We flew back to Brønnøysund in September. I came Friday 15 and made the boat ready until Ellen arrived on Saturday. The initial plan was to sail north to Ylvingen, but the wind favoured sailing south, so we aimed at visiting Torghatten in stead, which was a good choice. We found a small marina in Møyhavn, just north of the mountain, where there was a few places for visitors. But we were the only boat and had the place to ourselves.
Next morning was overcast, threatening rain, but we set off on foot and reached Torghatten after an hour. A magnificent, natural miracle! The hole is 160 meters long and some 20 meters high, and what acoustics! Like a big cathedral. And as it was Sunday morning, and we were alone (almost) a hymn by the local, 17th century poet and pastor Petter Dass was a natural choice!
From the hole, we could see where we were going to sail later. That route took us to the outside of the Torget islands, leaving us to the open sea and the south-west wind which became stronger than what was forecast, or may be I had looked at the wrong place! Anyway, the crossing to Ylvingen was unnecessarily rough and misty and wet for a Sunday afternoon cruise, but we found good harbour at Ylvingen. It would have been a wiser choice to sail back through the sounds up to town and on from there.
Monday was less windy, but foggy. The return to Brønnøysund was by motor.
We did not have the best weather for the few days that Ellen was here, but Tuesday came with bright sunshine and a light easterly breeze. She flew home in the morning, and I sailed out to a natural harbour five miles north of the town, Straumsøyan. Here the local boat club has made two pontoons, which I knew about since I had stopped by when sailing north a month ago. This was a nice and quiet place to stay for a couple of nights, and the pontoon made a good platform for folding up and packing the sails.
So Wednesday was spent taking down the sails, pulling out the halyards and doing other things to prepare for winter. I pulled on a wetsuit and went down to check the propeller. There I saw that one of the anodes was loose, which means I have to haul out next year. I will try to find a place where the boat can dry out in low water, surely there must be a place like this somewhere! I have seen those in other places with a good difference between high and low water, on the Orkneys and on Vancouver island. They are simple and low tech devices for cleaning, anti fouling and maintenance under the waterline.
Back in Brønnøysund on Thursday, sent the sails to Gran for inspection and maintenance, the weather still fine, but the sailing season for Vestavind is over for this year!
The sound of the island of Bronn, says the guide from M/S Nordlys:
Møyhavn, which we had to ourselves:
Beware of falling stones in Torghatten!
We sailed out there.
Back in Brønnøysund, and the sun.
Meeting M/S Vesterålen on its way south:
And here is Vestavind as seen from Vesterålen (photo Margrete Ytreland):
Sailing season over for this year.
We only saw two other sailboats the whole week. This one though, Eltanin, was on its return from Spitsbergen to Poland. The yacht sails to Svalbard every summer to provide transport to researchers and tourists.
Summing up – an attempt
It is difficult to really sum up these weeks along the Norwegian coast, but here are some reflections I have made.
1. Thank God for the Gulf Stream! Look at a world map or a globe. We were almost at the latitude of the Polar Circle, at around 66 degrees north. Here you can have summer temperatures and swim in relative tempered water. Around the globe, the Polar Circle cuts across Greenland, northern Canada, the Bering Strait, and Sibera. Not that you can’t have warm summers there as well I suppose, but the Gulf Stream makes it possible to have well populated communities and cities all along the Norwegian coast, all year.
2. The steady and nice weather we had made it possible to easily visit little island communities at the far edge of the coast. With the North Sea as their closest neighbour, people there know that it is not always that easy. As John put it, “having crossed these waters more than two hundred times, I have never seen it so calm”. It is very fascinating to visit these places, and I get a deep respect for the people who lived and worked there all their lives. Some of the places, like the islands north of Vega, have had human settlements for several thousand years.
3. Place after place, we heard the same story. These were thriving communities, based on fishing and handling of fish, until the middle of the 20th century. Some places had several hundred inhabitants on a permanent basis, with peaks of thousands (like Gjeslingan) in the high season. With the big social and economic changes, starting from the 1960s, small and relatively isolated communities were not sustainable any longer. When the school closed and children had to go to school on the main land, families moved. The government provided resettlement support. People wanted to be part of the modern, industrialised nation. Only a few die hards stayed on for a couple of decades. Now, places like Grip, Veiholmen, Gjeslingan and Skålvær are being preserved and maintained by people owning houses there, and by government support. When we visited, we found the islands well populated. Thanks to all the individuals and official bodies for their efforts!
