Monday, December 28, 2015

Back in Punta Arenas

The ASRV Laurence M. Gould arrived Punta Arenas this morning after the smoothest crossing of The Drake Passage I have experienced.  There was a good amount of ice in the vicinity of Anvers Island (the area where we were working) for this time of year. Some photos from the cruise here.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Project Blog

The sun came out today so I took some photos. We are in Andvord Bay
where most of our sampling is happening. It is a fjord of sorts and very
sheltered from the open ocean, so life aboard is very comfortable these
days. Several glaciers descend into the water and the bay is littered
with icebergs and bergy bits. If you want to read more about the project
I am a part of, check out the official blog:

Monday, November 16, 2015

back in Punta ArenasThe

I find myself again at the end of the world - Punta Arenas, Chile. For the next 44 days or so I will be working for a Scripps Institution Of Oceanography group aboard the research vessel Laurence M. Gould. Wednesday we sail south to The Antarctic Peninsula. We will spend most of our time in a lovely little fjord called Andvord Bay.

Ice-strengthened research vessel Laurence M. Gould

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Free At Last

On October 2, I fired up the diesel engine for the last time. It was a short drive within the marina to a more substantial concrete pontoon. Soon thereafter Twister was relieved of her biggest burden. No, not me, you smart alecs--the noisy, smelly, and did-I-mention heavy diesel engine (weighing in at around 240 kg or 528 lbs). I had been involved in removing the engine once before and planned to use the same strategy--pulling the engine with a chain block and tackle supported by the boom. I anticipated the weakest link to be whatever would support the boom and used every available halyard and the topping lift. Of course the first step was to disconnect all the electric cables, gear and throttle cables, fuel line, prop shaft, and the four rubber engine mounts. As the motor gradually rose out of the cabin I was imagining the boom giving way and the engine dropping straight through the boat and everything ending up at the bottom of the harbor (I had seriously contemplated removing my passports and other important papers from the boat, but decided I had enough confidence in my halyards to proceed without further precautions).

The worst part is over

Sitting pretty
 Having removed the alternator, the engine came through the companionway hatch (ie door) surprisingly smoothly. After taking a break to catch my breath and take some photos, I raised the engine as high as possible, and it swung effortlessly over to the pallet on the dock.
Less damage to gelcoat than anticipated
The diesel tank, fuel lines, ignition, gear and throttle cables and lever came out without much fuss and I had it all waiting for the new owner who came to pick up the engine and accessories the next day. Twister is now ca 340 kg lighter than she was with the engine and a full diesel tank and she sits much prettier with the stern ca 10 cm higher than before. And there is so much space inside!

Naturally you may be asking, "now what?" The answer is, "not sure," but I have long contemplated sailing as God intended us to sail--engineless. The romantic appeal alone is enough to make me seriously consider this option. Another less romantic but more practical option is to buy a small outboard engine for maneuvering in tight spaces and as a bonus to propell the dinghy. At any rate, I was able to get Twister back into her slip using the rudder to scull, so maybe a dedicated sculling oar is the answer.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Dockside Living

Twister is slowly settling into harbor mode and a few long-overdue projects are getting done. As the stainless steel dodger frame was being reassembled, I noticed that my bicycle (rather, my cousin's bicycle which he had kindly lent me) was missing from the dock where I had parked it--only a few meters from Twister. It was a windy day, but I initially thought someone had brazenly taken it from under my nose. My neighbor suggested it was more likely it had been blown into the drink. The depthsounder read 17 meters which was probably at the limit of my freediving abilities, and I had not been doing much of that recently. Taking the 10 kg Bruce anchor with me as ballast and bicycle hook allowed me to reach the bottom quickly and comfortably. I spotted the bicycle sitting upside down on the first dive. It took me another 7 or 8 dives to hook the anchor onto the bike successfully (visibility was not great). After surfacing for the final time, I pulled the bike up with the rope I had attached to the anchor and gave the bike a good freshwater shower and plenty of WD40.

