I certainly would not want to enter Utsira's southern harbour in daylight. The approach is studded with rocks and the passage that winds between them goes within a few feet of some. Fortunately it was still semi-dark as we closed the island at 3am and we could see little of this. Norway has a prolific set of sectored lights with the recommended passage indicated by a white sector with red and green sectors showing you when you are off course.
All you have to do is travel down the white beams, transferring your affections from one light to the next at the appropriate moment. This we did, arriving in the inner part of the tiny 'S' shaped inner harbour just as the dawn gave us enough light to pick up out the quays. We came alongside the fishing quay and hoped that the fisherman wouldn't return before we awoke next morning.
Some of the crew were awake at 10 am, in time to see the ferry from Haugesund arrive. This towered over the buildings and completely filled the little harbour, where it spun itself around using both bow and stern thrusters and missing quays on either side by a few feet only; then it moved sideways to tie up and discharge its complement of birdwatchers for the day.
From Sudhavn Utsira to Nordhavn Utsira is 3 kms by road. We strolled to the middle of the island where the library and the school are situated. At 11 am the children were rushing to school over the fields and lanes on skates, on bikes, by hitching a lift on the refuse vehicle and on foot. School time is 11 till 3, so we found some of them playing alongside Voltair in the early afternoon. Meanwhile we walked on to the islands only Café which was specially opened in our honour. Normally it's only open for 4 hrs a day in the afternoon and for two nights a week when it doubles as the island pub. In the Café we found that there were no Customs or Police on the island so we could not enter Norway 'officially' yet.
The island is studded with lovely clapboard houses, freshly painted in shades of blue, rusty red, yellow and pink and laid out in a random scattered manner, some only loosely attached to the paths and byways. We spent the day in 'R & R' - repairs and relaxation. Frank devoted himself to doing a fine paint job on our ventilator grilles which he removed ashore for the purpose. Towards evening, anxious that the falling dew might impair the result, he determined to move them back on board. He rested them on a couple of strips of wood which he carefully placed over our mooring lines whilst stepping aboard. A small zephyr caused Voltair to move slightly, lifting the lines and turning the strips of wood into a runway which slid one of the masterpieces into the water. And the harbour god giggled. Despite jumping in the water, John was only able to come up with a tasty crab and once-rather-smart mobile phone; the ventilator had been accepted by the god as an offering.
So it was Friday when we presented ourselves at Haugesund's police station to complete the formalities. A search in the back office eventually produced a stamp, and we were duly admitted to the country. We wandered down the main street, a fine pedestrian area, bought some Norwegian sweet goats cheese, some Jarlsberg and some pickled herrings for lunch, a spare catch for the cabin door and some red chillies from an well-stocked far eastern groceries shop. When we returned to the 'gjæstebrygge' we found that the deserted barge we had tied up alongside had deserted the quay, re-mooring Voltair in the water-taxi rank. Hm! We decided to leave quickly. So it was not until three in the afternoon that we were able to pick up a buoy under the ancient church at Alvaldnes and consume our luncheon purchases. Harald 'Fair-Hair', the first king of a united Norway built his capital here and the place remained the residence of Norway's kings until 1450; the church dates from 1250.
The police had given us the telephone number of the customs people whom we had missed by making our landfall on the 'wrong' island. We rang them over lunch, but this being Norway after 4 p.m., all we got was an answer-phone.
That evening we proceeded on down the Karmsund in search of fuel and gas. Our first attempt was an entry to Våråvågane. By this time, we had discovered that Norwegian charts marked the recommended passage through rock-mazes with a little passage line. We attempted to follow this only to find our way blocked by a new land fill. We tried a different route. We had not yet discovered that the colour of a pole did not necessarily indicate which side you should pass it; so we had a nervy 1 meter shown on our depth gauge for a while. Later we discovered that the arrangement of the board nailed to the top of the perches was more reliable. Stick to the side that the board points to. Our second attempt - at Nordalsvågen - was an equally nervy close passage between rocks, but did lead to a card-in the-slot automatic diesel pump, and a purveyor of all types of Norwegian gas cylinders. It even had a boat yard which sold regulators for these cylinders, but which had closed several hours ago. As we were staring through the window, a car drove up and its driver asked 'Do you want something?' in perfect English. (How did he know?) The shop was duly opened up and twenty minutes later we had a regulator, some rope and a gas bottle on trial. They do have gas bottles that would have been a perfect fit on Voltair - size for size the same as our existing ones - but the big 11kg job was on special offer, and we simply could not bring ourselves to pay 400 NOK more for 4.5 Kg than we did for the special offer for 11. So we spent the next few hours working out how we could re-rig the mizzen so that we could use the 11 kg cylinder. All this time the garage had let us had have the stuff on trust. When we returned to pay, the attractive blonde who had trusted us earlier turned to her boss and said with some relief 'See, I told you they'd not gone away!' (at least that's what I thought she said, judging by the body language.)
It was then late, so after a light dinner - only two courses and fruit - we retired where we were for the night.
Bright and early next morning, well by 10 am at least, when the third breakfast sitting was completed, we slipped our lines and motored up the delightful Kjeldesund. This separates the mainland from the island of Fosen, where the Haugesund Seilforening have their base. There is only one snag; the sound is crossed by a bridge of charted height 13m. Voltair's masthead was designed by Nicolson's to be 13m off the waterline. You see the problem? We put into the quay alongside Elise's café and tried out our Norwegian, "Jeg vil gjerne fire kopp kaffe", only to be thrown by "Med melk?", as only one of us did. Over coffee we considered the problem. Then we got out our sextant and measured the exact height of our mast from aerial tip to loaded waterline, and the height of our aerial from the spinnaker halyard pulley. Then we measured the bridge, which sloped upwards North to South and was banked East to West. Then we set up a rope with a spanner to weight one end tied a signal flag at the position of the spinnaker halyard pulley. Then we walked over to the bridge and draped the rope over the parapet to the waterline. We observed the flag below the bridge and took some more measurements. The we fired up Excel and did some calculations. We decided there was 0.465 m clearance. So John very cautiously took us through with everything crossed. Then we saw the tide gauges alongside the bridge, which showed that at that moment in time, bridge base to waterline was 14.2 metres!
We made it to the other side with encouragement from onlookers and thence to Storavika, when we rang up Paul the commodore who came down with his svelte wife Svanaug to greet us to the club and find us a semi-permanent position amongst the pontoons.
Sadly, we have to issue a brief statement regarding George, whose condition can only be described as critical. Having taken us nobly over the most difficult part of the North Sea, he did not go on strike so much as fall over from exhaustion. It now appears his poor old body was falling apart and it was only by heroic efforts that he kept going as long as he did. We have put him on the waiting list for a full armature transplant, but in the meantime he is on indefinite sick-leave.
Thanks for all your replies to our "what did we forget to do" quiz. Joint first prize goes to Dick Rutter and Jane Stanley for their "Notify UK customs that you were leaving" and "Turn your underpants inside out". We dealt with the first from Utsira by telephone, and we promise to deal with the latter the first time we take our underpants off.
This weeks quiz:
What is 'Sportsdykking' and who would you like to do it with?
And a special question for Christine (who replied to our first quiz in Norwegian), "Kan du anbefale en bra dykkersted og er det slipstvang?"
Best wishes to all, from the crew of Voltair: Frank, John, Robin and Vaughan
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