It’s raining in beautiful Norway.
We are tethered to a floating pontoon at Hjellestad at the Sandringham YC approximately 13NM inland from the entrance to Korstfjorden.
We then entered Fanafjorden before turning N and passing through a very narrow gap in to Raunefjorden and our berth in this small marina. Engine off 2350 on Wednesday 6th July. It was very lovely coming in to a fjord for the first time with staggering depths of over 600 metres. Well staggering to this Thames Estuary sailor anyway. Waterfront houses with their own docks and miles upon miles of inland waterways amongst beautiful hills and mountains.
My telephone beeped with lovely arrival text messages from family and friends as I came though the entrance between the lighthouses in to Marsteinen Fairway at 2130.
Early on Tuesday the 5th I went to see harbour control, Lerwick to pay and to get latest weather forecasts, which had not changed since the previous day. I gladly paid the most reasonable harbour charges of the whole trip so far. The pontoons were heavyweight and in excellent condition. Due to cruise liners needing pontoons to drop passengers off in their tenders us yachties were confined to just two pontoons. All were rafted 2-3 boats and in some places even 4. A solitary British flagged boat in the middle of them all… US. Everyone was happy and there was a very nice atmosphere.
I then had a lovely breakfast and talk as a guest on board ‘Drunken Duck’ with Ann and Raymond. Gosh! They are lovely people and ideal cruising companions. Raymond was already checking the very latest forecasts for me. Raymond is a great watcher and listener and probably with everything. Ann too. You rather feel your on the psychiatrists couch when talking to Raymond. In the nicest possible way of course! I’ve got psychiatrist friends who you seriously feel are thinking what medication they ought to put you on! Anyway on all things sailing Raymond is inquisitive, listens and then does it his way, which would almost certainly be the right way. Ann pretends to know nothing about sailing but she is a top crew. Practical, agile and fast.
My departure time had been stalled slightly the day before or should I say I was questioning myself due to to the thinking of another yacht. They were leaving the following day due to strong winds on the Tuesday in N Utsire. It did not make sense to me. There would be not much anywhere on the passage on Wednesday. By Wednesday the winds were dying to nothing anyway. What did THEY know that I did not? I concluded that they were elderly and perhaps preferred a flatter sea and were prepared to motor. It did make me question ME though.
Mission Control James Robinson back in Orford said it was looking good to go. Doc said the same. Together with that and Raymond’s latest advice was good enough for me. They confirmed my thoughts entirely, which was nice. I was 90% sure anyway.
I started the engine at 1135 Tuesday 5th July and called Harbour to let them know we were outward bound to the north and permission please which was granted. As I cast off from ‘Drunken Duck’ Raymond told me to text them on arrival in Norway.
Harbour asked for my next port of call and then a little later advised of some shallows when I was setting the main. It was very much precautionary on their part. I could not see anything on the chart less than 2M anywhere at chart datum in the area we were. I was asked to follow the buoys.
Leaving the harbour I spotted our Sailing School boat friend from Blyth inbound to Lerwick from the N. We do see the same boats.
At 1215 we were heading due east in to a mirror calm clearing the island with Outer Score off our starboard beam.
A little later a breath of wind gave me just enough to motor sail with both main and genoa. The forecasts were for strong NE, backing N and then NW. As predicted there were stronger winds in North Utsire to begin with. The forecast were for the winds to slowly die though Wednesday and at midnight Wednesday there would be little off the Norwegian coast for our arrival. That was the plan.
I had got myself fairly anxious and this seems to make me feel queasy. I was about to have 30 hours, not of being sick, but of always feeling slightly sick.
The winds did not really begin properly until 1800 hours and at 2000 the sea was starting and the wind was 17 to 20 over the deck. I slipped a reef in the main and furled the genoa to the first mark.
My only sight of anything had been a tanker on AIS. Then ahead a sail making west which eventually passed just to the N of us at 2050. I thought of calling them but they were showing no AIS signal. Then the VHF crackled in to life …
‘Talisker 1 Talisker 1 this is sai….. ya…..@#$%&*$!! Over’
‘Station calling Talisker 1 good evening channel 6 over’
I then had a lovely exchange with Nicholas who was making for Lerwick in his 41’ Norwegian yacht ‘Shosholoza’ which he said was without engine. Nicholas asked if Lerwick Harbour was ok with no engine. I was slightly flummoxed, as conditions and his abilities would answer that question so over to him. I just told him that it was a harbour used by big ships, the channel was narrow probably in places and there would be current. Anyway he was on passage from Bergen and was interested I was going the opposite way.
