19 Jun 2017

The Cruising Commodore

 LJC  Trip to Norway

Stage 1 Woolverstone to the Shetlands

Crew : Chris Brown, Ben Agrell, Phil Slater, Simon Bell

Thursday 18 May HW at Woolverstone was 0500 so we needed to make an early start. Derek Simonds joined us at 0430 with a bag of quality goodies for lunch and BPT had worked its magic, the crew were up and about and ready to go. (BPT = British Prostate Time, defined as the 1st  moment after dawn when the crew are needing the loo).

A light NW wind resulted in a mixture of sailing and motor sailing until we were off Sizewell, when the wind went completely and we motored the rest of the way to Lowestoft where we arrived at 1315. At 1800 we opened the Champagne to celebrate Simon’s 60th  birthday, followed by a trip to the bar and a meal in the clubhouse. Not many customers, a typical Yacht Club problem. Derek caught the train home that evening

The forecast for early the next day was not good. Sure enough, dawn broke wet and windy. We only had a N going tide from 0500 to 1100 but the wind was forecast to go SW and drop by lunchtime. On that basis we decided to use the last 2 hrs of favourable tide to progress N. A fast reach up the coast was promising, but the wind change failed to materialise, and, in fact, went  N of W. The result was a most uncomfortable 12 hrs, close hauled and failing to lay Flamborough head in a very lumpy and confused sea in f 5-6. Most of the crew experienced a 24 hr fast! Luckily the wind dropped at dusk and by 0300 we were motoring and motor sailing. We made Blyth and the Royal Northumbrian YC around 1930. The club has a most interesting “clubhouse”, a 19th century lightship rescued from a breakers yard in Harwich in 1953 and towed to Blyth, where it was refitted as a clubhouse. Again, a few people in the bar but an empty dining room. Presumably the club survives on income from its Marina.

The 21 May dawned cloudy with a light S wind A chance to air “Peter”, our large conventional Spinnaker. The wind freshened and we were soon doing 7 knots, weaving our way through the multitude of lobster pots that litter this coast. As we approached the Farne Islands the wind veered, so Peter was stowed as we worked our way through the Inshore channel and the shallows off Holy Island. We arrived off Eyemouth at 1745, but there was not enough water to enter, so we dropped anchor in the bay and watched the nesting Fulmars on the rocks to the N of the harbour, G & T’s in hand! An hour later we upped anchor and found a berth inside.

We needed fuel and a few stores. HW times at Arbroath were unhelpful and Stonehaven was 66 miles away. We decided to have a leisurely day. Eyemouth has many attractions. A good fishmonger, shops close to the harbour, and the Eyemouth museum, reflecting local life, especially the great East Coast Fishing Disaster of 14 October 1881 when 123 local fishermen lost their lives, decimating the community for years. The storm had in fact been forecast, and the barometer was down below 29 ins, but the morning had dawned clear and calm, the fleet had been unable to put to sea the previous week, so the fishermen were tempted out and caught by the sudden arrival of the storm. Other communities in the NE lost boats, but none as many as Eyemouth, where there was a tradition that if one boat went they all went. The catastrophe prompted a parliamentary enquiry, with the result that some of the design features in the west country boats were incorporated in the NE, particularly more decking.

We were greeted by a stiff W f -5 on the morning of 23 May. As mentioned above, currently the entrance to Eyemouth is less than 2m about LW +/- 1 ½ hrs so we slipped at 0430 (another triumph for BPT!)  An excellent sail for about 8 hrs until the wind went aft and dropped. Up went Peter, and we continued to make good progress until the wind went lighter still and Peter embraced the forestay, blaming the swell. Regrettably he suffered a tear round the top ladder as we tried to unravel him but eventually he was back on deck and stowed. We motor sailed the rest of the way  to Stonehaven.

 Stonehaven makes a very pleasant stop. A short walk to a very smart restaurant (The tollbooth) and not much further to the Ship, a busy pub with good food, which met our needs completely. A 10 min walk into town with a full array of shops, and a fish shop advertising the claim that deep fried Mars bars were invented here!. The bay provides protection from most wind directions, though the inner harbour dries so yachts have to come alongside one of the ladders in the outer harbour, both of which seem to have 2m water at low tide (The outer berth somewhat more). However, the outer harbour is untenable in a NE or E swell, so advice from the HM is essential.