Recently the second of many messages in bottles I have dropped overboard, was found. Both bottles were found along the Norwegian coast and were dropped in The North Sea--the first one in August 2013 when Bridget and I sailed from Inverness to Bergen, and the second one somewhere between The Shetland Islands and Bergen in April of this year:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Back to Bergen

Twister sailed into Bergen harbor the evening of Monday 10 August, 2015 , a few days short of two years since first arriving in Norway, ending this summer’s Norwegian cruise.  I had hoped to sail farther north, but found myself short of gumption* and maybe time.  Like a good chef, the Norwegian coast did leave me wanting more.
In Samoa I met an English sailor who claimed that he always felt ill at ease in The Southern Hemisphere (since he belonged in The Northern Hemisphere). There is a similar phenomenon among tradewind sailors (or at least me) when they venture into higher latitudes and their capricious winds.  Therefore it’s generally comforting to sail in the direction of the tropics.

Updated photo album from this summer's cruise here.

The long version: 

After Bridget disembarked on Moskenesøy Saturday July 11, I took a nap then sailed south past the renowned Moskenstraumen to Værøy, known among other things for a dog, lundehund, bred there to hunt Puffins.  Just before I entered the harbor, I dropped the fishing line overboard and pulled in four small Pollock which I later shared with my new friends.
 I spent a week at Værøy and made friends. Among the highlights were a local delicacy called Rødsei (red pollock) or gammalsalta sei (old salted pollock), smoked minke whale, and a helicopter ride around the island. Rødsei could be the oldest food I have consumed, aside maybe from wine or whiskey. This particular batch was apparently 6 years old. The fish is gutted but not bled and left in concentrated brine, the blood contributing the red color which gives it one of the names.  Sounds delicious, right?
Værøy viewed from helicopter
I sailed southwest from Værøy toward Røst, the outermost islands in the Lofoten chain, but was deterred by fresh southwesterlies that came up as I was halfway. Rather than beating into the wind and waves for hours I submitted my will to Neptune and headed southeast across Vestfjorden and arrived the island of Bolga (which I had never heard of before) around 6 in the morning.  Bolga is typical of many of the small island communities I visited in Norway:  The buildings, lawns, and pastures are immaculate, few permanent residents remain, and probably most of the houses are now summer homes for descendants of the previous residents. The Norwegian government has a conscious policy of encouraging people to remain in remote or out-of-the- way places by, among other things, subsidizing ferries and other transportation, but it is apparently not entirely successful.

I had a lovely downwind sail south-southwest along the inside passage from Bolga toward Lovund (an island known primarily for its large colony of Puffins) passing along the way one of the monuments that mark the arctic circle. I decided to stop among the skerries near Lovund as it was getting late and caught a delicious cod before anchoring for the night (the fishing in northern Norway is really good). The next morning I motored into the harbor at Lovund and tied up at the council pontoon.  Puffins are camera-shy, but I did get my best Puffin photo at Lovund thanks to a tip from a resident about when they (the Puffins, not the other residents) return to their nests from the days foraging at sea (between 18:00 and 19:00).
Best Puffin Photo
A slow 3-day passage in the Norwegian Sea (if I want to make miles, I have to head offshore where there are no obstacles so I can sleep and thus sail day and night) took me from Lovund to a small community, Bud (where coincidentally one of my messages-in-a-bottle from The North Sea washed up and was found) in the county of Møre og Romsdal. The next day a lovely downwind sail along the inside passage, under the A-sail to the island of Vigra.
Four days were spent in the fjords and mountains south of Ålesund (Sunnmørealpene), accompanied by the lovely Henriette. We caught a couple of lunch-sized Pollock as we approached the village of Barstadvik then were given a dinner-sized Pollock by a friendly local as we tied to the rough concrete wharf. The big Pollock was filleted and became fish tacos, SoCal style. 
Henriette departed too quickly and Twister sailed on to another small island called Runde, site of the southernmost of the Norwegian Puffin colonies.
The peninsula known as Stad or Stadlandet is infamous in Norwegian sailing lore due to big,
Stad on a calm day
steep waves generated when wind and waves go against the current. Northbound, I had been 25 miles offshore. This time I passed 2-3 miles from Stad, but it was calm and I did not notice any current. I sailed through the night beating into the southerlies that came up and ended up at Bulandet, a group of islands among the outer islands in the county of Sogn og Fjordane. There I caught up on sleep. It took me 3 days to sail the remaining 70 miles to Bergen, tacking into strong southerlies all day and anchoring for the night in two nice anchorages I found among the islands north of Bergen.
Now Twister resides in Sandviken, near Bergen’s city center, resting up for new adventures in 2016.