A few minutes after this exchange, as an afterthought, I called ‘Shosholoza’ and asked Nicholas to say hello to my friends Ann and Raymond on ‘Drunken Duck’ in Albert Dock. Is that a pub? Nicholas asked. No No No I said … it’s the name of a yacht and a very serious yacht too. The name is not to confuse you.
No yacht would call each other in the same way in the southern North Sea. I suppose it is kindred spirits touching base with each other in a wilder part of this beautiful world. I was grateful to Nicholas for his call.
‘Shosholoza’ would have received AIS but unlike me does not transmit. I could only see him on radar. NOT on AIS.’
Visibility was still prefect and ‘Talisker 1’ was charging along in her element. The colours in the sky, the sea, the air and the light seem different 60 degrees north.
By midnight the winds were pretty much 20 + over the deck and to make us both more comfortable the second reef went in the main and the genoa was furled to Rob Kemp’s second circular mark. It was time to try and get some rest.
I had set up lee cloths in the saloon both port and starboard and on our port tack I checked AIS and radar. The coast ahead was clear for miles. I set an alarm for 1 hour and dived in to my sleeping bag on the berth on the starboard side lee cloth. The odd thing about sleeping when underway is the awareness when asleep of ‘Talisker 1’ working for you and her little alarms that jolt you awake. Not electronic alarms. I am talking about slight increases in wind and wave that make her let you know despite her coping with them without ANY bother.
I have slept underway before with a crew. That sleep is a little more rested knowing there is a look out but one still feels the ship. Although resting and sleeping, it is a different sleep when you leave the boat to herself sailing alone.
I was up again for a re check ahead and all round and asleep again waking to a spectacular scene at 0500 on the 6th.
The surface of the sea was ablaze with small fluffy white horses on the crests of the larger waves. The sea was a surreal colour and the waves longer than down south. There were lots of birds. The cockpit was wet from the occasional shower. The cloud formations were fabulous. Colours ranged from grey to pink and the sky is definitely a different shade of blue in these parts.
I just stood watching astern as ‘Talisker 1’s’ wake stretched back towards an incredible rainbow. We had run 94 NM. At this pace we would eat the trip.
And then ahead some AIS signals. There were several vessels and as we approached getting through them looked daunting despite their very slow speeds. I was also picking up some ship to ship communication on the VHF. Added to that was pretty moderate visibility ahead as some rain arrived with an increase in wind.
If I had studied the AIS properly I am sure I would have found out what they were doing. Due to the number I just noted quickly their direction and speed. Again their speed might have told me something! I was probably a bit fuddled having slept so little which is no excuse
I was getting dressed in to everything quickly when the VHF came alive.. with a professional voice.
‘Talisker 1 Talisker 1 ‘Geo Caspian’ ‘Geo Caspian’ over’.
‘Geo Capian’ ‘Talisker 1’ Good Morning Sir over’
‘Talisker 1 Geo Caspian Good Morning go channel 72 over’
The jist of it was we were sailing directly in to a submarine cable laying operation and that is was 8 NM long. Could we turn to starboard and pass about one NM ahead of them? I replied that it would not be possible at the speed I was doing.
The ‘Geo Caspian’ was surrounded by guard ships and at 5 NM away nothing was visible in the visibility. I had no alternative and was instructed to turn due north and pass astern of ‘Caspian Buoy’, which marked the end of their tow some 9 NM to the NE of us.
We sailed in to pretty strong winds and seas as close to windward as we were able. ‘Geo Caspian’ told me they would let US know when we were clear to turn East again. I asked ‘Geo Caspian’ what the other ships to the north were.
‘Oh…. Nothing to do with us’ he said dismissing my question with a tone in his voice.
At 0630 ‘Geo Caspian’ called and told us we could resume our course east and I was contemplating whether or not I could just make it ahead of the vessels to the NE when the VHF came alive again
‘’Talisker 1’ ‘Talisker 1’ ‘Bourbon Fulmar’ ‘Bourbon Fulmar’ over’.
This was another operation of the same sort moving slowly south at about 5 knots with guard vessels. I was told I would have to round the most northerly guard vessel ‘Storm West’ which was covering the end of the tow. By this time going to weather we had made too much easterly and it was necessary to furl the genoa and motor slowly in to the wind and waves.
This was also taking us N and just to the west of Osberg S platform. We had made our way 12NM north of our intended track to Bergen. At 0800 we were underway again, genoa set and engine off. At 1000 in good visibility again we passed 3 miles to the S of the platform and headed in to a fishing fleet.
But in the mean time there had been a problem.
