I knew the scenery was going to be spectacular in Norway but the people we’ve met are even more so, beginning Friday morning after our 10:00 p.m. arrival Thursday night at the town quay.
With a knock on our hull Frank Cormer, Alesund’s OCC Port Captain and member of Alesund Yacht Club, warmly welcomed us to his home town. He provided some excellent information such as how to correctly pronounce where we landed (say Alesund with “A” as an “O”). He then described the lay of the land, which is always a gift when arriving by boat.
He also gave us an important tip regarding flags. Norwegians are extremely proud of their flag. Residents lower the Norwegian flag at 9:00 p.m. every night. This also applies to our USA flag when flying off the stern (our courtesy flag, the flag of whatever country we’re in and which is hoisted mid-ship, isn’t affected, only your country’s flag). Good to know as we’re sensitive to ensuring we abide by a country’s code.
Lastly, he connected us with Kjetil Poppe, a co-member of Alesund Yacht Club. Kjetil (who also graciously gave us a pronunciation lesson on with how to say his name: it’s like ‘kettle’ but replace the ‘k’ with ’sch’) not only came by to welcome us but also offered to take us to the club the next night for the Summer Solstice celebration. It was a BYO-BBQ with a view of what is said to be the largest bonfire in the world: a pyre of pallets carefully built by hand then set afire. And, when he heard we had a small electric outboard with limited range, he offered to tow us to the club (it’s on their own small island) so we’d have enough juice to return. He laughed when we asked about any issue returning at night. He gently reminded us it’s not going to get truly dark. Oh, right, we’re in Norway! :)
While on the boat Friday early evening a replica of a Viking merchant ship pulled up behind us. Offering to help with the lines, Max started a conversation with the helmsman, Per. In discovering he had been involved with a BBC documentary on sailing to the Arctic, Max said we knew someone who was on the boat, Dean Plager. Lo and behold, Per knew him well. We took a photo and sent it to Dean saying Per says hi.
Saturday morning we finished doing typical cruising errands (laundry, groceries, showers, filling water tanks, and tourist information, including booking a day trip to the UNESCO-listed Geiranger fjord on MS LOFOTEN, one of the famous Hurtigrutens) and proceeded to climb the 418 steps to a hotel overlooking the city and harbor. Chris had scoped it out before and agreed with others who had mentioned it was worth every step.
Saying hi to everyone we passed (my mother said I would talk to a fence post), a fellow climber said ‘are you from the states?’. Well, that began a conversation, which led to our meeting Steve, a fellow traveller hailing from Arizona. He was exploring Scandinavia for the summer while staying in hostels. After inviting him to drop by JUANONA we continued heading to the top where the view, indeed, was lovely. Of course, having warm, sunny weather helped.
JUANONA is on a pontoon close to the mast you see poking up in the bottom left-hand side.
And, you can spot the towering pyre in the photo below, and beyond that peninsula is the island of the Alesund Yacht Club .
Returning to JUANONA later that afternoon we saw a note from Steve who said he’d come by later, which he did; and, we realized, like with Kjetil, we were fortunate to have him aboard. During the conversation we discovered Steve had journeyed to numerous places beginning in his early twenties, He’d even written a book recounting one of his earlier adventures, ALONE IN AFRICA, with a whimsical subtitle: A WIFE-HUNTING SAFARI. The latter speaks to his deciding to look for Mrs. Right versus waiting for her to find him.
Steve continues to travel on a shoestring yet is extravagant with his generosity, which we discovered the times we were with him.
Soon it was time for our Summer Solstice evening with Kjetil. And, what a wonderful night that was! He towed us over and introduced us to fellow club members grilling summer fare while looking out at a spectacular vista.
I should mention that Norway takes their boating seriously, and that includes safety measures. We had noticed everyone wearing life vests so we asked Kjetil if it was required. He said yes, and then proceeded to let us borrow one he had just received in appreciation for running the regatta that day. Another example of his generosity. With our life vests on and our dinghy happily trailing behind us, we set off for this gem of a clubhouse.
In the clubhouse Max noticed all of the burgees hanging up and asked if they’d like one of OBYC’s. They said better yet, they’d give us one of theirs in exchange, and Kjetil said he’d bring their burgee to JUANONA the next evening on his way home.
During the grilling we noticed sheep, and Kjetil explained they served as lawn mowers for the island. My type of mowing.
After dinner the four of us hopped into Kjetil’s boat along with our towed dinghy, which, at this point, was like taking a dog for a walk since Kjetil kindly took us not only to the club, but also back to JUANONA.
We floated amidst the growing number of boats filled with folk like us enjoying the evening sun in anticipation of a big fireball. The three of us felt pretty special sharing the longest day of the year in such an unforgettable situation. I mean, to be in Norway, the land of the midnight sun, watching a huge bonfire with a fellow sailor, well, it was spectacular.
For our friend John Arndt’s Summer Sailstice we posed with the 2014 flag, last raised in Faja Grande, Azores, with Ricardo (Dick Stevens).
Not only were there lots of boaters but also a drone capturing the midnight burn.
It still wasn’t dark when we returned close to midnight.
Sunday we had asked Steve and Kjetil for dinner; Kjetil couldn’t join us for dinner but would stop by for drinks and then dinner Monday night. Steve could come Sunday but not Monday. Our social plans were set, and we were thankful we’d be able to have more time with these new-found friends.
