It is raining, I've got a wee feeling in my stomach. There we are again, leaving on a longer journey for the second time. A lot of work has been done, and the boat is ready to leave. But the feeling remains the same as it was the first time. It is a gray and wet departure, cheered up by a small gang of friends who've come to say goodbye. The boat feels heavy, filled-up as it is with everything 2 people think to need during 3 months, food included.
The first days are needed to get acustomed again to living to the possibilities of the weather, and trying to foresee it. We pay it with a kiss on the sill in Vlissingen harbour, and getting stuck for half an hour on a mirror-calm sea in front of Walcheren. And we have to wait in Stellendam for two days for a storm to pass. Just good to mend the first problems.
The wind dissapears quicqly when at last we're able to sail North again. So it it mainly motoring in daily stretches towards Den Helder. The weather is calm and very nice with some beautiful periods of sunshine, an early spring at sea. By the end the gray is back again, but we've filled up with courrage, the many hours of work on the boat are being rewarded with a renewed trust.
The weather takes a turn to bad in Den Helder, so we wait some days before continuing. Martine is reading and asks a lot, I try to explain everything as good as I can, but not always with success. She never sailed before, and wants to know everything in one time now.
After some days I take the chance of sailing North in between two depressions. It's some 360 M towards Stavanger. We take it on a reaching course with some 6 bfr, full speed. 139 M in the first 24 h is a new ships best. Martine is very quit, and has to hang overboard twice, but doesn't seem too sick. But I don't trust it, and I put her in her bunk for the whole night, I can stand one sleepless night.
The weather is a little better the next day, wind a bit more on the head, but we're still sailing a due course at full speed. Martine didn't get better, she doesn't want to eat, and I wonder what to do with it. She's not too ill, but not alert enough to watch out. So I continue to sail on my own, she can stay in her bunk and I hope she'll be fit if need arises. But she keeps refusing food, and I wonder if that is not weakening here even more.
We've cooked enough for 3 persons before leaving, and it is just enough for me alone for the complete crossing. We make it in a little less than 3 days and nights without sleep. The last stretch along the Norwegian coast is tricky: South of Stavanger the coast is low, we've only sighted it at night, and it's got many rocks in front of it. But everything is well marked, and we find Tananger without much trouble.
The next days are terrific, but it can only carry little intrest of me. I'm paying for the 3 sleepless nights, and I'm only physically with it. A phonecall to Belgium, and another try on shortwave to contact them. But I'm colliding again with an english net who don't let me thru to seek my contact. Here in harbour I take my time to yell at them, but the only one who gets impressed is Martine. She doesn't seem to grasp what has been going on.
After a few days rest we continue on towards Stavanger. Martine is taking sailing lessons, but she does not show many skills. When one moment I see her pulling the wrong end of the hailyard, I shout "the other end". The reply "What other end ?" leaves me perplexed.
We land in Stavanger in the middle of a NATO fleet after manoeuvring, there is a party going on under a norwegian sun and a gentle refreshening breeze. We also meet Jeronimo, an argentinian who sailed with his 6,5 m boat from Argentina towards Canada, then up to Iceland and further on to Spitsbergen. But he broke his mast on that trip, landed in Northern Norway where he stayed working a winter, bought himself a new mast and eventually reached Spitsbergen. Now he's heading south again, towards Antartica. Now that is what I call an Atlantic round trip. He wants a bigger boat, just like I, but he makes me feel silly with my "luxe" 9.4 m !
We decide to go into Lysefjord, the most southern of all, not too long and representative for what is going to follow. But it is getting clear to me that Martine is not a good crew for a big sailing trip up North, so we decide to take it more calmly and to stay in the fjord area. After all, you don't just pass it by if you've never sailed there.
So we sail at our ease thru fjord and skjargarten. Lots of unspoiled nature, a rough weather that never gets too cold, and that also has beatiful sunny days to offer. Uskedal in the sun, under a glacier is fantastic when you've just seen oil-rig industry at Haugesund and a closed pub in a lonely fishing village at Mosterhamn. But the closed pub is not all that bad, such things are out of our budget anyway.
