Maidens, Mountains and Tonic Water

The Norse Maidens criss-crossed our bows, their blonde hair streaming in the wind as they strained to their oars under the command of their leader. Did we hear the cry "Come to us after dark... after dark ...after dark" waft across the evening air? Maybe, but at this latitude the sun would not be setting properly until mid-July, so we tucked Voltair up close to the harbour wall and settled for gins and tonics all round instead.

It a tough life on board Voltair as we race north to the summer cruising grounds. The crew is woken up at 07:30 hours by Mozart's 40th Symphony being played over the vessels intercom system. Then John switches it off and we all get up sometime between nine and ten. Breakfast is a spartan meal of Muesli, orange juice, coffee, bacon, tomatoes, toast and marmalade and maybe an egg or two. Then the maintenance crew assemble a preliminary task list for the day. Lunch is normally taken underway. The catering team prepare a basic smorgasbord of no more than pickled herring, cold roast beef, cold pork, sliced cucumber, salami, sausage, chutneys and pickles, a choice of breads with a variety of fruit to follow. On alternate days a light beer may be offered. Then the revised list of maintenance tasks is issued; this includes all the items found not to be functioning when the original list was attempted and therefore has no more than an accidental agreement with the original draft. Occasionally it is necessary to suspend staff upside down in the bilges in order to get things done. This may seem cruel, but a striking degree of success is achieved in this way. Hinges are hung, pumps primed and toe-rails touched up. By 21:17 hrs precisely, the sailing crew manage to find their destination and the entire group can sit down to the minimal gruel provided. Last night for instance we had to put up with gougons of fresh caught cod, deep fried in batter, followed by local roast beef, carrots, sugar snaps, cauliflower, broccoli and roast potatoes. There is never a desert, but occasionally the cheese board is revisited and chocolates may be proffered. By around 1:30 am the stewards have prepared the cabins for the night and the crew are permitted to retire after a stern admonition from the officer of the watch that this time they really must report for duty at 07:30. And that, apart from the odd round of coffee and lemon drizzle cake, or tea and biscuits is all that is offered to us to keep body and soul together.

Despite these blatant discomforts, we have been making progress northwards. The days have been sunny and the winds mainly northerly. Navigation is occasionally challenging. Only the other day, the sailing crew identified a large house ahead of them on their course, when they thought that they were proceeding up a wide deep fjord, where even in Norway you do not usually expect to see large houses. Careful examination showed that it was indeed a large house proceeding at three knots up a large and deep fjord. It seemed to be fully equipped with garage, hot-tub, and mooring pontoons for the small family runabout to make fast to. Now Voltair under full power can manage to overtake even very large houses, so we were able to get some good photos. The mystery remains. Was this a super luxury model of a northerly mobile fish-farmer's home, or had we stumbled on the answer to the perennial question so often asked in Norway - "How did they built that there?"

On Wednesday night we anchored (at 21:17 of course) in a remote triangular bay beneath a the mountain of a red island (Roddoy) and just off a sandy beach (Sandvika). Awakening before the rest of the crew, John slipped into his diving gear and went to have a look at the bottom. There he was challenged by a large but foolish crab, who returned to the surface clinging to John's grab bag. His second mistake (the crab's, not John's) was to believe that he was safe if he curled up small in the bottom of Voltair's bucket. But the bucket found its way to the top of the new cooker, and there he became cooked crab - and very tasty he was too with lemon juice and brown bread and butter.

On Friday we crossed into the Arctic. As it was a balmy day - shorts and tea-shirt weather - Vaughan persuaded us to anchor on a small sandy shelf just south of Vikingen, the outcrop on which an arctic circle monument has been erected. So:-

We took some whisky,
and plenty of 'biscuit'
Wrapped up in a five pound towel,
And paddled away
for an hour just to lay
in the sun for awhile.

The heather crunched beneath our feet and tiny white roses scented our path. The Laphroig tasted good, downed beneath the towering mountains topped with snow and the Svartisen glacier. Afterwards we motored on to the eagle's Varde but the pair we had seen there two years ago had gone off for the day. (No doubt they had heard about the paucity of the food on board Voltair this season.) Nevertheless we caught five small fishes for our dinner and did see one of the eagles flying by the following morning.

We chose the more complicated route through the islets to the west of Stotvaer and were rewarded with the best wild-life of the trip. We spotted two porpoises, a seal, a white tailed eagle and a golden eagle along the two mile twisting route. Despite John catching and offering a few fish, we were unable to persuade the eagles to fly to the boat.

Our gastronomic delight was complete the next day when John dived on the wreck of MV Tanto and emerged with a couple of dozen really large Scallops. We spent our last night before arriving in Bodo in a delightful sandy bay beneath mist shrouded mountains gorging ourselves on scallops done simply (delicious) and poached with Pernod (orgasmic), followed by reindeer stroganoff. But alas the last of the tonics had strangely disappeared.

Will the exhausted supplies of tonic be replenished in Bodo? Can Dick and Robin tear themselves away if it can?

Best wishes from Dick, Vaughan, John and Robin.

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