4. Having said the above, it is also important to state that the Norwegian policy, for the last fifty years or so, has indeed been to keep rural communities alive. Therefore we have vital villages and small towns all along the coast, even if the smallest and most remote places have been depopulated. Also, we have had a policy of economic and social equality and equity, thanks to the social democratic politics. This indeed has made it possible for people from the smallest places, and from families with limited economic resources, to have the same educational and career opportunities as better situated people. (It is more complicated than this of course, but let it suffice for now.) Norway is a good country to live in, and to travel along and across. Peaceful society, beautiful landscapes and well maintained places with a lot of activity. Even in the now depopulated communities.
5. I am happy to be a part of the Norwegian society and to have benefited from a welfare state that provides for everyone. This has also provided ordinary citizens like us with resources to live out some dreams. And being 60 +, we have an extra week of holiday too! We are already planning for next year!
Friday August 11
Last day on this vacation! I have dined well on board, here’s the last breakfast.
It was a wet and windy day, but the marina where Vestavind will winter is well protected. Here she will be safe. But we will be back in September for a last sail. Looking forward to that and hoping for fair winds!
I flew from Brønnøysund, stopping at Trondheim airport to change flights. What a pleasant surprise and a nice end to a very good holiday to have live piano music in the departure hall!
Thursday August 10
Last day of sailing. Cousin Nils commented on a Facebook posting that he would be at their summer cabin between where I was and Brønnøysund, and I wished to stop there on the last night before going home. However, the forecast was for a stiff breeze to gale from the south west, which did not favour a stop there. Next year!
So, we sailed directly to Brønnøysund, beating up to Vega and then reaching straight into the town harbour. Nice sail!
With the right sail trim this boat steers herself. The new sails from Gran (granseil.no) have made the sailing a much better experience than it would have been with the old sails. The laminated cloth, together with the fully battened main and triradial cut, make the sails easy to trim and forgiving to the crew. Vestavind points higher and sails faster with less wind.
Back in Brønnøysund. The coastal town in the middle of Norway.
Wednesday August 9
We sailed, that is, mostly motored, from Skålvær to Ylvingen, stopping at two other small deserted places but for summer residents, Skogsholmen and Kilvær. The morning was grey and misty, creating a almost mystic light over the islands. Beautiful! Then the sky cleared and it got warm and sunny.
Skogsholmen has good berths. As usual, there was enough room.
Skogsholmen used to have active farming. Now, farmers at Vega send their animals here for grazing in the summer.
Kilvær, just a short stop without landing. Good anchorage near the quay it seemed. Nice to know for another visit.
We are in the middle of the 6500-island archipelago. It’s only about 15 by 6 miles wide, but the islands being so low you can’t see many from the boat. But looking on the map, you get another impression. This portion is only a couple of miles across.
View from the cockpit:
Safely moored in Ylvingen marina. Ylvingen has 25 inhabitants, and daily connection to Brønnøysund. It was the site of a popular TV series some years ago. Here’s that café that was prominent in the story.
Tuesday August 8
The first rainy day since before Bergen! I was invited by Gunhild and Nils, together with Kjartan, who also has a house here, for coffee and waffles, and to watch an animation of the community here as it looked like around 1900. Nils has collected a huge amount of information from historic documents, learned CAD drawing, and with the help of an architect company made an impressive presentation of the islands and the community. He estimates that he has spent around 3000 hours on the project over the last four to five years! The animation will appear on their website in a few months. Thank you for an informative and entertaining morning!
Gunhild is the keeper of the church, and showed me around.
When the rain stopped, I walked around the nature trail. The island is surprisingly lush!
This pond was dug to make ice for the transportation of fish to England and Germany in the 19th century and into the 20th. The ice was broken into blocks and kept in a well insulated house. Because of that, and the mass of ice that was collected, it kept frozen over the summer.
Monday August 7
Another quiet morning, but overcast. Now we have had warm, sunny weather for most of two weeks, but a change is underway. This will be my last week here for this time, I am going home on Friday.
The Seven Sisters are asleep today, they still have their dyne on!