*In Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig expounds and expands on gumption. In American English, it means “courage and initiative; enterprise and boldness” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd college ed.). Pirsig defines it as the psychic energy that fuels any enterprise, be it fixing a motorcycle or sailing. One can run out of gumption, but fortunately it can be replenished (by among other things, taking a rest). Not being sufficiently well prepared--practically or mentally--can cause gumption to run out. Having confidence in your boat helps conserve gumption (that's me talking now). 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bridget joins Twister to sail Lofoten

July 1 Bodø, Norway (67.3° N, 14.4° E)

It is fantastic to be back on Twister! 
Lars and I arrive to Twister after a land-based Swedish adventure of a fabulous wedding celebration, dancing until dawn, blacksmithing bottle openers and a visit with cruising buddies, Mark and Maria and 6-month old beautiful Molly.

It’s been nearly 2 years since I sailed with Twister and Lars across the North Sea to Norway.  I was tempted back on board by the allure of Arctic sailing and surfing. Who can say no to such an invitation especially with the potential of puffin and whale sightings?  The plan is to sail north from Bodø to Lofoten, a chain of islands, about 50 miles from the mainland and see how many islands we can hop and waves we can surf.  Before we can set sail we need to get food, water, and propane for cooking and heat. Twister is docked in Skivika just north of Bodø and is surrounded by a set of traditional little red quaint fishing sea cabins called rorbuer. We hike to town via a footpath through the woods hoping to spot a moose or two. No luck with moose, but there are plenty of flowers.  Sweden and Norway have been very impressive with a beautiful show of wildflowers covering the landscape.  After the shopping we return to Twister for pasta dinner and wine and settle back into a familiar routine of sharing Twister’s space.
Lars has done some remodelling since 2013. He has removed some of the cupboards and counters to create an extra sitting space and basket storage.  The bathroom home improvements include a new top-of-the-line head, and the open bathroom threshold that had lost its door in South Africa now has a curtain to introduce a bit of bathroom privacy to the Twister experience. Oh, the simple joys.    

July 2 Bodø to Hjelløya

I awake to Lars making coffee! Twister is one of the finest places on the planet for coffee and it is always poured from a stovetop espresso maker and it’s delicious every time. After coffee, omelettes are served with fresh dill and arugula tossed with fried garlic, mushrooms, and green onions.  There are a few projects to be done and water tanks to fill before we toss the dock lines at 14:00 local (12:00 UTC). Just outside the harbour we cut the engine and sail north with the brilliant red and blue spinnaker leading the way. It’s a bit chilly and wet, but Lars has dressed us head to feet in bright orange foul weather gear, so it’s pleasant to be in the cockpit as we head further and further north into the Arctic via Vestfjoden (the west fjord) with snow-capped mountains emerging from the sea on either side of us. The winds are south/southeast around 10 knots and there’s only a light swell because Lofoten makes the Vestfjorden a protected waterway. I have the tiller quite a bit as Lars works with the sails, snacks, and refreshments.  The winds lighten and it is decided that a short sail will be enough for the day and an anchorage is chosen near Kjærringøy, about 15 nautical miles (nm) from our starting point. We sail in among the islands with a handful of puffins and find a mooring in 20m of water.  The inlet is surrounded by green and tree covered hills and the shallows have kelp covered rocks.  We spot a sea eagle.  Then, after 6 hours of sailing we settle in with a cup of tea and light the heater resulting in a very cosy cabin.  Lars turned the heater corner of the cabin into something like a dry rack with my shoes on a hanger along with pants and foul weather gear. We take advantage of the endless days with a midnight peak out of the companionway to admire what we can of the midnight sun and spot a few cows roaming through the forest. The midnight sun inspires the creation of the Midnight Sun cocktail and a sort of Twister version of the mai tai with orange juice, Maria’s homemade strawberry jam and rum!