It is only a short (36 nm) leg from Stonehaven to Peterhead so we made a leisurely start, motoring the whole way in the calm conditions. This took us to Peterhead about 1 ½  hr before low water. The situation is NOT as shown on the charts. There is no deeper water to the east, and the marina has silted up just inside the entrance. It shares the VHF channel (14) with harbour control, but the day of our arrival no one seemed inclined to answer it! Eventually the on duty berthmaster came out and waved us into a berth, though getting there involved scraping the soft sandy bottom. Some later arrivals were unable to enter for another couple of hours and the water dropped a further 20 cm once we were alongside, so we only just got in in time!

The next leg was 123 miles to Fair Isle. Tides run reasonably strongly off Rattray head and started about running N about 0330. Again BPT stood us in good stead, and LJC was a hive of activity shortly after 0400!. Time for breakfast and an 0500 start, unfortunately motoring in no wind, but at least sunny and warm. That was not to last. Around 1700 the fog, which had been threatening all day, came rolling in, but it brought with it 10 kts of wind from the E, allowing us to make 6 Kts under sail through the gloom for the remaining 50 miles. Thank god for AIS! There was virtually nothing around and what there was passed a long way off. As we approached the S end of Fair Isle we experienced some odd tides. Strengths had been minimal on the  approach but as we closed with the Island the NW flow split and accelerated. Initially we were pushed strongly W and had to make a substantial alteration to Course to Steer to clear the E of the Island. Then, suddenly, we had to adjust again as we had 3 Kts up our stern whizzing us up the coast at 8 kts! Visibility was no better, the darkness and fog reducing it to less than 2 boat lengths. We rolled the jib and took the main down before attempted entry to the North Harbour on the chart plotter. We aborted our initial attempt as the helmsman (Phil) found it difficult to make the course changes rapidly enough in the confined space. We turned E for open water and rethought our strategy.

Apart from very reduced visibility the navigation problem was exacerbated by the disorientating effects of the fog and the inconsistent nature of the tide, strong offshore but dropping to nothing as we approached the shelter of the harbour. The skipper decided to start the approach from ½ mile out, giving plenty of time for the helmsman to orientate himself and time to abort and make for the Shetlands if it all got too difficult. Out came the old Portland plotter, to be laid across the computer screen to give the course in. The charts only had a sectioned light with green white and red sections (safe water in the white sector) which was of no use as the light was not visible through the fog! We then made our approach. There was plenty of time to develop communication between the skipper at the chart plotter down below ad the helmsman (Phil) who was receiving extra info from the chart on Ben’s tablet on deck. This time course variations were minimal and thus much easier. We were well past the outer rocks and close to the inner breakwater before we picked up the sector lights, although visibility improved slightly as we closed on the cliff faces on either side. (like skiing close to rocks in a whiteout, rocks give a sense of perspective). When the skipper emerged from below we were in, though his 1st impression was that we were very close to the rock face on the W side! 2 boats were in, so we came alongside a large (42ft) Belgian Bavaria and settled down for the night.

Our neighbour departed about 0900 the next morning, so no chance of a lie-in! The entrance looked a lot more benign in the calm and the sunshine! After breakfast we wandered up to the bird observatory building, which offered showers and meals to non residents as well as its clients. From there we went for a walk around the island owned since 1956 by the National Trust for Scotland. The S of the island is inhabited, with crofting encouraged, the N left for the birds and the sheep. Phil went off to see a boat building acquaintance, now the skipper of the ferry to the Shetlands while the rest of us explored  the island, by chance meeting the boat builder’s father. An interesting man now in his 80’s who has been the nurse on the island for many years and still ran a croft with 40 sheep. He had been up at 0400 that morning lambing. Hay making is different up here. Instead of closing off fields in the spring, making the hay and then grazing the aftermath the hay fields are not closed off until June, when a combination of warmth and long daylight length causes the grass to grow like crazy. The local community share a silage baling system in which the grass is baled wrapped in small, easy to handle, bales. The system was imported from Norway.