We are being interviewed by Haugesund radio for being the first tourist for the season. But we also hear about a dioxine crisis in Belgium, and we're being told to throw all eggs and chicken products we carry from home. But luckily we don't carry such things.
North of Bergen we can stay for a week in the house of a fellow Belgian sailor who works here. A hot shower an washing facilities are very welcome indeed. It is a chilly, rainy week and I am very pleased to have a week on my own on board, while Martine stays in the home. It improves the atmosfere on board afterwards.
We continue our stroll North, mainly on the engine thru large and narrow fjords and skjargarten. One day the alternator gives up, his fastening bolt is broken. That night by 4 pm we moore by a closed can factory, with a big shipyard close by in Mastrevik. There I go to look for a new bolt, and I meet José, spanish from La Coruna where I was with the boat 5 years ago. He got married here, but is being torn between his family here an his home contry, and he seeks refuge in his work (there's nothing much else to do here). My spanish comes of use here, José is also pleased with it, and I go back to the boat with 4 bolts.
The fjords and skjargarten continue on, the small villages and every now and then a "town" when there are more than 3 roads. Weather is like the atmosphere on board: ups and downs, but never below freezing. We continue talking and mannage to conclude our discussions. But I cannot risk longer stretches in such a situation, and I don't want to sail alone thru this lonelyness.
Because lonely nature it is. The flowers often remind me of Belgium, vegetation is rather similar to ours. Of course there are allways mountains in sight, the rocks and water bring you back to Norway. Light is vale, colors are less intense, air is light, everything to accentuate the feeling of loneliness and space. I'm not the person to go thru this alone, but I would very much like to do it with a team. What I like is the relative feeling of security even in this wild area, as we are always sailing on sheltered waters.
Fish is abundant. It took us a while to learn to fish, but once you're on it, no problem. We mainly live of our own catch, mostly fish of the codd family. Whenever you throw your hook, don't try for more than 10 minutes at one place. If you're on a good spot, you should catch one fish every minute. And everything smaller than 30 cm is not worth keeping, to Norwegian norms anyway.
In the end we are forced to take a passage over open sea around Statt, as that is one of the few points where there is no inwards passage. We take it on the engine on a calm sea. We are able to steer close by the rock, and are frightend by the sight of some houses in the bay at the very cape. These people must go thru some terrible weather at times !
We arrive in Alesund, in the rain again. This town is supposed to be one of the most butiful of Norway, with it's jugend stil houses. It is a little undercooled if you are a compatriot of Horta, and the weather cooles it a little more. We are looking for diving opportunities, but that is not so easy as we thought. But we manage one, cool, good sight, swimming along a abyss in search of a wreck.
I take up contact with a Norwegian I got to know 5 years ago in St Lucia, a retired judge. We get a fantastic treat, we can moore at his private dock in his private bay, we are being showed the area, places you don't get to by boat, or as a regular tourist. And he talks a lot about his hobby: fishing. But not in the way we think of it: fishing with a net catching 200 kg a night !!! Fishing in salt water for own needs is free in Norway.
Our "judge" as we call him allso arranges for a place to dry out for me. tides are nill in the south of Norway, and it is only here that they are big enough to get a serious job done by doing so. I have to change the "plug" that fixes the propellor on the shaft, it is of inferiour material and is starting to corrode. The anode is allso almost worn out after 3 months, whereas it lasted a whole year in the Carribean ! Cold water is said to stop osmosis, but it sure improves electrolysis.
After a week of touring the Alesund area, we start going back, going a little more outside to see the southern most bird rock at Runde. With a calm sea we manage to sail right under it, looking at the puffins which are the proud of Alesund. The birds are a little small, but fulfill our expectations.