We motored across to Tjøtta, a place well known from Norwegian history from the Viking age and onwards. Otherwise a typical coastal village. I have filled water and have gone shopping, and visited the stone church from the 19th century. Close by is a research station for biology. Mainland Helgeland is a good farming area, as Tjøtta exemplifies. The place is also a communication hub.
Our destination today is Skålvær, a fishing community with human habitation dating back several thousand years. The last permanent residents left in the 1970s, as with many other small coastal communities. The place is now preserved by a trust, see http://www.skaalvaervel.no/?side=hjem.
Some of the oldest signs of human habitation in Norway are found on the islands on the Helgeland coast, dating back around 9000 years. The approximately 6500 islands north of Vega is now on the UNESCO World heritage list. Part of the reason for this is the unique interplay between man and nature, where the edder ducks are vital. More at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1143
So we are sailing right into the heart of Helgeland!
Monday evening. Sitting on the highest point at the little island Skålvær, looking out on a fantastic seascape with hundreds of islands. It’s just something else! Actually, I was on another island not far from here already in August 1979, Austbø, but didn’t see or didn’t understand the uniqueness then. Later, Ellen and I have visited several places along the coast here, and a dream began to take form: to one summer sail among these islands! First I thought it would have to be in a rented boat, but now I am here with Vestavind!
Look at this!
The Seven Sisters in the background:
From coming in earlier today:
This is what the chart looks like, part of the area:
From the island:
An old garden:
The church was built in 1889, brought from Trøndelag, whrer they were building a new church. It was pulled down there, put on a boat and brought here.
Most of the island belongs to Alstahaug municipality, which has a maintenance plan to preserve the cultural heritage, part of which is the old agriculture. The island has a rich flora, formed by hundreds of years of a symbiosis between man and nature. I did my share this evening, helping Gunhild and Nils collect hey before the rain that is forecast tomorrow. Long time since I did this!
Saturday and Sunday August 5 and 6
Next morning, I wanted to check out other possible anchorages in the end of the fjord, and found this one promising. But someone apparently thought they owned the bay and had virtually closed it off with ropes across to both sides. Not the way to do it! With anchor instead, there could have been room for others. But you seldom see boats at anchor in Norway. Norwegians seem to think they must be tied up to dry land, not to a bottom they can’t see. But then, on the west and north coast, there are so few boats out that there is a bay for each! I have seen very few boats these weeks I have been been out, and there has always been room in the marinas.
On my way out, I looked into one of the side inlets, and found several good anchorages. I dropped the anchor in one and had lunch and a swim. No pictures of the swim!
Here’s a crack!
More good sailing, once we were out in the open again. Beating north, with the Seven Sisters ahead.
We found good anchorage in a well protected bay at Rødøya (the Red Island). There is a more famous Rødøya further north, therefore this one is better known as Tro. It has the same red rock as is found at Leka, which is the earth’s mantle that has been forced up by continental plates colliding, around 500 million years ago, according to geologists.
At Rødøya, we stayed for two nights. A tranquil place!
Sunday morning peace!
Friday August 4
Friday we sailed (Vestavind and I) north from Brønnøysund and into Vistenfjorden. But first we stopped in a beautiful and well protected bay at Straumsøyan, where Brønnøysund boat club has put in two pontoons. There is a small playground on the shore, and little sandy beaches. A good place for families. There was only one boat there when we came in, with a single man, a retired farmer. He was so happy that he didn’t have any daily obligations on the farm any more, and could go away like this for weeks. He had farmed for forty years.
Later, a group came in on their way to Brønnøysund.
Sailing north, soon turning into the fjord.
Small farming communities under the mountains. Typical scenery along much of the Norwegian west coast and in Helgeland.
A nice church too, Vevelstad.
The fjord is about ten miles long, winding away into the interior. Narrow some places, but deep and well marked. There is no permanent settlement in the inner parts, but quite a lot of cabins some places. We had a strong headwind coming out the fjord for the first part, but in the inner part a it was calm. We anchored in one of the innermost bays, at 20 metres. I am glad I had bought more anchor chain. Vestavind has now 60 metres, and that is minimum when anchoring at 20 metres. You should have at least three times as much as the depth, preferably four or five times.
In here, there was no mobile network, at least not for my provider, and even no contact on the VHF. So I really felt I was in a quiet place!
