To Oslo and back
The girl at the check in desk looked puzzled as we handed in our tickets.
"What is your final destination?" she asked. As the tickets clearly said
Oslo, this was a strange question, but we humoured her.
"There are no flights to Oslo today" she continued unabashed.
"This is the SAS desk?" we queried, " the major airline, serving all
Scandinavian cities? Oslo is the capital of Norway." We added helpfully.
She gave us a pitying look.
"It's been cancelled. You must go to the ticket office"
After lengthy negotiations, and having rejected an opportunist offer from
Ryanair to fly us there from Liverpool for £480, we settled on spending the
day flying to Aberdeen and thence to Stavanger and Sandefjord, which is
about 80 miles south of Oslo and near where John had positioned the boat.
In some respects this was a good deal, since SAS paid for a full English
breakfast and let us use the Bmi executive lounge with its free coffee,
newspapers, biscuits and whisky. Arriving in Aberdeen we found we were to
be loaded onto a tiny plane with a giant elastic band attached to the
propeller. Thus, after a cloud hopping flight we found ourselves arriving
in Stavanger forty minutes late, with no time at all to clear customs and
re-check-in for the final leg. Fortunately it transpired that the same
elastic band that had got us across the North Sea was set to take us across
the heights of Telemark. A rapid sprint through security ensued, only
slowed by a 'jobsworth' who insisted on seeing all the receipts for all the
alcohol he could find - but did not worry about the other contraband. The
snow skimming flight over the mountains with the setting sun behind us that
followed was a true delight. Finally we arrived in Sandefjord just in time
to meet John and Vaughan starting their return to the UK by a slightly
It was hot! 31 degrees in the cabin and 18 degrees in the water. Strippng
to shorts and tee shirts we set-off at once to find somewhere cool for the
But we were still nowhere near Oslo!
A spinaker run the next morning took us to Laksholmen where we anchored in
2 meters for lunch. There we saw our first demonstration of a Norwegian
boat using he Fortoynungsbolter (mooring bolts set into rock faces). A
large yacht smooched past us into the shallower water we had shunned and
simply came alongside the rock face as if coming alongside any man-made
affair. You just got to really know your rocks to pull that trick off. In
the afternoon we carried on up the pretty Tonsbergfjorden, winding our way
under full sail between wooded hills and honey coloured rocks. Towards
evening we were approaching our chosen anchorage down a well buoyed passage
keeping between the port hand buoys and the moorings, whilst Robin fretted
that whilst the chart showed 'less than 5m", we should really have more
that a couple of meters in the marked channel. When it dropped below that,
the onlookers were treated to the sight of a boat loosing its sails so fast
you couldn't say 'PANIC" before they were all down and the boat was moving
backwards under Perkins. It was then that we saw a ferry moving at speed
the WRONG side of the buoys. The buoyage had been reversed! Actually whilst
we thought we were moving out of the Fjord on a North going lead, the buoy
placers considered that we were entering the back end of a lead that
started much further south and just happened to curl back on itself for the
last few miles. After that adrenalin buzz, we were happy to drop our anchor
in a charming bay not far from the Yachting town of Tonsberg.
We started Tuesday with a brisk sail to windward. Racing Chris soon had us
tweaking and twitching and searching for that extra half a knot. After
lunch the wind came aft, and we entered a race with an X-yacht, although
they were not perhaps aware of it. They were ploughing up the middle of the
Fjord dead downwind with just their main up, whilst we dashed from side to
side getting all our sails into the act. They gave up near Drobak, the
narrowest part of Oslofjord and a point at which the route can pass either
side of Hoaya.
Drobak must be a cruise ship navigators nightmare. The passage is narrow,
has a least depth of 10m and a nicely positioned rock is set mid-chanel to
slit their bright shiny liner from stem to stern. There is a nasty trap
laid for the navigators of small ships too. The passage to the West of
Hoaya opens up beautifully, and the temptation is just to go for it. But
there is a least dept of a meter across the entrance except for a single 5m
wide slot. The pilot observes that it is unwise to go aground here as you
might have to wait a long time before the air pressure is low enougth to
let the water rise and float you off - and its embarrassing to sit beneath
the guns that the Norwegian Navy has mounted here. So we took the detour up
north of the guns before coming back south again on our way into the
delightful bay of Sandpollen.
We finally reached Oslo the next day after a morning's motoring (no wind)
and found a small exposed part of the Marina at Aker Brygge to cling onto.
Aker Btygge is Oslo's hot spot; its stiff with bars, restaurants and
celebrities - or so we were later told. It smelt to us of corporate
sponsorship. Everywhere there were inappropriatelly dressed people going
out sailing, or team-building as they called it, on period yachts or flash
motor cruises. The men wore blue suits and brogue shoes, the women floaty
frocks and highheels. Voltair's crew was appropriatly dressed of course -
yesterday's tee-shirt still carrying the tea stain where a mug was spilled
in the wake of a passing launch, some old shorts with a patch of engine oil
to add colour and salt-caked shoes - though Chris did try to raise the tone
with his "I've sailed the Arc" shirt.
We adopted our usual tactic of asking
the prettiest girl in sight to direct us to a supermarket and finished up
in a gourmet establishment; it was that kind of area. Chris had offered to
buy a round of beers, so we selected an outdoor bar that was a tiered
series of levels dropping out of the wind, where each seat was provided
with massive black and white cushions in which customers could sink and
looked incredibly expensive. But in the end the 380 Nok mooring charge
dissuaded us for staying late into the evening and we slipped away to find
somewhere more select.
Plans A,B and C had to be abandoned (due to reasons such as uncharted
marinas, poor holding, already overcrowded etc) and we finished up picking
up the biggest buoy in the moorings off Malmoya. Towards midnight we were
visited by the mooring owner, a German who had moved to Norway for the
sailing and the lifestyle and was much involved with the restoration of old
wooden boats. After a couple of whiskeys he was more than happy to permit
us to remain on the larger of his two moorings and he wove his way back
ashore in the early hours of the morning, presumably using his local
knowledge to avoid uncharted rocks in the little harbour.
Later that morning we slipped out lines and motored back into the top of
Olsofjord where a pleasant North-westery met us to send us on our way
south. Was that jammy, or what? Southerlys all the way north and now a
Northerly as we turned to go south! We duly hoisted all sail. But not for
long; within 10 minutes the wind was gusting 25knots and rising. We
scrambled to reduce sail, but the wind continued rising. We saw two
waterspouts deploying to the south and west. We sort the shelter of the
westerly shore and the islands, but even so we were doing 7 knots and more.
We past a heavy old boat under storm jib towing a massive motorboat with
'rescue' written ironically on its side. The gusting wind and thie heavy
tow made their movements erratic and unpredictable. We gave them a wave and
left them in our wake. Soon we had Drobak abeam and Voltair stormed beneath
the guns with a huge white bone in her teeth. As the fjord widened, the
wind began to drop and we turned into the shelter of Son (or Soon as it
appears in some spellings). This turned out to be a much more pleasant town
that the pilot suggested, with a fine chandlers, coop and restaurant on the
waterfront. Soon the intrepid crew were sipping beers (lettol) in Soon's
restaurant and admiring the yachts in the harbour, whilst Chris
contemplated setting up a branch office on the spot.
We were back not far from Sandefjord but on the other side. Ahead of us lay
Sweden and the south.
In the next episode: Saturday night in Fredrikshavn; how Clive got us past
a broken lift bridge; the enthusiasm and energy of Swedish customs; and the
magic of Awaksol. All about Humpen and Smugh; not to mention paasing a
Porsch. Don't miss it!
Robin, David, Clive and Chris
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