Now I'm home, and have heard all about the numbers of Puffins in the Farne Islands being much reduced. The obvious answer.... they've all gone on holiday to Norway!
* Stephen Stubbs was playing 5-stringed spanish guitar while Maxine Eilander, who is PJ's sister, was on the pluckin' 'arp.
(As usual for my postcards, if the picture has a coloured frame around it, if you click the picture you will get either a bigger or a different picture)
Ian and PJ had flown in to Alta to join us for the second week of our 2008 Arctic adventure and were already getting used to grabbing sleep when it happened to come along. It's no good waiting for darkness - it never comes, up here in July! Norway did its best to give us 4 seasons of weather in one day, with a cold bright morning followed by a fine sunny day, a heavy thunderstorm (why does the sky go white inside a rainbow?) and autumnal squall... but it missed out the snow on this occasion.
We were making our way towards Tromsø, where we would fly home and leave Voltair for Robin and his next team, but it was only a couple of hundred miles, and we had all week to do it in.
So, this week, we went to the pub in Oksfjord. The pub ('Kro') is just near the statue of the old Nog with the fish. We discovered it after we found the grocery shop shut by 8pm, and thought there might be another one around the corner. You could tell it was the pub, because a man, who had just left it, fell over on his face in the street, and didn't get up again until a local, (might even have been a friend), picked him up and helped him to sit upright on the kerb.
So we thought we had better call in and have a bit of what he had been having...... and then we went back to the boat for roast beef and Yorkshire pud, rowing back to the pub at midnight to see whether there were any locals still conscious. Not many, but we did meet our first and only Sami of the trip. Couldn't understand him at all, but think that was the booze and old age (his, not ours).
Like most other Norwegian pubs, it got busy at 1:30am and was closing by 2.
John and Rachael left Ian and PJ to the tender mercies of an attractive blonde from Oslo, her boyfriend, and a few more of their generation.... they were off to the "after-party" (a nearly techno rave at someone's parents' house) and eventually staggered back to the boat at 4:30am, not quite drowning in the process. Meanwhile, the Hurtigruten Nordnorge slipped silently in and out of harbour, making scarcely a ripple under the snow-covered glacier and in the midnight sun, as if trying not to wake anyone. It didn't wake us, we were only just going to bed!
The next evening saw us back in the lovely little sandy bay off Sørøya where we had enjoyed such a good time the week before. Once again, the clear water allowed us to feel our way in to anchor in 2 metres, with a light wind from the east. However, a thunderstorm was brewing, and half an hour later the wind had strengthened and switched to the west, putting our keel dangerously close to the sand. By the time we had despatched Ian to the jetty with several of our longer mooring warps knotted together, and re-anchored facing the other way, the wind had got up another force and move to the north. Lying to the south of our new anchor ground were some rocks, so we were quite keen to get the stern of the yacht hauled sideways and tied up to the jetty. Ten points to note for next time:
1. Knots in warps won't go through the fairleads
2. Voltair displaces 8 tons and cannot be pulled sideways against the wind by hauling on warps by hand
3. Knots in warps cause overlaps and riding turns when they go around the winches, thereby jamming completely
4. Undoing the knots on the jetty, to move the rope to a better fixed point loses at least 40 feet of hard-wound-in warp, gets the knots jammed where they go out through the fairlead, and can sever the odd finger while the knot is being re-tied under some tension.
5. The gas bottle is always in the way
6. So is the mizzen sheet
7. Fore and aft tension alone will not hold the boat in a side-wind, needing another long warp from the bow to the shore at right angles to the anchor chain
8. It's hard rowing the dinghy against the wind while paying out a heavy mooring warp that sinks to the bottom.
9. Rocks with wet seaweed on are very slippery
10. Because there is an ancient norwegian iron ring in just the right place, it doesn't mean it won't break at an inconvenient moment
So that manoeuvre took about 45 minutes, and by the time we were all back on board with the kettle boiled, the wind had gone back to easterly and fallen light!
How many fingers did Ian have left?
Then the sun came out again, and it was just as lovely as the week before. Ian and PJ climbed up the rocky spur, John went swimming (yes, really swimming this time) and Rachael collected shells and made sure no giant gull pinched J's clothes.
The next day was a scorcher.... We were sailing slowly in a southwesterly direction, from Sørøya towards Tromsø. The sun was beating down, and I was thinking mainly about..........
.........but that's a bit of deja vu I think!
We had a wonderful day of spinnaker reaches between green islands, and did a bit of fishing
We caught cod in 50m depth. Not quite as big as David's the week before, but a fine dinner for three nonetheless. PJ tried a bit for us, but didn't give up on her veggie fare.
The next day we made it to Tromsø, and had a slight altercation with the Norwegian Coast Guards, who seemed to think they could stand-on and that we would alter course! Just as if! They even sent a boarding party, who took down all our details of course, speed, position etc and wanted to know how long we were staying in Norsk waters.
The visitors quay was right in the middle of town - an ideal spot to be, with a nice view of the cathedral, if a touch pricy at 200 NoK per night. But it was the first mooring fee we had paid since Hammerfest, so we shouldn't be grumbling. A fine old fishing boat was sharing the quay and doing tourist trips out to catch immense fish. She was 100 years old this year, and still going strong. Click on the picture of Voltair's bow to see Signe