Cosy in the cabin at night!
Thursday August 3
John disembarked and returned home this morning. Thank you for good company, many stories and lots of knowledge shared about coastal navigation!
Later, I visited the marina where Vestavind will be moored this winter. A very well protected harbour. I will return here next Friday and leave the boat. Planning to be back in September for the winter lay up.
Some pics from the way back to town:
The rest of the day was spent for laundry and some needed repairs.
A 50 foot Bavaria with engine failure came in. They had sailed all the way from Tromsø with this setup: a 10 hp outboard! Plus sails, I suppose.
Wednesday August 2
Petter and Ellen Margrethe have a beautiful little traditional boat, ca 16 feet long. It was built in the 70s, in a thousand year Norwegian tradition of building boats. With this boat, they have sailed and rowed along the better part of the Norwegian coast. John looks dubious.
From Vega, we motorsailed into Brønnøysund, the coastal city in the middle of Norway, as they call it.
Practicing splicing. John had some tricks to teach me.
Tuesday August 1
We had a most enjoyable sail from Leka to Nes, on the north side of Vega. 55 miles in ten hours! We used the engine just to get out of and into harbour. Probably the best day of sailing on this trip. The wind was from behind all day. Vestavind sails very well. With her semi long keel and well sized rudder, she is easily balanced. With the right trim, she steers herself for long stretches.
Torghatten. With the famous whole through the mountain. But we missed it! I was below making food!
Ylvingen, scene of a popular Norwegian TV series a few years ago.
Sailing into the sunset.
We were welcomed to Vega by colleague Petter and his wife Ellen Margrethe, and their friends. They stayed in an old fisherman’s shed, converted into a nice cabin, behind this front room which was just three meters from the sea. Fried fish and lamb beef tasted delicious! They also shared information on many places to visit. Thank you! Petter has a blog: https://petterpatur.wordpress.com
Ellen and I visited this place some years ago by car, and stayed in the small, grey cabin on the other side.
Fishing tourism has really grown!
Monday July 31
Rørvik to Leka today. By engine and sail. Some views along the way:
Leka has a nice marina with many guest berths.
Leka also has a very special geology. According the municipality homepage, the earth’s mantle has been forced up here due to the collision of two tectonic plates. The west part of the island is characterized by a yellow, barren, and wild landscape. Very different from any of the rest of the coast line.
In 1932, a small girl disappeared while playing outside on a Sunday afternoon. She was later found on a rocky shelf in the steepest part of the mountain above. See the story below. I remember reading a book about this “eagle robbery” when I was a boy. The eagle story is debated. Svanhild became an old woman, and died only a few years ago.
Sunday July 30
Another beautiful day. After a entertaining breakfast with John’s cousin, we left Sør-Gjeslingane around midday. The islands are like a maze, except that here someone has shown where we can sail.
We were going north east towards Rørvik. When we were on course, a very light breeze came up from west, and by Gjeslingan light house we hoisted the gennaker. It worked perfectly, and we sailed in almost complete silence for two hours.
Rørvik is a small town in the main traffic route north and south. We moored safely next to the SAR.
John’s daughter, Margrete, works on the coastal express, Vesterålen. She happened to stop in Rørvik Sunday evening, and we were invited on board for dinner. We dined at the Captain’s Table! Thank you, Margrete and Vesterålen!
Friday to Saturday July 28 and 29
We left Veiholmen early, at 06.30, through a narrow channel to the north east. It is well marked, as are all the common and less common seaways along the coast. Having an old skipper on board has been very interesting and helpful, and good company. I learn a lot about coastal navigation. And hear many stories from his almost 65 years at sea. He started with his father when he was 15 with local traffic along the west coast of Norway, and took part in herring fisheries north of Iceland when he was 18.
Across to Titran, west at Frøya island, we motored for two hours. Out of Titran we had a nice NE breeze, and set both sails. However, as we were going north east between Frøya and Hitra, the wind was of course against us. That meant beating (going from side to side between the island, with the wind alternatively on starboard and port bows). It took us three hours to get through, but Vestavind sails very well for a leisure cruiser.
Easy going 😊
We planned to sail across to the main land and find a harbour there for the night. But the wind was better suited for sailing on north across the Folla, so we aimed at Sør-Gjeslingan. That would take us until next morning.
