A week has passed since our last postcard and perhaps you are wondering if the triffids in our diesel tank have overtaken us completely, or if we have been swallowed by a giant cod. We're pleased to say we haven't met either of these nightmarish ends, and are still bobbing around in the Skagerrak, nearing the armpit of Norway where the coast drops down towards Sweden.
Robin left us in Kristiansand, after a couple of days of strong north-easterly winds had enabled us to test the sails and ropes for weaknesses - none found. Jane flew in on the same aeroplane on which Robin departed, bringing with her not only the shafts of sunlight that always accompany her, but also an indecent amount of red wine, some marmalade, various other vital vittals and four fuel filters. Since then it has been calm seas, faint breezes (still from the northeast) and really warm sunshine. Not quite the weather for Jane, who is a bit like Samantha from "I'm sorry I haven't a clue", and loves a good blow.
The Leia of the title refers to the waterway known as the Blindleia, which runs for about 20 miles parallel to the coast but about one mile inland, up from near Kristiansund to Lillesand. It must be some kind of fault in the rocks as it is very straight, sometimes extremely narrow, so you can't pass another boat - and has many arms leading off it at right-angles. It seems quite unique as a natural bypass to the rough sea outside and certainly is very beautiful with forested islands of birch, oak and fir, many splendid houses right on the edge of the water and some fine rocky structures along its edges. The locals drive their powerboats along it at high speeds, but the really narrow bits do have a speed limit sign at each end.
We entered the Leia from the south on Sunday afternoon - Garmin had a forgetful moment as we passed through the first really narrow bit and told us we were sailing over large areas of dry land - and we spent a whole day negotiating it: half way along we borrowed a mooring buoy for the night and enjoyed a wonderful evening of stillness, jellyfish swarms and roast chicken. The next morning we had a slight panic when the toilet wouldn't flush, and I began to wonder what I had done with the rubber gloves. We left this problem to one side while we slipped the mooring and began our leg to Lillesand - and, ten minutes later, we had a bigger panic when I noticed the temperature gauge was off the scale at 120°C. We quickly stopped the motor, deployed some jib, and wafted around while we checked the belt on the pump and then the incoming water strainer. Jellyfish was removed from the latter in large quantity, and all done up in time before we drifted into the bank on the far side of the pool. The engine temp normalised, and the toilet flushed! Two jobs done before 11am! This is going to be a good day!
The next day we visited Arendal, which we thought was a delightful town, with a fine mermaid at the harbour entrance. Mooring alongside the street in the "Pollen", right in the town centre,
we took a stroll into the old town, 200 yards away. The dog obedience classes were in full swing in a neatly cordoned off part of the street, and us boys agreed we would be spaniels in our next lives so we could "Stay", "Fetch" or "Lie down" for the delightful demonstrator with the throat microphone and the tight jeans!
We wanted to visit the Radhus - the guidebook said it was the biggest wooden house in Norway and Arendal's "must see" attraction. So we asked the pretty trio of girls serving at the "7-11" convenience store under the big church where it was. "Gee, I couldn't say", said the first, who came from Alabama. "I never heard of it either", said the second, who was Swedish. "I live here, and I don't know", said the third, so we judged that perhaps it wasn't that big a tourist pull after all. They did know where the supermarket was, so we went there instead, stocked up with tonic, mayo and extra value frozen prawns and then visited the new Radhus where the tourist office was - the Radhus we visited was made of glass, stainless steel and concrete, but had been built since the guidebook was written. JK then went off on a mission to buy 18kg of bottled gas while the rest of the crew did the old town more thoroughly, armed with guidebook and town plan.
The very nice girl at the Statoil garage had the right type of cylinder, accepted the NoKs and persuaded her boss to take me and the cylinder back to the boat. The brand new Volvo drop-top convertible was an acceptable car to be seen in, so off we went down the hill into town. "Ah - you are on the other side of Pollen!", he said "We have to go another way". Back up the hill, off into the countryside, through a long tunnel, down into the next village etc..... it was a 15 minute journey! I thanked him profusely, and he said "Thank Volvo, not me" - it was a demonstrator that his garage had been valeting for the main dealer!
So then we all met up again in the old town by the 1711 restaurant, but by now it was raining, and the "Old Radhus" had scaffolding all over it, so we had prelunch drinks ashore, as a treat! 33cl of draught Arendal was £3, but magnificent moccachino coffees and hot chocolates with lashings of cream were only £2 each - a bargain. We really liked Arendal and recommend a visit if you get the chance.
Best wishes from Dick, Jane, John and Vaughan
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