Just after heading east again there was a strange noise from the rudder post below my feet. Looking down I saw rolling around at my feet the wooden top, bolt and pipe that ‘covered’ the top of the rudder post where the emergency tiller fits on to. I say ‘covered’ because being slightly greasy underneath I assumed it WAS a cover.
The top of the shaft, where the emergency tiller fits on to, comes through a hole in the middle of a stainless steel fitting in the cockpit sole which is on top of a small rise in the sole set in to an alcove behind the helmsman’s feet. I have fitted and tried out the emergency steering.
For smooth and frictionless turning of the post at the top, set in to the stainless steel fitting is a substancial nylon sleeve (rudder bush) to take the rudder post. The nylon sleeve is about 5” long with a substancial lip at the top to stop it dropping down. Normally just the lip is above the stainless steel fitting. I was appalled to see that the nylon sleeve was completely out and the rudder, now with room to play, was grinding against the bare stainless sleeve.
This was a worry.
In a running sea I emptied and then dived in to the cockpit locker to gain access to the base of the sole and the rudder and self steering fearing there might be traces of water ingress from the base. Nothing. For good measure I went in to the aft cabin and removed the access panel and peered in from the starboard side. All looked all right apart from slight movement at the top of the rudder post.
My worry had been that something else had caused the sleeve to come out. Now I had to get the sleeve back in. By hand I was able to force in about 5mm. When I let go it the movement of the rudder forced the sleeve out again. I collected a small block of timber and my ‘pirate and Oosetende Royal NS HM murdering’ lump hammer (yes Robert! its you I’m talking about) and with room just to get the timber on top of the nylon sleeve and use the hammer turned on its side, I was able to hammer the sleeve slowly back down and it to position. It fits very very tightly indeed. For the last few taps with the top of the rudder post now proud of the sleeve I was able to use the hammer upright and gently tap the collar of the sleeve down all the way round. I did think of using some lubricant to get it back down but how would it stay there then if it was lubricated. The afore mentioned ‘cover’?
The piece of pipe that fits around the top of the rudder post and on top of the nylon sleeve has a circular piece of wood with a bolt through the centre holding it down at the top. The bolt goes in to a thread in the centre of the top of the rudder post. When fitted and bolted down tightly the pipe holds the nylon sleeve in place. Was this what it was for?
I refitted it and bolted it down tightly. Hmmm .. not a ‘cover’ after all? If so it’s a bodge. After another nights sleep in Norway and also moored to this wonderful still pontoon I am going to have a closer look and check up under no pressure.
I had had visions of a sudden ingress of water. I went through the liferaft launch in my mind while emptying the cockpit locker. I foolishly worried about things I would leave on board. Some thoughts were idiotic in between coldly planning not to be surprised. VHF procedures. Take yourself, grab bag and hand helf VHF too. Don’t slice the raft to pieces cutting the lanyard away from the ship. Step up in to the raft …. Somehow I had not forgotten a Westerly Corsair sinking due to rudder post damage in the Atlantic. Why did that stay lodged in my brain?
The ‘theatre doctor’ had worked. While sorting all this out I had forgotten about being queasy. That was good.
Through the fishing boats there was open water again for miles. The wind was also dropping together with the seas. All the reefs were taken out and I managed a couple more naps of about an hour each.
The wind did drop later in the afternoon and under engine we crossed the off shore TSS, which was quite busy. A sort of mini Noord Hinder.
It was fairly overcast as the Norwegian coast came in to view. The clarity was not that great.
And then the prize … and a big one! Sailing in a Norwegian Fjord for the first time was very beautiful indeed. A summer paradise but with winters being dark not so good. Houses perched along the hills and rocks and on the water fronts. Many with their own docks.
Wonderful Pantaenius, my insurance, want to know If I sail above Bergen. Not a problem they say. They just want to know. I would love to but that will be another time if I am lucky.
One of the remarkable things since leaving England and arriving in Scotland is the lack of British yachts and pleasure boats. Certainly since Wick I could count them on one hand. There are many Norwegian and Dutch. Some French. My wonderful Belgian friends on ‘Drunken Duck’ and then the odd Dane and Swede and the large gin palace, home port Prague.
I left two yachts in Lerwick that had been with me in Lowestoft. A very nice Dutch couple on ‘Skua’ who gave me home made jam. And of course Ann and Raymond. ‘The Lowestoft Group’! On the first night in Lerwick ‘Talisker 1’ and ‘Drunken Duck’ were rafted to ‘Skua’. It was lovely to chat with them late in to the evening. People who watch and listen and miss little.