Getting our bearings

A fine day for shopping for boat bits and a little lunchWe left Husoy and H2O Marine last Friday, having cut short our maintenance programme in favour of more time in the fjords south of Bergen, where Vaughan was due to arrive on Sunday evening. We motored up through Haugesund in fine sunshine and a light north-westerly wind, waving goodbye to the pretty waitress at the waterside restaurant where we had lunched on Tuesday (she was probably remembering us for the size of our tips), and to the various shopkeepers of the town who had reduced the depth of our wallets.

SundallIn a couple of hours we had motored far enough north to slip off northeast up Bomlafjord towards Hardanger Fjord, flanked to the south by snowcovered peaks and slopes and to the north by the group of islands that form the maze of inside passages up to Bergen. There was enough wind and it was blowing, for once, in the right direction for us to have a lovely sail up the fjord for four hours or so, almost taking us off the end of our charts as we progressed inland. This shot, borrowed from the pilot, would have been a nice view to wake up to,
View from Huglobut we didn’t quite get that far. We anchored in a secluded bay on the island of Huglo, 50 yards or so from one of the two houses which were near the sea, and with a fine view to the south through the treecovered islets in the entrance of the bay. Huglo, the next morningIt was Friday before a holiday weekend, so I suppose we could have expected holiday homes to be occupied, but we had so often found them deserted previously that it came as something of a surprise to have people taking a drink on their deck, with the hot tub going in the background, so close to the anchored yacht, which was slowly turning in the fickle evening breeze.

While we had been under sail, with the propellor being turned as it was dragged through the water, the noise from the thrust bearing had been really quite loud, so we decided we would go directly to Bergen the next day, see what was going of that might be of interest (it was Norway day on Saturday), and to give ourselves a central location for dismantling the drive shaft to see if we could service the bearing.

Wall to wall fitted boatsBreakfast the next morning turned out to be more exciting than usual, when a gas pipe on the cooker fractured, causing large amounts of orange flames to come out of the toaster! It was a steel pipe with a complex bent shape and olives on both ends which had split, so there was no chance to duplicate it and we were down to a “one burner only” regime for the day. Our “early arrival” in Bergen turned out to be around 7:30pm, by which time the main parades and celebrations were over, and the harbour had completely filled with boats moored up to 10-abreast from the walls. We joined the outer end of one of these rafts, eight out, and before the drinks were on the table we had two neighbours outside us!
click for a bigger shot
After dinner, (late, as usual), we took a stroll along Bryggen, the famous Bergen street that we were moored “in the vicinity of”, to have a look at the big sailing ship “Statsraad Lehmkuhl” that was taking up so much of the space on the quay. Chatting to a middle aged couple all dressed in national costume, we found out that a torchlight parade was to start shortly, led by two bands, one of which was Irish. click for a bigger shot
The Irish band turned out to be flying a union jack as it was from Corcrain in Co Armagh, so we were able to give them our support too as we processed through Bergen to the edge of a lake near the central park, along with several thousand others. There we were treated to the Norwegian national anthem, National anthem on a Viking boatfollowed by a fine fireworks display over the lake, before the crowd fairly rapidly dispersed in the direction of McDonalds, various bars along the way, or the attractions of the fairground rides that had been set up by the side of the fishmarket.

Sunday was pretty quiet until about 10am, and then we started on mending the cooker.....where rust doth corrupt.. As usual, our squirreling away of various useful bits provided a copper pipe whose inside just fitted the outside of the split steel pipe, and, at the second attempt, a serviceable soldered repair was made to the pipe and normality returned to the galley. Soon the inner boats in our raft started to want to leave. So we were handling warps and fenders for most of what remained of the morning, and eventually found ourselves on the wall itself by mid afternoon. Dismantling the propellor shaft and its associated bearings and driving couplings took the rest of the day, enlivened by a visit from a couple of Customs officers, who appeared to be searching for illicit alcohol, and whose stride was rather broken by finding out we had no papers to say when we or the boat had arrived in Norway. After long discussions about our last year’s cruise in and out of the EU, they gave up, the senior one declined to tell us her name, and we promised to ring the ship clearance department on Monday morning.

The roast lamb didn’t hit the dinner table until 11pm, just about the time we were expecting to hear that Vaughan had landed. We did hear from him, but he was still 6 hours away by bus, his flight to Bergen having been changed to Stavanger due to a fireman’s strike at Bergen – none of which had been told him when he checked in at Stansted.

So it was a tired and aching Vaughan who turned up on the quay around 6am, but rather than turning in for some sleep, he breakfasted with the rest of us and started on the day’s jobs of replenishing supplies and servicing the bearings and reassembling them. This is the one with rusty ballsThe noisy bearing resisted efforts to dismantle it further using our 2-pound Birmingham screwdriver, and our toolbox didn’t run to a hydraulic press. We figured that unless we could actually replace the worn parts (unlikely in the short term), it would be just as good to clean the rust out of the assembly and to re-grease it. So we poured diesel in one end of the once-sealed bearing, and it came out the other side as a thick brown soup. After about a half pint of diesel, it was getting quite a lot clearer as it ran Blowing the bearingout, so we started pouring engine oil through it and finally came to try to grease it. We thought that if we melted the grease we would be able to pour it in like the oil, and then let it resolidify once inside. But the grease was quite resistant to being melted, just going jellified and lumpy, so we had to think of another way. By this time, Robin and Dick had got back from the shopping, so four brains went to work on a method. A rubber washing up glove with a finger cut off, a length of shock-cord and a petrol can pourer all came in on the act. Robin used his trombone skills to blow down the pourer, while JK held the rubber glove wrist seal and shock-cord tight on the bearing with grease packed on one side of it, VJ spun the drive shaft and Dick took the photos! Soon we had grease coming out of the bottom and we declared the bearing “full”. I reckon we could win “Scrapheap Challenge” any time!

It was mid afternoon before we were ready to leave, and Robin, not showing huge confidence in our cooker mending, suggested we should visit the chandler opposite who was advertising “new cookers for old”, plus a few thousand kroner for recycling the old. We checked to see if we could buy spare bits for the old Plastimo Neptune, but, finding this impossible, decided to give Voltair a treat with a new shiny Eno, with electronic ignition and lowered suspension as standard. Installation is never quite as easy as you expect, so it was 8pm before we finally left Bergen, our first batch of potatoes baking in the oven.

better filleted and with chips - click to see us near Statlandet headlandSince then we have had three nights en-route to Bodo, where we are due on or before 4th June. The days have been spent mainly motor-sailing into a predominantly north-easterly breeze of force 2 to 4. We have spectacular island scenery with the snowy mountains only a few miles inland, and mainly sunny weather, but cold – only 8 C or so. Today we got our first fish, a 4-Lb pollack, over a wreck just after we left this morning, and Dick has just finished filleting it. Our landfall tonight is Hammaroy, 30 miles north of Alesund. There used to be a population of 700 here, but the government persuaded all the men to go to the mainland to work. Now it is mainly a holidays only island. We are just arriving, and blonde girls in rowing boats are coming out to greet us. Will they guide us to secure overnight berths? Or do they just want to smell and taste men again?

Answers to these questions, and more, in the next postcard, coming soon.

Best wishes from Dick, John, Robin and Vaughan.

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