Back around Statt we visit a 10th century monastry. Fabulous how in such rough times people managed to live on such a rough place. But I can immagine where the Vikings learned there seamanship. Norwegian waters have everything: rough passages, norourious capes, strong winds, but everything at a days trip, with sheltered waters around, safe harbours everywhere (if you have no keel), harly any current and lots of windless days for rowing along. But we use the engine in these circumstances, just like modern Norwegians do.
Back with José
We wanted to visit a glacier, and for this we had to go some deeper into a fjord. But fate is against us: One day I think to have found a shortcut thru, but get stuck before a bridge and are forced to return. While coming out of the passage, I take a close turn around the edge, watching the rock which descends steeply into the water, and not remarking any signs. All of a sudden: BANNNGGGG !!!! We stuck a not-marked rock (it is on the map tough: lesson to be learned: don't come closer than 15 m to any rock in Norway). But we stay afloat, and a quick inspection does not reveal any structural dammage. So we continue, motoring against a short sea and a strong wind. After some time and a much closer look in the bilges, I remark some water every now and then slipping along the log. Martine sees it also, so we're not dreaming, we have a leak, allbeit a very small one.
I put a securite message on VHF, so that the outside world knows something if the situations becomes any worse. Floro radio helps me to find a harbour, the one we've just sailed by is rather open to the south and has no repairing facilities. As there is a gale warning southerly winds force 9, we prefere to continue for some 4 hours to the next village that looks more promissing on the chart. We arrive shortly after dusk, as it is getting dark again, but no problem to find the channels. Floro radio is clearly relieved also when we confirm our arrival over radio.
During a calm night sheltered from the storm I remark that hardly any water comes in when we are stopped. The next day brings us a beautiful village, a small wharf and no place to get help inmediatly. It is friday, and 2 days from Bergen, with José yard halfway, we decide to go there, and eventually to continue to Bergen.
But that is not counting in José. When he sees me, he just asks laughing wether I need some help, and while feeling very small, I explain the situation, and that I want to examine the underside of the boat before crossing the North Sea in 2 weeks. He thinks for a minute, and laughs again. The only problem is the craddle, but he comes up with one before nightfall, everything with Norwegian thouroughness and Spanish charm. I have to look for the repairs myself, the crane and craddle are there, and the bill is less than the rests of antifouling he gives me. And even the weather is cooperative, and so we're floating again after two days.
The weather has improved a lot, probably due to spanish influeces in the region. We have several days of 30 ° while waiting in Bergen and neighbourhood for Henk, who is to join us for our trip back.
Sailing is much easier with Henk, I can take a nap without bothering, he's a good crew. As he acs as a buffer between me and Martine, life on board has improved a lot as well. We make it in two days to Skudeneshavn, where we arive just in time to set out in the wake of a depression. Henk is not used to the windvane, and keeps steering during the whole of his watch (afterwards he quickly learned to work with the vane). I do the same because the ride is really rough the first night. We are rewarded with a new ship's best in 24 h: 144 M ! It gradually becomes calmer, and by the end we have to motor 16 h to reach Den Helder in just over 3 days. But the crossing was 20 M longer this time.
Mussels with fried potatoes, and a (more) beer in Den Helder, what a treat ! Such extravagances are unpayable in Norway, and as Henk is more a "enjoyer of life" than we are, he brings us on the wrong track. But I have a lack to fill, and cooperate strongly. The next stretch to Ijmuiden would best be entered in our diving log as a 30 M - 6 h dive, as it is close reaching into 7 Bft.
But that's about it, just 1 more long stretch to Stellendam and we can enter the Schelde / Rijn estuary, which gives us again enclosed water up to our home port Gent. The last motor passage on the canal gives my friends ample time to gather in the harbour to see me come in, this time they didn't miss my entry ! After all, they've heard me comming over radio since 2 days.
During this trip I was again followed by the Gent radio hams. Again they did what they could to keep the spirits high. We also tested email over radio, which was the way the web site got updated. You can find our messages on this page, but still in it's original dutch version. This way many more people could follow the trip closely, and it has been such a success it will surely be repeated (and improved, technical evolution) next time.