July 3 Hjelløya to Lille Molla

anchored S side of Lille Molla
We leave the mooring at 10am and although it is grey the visibility had improved much and we can see snow covered mountains on much of the horizon. As we cruise out of the inlet we meet two sea eagles flying and a pair of small harbour porpoises splashing (in Norwegian “nise”).  Then, conditions worsen with a reduction in visibility and an increase in rain with light and variable winds. We run with the spinnaker for a few hours and then the main and jib whisker poll combo and sometimes with the engine through a world of grey. We spot a dozen puffins, a few guillemots, a northern fulmar, gannet, and some cormorants.  After egg sandwiches much of the afternoon is spent playing and eventually winning a game Lars created called remove the massive knot from the fishing line. The winds never improved, but the weather did overall as we find a gorgeous anchorage with a sheer 600m rock face on one side, a sandy beach a bit further along, and a pastoral farm across the bay.

July 4 Lille Molla to Trollfjorden

We sail off the anchor as a sea eagle soars overhead with Lars at the tiller and me on the anchor chain. The breeze was light to non-existent and after an hour or so of measuring progress in tenths of knots - and sometimes even sailing/floating backwards - we use motor assist to get us moving forward until the breeze stiffens and we sail along at 4-5 knots with puffins providing the puffs that fill our sail. At least that’s what we assume the puffins are doing every time they dive as Twister approaches.  It is rare to get within 10m of a puffin before they dive deep and swim away. It was a gorgeous day with spectacular views as we sailed up a slowly narrowing fjord. Our destination was north, which was the source of the wind, so much tacking had to be done and much of the day was spent heeled over at 20-30 degrees, which has a fun adventurous feel. 12 nm will be covered today as a motorboat flies, but as the Twister dances on the wind and water it was more like 20 nm.  As we’re sailing up the fjord we spot a magnificent waterfall and Lars says that’s our turn at the entrance of Trollfjorden.  Trollfjorden is lush green with numerous waterfalls dropping down sheer mountain faces into crystal clear water with the occasional jelly floating past of pink or iridescent color. If one looks up it is clear that the source of the waterfalls are the splendid snow capped mountains far above. The mountains are nearly vertical as they enter the water making it is possible to get within 20 feet (6 m) or less from the base before tacking as we move up the fjord.  We tie up to a pontoon behind a 40 ft sailboat and it’s dinnertime with boiled potatoes, sour cream, salad, and pickled herring.  We decide to hike up the valley looking for a clear shot of the midnight sun. We depart around 10pm with no shortage of daylight.  As we wander up the valley I learn that my sneakers are very good sponges seeping up water from the moss and mud puddles as the valley floor is rather marshy.  Eventually we start to climb up and the river we had been hiking along becomes more waterfall like and the lush green disappears as snow begins to cover the landscape.  We stop to toss a few snowballs in the nearly midnight sunlight. We arrive at a little mountain lake complete with rustic cabin and sauna. Then, after a walkabout we head back down. Down is lots of fun as we can slide through the snow and at one particularly striking outlook we stop and create a tiny snowman.
We spot a few piles of what we assume to be Troll poop, because it isn’t quite right for moose poop with its long curved pellet shape. As we return to Twister after midnight, 4 Norwegian sailors invite us to join them for a glass of wine, which led to many hours of enjoyable conversation with the joke being we’ll go to bed when the sun sets. We learn about cod fishing, the Codstock music festival, and life in Lofoten.  We share in the traditional snack of dry cod (tørrfisk), which first needs to be pounded with a rock to make it possible to pull it into bite-size pieces. We didn’t quite make it till sunset though we stayed up until 5am heading to bed after first breakfast of mimosas and guitar.

July 5 Trollfjorden to Laukvik on Austvågøy.  (the “øy” at the end means island)

