Cruising in Norway: Back to Lofoten Islands (Lilie Molle and around Svolvaer)

Sunday, July 12

We had another lazy morning then upped anchor with Max retrieving the stern one using the dinghy and my using the blessed windlass (motorized winch) to haul up our own anchor. With a good-bye wave to the family playing on the cove’s beach we headed towards another anchorage placing us just five miles from where we’d meet up with my sister Betsy who was flying in July 19th. She was flying into Svolvaer, which is located on the largest of the Lofoten Islands, Austvagoy.

We motor-sailed the 15 miles across back to the Lofoten Islands, landing in an cove on Lille Molla with an imposing mountain face and that luscious seagreen water.

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Another sea eagle soared as we came in to anchor close to another white-sand beach. This was obviously a popular destination for boaters as we saw quite a few excursion ribs (rubber boats) performing drive-bys during our stay here. Always one to wave, we received reciprocating ones back, then off on the  tourist-filled boat they’d go.

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We decided to try fishing from the dinghy to let Chris know that at least we were attempting something he did effortlessly. We headed off with Max bringing the trusty iPad and its chart app for locating a fishing spot.

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Along the way we spotted starfish starting up at us through the teal water.

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The water colors and rippling reflections surrounded our motion and, once again, I thought of all of our painterly friends and how wonderful it’d be to see their capture of nature’s watery art.

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While jigging the line we discussed dinner alternatives, a sure sign of ‘we won’t be doing this for long.’

After 30 minutes of motoring around and trying to keep the hooks from attacking our rubber boat (which would not be good), we gave up sheepishly knowing Chris would still be out there trying. Hummus and cole slaw it would be. At least we got another shot of ‘JUANONA at anchor in Norway’.

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We explored the beach then waved to a family-filled boat motoring by. It changed course and came right towards us, then smilingly asked if we, by chance, had any matches. That we did and gave them a box. Their destination was the beach, and, if they were having s’mores, I would have been right over there. Unfortunately no wafting aromas of charcoaled marshmallows, oozing melting chocolate, and crunchy graham crackers. Just writing this makes me want them more so I better stop.

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The power boat left and drifted back towards Svolvaer while we spotted a curious towing arrangement. Not knowing why all we could do was shoot a photo and marvel at how it looked like Goldilocks’ bear family with papa bear followed by mama, kid, and a baby bear.

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After watching a lone kayaker beach his craft and set up his tent we headed below, had a fish-less dinner, and went to bed.

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Monday, July 13

The next morning we upped anchor, along with a gigantic strand of kelp and headed for my salvation:  a washing machine and dryer.

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Ahh… the joys of clean clothes, bathing towels, dish towels, and bedding. The only problem is getting them to that state.

Fortunately, Kevin and Sue mentioned a great laundry place just around the corner from Kabelvag called Ny_____. It was a hotel set up in the rorbu style (traditional Norwegian fishing cabins usually painted a barn-red) with some pontoons. We arrived in the morning and from noon through to 22:30 I managed to do six loads (one twice because the road didn’t come out the first time).

By now I was familiar with some of the wash cycle times in Europe. Some could go for almost two hours per load. Thankfully, there are many of them and, I have to confess, I used the express timing for the last two.

One of the reasons it required over ten hours was, as in all of the places we’ve landed in England last summer, there is only one washer and one dryer in each facility. Back in Lowestoft prior to leaving for Norway I was fortunate and found a laundramat, a rare creature it seems in many small towns nowadays.

Anyhow, several other people would come to check out the laundry area where I had parked myself and dismal mountain of dirty paraphernalia, and I felt bad for hogging my newly found jewel of household appliances. Subsequently, I kept offering to let them go next. Poor Max wisely kept his distance as I would head back and forth from JUANONA to the laundry room muttering under my breath not so many nice words.

I wanted to finish this task in one day because we had decided to do a road trip to Tromso. After hearing about this northern city form Siv and Roar in Tranoy, Kevin and Sue in Straumhamn, and Chris who had taken a bus up from Kjopsvik, we really wanted to visit Tromso. We had checked out buses and found we could get there in eight hours starting with a bus stop in Kabelvag, one kilometer up the road from Nyvagar.

