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 simpler route.

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 night.

But we were still nowhere near Oslo!

Glacial carvingsA 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.

SandpollenDrobak 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.

Approaching Oslo
Street furnitureWe 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. WaitingWe 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.

In the rain

Red shoes

Crossing over

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!

Best wishes

Robin, David, Clive and Chris
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