dinner for 2 days
Wow. It’s an amazing blue sky day. After a rise and shine cockpit coffee breakfast is fried egg quesadillas with lefse (potato tortillas).  We sail off the dock and back past the waterfalls and beauty. It takes lots of tacks and once I cut it pretty close getting to a depth of only 2.8 meters and Twister needs 1.5. yikes. Eventually, out we sail of Trollfjorden into Raftsundet and into a picture perfect day warm enough for bare feet and t-shirts.  Raftsundet is known for strong tidal currents and a few hours into it we have a peculiar experience of the tidal currents merging and creating eddies and standing waves, which pull Twister in and we ride through the crazy currents at times being pushed 6 knots completely sideways, but luckily in the right direction. It was a bizarre experience as we rotate side to side about 270 degrees. And eventually we just sail out of it and continue on around the island of Austvågøy to the northern coast of Lofoten. We depart protected waters around 8pm with plenty of sunshine and puffins. The bare feet had long ago returned to wool socks and boots while many layers now cover our t-shirts including thick fleeces and sweaters piled under our warm red winter jackets.  The light is spectacular and Lars wants to get a photo of a picturesque fishing boat not far off course, so we head that way dropping a fishing line of our own off Twister as we approach and within a few minutes we pull in a 2 foot (60cm) fish and Lars identifies it as a pollock (or saithe:  Pollachius virens).  As the fish is cleaned potatoes start boiling in seawater and once the potatoes finish and are removed from the pot the fish steaks are dropped in to steep for a few minutes in the hot water and then delicious dinner is served complete with Norwegian sour cream, which Lars claims to be the best sour cream on the planet and he may be right.  We sail on into the night, which is, of course, still day and arrive in Laukvik’s little fishing harbour just after 2am.  It is extremely calm and the early morning daylight is gentle creating gorgeous reflections in the water of the mountains, moon, and cod drying racks.  The racks are wooden, upside down “V” shaped structures about10m tall and are the location where the magic happens that turns cod into tørrfisk (stockfish). We tie up and celebrate the day’s sail and the continual daylight with a delightful ankerdram (anchor cocktail) of blueberry juice and vodka, because hvorfor ikke (why not) end a day that way.
cod-drying racks, Laukvik

July 6  A day in Grunnførfjord on Austvågøy.

Lars’ friend and cruising buddy, Kari, grew up in Grunnførfjord only about 15 minutes from Twister’s harbour and therefore we decide to visit Tora (Kari’s Mom) and Arne.  Arne picks us up and gives us a splendid tour of the area as he seems to know much and is passionate about the history of the region.  We arrive at their lovely farm and home late morning and Tora and Arne open their home to us with amazing generosity. We begin the day of adventure and fantastic company with coffee and story-telling on their beautiful veranda. Tora is an incredible woman with inspiring strength and sense of adventure. We talk for a few hours and then after helping to feed a sheep and a few lambs we all head into the beautiful forest where we gather kindling, birch bark, and axe a few logs to start a fire. Coffee and juniper are boiled for sipping and sausages are cooked on sticks above the open fire.
  We sit in the grass with orchids blooming by our sides and attempt to absorb the marvelousness of the day.  After a few sausages, some tørrfisk (dried cod), and delightful hours we head a bit further into the forest and spot sheep hiding among the trees with bells around their necks giving us a clue to their location. We stop by their beehives and head back to the house where conversation continues for hours.  Arne shows us his old traditional Norwegian square sail rigged boat (nordlandsbåt) from the 1930s-ish. As we leave the house we are given a jar of their honey! It’s such a magical day with extraordinary people.
We are back on Twister around 9pm to cook up the rest of the pollock. Then walk over to the beach to toss the Frisbee from midnight to 1 under the midnight sun!  There is a stiff breeze from the north and after a few ridiculous fetches of the Frisbee taken by the wind we learn to work with the conditions and have a good game of catch. 

July 7 Laukvik to Borgvær

Laukvik is a quaint little village of perhaps a few hundred people complete with a pub, market, a local fishcake fast food option, and an active fishing harbour with half the horizon dominated by snow capped mountains and to the north is the sea that is providing a steady breeze. We depart at 13:20 and head southwest with plenty of wind from the north/northeast and quite a bit of chop on a 3 ft swell. It’s a bumpy, but enjoyable ride with plenty of weather helm keeping us on the tiller. We cruise about 20 nm in quick time and come to a little crowded fishing harbour, Eggum, that didn’t inspire us to stay, so we sailed back towards the sea until we found a little protected anchorage with a sandy bottom behind the islands of Borgvær with a lovely set of abandoned farm buildings to admire. We anchor around 7pm. We noticed the engine/prop making a funny noise as we motored in, so Lars decides to brave the Arctic waters to check and cleans the prop covered in barnacles with a butter knife.  He’s significantly chilled when he returns to the cockpit after 10 minutes and warms up with warm water from the tea kettle to dump down his wetsuit.  After dinner Lars whips up, literally because of the fresh whipping cream, a delicious dessert of pudding, caramel, and whipped cream.