While laundry was going Max had used the opportunity to empty out the storage area under the v-berth. Our backpacks were airing in the sunshine and that night we packed for our road trip. Both of us were looking forward to an off-the-boat excursion.

Tuesday, July 14

Up early and, after checking email ever so slowly (signals not always great around here), we walked to the bus stop, stopping to take photos of some flowers and gardens along the way. Lots of lupine both in gardens and growing wild. In our later land-walking down town streets and along country lanes we stopped and smelled still-blooming lilacs, but this morning it was lupine that caught my eyes.

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Using the information from the hotel clerk on bus stops and timing, we rounded the bend and caught sight of a slumbering bus way ahead patiently waiting at the main road’s little kiosk. But, it was too early for our Lofoten Express.

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Continuing on we reached the stop and waited. And, waited some more. Waited even more.

After checking and rethinking the info we realized that WAS the bus. Arghhhh! (No comment on IF there hadn’t been any stopping for flower pictures we would have caught the bus…)

A re-think. We pushed our departure to the next day and decided to visit Svolvaer (5 km away) today instead.

We checked out a possible berth in Kabelvag (more conveniently located to meeting Betsy) and decided to bring JUANONA around.

Back aboard we offloaded our packs and motored to Kabelvag. With JUANONA secure we walked across the town square to catch the local bus to Svolvaer, which is informally regarded as the capital of the Lofotens.

Right next to the bus stop in Svolvaer was the WWII museum created by one passionate individual’s fascination with Norway’s history between 1939 and 1945. Stepping through the doorway we were assaulted with memorabilia stuffed into four small rooms, from tiny medals to full-size dummies. I have to admit looking at umpteen military uniforms, guns, and other WWII curios doesn’t always capture my attention. Yet, there were three reasons why I lingered so long in a museum I would typically pretend to peruse then hightail it to seek open space in fresh air.

The first: the curator’s great sense of humor.

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The second: several unique artifacts that did cause one to pause, ones that Kevin had told us about–paintings by Hitler and items found in that infamous bunker, Eva Braun’s purse and Hitler’s magnifying glass.

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Evidently the sicko Hitler absolutely adored Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”. (Makes me ill to think of such an evil person enjoying a children’s fairy tale.) So, not only was there a painting on display that had been framed, but also four cartoon characters hidden underneath it including one of Pinnochio. If you look carefully you can see the “AH” in the lower corner of one of the painting

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A newspaper article provided proof of this artwork’s provenance:

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The third, and this is only after I loaded the day’s photos onto my laptop: in its mustily displayed items, the museum really does steep one in what it must have been like living in Norway during the German occupation. Only through such cluttered miscellany…

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and documented tales of local heroes and heroines…

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did I obtain an appreciation for how much the museum’s owner provided this walk through time.

But, that was only some days later when I actually looked at the photos. In the moment of being there I felt an hour was more than enough time to wind my way through the stuffed display cases. Case in point, we were leaving, actually, one of my toes had already been placed through the open door to the great outside, when Max asked the ticket-taker/owner (?) what other artifacts would be of interest. A silent scream of ‘WHAT?! don’t ask HIM! we’ll be here for-EVER! OMG, OMG, OMG’ went off in my head.

Fortunately, the guy only mentioned one other (the enigma machine, which, thank any god above, we HAD already seen) for this could have led to an intensive, exhaustive guided tour, one where I’d have to probably do a pretend-fainting spell to escape.

By this time I was out the door and just strolled gulping air as Max wandered just a bit more in the museum. He finally exited and we parked ourselves on a bench and enjoyed our lunch, providing me yet another opportunity of catching Max in action :)

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Once he was out we visited the Tourist Information to retrieve information about Redningsselskapet, Norways’s rescue association for boaters. It’s a volunteer organization and not only could it come in handy if needed but also a very worthwhile organization to support. Other cruisers had mentioned the value of joining, and with a leaking transmission and hearing about fishing lines fouling props, we heartedly seconded that belief.

