as we worked our way down in the almost complete absence of any other cruising boats.

Waterfall - Lysefijord
We stopped in the Kvitsoy archipelago to wait out another blow. Jaap and Anneke had been there for Bertha and had spend a couple of days at 30 degrees heel as, while there is complete shelter from the sea, the islands are low lying and somewhat windswept. They, and their few inhabitants are nonetheless delightful and we were given crabs to eat by a local fisherman.

Rock mooring
Our last stop before rounding Cape was one of the highlights. We squeezed through a narrow gap between the rocks into a small pool and tied ourselves to stakes in the base of a cliff in absolute solitude.

The softer and more sheltered south coast made for pleasant cruising in the increasingly autumnal weather right up to the island of Jomfruland where we had a long walk in the woodland and said goodbye to Norway before crossing over to the pink granite islands of the West coast of Sweden.