July 8 Borgvær to Stein on Flakstadøy (68.2 °N)

The day begins with cockpit coffee and biscottis followed by eggs, cheese, and fresh tomato on lefse and then I haul up the anchor.  We sail out past the abandoned old farmstead and head southwest.  As we sail along I spot a black fin, alert Lars and a few moments later a pair of orcas grace our presence! Incredible. Beautiful. So exciting. We watch them for a few minutes and now with bigger smiles than average we sail on towards Unstad ,one of Norway’s most well known surf breaks.  We sail up and notice a surfer existing the water via binoculars and decide today is the day to catch some Arctic waves.  We drop anchor in 12m of water giving us about 0.35 nm to paddle to the break.  The boards are pulled out from the bag with a couple of big dings (1 inch X 3 inch) apparently they had a rough crossing from the Shetlands.  No worries cause Lars has duct tape. :-)  Once board repair is over we hop into our wetsuits, which are old California 4/3s, along with booties, hoods, and I have gloves. We heat up a kettle of water and pour warm water down our suits before we jump overboard and paddle into the break with sunshine on our backs.  As we paddle up 2 Norwegian surfers welcome us with a smile. The waves are 2-3+ feet and little mushy, but regardless of conditions it is simply amazing to be surfing in the Arctic.  After about an hour a few waves are caught and our core temperatures have dropped as far as seems safe, so we begin the long paddle back to Twister.  The guess is the water is about 45°F (8°C). Whatever the water temperature is we are definitely cold and as we approach we lose the ability to close our hands to make a proper swim paddle.  We manage to get ourselves into the cockpit and begin the warm-up process. We had left a thermos full of warm water and we begin by pouring that down our suits and on our hands and feet. My feet are so numb that there is no feeling at all.  We warm 3 more teakettles, light up the heater, and then finally begin to feel that we are actually warming up. We enjoy a cup of tea with local honey and a splash of single malt scotch.  Then, we raise the anchor and sail on to the nearby Steinfjord. It’s a pleasant, sunny, 2-hour sail.  We drop anchor and celebrate the awesome Arctic day of Orcas and surf with a fancy meal of canned haggis and potatoes!  And head to bed around 3am under a sunlit sky.

July 9 Stein to Sørvågen on Moskenesøy

Alarms are set for 9am, because we have to time the tidal flow through the narrow Nappstraumen passage between the islands of Flakstadøy and Vestvågøy.  We have coffee, haul up the anchor, and motor out from our peaceful and cosy anchorage.  As we motor out Lars notices some fish jumping and drops the line a few times and eventually I take over the line as we chase the jumping fish around and after 10 minutes one bites and we pull in an 18 inch (45cm) cod!
Now we had dinner planned, but first need to sail 35 nm. It is a good day to sail with a relatively steady breeze from the north and with the tidal push we hit 6.6 knots coming through the sound. We sail 10 hours and come into an adorable fishing harbour, Sørvågen on Moskenesøy.  We tie up like good tourists on the visitors dock just out front the local pub. We walk to the market for some dinner fixings and notice we have sea legs and rock a bit any time we try to stand still.  Lars creates a tasty cod dish with cream, leeks, and bacon all baked in the dutch oven.  After dinner we walkabout and up into some foothills for a late night Frisbee toss and in typical Norway fashion the scenery is stunning. 

July 10 A land day on Moskenesøy

Sørvågen, Moskenesøy
The day starts with cockpit coffees and Lars cooks up Norwegian pancakes to go with our mimosas.  The pancake fixings that ensured every bit was delicious included Norwegian sour cream, local honey from Tora and Arne, strawberry jam from Maria, blueberry preserves, nugatti (Norwegain nutella), and bananas.  We wander between the villages of Sørvågen, Moskenes, and Å which are just full of quaint and cozy in the traditional Norwegian fashion. We spot a seal from the road swimming in along the shore and find a charming little beach for Frisbee tossing.  Twister dinner is pickled herring, potatoes, sour cream, and salad. We enjoy a few rounds at the pub with visiting Latvians and head to bed at 3 after a late night snack of marzipan. The alarms are set for 4:30.  Lars brews coffee and pushes us off the dock as we motor 15 minutes to the neighboring harbour of Moskenes. We enjoy a final cockpit coffee and I hop the ferry back to Bodø and eventually good old Washington D.C. while Lars and Twister sail on! 
Chart showing route through Lofoten, courtesy of Bridget

Bridget's pictures can be seen here.