We returned to LJC for a well earned afternoon nap! Around 1800 we were approached by the  skipper of a yacht that had anchored off. Could he come alongside? We suggested he came inside us as we wanted to make an early start, which he did, and then invited us on board for drinks. He and his wife were semi retired, and were now living on the  Ile d’Yeu. In spite of living in the middle of one of the best cruising rounds in the world they kept their boat in Scotland. Brittany was too crowded! Tara was a dream yacht owned by an obviously highly competent couple. She was built of wood, with epoxy coating minimising maintenance. A superb Navigation system and overall design was complimented by a superb selection of drinks. The skipper was particularly proud of his choice of malt whisky, the result of a serious family tasting of many varieties! Needless to say, we had a very convivial evening!

The next morning we slipped lines at 0600 and sailed into bright sunshine and a f4-5 SE wind. A cracking reach to Sumburgh Head (which we left 5 miles off to avoid overfalls) with LJC hitting 9.9 kts on the surf. The wind dropped as we approached Lerwick so out came the mackerel lines. (with no success) As we approached the small boat harbour a yacht came beating up the coast. It belonged to Phil’s friend Lesley, and Jilly (Phil’s wife and crew for the next stage) was on board. Shortly after, we were safely tied up in Lerwick.

Stage 2 Round the Shetlands.

One of the many advantages of having my old team mate “Captain” Phil Slater on board is that wherever we stop he seems to know someone, and if he does not, he puts on his RNLI sweater and all sorts of people get to know him! We had detected that the batteries were failing on the way up the E coast and had torn a spinnaker. No trouble. In  Lerwick Phil had a friend, Leslie, who was a keen and active sailor and local businessman. He delivered the sail to a local sailmaker, and organised one of his employees’ to provide new batteries. All this, coupled with the loan of a van when we needed to do our big shop, made our life very easy, so that, after spending Sunday seeing the sights of Lerwick, we were ready to start our Shetlands cruise by 1430  on Monday 29 May.

Lerwick is a good spot to spend some time. The local Lerwick boat club provides showers washing machines and good Wi-Fi. The excellent museum provides a comprehensive  history of life on these rugged islands and is free. On the top floor is a restaurant of sufficient quality that it seems to attract ½ of Lerwick. A short walk out of town takes you to a well preserved brock sitting out on a loch which 2500 years ago was connected to the mainland by a causeway. The water level has now dropped, so you can explore it and keep your feet dry! The Islanders were astute enough to do a deal with BP when Slullum Voe was developed which gave them royalties on  each barrel of oil landed. The money has been invested, and the interest used for public services. The public loo by the Albert Dock is immaculate!

There was no wind as we motored down Bressay sound and round to the E side of the isle of Noss. Here the cliffs rise sheer out of the water which is so deep that we were able to approach within 20 metres of the vast colonies of Gannet and Guillemot that populated every crevice and ledge of the rock face. The sky was full of gannets and Guillemots skimmed the water on the way too and from their nests. We moved on, but as we came to the NE corner of the island Phil spotted birds diving. Out came the feathers and Phil was busy on the line, while Jessica motored in tight circles trying to keep over the shoal. The result, about 15 mins later, we had 4 pouting to add to Ben’s fish soup for that night’s supper. That evening we found a great anchorage totally enclosed and secluded, a very peaceful night.

The next day we had a rather ambitious programme designed by Phil. He thought we should sail round the main island! Unfortunately the tide through the Yell sound was not favourable until 1600, which gave him an excuse to go to the Out Skerries for lunch, about 5 m in the wrong direction! While there the forecast changed, to a NW force 5-7 later I.e. overnight.  Our next anchorage seemed protected from that direction so after lunch we set sail for the Yell passage. The SE section is littered with islands and a fast moving tide (3 kts on neaps) which creates overfalls all up the sound, but Phil had taken local advice as to where they were worst and we avoided them. We were through by 1830  and heading S down Shetlands dramatic W coast. By now there was no wind and no sign of any. We entered Hamna Voe only to find that the bulk of the bay was occupied by a fish farm! We managed to find a rather tight spot inside the fish farm protected from the NW and settled down for the night. The wind increased about 0200 and by 0400 we had 25 gusting 35 kts, we had moved a few meters, though were no longer dragging. The bad news was that we were now in less than 2 m of water, and it was high tide! Up anchor and move!! Further attempts to drop were thwarted. Each time we dragged, and found kelp round the anchor. Other areas of the bay had even less protection from the wind, coming in from W rather than the NW. However, there was a very large fishing boat buoy with a  ring on top which was luckily plastic. We ferry glided up to it (it was not possible to hold the boat head to wind with no power on) while Phil made a sterling effort to get  a rope through the mooring ring. ( I was at the helm, I had not realised, until he got a dressing down from his wife  that at one stage he had jumped onto the buoy to fix the line, not bad at 70+!!) We were now secure, though uncertain as to the ground tackle on the boat, so kept anchor watch for a few hours.

