Up and down we go again

A beautiful but not fully open Norwegian anemone Leaving Espavaer was quite a strain – we had grown to like it so much, but north we had to go so off we went. We chose a really difficult site for Chas and JG to dive – a tiny island about as far west as you can get and still be in Norway – the sea was surging on the rockface and it felt like the yacht was being drawn magnetically towards the surge. A vertical wall to the north went down to 85m with a slightly less severe slope to the south. This lovely animal was cohabiting with two huge crabs - just out of shot
I’d like to pepper the page with Charlie’s photos, but I think he’s writing a book and doesn’t want his shots in the public domain. Some of them are spectacular ones – for example, of the northern anemone so close you feel you should cower under its tentacles (here’s an inferior shot of the beast with our inferior cameras). Or of a lobster – even better than this really super shot that Frank took.

We ended up anchoring at Hiskjo, a small island community, this time without shop and shower etc, but with a good all-weather holing-up area where we spun around our anchor as the northerly wind (that had stopped us doing any sailing as we made to the north) switched around to a southerly wind (that would stop us sailing back again).A nice smooth profile, albeit rather deeper than BSAC sanction The next day it was time for JK and Frank to dive first, so we went for a “good-un”. Frank allowed himself to be drawn down to 48m by the lure of the vertical rock wall, while JK fell for the nitrogen hit and went a bit further, though without “expanding the envelope”. The water was gin clear at depth and we enjoyed ling swimming in and out of their lair, big flatfish, in a cranny that we just couldn’t quite reach, stacking themselves up 3-thick to make what would have been a “brill sandwich”, and crabs that were clearly far too big to go in our biggest saucepan (memo to self/Robin – buy bigger saucepan!).

Backto Espavaer for one night, we found the previously empty visitors quay packed with not only an old Norwegian sail training ship and its 20 teenage crew, but also with three other yachts with red, white and blue striped flags. ‘Huns are horizontal’ was going through my mind as just in time the attractive blonde on the boat nearest us confirmed their Dutch origin and destination. The bad news was that the loo and shower was locked as there were clearly too many customers! View from the bridge - The ferry replaced by a fishermanThe next day we motored once more into a brisk southerly breeze, to the pretty settlement of Rovaer, an island settlment just west of Haugesund. These islands are even more reticulated than Espavaer and are clearly the place to be in a hurricane, since there is no stretch of water measuring more than 100m before you have to turn right or left around a rocky corner. Once again the Dutch threesome were there before us, and we had to make to with the last slot, three out from the quay, and about 4 feet from wash of the big red, white and blue turbo-charged ferry as he swooshed down the canalised channel and, slamming the gearbox into reverse and engaging side thrusters, whammed a his stern a few feet past our own to drop his warps over ours on the quayside bollard. That was at 07:00 and it sounded like Armageddon! Free showers, free mooring, 500cc Carlsberg only 25 NoK plus 1 Kroner pant (pants even on the cans…. Now we realised why Robin had left us a huge bag of empty cans, which we threw away on the first morning on board! Oh, Pants!)

The female, in contrast, dresses in pink with black & white jewelleryNext morning we dived near the lighthouse and had a bit of a surprise. Charles had his head stuck in the usual crevice photographing a male cuckoo wrasse (that’s one of these, without the white splodge if you were to see Chas’ photo) and JK was kind of swimming about, when we got buzzed by a shark. Definitely sleeky grey and shark-shaped, with bright eyes and downwards sloping pectoral fins like a Russian bomber on steroids, it turned and shot off when I shone my torch at it. Then there was another from the opposite side, then another, then three more, all coming at us from every side… It became shark soup as the number in view at any time became impossible to reckon. This picture borrowed from a UK websiteFortunately none of them measured more than about a metre long, and we identified them as “starry smooth hounds” which are members of the dogfish family, but still sharks nonetheless! It was something neither of us had ever seen before – dogfish to us are usually found resting on the seabed and we annoy them into swimming away – these beauties there in a pack and were coming right at us and really inquisitive! Or was it hungry? Anyway, a great dive if you don’t count the scallops (nil).

Back to Skudeneshavn for yet another rendezvous with the Dutch threesome. We were getting to know them a bit now, having shared the shower in Rovaer. I’d like to relate how we invited the girls aboard and boogied till dawn, but in real life this hardly ever happens, so I won’t mislead you. Instead let me tell you that Chas and JK dived “in the vicinity of the Dresden wreck” (that’s diver euphemism for “You prat, we missed the wreck – why did you go south when you should have gone north?”) but gained enough scallops to later verify that the Coquilles Voltair recipe (the one with coconut milk and pernod) is absolutely brilliant and will be marketed forthwith in vac-packed version by Aegis Amazing Menus Ltd (or whatever it is that AAM stands for).

Friday has now passed on, as this final missive hits the internet, but we did re-visit the big rudder of the Dresden at 45m, we did lose the giant round fender, being used as marker buoy for the wreck, trolls having untied JK’s bowline, we did get it back in time for the next pair to dive in the right place, and now we are safely in Storavika waiting for Eddvar with his “bygg boss” to take us back to reality for a week or two before the blossoming love affair with Norway can continue.

Best wishes and love to all from Bob, Charles, Frank and the Johns.

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Leap ahead to our next trip in September 2005