LT's updated northern Norway album here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Northern Norway

glassy water, Ebbesvik, near Bergen
Twister departed Ebbesvik (on the island of (lille)-Sotra) Wednesday the 20th of May 2015. Lovely first day: sunny, nice breeze from NW, sailing close-hauled up (northward) the inside passage from Sotra to Fedje (Hjeltefjorden). As southerly winds were not forecast to arrive till next morning, spent the night tied to a wooden wharf on the quaint little island of Fedje. 

Thursday morning the southerly winds arrived, we motored out of the harbor, and after the ferry had sped past, the genoa was unfurled, we headed offshore, and we were on our way north. It was an uncomfortable passage at times and more than once I vowed to head back to the tradewinds ASAP. We piggy-backed on the bottom right quadrant of a low pressure system. Fortunately it was a weak one, but we did not escape without a little bit of a thrashing. As seems to be the case with any bumpy passage, it’s all a bit of a blur now, but it left me plenty of time to do not much but hang on and contemplate life, the universe, and everything. While it was uncomfortable (and there is an aspect to cruising of sometimes simply enduring the discomfort), I was never concerned and I continue to be impressed with how Twister handles rough weather. And hey, if it was just fun and pleasant all the time, it would get boring. 

Sunday may 24th, the winds eased and turned northeasterly. We had made it to nord-Norge (northernNorway). I set a course for the nearest anchorage I could find among the outer islands outside of Brønnøysund and the distinctive mountains on the island of Vega. I tied to a mooring next to a fishing boat in a snug little cove at Bremsteinen which is the name of a little group of islands exposed to the full fury of The Norwegian Sea and where one would think no one could live (but people did up until the 1950s). It continues to serve as a temporary harbor for fishing boats.

fishing boat in the evening light at Helløya
Monday arrived with light northeasterlies and Twister was able to do about 4 knots almost due north. We sailed outside the maze of skerries and rocks of the Helgeland coast and when the winds died in the evening, we headed back inside the labyrinth (which is how Captain Cook described sailing inside The Great Barrier Reef, but which could just as well be applied to this area) to anchor for the night. The winds had almost died, but there was still sufficient swell coming in from The Norwegian Sea to cause breaking waves on the rocky reefs scattered in every direction. Again I found myself next to a fishing boat as I anchored by the little island of Helløya. I continued day-sailing and night-anchoring and the next evening found Twister at Hjartøya with a great view of The Seven Sisters mountains on Alsten Island. It was bordering on the pathologically compulsive as I had to pick up the camera every few mintues to take another photo of the mountains as the changing light and clouds presented another stunning picture.

The Seven Sisters
Next stop, Træna, another small island community which sits on or just below the arctic circle (whose position is not fixed but currently is around 66° 34' N), followed Myken, an even smaller and even quainter island hamlet where I spent a couple of nights.
June 1, departed Myken and initially set a course for Bodø, but the wind forecast was less than reliable that day, and after a couple of wind and course changes, I headed to Støtt (another charming island group). Good day for wildlife - saw lots of Puffins and one whale (long, pointy dorsal fin could be consistent with Minke Whale). Next day, nice downwind passage to Bodø. 

More photos here

Friday, April 24, 2015

Shetland Islands

First things first:  Some photos from Shetland

     What I saw of The Shetland Islands seemed prosperous (many are employed in either petroleum/gas or fishing), very clean (not sure whether that is a cultural thing or the frequent gales blowing all the trash from the windswept islands), and a bit bleak (the landscape, that is.There are no trees, and the grass was rather straw-colored.). The locals I met were very friendly (drivers waving as they drive by) and generous. I had more than one drink bought for me, and if I already had a full beer, they were happy to buy me a whiskey to go with it. I was also given a delicious lobster by a friendly fisherman on Whalsay.
     I only visited three places (I confess it was a bit chilly on Twister and that that swayed my decision to head back to Bergen and the shore-power-powered fan heater rather than explore more of Shetland.): Lerwick on the island of Mainland, Symbister on Whalsay, and Out Skerries. Shetland was settled by Norwegians back in the day, so norse words abound in the names - Lerwick = Leirvik = clay bay or muddy bay, Whalsay = hvaløy = whale island, Skerries = skjær = reefs/rocks. The Out Skerries is a group of small islands with a population of 55 by one residents estimate. Unlike the other places, Out Skerries appeared to be in decline/decay. Fishing is the only industry, they are somewhat isolated, and the population is possibly below critical mass. A ferry which comes a few times a week but is often prevented from entering the somewhat treacherous harbor by the weather. Whalsay is home to many of the Shetlands big fishing trawlers. In Lerwick, I met perhaps as many people not from Shetland as locals. The oil terminal at Sullom Voe employs some, and the construction of a new gas terminal has brought a new batch of workers. Many of these are housed on a hideous zebra-colored barge from The Netherlands and a cruise ship.

