We are sailing slowly in a southwesterly direction, from Sørøya towards Tromsø. The sun is beating down, the sails are slatting in a fitful breeze, booms kept out by preventing lines, PJ is lying in a beautiful blonde heap on the foredeck, strains of a baroque spanish melody played on harp and "chitarra" are drifting up from the cabin*, Rachael and Ian are catching 40 winks, the fish are not interested in my mackerel spinner and

"Today, I have been mainly thinking about Puffins"

..a beautiful blonde heapSome minutes I only see one, bobbing at the side of the yacht as we pass by, always facing away from me - reluctant to stay and make friends. He will look at me suspiciously, out of the corner of one eye. If he has a beakful of sandeels or tiny herring (more likely, since its the herring season), he is probably asking himself if we will try to steal them. If he doesn't, perhaps he fears we will threaten his own existence. The slightest doubt - he dives in a flash, showing me his white rump with an orange ring in it for just an instant. Perhaps the ultimate insult!

More often, though, most minutes in the day, if I am looking outside, I will see them flying. Sometimes singly, but often in strings of 4 or more. Their flight is rapid - perhaps 3 or 4 wingbeats per second and 30mph - and always in a straight line. There's no uncertainty about where they are headed - its straight ahead! Maybe 2 puffin-lengths between the birds. Not in formation, always line astern.

The usual back view of a puffinAre they going there or coming back? I can't tell!

Don't talk with your mouth fullWill they split up when they get there? Or are they a team, the same guys (or maybe gals) each flight? Just around us at present there are tending to be groups of half-a-dozen within 20 yards of eachother.

They fly big distances... we just started sailing a leg that is 15 miles to the next island - and there goes a puffin heading, if anything, to a destination even further away than that.

Having said what good flyers they are, getting airborne is rather more difficult, since, full of fish, they need quite a long runway to take off from. If the puffins are to leeward of us, they cannot take off unless they fly into the wind and hence closer to us... so, reluctant to do that, they either dive, or else scoot off on an extended flapping taxi that never quite gets airborne. The ones to windward have more options, since they can take off run into the wind and away from us.

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)

Map of the cruise area - click for a bigger area

Coming in to land - both of us - click to enlargeIan 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. Bows towards Russia - click to see a double oneIt'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.
Norwegian pub signSo, 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.This is 8:30pm remember!

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.PJ and Elke up closelocal talent
Ian getting a challengeComing in to land - both of us - click to enlarge 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. Now keep it tight and tie a bowline - click to enlargeHowever, 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.
Keep going and hope its long enough - click to enlarge 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 do you have left?

How many fingers did Ian have left?

Click to enlarge 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.
Click to enlarge

Taken at one in the morning, looking south

These cliffs were the Puffin cross-roads

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!
PJ passed her helming test early on
Click for the full treatment
We had a wonderful day of spinnaker reaches between green islands, and did a bit of fishing Fishing - Click for the catch
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.

Cold wet arm coming up! - Click for the pair
After that, things went downhill a bit. The weather closed in, we had poor viz, rain, even. Ian and John donned drysuits and scrubbed Voltair's nether regions, which were suffering from a dose of the green weed, resulting in Ian getting a very cold wet arm when his wrist seal split.

You go your way, and we'll go oursThe 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

Prime position on the visitors quay - Click for Signe
So it's a Tromsø farewell from PJ, Ian, Rachael and John.

However, we'd like to leave you with a little puzzle that we began when Jane, David and Peter were on board with us. It goes something like this:

Select from the word-bank to complete the following well known phrase or sayings:

"She was only the s______'s daughter, but she knew how to rig your m___."
"She was only the b______'s daughter, but she knew how to make it r___."
"She was only the f______'s daughter, but she couldn't keep her c_____ together."
"She was only the c______'s daughter, but she knew how to empty your s___."
"She was only the t_______'s daughter, but she knew how hard to p___."
"She was only the f________'s daughter, but she knew how to handle a r__."
"She was only the b_______'s daughter, but she knew what to do with your c______."


This kept us giggling for hours - I hope it will do the same for you - new lines should be sent by e-mail to jk, who will, in due course, publish a fuller version!

Best wishes, from Peter, Jane, David, Rachael and John.