We were now the wrong side of the island. We could get back to Lerwick either by continuing S and rounding Sumburgh Head, or by retracing our steps. We decided to get the 1015 VHF forecast and make a decision on that. We never got it. We decided to contact the coastguard by VHF and get a forecast. There was no response. Our supposedly sheltered anchorage sheltered us from VHF reception, not W gales! There was no phone signal. We decided to get going, probably back through the Yell sound, unless the weather dictated that we could not beat up the coast, in which case we would run for Scalloway. 

We motored out of the bay between the rocks against a f6 westerly. Luckily we were able to lay N up the coast, though there was a big sea running. Two hours later we were in the comparative calm of the Yell passage, with  2 kts of tide helping us through. The sun was out, and we were in a different  world! The decision to go N back proved fortuitous. The weather continued to deteriorate, and the next day, when we would have been rounding Sumburgh Head, it was blowing SE f5,  a beat, wind against tide, round one of the worst headlands in Europe, would not have been feasible, and we would have been stuck in Scalloway, the wrong side of the island. 

We put in to Symbister harbour, on the  island of Whalsea, some 15 miles N of Lerwick. A fishing boat moored up astern of us, and unloaded fish for the locals before proceeding to the fish market in Lerwick. Phil went along to see what was going on. He came back with 5 haddock, for which the fishermen wanted no money. Supper sorted! Opposite our dock was an old building with equally old small harbour alongside it, reputed to date from the days of the Hanseatic league. It was possible to get the keys from the local shop, and there was a small admission charge. Inside, a display told the story of the villages links with the Hanseatic league, dating from the 14th Century, when the 1st German traders arrived. The locals traded dried fish and butter for corn and other essentials, but the smart traders locked the islanders into a years credit and an exclusivity agreement, so the locals became totally dependent on them. However, some of the traders stayed on the Islands for years, though the majority were summer seasonal visitors so relationships could not have been too strained!

The next morning we had a short but lively beat back to Lerwick in a fresh SE’ly. Jessica was on the helm, rediscovering skills she thought she had lost! We waited outside the northern entrance until a ship had finished docking, and then passed down the narrow dredged channel to berth in the Albert dock. We were alongside by lunchtime, giving us a day and a half to prepare LJC for Norway, shop, load stores etc. For all this the loan of Leslie’s van was invaluable, as both Gaz and Tesco’s was about a mile away. Anderson’s butchers was a short walk away. They are prepared to vacuum pack so we ordered several cuts of meat each packed individually in 1 meal sizes.

Jessica left us about 1500 to catch the ferry back to Aberdeen and we had all our jobs done by 1700, which was lucky, as Leslie came down to tell us that a pod of Killer Whales had been sited in a bay to the S of the harbour. We bundled into his people carrier and spent a pleasant hour watching about ½ dozen whales (or were they dolphins? Some of the watchers thought they were) frolicking about in the bay. Then it was time for pre dinner drinks at Leslie’s ( a personally bottled rather strong single malt from Islay) before we took him and his wife Raewen to dinner in the local steak house. This was owned by the aforementioned butcher, and thus excellent quality! A nightcap back at Leslie’s and then to bed, ready for an early start tomorrow