We found their bunkhouse, vessel and some volunteers (two of whom, I believe, we interrupted something…) but couldn’t join. They said we could do it online (we had missed the opportunity in Alesund) or via phone.

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We had tried online as well as calling with no success. Figuring we had another chance in Tromso, we headed back to the bus stop.

Along the way we checked several local businesses about possible anchorages next to the airport where we could pick up Betsy on Sunday. A very helpful young man at the kayaking adventure store said he didn’t know of any safe ones but offered to help with bus schedules. He spent fifteen minutes getting us the correct info (we knew now to double-ask to ensure understanding of where to stand and at what time).

Armed with a local’s knowledge of transportation, we left for the bus stop only to recognize Elisabeth from Tranoy. She was enjoying an al fresco lunch with her parents. Amazing to run into one of the very few people we had met here.

Seeing their aromatic plates of sizzling steaks and buttery baked potatoes growing cold, we left before we embarrassed ourselves by attacking their plates.

Streaks of sun lifted the misty fog revealing one of the most famous natural landmarks outside of Svolvaer, Svolvaergeita (the goat’s horns). If you look at upper middle portion of the photo below you can just about make out the faint outline of two rock columns appearing through the sky’s grayness.

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Believe it or not, people with JUMP from one horn to the other. I say ‘people’ when in reality those foolhardy folk must be mountain goats themselves. Just writing this makes my palms sweat.

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Waiting for the bus back to Kabelvag is a lesson in patience. Of course it doesn’t help that we don’t speak Norwegian; yet, bus schedules still seem to serve only as gentle reminders of when this type of land vessel would be passing through one’s neck of the woods. This time-keeping actually makes sense for one bus will typically wait for another to ensure connections are made. And, there are plenty of causes for delay, such as the loading up of 25 French teenage hikers with their leaders and all of their equipment (which happened when we were finally on board waiting to leave).

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On the way back we got dropped off at the town’s famous landmark, a large timber-framed church (biggest wooden building north of Trondheim) known as the Lofoten Cathedral. Consecrated in 1989, this church served the growing population of fisherman who received preferential treatment in the seating arrangements (the church could fit 1,200).

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This area was the place to be if you were a cod fisherman. Kabelvag located in then then-called Vagan region is the oldest fishing village in the Lofotens thanks to the exporting of stockfish to the Mediterranean as early 1000 C.E. This area became so powerful it even had its own laws and currency until 1282 when the King abolished Vagan’s independent-standing. The Black Death in the 1300s reduced Vagan to a poverty-stricken village until it recaptured its commercial strength and urban population. By the late 1800s it even had four newspapers published for the area, a testament to the popularity of this area. Plus, the medieval market, the Vagastvne Meeting, had been revived in 1882 and continued until right before WWII.

Still in use today, the church featured portraits of vicars from an earlier time. I have to say most of them looked like the last person one would expect any type of human kindness to seep from their pores. Yet, I realize this is how people were posed way back when, not necessarily a reflection of their true personality. Still.

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Besides portraits of former vicars in the area, Max located a thermometer with the disturbing characteristic of almost having as many marks for below 0º C as for above.

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Walking to the town square we passed a small marina where two guys were working on a small wooden fishing boat.

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The sound emanating from the engine was the Tonk-Tonk just as author David Howarth described in his book THE SHETLAND BUS. Almost too surreal after just being in that WWII museum.

Approaching the pontoon where JUANONA was docked we saw two more sailboats, one rafted to us and the other alongside the opposite pontoon. We introduced ourselves to the Norwegian owner on the rafting one who was there with his family and the Welsh couple sitting on the other side.

Later we asked the Welsh couple if they knew our friend Martin Smith whom we had met last summer in the Azores (they didn’t and said there aren’t a lot of sailors in their part of Wales). When they saw us going to and from the restaurant with our laptop and iPad, they kindly offered to let us share their booster (it increases the strength of any wifi signal, such as the free wifi offered by the restaurant’s owners). If we hadn’t been leaving early the next morning we would have asked them over, but, as it were, we’d miss the bus once and were determined we wouldn’t be doing that a second time. Trust me.

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With everything packed from the day before, we set the alarm for our earlier rising the next morning. Tromso or bust!