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.


  1. Awesome adventure you two! Sounds like an epic trip with beautiful sights and tasty meals. Sweet that you caught some nice waves too :) You guys are almost ready for winter surfing in Cape Cod :)

  2. Hi, I'm really pleased that you are back on Twister. I have a Twister called Bob that we are refitting with the intentions of leaving England for the Med then who know where. Your blog has given me confidence in the boat and that it is possible to live on a 28ft boat and make it work despite the amount of people telling us we are stupid to even consider sailing off on a boat so small.

    If you have any words of wisdom about setting sail on a Twister, I'd be really grateful! or maybe some pictures of the inside of the boat to see how you are set up, Bob is pretty much down to the bare bones below... so much work, but it's so going to be worth it.

    Please keep blogging and sharing your adventures.


    1. Hi Katie,
      I will post some photos of the interior soon. I would not, however, suggest you fit out your Twister's interior like mine. In fact, I envy your position of being down to bare bones below. I suggest making as much open space as possible and minimizing the cabinetry.
      Lots of benefits to a small boat, and Twisters are solid offshore boats. Go for it. I would love to see some photos of Bob.

  3. Great pictures! Sounds like a wonderful journey. I would love to make the trip around this area - and it sounds like you really enjoyed your experience. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I highly recommend the cruising along western and northern Norway. Spectacular scenery, good fishing, nice people. An El Dorado if you like hiking.