Stage 3 Shetlands to Lofotens

Saturday 3 June, we woke about 0300 (BPT is earlier in the Northern latitudes) to a calm morning and a forecast for Lerwick and Bergen suggesting light Easterlies veering SE during Sunday. It seemed an ideal forecast for the crossing. If only it had been accurate! The crossing started well with us motoring ENE in no wind, but by 0500 the fog began to roll in. For the next 8 hrs we were grateful for AIS! The wind slowly increased to about f2 ESE and we were comfortably motor sailing at 6 kts. The fog cleared about 1300, luckily well before we entered the oil field zone, but on the downside the wind shifted slowly to the NE. We passed the 1st oilfield (Heather) leaving it S of us about 1630.  The headwind was still not strong enough to be a problem and the seas were still reasonably calm. However, after supper the wind had increased so we dropped the mainsail which was just flogging. It was not possible to set courses to keep it full as we were constrained by the mass of oil wells we were negotiating a path through. Anyway, we would have had to reef as the wind was building. 

It is difficult to imagine the vast scale of these oilfields. There seems to be one every 5 miles or so, and sometimes a group (such as Brent) are clustered together, and the whole area has to be avoided. We had heard stories of boats being called up on VHF and warned not to come within 5 miles to Leeward as they were “burning off” but we received no such instructions, but still ensured we kept as clear as possible. Another unforeseen hazard was the plethora of workboats buzzing around the rigs, constantly on the move and changing course. Again, what a boon AIS is. It took us over10 hrs ( about 55 miles) to clear them. Not far short of a Harwich to Ostende crossing! To make a passage through them  we were often slamming into building seas due to a headwind which had reached an uncomfortable  but not threatening f4. However, by 0230 we were almost through the fields and were able to hoist the main with 2 reefs, bear off 10 degrees, and  proceed in considerably more comfort.

The wind was continuing to back slowly and the Statt peninsular was stubbornly to windward. It was not going to be a comfortable journey! We decided that we would do better to make landfall S of  Statt and hope for good weather to round it Monday or Tuesday. Initially this involved continuing under motor and main until we had enough weather gage to break out the jib and sail, which we could do about 0930. There followed a pleasant sail to Maloy (just S of Statt) which we entered about 1830.  On the way in we passed a convenient fuel berth, and after some confusion as to how the self service worked, we were able to top up with fuel and then berth in Maloy harbour by a civilised 1900 (An even more civilised 1800 UK time) for drinks and supper. The log showed 218 nm and had taken just under 40 hrs.

Monday 5th June dawned bright and calm, with a forecast of a Westerly initially light but increasing later to abut f4. The earlier we were round Statt the better. We slipped lines at 0730 and motored up the Ulvesund, hoisting the main at the first sign of wind. By 0915 we were off the E cardinal marking Fureness. From here we had a 12 mile stretch of headland with a notorious reputation, but we had caught it on a benign day. The cliffs are sheer, and the water deep right under them. There is therefore nothing to absorb the energy of incoming waves, which bounce back out of phase with the incoming swell, creating hugely confused seas. Today there was very little swell, hence no reflected waves and a regular sea. Aided by a f3 Westerly which gave us a reach and then a run, we were clear of the NE corner of Statt by 1045. We now had a choice, the open water shortest route to Aalsund or passage)the more attractive route through the fjords. We had had enough of open water for a while, and had plenty of time. We took the scenic route. Not only was it spectacularly beautiful but   the wind continued from the W so we had an excellent sail  as well, entering Aalsund harbour about 1830. We found a cosy berth in the inner harbour though the facilities were difficult to find, and shut when Phil found them! Paying was also difficult, though Ben eventually managed it on line. ( More about this interesting town with art nouveau architecture on the return passage) 

The following day’s ( June 6) passage promised to be particularly interesting. Once again the offshore part of the Hustadvika had a fearsome reputation, but the weather was calm and the visibility adequate so it held no terrors. With an intricate and long (58nm) passage to make we were away by  0600 motoring N and then NE up the Haroyfjord. This part of the passage is straightforward, but after about 30 Nm the shelter of the Skerries gives way to open sea. It was now 1130 and decision time. The open sea route is about 30 Nm with many (marked) offshore rocks, though the marks, normally posts, are not easy to see. This, and the irregular wave pattern (a la Statt but milder) is responsible for its reputation.

