Go Vest, young man

With Robin and Dick leaving us in Bodo, Voltair was a little higher in the water than usual, so the remaining crew busied themselves polishing the topsides, varnishing the floorboards and spilling oxalic acid powder on everything in between. Bob arrived from England in the evening, and, after a quick pillage of the Rimi store, (no rape today, there's no "r" in the month), we motored north a few miles to Osholmen for a look at the first real midnight sun of 2008.

Straumshamn at 1 AM- click to enlargePauline's Old Man at midnight - click to enlargeA long day of motoring into light headwinds brought us to the Hamaroya region on the mainland, a wilderness area where steep forbidding peaks overhang wild anchorages, and the world hasn't changed much in 5000 years. Fall and break a leg here and the Trolls will get you, long before the paramedics arrive.

Cod, passing all counting - click to enlargeCod, passing all counting - click to enlargeNext day, we stepped back out of "planet of the apes" and sailed vestwards towards "planet cod". Henningsvaer, in the south of the Lofoten Isles is billed on one of the signs we saw as "the biggest fishing harbour in the world". Size matters, they say, but perhaps it's not so much the size, as how you measure it. The drying cod that hang up on the wooden racks on all the flat bits of Henningsvaer that are above sea level are a wonder to behold. They are caught early in the year, and hung up to dry, tied into pairs at the tail and slung over wooden poles. Each rack holds about 5000 and there must be at least a quarter of a million fish hanging up in total. They don't smell, there are no flies, and each kg of dried fish sells for about 10. Put them end to end and they would reach to New York.

Looking west down the Lofoten chainIt's not just cod they process here - I spoke to the manager of the Jangaard fish warehouse in the harbour who had 100 tons of Sei (Saithe, Coley, Coalfish are the usual english names) in his warehouse for export to Nigeria, Brazil, Italy, Spain and Portugal. This sells for a cheaper price of about 5000 per ton, and reconstitutes into "normal" fish after 5 days soaking in water. And then there is the salted cod, haddock and sei that they also produce and ship in smaller volume. So maybe it is the fishing capital of the world after all!

We visited the mountaineers bar opposite the Brygge Hotel, but even Bob failed to "pull" on this occasion. The season hasn't quite started yet, and the bar closed around 2:30 am - just when, two years ago in the same bar, we were getting into our second 6 beers and had warmed up our rock-n-roll technique to the delight of the locals.

Gull soup - click to enlargeUp the Gimsoy-Straume at high tide Voltair achieved 8.7 knots as we shot the bridge, and we made a record passage north to Hadseloy, despite another headwind. As we neared our planned anchorage, we thought we would give the fishing rod another chance, the pink squid having notably failed to attract any un-dried cod in the cod capital further south. A few hundred terns and gulls thought this was a great idea, and soon the water around Voltair was rising in a curtain of splashes as the birds plunged in, taking bill-fulls of whitebait up with them as they struggled back into the turbulent air, hoping that the next plunging bird would miss them. Needless to say, the pink squid were never more quickly taken by the sei that were chasing the whitebait to the surface, and each cast resulted in two plump fish arriving on deck. Two large sea eagles came over to join the party, but the density of the gulls in the air had completely overloaded the air-traffic control system, denying the eagles airspace for landing, and they languidly flapped their way back to the thermal on the cliff above us, and soon were soaring 1000 feet higher over their eyrie.

Best wishes from Bob, Vaughan and John, in the "Vesteralen", now trying to figure out how to get 250 sei into the fridge.

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