But, first it was the Hurtigruten trip up the fjord and back. This ferry service originated in 1893 thanks to Richard With, the one man (the only one) who accepted the government’s offer to establish a regular coastal route. Hurtigruten translates to ‘fast window’ or ‘fast route’, and With proved it was possible with his inaugural journey of 67 hours from Trondheim to Hammerfest, arriving 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Since then, other boats joined under the Hurtigruten banner, becoming the fastest and most reliable transportation to Norway’s most remote parts regardless of the weather.
Since we had decided to head to Norway numerous people had told us of these marvelous ferries (ones I called hurly-gurlies since the correct pronunciation was beyond me); and, we were looking forward to relaxing with someone else at the helm.
We walked to the ferry terminal and then watched as first the bow, then the stern was pulled in for an exchange of passengers. It did look like it listed a bit to starboard, which Max said must be all the folk standing on that side. And, when it docked there was a crowd along the railing. Must admit the debarking and lading of passengers didn’t look too efficient as people crowded to the front but it worked; and, soon we were on our way on a beautiful summer day.
As we were checking in at reception below deck, we were standing next to a couple whom we discovered were from Seattle. Yes, once again I couldn’t keep quiet (I could feel Max mentally roll his eyes) and did the ‘do you know?’ questions (we know several folk living there now, K and John Robinson and Don Kohlmann). When I mentioned K, she looked a bit stunned. They had been in a painting class together and the woman shared a studio with a good friend of K’s. One more example of six degrees of separation.
Once on deck, the ferry steadily plied the waters as we passed striking green hillsides staggering up to sharp snow-covered pinnacles.
Other ferries, fast ones and otherwise, traversed from one side to the other, connecting small towns along the fjord.
We spotted small farms on slanted land and wondered if, at times, the inhabitants just craved a piece of flatness.
The captain would announce key interest points, two being small towns nestled in coves. Interestingly, one manufactures furniture, such as the stressless chair, which is shipped worldwide, and the other was responsible for most of the pizza consumed in Norway.
Picture snapping was constant…
of tumbling waterfalls…
cottages, both traditional and modern…
the colorful mishmash of passengers…
of rock graffiti…
of the end of the fjord…
and, of Max’s viking underwear, which he purchased at 50% off. Almost, but not quite, a rival to the Ellen underwear we received last Christmas.
But, his best find was an unlimited mug of coffee for $5. He said if we bought a cup, there were free refills as long as we were on the boat (since this was a boat with cabins for 180, some passengers had booked for the week’s voyage versus our day tripping). I said, sure, I’d love a cup, so off he goes only to return saying it was actually $50. Our financial guru casually had forgotten a crucial zero. Fortunately, the kind woman at the register backed out that transaction.
Lunch was our usual picnic, along with a $5 cup of shared coffee. Traci and Smokey might recognize the bag :)
It was four hours up and four hours back, with the last bit being buzzed by jet skiers. This form of water recreation had only just been allowed, and three skiers zipped and zoomed by us as they jumped the waves. Every now and then you’d see one check out if any passengers were watching him.
On the way back to JUANONA we stopped off at one of the hostels to confirm Steve’s arrival for dinner and then headed home. We also found a troll.
Kjetil stopped by and we documented the exchange of burgees (the AS one is proudly hanging aboard JUANONA until we can place it at OBYC).
Steve arrived and conversation flowed.
Kjetil took his leave promising to return for dinner Monday night. A delicious salmon dinner prepared by Chris fed our appetites and the discussion ranging from the benefits of travels to the challenges facing teachers. With the sky still bright, dinner ended and we said our good-byes to Steve asking him to please keep in touch. Like Kjetil he truly felt like a gift.
Another lovely day dawned on Monday. Frank, our kind greeter, came by to see if he could help us with anything, and that included an offer to drive me to their marina to do laundry. Always appreciated! We were okay at this point, although laundry is the bane of my existence when living aboard. There is a public WC which featured a washer, dryer and showers, but the facility was always iffy: either the washer wasn’t working or, the more recent event, the door to enter (costs over $1 just to get into the facility) was out of order. Can’t say I’m impressed. However, the Tourist Information managed to get the washer fixed within 24 hours when I told them it was broken the first time. That was impressive!
Our itineraries were comprised of a day of just wandering and checking out a museum or two in this lovely town. A major fire January 23 reduced 85% of the dwellings to embers. Unbelievably only one person died but most of the residents were left homeless. Within three years, thanks to their fellow Norwegians, international aid, and Germany’ Kaiser Wilhelm II (he use to vacation here), it was rebuilt in the style of art nouveau.
Kjetil arrived with an excellent bottle of Italian wine, and we learned even more how well-versed this lovely Norwegian is on a broad range of topics. He also provided another Norwegian pronunciation lesson on Hurtigruten.
Another promise was exacted to make sure he stayed in touch for we didn’t want to lose contact with this new-found friend.
On Tuesday we hauled the dinghy aboard, filled the water tanks, and went in search of showers, locating some at the caravan parking lot. By 2:00 p.m. we departed Alesund hoping we will make a return stop when heading back to the UK in August.
We had expected to find spectacular scenery, and we did; yet, it was the gifts of friendship that truly were the most spectacular at Alesund. A definite Ja! for that.