After some discussion we felt that the NE headwinds we had experienced up the Haroyfjord were dropping and that the visibility had improved. We decided to take the inshore Stoplane passage followed by the inner route E of that passage. Of course, modern GPS and chart plotters have seriously reduced the risk of navigational error and made such passages easier. The Stoplane passage runs NE/SW. Approached from the SW it starts comparatively wide, with navigable hazards (mainly rocks) marked by posts. Without the security of the chart plotter these are not easy to identify. This is a hostile environment, especially in winter, and if attempts had been made to paint   them red, green or cardinal colours such distinguishing features were often lost long ago. The passage gets narrower as you approach the Stoplane Islands, between which a narrow (about 20 m) and comparatively shallow (5m) chicane runs. On the NE side the line out is straight but narrower than the SW approach, but relatively easy if the marks are correctly identified!! From there we headed to the relatively straightforward inner passage, about 100m wide between 2 sets of Skerries with plenty of deep water between them. Once through, there is no reasonable alternative to doing the last 15 miles outside everything, until the final approach to Kristiansund where we found a good berth in the Gjestehavn in the northern arm of the harbour.  

The following day (7 June) should have been straightforward, but we managed to make it more of a challenge! We identified an anchorage, Storoy, where we might see Sea Eagles. We identified a route through it which involved going under an 18m high bridge, and some rather higher power cables (No problem, we had managed to squeeze under a 16m bridge a few year’s back in Finland, we calculate our air clearance at 15.3m). It was only 20 Nm away, so we allowed ourselves the morning off to shop, look round town etc., before departure at 1420. We cleared Kristiansund and motored E into an increasing E wind, building to 20 gusting 25-30 kts. We entered Soliemsud (our route to the anchorage) only to find that the high ground to the E gave no shelter. We started to worry about our choice of anchorage and, after looking at alternatives on the charts, chose one well sheltered from N E and S. The best route to it seemed to be up the next sound so we retraced our way E. We entered Imarsund and checked the charts. Whoops! There was a low (12m) bridge at the far end, we could not get through! We retraced ourselves again, back up Solliemsund and thence to our newly chosen anchorage. It was certainly sheltered, but deep close to the shore, and a notice in the best spot declaring “No anchoring within 200m” due to  power cables. However a small private marina was a couple of hundred metres away so we went alongside and asked permission to berth. We spoke to a young Norwegian who normally lived in London! He assured us it would be fine and later someone came down and asked us for Kr150, (£15) which we gladly paid! We had a quiet and restful night near a village called Vinsternes!!

The next couple of days were memorable for the quality of the sailing. The wind was coming off the land, either E or SE and as a result the sea was flat . It is about 46 Nm up the Trondhiemsleia S of Hirta on a course only just N of E. Luckily the wind went SE so we were able to lay up it. As we progressed the wind increased from a gentle f3 to a more exacting f6, but luckily it freed at the same time, allowing us to drop the main and proceed at good speed under jib alone. We parted ways with the Trondhiemsliea and turned N through the Skerries, eventually finding an excellent alongside pontoon at Sandnes, a well sheltered inlet which involved a 2 Nm detour from the standard route, but was worth it for the quality of shelter. 64 Nm in 10 hrs!

The next day (Fri 9 June) we again had a favourable wind, though a more manageable strength! We followed the inshore lead through to Bessaker and then worked the inshore passages to the entrance to Bolesfiord, up which the pilot book showed several suitable anchorages. The passage ended with a particularly intricate passage through the Skerries to the mouth of the fiord. We were through by 1600, and, as we had time, decided on some fishing. Within 5 mins of putting the feathers over the side Phil had  nice cod, jut about enough for supper for 5! Attempts to increase the catch failed, so we found a sheltered bay just S of the harbour of Smavaer and anchored in 6m sand for a good meal of very fresh cod and a quiet night.

