It was a fine day to be travelling to Norway! We had left a traffic-jammed A14, and a drizzly, clagged-in Stansted-in-the-fens, and were now full of Brie and Basil sandwiches, washed down with the traditional Murphys, had slept for an hour or so, and been woken up by a rather attractive air-hostess performing a personal check on the tightness of our seat belts as we began our descent through the cauliflower heads over the mountains behind Trondheim. This must be Norway then!
The luggage arrived, the minor miscalculations we had made on the incoming duty-free allowances went un-argued, the sun was out, and we found a quiet park bench on which to perform a quality check on the Lindemans Shiraz while we waited for the bus to Namsos.
A very pleasant three-hour coach ride through farmland and low hills brought us to Namsos. We noted en-route the battlefield at Stiklestad, where, a thousand years ago, Tore Hund, the fearless and enormous Viking from Bjarkoy (see our postcard from June) had taken on King Olav Haraldsson (the King of Norway), and, with the aid of 50 ships of soldiers sent by King Knud of Denmark, had succeeded in beating him.
Also along the way, we passed by a more recent scene of conflict, where the town of Steinkjer was razed to the ground by the Nazis, and a reconstructed modern town stands today.
Our 208 NoK bus tickets ran out by the dock at Namsos, leaving us with a large pile of luggage, carrier bags of wine etc, and we could see Voltair half a mile away in the marina - but a mile at least by foot. David and John went off to scout for a dinghy jetty to bring Hermione into, and John immediately tripped over the only bit of raised kerb in the whole of Namsos, the ensuing stumble ripping once again the ankle tendon recently damaged in Spain and Scotland. So it was a taxi that took us the mile to a nice dry and powered-up Voltair, only slightly settled in the mud under the gjaestebrygge.
Wednesday dawned with clear skies, sunshine and a light northeasterly breeze to take us the 18 miles out of the fjord and onto the beginning of our 500-mile trip south-west. The bad news was that the Navtex was giving a forecast of Force 8-9 from the south-west - imminent! By the time we had got out to the turning point, the weather was still fair, but, in view of the forecast, we planned a new, inside route in the shelter of the skerries, rather than the outside route we had hoped to take with a fair wind. An hour or so into the afternoon, and the forecast southwesterly arrived, quickly building in strength. Eventually we were getting gusts up to 45 knots, and a steady 35 knots as we attempted to make to windward in the relatively sheltered water. A scrap of jib to help Perkins allowed us to make progress, but it was only 3-3.5 knots at 60 degrees to the wind, so it was pretty inefficient on time and fuel, as well as uncomfortable and not quite what we had come for. Scanning the chart for anchoring spots, we found one under the lee of Halmoya. A nice sandy bunn was covered with kelp, so we de-forested a few acres of bunn by dragging the anchor over it, and succeeded in getting the hook to hold at the third attempt.
Do have a click on the picture (courtesy of Garmin download and Google Earth) and see the day in more detail.
Having tested us with the south-westerly, we now realise that the period of relative calm while we cooked and ate an excellent Morrisson's chicken was actually the centre of the depression passing overhead, so that by the time we were full of booze and roast potatoes, it was time for the wind to have a go at us from the north, and attempt to drive us onto the shore that had so recently been nicely protecting us. Fortunately, the anchor still held, and we were far enough from the shore for us not to run out of depth as we swung around through 180 degrees.
The following two days were spent motor sailing in light winds, mainly from the northerly sectors, and trying to catch up back to the plan. The scenery has got significantly more spectacular as we left the Trondheim area and, after refuelling and victualling in Kristiansund, approached Alesund, with 2000ft and even 3000ft peaks rising close to the sounds along which we are travelling. The shape of the mountains is rather better than that of the yorkshire pudding we made to go with the first half of the beef joint. Fault diagnosis by e-mail to JK please!
Yesterday we actually managed about 5 hours under sail, since the wind was not only blowing in the right direction, but with adequate strength to give us the 5 knots that we really need to keep to our timetable. If "goose-winged" sailing is when you are running with the mainsail and jib set on opposite sides of the boat, what is it called when the mizzen is also set, but on the same side as the jib? Anyway, that's what we were yesterday, as we ploughed our furrow past Bjornoy and Ona, ending up at a new harbour on Haroya called Myklebosthavn, the first man-made harbour we have overnighted in since leaving Namsos.
On Sunday, we motorsailed the 17 miles down to Alesund, and parked in the best space in the centre of the canalised city.
In case you didn't know, Alesund was burnt to the ground in 1904, and rebuilt in a style the locals refer to as "art deco". There are conical roofs everywhere and expensive handcarved masonry everywhere else. The streets are paved with fan-set granite setts, there are french-style kiosks selling food and papers and there are loads of statues and other artefacts. A charming city.
Having posed in the cockpit for lunch, we walked slowly up the 418 steps to the overlooking observatory (JK's ankle limiting the speed of the athletes in the party) and admired the city from above, viewing to the south west which we are sailing towards and also to the north whence we have come. Every island is either linked by a tunnel or a bridge to the others, and the economy has boomed.
After ice-creams, came the call of the sea once more, as we needed another 25 miles under our belts by the night, so JK led the limping-down-418-steps exercise and won the swollen ankle competition.
An interesting event unfolded as we were leaving, when a large building which had been visible at the western end of the island decided to cast off and head out into our path. Eventually two tugs became visible, one straining on a bridle, the other dodging around like a terrier nudging the "building" which was drifting quite alarmingly in the breeze which had sprung up since our arrival three hours before.
The tugs gave a good heave, and eventually the ship swung away and didn't run us down! We then sailed another 25 miles towards the big unprotected headland called Statland, where the full fury of an Atlantic gale can drive big ships onto the sheer granite cliffs.
However, for now, moored to a buoy in a fine harbour called Gjerdsvika on the west coast of Gurksoy, its.....
Adieu from Alesund, and also from David, Vaughan and John - lets hope the risks of rounding Statlandet's cliffs, waves and whirlpools are as slight tomorrow as they were when we came this way last, fourteen weeks ago.
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