The forecast was for SW breeze, with some rain, so we prepared!
Sailing ship Christian Radich of Oslo steaming south:
Arriving in the old fishing community of Sør-Gjeslingan at around 06.30 Saturday morning.
The guest pier. Disturbed some by a diesel generator on the shore. Fortunately, it was switched off at 23.00 until next morning.
Later, a 37 foot SwedeStar (the other sailboat in the picture below) arrived. The skipper, sailing alone, appeared to be John’s relative, coming from Karmøy! We had a most entertaining evening with old stories from Karmøy and the sea!
This man had been up to Lofoten and was now on his way home.
During the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, Sør-Gjeslingan was the largest fishing village in Norway south of Lofoten.
With just a couple of hundred people living permanently here, there could be up to 5000 people on the islands from January to May, fishing and preparing cod. The black and white picture shows some of this. People could walk from boat to boat between the islands! They slept in the boats, under sails, under small boats that were pulled up and turned over, because there was not enough lodging for all.
Taken Saturday, from the same point of view:
Since 2010, Sør-Gjeslingan is a protected community. The permanent settlement ended in 1978, according to our guide. Now the buildings are kept by private owners and a museum. A visit is highly recommended! There is a fast passenger boat out og Rørvik, and there is simple lodging in the village.
Beautiful view over the islands, to south east:
Low tide late Saturday night:
Thursday July 27
We left Grip just before 9, in a light easterly breeze. And we can’t help it, we are just too lucky with the weather. Sailing north to Veiholmen, off Smøla, in six knots.
The inlet to Veiholmen is well marked.
Rounding corners into the inner harbour:
We arrived early in the afternoon. The air stood still and it was 28 degrees Celsius in the harbour.
Veiholmen is, like Bjørnsund and Grip, an old fishing village. It is connected by road to the bigger island Smøla. A few people live in the village, others visit in the summer. Some images:
Oil on board (or so it seemed):
I was lucky to get a chance to go kajaking with http://www.smolakajakk.com out to Haugjegla lighthouse in the evening. We passed through narrow channels, streams, and over shallow lagoons out to the very edge of the ocean. Marvellous! Sorry I didn’t bring ny camera! I was not too sure if it would survive! But John took a few images on my way out.
A highlight was meeting Brit Jorunn and Joseph Birhanu, with little Maria, who came to visit onboard. They live on Smøla, Brit Jorunn’s birth place. Birhanu, however, is born in Marsabit, Kenya, where we lived as a family during the 80s and the 90s. Birhanu’s family were our neighbours, and Birhanu played with our children almost every day after school. And now we meet on the edge of the North Sea! Brit Jorunn and Birhanu met when she lived and worked in Kenya some years ago.
Wednesday July 26
Today we crossed the infamous Hustadvika, an open coastline exposed to the North Sea. John, who has crossed it upwards of 200 times during his career as skipper, says he has never seen it this calm. We motored all the way, steering by autopilot, wearing only tshirt and shorts.
Coming in to Grip:
Grip was a thriving fishing community from the middle ages until mid last century. The islanders moved to the mainland in the 1970s. One of the main reasons was shooling for the children. The houses are now used during the summer, mostly by descendants of those who lived here. When we visit, there seem to be people in every house. A couple of fisher men still fish from here parts of the year, I was told.
Fire station and fire engine:
The North Sea, folks!
Tuesday July 25
A quiet, warm morning in the marina. Our luggage was delayed when we flew to Ålesund yesterday, so we had to wait until it arrived this morning. At 11 we were out of the marina and picked up a nice SW breeze. We set both sails and are at present sailing north at 5 – 6 knots. Beautiful inshore sailing with the high mountains in the background.
We sailed most of the way to Bjørnsund. Arrived around 6 p.m.
Bjørnsund is an old fishing community, which had 500-600 inhabitants around 1950. By the mid 70s no one lived there on a permanent basis. The houses are now summer residences. There are quite a lot of people here now. Here are some images:
With the North Sea as their closest neighbour, they had to build strong defences.
Our route tomorrow:
Monday July 24
Vegard left Vestavind in Nørvevika marina in Ålesund. I arrived there at 18.30 together with new crew, John Ytreland, retired skipper with 30 years experience from freighter traffic om the Norwegian coast and the North Sea.