For the next 3 days we were not so lucky with the wind. On the 10th,  a passage to Norvik  , the wind came and went, resulting in a mixture of sailing, motor-sailing, and motoring. On the 11th we motored all day ending up anchored in a sheltered bay S of Bronnoysund. (Moyhamna) and the 12th was much like the 10th. We were unadventurous, following the standard costal route, but there were highlights. On the 11th, as we had no sails up, we stopped to fish at a comparatively shallow 920-40m) about 5 Nm short of our anchorage. Great success. Jilly caught 2 cod, (the largest 28 ins) on feathers, enough for a plentiful supper. The following morning, as we left Moyhamna, we saw a white tailed sea eagle on the low cliff at the entrance. Cameras out, and we came in close to the rocks below and got some photos before it flew away. We watched it, and it lead us to its nest, where its mate was waiting. An old cairn that had served purpose as a day mark That evening we moored up in Sandnessjoen, having taken on fuel. The harbour was rather commercial, but there were good transport links for Simon’s return to civilisation, and the next day (13 June) he departed on the Hurtigurten for the civilisation of Trondheim. Our next few days were likely to be at anchor so we had some provisioning to do, along with the usual boat jobs (clearing a blocked sink, engine checks etc.)The wind had moved to the SW, and with it had brought misty and overcast conditions. However, by the time (1115) we departed the weather was clearing and by the time we were underway the sun was shining, with real warmth in it. It was time to give Peter an airing. After all he had spent the sea crossing lashed to the deck, so was pretty damp. In no time we were heading for the Arctic Circle in shirtsleeves in the sunshine under spinnaker  doing 6 kts in an 9 kt wind with dreams of crossing the circle like this! The weather was having none of it. After about 8 Nm the wind headed and dropped. Peter was put away and we resumed the typical pattern of intermittent good breezes interspersed with periods of calm (particularly in the lee of mountains) requiring the engine. 

There seem to be 2 definitions of the Arctic Circle. The first, geographic, regards any latitude N of 66. 22” as inside the circle. The Norwegians mark this as you pass through the inner lead with a monument. We passed it at 1732 local time. The 2nd definition depends on the declination of the sun. As the earth’s axis alters so does it. Currently it is moving N at 15m/yr! We crossed that arctic circle at 1745. We motored on to a bay called Hansoya, on the W side of Renga Island only to find another yacht an

chored  there! We had only seen 3 other boats all day. It was British. There was rom for us, however, and we settled at anchor for the night in a beautiful spot.

We were now well ahead of schedule so the next morning (14 June) we decided to make a detour to see the Svartisen glacier, the 2nd largest glacier in Europe, 370 sq km. It was a cold and overcast morning, and the air was distinctively colder as we neared the base of the glacier.  Luckily the sun came out as we approached, bathing the upper layers in rays of sun amongst the cloud. It would have been all the more impressive a few years ago. It had retreated a long way, but the scars in the rock around and the absence of vegetation around hinted at what it had been like. Surely evidence to the sceptics that the world is warming up.

Had we not made our detour to Svartisen we had planned to spend the night anchored in one of the outlying archipelagos, Fleinvaer. However In spite of taking a short cut through Murholmen which involved passing under an 18m bridge and negotiating a rock infested passage, by the time we were clearing the mainland it was already 1630 and there was another 15nm to our intended destination. More importantly. The wind was building, so we  turned into Stott, where there was a guest haven. Before we got to it we noticed to starboard a guest pontoon, reasonably sheltered and accessible. We moored alongside. 

Johannesbrygge was a superb spot. Berthing was £10, Electricity £5, and showers, use of washing machines and spin  dryer £2 a go, all reliant on an honesty box system. There was a room fitted out like a bar, complete with dartboard and cooking facilities all about 20 m from the pontoon, so we cleared the crew’s washing backlog, spun dried it, and aired anything that needed it in front of the boat’s fan heater. Morale was further raised as we went to bed in our comfortable berth while the wind increased through the night, in defiance of yr.no and wind guru.

The next morning (June 15) the wind was blowing 20 kts+ from the S. Ideal for  fast close fetch to Rost, the outermost of the inhabited Lofotens chain. We set off with 2 reefs in the main and full genoa at a galloping 7 kts, and reeled off the 1st 25 miles in no time. Then the wind freed and dropped. Progress slowed and we shook a reef out but we still managed the 50 mile crossing at an average speed of 6.5 kts and were alongside the pontoon in Rost just after 1700 .

We had arrived at our destination 5 days ahead of schedule, largely because in the month since leaving Woolverstone we had not lost a day to bad weather. That must be a record!!

At the time of writing fishing continues to improve - see picture of one of 3 large cod landed in less than 15mins!!

Kathryn Deaton