      On the return passage, I was able to transit through both the UK and Norwegian sector of oil rigs
in daylight (On the passage to Lerwick, I was awakened in the middle of the night by the AIS alarm alerting me to a ship on a collision course with me. It was one of the rescue boats that hangs around the rigs, apparently trying to divert me from getting any closer to one of the UK rigs. A bit stressfull in rough weather and at night. Couldn't be bothered to talk to me on the VHF radio either, bastards). In fact, the whole homeward passage was pleasant with rather tradewind-like conditions (excepting the temperature). Took me a bit under two days. Twister held up well, and I quickly became reaccustomed to life at sea. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Shetland Islands

     Twister did not set any records in the ca 200 mile passage to Shetland. She arrived Lerwick, Shetland Islands, (Scotland, United Kingdom) the evening of Thursday April 16 three and a half days out of Askøy (Bergen), Norway.
Bergen looking lovely after a fresh dusting of snow
     I won't deny being more than a little nervous on departure day: the forecast did not promise a fast and comfortable passage and it had been more than a year and a half since Twister had sailed the open ocean. As is often the case, the anticipation was worse than the reality, but it was not trade wind sailing (ie downwind). The lowest moment was the afternoon of the first day. As always, the inside passage of the Norwegian west coast provided comfortable sailing. Soon after passing Marstein light (which marks one of the main entrances to the fjord system around Bergen) and entering the open ocean the northerly breeze died, but there was plenty of confused seas left over from days of strong wind from various directions. Twister was pitching and rolling with great gusto and the sails were slatting maddeningly. It's a special kind of irony being tossed about due to lack of wind as one is dreading upcoming gales. The southerly breeze arrived around sundown and was soon blowing at gale force (just an estimate). Twister made fast work of the first 100 miles, but then, as forecast, the winds turned westerly. The next two days were spent beating into and tacking into the westerlies making slow progress in the desired direction (west).
Using the storm jib on the inner forestay made for much more comfortable sailing than using a small patch of the roller furler genoa. The winds eased the evening of day 3 (Wednesday) and by Thursday around noon, they had died, leaving Twister 30 miles from Lerwick and 20 miles to some nearer islands (Out Skerries) but which I suspected did not have pub, the population being around 10. Grudgingly I started the engine and motored most of the remaining distance (some sailing with intermittent puffs of northerly breeze) to Lerwick. 
Land Ho - Isle Of Noss
Two Sailboats From Bergen - Twister and Statsraad Lemhkuhl
     As I pulled into the rather cozy (ie tight) small boat harbor, nature (which had been calling most inopportunely) became insistent and I managed to maneuver Twister back into the larger main harbor before I had to run below and leave her to her own devices for a minute or two. The joys of singlehanded sailing ;)    Fortunately we did not run into anyone or anything and in short time we found a nice floating pontoon to tie up to and soon your humble blogger was belly up to the bar at a nearby pub enjoying a proper pint and later a deep-fried haggis. 
     Friday morning I was surprised to see Statsraad Lehmkuhl, a 3-masted brig from Bergen, dock nearby. She apparently took two days from Bergen. 
     I arrived The Shetland Islands just in time to enjoy some (I suspect) unseasonably nice weather for the next  couple of days (see weather map below - The Shetland Islands are directly under the H in the high pressure system). 

Shetland High
Update Saturday 18 April: Departing Lerwick this afternoon. Heading to Whalsay (Whale Island), only 12 or so miles to the north. Then a visit to The Valhalla Brewery on the island of Unst (father north) might be in order. If I feel intrepid after that, the journey will continue counterclockwise around Shetland. If not, then I may take advantage of the moderate westerlies forecast for the later part of next week and head back to Bergen. In any case, I may not have internet access for a few days or more, possibly not before returning to Norway.