Thanks to Randi Oksavik Oltedal who was our contact to find the berth in Nørvevika.
We motored out to Gjøsund marina at Vigra. There we were met by Randi and her husband Geirmund, who invited us for a wonderful supper. Thanks again!
Wednesday July 19
Vestavind and her crew enjoy beautiful days at Sunnmøre this week. Here, in Hjørundfjorden (photo: Vegard Moen).
In the mean time, at home, I make a new cockpit coffee table.
Sunday July 16
First leg over for my part. I bade farewell to Vegard and Stein Helge, and Vestavind, who left at 6.30 to sail around Stadt today. The forecast is S to SW stiff breeze to the low end of a gale. Wishing them fair winds!
The new main sail has a third, deep reef. Good when the wind pipes up!
I got this update from them at 10 a.m.:
Myself, I have to go back to work tomorrow, so I take the coastal express to Bergen (Hurtigruta), MS Polarlys. Will find the boat somewhere further north in a week or so.
A little boy on the ship: Look, someone living on the sea!
Latest report: safely moored at Sandsøy, north of Stadt. Wind: gale up to 25 knots, waves: 4-5 meters. The boat behaved perfectly. They had sailed with the deep reefed main only, 6-7 knots. Well done!
Saturday July 15
Up early. Still quiet, only very light wind from SW. Out from Fedje 06.30. Beautiful morning. The forecast is more wind from SW in the afternoon. A low pressure is coming in. We want to take benefit of the wind, but not to be caught out.
Alden, a well known sailing mark:
Good sailing in the afternoon:
Moored in Florø harbour:
Friday July 14
New crew today, Vegard Moen and Stein Helge Solstad. Actually, they take over the boat from here, but I follow for a couple more days.
Out of Bergen harbour 14.45 in beautiful sunshine, but little wind. Motored two hours, then sailed for two hours until the wind died. Before we started the engine again, we had finner onboard. Moored at Fedje at 21.00, where we were well received by the harbour master.
A beautiful evening. We went ashore for a view of the sunset, and where we will sail tomorrow.
Fedje far out there:
A rose from Talgje, as greeting to Fedje:
The beginning of our router tomorrow:
Thursday July 13
Lying in Bergen until tomorrow. Ellen went home today. Thank you for coming along this far! Always good company!
New crew coming tomorrow.
Wednesday July 12
After a pleasant evening in Os with old friends Marit and Arthur, we waited next morning for the rain to pass. There was still a strong breeze, gusting to gale, when we continued north to Bergen. This took us six hours against the wind and the tide (it doesn’t show on the pictures!). Since we were here three years ago, a bridge had been built across the entrance to the visitors’ marina, so we had to wait for it to open.
Then, a walk through Bergen, passing by the university and through old streets, to an Ethiopian restaurant 😊
Tuesday July 11
Out of Fitjar just after noon. No wind, so motored for two hours, until we got a light breeze on starboard boughs.
Boats and ships along the way:
And some buildings, both proud and humble.
We particularly liked this one. Isolated, no road, and the view across the fjord to Folgefonna glacier must be magnificent on a clear day (behind the photograher).
Monday July 10
Out of Mosterhamn 10.45 after a healthy breakfast. Sailed north through the narrow strait and sounds between the hundreds of islands between Bømlo and Stord. Moored in Fitjar for the night. View over the town and out to the open sea.
Sunday July 9
The old church in Mosterhamn, from the 12th century. And the amphi theatre.
Moored in Mosterhamn at 10 a.m. A full day left 😊
Bloksen, site of the tragic accident in November 1999, when the passenger ship Sleipner hit the rock and 16 people perished. The mast and light was built afterwards.
Ryvarden light house. We sailed close to land, as the wind was parallell to the coast.
Out of Haugesund early at 05.45. Grey, wet morning, but the wind was good. SE 10-12 knots. The boat made 5-7 knots all the way.
Saturday July 8
Started from Talgje at 10.00 a.m. NW breeze 10 knots, 15 at around noon. Motoring, with some help from the genoa, as the wind is dead ahead.
Strait of Karmsund. Stiff breeze on the nose:
Moored alongside in Haugesund:
Visitors on board 😊 Grandson Tobias and parents.
Keeping a lookout: